Give Your Nervous System A Break
Digital Mindfulness (and Your Awake Clock)
Quick background: I struggled with phone addiction
As I’ve written elsewhere on this site (ad nauseam?), I had a serious problem with my phone usage.
While in bed at night I would get sucked in for an hour or more, and if I didn’t need to be anywhere in the morning, there’s a good chance I was on it again for just as long.
After meditating with an app, my phone would be in my hand once again and often I would unthinkingly run through the cycle of checking various accounts.
There’s a good chance this has happened to you.
The number one action that helped me lessen the attention I give to my phone was getting a meditation timer and alarm clock.
But get this: even after I bought the clock, I didn’t use it for a month! That’s how strong the resistance was to giving up my nightly phone use.
That’s what addiction is!
Intuitive Knowledge and Your Nervous System
If you’re struggling with your phone use and decide to go this route – whether with my Awake clock or with some other timepiece – you might face the same challenge I did: Actually using the clock as a substitute for your phone.
You may have intuitive knowledge that comes from feeling drained after an hour-long social media session: “This is not good for me.”
Your intuition knows that your nervous system is healthier when you give it a break. For overall well-being, your body needs regular recovery time. Lying in bed with your phone may be indulgent, but your stimulated brain is not recovering.
What Smartphone Addiction Might Look Like
Many of us have lost the power of choice when it comes to our phone usage.
- If your phone is next to your bed or in your bedroom, it will probably end up in your hand more than you want it to.
- If you use your phone to meditate, it will be in your hand shortly after you finish practicing.
- If you walk by it on your way to your meditation place or your kitchen, you will likely peek at it to see if you have any notifications on your lock screen.
We’re not weak or stupid. We act like this because we're wired this way, and the way we're wired is being taken advantage of by people who design apps. (The longer we're on an app, the more the app company benefits. A longer story.)
We have a willpower that is easily overridden by natural addictive tendencies
If you’re someone who can easily resist your phone while it’s on airplane mode, you’re one of the lucky ones.
For those of us who need a system to help us: let's operate within the framework we have.
How do you deal with your phone ending up in your hand whenever it’s near you?
Keep your phone away from you! Genius.
Short of giving up your phone, this is the best way I know to give your nervous system an extended break.
How to Set Up Your Nightly Disconnect
Here are a some tips that help me maintain a consistent nightly disconnect. I meditate in my bedroom; if you have a separate meditation area, these tips apply for that space as well.
- Consider your bedroom door a threshold over which your phone does not pass.
Sure sure, I get it, it's the middle of the day, you're talking on the phone, you need to walk into your bedroom, fine — but as you're headed to bed at night, leave your phone in another room. If you want to get on social media or whatever before bed, do it in another room. Because once you finally go to bed, you won't have the option of getting back on.
- Take all phone chargers out of your bedroom.
Set up a permanent charging station far from your bedroom. If you want to extend your disconnect into the start of your morning, don’t put the charging station in your kitchen, and preferably not between your bedroom and kitchen.
- Examine whether it's really true that you "need" to be near your phone for some sort of emergency.
I'm not saying your don’t, I'm inviting you to make an inquiry
- Leave your phone out of your bedroom every night.
Research proves that it's a lot easier to create a habit when you do it every day. This is especially true when addictive tendencies are involved.
Use a calendar (or draw a grid in a notebook or journal - or use the grid included with your Awake) to check off consecutive days without your phone in your bedroom.
This may seem extreme, but it works! I often start my day with breakfast and tea, tidy up, and then – finally – plug in to the connected world.
It's a life-changing way to start my day.
A Few Other Simple-But-Not-Easy Tactics
These also help reduce phone usage:
- Turn your smartphone screen to grayscale. It will be less inviting to look at. Really!
- Delete your social media apps off your phone. Do it.
- Delete your email apps off your phone. I know people who run companies successfully without email on their phone, and they love it.
Freedom and Presence
When I wake up in the morning I still feel joyful that my phone isn’t within arm's reach.
(That I’m even aware of the absence is kind of scary.)
If you follow the steps I outlined above, your life will get better. There is no question about it. You'll feel freer. You'll connect with those around you.
You'll be more present.
Cheers, and thanks for reading.
P.S.: I know it might be hard to do this. The addiction is real! Feel free to email or call if you'd like some support: