Dr. Gina Cleo
Are you spending more than 2 hours a day using your phone, or find you can’t stop scrolling through social media at any chance you get?
Phone addiction, or overusing our digital devices is our most commonly reported unwanted habit. More than any other unwanted habit, people all around the world want to feel empowered to put their phone down.
In today's fast-paced world, smartphones have become an integral part of our lives, offering convenience and productivity. However, excessive phone usage can lead to distraction and negatively impact our mental health. To help you regain control and spend less time on your phone, here are 15 practical tips and daily habits to get you started.
1. Turn Off Notifications
Disable notifications from email, messaging apps, and social media, especially the unnecessary ones (do you really need to know when Kelly has posted an item on Facebook Marketplace?). Notifications can disrupt your focus, leading to unnecessary phone use. Take control of your attention and avoid being constantly pulled into apps.
2. Change App Locations
Most of us can access our social media apps on our phone with our eyes closed. Creating a small barrier to finding these luring apps can really help when wanting to reduce your screen time. Regularly rearrange your app icons on your home screen is a simple change that requires you to consciously find and access your apps, breaking the habit of mindless scrolling.
3. Delete Distracting Apps
If you find yourself spending way too much time on certain apps, I would encourage you to delete them off your phone all together. Don't depend on your self-control or willpower, because that's a strategy that doesn't work long-term. Instead, remove the temptation and prioritise your focus, productivity, and mental clarity over these time warps. You can still access your social media accounts by logging into them via a web browser.
4. Use Apps like 'Screentime'
Install apps like Screentime to monitor your phone usage and set time limits for specific apps. This tool provides valuable insights into your digital habits and helps you maintain self-discipline.
5. Try the 'Forest' App
Gamify the process of phone avoidance with the Forest app. Set a timer, and when you succeed, a virtual tree grows in your digital forest. This unique approach makes staying away from your phone more engaging.
6. Create a Morning Phone-Free Routine
Studies show that about 80% of smartphone users check their phone within 15 minutes of waking up each morning. Your thoughts, ideas, and focus are immediately hijacked by new messages, emails, and notifications, not to mention, world news, and negative media headlines.
Creating a phone-free morning routine for the first 30-60 minutes after waking, gives your brain time to wake up naturally and set a positive tone for your day. You'll also have more time to focus on your goals, meditation, journaling, stretching, enjoying the morning sunshine and other enriching activities.
7. Leave Your Phone Behind
Recent surveys show that 66% of the western population show signs of nomophobia: the fear of being without our phone - that's a problem! To help mitigate this, occasionally, go for walks or outings without your phone. Enjoy the present moment, engage in uninterrupted conversations, and free yourself from the habitual need to check your device.
8. Find a Love for Reading More Books
Replace mindless scrolling with reading. Spend your free time delving into books, enhancing your knowledge and avoiding the distractions of social media.
9. Enhance Your Living Space
Channel your energy into enhancing your living environment. Complete chores, clean out that cupboard, fix things, try a new recipe or start on home improvement project. You'll feel a sense of accomplishment and enjoy a better living space.
10. Take a Stroll Outside
Step outside and explore your surroundings. The sunlight, fresh air and green nature have a profound calming effect, making outdoor walks a MUCH healthier alternative to phone use.
11. Prioritise Real-Life Connections
Research shows that the more time we soend scrolling on social media, the more we expwrience feelings of lonliness, depression, and anxiety. To create meaningful connections, invest time in real-life conversations with friends and family; face to face interactions are much more fulfilling than digital ones.
12. Learn Something New
Replace phone use with developing a new skill or hobby or learning a new language. Engaging in productive activities not only reduces phone time but also boosts your self-esteem and self-efficacy.
13. Schedule 'Scrolling' Moments
Designate specific times for unrestricted phone use. This approach can help you regain willpower and make conscious decisions about when to indulge in distractions.
14. Embrace the 'Fully On, Fully Off' Principle
Be fully engaged in your work when you need to, and fully relax when it's time to unwind. Avoid lingering in the in-between state, which can lead to decreased productivity and increased stress. Reflexively checking your social media feed between tasks, is a sure way to get you in the habit of procrastinating or avoiding difficult tasks.
15. Try a 24-Hour Social Media Sabbath
Take a 24 hour break from your primary sources of stimulation, whether that be social media, youtube, or streaming services. This habit can really help you reevaluate your relationship with distracting activities driven by dopamine cravings (or the desire for pleasure).
Knowing how to spend less time on your phone is a great first step, but mere knowledge is not enough — you need to take action. Select up to three of the tips that resonated with you from the list above and start applying them today.
The key to success is taking the first step and being consistent.