The Quest for Calm: Conquering Phone Addiction

Week one of the new year has come to a close and, along with it, my first week as a pseudo-dumb-phone user. In my quest for Calm, I’ve chosen to give up the majority of my phone privileges. The why is not very complicated. Quite simply, I spent too much time on my phone and, in so doing, felt great anxiety.

I’ve known—for quite some time—that I am wasting my life away staring at a tiny device in my palm. I didn’t need Apple’s Screen Time feature to send that message, but when I saw my statistics were consistently between 20 and 40 hours per week, I took pause. How could I justify spending that much time on my phone?

It wasn’t all at once, of course. I didn’t sit down and decide to spend three and a half hours playing word games, (needlessly) refreshing email, and texting. Like most bad habits, it crept in slowly. Checking the weather would lead to checking the stocks—and the bank account. Texting a friend would lead to an email refresh. Maybe I’d see what was happening on Instagram or Twitter.

And just like that my phone became a full time job.

So with the good ol’ “new year, new me” mentality, I decided to do things differently. I’m happy to report that the results are in and they speak for themselves.

Here is how much time I spent on my phone, beginning on January first (all based on Apple’s Screen Time stats):

Tuesday: 12 minutes

Wednesday: 21 minutes

Thursday: 14 minutes

Friday: 35 minutes

Saturday: 30 minutes

Sunday: 24 minutes

Monday: 42 minutes

Is there a general trend upward? Yes. Yes, there is. But I see the particularly low numbers as outliers. For instance, on January first, I was incredibly busy—I spent nearly all day in the kitchen baking goodies for family friends. I’m not pretending that I’m suddenly “healed” of my phone addiction. I still find myself picking it up: to check the time, to see if I have messages, because it’s there. I’ve been wearing a watch, but I keep forgetting to use it—how sad is that? I need to retrain my brain to look at my wrist for the time rather than relying on a clunky device in my back pocket.

But an average of 30 minutes per day meets my goal to spend less than five hours per week on my phone, and I can’t help but feel accomplished that my usage is down more than 80% from last week.

Although this is not a proper scientific study, I’ve noticed two immediate results that I think are related to using my phone less. First, and most importantly, I feel less anxious. I check email less—and even forget to sometimes! I only send a message when I have something to say or when I need to respond to someone. When I check the weather, I look at the numbers intentionally, knowing I don’t want to re-open the app in five minutes because I didn’t process the information. The constant “need” to be connected has disappeared, and with it, a certain amount of stress I didn’t realize I was carrying.

But I’ve also noticed that I feel busier, which was the opposite of what I expected. I’m getting more done—no question about that—but playing on your phone is mindless. And when you’re spending 30 hours per week scrolling through photos or whatnot, you have to fill those hours in another way when you slice your time down to 3.5 hours.

The good news is that I’m filling the time productively. Mostly. I’ve spent a lot of time in the kitchen this week, baking and cooking various things. The dishes were cleaned more regularly (… oops), and I have time for hobbies like puzzles and reading. With that said, I haven’t seriously worked on writing all week. I haven’t felt like I had the time, which is obviously not the case based on the numbers. And, admittedly, I watched more Netflix this week. (Up from about zero from last week, but still.)

There is certainly still room for improvement, but it is important to note that squeezing my phone usage down to the tiniest number is not my goal. Instead, I wish to be more mindful of how I use the device. I want to learn to use it as a tool rather than letting it rule my life. And that is a journey that will not be won in a week.

Photo by it's me neosiam