how to have a healthy relationship with your phone

Nov 27, 2020

We all love our mobile phones but sometimes we need to be careful how we use them. 

There are stories of addiction. Apps give you dopamine hits designed to keep you coming back for more. There are studies linking social media to anxiety and depression. For one take, have a watch of The Social Dilemma (without your phone, see tip #9). 

While smartphones are key for keeping in touch with friends and family while we can’t see each other physically, it’s important we try and have a healthy relationship with our phones. 

Here are some top tips if you feel like you might be spending too long scrolling:


1. ban phones in your room at night

Like a trusty guard dog, your phone probably rests right next to you every night when you go to sleep. But there’s been a lot of research on the impact our smartphones have on our quality of sleep. The science shows that the blue light emitted by screens is not only bad for our eyesight but bad for our brains as it restricts the production of melatonin, which is the hormone that controls your sleep cycle. By reducing melatonin it simply makes it harder to fall and stay asleep. 

Some helpful ways you can help reduce this impact is by giving yourself at least 30 minutes of gadget free time before you sleep, and also charging your phone in another room so you won’t be disturbed by notifications, and avoid the inevitable mindless scrolling in bed. The latest version of iOS on iPhones lets you set a sleep schedule which automatically reminds you to take some downtime before bed.


2. switch to grayscale 

Our phones and apps are designed to be visually pleasing to keep us hooked on them for as long as possible. A simple tip for getting that screen time down is by switching your phone to ‘grayscale’ in your settings. This makes it less appealing to look at and you’ll naturally find yourself not wanting to spend as much time on it. 


3. phone free days

Simple, but effective. Try and challenge yourself to go whole days without going on your phone. By achieving small goals like leaving your device all day will put you back in control of your smartphone and help you realise you’re not dependent on it. 


4. put time restrictions on your phone for down time 

Another easy way to cut down that screen time and improve your relationship with your phone is putting restrictions on it. Most smartphones will let you set up restrictions of times you can access your phone or you can put restrictions on certain apps that you find yourself overusing such as social media or messaging apps. 

Sometimes a simple restriction note from your phone is enough to remind you to put it down and find something else to do.


5. turn off non-critical notifications

Notifications are distracting. Apps are cleverly designed to addict you and each of their notifications are little dopamine hits that create addictive behaviour patterns. One of the best ways you can resist being drawn back to your phone is by switching off your non critical notifications. 


6. spring clean your social media 

We all know that social media is so often just peoples ‘highlight reels’ or ‘best bits’. But that doesn’t stop us from comparing ourselves to others and often feeling inadequate. 

An important part of having a healthy relationship with your phone is taking control of how you’re using it and understanding when it might be having a negative impact. Don’t be afraid to unfollow social media accounts, delete apps or remove anything that doesn’t improve your life or makes you feel inferior. 

There’s also some research by Danish academics showing that being passive on social media can make you even more miserable than if you’re actively participating. Take a read of the BBC’s summary here.


7. download apps to help you

There’s an app for everything these days, and there are even several apps that help you be more productive and help cut down your screen time. 

One example is Forest. The app will plant seeds and grow trees which will then die if you close the app or go on your phone. The more trees you grow the more points you earn and those points can be exchanged for fun vouchers. 

Other apps such as Freedom and Moment block social media for chunks of time which means you can focus without getting lost down a rabbit hole on your phone. 


8. learn a new skill that will replace the urge to scroll

A very simple way of cutting down your phone usage is by keeping yourself busy with other things. Especially things like knitting, reading, jigsaw, puzzles (sudoku), embroidering, chess…the list goes on.


9. one screen at a time. Don’t watch TV and scroll. Just focus on one thing.

We’re all guilty of this one. If your phone is in sight your brain will be thinking about checking it. Even if you’re not conscious of this, it will still be niggling in the back of your mind. If you’re watching TV or a film try to put your phone out of sight or even in a different room and it will allow you to focus and enjoy what you’re watching more. 


take a break

So there we have it, nine ways to try and maintain some balance with your phone. It’s not always easy to do these things, but taking a break from your phone can really help your mental health which is more important than ever.