Ep. #98: How I’m Creating a Healthy Relationship with My Phone

A healthy relationship with my phone: hand holding phone to take picture of food on plate.

Today I talk about something I’ve been practicing having: a healthy relationship with my phone! Technology is amazing…but it can also really intrude on day to day life. I’d love to share what I’m doing to improve that relationship, because I think it might benefit you too!

AND — the Quit Dieting for Good Podcast is coming up on 100 episodes! I started about two years ago, and here I am! Sharing this podcast with you is something I truly love doing, and I’m thrilled to continue! If you’ve been a listener and you love the show, would you do me a favor? Head to your listening app of choice (here’s a How-To for Apple Podcasts) and leave me a review today! Done? Send me a screenshot to caitlin@caitlinball.com and I’ll be sure to send you something special!

A Healthy Relationship with My Phone

Does it sound a little weird to use the word relationship here? After all, phones are just things, right? Well, I’m calling this a “phone relationship” because we spend so much time on our phones every day! And since relationships are all about time….it seems like a fitting word for our phone usage.

Personally, since Covid hit I found I was spending up to 6 hours a day on my phone. Yikes! (The average American was spending 5.4 hours per day BEFORE Covid, according to a Provision Life study ZDNet shared!)

Since I use my phone for business and personal life, cutting down can feel tricky. However, during a recent stay-cation I realized that if I was sitting at home looking at posts about other people’s “real” vacations I was going to get super bummed. To remedy that, I told people I was signing off, and deleted the FB and IG apps off my phone. This obviously doesn’t get rid of social media; if I needed to, I knew I could check in on things from my computer. Instead, it just removed the quick access I’m so used to having.

On Day 1, I found myself going on my phone and seeing my thumb head for the spot my IG app used to always be. In fact, my YouTube app moved into the old IG spot, and I found myself accidentally opening it multiple times. (It’s like my phone had been programming ME! Crazy!) I was also picking up my phone a LOT….which made me start to think that maybe I don’t have such a healthy relationship with my phone. Hmmm….

It’s Not Just a Social Media Problem

Once I got rid of my social media apps I started checking my email all the time. I felt like I was obsessively checking in (even when all there was to “do” was delete junk emails). When I didn’t have quick access to social media, I just turned my attention to other things to do on my phone.

That was enough to show me that the problem was bigger than just social media. It was about my phone in general (hence “phone relationship”)!

I needed a game plan that went beyond social media apps! This brought me back to How to Break Up With Your Phone, by Catherine Price. She breaks down a ton of facts and figures (it’s so interesting!). She also shares about the addictive qualities of our phones that are making us unhappier. Phone programmers are doing everything they can to keep you ON your phone. Have you noticed that?

Since it’s in your phone creators best interest to keep you on your device, they engineer everything to keep you on. (Or trying to get back on when you’re off!)

Something else interesting: the biggest names in tech severely limit the amount of time their own families spend behind screens. They have the inside scoop, and it’s clear they don’t want technology to take over their lives. But since it’s how they make their money….they certainly aren’t stopping the rest of us!

What Are You Doing?

I noticed that I have a habit of getting on my phone for a purpose….then finding myself knee deep in social media feeds and emails….with no recollection about WHY I was even on in the first place.

It’s kind of like walking into a room and not remembering why. Except this version eats up hours of my day. I noticed that any time I was waiting for something, or there was a single moment that could be filled, I was looking at my phone. And I didn’t like that!

Something else: every morning I was checking my email and social media for almost 20 minutes. It wasn’t even time I was really accounting for (so I never realized it was “missing” from my day). Once I stopped doing that, I felt like I had so much extra time in my day! As I started to have a healthy relationship with my phone, I was pleasantly surprised at just how much of my day I was able to free up.

Here’s What I Did Instead

+ Cleaned Up My Home Screen

I put all my social media apps into a folder. I also moved my mail icon to the very last page. You don’t have to have it on that main, easy access bar. And moving these things a bit further away creates another layer of accountability.

+ Prioritized Podcasts and Audio Books

I get to choose WHAT I do on my phone. And when I stopped scrolling social media feeds all the time, I was able to prioritize things that make me feel good instead. It was so much more enjoyable to listen to amazing material, rather than mindlessly scrolling apps and killing time.

+ Actually Read Real Books

Rather than laying in bed scrolling my phone….I started going to bed and reading. In two weeks I read two books (which is pretty good for me)! I read All Adults Here and Then She Was Gone. They were both great, and I know I would have never read them if I had kept up with my (slightly obsessive) phone relationship!

+ Started a Weaving Project

Not only did I start a new weaving project, I also keep up with my painting project. It feels so good to be creative and have ongoing projects to look forward to. Rather than telling myself I’m “too busy”, evaluating my relationship with my phone has helped me see that I have more time than I used to think.

+ Meditated Every Morning & Did More Yoga

With all that time I saved in the morning, I started meditating EVERY day. I also found I could often add in a bit of yoga too. (Remember, I had been spending about 20 minutes every morning on my phone!) Scrolling is addictive, and it eats up a ton of time. I know, because I’ve totally been sucked in! In fact, I still have to catch myself, because it’s such a easy habit to get into.

+ Just Sitting & Thinking

You know those couple meetings between things? Waiting for an appointment, standing in line at the store, sitting in the car waiting? It is SO easy to fill those moments with your phone. But you don’t need to do that! I realized that a lot of my mindless scrolling left me feeling unhappy. I’d see what other moms, wives, and entrepreneurs were doing, and start to think that I *should* be doing that too. Even though just sitting and thinking doesn’t feel super fun….it also doesn’t tend to leave me feeling down, discontent, or unhappy! And sometimes it even sparked my own great ideas!

+ Taking Less Pictures

This one has pros and cons. I was able to be more fully present when I wasn’t taking as many pictures. It was fun to just BE there. On the other hand, I LIKE having tons of pictures and thinking about what to post.

+ Finding Ideas on Pinterest

Since I didn’t have my usual social apps, I did find myself using Pinterest more. Unlike some social apps, I feel like Pinterest gets me excited about DOING things in my own home and life. That’s not a side effect of my regular phone use, so I chalked it up to a win!

+ Text & Phone Conversations

Sometimes a friend crosses my mind…and I go check out their social profiles. Since I didn’t have the apps, though, this time I actually texted. This resulted in more text conversations and even a few phone calls. Fun! This was another phone use that felt good.

Do I Have a Healthy Relationship With My Phone?

Well, it’s still a work in progress!

I did a 24 hour phone fast, which I enjoyed. I’m scrolling less, and being present more. It’s been great, and I’ve been able to incorporate my phone back into my life with a new outlook.

However, I have found that my phone is addictive! I clearly need to create a few safe guards to help myself enjoy a healthy relationship that feels good. One tool I’ve found useful is an app called Space. It helps me track how often I’m opening my phone, and it helps me know when I’m turning to my phone as a diversion throughout the day.

I’ve found that being creative and being off my phone feels really good. Now when I reach for my phone, I ask myself if I actually need my phone. And if it’s just a habit (or an avoidance mechanism), I give myself a chance to sit with what is instead of distracting myself online.

My mornings have also become much more special to me. I love doing mediation and yoga, and I love minimizing that early morning “noise” that my phone brings into my day.

And when I notice that I’m checking too much, or falling into old habits, I’ll bring myself back to doing what feels really good for me. I know now that I can use my phone a lot less than I have been…and I know that that feels really good for me and my life. I’m making more conscious decisions about bringing technology into my life, and I’m honoring my needs. It feels really good!

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