Health & Wellness

Ditch Your Phone: 10 Tips to Break Your Phone Addiction 

I have a love-hate relationship with technology. On one hand, I love the ability to follow friends and family and communicate quickly and efficiently. On the other, I feel like I’m never away from my phone for very long and often find myself checking it when it’s silent. Guess what, folks? That’s an addictive quality—and I often want to just break up with my phone. Do you ever feel that way? Do you need to break your phone addiction, too?

I decided to take some steps to disconnect from my smartphone more often. I believe that being intentional with your phone use can not only help you find more peace of mind, but it can also help you take back control of your time, resulting in far more productivity. If you want to break your phone addiction keep reading for more information on the effects of smartphones on the brain, plus 10 tips on how to stop smartphone addiction.

 

What You Need to Know About Smartphone Addiction

How often do you check your phone? You may (or may not) be surprised to learn that of the estimated 264 million Americans who own a smartphone, the average person checks their phone 47 times a day, according to a 2017 survey! And for those ages 18 to 24 that number jumps to 86. [1]

Now, let’s be honest: Is every interaction on your phone work related? Or perhaps you’re scrolling to check in on others’ lives on social media? And how much of that is slowing you down on your workload? And how many times do you check your phone when you haven’t heard it “beep” for a while? All of these are signs you may need to break your phone addiction.

 

What Is Smartphone Addiction?

So, what is smartphone addiction exactly? While there is debate among some researchers about whether or not to call overuse or over-dependence on your cell phone an addiction, most experts agree that many people have unhealthy phone habits that can affect their health and even impact their relationships with friends and family. In fact, many cellphone addiction studies show links between overuse of phones and mental, emotional, and physical issues. [2]

Smartphone addiction is also known as nomophobia, which means “no mobile phone phobia.” This basically means that an individual has a fear of not being able to use their cell phone or other smart device. If you find the idea of being without causes you feelings of anxiety or even panic, you may have nomophobia. You can also take a quiz to find out if you are addicted to using your smartphone.

 

Why are Smartphones Addictive?

Our relentless schedules and constant demands to be connected all the time are wreaking havoc on our bodies and minds, leading to high levels of stress that are impacting our health.

Some of you may remember when a phone was simply a device to make a phone call. You didn’t get calls when you were away from home. You answered work calls while at work, during work hours. Now our phones are not simply phones, but a portable computer. The ongoing pinging, buzzing, and ringing just contributes to the constant state of “fight-or-flight” that many of us experience every day, and this has significant health consequences.

Apps on our phones are designed to feed our need for social interaction and security, yet the barrage of notifications and information is actually having the opposite effect. In fact, 86 percent of Americans say they are stressed out by checking their email and social media accounts constantly. Most of us simply are not built for multitasking. [3]

The constant switching back and forth between tasks causes a rise in the stress hormone cortisol, which then causes an increase in dopamine, a neurotransmitter that makes us feel good. This sets up a dangerous cycle of cravings for a reward (checking our phone) and stress (caused by the constant interruption).

When we are distracted and interrupted repeatedly, not surprisingly our ability to focus on tasks, whether at work or while driving a car, for example, becomes impaired.

 

How are Smartphones Harmful?

Smartphones actually can be helpful in many ways when used in an intentional and mindful way. They are not just communication devices, but also tools for organization and easy access to information and entertainment via the internet such as listening to music or watching movies. You can even use meditation apps on your smartphone to help you take time to relax and focus.

It’s not even the device itself that is the problem, but rather the way we use it. Excessive and mindless smartphone use has been linked to some harmful effects, including the following:

  • Studies have found correlations between excessive use of smartphones—particularly checking social media—and depression, anxiety, and stress [4, 5] These apps can create changes in emotion via your brain, resulting in impulsive behavior.
  • Keeping a phone in your bedroom or checking it right before bedtime has been shown to negatively impact sleep. Also, anxiety and depression resulting from overuse of phones can also cause trouble sleeping. [6, 7]You are also more likely to check it first thing upon waking, potentially igniting stress and emotional reactions to that “urgent” email that came through. This causes inconsistencies in cortisol rhythms.
  • Research has shown a link between teenage cellphone addictionand a higher risk of suicide among teenagers. [8]
  • Ongoing distraction caused by cell phones has been linked to lost productivity both at work and at home. [9] Realistically, how many of your work hours are actually spent working? Do you feel like you’ve accomplished a lot at the end of each day?
  • How we use our smartphones is also impacting our ability to have meaningful relationships in real life. [10] Have you gone to a restaurant and looked around only to see the majority of people at tables on their phones? We are losing emotional intimacy!
  • Eye strain and other eyesight problems, including a condition known as transient smartphone blindness (TSB), have been linked to smartphone usage. [11, 12]

Keep reading to find out how you can break your phone addiction.

5 health risks of smartphone use - Dr. Pingel

10 Tips to Break Your Phone Addiction

Now that you know more about what smartphone addiction is, I want to give you a few tips on how to stop smartphone addiction.

1. Turn off notifications on your phone.

One of the quickest ways to help limit how often your phone distracts you is to go into your phone’s settings and turn off the push notifications from the apps on your phone. [13] You can also turn off the sound for text message notifications. Making these simple changes can help lower your stress level more than you may expect.

2. Limit how much time you spend on social media.

If you can’t “unplug” from these apps altogether, then set one time at the end of each work day to check Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media apps. Check your phone and then put it aside. For those of you work on social media for a living, limit your use to your standard work day, and then unplug completely when you “clock out.”

3. Change your screen to grayscale.

Go into the “accessibility settings” in your phone’s general settings and change the color filters to grayscale. This will make your phone’s screen less visually appealing and help to cut down on the “bright and shiny” distraction. [14]

4. Remove tempting apps from your phone.

At the very least, put them in a folder on the last page of your phone’s home screen. You can also set your phone to limit time of use of social media apps to avoid overuse. This is a fabulous idea to raise awareness for teenagers and young adults, who have been raised with cell phones in their pockets.

5. Keep your phone out of your bedroom.

I highly recommend leaving your phone in another room to help improve your sleep. If you currently use your phone as an alarm clock, consider using an actual alarm clock instead to avoid the temptation of checking it before bed and upon waking. On the occasion that you need to use your phone as an alarm clock (such as while traveling), set it to airplane mode, place it across the room, and flip it over so that the light doesn’t wake you.

6. Don’t bring phones to the dinner table.

Make the dinner table a “no phone zone” and keep dinnertime focused on catching up with your family or friends. Having phones on the table makes it too easy to check out of the conversation, sending the message that your nearest and dearest aren’t important.

In fact, an international survey of 6,000 children found that over 30 percent of the children felt unimportant when their parents used their smartphones during conversations, meals, and other family events. [15] In the event that you do have to take a call, let the people around you know and leave the room to do so. Be respectful and don’t text or talk right in front of them. It leaves the impression that they are less important. This especially goes for kids. If you have work-related matters, make it clear to the child that you need to take a work call, hand them a creative activity, and leave the room. Then return after the call to focus on them completely.

Use your time together as a way to catch up and connect. If your child is restless, bring a bag of toys they don’t see often, crayons and paper, or a small puzzle. Encourage them to distract themselves with healthy habits. My husband and I would often bring the card game “UNO” and join in the fun while waiting for dinner to arrive. Today, our kids state our interactions with them over food are some of their favorite memories.

7. Hide your phone.

Seriously, put your phone in a drawer or another room. The old adage “out of sight, out of mind” can apply to your phone, too! [16]

8. Schedule work time without your phone.

To improve your work productivity, turn off your phone and schedule periods of time to check your messages and return emails or calls. Then turn it back off for a set length of time to minimize distractions and help you focus on the task at hand. You may be surprised to find that your productivity increases and your stress decreases. [17]

9. Use your phone only as a phone for three weeks.

It takes 21 days to break a habit, so to break your phone addiction in three weeks, no lengthy text conversations, no social media, no games or apps. If you find yourself getting back into the habit after a couple months, take another break.

10. Implement a no-phone rule with friends and family.

When meeting up with friends and family, agree to put your phones away while spending time together.

 

If you find yourself making excuses for the use of your phone, such as you “need it for work,”  “have to always be available,” or “cannot turn it off for an hour as the demands are too high,” then perhaps consider how much stress your job might be placing on you. It may be having a major impact on your health, meaning it might be time for a major lifestyle change.

 

Key Takeaways

  • Numerous studies show health impacts from constant cell phone use, including depression, anxiety, feelings of abandonment, anger, and higher risks of suicidal tendencies and accidents.
  • Constant stimulation results in imbalances in your “fight-or-flight” response, which results in a variety of possible symptoms, including depression, anxiety/fear, insomnia, fatigue, and other hormonal imbalances.
  • There are debates among psychology experts about whether “phone addiction” is an accurate term. Regardless of what it’s called, several studies have linked excessive smartphone use with psychological and even physical health conditions.
  • Review my list of 10 tips to help you break your phone addiction to help you minimize distraction, increase productivity, lower stress, and improve your relationships.

 

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