Earlier this year, it was becoming apparent that I could be suffering from a phone addiction. I was checking my mobile phone incessantly even when I didn’t need too. The scary part was, I felt like I could not control myself from constantly checking and immediately responding. Everything seemed important. I would check it first thing in the morning and just before sleeping. I was not using technology, it was using me. Interestingly, I am not the only one falling prey to its "lures" and features. A recent study by consultancy Ernst and Young (EY) polled 1000 people who resided in Singapore and found that people were spending over 12 hours a day on their digital devices.
While I was processing this realization, I stumbled across a magazine which had a handbook called “Offline for 7 days’ Booklet.” It was a series of guided steps and questions about mindfully using technology. I tried it out and to my surprise I found myself feeling much calmer, less stressed, more grounded and productive. This reverberates with many published studies looking at the positive consequences of structured phone and email use. The University of British Columbia found that people who only checked their emails three times a day versus those who checked it “as often as they could” experienced significantly less stress. Here are some practical tips on how you can regain control of your phone and other digital devices:
1. Go offline at night
Yes, you are allowed to go offline. Really! One time an acquaintance posted a question in a mobile app group. When I woke up, I noticed people had responded between 12am - 4am. It made me wonder how are most people sleeping whilst checking their mobile devices during the wee hours. Not so well is my guess. The reason is checking your phone in the middle of the night causes huge disruptions to your circadian rhythms and the blue light emitted from your phone impairs melatonin production and stimulates your brain to wake up.
How to do this:
Stop using your phone one hour before you sleep.
Turn your mobile data off at night so you don’t get any notifications.
Place your phone beyond an arm's reach at night.
Switch to using an alarm clock versus your phone at night.
2. Do not check your phone first thing in the morning
This is because your mind is very fresh and you can really set the tone of your day with positivity, calmness or whichever way you like. If you check your email, Facebook, Whatsapp and other applications, often you are starting your day with other people’s thoughts, questions, ideas and news. This is disruptive to your creativity, productivity and might even get you in a bad mood before getting out of bed.
How to do this:
Delay checking your phone in the morning by at least an hour.
Agree with yourself a time that you'll check your phone, and stick to it.
3. Give yourself time before checking a notification
This was a hard one for me to give up. I would always find myself immediately wanting to check my phone whenever a notification would come in. I wondered why was I so addicted to this? The reason is, every time a notification comes in your brain gives you a dopamine hit (a happy hormone) which becomes addictive over time. However, along with this addiction comes stress and anxiety. A Future Work Centre study in UK where 2000 employees were surveyed found that email notifications were linked to higher anxiety.
How to do this:
Set a time for when you will check your emails or notifications.
Turn off any notification alerts to reduce the impulsive checking.
Delete any applications, which are stressing you more than serving you.
Delay responses to any notifications.
4. Let your phone go
Give your phone a break! When was the last time you went out with your family or friends without taking your phone? Although many of us feel like we can’t live without our phones, in order to rest and really live in the moment you have to say goodbye to your phone sometimes. This can be hugely empowering for you and eye opening (literally).
How to do this:
Decide which day, time and duration you are going to leave your phone at home.
Inform your loved ones if you think they might worry about you.
Creating new healthy habits with your phone is really not that hard and is a liberating feeling. In fact many of us can recall a time of not having a phone and surviving very well. And remember just like anything in life if you find yourself going back to the old habits you can always start again!
*This article was first published in Forbes >> click here
Bhali Gill is a Psychologist (org), Coach, Trainer and Founder of Corporate Wellbeing. She coaches individuals and leaders to overcome the challenges they face at work and in life, to reach their personal and professional potential. Her work involves inner-transformation, and becoming more of who you are. She also works with organisations to improve their productivity through employee’s mental and emotional well-being, and self-empowerment programs. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org