Part 2: Ways to Combat Cell Phone Overuse

Nisha Mathur
Posted on March 06, 2017, 9:20 pm
4 mins

Last time, we discussed society’s intimate relationship with cell phones and how they can impact our quality of life.

These health concerns on cell phone use beg the question; what can we do about it? How do we reject the urge to pick up our phone as an easy distraction?Everyone has different reasons for why they use their cell phones, but in general, reaching for that phone usually comes down to two basic uses: Utility and Distraction.

Separate Utility from Distraction

We need to train ourselves how to recognize the difference. For the next few weeks, every time you pick up your cell phone, ask yourself why. Is it for utility? For example: looking up directions, checking e-mail for a specific purpose, messaging a friend you have plans with, etc. You’ll find it’s quite different from a distraction, which is picking up your phone to aimlessly scroll through news feeds, checking emails for no good reason or excessive app use (Hello, Snapchat!) You’ll know if it’s utility or distraction because the distraction check is the mindless reach for the phone with no specific outcome in mind.

Cell Phone Use as Meditation Time

As an experiment, think about cell phone use like time spent in meditation, mindfulness, or prayer. It seems strange, because cell phone use and meditation produce the opposite outcomes. Meditation provides peace of mind in the present, while our phones tend to cause stress of ‘what might happen.’ Here’s the reason you should focus time solely on your phone without distraction. If you train your brain to set aside phone time as a focused task like meditation, it sort of takes the fun out of it. If you wouldn’t set time aside for your phone otherwise, then it shouldn’t be your go-to response when your mind starts to wander, because that time is more powerful than you think.

Quick Hacks to Reduce your Cell Phone Usage

  1. Ask yourself the utility vs. distraction question enough so it becomes a trigger whenever you attempt to get your phone. If the answer is ‘distraction,’ put it away.
  2. Bring something else to do on commutes or down time in between meetings, like a book, journal or magazine.  Conversation with a person nearby is often the healthiest dose of self-care.
  3. When your mind receives the trigger to initiate distraction, react by brainstorming ideas for a goal or something that’s been important to you lately. Exposing yourself to your own mind unleashes creativity.
  4. Open your heart to the surprises of what could happen when your phone is away. You may discover there is something to learn—but your phone has to be down long enough to realize it.
  5. Try to work out without your phone once a week. Avoid sitting on the rear delt fly machine staring at your phone. Put it in airplane mode with a playlist ready and be sure it lasts the whole session.
  6. Pick something you want to improve. Avoid your phone in the morning, because it’s a creative time of day. Avoid your phone at night because the light reduces your quality of sleep. Write down how you feel after reducing the time you’re on your phone.
  7. There’s no tip here. Just don’t be on the phone when you’re out with a friend, acquaintance, imaginary superhero—whoever. First of all, it’s rude. And at the end of the day, there’s nothing as valuable as the connections we make time for in our lives.