Don’t have enough time for more sleep, sex or yoga? Put that phone down

Young woman looking at smartphone in bed.

Looking at your phone all night is bad for your physical and mental health - Credit: Getty Images/Science Photo Libra

If going without your phone is unthinkable, dial up this advice from Knutsford-based wellbeing coach Katy Brown of The Vibrancy Hub

Social media is fun, right? It's certainly been a lifesaver during the last year when we wanted to feel a little more connected – and entertained. It's certainly where I consume most of my news and inspiration.

But in my role as life coach these last few weeks I've heard from lots of clients that as lockdown drags on, they are more tempted than ever to pick up their phone for a little scroll. I wonder how many times per day I pick up my phone? I’m sure the reality would horrify me. Research shows in 2020 the average person used their phone for over four hours per day.

That's 28 hours per week and 17 per cent of our year. No wonder people claim they don’t have enough time for more sleep, sex, or yoga. 
It’s totally understandable when we are all craving connection and light relief, but the problem lies in this seemingly innocuous habit chipping away at our wellbeing and depriving us of the stuff that genuinely makes us feel good – real human connection, being out in nature, creativity, moving our bodies or losing ourselves in a good book.

We humans are unable to use these platforms in a healthy manner with boundaries – and it's simply not our fault. We are a pawn in the tech giant’s game – millions of dollars and a tonne of research has gone into creating algorithms with the primary objective of keeping us addicted by tickling our feel-good endorphins while we’re in the moment.

Imagine when we’re older and reflect back on our lives only to admit we spent so much of it looking down at a curated digital world. The saddest part? Subconsciously, we tend to pick up our phones to ‘lose’ ourselves in mindless scrolling when we’re not enjoying how we’re feeling – it provides what feels like an escape. The truth is we are numbing ourselves – turning away from our own reality and the thoughts/emotions and relationships/situations that need to be acknowledged and dealt with if long term we want to live a genuinely happy life. And so life rumbles on, a little bit numbed and distracted… which also means half lived.

The answer? We must regularly remind ourselves why it is so important we get a handle on this, so we have the motivation to keep on top of it. Then we have to cultivate a serious dose of commitment and discipline to create new habits. So, help yourself out – do not attempt to rely on willpower alone here because it will not work. These are my top tips to curb the ‘pick up and scroll’ temptation:

Shot of a young couple using their cellphones in bed at night back to back

No sex please we're using our mobiles - Credit: Getty Images

Hide your phone
When you don’t need to be on your phone, hide it away in another room or in a drawer. It might sound silly, but if your phone is within sight, you have to find the willpower to resist the temptation to pick it up. If it is not in your line of vision, you will forget about it. This is a game-changer. Suddenly you can focus on all the stuff you want to get done. Bingo!

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Switch your notifications off
Truly, I am shocked when people still have notifications on their phones. If you have notifications popping up on your phone screen you are essentially saying ‘yep, I’m fine with being interrupted – constantly’. Hopefully, how you are choosing to spend your time is important to you, eg a work project that requires focus or spending time with people you love who deserve your full attention and respect - both require the best version of you, which means being fully present rather than distracted. Set designated ‘phone time’ throughout the day - a time that suits you to catch up on social media/WhatsApp, etc. Try specific time slots for ‘phone use’ eg 20 minutes at 11am/3pm/8pm.

Boundaries (mini rules!)
No phone zone at all for the first 60 mins of your day – use this time to set yourself up physically, mentally and emotionally for the best day ahead possible. Do things that nourish you and make you feel good: exercise, meditate, stretch, walk outside, play with your children, make a nourishing breakfast, listen to music or a podcast.

Power down hour – no phone (or ideally any technology) for the last 60 minutes of your day. Our minds cannot be expected to switch off as soon as we decide we want to sleep. We need to be winding down - read a book, have a bath, listen to music, move your body – anything that soothes your nervous system and doesn’t add more content and information to our already super frazzled minds.

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Until then, switch your phone on to ‘airplane mode’ so you are not tempted to start scrolling in the bedroom (there are other things to be doing in there),

Accountability
Tell your partner/family member/friend you are consciously trying to spend less time on your phone – that way they can give you a poke when you absent-mindedly pick it up.

Declutter your feed as often as you declutter your house
As you are scrolling ask yourself:
Does this account inspire me or bring me joy?
How do their posts make me feel?
Do I compare myself to them?

We are missing out on our real lives. There will be an entire generation of children who rarely feel fully seen and heard, desperately trying to get the attention they so deeply crave. The same goes for a partner - relationships will crumble as people feel unseen, unheard, unappreciated and utterly disconnected. Our undivided attention is required at least some of the time for intimacy to exist and deepen in a meaningful and fulfilling way - remember that feeling? It feels a thousand times better and longer-lasting than the short-term dopamine hit technology brings.

We’re in the same boat as you. We’re all addicted. And there is joy and lightness and connection to be found within it when used in a healthy way. But our real lives - and our headspace - matters so much more. I hope these suggestions help you to reconnect to yours.

The Cheshire-based Vibrancy Hub is a wellbeing consultancy providing 121 life coaching, online mindset programmes and workplace wellbeing. It is currently running a special one-off life coaching session to help you to create your ‘new normal'. For more details go to thevibrancyhub.com and Instagram @thevibrancyhub.

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