10 Easy Ways to Tackle Your Smart Phone Over-use 

Ciara Wright, Director & Food Crew, The Wellness Crew 

How often do you look at your smartphone every day? If you’re like most people then the answer is probably a lot, or if we’re being truly honest with ourselves, too much.

 Larry Rosen, psychology professor and author of The Distracted Mind, reports that most people check their phone every 15 minutes or less, even if they don’t have any alerts or notifications.  “We’ve built up this layer of anxiety surrounding our use of technology, that if we don’t check in as often as we think we should, we’re missing out.”

But what impact does this have on our health and wellbeing? Rosen’s research shows that besides increasing anxiousness, the compulsion to check notifications feeds interferes with people’s ability to focus. Distraction is the enemy of productivity. 

And of course it’s not just about over-use of phones, it’s what we’re doing on them? Several studies have revealed that social media can be bad for your mental health. Indeed this is even recognised by Facebook, who admit that the passive use of its social network can leave people in negative moods. Researchers are still working to establish what the long-term effects of spending so much time on our devices will be. Even without long-term evidence, however, we’re becoming more and more aware of the importance of managing our digital health. 

If you’re mindful that you’re digital habits are leaning towards the unhealthy then you may be looking for some advice on how to tackle the over-use of your smart phone. Here, we’ll look at 10 measures you can take. Even just adopting one or to will positively impact your digital wellbeing. 

So, let’s get started. 

Use your phone with purpose not for distraction

Distinguish your smartphone use between purpose and distraction. Purpose might be to answer a call, write an email, take a photo, post to social media, find directions, check a fact or so on. Distraction is when you turn on your phone for no particular reason. it’s the difference between being an active agent of your phone and a passive dweller, waiting for the internet to engage you. 

 Purpose is fine. Distraction is what you need to cut. So, every time you pick up your phone get in the habit of asking yourself – ‘what’s the purpose?’ If you don’t have one, don’t turn it on.  

2. Stop using your phone as a security blanket

Do you use your phone as a crutch when you’re alone in public? Such times, for instance, as eating lunch in a cafe or riding the train to work? We often feel compelled to pull out our phone for company, or indeed to avoid the company of strangers around us. But here again you have to ask yourself, what’s the purpose? If the answer this time is purely to hide, or because ‘I’m alone’ then it’s a good idea to try and resist the urge to lose yourself in your phone. Be present.Watch the world go by. Live in your moment instead of scrolling through other people’s. 

3.  Turn off push notifications and alerts. 

Do your phone chime or beep or buzz every time you get a WhatsApp message, or a new article is published on Sky Sports, or someone likes your Instagram post? If you allow alerts to determine your day then you’re essentially enslaved to your phone. Take the power back by turning off all nonessential alerts. You can check them in your own time. 

In his book Log Off, Blake Snow teaches us about the four burners theory—your four burners are family, friends, health, and work. He advises that anything that’s not essential to these should be removed. 

4. Delete

If you resent the time warp that happens when you are drawn into certain apps such as social media or news bulletins why not just DELETE them from your phone. It’s one sure way to stop you using them so frequently. You can still access these media via your mobile web browser, so all you’re doing is removing the short-cut. Making it less easy to access will prevent the instinctive app tap that sucks you in. 

5. Remove apps from  your home page 

If deleting your apps is too permanent for you,  how about trying an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ strategy. Remove the apps that suck up your time and distract you from your home page, leaving only ones you use for practical purposes. If you are confronted with social media icons every time you switch on your phone, you’re more likely to click into them.  By moving Facebook or Instagram or gaming apps to a separate page you’ll take away the temptation to check them and make it more burdensome to do so.  

6. Break up with your phone at bedtime

Sleep expert with The Wellness Crew Aisling Killoran encourages us to keep our phones out of the bedroom, explaining that “mobiles radiates out electromagnetic radiation, so your phone ideally needs to be at least 3ft away from your body while sleeping. Blue light contamination prevents us from falling asleep. Furthermore:

“Sleeping with your phone can affect the quality of your sleep, concentration and cognitive abilities. It can lead to headaches, nightmares, interrupted sleep patterns and biological clock, stress, and insomnia.”

Killoran advises us to go back to basics. Replace your mobile with a traditional alarm clock and try reading a real book instead of a screen. 

7. Digital Detox or Electronics Fast

A digital detox is about removing all electronic devices from your life for a period as a means of cleansing. This is more of an awareness exercise than anything else. Like other types of detox it is unlikely that we can live without digital media forever. Taking a break is really just a way to shine some light on how reliant you maybe on your mobile, laptop, smart TV and so on. 

A digital detox can be a once-off experiment or something built into family routine, for example, one day a week. 

8. Monitoring

It might seem like a contradiction to employ a tech solution to resolve a tech over-use problem but think of it as fighting fire with fire. There are so many smart things that our smart phones do that it’s understandable we’ve become a little bit hooked. Yet, so smart are our phones that they can even help us with this addiction. 

Apple and Google have built their own tools to tell you how much time you waste on your smartphone or tablet, as well as features that help you reduce screen time. If these aren’t available to you just yet, consider installing an app that tracks your smartphone habits, like QualityTime or Moment, which enable you to set a specific usage goal and stay accountable. Furthermore, some apps are building usage features into them. Facebook recently announced that the mobile apps for Facebook and Instagram  now include new tools to let you manage the time you spend on these platforms.

9. Greyscale 

Greyscale is an accessibility setting on your phone you can use to drain your screen of colour. It makes your phone drab, the idea being that icons are no longer shiny and bright and enticing. 

10. Phone-free outings/events

If it’s not on you, you can’t check it. Try leaving your phone at home when you don’t need it, like going for a walk with a friend or working in the garden. Does it really need to be right beside you at all times? Today’s convention is that we’re always available at the end of the phone, but constant contact is not a necessity. The human race survived for centuries without it, so it certainly can’t hurt to go to the shops or out for dinner without bringing your phone! 

Small steps make a big difference

Not all of the measures we’ve discussed here will work for you. But is there a few here that you feel are doable? Like anything we do to improve our health and wellbeing, small steps make a difference. By instituting even one or two of these practices you’ll be helping to remove distraction and get more time back to spend on what really matters to you. 

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