Read Time - 5 min
Phone addiction seems to be prevalent across the United States. According to a study conducted by Reviews.org, nearly 57% of Americans admit to being addicted to their cell phone. On average, participants in this study checked their phones 144 times per day. Experts like Andrew Huberman, Johann Hari and Cal Newport have deeply researched the topic of device usage and shared best practices to decreasing dependency on your phone. We collect those and others into our list below.
If you struggle with phone addiction—which is characterized by compulsive and excessive daily use of your phone—it’s important to know that there are ways to break this habit and forge a more productive, healthier relationship with the little computer you’ve come to rely on for communication, information, and entertainment.
The Reviews.org study also revealed that 89% of Americans check their phones within the first 10 minutes of waking up. This statistic highlights people's increasing dependency on and attachment to smartphones.
In an interview with Chris Williamson, Dr. Andrew Huberman, a neuroscientist and tenured professor in the Neurobiology Department at Stanford School of Medicine, claims that one of the worst things you can do when you wake up, is to begin passively scrolling, especially through your social media accounts.
Dr. Huberman notes in the interview that your smartphone screen diverts your attention, which prevents you from beginning each day in a mental space that’s more conducive to calmness, clarity, and productivity.
If you’re guilty of waking up and reaching for your smartphone, consider the benefits of finding a suitable replacement for what it is that’s keeping your smartphone in your bedroom. If it’s the alarm clock you rely on, Dr. Huberman suggests purchasing a good old-fashioned alarm clock instead. Take it from Dr. Huberman: any excuse you can make to keep your phone out of your bedroom will be good.
Chances are, if you’re checking your email, scrolling through social media, or performing other random tasks on your smartphone in the morning, you’re likely nurturing that same habit at nighttime. Engaging in aimless scrolling on your smartphone at the start of your day is just as unproductive and time-consuming as doing so at the end.
“Doom-scrolling” does little to make you sleepy and feel relaxed. In an interview with Lewis Howes on the podcast The School of Greatness, Dr. Huberman mentions that renowned researchers have found that “exposure to screen-type light between the hours of 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. activates a specific circuit in a brain area called the habenula.”
The habenula influences the brain's response to anxiety, reward, pain, and stress. When activated by your smartphone’s blue light, your habenula decreases dopamine levels, which Dr. Huberman says makes you react to what you’re seeing and reading with a sense of disappointment.
If you’re scrolling late at night or in the early morning, you’re less likely to feel happy and more inclined to feel depressed—and that certainly isn’t a great way to feel before closing your eyes and drifting off to sleep.
The most effective way to stop scrolling at night and prepare your mind and body for a good night’s sleep is to take stock of what it is that’s making you keep your phone so close and to incorporate the necessary replacements.
Perhaps you keep your phone by your bed at night because you’re worried someone might need to get a hold of you. Consider purchasing a cheap cell phone that you can keep on standby or arrange to install a landline phone.
If your phone is a tool you use to help you fall asleep at night (perhaps you read e-books, listen to podcasts, or subscribe to relaxation apps), borrow books from the library, purchase a radio, or learn how to meditate. These “old-school” solutions are simple yet worthwhile and should be easy to implement into your bedtime routine.
Our third tip for how to stop phone addiction focuses on digital detox methods, which should be doubly helpful if you have a social media addiction. In the book Stolen Focus by Johann Hari, the author examines why we as individuals—and society as a whole—have become so distracted and unable to focus.
Throughout his thought-provoking book, Hari, a journalist, and New York Times best-selling author, discusses the various solutions he’s employed, including one that continues to work well for him: a 6-month digital detox. He typically detoxes a few months at a time, and before he does so, he publicly announces his hiatus on his social media accounts. He finds that sharing his intention to take a break from social media makes him feel more compelled—obligated, even—to stick to his plan. He even relies on a trustworthy friend to change his social media passwords, as if publicly sharing his plan is insufficient.
The more social media accounts you own, the more you may struggle with phone and social media addiction. From TikTok and Twitter to Instagram and Facebook, you may have become accustomed to mentally digesting a surplus of digital content that keeps you returning for more.
If Hari’s 6-month digital detox may sound too intense for you, rest assured that you can modify it to make it more manageable. If you know you can’t stay off social media for a month or two at a time, start with a week. If that week goes well, aim for two weeks, and so on. Remember, how to stop phone addiction often starts by taking small steps.
If your social media addiction is extreme and more than a few hours or days away seems intimidating, try to detox for a whole day or pick a set time during the week. Some people may find a specific window (noon to 2 p.m.) more feasible.
The ultimate goal is to set yourself up for success because once you prove to yourself that you can complete a digital detox—however long or short it may be—you will feel confident in knowing that your phone and social media addiction can be broken once you establish boundaries that work best for you. Also, if Hari’s idea to have a friend or family member change your social media passwords would help you perform a digital detox, don’t hesitate to make that reasonable request.
And should you feel motivated to announce your hiatus just like Hari does, make that public declaration and provide a specific timeline if you’d like (for example: “My digital detox begins today. I’ll be back next Tuesday!”). An announcement like this can go a long way in helping you hold yourself accountable throughout your digital detox, and you can rest easy knowing that your friends and followers have been made aware of your absence.
Dr. Cal Newport, an MIT-trained computer science professor at Georgetown University, published a book in February 2019 titled Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World, one of many best-selling books he’s published on the subject of technology as it relates to digital distraction. Here are some of his tips for decluttering your digital life.
1. 30-day break from technology
In this actionable and insightful book, Dr. Newport shares the advantages of digital minimalism and explains his "Digital Declutter Process,” which involves selecting a 30-day time period in which you take a break from optional technologies in your life.
2. What makes you happy?
During this break, Dr. Newport invites you to explore and rediscover what makes you feel happy and fulfilled. Once that 30-day break concludes, you can reintroduce the optional technologies back into your life at a gradual pace. Each one you bring back into your life should serve a worthwhile purpose; your responsibility is to evaluate an app’s value and determine how to maximize its benefits.
There are many ways to learn how to stop phone addiction, and one of them is to follow Dr. Newport’s lead regarding digital minimalism. If this 30-day challenge sounds too daunting, pick a shorter timeline (7 or 15 days). Give yourself enough time to reflect on each app you’ve installed on your phone, including those that may exacerbate your social media addiction.
3. Reclaim your attention
You may be surprised to find that there are quite a few apps that aren’t bringing you joy and serving you well. Permitting yourself to start anew with a blank slate, just as Dr. Newport does, can be a powerful way to reclaim your time and recenter your attention. Digital minimalism is all about using technology in a way that’s more consistently supportive of your needs and goals.
Don't be deceived by your smartphone; it can be streamlined and simplified in ways that enable you to overcome your phone addiction. What would happen, for instance, if you took your personal or work email accounts off your phone?
Or imagine if you no longer had social media apps and only visited those sites on a desktop computer. Strategies to stop phone addiction include deleting apps, disabling notifications, and putting your phone on grayscale mode so you can make your phone less captivating and stimulating.
The fewer tasks you have to complete on your phone and the fewer notifications you see can empower you to liberate yourself from your phone addiction and put more effort into what truly matters—your hobbies, your career, and your interactions with friends, family members, colleagues, and even strangers.
The more you succeed at making your phone “boring,” the better your chances of looking up more often, taking in your present surroundings, and directing your time and energy to be in the moment.
According to Joshua Becker at Becoming Minimalist, phone addiction can impact short-term memory, negatively affect sleep patterns, increase the risk of obesity, contribute to depression, and more.
By eliminating digital distractions, you can interact with your phone more intentionally and meaningfully to feel like you’re back in control and spending your time wisely.