Smartphones & Mental Health | 8 Tips for Digital Wellbeing
Smartphones impact our mental health and not always for the better. We use smartphones when we’re bored, we feel anxious or depressed. For our brains, smartphones are the perfection distraction tool. That’s why we are going to explore digital wellbeing.
Can you imagine spending one day without your smartphone? How about a whole week? This video is not about saying that all smartphones are evil and you should stop using them. Not at all. They provide so many benefits that I totally admit, it would be very difficult to give them up. Smartphones influence our mental health and not always for the better. But of course, we are going to continue using our phones so let’s take a look at what we can do keep our sanity too. Today 2.71 billion people own a smartphone and the number of mobile users if expected to increase to 7.33 billion by 2023 (which is nearly the number of the entire world’s population). Smartphones are an endless source of entertainment. And there is nothing your brain love more than to be entertained. These little playful devices are designed by teams of experts to make us want to use them as much as possible. Which is exactly where it can get out of hand.
We use smartphones when we’re bored, we feel anxious or depressed. They’re the perfection distraction tool. One study done with students in the US showed that 1 in 5 rated themselves as totally dependent on their phone. And more than a half admitted that using their phone was a way from escaping problems or relieving bad mood. And this is where it gets dangerous. Smartphones usage, especially during nighttime, decreases sleep quality and can ever lead to insomnia. And research suggests that excessive usage of smartphones can even lead to the worsening anxiety and depression.
1. TURN OFF ON-SCREEN NOTIFICATIONS
First thing, we can do to keep using our phones and our sanity is to Turn off as many on-screen notifications off as possible.When your phone is constantly being flooded with notifications, it motivates you to check your phone more frequently. Your mind is telling you: “Let’s see what we‘re missing out on!” That’s why try to turn off all the notifications you don’t need.
2. DISABLE THE RED NOTIFICATION BADGE ON APP ICONS If you constantly have 25 unread messages your brain still thinks you have work to do. I cannot tell you how much of a difference this made in my life. I felt like a weight was lifted off me when I turned the red badges app icons off. This goes hand in hand with the previous point- read the unread emails, answer the unanswered messages and check on updates in your own time. Not whenever your phone suggests you should do so. 3. USE YOUR PHONE ONLY WHEN NEEDED Ok, this might seem like a bit of an obvious tip but think about how often you use your phone because you‘re bored. Try practicing mindfulness and look around instead of looking into your phone when you‘re for example waiting for the bus.
4. CHANGE YOUR SCREEN TO BLACK AND WHITE
Smartphones are so attractive for our brains because they care were engaging. They are colourful, playful and tap into our need for belonging. One way we can make them a bit less interesting is to take the colour away. You can do this by following this guide. A black and white smartphone is way less interesting.
5. CALL INSTEAD OF TEXTING
Texting might be quick and easy, but is it really what‘s best for our relationships? Even with the use of emojis, it‘s still very easy to misread and misunderstand the intended message. People recognise emotions much better through voice. Therefore, a tip for keeping your mental health in check while using your smartphone is try to call instead of texting. Sure, it might not always be possible but sometimes we have a choice. Video calling is definitely an even better option, because you can even see the non-verbal communication of the person you‘re talking to. But try to remember to go for this option when you can really focus on the conversation and not when you‘re walking on a busy street.
6. NOT-BY-THE-BED RULE Put your phone into another room when you are sleeping ( if you need your alarm then at least on the weekend). Think about it, what do you do first thing when you wake up? How many of you said grab your phone? When you are sleeping by your head, the first thing you do when you wake up is exactly what we said - grab the phone. After you turn off your alarm, you go check your emails and Instagram etc. When you do so, your brain is getting flooded with information before it even had a chance to wake up. However, when your phone is in another room, you have more time to wake up naturally. If you‘re using your phone to wake you up, another trick would be to put it further away from the bed. Or at least to try this no phone by the bed rule on the weekends when you can sleep until whenever you want.
7. PUT YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS AWAY FROM YOUR WELCOME SCREEN What is the first thing you see when you unlock your screen? Consider putting the social media apps into a folder far away from the welcome screen. Instead of one click, you will have to ‚do‘ more - which will give your brain a moment to catch up with what you want to so. Do you really want to go on Instagram right now? Making the phone a bit more difficult for yourself to use is actually a good thing in this case. It allows for mindfulness and thoughtfulness.
8. USE A PASSWORD TO UNLOCK YOUR PHONE
If it’s too easy for you to unlock your phone, then you will be using it more. You can use your phone, that's what it‘s there for just be mindful about when and how you‘re using it. Setting a password that forces you to type a couple of numbers before opening it, will help you do exactly that!
There are a lot of ways of making your smartphone usage more mentally healthy for you. If you’re just interested in knowing how much you actually use it, there’s different functionalities you can use for example Apple’s Screen Time. Another example is Instagram, where you can set the app to give you a notification when you go over your set daily limit, e.g. more than 15 minutes per day. The main message though is just be mindful. Mindful about how you are using your phone and what affects you in a negative way.
Beata Stanova is a writer, speaker, YouTuber and believer in the power emotional intelligence. With a background in psychology and business, Bea seeks to bring insights about psychology and emotional intelligence to the millennial generation in an engaging way.