Chances are, you have checked your email, your Facebook feed, and your fantasy football roster in the past few minutes. We’re more connected than ever before, and our dependence on our devices is getting worse. Over 40 percent of us check our phones within five minutes of waking up in the morning, and nearly half check up to 25 times a day, according to a 2015 study by Deloitte.
You might be hesitant to call your reliance on technology an addiction, but it's true that your partner has asked you to put away your phone on more than one occasion. Want to detach your phone from your hand? We promise this will only sting a little.
1. END IDLE MOMENTS.
It’s usually in your idle moments that you reach for your phone, says Jamison Monroe, founder and CEO of Newport Academy, a comprehensive treatment center for teens. So Monroe suggests creating a list of what you can do in your idle moments instead of scrolling.
“If your first impulse when you get a quiet moment is to reach for your device, remind yourself of half a dozen other things you could be doing instead that would be more meaningful and relaxing: taking a walk, writing a love note with paper and pen, dancing to your favorite song, doing a few stretches, meditating for 10 minutes,” Monroe says. The key is to come up with options that appeal to you.
2. USE TECH TO HELP YOU STAY OFF TECH.
There are apps that tell you how many times you’ve checked your phone that day, that warn you if you’re going over your self-imposed Internet limit, that lock your phone for a specified amount of time, and block distractions like games, Monroe says.
3. DON’T RELY ON WILLPOWER.
While putting away your phone or turning off the computer is the simplest way to unplug, doing so is usually easier said than done. “If left to our own devices, we’ll always be on them,” says David Ryan Polgar, a tech ethicist and co-founder of the Digital Citizenship Summit. Your willpower is no match for the savvy startups and multi-billion dollar companies fighting for your attention. "We should own up to being over-matched, and find better ways to remove the temptation,” Polgar says.
4. UNPLUG BEFORE BED.
An hour before you go to sleep, power down all tech devices. “The blue wavelength light from our screens interrupts production of melatonin—known as the darkness hormone—which gives our brain the signal that it’s time to sleep,” Monroe says. “Leave the devices in another room so you’re not tempted.”
5. START SMALL.
While some people love to brag about their digital hiatuses, these may seem intimidating (if not straight-up impossible) for you to take, says David Greenfield, founder of The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction in West Hartford, Connecticut. So it’s totally okay to start small.
Greenfield suggests starting by turning your phone off during dinner. Then, leave it at home when you take a walk. Bump that digital detox up to three hours, and you’re doing great. “You should set limits regularly, but I’d be happy with three hours for some people, as some people won’t even eat a meal without their phones,” Greenfield says. “Any change in the right direction is better than no change.”
6. TURN OFF NOTIFICATIONS.
The smartphone is the world’s smallest slot machine, Greenfield says. “It elevates your dopamine receptors, and you continue that behavior over and over again because it offers an unpredictable award,” just like gambling, he says. Simply turning off the notifications will make you less likely to look at your phone every few seconds.
7. PLAN BREAKS.
Write down times throughout the day when you plan to take technology breaks, says Craig Donovan, Director of the BA/MPA Honors Program at Keane University in New Jersey. For example, you could commit to taking a break from 3 to 3:15 p.m. on workday afternoons, during which time you turn off your phone and put it out of sight and out of reach. “Plan a specific activity to do during those 15 minutes, such as getting up and going for a [mindful] walk,” Donovan says. You can reward yourself with a small treat such as a cookie or a cup of coffee. Try to add additional times away from technology, such as during meals, and pay attention to what is going on around you.