Many of us can admit to spending too much time on our phones, but are you aware of just how much? According to research from the media analytics company comScore, the average American adult spent approximately 2 hours and 51 minutes on their smartphone every single day in 2017. In an entire lifetime, what might seem like a couple hours here and there on social media, texting, or streaming music actually tallies up to over five years and four months! To put it in perspective, that’s the same amount of time it would take to travel to the moon and back 32 times.
It’s been said that recovery starts with acknowledging your problem, so here goes: I have a slew of bad cell phone habits, and until recently, did not have a not a clue how to change them. But trust me—nothing helps you kick your cellphone addiction to the curb like checking out your own screen-time-use stats. What started as a fun social experiment quickly turned into a harsh reality check—I had spent nine hours on Instagram alone in the past week!
The holiday season and New Year is a great time to reflect on some of our bad habits, and for many, smartphone overuse is a great place to start. Cell phone addiction is real; it can have negative mental health effects like increasing rates of depression and stress, as well as physical health effects like osteoporosis and wear-and-tear on the spine. In a time of year where it’s especially important to reflect and live in the moment, here are my best tips for building better phone habits:
1. Turn off as many notifications as possible
Push notifications are one of the most distracting features of a smartphone, and they’re not always necessary. You don’t have to be interrupted every time someone likes your newest Instagram photo receives or your favorite retailers announces their latest sale. A simple way to minimize these distractions is to turn off any non-essential push notifications. You’ll be less tempted to check your phone anytime it buzzes and more likely to pay attention to the notifications you do receive. Personally, I only leave notifications on for new emails, chat app messages, calendar updates, and utility apps such as Uber or GrubHub.
2. Eat your meals without a screen
This tip might seem a bit out there, but think about this: how often do you use your meal breaks to catch up on online news or scroll through social media? We often mindlessly surf the web during a lunch break, or even while waiting in line for a cup of coffee. Instead, use your meal times to take a break from screen time— your eyes will thank you for it! The blue light transmitted from our devices can damage the eyes’ retinas and also trigger headaches. Because of this, it’s important to look up from our devices throughout the day to reduce unnecessary strain. In fact, you may find it more enjoyable to share a meal with a friend or coworker to split up a long workday.
3. Charge your phone outside the bedroom
Don’t let your phone be the last thing you see at night and the first thing you check in the morning. Looking at your phone’s screen just before bed has been shown to disrupt sleep patterns. Whether you’re surfing the web, playing a video game, or using your phone as an alarm clock in the late evening, you’re probably keeping yourself from a restful night. Try using a traditional alarm clock instead, and leave your smartphone in the kitchen at night. You’re likely to have a more pleasant morning if you’re not being bombarded first thing with a sea of texts, notifications, or other updates.
4. Turn on your device’s grayscale
If you’re still struggling to not pick up your phone constantly throughout the day, try making your phone experience less appealing and satisfying. The bright colors and fun images associated with our favorite apps act as “shiny rewards” any time you look at your phone. To fix this, some experts suggest enabling grayscale on your phone. This tactic works incredibly well for apps like Instagram and Facebook, as it makes them a lot less entertaining to mindlessly scroll through.