Here’s an undeniable fact: our phones control us.
If you look at the car beside you while you drive, you’re bound to find a driver texting. When you’re standing in line, waiting for the hostess to call your name, or taking a walk, look around you. People are on their phones.
You’re likely on your phone too. You might even be reading this while you wait in line to order your coffee.
If you want to gain control of your phone, you need to stop giving yourself those hits of dopamine.
We’re addicted to everything — information and notifications — our phones feed us. The way an alcoholic craves a drink, our brains crave distraction and dopamine.
You might be wondering, “Why does it matter if I look at my phone while waiting in line? What am I going to miss?”
It’s not about what you miss. It’s about the power your phone has over you, and how it affects the way you interact with people — or rather, how you don’t interact with people.
The apps on our phones give us hits of dopamine, the happiness chemical, when we receive a message, a Facebook like, or anything else.
We’ve grown accustomed to experiencing it so often, that our brains have learned to crave it. If you want to gain control of your phone, you need to stop giving yourself those hits of dopamine.
1. Stop using your phone during the in-between moments
Every time you open social media, a game app, or a text message, your brain gets that dopamine hit.
There’s nothing you can do to stop that, but if you want your brain to stop wanting it, you have to train it. In other words, you need a type of rehabilitation.
The simple solution is to stop using your phone so damn much and give your head a break.
Forcing your brain to be bored is actually beneficial for your time.
You have to stop using your phone during those in-between moments. While you wait for your friend to pick you up, at the dentist’s office, or during any time you’re tempted to waste time.
If you don’t stop using your phone during those moments, you’ll continuously check it during dinners and celebrations.
You have to practice keeping your phone in your pocket or a bag.
2. Turn off your notifications
Go through every app and turn off all of your notifications.
The only exception is text messages, but other than that, you don’t need social media, Etsy, or Medium alerts.
The fewer rings you hear or vibrates you feel, the less you’ll look at your phone.
Remember, you want to get fewer hits of dopamine.
3. Resist the awkward
I realized that one of the times I reached for my phone was when I was feeling uncomfortable.
When there was a weird silence during a dinner conversation, or I was standing alone, I’d reach for my phone to have something to do.
Embrace the awkward.
Learn to start a new conversation, and realize no one gives a shit if you’re standing alone. Everyone is too busy paying attention to their own lives (and their phones).
You’ll be tempted, but don’t give in.
4. Force yourself to find something interesting around you
Rather than picking up your phone, find something interesting around you. Look at the little girl tugging on her mom’s hand or ask yourself why someone needs ten jars of Nutella.
Observe the world around you. You never know what will happen or what you’ll miss.
What if someone suddenly runs in front of you trying to steal a giant tv? That’s not something you’d want to miss because you were looking at yet another selfie on Instagram you couldn’t actually care less about.
5. Learn to be bored
You want your brain to be bored. When you’re bored, you give your mind a rest from all of the information you’ve been forcing it to take in.
I used to think that sitting and doing nothing was a waste of time. I always figured I’d make better use of my time reading a Medium article or listening to a podcast, but why do people think we have to learn and take in new information constantly?
Forcing your brain to be bored is actually beneficial for your time. During that space, you give yourself room to think, and that’s when ideas happen.
That’s what boredom does — you come up with ideas and solutions to problems you’ve been trying to solve for weeks but never gave yourself the chance because you were always on your phone.
6. Turn using no phones into a family challenge
During your holiday parties or dinners, challenge everyone to put their phones away.
Everyone has to put their phones in a bowl and isn’t allowed to touch them. The only excuse would be to take one big family picture, but other than that, no one’s allowed to use it.
If someone caves into a text or call, then they have to put fifty cents or a dollar in a jar. The host keeps the money.
You’re more likely not to use your phone if everyone’s doing the same challenge with you.
7. Turn off your phone
The obvious answer to using your phone less while eating with your friends and family or enjoying a party is to turn it off.
Leave it in your bag, or a different room. It may feel strange to turn it off and not have it around you, but eventually, you’ll be so lost in conversations and the present moment that you’ll forget all about it.
You’ll be able to be there — and it’s the holidays, so that’s what you want. To make eye contact, not miss a funny moment, and enjoy every minute.