Digital Wellness for Dummies

5 Ways to Use Your Phone Less

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5 Tips to Decrease Your Smartphone Usage

1. Turn off all phone notifications except for the ones that require an immediate action.

The biggest culprit in making your phone a highly distracting piece of technology is the constant dings, pings, and buzz of push notifications. Every single app on your phone has a notification setting and, by default, they’re turned “on.” Push notifications are all good and well, but they can be annoying and uninformative. To simplify the types of alerts you receive, I suggest removing all notifications that do not require your immediate attention. For example, I do not silence emergency weather forecasts.

Many mobile apps also give you the ability to pick and choose what events will trigger a push notification. I recommend taking some time out to go over each app that you either frequently use or is often sending nettlesome notifications and adjust its settings to best fit your needs.

What requires immediate attention is different for everyone so there isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula. By cutting down on what I receive notifications for, my phone is less of a distraction and my battery lasts longer throughout the day. That’s definitely a double-win if you ask me!

2. Set up “Do Not Disturb” on your phone.

If you want a more tailored solution that is similar to one mentioned above, you can take advantage of the “Do Not Disturb” mode (DND) and the customization features available with that function. I’m sure some of you already use DND with its simple, default function — on or off and it will mute all notifications and calls. However, that is not always ideal, especially because owning a smartphone is supposed to simplify communication.

For iPhones, the DND mode allows you to customize who and when someone can reach you. Check out Apple’s Support page for more details on how to setup DND on the iPhone.

For Android devices, the DND mode allows you to customize who, when, and what form of communication can pass through when someone is trying to reach you. With Android, you can control calls, messages, reminders, and event notifications. Check out this page for more details on how to setup do not disturb on an Android.

3. Keep your phone out of sight when idle.

Unconsciously, people take out their mobile phones because it’s usually easy to access and to fill the empty void that is now all too uncomfortable to bear. Wheph. I find myself naturally carrying my phone in my hand, even when I am already lugging around a shopping basket in one arm. By the time I get in line waiting for check out, my phone is readily at my disposal, waiting for me to check Facebook. My friends without question will pick up their phones at dinner as soon as we put down our cards and are waiting for the server to come with the check.

Whether you are at work, at home, or at a dinner party, keep your phone out of sight when you’re not actively using it. If your phone is not easily accessible and is not constantly in your view, you will be more likely to forget about it. Your phone won’t be tempting you, with its tantalizing light and siren alerts.

The easiest way to do this when you’re out and about would be to put it in your bag (or desk drawer). Regardless if you carry a purse, backpack, messenger sling, plastic grocery bag, or something in between, putting your phone inside your bag will help a lot. Not only will both of your hands be free (or at least one freed up pocket), but your phone will also be a lot safer if it is being stored in a bag when not in use. If you do not use any sort of bag, try to find somewhere to put your phone so it’s not physically on you. If you are at home, I recommend leaving your phone in a different area than where you are.

4. Wear a watch. (Or carry a pocket watch if that’s your thing)

Like many people, I used to rely solely on my phone to tell time throughout the day. Without thinking twice, I would whip out my phone to check what time it is. If I did not have my phone on me, I wouldn’t be able to tell the time myself and would need to ask a friend or a stranger passing by. The few times I had to do that, people gave me a few funny looks because it’s a given that you should have a phone on you.

Using your phone to tell time is convenient and seems pretty harmless, right? But think about it — how many times have you looked at your phone for one thing, for example the time, and then end up looking at something completely unrelated? You see a notification and next thing you know, you’re looking at an email from your boss, checking the two new matches on Tinder, or viewing your BFF’s Instagram story as she vacations in Bali.

To cut down on how often you go to check your phone, I suggest wearing a watch or something else that allows you to tell time. Since I started wearing a watch, I don’t take out my phone as often anymore. I am frequently on the verge of being late so it helps when I can focus on getting to my destination instead of what’s going on with my tiny digital device.

5. Keep your phone out of the bedroom or away from the bedroom area.

You’ve probably heard of this one before and that’s probably for good reason. Our smartphones are typically the last thing we look at before going to bed and the first thing we check when we wake up. If you make a conscious effort to keep your phone out of the bedroom, you will find yourself starting a new bedtime ritual that does not involve stress-checking emails or bingeing on the newest memes. The National Sleep Foundation has conducted studies that show cutting down your exposure to digital screens prior to bedtime is crucial to getting a good night’s rest.

By having your phone away from the bedside area, you also cut down on the possibility of you checking your phone in the middle of night. Let’s be honest: have you ever checked your phone after getting up at 3am to use the bathroom? It may seem harmless, but it could be affecting how easily and how well you go back to sleep.

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