Do you find yourself constantly texting, surfing the internet, sending emails, using applications and playing games? That we are living in an age of near constant digital distraction is now old news. You have also likely heard that the urge to pick up our devices is similar to other forms of behavioral craving. Like gambling or shopping craving, it releases a small shot of dopamine in various regions of the brain and keeps us coming back for more, even when we know it’s not in our best interest to do so. Depending on how much time and effort you put into those situations, you may have a problem with excessive cell phone use. Overuse of your cell phone can lead to reduced quality of personal relationships and lack of productivity in daily life.
“How can we overcome our craving to distraction so we can focus on the things that actually matter?”
I recently heard someone say, smartphones are like power tools: They can be really helpful if used effectively, and really dangerous (i.e., craving, habit-forming) if used otherwise. For many people, it’s the latter, because the unfortunate truth is: We’ve gotten to the point where modern-day technology (i.e., the smartphone) is literally rewiring our mental circuitry, so much so that it’s affecting our abilities to sustain focus for long periods of time and perform deeply worked.
Create a plan for your phone usage; Write your plan and goals down to make them more concrete. Keep a log of which goals you’ve met and ones you are still working on. Limit your cell phone use to certain times of the day.
Keep a tally of how many times you check your phone per hour. Notifications are the main reason people get craving to their phones, since they are incredibly dopamine-inducing. Instead of going cold turkey and completely eliminating your cell phone use (which can be very anxiety-provoking), begin by progressively reducing the amount of time you spend checking your phone. For example, start by limiting the amount you check your phone to once per 30 minutes, then once per 2 hours, as so on. Put your phone away. Put your phone somewhere where you will not see it. Turn your phone on silent mode when you are at work, study or anywhere else, so it won’t distract you.
Studies have shown that spending too much time on your phone is bad for your focus and mental health. Try turning off notifications, kicking your phone out of your bedroom and even turning on grayscale.
Take a cell phone holiday especially on week days. Cut cell phone use out of your life completely for a short period of time such as a weekend. You can notify your friends and loved ones that you are going off the grid for a short time. This can be easily accomplished on social media. There are settings on your phone that may alert you every time you get an email or Facebook notification. Make sure you turn these off! This will reduce the number of times your phone goes off or vibrates. This way you are not being notified every time something occurs. It then disables your phone when you reach the maximum of minutes.