Have you ever thought about your relationship with your phone? How many times a day you check your phone? How many hours a day you look at your phone? Have you ever found yourself mindlessly scrolling only to wonder what you were even looking for in the first place? Because I have, and I think about this a lot.
In January of this year, I hit a breaking point, physically, mentally, and emotionally. There were a lot of factors at play (my first year of motherhood, a dog dying of cancer, a global pandemic to name a few) but as I thought about what was triggering me, I realized how much being on my phone played a part. When I looked at my phone usage statistics I was pretty sad. My average daily screen time was 6.5 hours.
It’s hard to find consistent research because the numbers are generally all over the place, but here are a few statistics about phone usage. According to an article from Inc., we tap, swipe, and click on our phones an average of 2,617 times per day. One study found that people spend an average of 9 years looking at the screen of their mobile device (this was assuming the age of a user to obtain a smartphone is 10 years and uses it on average 3.07 hours daily).
I realize life has changed so much since I was a kid, but I think about this topic a lot, especially as the mother of a toddler. Cell phones and screen time weren’t even a thought growing up because they didn’t really exist. I didn’t have my first cell phone until my senior year of high school and it was for emergencies only. I think about the impact all of this time on phones has on our mental health, productivity and relationships, and especially on young children and teens. Honestly and sadly, there are probably so many of us with phone addictions and the best thing you can do to combat this is start to set some boundaries.
That’s not to say it’s all bad. There are wonderful things to be gained from the communities we find online and the conveniences and connectivity we can achieve with our phones. Particularly over the last year and a half when so many of us were isolated and alone, our phones helped us stay connected with our friends and family. At the same time, once I took certain steps to be on my phone less I realized just how I much I needed it. So if this is something you’ve thought about or are looking to try, here are some of my best tips for how to be on your phone less.
How To Be On Your Phone Less
Turn off push notifications.
This was one of the first things I did and it makes a huge difference. I had already done this for most apps, but somehow there were some sneaky apps like Apple News that were still popping up notifications, and I would inevitably reach for my phone. Turning off push notifications helps to reduce looking at your phone unnecessarily. Every time we see a text message notification it distracts us from what we are doing and we feel this intense need to see it right away. By turning off these notifications you can avoid this impending feeling. Android phones and iPhones now have easy unlocking features using thumb prints and face recognition that make unlocking your phone easier than ever. This can lead to more phone usage without even thinking about it!
No phone in the morning.
I made a rule that I can’t check my phone for the first hour I’m awake. And I can officially say it’s a MUCH better way to start my day. I didn’t realize just how much looking at my phone first thing in the morning was setting the tone for my day. Whether it was checking the news, checking the weather, scrolling Instagram, or reading email, it was totally unnecessary to do the second I woke up. Now I start my morning with a routine, usually coffee, breakfast, and occasionally a workout, before I check my phone. Try investing in an old fashioned alarm clock instead of using your phone as an alarm, so you aren’t tempted to sneak a peek at your phone first thing.
No phone before bed.
Similar to my above rule, I try to skip looking at my phone once I get in bed. I noticed it was really affecting my ability to fall asleep and my quality of sleep. I also started putting my phone in the drawer of my bedside table. It keeps me from reaching for my phone if I wake up in the middle of the night.
Take a walk.
Going for a walk is one of my favorite things to do especially when I need a reset or mental health break this is also beneficial for your digital wellbeing. Over the winter we did two walks a day, no matter the weather, sans phones. It was really nice and a great way to connect with nature regularly.
Set time limits for apps.
Admittedly I’ve only done this for Instagram, but it’s the app I spend the most time on. I set a daily limit of one hour for the app (through my iPhone settings). When I first started doing it I was shocked at how quickly an hour went by. Addicting apps, especially social media apps can suck you in and you completely lose track of how much time you have spent on them. Being on social media and IG in particular is a pretty significant part of my job, and honestly this has been challenging. Even if I don’t always stick to the time limit I like being aware of how much time I’m spending on it. It makes me much more mindful of how I spend my time on there.
Use “Do Not Disturb”
This feature is for iPhone users (there may be a similar option for Android). In your settings you can use Do Not Disturb, to silence calls, alerts, and notifications that you get while your device is locked. This will turn off all notifications so you can focus on your work, family, friends or sleep. You can also schedule Do Not Disturb for specific timeframes and allow calls from certain people. You will end up spending less time on your phone without distractions or disruptions.
Delete unused apps.
One more way to get rid of unnecessary distractions on your phone. Go through and delete any apps on your phone you’re not using or don’t need. I was pretty surprised how many I had on my phone that I didn’t even realize where there.
Try a new hobby.
I realized how little time I was spending on doing things just for fun. Once you start spending less time on your phone you will notice you have so much more free time to spend doing whatever you please. I started playing tennis again and it’s so nice to go out and do something fun without my phone. It’s amazing what it does for my mind and body. The time you spend on your phone can be used in a much more productive and healthy way.
Don’t take out the phone at dinner.
I’m not just talking about dinner at home but eating out too. I know many of us use our phones for pictures so I understand that, but otherwise, leave your phone in your bag (or at home). When I’m out to dinner I do not take out my phone. It’s my time to enjoy my meal and the people I’m spending time with, so I make a conscious effort not to check my phone.
Craig and I are perpetual re-arrangers. It’s such an easy, fun and free way to change up your home decor without having to buy anything new. Put the phone away, turn up a fun playlist and try switching up your space. You might be surprised at how much changing a few things can make it feel totally different.
Leave the phone at home.
What better way to get a break from your phone than to just leave it at home. One thing I try to do when I am without my phone is take in everything around me. I become more aware of my surroundings and think about what I might notice without the distraction of my phone.
Have you done anything like this? what did you notice? Do you have other tips to share? I’d love to know your thoughts on this topic in the comments. It’s something I’ve talked About a lot with family and friends, and I’m always curious how others feel about it too.
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