Summary: While cell phones are essential for everyday life in today’s world, you need to make sure you are not spending too much time on your phone away from other people.
Have you ever tried to put your phone away for an entire day? What about for an entire meeting, church service, children’s performance, or even television show? Some people may be able to say that putting their phone away and forgetting about it is easy for them, but the majority of Millennials and Generation X-er’s (and even many Baby Boomers) have a rough time doing so and don’t even realize there’s an issue.
Why is it an issue? Because we spend far too much time looking down and into a digital world than we do looking up and seeing what’s around us. Have you ever stood on a train platform, put your phone away and then looked around? Almost every single person will be staring at their screen. Have you ever been to dinner or drinks with friends and suddenly realized that all of you are on your phones?
It may seem harmless, but spending so much time on the internet and social media is actually quite harmful. Sure, both can be used for wonderful and amazing purposes, but when we spend our time looking at carefully crafted photos and articles, we start to think that our lives need to be different or better. We start to feel a little inferior and that we need to do more and be more. This feeling can lead to a great deal of anxiety and even depression. However, when we look up and interact with the world right in front of us, we can reduce that anxiety by living in that moment rather than worrying about something that isn’t even happening.
Whether you feel like your phone has become another appendage or you just want to take a step back, here are some tips on how to use your phone without letting it control you.
- Track your time. First and foremost, it helps to know how much time you’re actually spending on your phone each day. You might be shocked when you find out just how many precious hours of your day are spent staring at that tiny screen. Certain apps, like Moment, allow you to track the amount of time you spend on your phone, how many times you pick it up, and which apps you’re engaging with the most. Try one for a week and take a look at what you’re starting with.
- Hide your phone in the car. We all know we should not text and drive, or use any app on our phone and drive, because if we’re honest with ourselves, it’s incredibly unsafe. Now I know if you’re sitting in traffic it’s incredibly tempting to just pull out your phone and check your email or scroll through Facebook, but try putting it away. Make it a hard and fast rule that unless you desperately need directions (and don’t have a copilot) that your phone should disappear while you’re driving.
- Don’t look at your phone in line. We all do it: once we’re standing in line at the grocery store, the pharmacy, Costco, or anywhere else, we pull out our phones. Even if we have 30-60 seconds before it’s our turn, the phone pops out. Try to put it away. Look up, people watch, and when it’s your turn to check out, actually engage with the person who’s helping you.
- Turn off notifications. Unless your actual, paid job is to respond to comments, there’s no need to get notifications every time someone likes your Instagram photo or Facebook post. Turn off all of your notifications that aren’t 100% essential. Trust me, there’s almost nothing that’s 100% essential. It’s okay if it takes a couple hours for you to respond to someone’s message. I promise, they will survive.
- Keep your phone on the other side of the room. If you’re not actively using your phone for something purposeful, keep it away from you. It is second nature for many of us to pick up our phone without even realizing what we’re doing. It is an automatic reaction. Try to break this habit by keeping your phone away from you so that you can hear it if someone calls but you can’t reach it or see it.
- Set a time limit. If you’re picking up your phone to scroll through your newsfeed, you know you can easily get lost for a half an hour or more. Look at the time when you start and give yourself five to ten minutes, max. When that time is up, put the phone away. The less time you spend on your phone, the more you’ll realize you don’t actually miss all of that stuff you’re reading.
- Don’t sleep with your phone within reach. Just like keeping your phone on the other side of the room above, you should do the same when you’re in bed. Most people have a habit of scrolling through their phone before they go to sleep. Suddenly, you’ve lost an hour of sleep and aren’t really sure what happened. The same thing goes for the morning as well. In addition, is your newsfeed really what you want to fill your brain with first thing in the morning? It can easily cause anxiety, so choose to let go of the outside world and have a more peaceful, calm morning to start your day.
- Accept being bored. Yes, it’s okay to be bored. In fact, it’s healthy to be bored because it allows your mind to wander and breeds creativity. Accept the fact that you don’t have to be mentally stimulated every minute of every day. Take a deep breath and look around you. Deal with the thoughts in your head that you’re trying to avoid. It may be painful in the moment, but in the long run a little boredom goes a long way.
Whether you pick one of these tips or all of them, know that getting rid of any habit will take time. Give yourself some leeway, but pick a couple of these rules and be a stickler. If you’re the kind of person who needs outside accountability, find a friend who is also struggling and have them check in with you along the way.
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