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Let me just start by saying, I didn’t want a smartphone. As those who know me well might remember, I held onto my little blue Samsung flip phone forever. And I was really hard to get ahold of. 😜 Why? Because I knew the minute I had one of those shiny new devices in my hot little hands, I wouldn’t be able to set it down.
Fast forward to a couple of years ago, my husband got sick of never being able to get ahold of me and bought me an iPhone. Yes, he’s so sweet. The problem was, I was right. I quickly developed a compulsion to constantly look at that darn phone!😩
Turns out I’m not alone. A 2017 study found Americans check their smartphones about 80 times a day, or once every 12 minutes. Technology has become an integral part of modern life, but it also is consuming a huge portion of our lives. And when it crosses the line into addiction, that helpful tool morphs into something that damages our relationships, interferes with us fully experiencing life, and blocks us from accomplishing our goals.
So how can we break free from our hand held prisons?
As appealing as chucking technology and living off the grid sounds some days, it isn’t a viable option for most of us. And my husband wouldn’t be too happy if I didn’t answer his texts. 🤣 Here are some practical strategies I’ve found for kicking a phone addiction. Using these tips has helped me be more mindful of how I’m using my phone. I hope they’ll be of value to you too.
#1 Get Mindful and Change Your Focus:
Of course, we can’t fix a problem without recognizing that there is a problem to fix. Since you’re reading this post, I’m going to guess that you’ve already recognized the problem. Unless you’re reading for a friend? 😜 Sometimes this is where we get stuck. We feel super crappy about our addictive behavior and so we beat ourselves up. “I’m such a crappy parent, I keep turning down playing with my kid to look at my phone!” Or, “Agh! I’ll never get this project done! I just can’t stop checking Facebook long enough to focus!”
Here’s the predicament we find ourselves in: When we dwell on what we don’t want (the addictive behavior) we get MORE of what we don’t want. You’ve probably experienced this but aren’t sure of why. I mean, it’s weird, right? If we don’t want to do something, we know it isn’t good for us, why on earth do we keep doing it?!?
Well, the reason is it’s the Law of Focus. “What we focus on we find, what we focus on grows, what we focus on we become.” 💡 (I learned this years ago from speaker and author Rod Hairston.) So, if we want something different, we have to focus on something different.
Instead of thinking badly of yourself for struggling, get mindful about what is going on. ‘Hmm, yes, I am having a problem with this and am ready to do things differently. I am getting the result of less time with my loved ones and less time to pursue my goals, which isn’t in alignment with what is most important to me.’
So then, the question becomes ‘What do I want instead?’
Think about it, what do you want instead? Picture yourself spending time with the people you care about most and connecting with them deeply. Imagine the relationship you will have with them long term because you chose to make these changes. Picture your life after you accomplish the big goals that you just haven’t made time to work towards yet. What will that look like for you? What will it feel like?
Do some journaling and change your focus. When you do this, change becomes exciting and you start to be pulled in the right direction.
#2 Replace the Habit:
One of the reasons we have a problem with our phones is that they are designed to be addictive! Our brains will always gravitate towards what is pleasurable, and all those hits of new information are like candy for the mind. The solution? Replace the mindless scrolling with something else you find enjoyable.
Of course this could backfire on us if we replace one bad habit with another (like maybe every time I want to look at FB I’ll grab some chocolate instead?) Hey, a girl can dream, right?🍫 🤣 So we have to make mindful choices and come up with ideas before our brain is in pleasure seeking mode.
So what activities do you enjoy? Make a list of things you can do when your brain asks for a little hit of dopamine. Taking a short walk, turning on some music and dancing, or reading 10 pages of a book are a few options. No doubt you’ll have plenty of your own ideas.
Put this list somewhere you can refer to it whenever you feel the need to check your phone. Make a practice of asking “What do I really need right now?” Sometimes you really just need rest! Five minutes of deep breathing can be infinitely more rejuvenating than five minutes of cat videos. 😹
To make it easy on you, I’ve created a simple worksheet you can download to make your own menu of rejuvenating activities. Just fill in the box below and I’ll email it to you right away.
#3 Declutter Your Device:
There’s an infinite number of ways our phones can distract us, but we can at least minimize what is being pushed in our faces. Funny how they don’t even hide it by calling them “push notifications”. 😆 Well, no thank you, I do not need to be pushed. Turn those suckers off!
Turning off Facebook and group messenger notifications can be life changing in itself! No more dinging sounds hijacking your brain every time someone likes or comments. #freedom
What apps or websites are most addictive for you? Can you remove or block them from your device?
I use Facebook and Instagram for my businesses, so totally deleting them wasn’t an option. But if social media is purely entertainment in your life, consider taking a break by deleting them off your phone. You don’t have to put your accounts on hold (although you can do that with FB). Having a set time to catch up with your social circle on the computer is a great way to eliminate mindless scrolling. Which brings us to our next strategy…
#4 Build Your Boundaries
Unless you’re going to throw your phone in the ocean and call it quits, you’re going to have to set up some guidelines on its use, right?
When we have our devices glued to our sides all day long it’s really easy for our boundaries to get squishy. Pretty soon we are feeling compelled to check email every hour and each message is a call to immediate action.
The best way I’ve found to break free of the phone checking habit is to leave it in another room. And yes, if I don’t answer your message for five hours that is why. 😉 It’s okay to let people know you only check messages a few times a day. They’ll get used to it. No one is going to respect your time if you don’t respect it first by setting boundaries.
So when will you check and respond to messages and email? What time will you give yourself for catching up on social media? Decide and write it on your calendar. I know not everyone likes the structure of a calendar and I hear your collective groan. 😜 Open yourself up to experimenting with it. Make it a little game of trying to make your plan work. You may not want to be glued to a day planner forever, but breaking the phone addiction is worth the effort.
Do you have a problem with checking your phone when you are with other people? This is a really hard one for parents, probably especially stay at home moms (or work-at-home moms like myself.) We are always with kids and we crave that little escape from talking about Paw Patrol. 😳 Realize this is normal, but at the same time we don’t want our kids to remember us always having our face in our phone. Having breaks scheduled into our days, and leaving the phone in another room the rest of the time, helps us be fully present with our people.
No phones in the morning!
Another boundary worth setting is not checking your phone in the morning. This can be hard because a lot of us use them as alarm clocks! First, sleeping next to a phone is not really good for your health. We don’t really know the full repercussions, but some research is showing that the electromagnetic frequencies (EMFs) produced by these devices are harmful. While we can’t completely avoid them, we sure don’t need to be exposed while we are sleeping.
Even if you poo poo the idea of harmful low level radiation, checking your phone in the morning is horrible for your productivity. It immediately fills your brain with other people’s agendas for your day. I write in the morning and I know it’s imperative to my creativity not to have my brain hijacked with Facebook drama and what’s on sale at Banana Republic. 😆
We already talked about how our brains want pleasure, so you’ll want to come up with a morning routine that makes you feel good. Stretching, reading, meditation, prayer, going for a walk… give yourself something fantastic to look forward to other than checking email!
No phones before bed!
This is a hard one for me because I had the habit of reading on Kindle at night. But the blue light emitted from these devices messes with our circadian rhythm. This makes it hard for us to get a good night’s rest. Consider reading a real book or journaling before bed instead of reaching for the phone.
Aren’t you excited about all the things you’re going to have time to do when you aren’t checking your phone 80 times a day? I know I am! 😂
I hope this post has been of value to you. Do you have anything to add? Please share what has worked for you in the comments! I’d also love to hear what strategies for breaking a phone addiction you plan on trying first.
Oh, and be sure and get your free worksheet before you go! Thanks for visiting!