Is your smartphone making your life worse? Try these tips for a healthier relationship with your device.

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“Do you check your smartphone before you pee in the morning, or while you are peeing?” -Roger McNamee, The Social Dilemma, 2020

2022 is right around the corner, and I’d personally like to adopt some healthier phone habits before the new year. Admittedly, I’m quite addicted to my technology. In a modern world of constantly wanting things to be better, faster, & bigger, it’s easy to be buried in technology 24/7– for some, it’s simply part of life. From believing I need to respond immediately to everyone in my life to being obsessed with news updates, my iPhone 8 feels like an extension of my body; I literally think I’ve lost part of myself when I lose it. Thank goodness for the FindMy app!

However, we need to remember that our smartphones and all the apps on it are meant to be addicting – they literally cause the release of dopamine (the “pleasure” chemical). I personally don’t think it’s our fault that we’re glued to our devices. What we can do is set up systems in our lives to make our smartphones work for us, instead of the other way around. Smartphones are supposed to be a tool that makes our lives easier, not something that sucks our life force and happiness away!

At Unlocked-Mobiles, we care about your mental health in addition to wanting to help you save an extra buck. :) Here are some tips for a better relationship with your smartphone in 2022.

  1. Don’t check your email constantly – schedule specific times of day to check it and don’t check it outside of work hours.

Let’s be real – email obsession & compulsive email checking is a real problem.

Marketing emails, work emails, personal emails, delivery emails, updates, updates, updates… they pile up fast in the ol’ inbox!

To mitigate “email addiction”, schedule a couple of specific times a day (preferably less than 5 times) to check your email.

Furthermore, if you haven’t already, be sure to organise your email to prioritise what’s important and sort out the trash. You’ll get to what’s crucial faster and get distracted less.

  1. Turn off notifications, except on your most important apps

Not all notifications were made equally! Do I care about a notification from Jiobit that tells me my cat has wandered back home? Of course.

Is a Microsoft Teams message from my boss or coworker something I should reply to in a timely manner? 100%.

Do I care about my “Last Chance to Play Starbucks for Life”? I honestly DGAF.

But all of these notifications pop up on my phone, and are always distractions from the task at hand I’m working on.

By turning off notifications, you’ll clear out a lot of the white noise from your life and create a more streamlined, productive smartphone experience.

  1. Keep your phone out of bedtime

Using your smartphone right before bed can have some pretty damaging effects on your brain. Smartphones emit a blue light that communicates to your brain that it’s time to be alert. Therefore, smartphone usage around bedtime is actually keeping you up longer at night and messing with your sleep schedule! Unfortunately, the long term downsides of constantly losing sleep are awful – insomnia, depression, etc.

You can solve this whole issue by committing to keeping your smartphone out of your bedtime – or even your bedroom. Charging your device outside of your bedroom is one healthy solution. Another one would be to schedule a “phone off” time around an hour before you’re scheduled to go to bed. Furthermore, most smartphones have a night shift mode, where you can reduce blue light if you must use your phone before bed. However, the phone out of the bedroom before bedtime strategy is the best option, in my opinion.

  1. Set time limits on Social Media

Social media was meant to be addicting! If you haven’t seen The Social Dilemma already, I highly recommend it. It delves into how harmful social media is for humans and how it’s used to manipulate and influence people.

I’m not saying you should cut out social media completely. But it’s definitely better in moderation. Apps like Instagram and Facebook have a setting you can turn on where you can set a daily time limit for social media. Once that limit is reached, it will send you a reminder that you’re at your limit and that it’s time to sign off. If a friendly notification isn’t enough to stop you, there are social media blocker apps, like Freedom, that can block you out of your social media, based on the schedule you set.

  1. Sit in your bad feelings, instead of using your phone as a distraction from them.

It’s so easy to use social media as a distraction from bad feelings. It feels good to numb the pain, and let your mind float into a world of funny memes and your ex’s Cabo photos; it feels good to avoid the pain. For some people, it has become a habitual self soothing activity.

Ultimately, social media is a horrible way to cope with negative emotions and is pretty bad for your mental health, for the most part. You’re pushing the emotions away and distracting yourself, instead of fully processing the feelings and using healthy coping strategies.

Personally, as someone who has anxiety and has been prescribed anxiety medications, I’ve noticed that using my phone & social media when I’m feeling down is worse for my mental health. I tend to compare myself to others while scrolling through endless posts and wishing my life was like everyone else’s highlight reels. When my therapist recommended healthy coping strategies for when I’m feeling down, I felt a world of difference. I created a list of activities I enjoy or that would help me during gloomy times, and I always felt much better after completing the activity versus how I felt using my phone as my default coping mechanism.

Here are my personal “healthy” coping mechanisms (feel free to create your own!):

  1. Journaling until all my “brain vomit” is out.

  2. Meditation

  3. Yoga

  4. Running or walking around my neighbourhood

  5. Petting or playing with my cat

  6. Taking a long, hot shower

  7. Drawing out how I’m feeling

There are also apps, like Calm or Headspace, that can help you if you’re feeling less than perfect. However, be sure to turn off notifications or block social media when you’re using them, so you don’t get distracted from your self care practice!

If you’re looking for something fun and active to release your feelings, there’s also an app called ActivitiesApp, where you can find entertaining physical activities near you.

Best wishes on your 2022 journey! I hope you will find healthier practices this year. :)