The average person checks their phone over 150 times per day. While it is undeniably easier to access information and communicate with people, it has also changed the way we live our lives.

Studies have shown that mobile phone addiction is real. In fact, these days many people are developing “nomophobia” – otherwise known as the unreasonable fear of losing one’s smartphone.

The good news is you have more control over your actions than you realise. It is possible to overcome obsessive behaviour and use your mobile phone in a productive way instead. If you’re interested in creating a healthier relationship with your mobile phone, consider the following tips:

1. Focus on what adds value to your life

Despite their reputation for addictive usage styles, smartphones are devices that add meaning and value to your life. From extracting information to building connections to destressing apps, using your phone can be a joyful and productive experience. Everything goes downhill when you start treating your phone as an escape route or a hobby.

The first step is to acknowledge your unhealthy usage. And rather than outright going “cold turkey,” put your behaviour into perspective. What are the reasons why you need your phone? How does it change your life for the better? Once you have identified the necessity of having a mobile phone, create a plan of action to foster a healthier relationship.

2. Use your smartphone for important things

It is often tempting to scroll through your social media and get lost in it. However, aimless browsing and scrolling can do more harm than good. Absorbing information you do not need tends to clutter the mind and affect long-term focus.

Similar to a PC, Internet access through a mobile device provides an ideal venue for research. It is also a convenient tool for communication, storing data and computing. Focusing on these aspects will give you a greater sense of purpose as a smartphone user.

3. Limit access to your device

The less you see of your phone, the less you are tempted to use it. As the old saying goes, “Out of sight, out of mind.” Stash away your smartphone when you have no immediate need for it. If you are expecting calls or would still want to be responsive in the event of an emergency, set the ringtone volume loud enough for you to hear.

At times the urge to reach for your phone gets the better of you. A post-it reminder stuck to the screen could pull you back to your senses. Keep the reminder until you are accustomed to this practice.

4. Avoid downloading addictive applications

Social media and game applications are the biggest sources of distraction. They foil healthy mobile phone use. Spending hours on end using such apps often leaves you feeling drained and dizzy.

Make a conscious effort to delete addictive social media and game apps – if not avoid them altogether. Notice the difference between the time you spent immersed in scrolling and gaming, and the time you spent being in the moment, having more control over your schedule.

5. Do not use your phone before going to bed

Erratic smartphone usage behaviour can disrupt sleep patterns. Your mobile phone emits radiation (yes, even high-end models). According to research, using your phone half an hour before sleeping “delays the onset of melatonin production,” thereby affecting your circadian rhythm.

That is why keeping your phone out of sight helps you relax. Putting it on a visible section in your bedroom may not be a good idea. Since phones have become a substitute alarm clock, investing in a separate device could be a healthier option.

6. Monitor your screen time

How to know you are on the verge of a phone addiction or a certified phone addict? Keep track of your screen time. This will tell you a lot about your usage behaviour, including applications you frequently use.

You might wonder why this is important, but monitoring your screen time lets you know how much to reduce and if you could do better. Most mobile phones have built-in tracking systems. iPhones, for example, automatically send notifications of your screen time at the end of each week. For some android devices, you can go to the settings to see a clear breakdown of your usage.

7. Do not use your phone in front of family or friends

How often do you get to spend time with your family or friends? During such occasions, it is important to be present and mindful. Remind yourself not to use your phone when conversing and interacting with loved ones. This is for your benefit as much as theirs. You will be surprised at how refreshing it is to just experience the moment and create memories.

To avoid your phone from distracting you, place it at the bottom of your bag. Set it to silent mode (no vibrations or loud ringtones). If you are worried about receiving emergency messages or calls, excuse yourself and take a few minutes break away from the table or group.

8. Schedule leisure time

Using your phone for leisure is okay. Browsing the Internet, playing games and interacting with friends online are enjoyable and may relieve stress. What is not okay is going overboard or spending an unhealthy amount of time when you could be doing other things.

Allocate an hour two of your schedule for leisurely scrolling or gaming. However, you have to stick to it and avoid going back on your word. Even religiously followed smartphone use practices can easily spiral out of control when there are no clear boundaries.

9. Understand your triggers and counteract them

A healthy smartphone relationship is all about understanding your impulses and finding ways to resolve them. What makes you browse or scroll aimlessly? Is it loneliness, boredom or anxiety? Ask yourself if it is possible to alleviate your triggers without resorting to your mobile phone. If the answer is yes, then chances are you are more capable of overcoming your impulses than you think.

People who noticed their mobile phone dependence redirected their energies toward productive tasks such as baking, reading books, or doing chores. It does not have productivity in every sense of the word. There is a whole world of hobbies and activities you can immerse yourself in. And if these keep you away from your impulses, then they are good for you.

10. Do it at a comfortable pace

Being a responsible mobile phone user requires determination and discipline. If you feel you are not living up to your own expectations, do not beat yourself up for it. It is totally normal to have addictive usage behaviours. Everyone, at some point in time or at various intervals, has been caught up in all the scrolling, browsing, binge-watching and gaming.

Sometimes, you will find yourself slipping and returning to old habits. This does not mean you have poor control or are undisciplined. What is important is you still strive to do things in moderation and make adjustments. Eventually you will find a system you are comfortable with, one that works just right.

Get the Most out of Your Smartphone

The tips listed above are not to prevent you from enjoying your phone as you see fit. They are simply reminders to let you know you are the captain of your ship and should have full control over your device, rather than the other way around. Having a healthy relationship with your mobile phone can go a long way, and balance is key.

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