Psychologists are seeing more and more people struggling with an unhealthy attachment to their devices. They are feeling more emotional distress and are missing out on meaningful relationships. I also don’t have to tell you the danger of social media, especially on teenagers. But the answer is not to go cold turkey, since we need these devices, but to take steps to reduce our screen time.
Think about the times when your screen time is making your life worse. Many times we go down a rabbit hole of social media before bed. Besides losing sleep, the blue light from the device disturbs your rest. Perhaps the phone comes out during mealtimes, making you miss out on family connections. Too much online shopping can cause inefficiency at work. So identify your top two or three problem times.
Think about what you are really craving when you pick up the phone. Are you trying to alleviate stress? Is it a substitute for spending time with others? What are you actually hungry for? Write down your insights.
Now that you know what you need, try to think of a substitute. Of course, it needs to be something that makes you feel good also. You’re not substituting broccoli for chips, metaphorically. You could have a lunch date with a friend, read a good book or pick up a new hobby. If you have the circumstances, go out in nature for a walk or run!
Start small and try a variety of activities. Set specific times to be screen free. Learn what triggers you to be on the phone. If you are trying to wean off pre-sleep screen time, try leaving your phone in another room. We can have a good relationship with our devices that lets us take the best they offer while letting go of the parts that get in our way.
Kathleen Weaver-Zech and Dean’s Team Chicago