Digital detox: Thirteen simple hacks to break up with your phone

Never mind Veganuary and Dry January . . . it’s time for a digital detox.

We are more addicted to our phones than ever, new figures show, spending an average of four hours a day staring at their screens.

That is up a third since 2019.

As well as “tech neck” and repetitive strain injury, research suggests digital overload can increase anxiety, damage eyesight and make us more susceptible to cyber-crime.

But there are ways to reduce your dependency.

Kate Jackson shares some simple advice to help you hang up on your handset for a while . . .

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Make it less attractive

By switching the display mode to “greyscale”, you effectively switch from color to an old-fashioned black-and-white one.

The drab icons will be less enticing and notifications that are usually red will lose their urgency.

On iPhones, go to “Accessibility Settings/Display” and “Text Size/Colour Filters”.

A study at the University of North Dakota in the US found students spent 40 minutes less on their phones after making the change.

By moving social media apps off the homescreen to another page, you may be able to cut screen time down.
Wang Gang / Costfoto/Sipa USA

Rejig your apps

Try moving social media apps off the homescreen to another page.

Psychotherapist Hilda Burke, author of The Phone Addiction Workbook, says: “When something is very accessible to us we can find ourselves clicking on something without even thinking about it.”

Ditch the auto-logins

How often would you use Facebook or Instagram if you had to key in your details very time?

Deleting social media details from your history will make them less appealing.

A phone displays a game app.
One way to cut down screen time is to only keep apps on your phone that are useful or keep you happy.
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Marie Kondo it!

The decluttering guru urges us to keep only those items that bring us joy and toss the rest. Do the same on your phone with the apps that make you happy.

Kick it out of bed…

Ban phones from the bedroom. Use an old-fashioned alarm clock.

…or out of reach

Bill Stirling is founder of Tech-Break, a tool to keep gadgets locked away for a set amount of time.

He says: “Keeping your device out of arm’s reach will help you break the habit of mindlessly checking for notifications or browsing social media. The physical act of having to get up to retrieve your phone gives you a split-second to reconsider.”

A woman uses her cellphone and is wearing a mask.
Using an old-fashioned alarm clock instead of your phone is a good way to keep it out of the bedroom.

Have a trial separation

Like a bad relationship, some time apart can help you reassess.

Catherine Price, author of How To Break Up With Your Phone, recommends a trial separation of 24 hours. You will realise how many times you normally reach for your phone — and remember how you can enjoy yourself without it.

Set mental ‘speed bump’

Catherine’s program also recommends setting up a “speed bump” to force you to think before engaging with your phone.

Writer Kevin Roose put a rubber band around his device and changed his lockscreen to show three questions: “What for?” “Why now?” and “What else?”

You could put this on a piece of paper under the rubber band.

A woman uses her phone inside a phone store.
Tech-Break is a tool to keep gadgets locked away for a set amount of time.

Go old-school

Before we became so reliant on our phones for everything, we used to write down lists on paper.

Get a calendar to jot down plans and reminders, start writing your shopping list on a pad and choose actual books instead of electronic versions. It all helps cut down on screen time.

Set a scrolling window

If you find you are constantly reaching for your phone, set yourself specific times of the day when you are allowed a few minutes of screen time.

Psychologist Niels Eek, co-founder of mental health platform Remente, says: “Giving yourself a ten-minute window a few times a day to catch up on news and notifications could be a good approach to reducing your screen time on a daily basis.”

A user holds up a blackberry cell phone.
Jackson suggests not using your phone during mealtimes or in the bathroom.
AFP via Getty Images

Keep tabs on your time

You can find out how much time you are spending on your phone in “Settings”.
If the amount horrifies you, aim to reduce it slowly.

You could start by cutting it down by 20 minutes a day, or challenge yourself to halve it over the course of a week.

You could set time limits on your phone, not just for total screen time but for individual apps as well.

A user holds a android phone.
A study at the University of Texas revealed people feel more connected when they speak on the phone, instead of messaging.
SOPA Images/LightRocket via Gett

Loo-se it

Don’t use your phone at mealtimes, even if you are alone.

And don’t take it with you into the bathroom.

Research shows countless germs are spread up to 6ft around a bathroom from a single flush of the toilet with the lid open. Now think of those germs on your phone, which you put next to your face . . . 

Phone a friend

Rember the last time you actually spoke to someone in person, instead of emailing them, texting them, hitting them up on WhatsApp or sending them a few “likes” on Facebook or Instagram?

Instead of getting frustrated with predictive text or ending up in a ten-minute messaging thread, why not spend that time actually talking to them and hearing their voice?

A study at the University of Texas revealed people feel more connected when they speak on the phone, instead of messaging.

Get a puzzle book

Plenty of us turn to our phones for a few minutes of distraction with a game or a puzzle.

Instead, get yourself a puzzle book and stretch those grey cells using that.

This story originally appeared on The Sun and has been reproduced here with permission.

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