My eighteen year old son recently left his smartphone for a flip phone. He had become so dependent on his little screen that he was neglecting important things like real people, sleep, exercise, and reading. This led me to think a lot about how much I use my own smartphone. I have even considered getting rid of it. There are a small number of functions that are critical to my work — my calendar is a big one – that have kept me from making the leap. I am not anti-smartphone as much as I am pro-wellbeing.
So, for those of you who are finding that your phone has become another appendage, I offer the following simple ways to reduce your dependency. They are organized starting with the least painful and disruptive.
Wear a watch
Phones are the new time piece. This means that you have a valid excuse to look at your phone many times a day. Then, as long as you are looking, why not check out your Instagram feed and catch up on the news? Suddenly it is twelve minutes later than when you first checked the time.
Turn off notifications
Unless you drive an ambulance or are a neurosurgeon, you will probably be okay not knowing within six seconds each time someone had a thought for you. It may take some time to wean yourself off the little shot of adrenaline and dopamine you currently get each time a buzz or a bing goes off in your pocket. You’ll be okay.
Get an alarm clock
Worst place for a smartphone? The bedroom. So many reasons. Healthy sleep is the foundation of just about every aspect of wellbeing. Screens are sleep assassins. They stimulate your brain last thing at night, and when you first open your eyes – “oh look, I can check my email. I love starting my day with the stress of all the fires I need to put out!” You can buy an small alarm clock for a few dollars – best investment.
Go black and white
It is super easy to make your screen black and white. Not. Sexy. At all. The lack of color gives your brain one less cheap thrill to seek from your phone. Cat videos are just not the same. This is a good thing. It’s super easy to do this on the iPhone, and slightly more complicated on an Android. Google how to do it.
Remove social media
No, seriously. Talk to live people when you are with them. You can check your Facebook and Linkedin on your computer when it is intentional. One of my clients has developed the discipline of only checking her email when she has time to respond. That way, she doesn’t stress about the content while she is in the shower or making dinner. And, why, exactly, are you checking CNN?
Get a basket
Drop your phone by the door when you are with the people you love – these people you have chosen to spend your life with. Powerful skills of empathy are formed when we talk to people face to face. Research indicates that we are losing these skills. This is not a good thing.
Life is a flippin’ miracle. All around you – all the time. Wiggle your fingers and marvel at how the heck you are doing something when you have no idea how it works. Right now, you are decoding dark shapes on a white background – we call these words – and you have no idea how it is happening. People are walking, talking, breathing, thinking, helping, loving, bumbling miracles, living in a universe that is miraculous beyond comprehension. And yet, we can get completely bent out of shape because our slow internet connection is not letting us watch a video of someone eating a Tidepod.
This is it. Your life. Not one of us knows whether we have 60 seconds or 60 years left in this body, on this planet. Why not spend a bit more of that time living consciously rather than virtually? Just sayin’
Do you have a strategy that works for you? Love to hear it in the comments below.