If you had to live without your phone for a week, could you do it? Would you be happier?
I went phone free for a week, and it helped me realize how much I had been overusing my cell phone — and under-appreciating my everyday life. It happened by accident, and at first, I was miserable without my handheld device. What happened after I adapted to life without a cell phone is the surprising part:
I actually enjoyed my time without it.
As a stay-at-home mom of two young children, I had been using my cell phone as a lifeline to the outside world. On any given day I could spend an hour straight on social media alone. I felt the compulsion to check updates on social media, search for deals on Facebook Marketplace, and send my friends funny memes. It kept me connected with friends and family but simultaneously pulled me away from the present moment within the walls of my own home. I knew I was on my phone too much, but I wasn’t sure what else to do with my minimal free time while at home. I was sucked in.
Then one night, my phone froze, turned black, and never turned on again. Naturally, I panicked and tried every trick I could to revive it. The next two days brought snowstorms, so getting a new phone wasn’t on the agenda. Besides, by the second day, I didn’t really feel the need to go get a new phone. I found that without the steady ping of notifications I was able to truly enjoy my free time. Responding to e-mails right away seemed less urgent, especially when I didn’t see them come through instantly on my phone. I felt free.
When I connected my new phone, what I learned is that I hadn’t really missed that much. A few texts came through, but nothing time-sensitive or urgent. Having truly enjoyed my week sans telephone, it made me want to set up some parameters around my usage. Here are a few ideas to help you implement freedom from your cell phone:
1. Check your usage
When you step back and consider how much you use your phone in a given day, that may be enough to inspire action. Is it the first thing you reach for in the morning? The last thing you look at before you go to bed? A quick check online answering these six questions on Pyschology Today might help you gain some insight into whether or not you may be developing an addiction to social media. Using a phone usage app such as Moment could also help you visualize how much time (and where!) you’re spending on your phone.
2. Put the phone down
Once you’ve decided to spend less time online, it is important to take steps to help you reach this goal. One of the most simple and effective ways is to put your phone down and walk away. By placing your phone in the same spot regularly, it will allow you to hear it if it rings while also creating a physical boundary. During my phone-free week, my mind accepted that I didn’t have my phone to fall back on. And I found productive things to do instead. I engaged more with my children, finished some house projects, and sent off mail to friends. You’ll be less apt to check your phone if it isn’t within arms reach.
3. Turn off app notifications
Another great way to avoid getting sucked into your phone is by turning off app notifications. That way, when you check your phone you won’t feel sucked into multiple apps only to realize most of it could wait. Because I was starting over with a brand new phone, I’ve been taking the “less is more” approach. I have fewer than half the apps I had before. By turning off notifications, muting stories, and unfollowing pages that are no longer sparking joy, you’ll clear up a digital and mental space so you can get back to what really matters.
4. Turn your phone off before bed
In the last 50 years we have seen the invention of the computer, internet, and cell phone. We are plugged in more than ever, and science suggests it may have an effect on our sleep cycles. One Harvard Study suggests that the use of blue light after dark may disrupt our circadian rhythm and increase blood sugar levels while decreasing melatonin secretion. I have been trying to turn my phone off an hour before bedtime, taking that time to read instead. I purchased an alarm clock and made my bedroom phone free — and it’s helping me get to sleep!
How do you limit your screen time?