I used to think I had a healthy relationship with my phone. I avoid checking my messages during dinner with friends. I’m quite happy to go on a walk without my phone attached to me. I’m totally in control of my screen time, or so I thought…

Christmas shopping listApple have recently released a new feature on iPhones which shows how much time you are spending on it. So I gave it a go. And the result?

It turns out I spend 2 and a half hours a day on my phone – 2 and a half hours a day!

My mind was blown. So it got me thinking, what could I have spent that 2 and a half hours doing?

I could have written this blog 2 weeks earlier, I could have practised my yoga and that neglected book would have been finished by now.

So don’t get me wrong I’m not about to throw my phone in the nearest river and live a recluse life away from technology. I’m not about to start tending carrots and following the moon instead of a watch.

I also think my phone can be great, I love being able to communicate with my friends and family, listen to music and read the news on the go.

I just want to start being more aware of the time I’m spending on my phone and use it in a more mindful and productive way.

So, here are some ideas I’m currently trying. I thought I would share them in case you wanted to give it a go too.

I know it will be hard, but I think if we do this together we will have a better chance of success.

Set times

I am going to start planning amount of time I spend on social media and set an alarm for when the time is up. Social media is addictive and without realising, I can end up spending much longer on it than I originally intended. I have also turned off push notifications on all apps except for my messages so I don’t get distracted when I’m trying to do other activities.

Sleep separation

I am trying to sleep with all technology outside of my room. If you use your phone as an alarm clock, buy a separate alarm clock. If you really need your phone in your room I would recommend to at least try moving it away from the bed. This avoids it being the first thing you look at in the morning and the last thing you look at at night.

There’s an app for that

It seems counterintuitive to use technology, but there are lots of apps and websites to help you limit your screen time. Apple’s new feature allows you to select ‘downtime’ I currently set mine between 10pm-7am. During this time my phone will only allow me to make and receive calls – all other functions are disabled. I thought about still allowing messages but  what is so urgent it can’t wait until 7am the next day?

Life without colour

Our brains enjoys colours, a colourful phone is very appealing. Take away the colours and suddenly we don’t get as much pleasure from our phone. If we get less pleasure, we are likely to use it less. Of course there are times I will need colour on my phone, taking a photo for example. Apple have a quick way to switch from colour to grayscale:

In iOS 10, go to Settings > General > Accessibility >Display Accommodations >Color Filters. Switch Color Filters on and select Grayscale. To easily toggle between color and grayscale, go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Accessibility Shortcut > Color Filters. Now, you just press the home button three times to enable grayscale. Triple-click again to go back to colour.

Mood awareness

I enjoy going through my friend’s posts, so I think as long as I stick to the  points above and only use social media deliberately and for short periods of time then it is okay for me to still use it. However I know people who say their mood feels lower after using social media.

This could be because of FOMO (fear of missing out) According to a recent report by Centre for Mental Health ‘The need to be continually connected with what other people are doing (so as to avoid missing out) can cause feelings of anxiety, inadequacy and distress, feelings which are exacerbated because individuals are constantly being made aware of their friend’s and family’s activities (RSPH, 2017; Przybylski et al., 2013).”

Monitor how you feel after using social media. If you feel worse about yourself then ask yourself why are you using it? Remember people’s instagram accounts only show their highlights, people rarely post about the rubbish day they had at work or the fight they had with their partner.

I keep reminding myself that change doesn’t happen overnight and it will take time to make a difference.

The most important thing is we are trying. One day the practice will become habit and we will start using technology to enhance our lives, not dictate them.

Social media can be great, but it will never beat a laugh with a new friend, a smile from a stranger or a hug from a loved one.

Old fashioned face to face connection is still the best tool we have.  

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