Tips for Breaking an Unhealthy Addiction to Technology

By Marygrace Sexton

They say understanding you have a problem is the first step to overcoming it – and a big problem many of us may have, but may be in denial of, is an unhealthy addiction to technology.  Want a wake-up call? Take this Smartphone Compulsion Test developed by The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, and see how well you score.

Smartphone addiction in the US has reached such epidemic proportions, behavioral scientists have begun to take serious notice of it. In July, several groups, including The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, are hosting a conference which “will focus on developing issues and treatment in the emerging field of Technology Addiction.”

There’s a good reason scientific research needs to be conducted.

Recently, the research firm Dscout rigged almost one hundred Android phones with a sensor that would accurately detect user interaction. They discovered that over the course of four days, the average user tapped, swiped or clicked the device 2,617 times a day! For heavy users, that frequency of daily interactions topped 5,000 times. The phones then revealed that 11% of the study’s users checked their phones at 3 AM, and “87% of participants checked their phones at least once between midnight and 5am.”

While these findings are disturbing, there’s good news in that people are catching on to the wider health ramifications of smartphone addiction. We all recognize it’s gotten out of hand, but at the same time are unsure how to develop a healthier relationship with tech.  Need some help?

Participants from our events tell us these simple changes are effective in beginning a conscientious break from tech addiction:

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

One of the best things you can do is physically separate yourself from the device. Place it across the room from you, so that checking it takes physical effort. It helps to turn off notifications, so that the phone doesn’t bleep every few seconds to distract you. The goal is to develop a new habit where you’re only checking the phone every hour or so.

Use Batch Response Management

Only check for (and respond to) emails, texts and social media feeds twice a day. This is a much more efficient method than dealing with each as it comes in.  Just make sure you let your friends and colleagues to call you if it’s something truly important.

Give Your Bedtime Routine a Makeover

Invest in a $10 alarm clock and stop relying on your mobile phone to wake you up.  Instead, keep the phone out of your bedroom overnight entirely, and don’t activate its screen within one hour of sleeping. The blue light it emanates may be keeping you awake, claims some research.

Face-Time via Face-to-Face

Start making plans with all the free time you suddenly have on your schedule. The most rewarding activities involve face-to-face interactions with those friends and family members you’ve gotten into the habit of only communicating online with.  Set up outdoor activities, brunches, a game or paint night, whatever brings you closer to other people and lets you enjoy spontaneous play.

Embrace Mindfulness

Be mindful of the positive feelings you get from being present and aware of your surroundings. Cherish the time you have for contemplation, meditation and creative endeavors, understanding that, by only using technology when necessary and for a limited time, you are regaining your connection with the real world and all it has to offer.

If you do find yourself jumping back into a group text with friends, or responding to Facebook feeds, do so in a single session, and then get right back on the abstinence track.  Also, don’t waste time beating

Marygrace Sexton is Founder of A-GAP, a non-profit foundation that takes participants seeking to detach from technology on a journey to clarity, unity & simplicity in a technology free environment. She is also founder and CEO of Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice Company, an authentic juice company headquartered in Fort Pierce, Florida.

No tech stock photo by Iryna Imago/Shutterstock