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Sunday 10 December 2023 Dublin: 10°C
live a better life

Five big things to change about how you use your phone

Try these and see how you can make your phone work for you.

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IT’S THE PENULTIMATE day of our Live A Better Life series - can you believe we’ve spent nearly a month looking at our relationship with our phone, and how to make it better?

Today, we’re going to look at five big changes we can make regarding our smartphone, thanks to the learnings we’ve had over nearly a month.

shutterstock_573488995 Shutterstock / wavebreakmedia Shutterstock / wavebreakmedia / wavebreakmedia

1. Don’t reach for your phone when bored

Yes, we do need to use our phone for lots of different reasons – work, family, friends. But reaching for our phone just because we’re bored can be unhelpful.

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 said in week two of Live A Better Life.

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 takeaway from this? Sometimes it’s good to take a break from your phone.

2. Learn how to take a tech break

If you find yourself using your phone too much, it helps to know there’s a specific way of cutting down on its use.

Dr Larry Rosen, professor emeritus at California State University, and author of The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World, told how to take a tech break from your phone:

  • Give yourself one minute to check all devices currently in use, particularly focusing on what most distracts you (communication, social media, news)
  • Then close all unneeded websites/programs/apps (don’t minimise them on the computer, close them to remove the notifications)
  • Set an alarm on the phone for 15 minutes and turn the smartphone upside-down and put it close at hand.
  • Upside-down removes the notifications from interfering and distracting you and close by serves as a signal that you will be checking in shortly.
  • When the alarm goes off check anything nonessential to the work you are doing for one minute and repeat the process until you are comfortable with not checking in so often.
  • Then increase to 20 minutes focus time and then try to get it up to 30 minutes or more.

(Want to take a digital detox? Here’s what two Irish men learned from taking one.)

3. Stop using your phone before you go to bed

shutterstock_548691067 Shutterstock / melis Shutterstock / melis / melis

Over half of Irish smartphone users check their devices in the middle of the night. And that can actually be detrimental to your sleep.

As Harvard Health points out:

At night, light throws the body’s biological clock – the circadian rhythm, out of whack. Sleep suffers.

Blue wavelengths “seem to be the most disruptive at night” – and that’s the type of light your phone gives off.

As Harvard Health explains:

Even dim light can interfere with a person’s circadian rhythm and melatonin secretion. A mere eight lux—a level of brightness exceeded by most table lamps and about twice that of a night light—has an effect, notes Stephen Lockley, a Harvard sleep researcher. Light at night is part of the reason so many people don’t get enough sleep, says Lockley, and researchers have linked short sleep to increased risk for depression, as well as diabetes and cardiovascular problems.

Blue light can suppress melatonin (a hormone that controls your sleep and wake cycles) levels even more powerfully than other forms of light.

Harvard Health recommends that you avoid looking at bright screens beginning two or three hours before bed.

4. Get to know your phone bill – it could save you money

Consumer experts answered some of your pressing questions about phone bills and contracts in our Q&A and Facebook Live.

They told us:

The mobile operator market is highly competitive and operators are constantly coming out with new package deals. There are often savings to be had by bundling a mobile phone plan with a home broadband and TV deal. For example, Virgin Media recently announced that its existing broadband customers can get unlimited calls, texts and data with Virgin Mobile for €5 a month for five months.

So maybe it’s time for you to start thinking about moving phone operators. But getting to know your bill and contract details are the first step.

5. Use your time on your phone wisely

Your smartphone isn’t all bad. In fact, if you learn to use it wisely, it can bring a lot of positivity into your life.

If you cut down on things like notifications and make some apps hard to get, while dropping the habit of using your phone at dinner, you can start to bring more useful things in.

These include journalling, taking amazing photos, or learning a new language.

Then there’s the tech end of things – sort out your issues with your battery and phone storage and your phone will begin to stress you out far less.

What are the things you’d change about how you use your phone? Tell us in the comments.

Read the rest of our Live A Better Life series here>

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