Do you ever check your phone before bed and before you know it, 45 minutes has gone by in the blink of an eye (which means 45 minutes less sleep)? Do you ever get asked by friends or family members to set your phone down because they don’t feel you are listening to them? Do you feel powerless against the urge to check your email, texts and social media apps multiples times throughout the day? Do you take your phone everywhere you go, even to the bathroom? If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, it may be time to “break up” with your phone.
You would be hard-pressed to go into nearly any public space without looking around and seeing numerous people hunched over their phones. It doesn’t matter if they are sitting across a table from someone, eating a meal, or walking their dog. Cell phones were designed to be extremely addictive, and for some it has become almost a permanent extension of their right or left hand. It has been estimated that Americans spend an average of 4 hours per day on their phones, the use of which has been shown to affect our sleep, mood, posture, personal relationships, memory, and attention span. Additionally, a number of people are also sensitive to the electromagnetic fields, or EMFs, emitted by the devices.
A few months ago, I accidentally left my phone behind after catching an Amtrack on my way to Chicago for the weekend and I was NOT happy about it. How would people know how to reach me? What if I missed an important email? What if I needed to use a map, or look up something important? I momentarily felt so powerless and “naked”. After getting over my initial reaction, I realized that this may in fact be a wonderful opportunity to see what my life would be like for 3 days without a bright screen in my face. I had already been conscious about my seeming “addiction” to my phone and wanted to make changes but didn’t know where to start. I had someone traveling with me who could be reached in case of emergency, but we decided to do the experiment together. What I realized at the end of the weekend and returning home (to a phone with zero voicemails and several emails I wanted to read but none of them urgent) was that I was telling myself a lie about how vital my phone was to my every day functioning. Additionally, I felt so much calmer and more present in my social interactions throughout the weekend, and I loved going to bed and waking up with the last and first things I saw being something other than a bright screen. It was a wake-up call, but I still needed help developing healthier habits around the use of my phone.
I then stumbled across what is now my favorite you resource, the book, “How to Break Up with Your Phone” by Catherine Price. She takes a deeper dive into the ill health effects phone overuse may lead to, and provides numerous tips and strategies (including a 30-day plan) on how to change habits and set better boundaries. My favorites include deleting social media apps off your phone, a 24-hour trial without your phone, integrating mindfulness meditation, turning off notifications, and using a standalone alarm clock. What are you waiting for? Pick up this book and reclaim your health and your time - and while you’re at it, invite a few loved ones to go on the journey with you!
Ivy M. Carson, MSN, RN, AGPCNP-BC, CHC
Certified Health Coach