When I was a teenager my parents put a lock on the phone on the hall table to stop myself and my sister making incessant calls to our friends. Calls that I admit lasted hours and back then must have cost a fortune. To add insult to injury (to my parents), the lock was totally ineffective and easily picked – sorry Mum and Dad!
Often, my sister and I would say farewell to our friends at the bus stop, go home and call them as if we hadn’t seen them in years. The race to get on the phone first was part of our lives. It was fun and the connection to my friends meant the world to me, it still does. Nowadays however, it is not just teenagers who are addicted to the “phone”, it is most of us and I am not sure it is as much fun anymore. Unfortunately, the evolution of the phone into the smartphone means that what we use the handset for has changed radically since Alexander Bell invented the original phone. He intended it as a device for talking to one another and increasing more communication and connection. Usage now is often less about a connection to genuine friends and more about social media and comparison to people we might not even know. In addition, constantly checking work emails is about keeping up, always being contactable and demonstrating achievement.
Today, there are many modern alternatives to the locks my parents put on the phone, apps that kick us off social media after a certain amount of time or/and that tell us how much screen time we have spent on the phone. However, it remains to be said that they can be equally ineffective and easily hacked.
In the last few years, I have noticed, in my clients, my friends and myself that the level of smartphone use is one of the biggest threats to our mental health today.
The constant checking leads to dopamine overload while the lack of “real” connection is ultimately isolating, can be overwhelming and is ultimately unsustainable. Noticing these trends in myself over the last six weeks and after reading Marie Forleo’s book, ‘Everything is Figuroutable’, I quit telling myself that I had to check my phone all the time ‘for work’ because I have an online business, I stopped believing I had no choice but to be connected at all times. Consequently, I have transformed how I use my phone and I want to help you do the same.
If you already have a healthy relationship to your smartphone, or indeed if you don’t have one, then you are already my hero. However, if you are like most of us and want:
More space in your mind
A greater sense of inner peace
To spend more quality time with loved ones
To read more books
To exercise more
To be more creative
To be more focused at work
To have better relationships
To laugh more
To be more present with your loved ones
then developing a strategy for how you use your phone is one of the kindest things you can do for yourself, and it will improve your mental well-being.
This week, your task is to observe your habit as it is now! Notice how often you check your phone, where you are, the time of day and the impact it has on your peace of mind. Ask yourself what happens to you physically as you anticipate the next email or follow on social media. Notice how often the urge arises to check your phone. Do you do it in the car and/or anytime you are waiting for something, a coffee, a bus? Is it social media, emails or news sites that you check most? Which ones do you crave more?
Next week I will share with you my ‘before and after’ phone habit and help you to design a plan that works for you. I can happily report that in the last six weeks I am so much more productive and happier.
Sending love and light as always,
You can hear last week’s interview on Today FM here. I talk about how to manage anger through understanding.
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