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Mindful Phone Use: How to Take Control of Your Digital Life

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Overcoming Phone Addiction Strategies for Productivity and Well-being

Smartphones and social media have revolutionized our lives, allowing us to have instant access to almost anything from anywhere. Just imagine that the device you’re watching this from is hundreds of millions of times more powerful than the computer that guided the Apollo 11 mission to the moon. But no matter how powerful and useful smartphones are, they can also negatively influence our life. And that’s why, in this blog, we’ll help you understand how to achieve mindful phone use, take control of your digital life, and use your devices to your advantage.

How to Achieve Mindful Phone Use and Take Control of Your Digital Life | Beyond Sapiens

Use Technology to Your Advantage, and Don’t Let It Use You (Problem of Control)

mindful-phone-use-use-technology-to-your-advantage
mindful phone use use technology to your advantage

Let’s begin by understanding a crucial concept: phones and social media are not inherently bad. Like most things in life, it all comes down to how we use them. Platforms like YouTube can be fantastic for learning new concepts and skills, but they can also lead us to spend excessive amounts of time-consuming content. Similarly, while Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok can offer inspiration and connections with friends, they can quickly lure us into endless scrolling sessions.

If we take an honest look at the statistics, it becomes evident that we are using our phones excessively. For instance, a staggering 89% of Americans check their phones first thing in the morning, spend an average of 5 and a half hours on their devices each day, and check their phones at least once every 10 minutes. To gain insights into your own usage patterns, you can utilize features like Screen Time on your iPhone or Digital Wellbeing on your Android device.

The question then arises: why do we spend so much time on our phones? To find an answer, we must take a step back and recognize that every app and digital platform operates as a business. Most of these platforms offer their services for “free” because they profit from one of the most valuable currencies available: our data. The more time we spend on these apps, the more revenue they generate. Additionally, the more we use them, the more data they collect on our preferences and behaviors, resulting in better recommendations that keep us engaged in a never-ending cycle.

So, how can we break free from this cycle? The first step is to consciously decide to use technology to our advantage and prevent it from using us. This requires discipline, and it may not be easy initially. However, the effort is undoubtedly worthwhile. It is also essential to reflect on the underlying reasons for spending excessive time on a particular platform. Typically, this behavior arises from an attempt to fulfill our basic human needs. To gain a deeper understanding, let’s explore the impact on our brains.

Emotional & Mental Aspects of Disruptive Phone Usage (Problem of Focus)

Emotional-Mental-Aspects-of-Disruptive-Phone-Usage-Problem-of-Focus
Emotional Mental Aspects of Disruptive Phone Usage Problem of Focus

The influence of social media and digital devices extends beyond their ability to control us. They also significantly impact our brains and cognitive abilities. As mentioned earlier, social media platforms are designed to capture and maintain our attention through short, fast-paced content. Consequently, our ability to focus is compromised, affecting our creativity and imagination.

Allow me to share a personal experience that highlights the impact of social media on the brain. Back in 2018, before the emergence of short-form content like TikTok, I was reading “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill. During that time, I realized that I wasn’t utilizing my brain’s full capacity to visualize my dreams and goals while working on them. Whenever I attempted to concentrate, my mind would wander due to constant stimuli and information overload. Research supports this phenomenon, indicating that social media restricts our ability to generate new ideas and concepts by overwhelming our minds with information, leading to persistent distractions and eventual addiction.

Once I recognized the negative consequences of social media on my cognitive abilities, I became more conscious of my phone usage. I started tracking my screen time and refrained from using my phone during the mornings and evenings. These simple changes resulted in significant improvements in my imagination, focus, and the quality of my thoughts. Consequently, I highly recommend developing awareness of how social media affects your thinking and cognitive abilities to safeguard the true superpower: your brain.

Take Control of Notifications and Your Time for Mindful Phone Use

Take-Control-of-Notifications-and-Your-Time-for-Mindful-Phone-Use
Take Control of Notifications and Your Time for Mindful Phone Use

The first step toward regaining control over your digital life is to manage your notifications and create a virtual “wall” between yourself and your phone. The primary reason we feel compelled to check our phones frequently is the constant influx of notifications. Our phones effectively become portable billboards that demand our attention. Taking charge of your notifications is one of the most powerful strategies for leveraging technology to your advantage.

Begin by deactivating unnecessary app notifications and gradually work toward eliminating them altogether. While it may seem extreme, I personally deactivated all notifications except for messages from my family. Additionally, I disabled my screen from turning on and turned off all sound alerts. Naturally, this wasn’t my initial approach, and it may not align with your current lifestyle. However, you can draw inspiration from this concept and develop your personal virtual wall.

When deciding which notifications to keep and which to discard, ask yourself: “Is this notification worth my time and attention right here, right now?” This simple question can guide your decision-making process. Once you have customized your notifications, move on to establishing a phone hygiene routine. Research indicates that having your phone near you, even if it’s turned off or placed face-down, can lead to distraction and mental fatigue. To counteract this, consider turning off your phone at night or keeping it on the opposite side of the room. The same principle applies to your workspace—avoid keeping your phone on your desk; instead, place it somewhere less accessible, such as the bottom of your bag or in a drawer. By implementing these strategies, you will need to consciously make an effort to reach for your phone, giving yourself time to reflect on whether it’s truly necessary or merely an automatic behavior.

The final step involves setting limits on your app usage. Allocate a specific amount of time for each app and adhere to it strictly. While I experimented with this technique for some time, I found that I still succumbed to the temptation of checking these apps frequently.

Consequently, I took the ultimate step toward digital well-being—deleting all social media apps from my phone and reserving their use exclusively for specific time frames on my computer. Browser extensions like Blocksite or Freedom can assist you in implementing this practice. I have been following this routine for the past few weeks, and I won’t sugarcoat it—it’s not easy.

However, I firmly believe that rewiring our brains for mindful social media and phone use is crucial. By adopting these measures, you regain control, allowing significant improvements in your mental and emotional well-being. If you seek further inspiration and wish to delve deeper into these topics, I highly recommend reading “Indistractable” by Nir Eyal and “Digital Minimalism” by Cal Newport.

Quality Over Quantity for Mindful Phone Use

Quality-Over-Quantity-for-Mindful-Phone-Use
Quality Over Quantity for Mindful Phone Use

While adopting phone hygiene practices can be revolutionary, there is one more aspect we must address. In our increasingly interconnected world, it is essential to be conscious of the content we consume. Social media can provide inspiration and positivity, but it can also expose us to harmful and damaging content. To maintain a healthy social media environment, it is crucial to curate our feeds, control the content we consume, and choose whom we interact with.

It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the vast amount of content available, but we possess the power to manage it. Treat social media as your inner circle of friends—be mindful of whom you spend time with. You do not have to follow everyone who follows you. Block or hide accounts that cause anxiety, and opt not to engage with individuals or pages that detract from your well-being. Personally, I have eliminated all negativity from my life, both physically and virtually. My strongest recommendation to you is to do the same. Your energy is invaluable, and you should not allow others to bring you down, make you feel bad, or provoke anxiety on social media. Focus on content that uplifts and inspires you, enabling you to reap the positive effects that social media can offer.

Conclusion

In conclusion, smartphones and social media have the potential to enhance our lives, but they can also exert control over us if we are not mindful. By understanding the mechanisms at play and implementing specific strategies, we can reclaim control of our digital lives and use technology to our advantage. Remember, the key lies in consciously deciding how we use our devices and being aware of the impact on our emotional and mental well-being. By prioritizing focus, taking control of notifications, and curating the content we consume, we empower ourselves to harness the benefits of technology while maintaining a healthy balance. Let us make the conscious choice to master our digital lives rather than allowing them to master us.

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