Obsessed with Your Phone? How To Break Free from Phone Addiction

All relationships have patterns, even our relationships with our phones. Perhaps this one sounds familiar: You are watching TV, cooking dinner, or doing laundry when you realize you left your phone somewhere else in the house. You drop everything you are doing to go look for your phone, and once you find it you go back to what you started, comforted now by its presence. 

To varying degrees, we have become slaves to our phones, entrenched in patterns like the example above along with countless others. Research shows that some adults check their phones an average of 85 times a day. And it’s no wonder why. Receiving a text message or a like on your social media post delivers a hit of dopamine, the same chemical rush we get from food and sex. Consciously or not, we wait for it, and it feels good when the screen lights up and the phone dings. 

There’s no doubt it can be fun, but when does it become phone addiction? How many hours do we spend cozied up to our phones? And what could we be doing with that time instead?

If you suspect you might be a little too obsessed with your phone, consider these tips for getting some space, and notice what happens when you start to detach:

Consider a cut-off time

It’s not always possible to completely unplug from your phone in the evenings, particularly with today’s work demands, but can you stop earlier than you usually do? Consider a cut-off time and decide exactly what you are unplugging from. It could be social media, surfing the Internet, emails, texting, and/or taking calls. But the best form of cutting off is simply turning your phone off.

Then notice what happens. What’s different, for example, if you don’t check Facebook or emails after, say, 8 p.m.? Are you more present to your partner or children? Do you start reading books again? Do you sleep better, or have different dreams? Are you calmer?

Like many things, it’s easiest to start with small steps. So perhaps unplug 20 minutes earlier and, if you like it, increase it by another 20 minutes and keep going.

Eliminate or reduce news alerts

You are the CEO of your thoughts. Becoming aware of thoughts, and what flows from them, is a critical skill. So too is deciding what’s important and learning to focus our mental energy on those things. 

When we receive a news alert, or any other notification for that matter, it’s a distraction. And the content of news alerts can be unpredictable. Whatever you were thinking about is interrupted, at least temporarily. It’s worth asking whether that is a good thing. 

This one hit home for me on a recent vacation to Mexico where I was trying to practice these very tips on unplugging. Sitting on the beach, I reached for my phone and saw an alert with the Bill Cosby trial verdict. Suddenly the space filled with heaviness. I could have read the story when I got back, which would have been my preference. Instead, the breaking news hit me as I looked over the Caribbean and weighed heavy on my heart when I was in need of a break.

This isn’t about sticking your head in the sand and ignoring what’s going on in the world. This is about receiving the news on your own terms. 

Get an alarm clock

Alarm clocks have fallen by the wayside as we wake up to our phones. When you roll over to turn off the alarm, already you see your missed texts and calls, and any other chosen notifications. Your brain fills with this information. It’s not necessarily right or wrong, but is it best for you?

Many of the most successful people credit their morning routines for their achievements—routines filled with things like quiet time, meditation, exercise, and journaling. What morning routine would you like, and where does your phone fit in?

Make a pact with loved ones

These tips may seem easy, but in practice they are often difficult to implement, which is why the support of friends and family can help. Consider making a pact with them to not check phones when you’re together and to unplug at certain times. It can be easier to get into the routine of putting the phone aside during meals or at night if someone else is doing it with you. 

All of these strategies help cultivate mindfulness, or being aware of what’s happening in present time without judgment. It’s often fascinating to notice what you feel when you unplug from your phone and what you do with the newfound time. The phone, and all of your notifications, will be there when you’re ready to go back to them. 

If you find that your relationships, job or any other aspect of your life is being affected by your phone addiction, I am here to help! I can help you work on ways to cope and work through strategies on detaching from the addiction. Reach out to me today and let’s get started.