9 Ways to Have a Better Relationship With Your Phone
Let's face it. Most of us have an unhealthy relationship with our phones and other tech toys. So here's how to build better relationships with our phones so that we can live happier and healthier lives.
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Did you know that Americans check their phones about 47 times per day? Half of us check our phones in the middle of the night. And 1 in 10 adults check their phone during sex.
Wow! We must really like our phones.
Luckily, I'm not the only one who thinks that our relationships with our phones have gotten a bit out of hand (For more, see my book Outsmart Your Smartphone.)
So, what kind of relationship do you have with your phone?
Perhaps you check your phone for some important purpose only to get sucked into news, social media, or videos. Suddenly, hours go by, leaving you feeling unsatisfied and vaguely depressed, but you're not sure why. Or maybe, you look to your phone to provide your life with meaning, happiness, or some kind of positive feeling. If this sounds like you, then it's time to take a break from your phone.
Easier said than done though, right? We've become reliant on our phone's tools (like maps), the easy communication (like texts), and, well, just about everything else on our phones. To overcome these challenges, here are some of the tips:
Are You Dating Your Phone?
1. Reflect on how you use your phone
For a day or two, just pay attention to your relationship with your phone to gain clarity on how your phone makes you feel. What emotions do you have before using your phone? How about after using your phone? Who are you with? What are you doing? Where are you? When you pick up your phone, what do you do? Are there particular apps you use most often? How long do you get sucked in? Is it hard to return your attention back to other things?
What might your answers tell you about why you are using your phone? Ask yourself, is this really the way you want to use this time? Is it really making you happy? Or are you like most people, miserably addicted to a rectangular object that is making you miserable?
2. Try riding out your cravings
When we're addicted to something (like our phones), quitting cold turkey can result in some pretty massive cravings. One way to overcome these cravings is to better understand them. Ask yourself, why are you wanting to reach for your phone right now? What emotions are you hoping to experience? Or, are you trying to avoid an emotional experience? Instead of picking up your phone, just sit with your emotions and see if you can identify what, exactly, is causing you to reach for your phone.
3. Set your lock screen as a reminder to stop mindlessly checking your phone
You've discovered that using your phone to make you happy is not working - in fact, it's making you miserable. So, now you've decided you want to take a break from your phone (or maybe just use your phone less).
Is ignoring your uncomfortable cravings harder than you thought? Then set your lock screen with a reminder image to "Outsmart Your Smartphone".
Why We Should Rethink Our Relationship With Our Phones
4. Create a trigger
Ok, so you find that you skip through your lock screen, ignoring your reminder. It sounds like you need an extra layer of defense. If this sounds like you, then put something on the outside of your phone to slow you down when you reach for your phone - something like a sticker or rubber band.
5. Consider deleting social media apps from your phone
Social media - and other browsing apps - can be the biggest time sucks on your phone. When they aren't there, we can be less tempted to reach for our phones. So consider deleting social media apps from your phone.
I did this years ago. I just tell people that I don't have Facebook or Snapchat on my phone and so they know to contact me with a text. It really isn't a big deal and it keeps me from getting sucked into spending too much time on social media.
If this seems too extreme, try moving your apps somewhere other than your front page or changing your phone's display to grayscale. At least this way, those bright app buttons wont draw you in as easily.
6. Change where you charge your phone
If you charge your phone where you sleep, you'll be drawn to pick it up, whether you're resting, sleeping, or maybe even having sex. This is why one of the easiest tips to decrease phone time is to charge your phone outside the bedroom. Do you use your phone as an alarm? Then get a regular alarm clock! It's worth it.
7. Make no-phone zones and no-phone times
Some people don't allow phones in their houses. Others don't allow phones in the bathroom. Do you have a space that you would like to be phone free? Then make it so. Personally, in my tiny bay-area apartment, this is not really an option. So instead, I have no-phone times. This may sounds weird, but I don't take my phone on errands, like grocery shopping, going to the post office, or picking up take out. It's a small chunk of phone-free time, but quite freeing, I think.
8. Find more things you like to do
Remember, the time you spend playing on your phone is time you aren't spending doing other things that make your life more interesting and meaningful. Unfortunately, we often default to our phone when we can't immediately think of other activities that we enjoy. To get out of this bind, start brainstorming fun activities you could do so that when you take a break from your phone, you won't feel bored. Instead, you'll feel pleased to have time to do all this cool stuff.
9. Check in with yourself often
Schedule a reminder to check in with yourself each month. Ask yourself, how is your relationship with your phone going? Are you staying present while using your phone? Are you only using apps that make you feel good? Are you only spending a small amount of time on your phone or are you getting sucked in and feeling miserable afterwards? Do you need to make any more changes? If so, then make them.
About Dr. Tchiki Davis
Dr. Davis is founder of The Berkeley Well-Being Institute. After getting her PhD in psychology at Berkeley, she started creating online content & programs to boost well-being—some of these have reached more than a million people. As author of Outsmart Your Smartphone, and contributor to Psychology Today, The Greater Good Science Center, and Shine Text, Dr. Davis aims to share her insights on happiness & health with people all across the world. Learn more about Dr. Davis.