As a health and wellness professional, I have preached for years to keep your phone out of your bedroom. But during the pandemic, I developed bad habits, ignoring my own advice and making my phone a permanent fixture on my nightstand. It had become handy when I was having trouble falling asleep or waking up in the middle of the night. And it fueled an obsession with social media and work.
According to Teralyn Sell, psychotherapist and brain health expert, some research suggests that cell phone use can alter our brain activity, decrease reaction times, and negatively impact sleep quality and patterns. “Problematic cell phone use is also linked to depression and anxiety, as well as increased substance use, including tobacco and alcohol,” Sell said.
I knew it was time to intervene. But instead of banning my cell phone for good, I decided to change the way I used it.
What if I used my iPhone to break the habits it was holding me hostage to – and use it to create new, healthier habits? I started to think about all the positive ways phones have enriched our lives: health and wellness apps, music, connecting with others, calendars to keep us on track, to name a few. -a.
Here are the features I have used to make positive changes to my daily routine.
I set deadlines
Go to settings, then screen time, and you’ll see a summary of your daily phone usage, along with tools to limit usage to specific areas. The first thing I did was go into “sleep mode,” designating the hours of 10pm to 7am as a quiet time where calls and texts weren’t showing up as notifications. I also set my ‘downtime’ to those same hours which means my whole phone is a bit darker even when I’m using it. Under downtime you will find “app limits”. I added a limit and checked Social, Productivity and Finance – setting the limit at five minutes.
I wanted to reduce the time I spent on email, social media, calendar, and financial apps during the day. After the five minutes have expired, I am prompted to extend by one minute, 15 minutes, or ignore the limit for the day. It encourages me to stop in my tracks, become present and ask myself: is this necessary or am I wasting time?
“Limiting screen time can help improve mental health outcomes,” Sell said. “The problem here is the addictive nature of the screens themselves.” As a person who is always on the move, learning how to successfully manage my time has made me much more productive and present. When I’m at my desk, I focus on my work, checking my emails, and adding things to my calendar. But when I’m on the go, I don’t want to spend time on these things. Working on my phone for more than five minutes at a time really diverts my energy and focus from the present moment – something that added stress and anxiety throughout the day. I have found that setting time limits has changed my life!
I changed the sound of my alarm
Most of us use our phones as an alarm clock. I set my alarm clock for 7:30 am every morning which as a night owl is a difficult time for me to get up. But because my phone goes into “downtime” at 10pm, it encouraged me to go to bed earlier and read. I’ve found that this routine helps me fall asleep faster and sleep longer before my alarm goes off.
I also turned my alarm into a positive affirmation. Instead of the standard ringing, my alarm clock repeats the affirmation in my voice: “Today is going to be a big day!” Today is going to be a big day! “It encourages me to jump in and turn off my alarm and start my day off in a good headspace. I also now keep my phone in the other room so I have to get out of the room. bed to turn it off. To create your own affirmation, just register in the GarageBand app on your phone and export the file as a ringtone. Then you can select it as a sound when creating a new alarm .
I’m posting a mantra of the day on social media
I like to be intentional in my day and start the morning with a mantra, but it was a part of my morning routine that was often overlooked. By the time I’m dressed I’m already thinking about my next work project or distracted with breakfast.
I’m also guilty of grabbing my phone and mindlessly scrolling through my Instagram feed. So I decided to use social media to help me with that as well. Every morning, I open Instagram and save a story by quickly sharing my mantra for the day. Because I share it with others – and I encourage others to share theirs with me! – it has become something that I look forward to in the morning and it holds me responsible.
I started a morning yoga practice
After posting my mantra, I open my yoga and meditation app (I’m using Insight Timer) which has started offering live lessons. I see which class starts in the next 15 minutes, roll out my yoga mat, and get started! Every day is different, although there are a lot of lessons at 8 am and I also have teachers that I like with whom I try to train regularly. It looks like a community (although you can only see the instructor and the chat box). My calls and texts are also silenced during this time, so I can really take advantage of the 30 to 60 minutes early in the morning to concentrate.
I allow myself 5 minutes of TikTok entertainment
There is nothing wrong with using your phone for entertainment, but I have found that it can very easily become a waste of time. I recently started entering TikTok and I found myself spending an entire hour browsing through videos. It got addicting and it was a lot more time than I wanted to spend on the platform. So I took matters into my own hands and decided to limit myself to an intentional five minutes of TikTok for pure entertainment. I love watching food videos and find them funny, so I scroll through all the videos that appear in my feed that don’t have to do with food. It made me an active consumer of the app rather than a passive consumer.