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Phone addiction: what you need to know

Your phone is stealing your time and health
phone addiction
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Phone addiction is on the rise, but so is people’s awareness. Search engines are booming with questions about it, from the symptoms to what you can do about it. Luckily, this is a good sign as people are actively looking for solutions to enjoy life. But if you can’t pass from the intentions to reality, don’t feel bad. You are fighting against multimillion-dollar companies that have the single goal of fueling your addiction.

Am I addicted to my phone?

phone addiction am i
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Although it’s true that phone addiction seems to be on the rise, there is also an increased perception that too much is too much. Sometimes this realization can come to you in a sudden moment, others it is only when you become aware of the issue that you begin to analyze your own usage.

David Greenfield, PhD, of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine developed a Smartphone Compulsion Test that is worth to check, but even if your results aren’t that clear, any of the following symptoms might be a good indicator that you’re spending too much time on your phone.

Physical and psychological symptoms

In a 2015 study, the researchers performed a test where they asked 40 iPhone users to perform 2 word search puzzles. The first one went without any incidents, but for the second the subjects were prevented from having their phones next to them.

The results support the idea that phone addiction should perhaps be included among other harmful addictions, such as gambling. During the second puzzle, the subjects’ heart rate and blood pressure increased, they reported feelings of anxiety and unpleasantness, and their cognitive performance was reduced.

Difficulty falling asleep

Your phone emits white light which mimics the sunlight. When you turn on your screen just before going to bed (and sometimes when you’re in the bed already) you are in fact signaling the brain that the sun is still shining outside.

Instead of winding down in preparation for sleep, your body is actually reactivated so you can become alert once again.

Not only it will be harder to fall asleep, but you also won’t be able to fully relax and stay like that enough time and with enough deepness for your body to recover.

Separation anxiety

phone addiction separation anxiety
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One of the most common and visible symptoms of phone addiction is separation anxiety. Being away from the phone leaves people in a state of uneasiness. They don’t know what to do with the extra free time and they feel lost.

These symptoms were recorded in an experiment by MIT’s Sloan Management Review, in which students were asked to leave their phones at home for one day if they wanted to enroll in some business classes.

Despite being able to choose the day they would like to be without their phone, all the students reported feelings of anxiety and uneasiness when performing basic tasks like eating their breakfast or riding the bus. All because they were so used to do these activities with their smartphones next to them.

Moreover, just like addicts going through withdrawal, the students reported that they paid much more attention to their friend’s usage, to the point of counting how many times they checked their phones.

How to break phone addiction

The following tips to break your phone addiction can be so straightforward and basic that you might deem them useless. Nevertheless, depending on how hooked you are on your smartphone, even the simplest of these tricks can feel like going through hell.

Leave the phone in another room

Baby steps can take you a long way. If you keep your phone on you at all times you are more likely to pick it up to check it.

Try to leave your phone in another room. The effort of going back and forwards to that room will work as a negative stimulus and you will be less likely to check it constantly. And, if this separation makes you anxious, then you will have the confirmation that you are experiencing phone addiction.

Delete apps

phone addiction delete apps
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Most of the time spent on a phone has nothing to do with the phone itself, but with the quick access to the Internet. Apps are the main culprits in these cases and with right reason. Most are developed with the support of psychologists and behavioral experts that help the engineers designed their apps to be as addictive as possible.

If your own willpower is not enough to fight these experts, instead of giving them the satisfaction of winning, just delete the apps. You can always check them in your off-time at home on your computer anyway. It’s not that you will be cut off from the world, but rather that you define priorities.

Don’t sleep with your phone

Keeping your phone under your pillow or next to the bed will increase the chances of you checking it up before going to sleep, in the middle of the night if you happen to wake up and then check it again first thing in the morning.

The embedded alarm is just another excuse to keep it next to you. Consider buying an old-school bedside clock.

Turn off your notifications

It’s understandable that you may want to keep some notifications on. For instance, your job might require you to check your email often and the notifications are practical.

But do you really need to know and check every “like” your latest tweet gets? If you are really into social media, you can always check them later at home when you have a bit more time for yourself. They won’t go anywhere and in the meanwhile, you can enjoy spending quality time doing other things.

Be aware

phone addiction be aware
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Reaching out to check your phone is such a common gesture that most people don’t realize how many times they do it. Since being aware you have a problem is the first step to recovery, this complicates things.

If you want to add up the time you spend on your phone, you can do it easily using some apps. It might sound counterproductive to be installing more apps on your phone, but these are designed to push you away and not to lure you in.

For instance, you have Moment that helps you set daily limits on your usage, Mute that tracks your usage time and even Forest, where you are encouraged not to use other apps by the prospect of growing forests, just like in a game.

You can always try more than one app and check which one is more practical for you.

Tips to stop your phone taking over your life

Following the previous tips can already set you on the right track. However, once you are conscious of your addiction and feel motivated to do something about it, you can easily introduce some changes to your habits.

For instance, if you’re spending time with your children, put the phone away. If it’s still too hard for you at this point, try to phrase it as if you were protecting the phone from the dangerous hands of your little ones. Whatever works for you.

The same goes for meals. Put your phone away when you are eating and focus on your food, on your surroundings, on the friends and family sharing that moment with you.

Most of all, try to imagine what would your life look like. How different would it be to enjoy the moment instead of trying to cease it in an electronic device for later?

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