Digital Wellness | Living to Listen

Guests: Tommy Sobel and Debra O’Bryan | Season 9, Ep. 377

Tommy Sobel is the world’s premier digital habits coach, having helped thousands of busy business leaders and top-performers reclaim tens of thousands of hours of productive time.
Using his background in neuroscience and behavior reconditioning, Tommy trains business leaders to improve their relationship with screens through coaching, proven systems and community, so they can reclaim 20-40 productive hours each week, live life in flow state and have more time off.

Later in the show, Dr. Robin welcomes Debra O’Bryan who is the Dream Manager and Well-Being Manager at CommunityAmerica Credit Union. She shares the moment when “active listening” was introduced in her life, and why the book by Michael Sorenson called I Hear You changed her relationships – both in the workplace and in her personal life.

Debra also explains why listening can be difficult for us, and why it’s important not to fall into the “giving advice” or “fix it” trap when someone else is speaking. Instead, she encourages us to pause and validate what they must be feeling in this moment. Debra also sprinkles in some great active listening tips that can shift a company culture and build even better connections between its team members.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “So, I just started to challenge some people in my community, some friends, and people in the film industry. Like, can you turn your phone into a brick for an hour a day and do something that you love in the real world?”
  • “The problem today is that we are being overloaded with these dopogenic rewards, these things that give us that dopamine, that don’t actually help us survive. Every single follow, every single email, every single vibration in our pocket gives us that sense of dopamine, and we’ve become overstimulated to it.”
  • “I think that we’re now at this kind of new pillar of wellness where you need to carve out time and effort to get off the grid for your own mental health and wellbeing.”
  • “In my professional life I was doing a really good job of active listening, it was in my personal life with my family that I was getting it completely wrong. Validation in active listening was a game changer for me and my family.”
  • “We fall into advice, and not really listening, especially as a mom, we just want to fix it. But really, what people want in that moment – when we’re venting – is we want someone to appreciate our struggle and empathize with us.”
  • “Active listening gets us to pause. It gets us to appreciate our relationships, and to learn. There are so many things we miss if we don’t take the time to listen.”

What You’ll Learn:

How to create better habits around screen time and phone usage to live more fully, plus how active listening can help you develop stronger relationships both at work and at home.

This Episode Includes:

  • While working in social media for Steven Spielberg at Dreamworks Studios, Tommy realized he was spending the equivalent of 5 months a year on his phone.
  • Tommy was able to tie his anxiety, stress, and unhappiness to the amount of time spent on his phone.
  • He decided to test his theory and spent one hour a day for a year doing something other than checking his phone. He was able to read 27 books that year.
  • Tommy challenged his co-workers and friends to do the same. Out of that challenge sprang the digital wellness movement and the brick community.
  • Tommy explains the neuroscience behind phone addiction and how we can change that addiction through habit formation.
  • He believes the new frontier of wellness is going to be digital wellness.
  • When creating new habits environmental design is one of the first tips that Tommy shares with people.
  • If you are able to design your environment in such a way that you remove your phone from the situation it is easier to avoid checking it. For example, purchase a digital alarm clock rather than use your phone to keep it out of the bedroom.
  • When you practice environmental design, you end up finding yourself being more present, more focused, and more attentive, and you’re not even using willpower.
  • When teaching your kids about digital wellness it’s important not to vilify the phone. Instead, teach your kids the freedom they get to experience when they remove the phone from the equation.
  • People are overwhelmed, stressed, fearful of the future, and so on, but there are ways that being an active listener can help them process their emotions without you having to give advice.
  • Why active listening begins with empathy, and asking yourself, “How would I be feeling if I were in their shoes?”
  • Why micro-validating team members throughout the day can make a difference on morale.
  • Micro-validating allows people to move from emotion to logic. Logic cannot be reached without validation.
  • Why it’s important to ask a person if they need someone that will just listen or if they are looking for advice. Most people will know the answer.
  • The importance of self-validation, and why we need to remember the phrase, “Be careful what you say, you’re listening.”

Three Takeaways from Today’s Episode:

  1. Turn your phone into a brick for one hour a day and try to do something you love instead.
  2. Create phone-free zones in your house like in your bedroom or your car.
  3. How to shift from giving advice to people and start listening to improve all of your relationships with people.

Mentioned In the Episode:


*** This recording is for educational and entertainment purposes only. It should not be viewed as personalized financial advice and is not a substitute for consultation with your financial representative. Any reference to third-party websites are provided for information purposes only and are not endorsed by CommunityAmerica. Please visit to learn more about how we can assist you in achieving your Financial Peace of Mind.*** 


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