Phones and apps are designed to get us addicted. The latest revelations about this were in the eye-opening documentary ‘The Social Dilemma’ on Netflix. Because of its addictive powers, many people need and/or are looking for a phone detox.
We can create healthy habits for our phone use, but as you probably have experienced yourself – only willpower is not enough to reduce phone screen time.
It takes a series of steps to combat the urge of spending too much time on your phone. These are 7 habits for healthy phone use and to commit to a long-term phone detox.
1. Healthy phone routines
There are plenty of situations where it is easy to grab your phone, get lost in it and waste 30 minutes.
As mentioned before, only surviving on willpower ain’t gonna cut it for most people trying to do a phone detox. But if you have a routine set up for situations, you can fall back on that. Your routines will be your guidelines to know how to act in certain moments.
You need to make decisions ahead of time about how you want to act in particular circumstances, so you don’t need to think about what to do when you encounter such a situation.
When you do these routines often and consistently, over time it will become a habit.
Examples of healthy phone routines are:
- Keep your phone out of your bedroom at night. Have a designated charging spot outside of your bedroom and get an alarm clock for your bedroom. You can also set other No-Phone zones in your home, like the dining area.
- Don’t look at your phone in your first and last hours of the day.
- Put your phone away during work, in a designated spot, and only allow yourself to grab it during certain times.
- Turn off all notifications and only open your email 3 times a day, preferably at set times.
- Know what you want to use your phone for when you pick it up. To take it further, you could use the search bar to go to an app instead of scrolling through your apps (the latter makes it easy to get distracted).
- Set some rules with yourself about where you can not use your phone. For example, when you’re waiting in line, standing in the elevator, waiting for public transport, when you’re feeling socially anxious, etc.
2. Phone manners
Just like you have internalized manners such as covering your nose and mouth when sneezing, or not speaking with a full mouth, you would want to have phone manners.
What do you want to do with your phone when you’re interacting with others? Put it on silent, keep it out of sight?
And when you’re watching a movie or tv show, when you’re having a meal, when you’re driving a car, or when you’re in class or a meeting – how will you use (or rather not use) your phone in these situations?
Write it down as guidelines for yourself, such as:
During dinner: phone completely out of sight.
Driving: in my bag.
Watching a movie or show: other side of the room, on Do Not Disturb mode.
One of the manners I think we should all incorporate is ‘no phubbing’. Phubbing is short for phone snubbing – glancing at your phone in the middle of conversations, or spending time on your phone when you’re supposed to interact with others in real-time.
It’s okay to pull out your phone to show photos for example, as that will add to the conversation. It’s not okay to reach for your phone out of habit or boredom. If you do the latter: work extra hard on this in your phone detox.
Do you really need to check your phone while you’re in the middle of an interaction? Ask the other party if it’s okay with them, similar to asking, ‘Do you mind if I take this call?’. They might think it’s weird to ask for their permission, but you can just explain that you’re trying not to phub them – it’s a good conversation starter and the idea might rub off on them too.
3. Phone breaks
Allow yourself to have breaks where you can scroll mindlessly through your phone. Having guilt-free phone moments makes it easier to avoid bingeing.
The trick to make these breaks successful instead of potential fall-backs into your old habits is to set a designated moment in the day and to set a timer.
If you’re worried about your self-discipline during these breaks – despite setting a timer – you can use an app-blocker to schedule these moments in advance.
Before you start this habit, think about it and write down your plan for when and how long you will give yourself guilt-free phone time.
4. Phone fasting aka phasting
This is basically the opposite of point 3: have fixed times where you will not use your phone and turn it off for your phone detox.
For example, every evening after 8 pm. Or block all functions except your actual phone between 9 am – 5 pm, making your smartphone essentially a ‘dumbphone’.
Another option for phasting is to have a 24-hour period or weekend where you will turn off your phone for this whole period. Even if you do this once a month, it will impact your phone use during all the other days.
It’s very relieving to have a phast. Many people are reluctant at first but love it after they have done it.
Write down your plan for this habit as well and schedule it in your calendar. That reduces the chances that you will forget about it or are not committed and disciplined enough.
5. Have non-phone-related activities
Often people resort to grabbing their phone in their free time, simply because they don’t know another (fun) way to pass the time.
Write a list of some non-phone-related activities that you enjoy doing, so you can resort to these activities during your phone detox.
Don’t be ashamed or discouraged if you have a hard time coming up with activities – a lot of people struggle with that nowadays.
Like the other points, write down the activities in advance, so you don’t have to think of it in the moment itself. Ideally, you write it down like:
I enjoy baking cookies – so I will bake cookies every weekend instead of scrolling through Instagram.
I like to stay in touch with friends and family – so I will call (not text!) someone when I have 20-30 minutes to pass.
You can find examples in my post about screen-free activities for at home.
Here are also some examples:
– Playing a musical instrument
– Go hiking
– Playing a sport, whether indoor or outdoor
– Reading a book or magazine
– Drawing or DIY crafting
– Writing stories or keeping a diary
– If you have a hard time keeping up with household chores, this is also an ideal non-phone-related activity 😉
Mindfulness has many definitions. In general, it means to be in the moment and be aware of your actions and surroundings.
How often do you look around and take in what you’re seeing? And how often are you really by yourself, just you and your thoughts?
Most of us grab our phones each moment we have nothing to do. This means we are keeping our brains active all the time and don’t allow it to rest for a bit.
In the context of healthy phone habits and phone detox, mindfulness will teach you to be alone with your thoughts and observe your surroundings.
Being still and in the moment is relaxing for your mind. Your brain can’t handle to be continuously stimulated. You need stillness to spur creativity and process all earlier stimuli.
You can practice mindfulness through meditation, but also by observing your surroundings. While listening to music, observe the different instruments, listen to the words. Look around you and watch the colors, textures, movements, etc. There is no need to judge; simply relax by observing.
Mindfulness also helps you to be aware of your actions, such as reaching for your phone.
When you’re trying to break bad phone habits, be aware of the triggers that make you reach for your phone. In which situations do you pick up your phone without a valid reason?
Then let it happen, use your phone as you normally would. But pay attention to how your ‘phone craving’ makes you feel, both emotionally and physically. Most likely, you will not feel good afterward. Being aware of this feeling will put you on higher alert when you reach for your phone the next time.
7. Doing attention-building exercises
Excessive phone use deteriorates your attention span, so you need to restore your ability to focus and to ignore distractions.
You can retrain your brain and keep it in shape by doing regular mental and physical exercises.
The more you practice building your attention, the better you will get at it.
A few examples of exercises:
– Devote a period of time (like 10-15 minutes) to focus on one thing, such as a project you’re working on or a book you’ve read. Bring your thoughts back to the topic if it wanders off.
– Strengthen a skill such as multiplying two-digit numbers in your head. It’s harder than you think.
– Writing a daily journal
– Doing a yoga lesson
– Reading a book. Getting lost in a book can be very relaxing, teaches your brain to focus on one thing and ignore distractions. And over time, reading improves reasoning, processing visual signals and even memory.
Let’s get started with your phone detox
I hope these 7 phone detox habits will help you in your journey to spend less time on your phone.
People’s phone use has only been increasing over the last 10 years and will probably only grow more. But we’re not using our phone for good – we simply have become addicted to it. And we’re missing out on precious moments in our lives because we’re glued to our screens.
Don’t forget to grab the FREE social media detox guide!
Keep control over your phone, don’t let your phone control you, and rob you of precious time you could have spent living your real life.
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