For the whole month of October, we’re tackling catastrophe refreshing, doom scrolling, and mindless screen time. We all get to distract ourselves and enjoy entertainment and share moments with our friends on our phones. Phones have incredible utility. But they aren’t really ”phones” anymore. They’re slot machines. And if you’re putting in too many time tokens, we’re here to help you figure out how to change that.
This morning, my alarm woke me up at 7:30am. I grabbed my phone to turn it off, and then I opened my email. I wanted to make sure nothing wild came in from work overnight. My inbox was just full of promotional emails, so I deleted some, until I saw one about a sale on socks. I love new socks. So I opened that email, and clicked through. I browsed the website for a bit. Nothing really struck my fancy so I opened Instagram. I had a few DMs from friends, one sent me a meme that made me laugh. I clicked through to the original poster, and spent a few minutes looking at their posts. I got bored and went to the Explore page where I saw a Reel that caught my eye. When I clicked on it, the sound burst out of my phone. I didn’t realize my volume was on. My partner rolled over.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“Looking at a video of a girl doing roller skate tricks while holding a puppy.”
Good question. Twenty minutes after I’d picked up my phone to turn off my alarm, I finally put it down.
I don’t love my relationship with my phone. I spend more time on it than I would like doing things that don’t serve me in any way, and sometimes I spend time on my phone doing things that actively make me unhappy (like looking at before and after plastic surgery photos).
Most of the time, when I get that unhappy feeling, I just put my phone down. What really bothers me though is how long after I put my phone down that I just pick it back up — without thinking, without a reason, without an agenda.
I want my power back from my phone.
Not sure if it’s you or your phone that has the power? Try this: set a timer on your phone for an hour (yes, on your phone), during a time when you can feasibly take a break from work/caretaking/waiting for a call, and leave your phone face down on a table. Then, don’t touch your phone until the alarm goes off.
Many of you will be able to do this — what you’re really looking for is how many times you think about grabbing your phone. And if you can’t make an hour, especially if the phone doesn’t ring or buzz, then it’s time to investigate your phone habits.
It’s challenging to give advice about this topic. There are a lot of reasons people struggle to put down their phones:
- They want or need to be available to someone in need
- They’re expecting a call or text
- Their boss demands immediate (and frequent) replies
- They’re in the middle of something
That last one is vague, and intentionally so — it’s the one I use the most.
When my partner asks me a question, and I give him a half-hearted answer because I’m on my phone, he usually asks me to put it down. Queue me saying, “I’m in the middle of something, one sec.” You know what I’m usually in the middle of? Replying to a DM about something silly or writing an Instagram caption, neither of which are more important than the love of my life asking me how my day was.
I’m not the only one missing things. The average mobile phone user will spend nine years of their life looking at their phone. And that’s if you average around just 3 hours a day. I’m not saying this to make any of us feel bad (though it sure does make me feel bad), but to jostle us from the black mirror. We miss stuff when we’re staring at our phones.
By reducing your phone time by one hour a day, here are some of the things you could do with all the time you get back:
- Write a letter to a friend for a snail mail surprise
- Actually floss your teeth
- Sit in the sun with your eyes closed
- Notice someone cute looking your way
- Dance to your old favorite songs from middle school
- Visit some animals in need at your local shelter
- Make a painting for someone (could be for you!)
- Try your hand at writing a song
- Take a bath
- Reorganize your closet and donate the things you don’t use
- Learn a new recipe
- Get a bird book from the library and get to know your feathered neighbors
- Start that novel
- Journal through some tough feelings you’ve been ignoring
- Play catch
- Go for a run without music and listen to the world around you
- Pack your lunch and go to a local park with a book
- Grab a magazine and actually read it
- Grab a few magazines and make a vision board
- Clean anything
- Rearrange your bedroom for a new feel
- Call a friend and use your phone as an actual phone
- Bake cookies for the neighbors
- Pick flowers and long grasses in your neighborhood to make a bouquet
- Stretch or do yoga
You get the idea. When we put down our phones, we can be more present in our lives. That time allows us to better show up for ourselves and others. And yes, of course we can use our phones to do those things as well, so long as our phones aren’t the ones using us. When we’re staring down, we’re missing the world around us – missing chances, missing moments, missing beauty. And it’s up to us to change that.
By Kelton Wright Vice President Content, Strategy and Production at Sanvello
Kelton is an author, editor, and athlete passionate about helping people live happier lives. She’s taught mindfulness to NFL coaches, led hundreds of women through cycling clinics, written an Amazon best seller on dating, and worked with brands like Runner’s World, Rapha, Headspace, Teen Vogue, Bicycling Magazine, Thrive Market, Skratch Labs, Peloton Magazine, and more all with the mission of empowering others. She is currently the VP of Content, Strategy, and Production at Sanvello. Follow her on Instagram: @keltonwrites.