I (like most of you reading this, probably) am addicted to my phone. It’s always near me, always calling for me to check my notifications and waste my time. The thought of getting on a bus without earphones and a podcast fills me with dread. I’m aware of it and I’m aware of how I would like to set healthier boundaries for how I use my phone. But it is hard. It can be really hard to break our habits, and it doesn’t help that my job (in part) involves using my phone and social media, so I approach this knowing that I will always need to be connected some of the time.
The three major effects I see in myself since my phone got ‘smarter’ is my focus, presence and sleep, specifically, how I am getting/giving less than I would like. It’s been scientifically proven that our addiction to smartphones has a negative effect on both our happiness and our ability to connect with real, live people. (A great example outlining these ideas is this episode of The Happiness Lab). I don’t want to be doing anything that makes me less happy and I don’t enjoy feeling like I’m not in control of my attention. So what am I going to do about it?
I can’t quite remember how I came across it (it was probably a recommendation on one of the podcasts I listen to) but I found the book How To Break Up With Your Phone by Catherine Price which I have just read. The book is split into two sections, the first outlines a lot of the knowledge about smartphone overuse, giving you the info to back up your desire to create a healthier relationship with your phone and putting everything into perspective. The second section is a 30-day plan that gives you actions or journal prompts to do each day, helping you on your journey to break up and make up with your phone. It is worth saying that this book isn’t telling you to break up with your phone and throw it in the bin, never to be used again, it’s more about breaking up the relationship you have with it now and rebuilding but with some beautiful boundaries this time. The idea is to stop your phone being something you reach for compulsively to fill every waking second of boredom, and instead to make it something you purposely reach for when you want to use it. Our phones are incredibly useful so we shouldn’t stop using them as a tool, but we just need to stop using them so much as a distraction when we could be doing something better.
The key steps that were real game-changers for me were:
- Turning off all my notifications – only allowing vibrate for phone calls in case of emergency
- Putting a reminder on my lock screen to always question ‘What for? Why now? What else?’ when I pick up my phone
- Getting a physical alarm clock and banishing my phone to another room from, roughly, 10pm each night so it’s not the last thing I see at night and the first thing in the morning
(I’m going off on a tangent now to tell you about my amazing new alarm clock which is also a sunrise lamp!! In the morning, 30 minutes before my alarm goes off, it gradually lights up and wakes me naturally as the sun would. I can also set a 30 minute sunset for when I’m ready to fall asleep and it is great for helping me drift off. I really think this has helped me to improve my sleeping schedule and I think my energy and brain are glad that I did something about it. If you’re interested in getting an alarm clock like mine I’ve linked it here (not sponsored, obviously)).
So yeah, it was an amicable break-up and we’re still pals just not joined at the hip anymore. Going through Catherine Price’s 30 Day Plan really helped me to think about my phone usage, where it is super helpful and great and also where it really should just be kept away. Even the days I spent without using my phone at all were really… fine. Not as traumatic *eye roll* as I thought they might be! Following the plan was also really helpful for making me do all those admin tasks like clearing out apps and customising notification settings that seem like things that can wait but actually do make a big difference. Maybe I’ll check in later to see if I’ve kept up my good new habits but I do feel an improvement in my sleeping and attention span and I like taking the time to focus on being present in the moment because it means that I enjoy what I’m doing and who I’m with more.