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Mind Your Phone

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Our smartphones can often feel like an additional appendage. Have you found that when your phone is close to losing all its power, your body starts to react in a mild panic? According to reports, the average American adult over the age of 18 spends 2 hours and 51 minutes on their smartphone each day. That is about 1,032 hours each year – the equivalent of flying around the world at least 20 times!

Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Slack, dating apps, e-mail, podcasts, texting– the many reasons we stayed glued to the little screen in our hands can go on and on. Whether it’s checking how many “likes” you received on your most recent Instagram; seeing how many people you matched with on Tinder; or following what your friends are up to on Facebook, it’s easy to receive a slight rush of positive reinforcement when you hear that “ping” on your phone. However, despite the ironic name of “social media,” our phones are actually creating more distance than connection.

A recent article in the The Atlantic noted that teenagers who spend more time looking at their screens are more likely to report symptoms of depression. Seeing what others’ are doing on Facebook or Instagram often creates more anxiety, or FOMO (fear of missing out). Social media creates a world in which we compare our own life to the carefully curated moments captured on social media. If we are not a part of the experience, we are lonely creatures looking in and wanting more.

Smartphones have also contributed to the decline of restful sleep according to a recent study. Those that spend time on their phones near bedtime report more difficulty falling asleep, as well as less restful sleep throughout the night. Many smartphones have adapted a “night shift” mode to help with minimizing blue light that negatively effects melatonin, which is the body’s natural way of falling asleep. Even in night shift mode however, staying on your phone can delay when you go to bed, leading you to sleep less and to increased irritability throughout the following day.

What can you do to help curb your phone time? Here are some tips that may help with curbing your time on your phone:

  • Turn off (all) notifications. The less pinging you receive from your multiple social media platforms, the less you may feel inclined to check your phone. You can also put your phone on “Do Not Disturb” with the moon icon or on “airplane mode.”(It also saves you battery life!)
  • Create specific spaces or times in which you will purposely not check your phone. Do you really need your phone when you’re in the bathroom? Do you need to check your phone while watching Game of Thrones? Why are you checking your phone when you’re with your friends? A fun game could be whoever checks his or her phone during dinner has to buy everyone a drink!
  • Try a day without your phone. This may be difficult depending on family and the type of work you do, but if you can, you may want to set up a phone free day during the week or weekend and see what happens. What else can you do? Go to a movie, museum, national park, exercise, beer garden, etc.!
  • Put down your phone at least 30 minutes before sleep. If you don’t use your phone as an alarm, you may wish to place your phone in a different room. Or better yet, get an alarm clock! Writing in a journal, perusing a magazine, reading a book, or even practicing mindfulness can help with winding down for the night.
  • If you still find yourself looking at your screen, download a meditation app.Apps such as Headspace literally guide you to think differently about yourself and the world around you!

These tips can be just the beginning in creating more awareness between yourself and your smartphone. As we become more digitized and one with technology, it’s also important that we also become more aware of how technologies affect our mood. Remember to take it slow and easy with these tips. Hopefully they will bring a deeper awareness of how phone time affects your daily life!

Jason Chan, LMHC, NCC                                                                                             Psychotherapist                                                                                                           Offers individual therapy. He specializes in multicultural/acculturation, LGBT, depression, and anxiety issues.

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