Am I an addict?

Looking at me you probably wouldn’t think so. I don’t do drugs and I rarely drink alcohol. But addiction has many forms.

Am I the only one who gets sweaty palms if I, for a nano-second, lose the whereabouts of my phone? The struggle against the need to check social media feeds first thing in the morning and the last thing at night is real. I’ve been there.

In the last ten years phones have jumped onto our essential and must-have lists. Life seems somewhat unimaginable without one. Seriously, who doesn’t have a smart phone?

A ‘phone’ sometimes seems to be an inadequate description of this technological wonder. They are incredibly useful devices, allowing us to contact anyone anywhere and at any time. We can access unlimited amount of information, we can capture significant life moments through photos and videos, and we can keep track of the latest breaking news.

However, I think we’re starting to learn there’s a dark side to the device in our pocket.

Some research is starting to show a link between the rise of mental health issues and addictive phone use (examples here and here). Perhaps the conclusions are not yet definitive but I do know that my own relationship with my phone is not always the healthiest.

Technology itself is not a bad thing, neither is it a good thing. It’s in our relationship with technology where issues start.

We need to wrestle back control over something that has slowly begun to control us.

We need to recharge our souls, not just our phones.

What healthy boundaries can we apply so that our own souls don’t run out of battery along the way?

Here are five ways that you can develop a healthier relationship with your phone…

  1. Keep your phone away from your bed

Sleep is one of the most important aspects of your life. We all need it. Having a good night sleep is essential to having clear thinking, more patience and a generally much better experience of life the next day.

Leaving your phone outside your bedroom while you sleep will help you get a better night’s rest. Each night I leave my phone in the kitchen and as I’ve started to do that I notice that I get to sleep quicker and I wake up in a better mood. That’s a win, for me and everyone else around me that day!

But I use my phone as an alarm?!

Well, there’s an alternative, you could use an alarm clock. Having an alarm clock on the other side of my room has helped me get up much easier in the mornings, I’m now usually up before 6am!

Keep your phone away from your bed and it’s almost guaranteed to lead to a better night sleep.

  1. Leave it out of reach

The reality is that we do need our phones most of the time. Living in Edinburgh, I use it for bus tickets, my diary, camera and literally 101 other things.

The truth is though that I don’t need it on my person all the time.

Take the most of opportunities not to have your phone on you. Leave it out of reach. So, when you run out of milk for your cup of tea and you dash to the shop, take your wallet and your keys but leave your phone behind.

Am I the only one who takes my phone to the toilet? Well, yes, maybe it’s an opportunity to catch up on social media, WhatsApp messages and the news? Or maybe it’s an opportunity to disconnect from being online 24/7.

When you go into a meeting at work try taking a notepad and pen rather than your phone. You’ll probably be much more engaged with what’s going on around you.

  1. Clear out the clutter

I’ve moved flats in Edinburgh several times and every time I’m surprised how much stuff I have that I don’t really need or use. Over time we seem to accumulate things. When was the last time you had a phone spring clean?

Once in a while have a clear-out of your devices. Ask yourself if this app adds or subtracts from my experience of life? If you can’t define how it adds to your life then delete it. If you do end up needing it at some point then download it again. Simple.

Like me you probably have apps that you thought you’d use but you’re never even opened. For iPhone users, under ‘Settings > General > iPhone Storage’ you can find out when you last used that app. The apps that come under ‘never used’? It’s time for them to go.

  1. Disable notifications

One of the best ways to get back control over your device is to disable notifications.

We do not need to be interrupted every moment of every day by the latest group chat on WhatsApp (hello MUTE option on group WhatsApp messages!) or by the latest like of someone else’s post on Facebook.

If something happens on the internet it should not be the reason for interrupting your work, study or whatever other life-giving and important activity you’re doing.

When the latest app you’ve downloaded asks if you’d like to be sent push notifications the answer is ‘no’. I do this every time.

I’ve also removed the preview for text messages. I see when I’ve got one, who it’s from but not what the message says because when you see a message asking you something then your brain is already processing it even if not consciously. Wait until you have a moment to look at your messages and you have time to reply to them. This will help you become proactive in your communication rather than reactive to everything that happens. Welcome to a less stressful life.

  1. Change your screen from colour to black and white

Did you know that phones are deliberately designed to be constantly vying for your attention?

The vibrant colours of apps are on purpose, they pull on our addictive leanings. To combat this addiction, there is a new trend recommended by tech gurus which activates the grayscale function on your phone allowing the bright colours to reduce their influence over your brain. Change your screen from colour to black and white, read how you can do it here.

Have you tried any of these tips? This isn’t an exhaustive list, do you have any suggestions to improve our relationship with our phones? I’d love to hear from you, leave a comment.

Thank you so much for reading, if you found this encouraging and helpful please share it with friends and followers. Dan 🙂