Isn’t it funny how we spend all year waiting for summer to come, but when it gets here, we all just sit around staring at our phones? Instead of enjoying the sun, we find ourselves doing what we’ve been doing all year — endlessly scrolling and tapping, tagging the person across the room in a meme instead of walking over and showing it to them.
Because we’re so attached to our devices, it’s hard to change habits. However, this comes with the risk of losing your entire summer to your phone. Before you know it, summer will be over and you’ll be left with carefully filtered and Facetuned Instagram posts than actual IRL memories.
Besides the fact that you shouldn’t want to lose your summer to your phone, excessive phone use is associated with mental health problems that go far beyond summer. Studies have shown that teens who spend more than five hours online a day were a whopping 71% more likely to have at least one suicide risk factor, compared to teens who spend less than an hour a day online. Additionally, teens who spend more time interacting online than with friends in person are more likely to be depressed.
Here are seven tips on changing your habits so you don’t lose your summer to your phone.
First off, get some perspective. We all know we use our phones a lot but we might not realize just how much until we get some concrete data. Enable screen-time tracking on your iPhone, or download an app like SPACEif you have an Android, to learn how much time you actually spend on your phone. You can also see a breakdown for how much time you spend on each app (wanna bet Instagram is your biggest time-sucker?)
Seeing a graph of your phone usage might be a wake up call. When you know what your average use is, you can have a starting point for setting realistic goals for less screen time.
With either your iPhone’s built-in features or an add-on app, you’ll be able to get creative with setting limits for screen time. You can go the route of setting time limits for each app (like limiting yourself to one hour total of Snapchat a day). Your phone will notify you when you’re getting close to the daily limit.
You can also try locking yourself out of certain apps at certain times of the day. If you find yourself in bed scrolling through Instagram looking at memes and funny videos for two hours before you end up falling asleep, you might consider locking yourself out of IG a couple hours before bedtime.
Take a step back and think about what apps are actually bringing value into your life. Which are simply habits or things to pass the time when you’re feeling bored or awkward? Also, see if you can tell if any apps are hurting your mental health or self-esteem. For example, you might realize that Instagram is really hurting your self-esteem and you find yourself comparing yourself to all the influencers you follow on the app. It could be really beneficial to delete the app for a weekend, a week, a month — maybe even forever!
Just because you’re deleting the app, doesn’t mean you’re not deleting your account. It will be right there ready for you if and when you’re ready to go back, but having the app gone from your phone will keep you from mindlessly clicking and scrolling. You might feel so good without the app that you find yourself not even wanting to redownload (this happened to me with Snapchat!).
On top of app-free time, you can set time that is completely phone-free — I know, it sounds scary. One idea is to start your morning off with no phone. Studies have shown that seventy-two percent of teens check their messages and social media notifications as soon as they wake up.
Break the pattern by spending at least half an hour without your phone after you wake up. You can also decide that certain summer activities, which may not be daily, are considered phone-free time, things like going to the pool or the beach. Setting aside specific time to not use your phone can really help break the habits of excessive use.
You know when you use your phone the least? When you’re busy and having fun. Make a list of some cool things you’d love to do this summer. Some activities will require your full attention and will get your mind off your phone, things like surfing, skateboarding, yoga, playing volleyball, taking an art class — not exactly stuff you can do while checking insta.
Summer is the perfect time to try out some new hobbies, learn new skills, and set goals, alone or with friends.
Everything’s more fun with your friends, right? Tell your friends about your plan to limit screen time and to be more present over the summer — and then try to work on it together. Chances are, they might be interested in making changes or limiting their usage too. Fifty-four percent of teens think that they spend too much time on their phones!
If you’re not on your phone while hanging out with a friend, they might be inspired to put theirs away, too. You can even share your screen time data with friends and family via iPhone screen time tracking or the SPACE app. You can come up with challenges and hold competitions to see who can have the lowest numbers each week.
Studies have also shown that teens experience negative emotions when they don’t have their phone. Forty-two percent of teens say they feel anxious without their phone, and twenty-five percent say they feel lonely. My advice to you is to make yourself feel uncomfortable by leaving your phone in another room or keeping it in your bag or pocket the whole time you’re out with your friends.
Sure, you’re going to feel uncomfortable at first, probably anxious, too. But the more you practice and don’thave your phone out, the more you will get used to it. As with all other things, practice makes perfect.
Try a couple of these tips and you’ll be on the road to making positive changes in no time. Summer is short, so live it up and look up at the sun, not down at your phone. You’ll be glad you did!
This article originally appeared on Talkspace.com
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