A 2017 study from the University of Texas showed that we interact with our phones an average of 85 times a day, including immediately upon waking up, just before going to sleep, and even in the middle of the night. Most of us wouldn’t dream of leaving the house without our phones, and many of us, if pressed to admit it, would claim they are a part of our lives that we simply couldn’t live without.
It’s hard to imagine life without our mobiles, and hard to remember how we ever lived without them. Although they have their benefits - keeping us in touch with loved ones, keeping our lives organised and using them to read Happiful free online (ahem) - there are also times when we need a break.
Simon Cowell recently announced that he has disconnected from his phone for the past 10 months - and counting. "It has been so good for my mental health. It's a very strange experience but it really is good for you and it has absolutely made me happier”, he said. Simon claims to have "become way more focused" and "aware of the people around me" since giving up his phone, calling it a "strange experience" but "has absolutely made me happier".
If the feeling of being without your phone for 10 minutes, let alone 10 months, fills you with dread, it might be time to think about unplugging.
Joshua Miles, a BACP Accredited Integrative Psychotherapist, who is a member of Counselling Directory, suggests the following ways in which we can disconnect from technology:
1. Unplug - and not in the figurative sense.
Switch your phone off or turn it on airplane mode. Go one better and completely unplug your router. Terrified by the prospect? Start with half an hour unplugged and work up to doing it for as long as you can.
2. Set a time each day to disconnect.
You can tell people you won’t be available at a certain time of the day where you’ll be offline. Try to stick to the routine and be strict with yourself, but don’t beat yourself up if it’s harder to stick to than you think.
3. Spend time somewhere without your phone or laptop.
Try leaving your devices at home and go out and find a quiet space. Try going for a walk on your own or with a friend and enjoy the space and give back to yourself.
4. Ask yourself: Do I really need my phone?
So often we aimlessly browse the internet or social media - have you ever popped online to check something and finished an hour later wondering where the time went? One way to avoid this is to ask yourself before you grab your phone, laptop or tablet: Do I really need this?
5. Try practicing basic meditation.
This doesn’t have to be anything complicated - set a specific time and place to practice and start with noticing your breathing. Slow, deep breaths slow your heart rate and relaxes your muscles. If you get frustrated with meditation, notice and acknowledge it, while continuing to concentrate on your breathing.
If you find using your mobile, tablet or laptop increases your anxiety, or find yourself constantly checking social media in a way that is affecting your personal relationships, it may be time to take the first step to disconnecting periodically and see if it improves your mental health.
Joshua recommends asking yourself the following questions for self-reflection to evaluate how your use of technology is making you feel:
- Has your usage become habitual or even instictual?
- Do you wake up and immediately look at your phone, or immediately go to whatever apps you most frequently use?
- In a 24-hour period how often do you go phone-less?
- What do you crave from using it? What’s the desire for using it?
- How do you feel without your phone - are you uncomfortable being away from it?
- What does it feel to be without it?
Photo by Derick Anies on Unsplash