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.