There’s an increasing body of research that shows mobile phones can interfere with our sleep, productivity, mental health and impulse control. Even having a smartphone within reach can reduce available cognitive capacity.
But it’s recently been suggested we should be more concerned with the potential for mobile phones to shorten our lives by chronically raising our levels of cortisol, one of the body’s main stress hormones.
Here are some tips for healthier smartphone use:
- Use Apple’s “Screen Time”, Android’s ActionDash or the Moment app to take an audit of how often you use your phone and which apps take up most of your time
- Turn off all but the most important app notifications (such as private messages) so you can take back control of when you look at your phone. You can also allocate certain times of the day to be notification free
- Turn off the “push” or “fetch new data” option on your smartphone’s email. This way emails will only appear when you open the mail app and refresh it. As an added bonus this will help extend your phone’s battery life
- Take some time to complete a digital declutter, which includes unfollowing people/pages (there’s an app for that!) and unsubscribing from email lists (that too!) that cause you stress or don’t benefit you. Remember you can unfollow friends on Facebook without defriending them
- Create tech-free zones in your house, such as the kitchen table or bedrooms. An “out of sight out of mind” approach will help keep smartphone-delivered stress from creeping into your downtime
- Set a digital curfew to support better restorative sleep and don’t keep your phone next to your bed. Instead of reaching for your phone first thing in the morning, start your day with a brief meditation, some exercise, or a slow breakfast
- Be mindful and curious about how often you pick up your phone during the day simply out of boredom. Instead of bombarding your mind with information, use these opportunities to clear your mind with a short breathing exercise. There’s even a mindfulness exercise that challenges you to hold your phone while you meditate on your relationship with it, so you can reclaim your phone as a cue to check-in with yourself, rather than your emails or social media feed.