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by Brittney Schrick, PhD - May 11, 2023
It will come as no surprise that smart phones are causing problems for people. We
spend too much time on them. They interfere with our ability to remember things. They
shorten our attention spans. They make us less aware of our surroundings. They make
us less likely to talk to the people around us.
Author Catherine Price summarized the research around this topic in her book How to Break Up with Your Phone. She says, “Our lives are what we pay attention to,” so we should be more mindful when using our smart phones. This takes practice and
requires us to short-circuit our own mind-LESS behaviors.
For example, do you ever catch yourself picking up your smart phone and then asking
yourself, “Why did I even pick this up?” The real answer is that your brain (and the
phone) has trained you to pick it up when you need a little boost of dopamine (remember
our happy brain chemical?). The problem with that is that our moods really don’t get
boosted. We usually find something that makes us anxious or annoyed or we waste time
doing something like playing a game or scrolling social media when we could probably
feel better doing something else entirely.
Instead, ask yourself three questions: What for? Why now? And What else?
“What for?” Why did I pick my phone up? Why did I open this app? Why am I staring at this screen?
If your answer is some form of “I don’t know,” then put the phone down.
“Why now?” Why am I choosing this moment to pick up my phone? Am I bored? Did I just get a notification?
Did I just see the phone sitting there and pick it up? Unless you have a clear answer
about why you picked it up such as you are looking something up or checking an email,
put the phone down and find something else to do.
“What else?” What else could I be doing if I wasn’t on my phone? What else would I be paying attention
to if I didn’t have my eyes on my phone? What interactions am I missing because I’m
looking at my phone? What activity might make me feel good right now?
The odds are good that you are missing out on important things when you have your
attention on your phone.
There is so much we miss when we aren’t fully present in the moment. Smart phones
are a great tool when used sparingly, but they can cause real problems for us when
we become addicted to the brief boost we get when we turn them on.
Consider some ways that you can minimize your smartphone use. This doesn’t mean you have to stop using it completely, but it’s
a good bet that you could cut down on your phone time.
Out of sight, out of mind:
Set a reminder on your lock screen:
There are a few wallpaper options you can save or screenshot at the bottom of this
Be honest with yourself about your phone use:
Our lives are what we pay attention to. Make sure you’re paying attention to the things
that are truly most important.
For further reading, look for Catherine Price's book, How to Break Up with Your Phone.