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Set Your Phone Aside

Without a doubt, we are surrounded by constant stimulation and distractions seeking to steal our attention. The greatest of these is the small device within our pockets. The little piece of technology has arguably become the center point of our lives. We fix our eyes on it for hours each day, stroke it, bow our heads to it, and never allow it to leave our side. When we accidentally forget it at home or misplace it, we reach for it instinctively, a phantom stretch shaped by the ritualistic habit we perform daily that is positively reinforced with a small shot of dopamine within our brain cells, reminding us to "come back again soon" for more.

In creating these patterns, what have we lost in exchange? 

Indeed, our interactions with others have been declining. We likely pay less attention to our surroundings. But what about the impact on our physical and brain health?

In a down moment, throughout the day, how often do you sit still for, allowing your mind to wander, daydream, or even think about absolutely nothing as you zone off? More often than not, in our free moments, such as waiting in line at the store or while walking to the bathroom, we jump on our cell phones and are instantly taken from the present moment. Our minds are pulled in a million directions as they take in social media content or respond to the constant bombardment of emails, text messages, and phone calls we receive throughout the day. Now, checking our phones can be productive, and it can also lead us to some helpful or even healthy content on the internet that inspires us for the better. But the constant consumption of content exhausts our minds and steals the little opportunities throughout our days to pause and consolidate our thoughts. It takes away the moment we might have had to ponder our conversations and extrapolate meaning, process the information we have learned, allow for problem-solving, and also appreciate the environment we are currently in.

The mind needs more than nightly sleep to consolidate and store memories. It also benefits from micro pauses throughout the day. Allowing your brain the chance to do nothing is a precious and necessary gift. 

If you struggle to separate from your phone or often find yourself doom-scrolling, consider regular breaks from your phone or social media accounts. 

Limit notifications.

Often, it's not our phones that we are addicted to; it's the apps. So, by turning off notifications for certain apps that are more time-consuming or addictive, you will feel fewer temptations to look at them. 

Set time limits. 

You can now set certain time limits on phone apps, which, similar to turning off notifications, can help deter us from using them for hours on end.

Schedule small breaks.

Schedule a time in your day or week to set your phone aside for an hour or two. I like to put mine away an hour before bed. I use a notepad for any thoughts that need to be followed up with my phone later.

Schedule larger detoxes.

Rather than waiting for your mental health to decline and then purging your phone of all social media accounts to regroup yourself, every few weeks, schedule a social media detox where you delete the apps from your phone. Schedule the timeframe into your calendar to hold yourself accountable. 

Leave it at your desk.

Challenge yourself to leave your phone at your desk or in your bag when you walk to another location in your office. Take the time to notice any changes that may have occurred in your office, or say hello to a coworker you might have walked past without previous thought.

Find healthier habits 

When waiting in line at the store or coffee shop, challenge yourself to stay present instead of looking down at your phone. Practice mindfulness while observing your surroundings, or consider doing a body scan to check in with yourself. Deep breathing is also an excellent practice to help you re-center your mind while relaxing your body's nervous system. Think of how much more productive this is for your health, too! 

Get used to Do Not Disturb or Sleep Mode.

Most phones allow you to pre-program the time you would like to limit most notifications, except for specific contacts who can still call or text you with notification alerts. Give yourself permission to take time off from your phone. You don't have to respond to people at all hours of the day. 

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