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live a better life

Challenge 2: Don't use your phone on your commute

Week two of Live A Better Life: Challenge yourself.

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IT’S WEEK TWO of our Live A Better Life series, and it’s all about challenging yourself.

Yesterday, we deleted one app. Did you do it? If so, how did you get on?

Today, we’re turning our attention to how we use our phone during our commute.

That’s a lot of checking.

If you commute, do you check your phone?

If the answer is yes, then today’s challenge is to NOT use your phone on today’s commute.

Yes, you’ll be tempted to use it. Yes, you’ll find yourself reaching for it.

(Don’t commute? Then why not take an hour this evening away from your phone before dinner – similar to what we suggested last week.)

Here’s what we suggest you do instead:

Look around as you travel, and take note of three things you never noticed before.

Yes, it’s that simple.

shutterstock_520246582 Shutterstock / themorningglory Shutterstock / themorningglory / themorningglory

So, why are we doing this?

As CAMHS senior psychologist Mark Smyth told us, we don’t always spend time on our own, with our own feelings. We can just pick up the phone to distract us.

“It’s at your fingertips. You never learn to have to tolerate feelings of loneliness and being in your own mind because you can always reach out [on your phone], but that’s not always a good thing,” he points out.

The stress tolerance of dealing with those emotions, it’s almost become a lost art. If someone comes into a restaurant or pub and is waiting for a friend, almost exclusively what you will see is them reaching for their phone.

It’s a “safety resort” for us, says Smyth, which helps us escape boredom or feelings we don’t like.

The preoccupation with smartphones on public transport is something that people often remark on – leading to tweets like this:

Smyth indicates that our commute might not be hellish, but maybe we could be experiencing emotions like relief, joy, inquisitiveness. You could be noticing that you feel glad to be heading home, or apprehensive about work tomorrow.

When we feel uncomfortable emotions, “we resort to safety behaviours and our phone is the easiest safety behaviour”, says Smyth.

“We can create a safe cocoon around ourselves, and it’s OK because it’s become so normal,” he says of public phone use.

It’s not so negatively judged anymore. It’s become socially acceptable because that’s become the norm and when behaviour becomes so frequent that everyone is doing it, no one sees it as strange anymore.

How do you feel after this: does it change your commute in any way?

  • Does it make it more boring, or less boring?
  • Did you find yourself reaching for your phone?
  • Did this challenge make you think differently about how to use your phone on your commute?

Tell us more in the comments. 

Catch up on all the Live A Better Life articles so far>

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