We share six quick tips to help you reprioritise your phone usage, take control of your scrolling, and start reinvesting your time more wisely

When it comes to modern relationships, it can feel like there’s a third wheel muscling in on our precious, quality time together. Interrupting over the dinner table, stealing moments when we could be cuddled up together in bed, causing us to stop mid-sentence while it steals our attention. We’re talking about our addiction to our phones.

UK adults spend an average of 2 hours 15 minutes on social media each day, while studies estimate we check our phones up to 150 times a day. We’ve even got a word for our antisocial habit of checking our phone while spending time with others: phubbing.

If you’re worried that your phone and social media use may be affecting your relationships, we’re here to help. We share six simple ways you can take back control of your social media use and spend that time on the things that matter most to you: friends, family, and self-improvement.

1. Balance your digital and physical communications

Sending off a quick message or posting in your shared group chat may be quick and easy, but it can become a bad habit when it starts to replace in-person interactions. Can a group chat on WhatsApp really replace a proper catch up over a couple of drinks or a coffee together? Spending time together can help us to build memories and share special moments in ways that digital catch ups often can’t. Quality, over quantity, can be key.

2. Be more mindful of your usage

When we are bored, overwhelmed, or approaching a task we’ve done many times, we can have a habit of going into autopilot. Have you ever found yourself scrolling through Instagram, closing the app, only to reopen the exact same app seconds or minutes later, just in case there’s something new – or perhaps out of habit, rather than conscious thought? While it may be FOMO (fear of missing out) driving you, it could also indicate you’re acting on autopilot. Being more mindful when using your phone or device could help.

Setting yourself boundaries for how long you will be on your phone, regularly checking your app usage times in your phone settings, or creating phone-free zones during dinner or close to bedtime can all help. If you find yourself scrolling without thinking, apps such as Forest can help you to monitor how often you are using your phone whilst giving back to the environment. Users can grow virtual trees whilst they keep their phones closed for a set amount of time. Successfully grown digital trees then earn points, which can be used to help plant real trees across five African countries.


3. Create a scroll-free zone

We each develop different, unhealthy habits when it comes to our phones. Setting boundaries and creating phone-free times can help us to enjoy quality time with loved ones, gain a better night’s sleep, or reinvest time lost to scrolling back into self-improvement.

Creating a sleep-friendly space can help us to unwind, relax, and gain a more restful (and refreshing) night’s sleep. Removing phone chargers from your bedroom and investing in an alarm clock can help.

4. Address your work/life balance

If you find yourself checking your emails, Slack, or work WhatsApp group out of habit on evenings and weekends, it could be a sign that your work/life balance is off-kilter. 40% of us neglect other areas of our lives in favour of work. It could be time to assess your balance and see how you could start regaining a better routine for your work and life.

5. Invest your time wisely

It has become a popular trend to track how much you are spending each day to help take charge of your finances, start diminishing money worries, and begin putting that money spend on your daily commute to better use. Have you stopped to consider doing the same with how you spend your time?

Assessing how much time you spend each evening or during your daily commute could help you to see how much time you could be reinvesting in yourself. How could you use this time to improve yourself, develop new skills, or spend quality time with loved ones?

Listening to inspiring, motivational podcasts during your commute can help you claim back this time, or if stress and your workload are getting to you, these self-care podcasts can help you re-balance your priorities. Apps like DuoLingo can help you learn a second language while on your commute, or if you’re looking to replace time at home previously spent scrolling, Future Learn offers free online courses, or Udemy often runs big sales across courses covering a broad range of topics.


6. Get out

Trying an activity together that doesn’t allow for phone usage can be a great way to help break bad habits. Weekly pilates classes, yoga therapy, gym sessions, or even going swimming together can all help give your mood a boost whilst forcing you to step back and leave your phone out of arm’s reach.

If those don’t sound like your cup of tea, craft classes, developing your green thumb or exploring birding can help boost mental wellbeing whilst giving you a new activity to try together (without screens on-hand to distract you).

Whatever you decide to try, remember: you are under no pressure to change your habits. You need to be ready to do what is best for you (and your relationship).

Discover more about how technology may be affecting your relationship on Counselling Directory, and find out more about how you can take a break from your phone on Life Coach Directory.