by Liberty Stembridge, Lifestyle Columnist
Published in Lifestyle on 26th March, 2019
Sometimes the simplest solution is the best, and all you really need is to put up some boundaries between you and your phone. Like any relationship, without space and boundaries it quickly becomes toxic and co-dependent, so start scheduling in phone-free time during your day.
It could be during your lunch break, in the morning or before you go to bed. Whatever it is, make sure that you stick to it - if you've said you won't look at your phone, turn it off completely and hide it somewhere, or distract yourself with some other activity.
A brilliant new addition to the iphone is the feature that allows you to track your screen time, without even having to open an app.
This feature monitors how many times you pick up your phone, how much time you spend using it and groups your data together to show you where you spend the most time and when you use your phone the most. This will help to give you an idea as to what times / apps keep you glued to a screen, and thus where you can improve.
You can also help differentiate between useful, productive or healthy screen time, such as calling a friend or online banking and the not so productive screen time, such as the hours you spend at your desk scrolling through instagram.
How many times have you sat down to eat your cereal in the morning and unconsciously picked up your phone to start scrolling? For many of us the feeling of eating without something to keep us entertained or distracted has become quite foreign.
It's normal for many people to eat in front of the TV or while scrolling through social media, and while this may seem harmless, a growing body of evidence suggests that its not.
Research suggests that when we multi-task while eating by distracting ourselves with screens, we pay less attention to our food and as a result, feel less full, more stressed and it may even contribute to weight gain and disordered eating.
Adopting "mindful eating" or a "no phones while eating" rule can help to prevent this. Rather than whipping out your phone every time you sit down to eat, keep it turned off and instead try to pay attention to what you're eating, and how you feel. You'll likely find yourself feeling fuller and calmer afterwards, with a lot less screen time racked up on your phone.
Silencing notifications can seem like a scary prospect if you've never done it before. The fear that you'll miss something important or annoy someone can be daunting. Truthfully however, it's a lot less intimidating than you might think.
Push notifications are designed to keep you constantly attached to your phone, never far away from it, always ready to pick it up and check on what's going on at all times. The little sound you here every time you get a notification is also designed to grab your attention and make you want to open your phone.
This is all well and good when it comes to receiving important information, but the majority of the notifications and information you're going to be receiving from your phone are not that important. That sale notification from ASOS is really not that big of a deal, and neither is the fact that someone liked your tweet.
If the idea of turning off all push notifications is daunting, start off small. Turn off your notifications for certain periods of the day, either in the morning, or for an hour in the day or before bed (this is particularly recommended as lots of notifications before bed can keep your brain wired and make it harder to fall asleep.) Alternatively, limit what can send you notifications.
You can choose to still receive emails, text messages and calls but turn off notifications from annoying apps and social media.
Many of us struggle to stay away from our phones before bed. Sometimes all you want to do is just lie around on your phone and chill out, but this isn't good for your brain, and can often lead to disrupted sleep.
If this is something you struggle with, try the "keep the phone out of the bedroom" rule. It's not complicated - simply move your phone charger from your bedroom, to another room in the house. Then, when you're starting your night time routine, put your phone on charge in the other room and don't touch it until you're out of bed the next morning. You may also want to consider investing in a traditional alarm clock if you're going to be trying this method!
If you've never deleted all of your social media apps before, you're in for a treat. Although it can seem impractical or unnecessary, deleting all of your social media can actually be a lot of fun, and give you a lot more freedom.
Once you get past the initial FOMO, you may well find that a social media cleanse was exactly what you needed. If you find it's not working for you, you can always get them back.
When was the last time you left the house without your phone? I know for me it's been a while. We're pretty attached to our phones, and for good reason.
They are lifelines for if ever anything goes wrong - you can buy food, organise transport, call friends and find your way when you're hopelessly lost.
However, this dependence on our phones has meant we've lost some of the magic of independence, the beauty of "going out" without a lifeline to keep you connected. So, while theres no need to ditch the phone completely, next time you pop to the shops or take the dog for a walk - leave the phone at home.
What better a way to clear something out of your system than a detox? Although usually reserved for ingestible substances, you can detox from your phone too. There are even retreats centered around disconnecting from screens and electronics.
The premise is simple: you refrain from using electronic items - particularly screens such as your TV, phone and computer (obviously your kettle and dishwasher are still okay). It might sound easy, but it can be deceptively difficult, depending on how much you rely on your phone.
Mindfulness is the practice of becoming present in the moment - not worrying about the future or overthinking the past, but simply being conscious of the now.
It's a powerful tool you can use, particularly if you're looking to reduce your phone usage. As a general rule, our phones, computers, TVs etc remove us from the present moment. They distract you with stories, photos from friends, news headlines and so on, but this stops you from really appreciating the now.
The best way to combat the stress that this can cause and deal with feeling addicted or dependent on these devices is to practice mindfulness meditation, which is essentially the exact opposite. Rather than scrolling through your phone, you sit in silence and practice noticing the present moment and the thoughts going through your brain.
With apps like headspace, this is becoming increasingly simple and accessible for the everyday person - all it takes is a simple download and you're ready to go.