Maybe it's time you and your smartphone had a break.

Your cell phone dings and you check who texted or what news is latest to be announced. You pop into your favorite social platforms to see what your friends are up to and notice how many likes your latest post received. You have a question and immediately reach for the device that connects you to a world of information. The bright colors are enticing and the results, instant. It’s understandable that so many of us have a habit of keeping our smartphones in our hands throughout the day.

How smartphones affect us

You’re not imagining it; you get a boost to your mood every time you reach for your phone. Our bodies release dopamine, a “feel good” hormone, which is part of our body’s reward system. This effect is so strong that it leads the average adult in the United States to spend two to four hours per day engaging with their phone rather than with the people or environment around them. However, this dopamine release has short-lived effects, leaving you reaching for your phone a short while later.

Smartphones not only have been linked to our bodies producing dopamine, but the stress hormone cortisol. This can lead to a sense of anxiety when we cannot use our phone (has your phone battery ever been close to zero and you are away from a charger?). Or we can feel stressed by the content on our phones; after all, no one wants to read every news story or actively engage in conversation from sunrise to sunset, day after day.

At some point, you just need a break.

How to take a break from your phone

There are ways to make your phone less appealing to use, and to set limits on the amount of time you spend on your phone. Here are some useful strategies to help you get some of your time back.

  • Set a realistic goal. Many of us likely cannot avoid our phone all day. We may have loved ones who need to reach us, or we might need to check our email. Any effort to reduce phone usage is an important step toward reclaiming your time.
  • Change your phone to gray tones. You can set your phone’s display to grayscale. Less color might make it less appealing to spend time on your phone. Many smartphone users have found this strategy to be especially helpful.
  • Let your phone help you. Download an app or adjust your phone’s settings to limit how much time you spend on apps per day.
  • Disable notifications. Reduce temptations to look at your phone by being selective about which notifications you allow.
  • Be mindful and notice how you spend your day. Did you suddenly have more time to read a book or write in your journal? Did you and your family enjoy more present time together?
  • Make a pact. Sometimes, it is easier to face a challenging task when we face it together. Ask a friend, partner, or family member to join your effort.
  • Begin and end your day phone free. When you first wake up, avoid the temptation to immediately check your phone and instead enjoy a peaceful and healthy breakfast. Also, avoid letting your phone be the last thing on your mind before bed. You just might find you enjoy the time you get back in your day when your phone spends less time in your hands.

Earn 50 SmartHealth points for completing the Outsmart your smartphone activity.

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