If you’re starting to feel like you’re spending too much time on your phone, you probably are.
Globally, 4.1 trillion hours were spent staring at cellphone screens last year, according to a report by Data.ai — the equivalent of 470million years.
The average American and Brit spends at least a fifth of their day using one – with short-form video apps such as TikTok sucking up the most time.
Yet studies increasingly show they’re making us miserable. Research last April indicated that cutting your smartphone use by just an hour a day makes you less anxious, more satisfied with life and more likely to exercise.
Given that we’re just 11 days into the new year, there has never been a better time to try a digital detox. DailyMail.com asked the experts how to go about it:
If you’re starting to feel like you’re spending too much time on your phone, you probably are. Globally, 4.1 trillion hours were spent staring at cellphone screens last year, according to a report by Data.ai (file image)
Identify the ‘problem’ apps… and hiding them
Focusing on the apps that lead you to pick up your phone is a great first step, says Becca Caddy, author of Screen Time: How to Make Peace with Your Devices and Find Your Techquilibrium.
Caddy recommends setting realistic goals, rather than trying to go straight from a three-hour-a-day habit to three minutes.
‘We all have an app (or three) that obliterates our willpower.
Becca Caddy, author of Screen Time: How to Make Peace with Your Devices and Find Your Techquilibrium, recommends setting realistic goals, rather than trying to go straight from a three-hour-a-day habit to three minutes
‘Maybe you can’t peel yourself away from TikTok makeup tutorials or feel addicted to the latest news headlines on Twitter.
‘Luckily, your phone has a built-in way to set a daily time limit for the worst offenders.
‘Get to know these settings (called App Limits in Screen Time on iOS and Digital Wellbeing on Android) and give yourself a daily time allowance.
‘When you hit your limit, a notification pops up.
‘You can ignore it, and some days you might, but when you’re stuck in a scroll hole, this gentle nudge might be just what you need to remind you that life exists beyond your phone screen. ‘
Alternatively, why not try hiding apps in folders that are difficult to find?
Most phones now also have settings that allow you to ‘remove’ apps from the home screen entirely, forcing you to manually search for the app every time you want to use it.
Visualize the benefits… or take a cold shower!
Spending hours staring into your phone wastes time, so Mallory advises visualizing the benefits of stopping.
‘Visualize what you could do with the extra time that you usually spend on your phone, the experiences you could have.
‘Set aside the things you can’t control and focus on the things you can. Feeling like you’re in control of your life rather than a passenger is key.’
Nowadays, everybody from professional athletes like Conor McGregor to celebrities like Oprah and high-powered CEOs use visualization techniques.
The technique is often associated with visualizing career success, but experts say it can also be used to break habits.
Max Kirsten, a hypnotherapist in London, recommends putting 15 minutes aside each day to clear your thoughts and to think about why stopping would make a difference in your life.
But former rally driver and life coach Penny Mallory, author of 365 Ways to Develop Mental Toughness advocates a tougher approach.
To break a habit, it can help to focus your mind on discipline, and Penny suggests taking a cold shower every day to ‘build discipline, resilience, commitment and determination’.
Not only are you unable to use your phone during that time, it also teaches you discipline, she says.
‘A lot of people fail to achieve their goals because they are not prepared to leave their comfort zone and push themself further.
‘By stepping outside your comfort zone there is no loss; you’ll succeed or learn from it, and both are big wins. Your likelihood of achieving it will be better as a result.’
Set house rules
Charlotte Armitage, Registered Integrative Psychotherapist & Media Psychologist and founder of No Phones at home Day, says that households should set down strict rules about when smartphones can and can’t be used – and remove children’s devices when not needed.
Former rally driver and life coach Penny Mallory, author of 365 Ways to Develop Mental Toughness advocates a tougher approach. To break a habit, it can help to focus your mind on discipline, and Penny suggests taking a cold shower every day to ‘build discipline, resilience, commitment and determination’
These can be very simple – but effective – rules like no phones at dinner, or no phones after a certain time.
Forcing your children to abide by them will make you more likely to apply them to your own habits.
Writing down and agreeing on rules with the rest of the family can help, holding each member accountable.
Armitage says: ‘Set boundaries around usage. Don’t have the phone at the dinner table. When going out for meals, encourage people to put phones away.’
Armitage advises at least one phone-free day at the weekend – which should be agreed in advance.
‘I tried this myself with my daughter, we limited the amount of time spent on devices and now have a day without them at the weekend.
‘I noticed the benefits for our wellbeing, relationship and behaviours.’
‘Use device-free time to connect with the people in your household; talk, play a game, go for a walk, do an art activity, engage in exercise or sport together, sit together and talk.
‘Research has found that notifications on our phone can trigger a release of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter involved in feeling good.
‘When something encourages the release of dopamine the brain builds a positive association with that object, seeking out more, this is how devices become addictive.’
Science shows that looking at your phone just before bed disrupts your sleep, Caddy warns – although it’s less clear whether this is due to blue light or just stress from social media.
She says: ‘If you can’t quit your bedtime scrolling habit on your own. get to know your phone’s do not disturb settings.
‘You can schedule these to kick in an hour (or two, if you’re feeling virtuous) before bed. That way if you lose track of time your phone will work for you and not against you, blocking notifications, implementing limits and ensuring you stick to your intentions to get a good night’s sleep.’