From furthering your education and reducing cholesterol to quitting smoking and being open to new experiences, there are plenty of science-proven ways to add years to your life.
Here’s another one: stop checking your smartphone all the time.
In relation to, say, eating a bad diet or a pack-a-day habit, it may seem like a fairly innocuous pastime, but science disagrees.
SMARTPHONE ADDICTION IS MORE DANGEROUS THAN WE THOUGHT
It turns out our smartphone addiction is more dangerous than we thought. Along with killing our mood, our manners and our posture, studies have shown it also creates an imbalance in our brain chemistry.
But there’s another problem. Our smartphone obsession is a massive drain on our most precious resource: our time.
How much time do you spend on your smartphone? If you kept track of how often you checked it throughout the day, you may be shocked to discover it’s a lot more than you think.
One study found that the average person picks up their device 85 times a day and spends a total of five hours surfing the web and using apps. That’s well over a hundred hours per month or a third of the time we’re awake, lost to our smartphones.
WHY OUR SCREENS MAKE US LESS HAPPY
In his TEDx talk, psychologist Adam Alter —author of Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked— explains why all those hours you spend staring at your smartphone, tablet or computer might be making you miserable—and what you can do about it.
THE NEED FOR STOPPING CUES
Alter says the reason we stay glued to our screens for so long is because there are no stopping cues telling us otherwise. Before the advent of the Internet and the glut of technology that followed, there were stopping cues everywhere.
A television show would end and we’d have to wait a week for the next episode. Newspapers only have so many pages and books have chapters that make us stop and think about whether we want to read more.
With social media, news feeds, gaming and dating apps. we can just scroll and scroll and scroll. There’s no end to what we can consume. Ever felt ‘sucked in’ by Facebook? I know I have, which is why I decided to quit social media.
Without the distraction my smartphone has suddenly lost its magnetic appeal. I’m more productive and focused and funny enough, I don’t miss Instagram and its ilk one bit. It turns out living in the world, rather than Instagramming it, is a lot more satisfying.
HOW TO QUIT THE SMARTPHONE HABIT
If my approach is a little too extreme for your liking, there are plenty of other science-backed ways to break your phone addiction, such as not keeping your phone in close proximity or employing a stopping rule to avoid the ludic loop (that state of tranquility you get lulled into when you’re engaged in an addictive experience).
Alter suggests using daily activities to trigger a reminder that it’s time to put the phone away. For him, meals are a non-negotiable smartphone-free zone. When he’s eating, he’s eating.
Another idea is to have a digital sunset, where you commit to not using your device after a certain time in the evening. Likewise, you could have a digital sunrise time, as well. Along with freeing up a lot of extra hours, bookending your days with device-free time ensures a better night’s sleep and helps you be more productive during the day.
If you’re concerned about how to spend your newfound free time, not to worry. There are plenty of healthy alternatives to scrolling through your phone. Immerse yourself in real life, connect with people, take the time to actually enjoy your meal.
Like any addiction, ditching your smartphone habit won’t be easy right off the bat. Be patient with yourself. Take it slowly and stick with it. The more areas you deem smartphone-free zones, the happier and more liberated you’ll feel.