Latalia White, AMFT

In part I of this blog series, I outlined first steps you can take to reduce the amount of time you spend on your smartphone and its harmful effects on your health. To boost your physical, mental, and emotional health, you can start by using your “do not disturb” functions liberally, especially while you’re driving and while you’re sleeping at night; silencing audio and vibration notifications; putting your phone away while you’re eating meals with family and friends; committing to making the first and last moments of your day phone-free; reducing smartwatch usage; and locking your phone up for a few hours every week.

Once you’ve mastered these tips and are ready to take the plunge into a life run even less by your smartphone, try the following suggestions:

Replace your smartwatch with a regular watch.

Consider getting rid of your smartwatch if it functions as an extension of your phone – it’s almost impossible to ignore notifications on them because of their attention-grabbing design. Instead, resume wearing a regular watch for timekeeping purposes and use your phone for text notifications. You can also incorporate other health devices into your life if that’s the primary use of your smartwatch.

Take vacations to places with little to no cell phone coverage.

When you decide to take a vacation, pick places that have poor cell coverage. First, this can help you set boundaries with work and let them know you’re not available while on your trip. (This is useful if you work in the kind of environment in which work is expected to get done during vacation.) Second, this can help curb impulses to mindlessly scroll through apps and websites when more restorative activities are waiting for you.

Commit to never using your smartphone while doing something else.

To make smartphone use more intentional when you do want to engage with it, give your focus only to your phone. Don’t watch TV or a movie and scroll at the same time, or flip flop between working on your computer and pulling out your phone. By being more intentional with your smartphone usage, you can reduce the amount of time you waste on it.

Keep your phone in airplane mode for a set amount of time each day.

If you have worked up to a place in which you do not have to (or want to) check your phone regularly, go ahead and put your phone in airplane mode when you’re not checking your email or texts. After enough time, that will become the default mode for you – checking your phone will then be the exception rather than the rule.

Replace other functions of your smartphone with its real-life counterpart.

While smartphones have undoubtedly made life more convenient in many ways, it’s smart to evaluate what you’re giving up by using your phone for everything (see my suggestion above to ditch the smartwatch). If you want to put away your phone more, consider replacing more functions of your phone with the object we used to use to accomplish something – an alarm clock instead of your alarm app; some combination of paper maps/written directions/standalone GPS systems for travel; a camera instead of a smartphone camera, etc. Do you still have your old iPod? Break it out when you want to play music!

Buy a “dumb” cellphone to periodically or regularly replace use of your smartphone.

Probably the most extreme example on this list is to buy what is now referred to as a “dumb” phone and use it some of the time you’d normally use a smartphone. Ideally, using a dumb phone would consist of simply calling and texting others, the original functions of the regular telephone and later early cellphones before phones became mini computers. And, if you really want to go wild, consider eliminating a cell phone altogether and just use landlines.