Stop checking your phone! | How to declutter screen time

Do smartphones really make your life easier? 

In my last blog I listed the overall effects of technology on all aspects of your life. These are similar to overuse of a smartphone and also include a distribution to your GABA levels that directly affect your ability to be in a calming state. These levels are directly affected by things like anxiety and, most of all, addictive behaviours. Gray matter is also affected which is responsible for controlling movement, memory and emotions. No wonder there is an increase in people feeling disconnected and unfocused.

The fear of missing out plays a role in the need to stay connected, but to what? Can you honestly say that you feel a deep connection to anyone or any community that you interact solely by phone or via an online platform? When we feel confident and being our authentic selves, the fear of missing out doesn’t cross our minds.

The thing is, if you are so engulfed in your phone all the time it’s hard to know the difference. Jonathan Garner, the founder of Mind Tech, tells his story of being on a meditation retreat to find himself sneaking away to get onto his phone. Sometimes we need to experience a contrast or complete separation from something before we can see the impact  it has on our lives. 

So why are you grabbing your phone so much?

Here is some research on overall phone use. One study showed that people touched their phone anywhere from 2 to 5 hours a day. And another study showed they touch their phone on average of 2,500 to 5,500 times a day! So why is this happening? See if any of the reasons below speak to you:

  • The need for social connection
  • A sense of instant gratification
  • Missing meaning in your life
  • Avoiding an uncomfortable emotion, situation or relationship
  • Being triggered and needing to escape 
  • Bored and without activities outside of work

10 Habits to help you shift to the present moment

Below are some habits that you can introduce to help you shift away from overuse of your phone to being more present. By making a conscious choice on how you spend your time you will feel more connected to yourself and more likely to respond to life rather than react to it. 

Did you know that there are apps to help curb your usage?First, think about what you need from the app. Then make a list of the top five features you would need. This will help you  make a decision and not get lost in another rabbit hole of being on your phone for too long. You can find videos for pretty much any function you want to implement on your phone making it easy to make the changes. Here are some options:

  1. Mute, reduce or eliminate notifications and only have them for phone messages. You can also turn your phone into a dummy phone, reducing your likelihood of going on it to scroll.
  2. Switch the colour of your screen to grayscale, this has a great calming effect on the brain and also makes it less enticing to use. I did this for both my phone and computer and I’m loving it!
  3. Have your phone out of sight, out of mind. Pretend it’s a home phone and have a place for it where you intentionally use it. When you are out you can do keep it in a bag or in your pocket, instead of on the table (for example, when you are out for a meal).
  4. Shift to using your computer instead of your phone to do emails and work related items.
  5. Build coping skills for when you are stressed, dysregulated or disconnected. Integrating different mindfulness and calming exercises throughout the day to help you stay grounded and connected to yourself. 
  6. Strengthen your support network and community! How often is your overuse of screen time actually because you are feeling alone and don’t have enough meaning or meaningful connection in your life?
  7. What do you want to bring into your life? Think about your bigger “why?” around your life purpose and what habits connect with it..
  8. Be intentional when checking your phone. I’ve seen some suggestions where people put a sticky note on their phone or a phrase on the lock screen to help remind them of their intention. 
  9. Get rid of data. I can say that not having data is great, people wonder how I do it? I never got it, so I don’t know the difference 😄! 
  10. Get a watch!  I often check my phone to know what time it is or bring it with me when I go for a walk just so I know the time. 

Tech detox

As mentioned earlier in Jonathan’s experience, sometimes we need a contrast to reset, notice and be aware of our habits and ways of being. Find a way to do a detox for even 5 hours. If you have a family, do it together and find other ways to spend time together. If you live alone, find a way to be around others and introduce things that you’ve always wanted to do. If you are a couple, you could use it to have a holiday, even a day trip, to go away together without tech (yes, even for directions).. 

Some people do a gradual shift when letting go of a habit, while others go cold turkey. Either way, I recommend doing a 24-hour detox and only have your phone function for emergencies.

5 Step to let go of your phone screentime

Last month I showed you how to use my 5-step process to get an overall idea of your tech use and how to declutter it. Let’s take some time now using the information above to help you map out how to implement these strategies specifically around your phone use. It’s one thing to read a tip and another to actually integrate it into your life. Using this process will allow you to reconnect with what’s important to you, what you want to create in your life and then let go of what’s getting in the way. 

  1. Connect
    1. Values, what’s important?
    2. Intentions – what are your intentions around your phone use and how you want to spend your time?
    3. What will help you stay connected and reconnect – Anchors 
    4. Others – Accountability and who will support you?
  2. Create
    1. What do you want to create in your life? It can even be a state of being like calm, balanced, and harmonious. 
    2. What activities would help you be in that state or are needed to create what you want?
  1. Release + replace
    1. Take an inventory for a few days to see why you grab your phone so much. This includes tracking your phone’s screen time using an app.
    2. What’s really going on? Why do you grab the phone? What are you looking at and what feeling does it bring you?
    3. What are you avoiding or trying to fill?
    4. Now it’s time to let go! If you are using it 5 hours a day, how much time do you want to spend on it now?
    5. How do you want to spend your time now?
  2. Recalibrate 
    1. To help maintain the changes you’ve made and to be consistent it’s important to set boundaries around your phone use. What will they be? No phone at the dinner table, or after 8pm or you could set time aside each day
    2. Organize your time – when will you set time aside to look at your phone, what does your schedule and daily rhythm look like now? 
    3. Review accountability and the anchor plan that you created. How will you integrate it? 
    4. What do you want now that you have new awareness and space to do things differently?
  3. Rhythm
    1. What is the new rhythm you want to create in your life specifically around routines, habits, and daily intentions?

Going through this process will help you be more accountable, clear and most of all help you understand why you are so attached to your phone. Ideally it would be great to work with someone, like a trauma coach, to go deeper into what you became aware of through the process. This will help you address limiting beliefs, unresolved emotions and thought patterns that keep you running away from life and to your phone. Lastly, technology can be a useful tool. Unfortunately, many of us have lost control and find our days and our health ruled by mindless screen time, missing out on life. I hope my blogs on the topic have given you motivation and concrete plans to have a healthier relationship with your smart devices.  

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