“You will forge a happier relationship with your device by using it mindfully”— Paul Ebeling
Anna Lembke, a psychiatrist and an addiction specialist at Stanford writes, “Just about all of us have a digital drug of choice, and it probably involves using a smartphone—the equivalent of the hypodermic needle for a wired generation.”
The data suggest that Dr. Lembke’s claim is true. For example, the average smartphone user rarely goes 2 hrs without using his/her device, unlocks it 50Xs a day, and swipes or taps on it as many as 2,617X in the process.
Young people are particularly afflicted: A 2018 Pew Research Center report found that 44% of teens said they often check their devices for messages or notifications as soon as they wake up, 54% said they spend too much time on their mobile phone, and 42% feel anxiety when they do not have it.
A device addiction is associated with depression and anxiety. It victimizes lonely people. According to the technology research firm CompareCamp, 26% of car accidents in the US today are due to the use of smartphones while driving.
These problems are obvious to almost everyone, bu the solutions, less so. Some experts propose taxation to help curb digital overuse, similar to the way the government discourages tobacco use. Others say the only way to beat an addiction is to quit and go device-free.
But in a world of electronic payments, digital documents, and remote work, a truly smartphone-free lifestyle is getting less and less practical.
More plausible, is to manage addictive behavior by moderating device use. This is not just a matter of setting screen-time limits you can easily break. Rather, you can start to develop specific, concrete habits to replace the unhealthy 1s that keep sending you back to your phone.
The Big Q: Are digital devices are more like cigarettes’ or more like carbohydrates.
The Big A: Dr. Lembke says the latter: To quit cold turkey would impose an enormous cost on virtually anyone who needs to manage a bank account, communicate with loved ones, call for a ride, work remotely, or perform countless other everyday tasks. So the proper approach is to find the right level to which we should aspire.
Finding the right goal for cutting back is 1 thing, doing so is another. Some people try therapy, and psychologists have even recommended drugs to help treat related dependencies, such as internet addiction. But for those wishing to find a DIY approach, here are 3 practices you may find effective, as follows:
Lots of device overuse can be blamed on the mindlessness of it. A Y 2018 study of Australian adults found that 86% admitted to using their smartphones “automatically.” Meaning: If you have 15 secs of downtime in an elevator or waiting at a red light, out pops your phone. You may not even realize you are looking at it, as you are just killing time.
The best way to counteract mindless scrolling is with mindful scrolling. Set times each day or wk to look at your smartphone and really focus on it. Do not do anything else; be all about the phone for those mins, as if it were your job.
Besides making addiction easier to beat studies have found mindfulness to be very effective in treating addictions such a practice might also show you how little you actually enjoy staring at your phone.
Most addictions are associated with a neurotransmitter called dopamine. It governs desire, and spikes when we get environmental cues such as advertisements and reminders to do something pleasurable, like smoke or gamble or check our phone. Smartphones game our dopamine, most crucially through the sounds and banners indicating that someone messaged or mentioned you and you must look right now to satisfy your curiosity.
And the solution is: If you have a smartphone, turn off all the notifications, except perhaps the 1s you need to stay employed, and the ringer for when your mother calls.
If you are trying to eat healthier, a common piece of advice you might hear from a nutritionist is to avoid having junk food in the house. The idea is that unhealthy eating, a choice you might otherwise make without thinking, should require effort.
The same idea applies to the phone.
Make parts of your home where your phone is not physically proximate, such as the dinner table and the bedroom. I never miss my phone when I am going to sleep. If I wake up during the night, going to check it would take a lot of effort, so I do not.
And stop texting, people like to talk to 1 another, I stopped texting and accepting texts on 4 January and do not miss it, period.
Have a healthy holiday respite, Keep the Faith!