Latalia White, AMFT

By now, we all know that it’s better for our health and our relationships to limit the amount of time we spend glued to our smartphones. By being attuned to our screens instead of the world surrounding us, we’re missing out on connections with our loved ones and peaceful moments. I can’t count the number of times a client has made a disparaging remark about their relationship with their cell phone, noted the difficulty in staying focused after looking at screens all day, or struggled to endure boredom without reaching for their phone. If you struggle with restricting your smartphone usage, try to reduce its negative effects by implementing the following beginner tips:

Turn on your smartphone’s “do not disturb” function.

Enable built-in mechanisms on your phone to limit your ability to access your phone when it is most crucial to your health: when you’re driving and when you’re sleeping. If you are someone who currently uses your phone while you’re driving, you should make stopping that action your number one priority for the safety of yourself and everyone else on the road. Consider also throwing your phone in the backseat of your car so you can’t access it while you’re driving. As for sleeping, it’s important to get as much uninterrupted high-quality sleep as you can manage, so make sure your do not disturb function is active every night. If you need to be available to certain people at night, you can enable their calls to come through while still keeping the rest of the world on hold.

Silence your phone and turn off vibration notifications.

Turn off all noise notifications from your phone! It’s incredibly hard to ignore your phone when you can hear its activity with every ring and ding. The same goes for vibrating notifications – these are distracting, too. You’ll be more successful at checking your phone when you decide you want to – and not checking it when you don’t want to – if it isn’t constantly reminding you of its existence.

Put your phone away during meals with others.

Decide that mealtimes will be phone-free periods. Humans tend to feel connected to those in their presence while they are eating, so lean into the kind of connection that only comes with sharing a physical space together. Enjoy your food, enjoy your friends and family, and decide that the rest of the world can wait while you’re nourishing your body.

Make the first half hour of your day and the last half hour of your day phone-free.

Commit to spending the first and last moments of your day doing something other scrolling through your phone. The blue light its screen emits is terrible for your sleep hygiene (so if you are going to be on your phone, at least turn on warmer light in your phone settings during those hours) and keeping your mind engaged in phone activity will hinder your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Don’t wear a smartwatch during time periods when you want to be disengaged from your phone.

Smart watches, like smartphones, have amazing capabilities that add value to our lives. However, they are just as distracting as our phones. Avoid wearing one when you’ve committed to being phone-free so noise and vibration notifications from your watch don’t steal your attention.

Set aside a period of time every week to lock your phone away.

Every week, pick a few hours in which you know you won’t need your phone and put it away in a drawer where you won’t be tempted to mindlessly pick it up. During this time period, engage in an activity that rejuvenates you and makes you remember what it was like to live before cell phones were ubiquitous.