Are you letting your phone ruin your life?
Researchers in Canada have shown that mobile phone use is making us distracted, distant and drained. Diminishing our intellect and the quality of our personal relationships and putting our mental health at risk.
We’ve now become so addicted to our smart phones, unlocking them an average of six to seven times an hour (that’s 80 times a day), that just having your phone in sight, even if it’s switched off, is enough to diminish cognitive capacity such as memory, empathy, reasoning and decision-making skills.
If you’ve got to the point where you’re phone is controlling you, instead of you being in control of it, here are three ways to enjoy the benefits of having a smart phone, without it ruining your life…
1. Know your phone is designed to control you
There’s a reason the only other people to call their customers ‘users’ are drug dealers. From the red ‘like’ button to the sophisticated ‘push notifications’ constantly encouraging us to check back in, smart phones are filled with technology cleverly designed to constantly grab our attention.
Bear this firmly in mind, the next time you look at your phone to check the time and various alerts start clamoring for your attention. Do you really want to check your social media feeds right now, read that news story or check your emails? Or is your phone using every psychological trick possible to make you want to do that?
Even if you know your phone is about to entice you to take time away from something else, to do something you don’t particularly want to be doing right now, it can still be hard to resist the pull. Just ask yourself after you got sucked in, did doing that make you feel good, like you just wasted your time or, even worse, made other people feel ignored?
Like most things in life, practice is key and the more you question why you’re about to do something on your phone and whether you really want to do it or not, the better you’ll become at getting the upper hand once more.
If you’re still struggling not to get distracted by your phone, go into the settings and turn off the push notifications, so that it’s you deciding when you want to use each app, instead of the app demanding more and more of that very precious resource: your time and attention.
2. Set healthy boundaries with a ‘digital sunset’
If you know your phone is having an adverse affect on you, for example depriving you of your sleep, health and ability to concentrate, by hooking you into reading lots of content late at night when all you wanted to do was set your alarm, you might need to enforce a boundary.
A digital sunset, where you disconnect from your mobile devices at least half an hour before bed, can be useful and, also for those people who grab their phone the second they wake up and exhaust their brain by asking it to flip between fifteen different subjects before they’ve even got out of bed in the morning, enforcing a digital sunrise can make a huge difference to wellbeing levels.
The exact hours that you decided to put your phone to bed are up to you, but keeping it switched off and out of sight between 10pm and 9am is a great way of ensuring it doesn’t disrupt sleep, family breakfasts or your commute.
It’s important not to exhaust your brain with intensive phone activity before you even get to work because we only have four bursts of really productive time each day, so if you spend one of those bursts gaming or scrolling through social media, don’t be surprised if you start to flag later on before the end of the day.
Instead, when you put your phone to bed, think about what one thing you’d really like to achieve the next day and commit to using the burst of energy you used to spend on your phone trying to achieve that instead. Or just allow yourself to reconnect with yourself and your creative thoughts by listening to music or having some totally technology-free time to allow your brain to come up with its own ideas and thoughts.
3. Turn your phone into a wellbeing tool
There are six ‘batteries’ we need to keep charged up to have optimum wellbeing. So instead of allowing your phone to control you, here are some proactive ways to use your phone to keep those reserves charged up.
- Social Energy: Regular and positive interaction with others
Instead of only interacting socially on your phone, use it to initiate meeting up with friends. Agree a time and place or, if you don’t have friends nearby, join a group – be it book club (one that meets in person), yoga class, local football team or writers’ circle. Anytime spent on your phone that results in you meeting up with others and creating a sense of belonging and community will be far better spent than hours scrolling through other people’s social feeds.
- Mindful Energy: Being able to live in the moment and stay present
Instead of allowing your phone to constantly distract you, download a mindfulness or meditation app and use that to learn how to boost your concentration levels and ability to stay in the moment. Plus remember to put it away and out of sight whenever you want to boost your ability to stay in the moment. As well as having a digital sunset (see above) you can also introduce pockets of time during the day when you disconnect from your phone to allow yourself to work more creatively and productively on the task in hand.
- Physical Energy: Eating well, staying active and getting enough rest
Put healthy boundaries in place to stop your phone from depriving you of sleep and use it to research healthy meals you might find easy to cook at home and do an online shop when you haven’t got the time to go to the shops in person. Instead of allowing your phone to allow you to become sedentary, use it to find a local fitness activity or get your headphones out and go for a jog while you listen to that podcast.
- Emotional Energy: Doing activities that bring you joy
If the news alerts on your phone, telling you about local murders and traffic delays, or the vitriol on some social media feeds leaves you feeling drained, disconnect from those apps. Instead think about the ways in which using your phone gives you joy, be it cat videos that make you laugh or an online community you love being a part of. Plus don’t let your phone become an emotional prop. If you’re experiencing low mood, and want a ‘lift’ it’s important to get out and about in nature, meet up with a friend or do an activity that gives you joy, such as learning a new skills, playing an instrument or engaging in a sport you love.
- Mental Energy: You can handle pressure and learn from mistakes
Don’t allow your phone to zap you of your mental energy. Regulate its use so that you have entire blocks of time to reflect on where your life is going and what you can learn from past mistakes. Whatever challenges you’re facing, the chances are someone else has already faced them and written about them. Using your phone to read stories by other people going through a similar situation to you can provide useful insights and food for thought. But if you’re still struggling to make sense of something or to stop going over and over something in your mind, you can also use your phone to connect with any support services your employer might have in place, such as an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) offering free access to emotional counsellors and legal, financial and debt specialists.
- Meaning Energy: You live your life according to your values
Rather than allowing your phone to suck you into reading addictively presented content, think about your personal values and find content and people that supports these. Use it to connect with charities and causes that you care about or follow experts and thought-leaders that inspire you to live the life you want to live. Follow people because you like what they have to say, not just because you want follow-backs. Prioritise quality over quantity.
Our challenge to you
Used healthily, our phones are incredibly powerful tools that can add huge value to our lives. We just need to be wary of the addictive functionality.
Take back control today by deciding which two actions you’re going to put in place to keep your phone use healthy. Then post a comment below to let us know what you decided and see what ideas other people have come up with.
Train your employees to have better mental health
If you would like to discuss the opportunities for training your employees to gain a better understanding of things they can do to proactively boost their mental health, energy levels and productivity – including decisions they’re making about how they’re using their smart phones – please drop us a note or give us a call so we can set up a free consultation. T: 01494 68200 , E: [email protected]