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How to Break Your Smartphone Addiction Without Throwing It In the Trash

April 19, 2017 • By

Recently, I was having a conversation with a local psychologist and the topic of smartphone addiction came up. It’s become a serious problem over the last few years and the constant impulse to check Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc is eroding our ability to concentrate or focus our attention for more than a few seconds. It’s also having a negative impact on our face to face interactions with other people.

Think about it. How many times have you unlocked your phone to check the time or weather and found yourself unconsciously trolling Facebook minutes later?

My friend explained how the constant dopamine surges in our brains have us hooked on the social media and email checks we indulge in several times a day. A recent statistic I read said the average person spends around 1 hour and 40 minutes browsing social media a day. That averages to 28,300 hours in a lifetime (over three years)!

We sleep with our smartphones next to us. They’re often the last thing we look at before going to sleep and the first thing we look at in the morning. We’re captive to notifications, we refuse to just sit and think, and we panic when we accidentally leave the house without our phones.

My psychologist friend will not buy a smartphone. Instead he uses an old flip phone so that he can talk or text, but he had a very interesting solution for those of us who would rather keep our iPhones and Androids because they make work life a little easier.

Put your phone’s display into grayscale mode.

If you’re not sure what this does, it basically turns everything black and white. Colors stimulate the brain in ways that create a sense of urgency. We feel we have to respond now, get more information, seek novelty. But a drab, gray screen is hardly inspiring. It changes your phone from a toy to a tool.

I decided to to give grayscale a try for a week and here’s what I discovered.

I reached for my phone less often. Let’s be honest, a gray screen isn’t very inspiring. Instagram is too blah to spend much time on, and Facebook looks like a turd. It didn’t take long at all before I just didn’t feel like trolling social media.

I didn’t feel the need to always have my phone on me. Since I didn’t feel like I’d be missing something, I was OK with leaving my phone put away when I was at home. This helped me be more present when I was with my family and connect with them with fewer distractions.

My concentration improved. Our brains have to switch gears every time we “just check” something on our phones real quick. This keeps us from thinking deeply and concentrating on the issue at hand. I read more too!

So, what am I doing now that the week-long experiment is over? I’m leaving my phone in grayscale mode. The benefits I’ve experienced from a black and white phone have far outweighed the coolness and shiny object factor of a color display. I don’t feel the draw of my phone anymore. I use it as a helpful tool without getting sucked in to endless distractions.

How about you? Have you tried grayscale mode? How did it make a difference? Feel free to leave a comment below. If you haven’t tried it, give it a week and let me know how it went.


culture, life

12 Things To Do That are Better Than Looking at a Screen

February 28, 2017 • By

Everywhere I go I see people looking at screens. Families at restaurants ignoring each other for Facebook, small children watching shows on a tablet while waiting for the dentist, even people watching TV while engaged with their iPad (two-fisted screen consumption!)

Despite all the research that’s proven the negative effects of all of our screen usage, we still do it. On average, Americans spend over 10 hours a day consuming media.

There’s something incredible that happens when we turn off our phones, take a break from our tablets, and power down our TV sets. It helps us to focus, gives us time for more meaningful activities, improves our relationships, and improves sleep.

To that end, I thought I’d provide you with a short list of activities you can do without a screen. Challenge yourself to add theses screen-less activities to your life and see what happens!

1. Read a book. Reading a book stimulates the brain, reduces stress, and improves concentration. Not only that, but the right books will help you to grow and equip you to do some cool stuff.

2. Take a nap. When was the last time you took a nap? A 15 to 90 minute nap can improve brain function and creativity. Not only that, they’re awesome!

3. Go for a walk. Walking prevents heart disease and diabetes. It also improves your mood. I frequently get great writing ideas while I’m walking. Walking’s one of my favorite activities!

4. Journal. Journaling promotes mindfulness, helps you reach your goals, and can even boost your IQ! I’ve been journaling for over 30 years and I love reading through old journals to see how far I’ve come.

5. Have more sex. Ever since we decided to keep the TV off on Monday nights, my wife and I have experienced an increase in lovin’. Put away the screens, turn on some Adele and see what happens ; )

6. Have a pleasant conversation with a family member. Let’s face it, much of our interactions with family members center around taking care of business, dealing with urgent issues, and reminding the kids to get their chores done. Intentionally sitting down to talk about life is such a joy so do it often!

7. Learn to play an instrument. Learning to play an instrument increases your memory capacity, enhances coordination, sharpens concentration, and relieves stress. It’s also super rewarding. I decided to learn guitar a few years ago and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made!

8. Make a bucket list. All those things you want to do before you kick the bucket are much more likely to happen if you simply write them down. In fact, research shows that people who write their goals down are 50% more likely to accomplish them than those who don’t!

9. Play some board games. Board games bring the family together, improve your response time, and reduces stress. Take one off the shelf, put out some snacks, and make a night of it.

10. Do something artistic. Drawing improves creativity, memory, and problem solving skills. It’s also fun to share our artwork with others and display it around the house.

11. Do a nice surprise for someone. Doing nice things for others reduces stress, promotes mental health, and can even help you live longer. Make someone’s day and it could change your life!

12. De-clutter the house.  De-cluttering promotes clarity and focus, and (you guessed it) reduces stress. Go through the garage and get rid of what you don’t need, give away those clothes you haven’t worn and notice how much lighter you feel.

That’s just 12 things you can do without a screen but there are many more. Feel free to share your favorites in the comments section below.