Kaitlyn has a background in psychology and writes articles that teach you how to lean on your body, mind, heart, and on those around you.
Smartphones are not a drug, so why do we become addicted to them? According to psychologists, addictions are often formed by the need to remove pain rather than to experience pleasure. That pain could be mental, physical, or some combination of both. Whether it is anxiety, depression, stress, loneliness, psychological trauma, or any other upsetting issue you’re struggling to deal with, we can classify that stress as a type of mental pain.
This is when smartphone addiction can start to make sense. As a society, we are struggling with ever-increasing levels of anxiety, stress, depression, and loneliness. And when we try to soothe or distract ourselves from that psychological pain by scrolling through social media, it will work - for a little while. Because the relief our smartphones provide is only temporary, we’ll eventually become dependent on those brief moments of comfort.
And when we’re addicted to our smartphones, we’re taking on unnecessary stress and wasting valuable time that could have been spent on working productively towards our goals and improving our quality of life.
Poll: Your Smartphone and You
3 Common Symptoms of Smartphone Addiction
But just because we have our smartphones around most of the time doesn’t mean we have an addiction. Here’s how you can tell whether you have an unhealthy relationship with your smartphone or not.
1. Stress and Anxiety
You’re constantly putting your mind and body under chronic stress because you never “switch off.” You’re always on the alert to respond immediately to every notification and stress out when you can’t get to your phones in time. When access to your smartphone is restricted, you feel anxious and are worried you may miss something critical.
It’s hard to unplug even to go to bed, so you have trouble falling asleep at night because your mind is too overstimulated. The bright light of your smartphone also disrupts the production of melatonin which is a hormone that cues your body to fall asleep.
3. Constantly checking your smartphone
Even though you know there are no new texts, emails, calls, or notifications, or if you'd just checked your phone 30 seconds ago, you check it again anyway.
Also, whether it be a new game, scrolling through endless social media posts, chatting about nothing, or watching a video, you'll find any excuse to stay on your smartphone.
5 Steps to Break Your Smartphone Addiction
1. Stay Away From Temptation
Keep your phone as far away from you as possible. When you don’t need it, leave it in a separate room if possible or leave it in your bag. Break the habit of keeping your phone in your pocket where you’re constantly reminded of its presence. When you’re at home and off the clock, put your phone on silent and turn off all non-essential notifications. You don’t need to check your phone for every spam e-mail or irrelevant group message.
2. Say “Don’t”, Not “Can’t”
Research has found that people who say “don’t” instead of “can’t” were 80% more likely to follow through with their intentions and change their habits. So instead of thinking “I can’t use my phone in bed,” think “I don’t use my phone in bed.” This simple word substitution will change your mindset and allow you to better visualize the kind of person you want to become. So if you start visualizing yourself as someone who doesn’t rely on your smartphone, you’ll grow into that self-image soon enough.
3. Avoid Getting Stuck In
Sometimes, checking social media or using your smartphone cannot be avoided. When you need to check your smartphone, make a conscious effort to avoid the “ludic loop.” The “ludic loop” is a concept in psychology where we’re lulled into repeating the same addictive behavior over and over in a loop, like when you keep scrolling through your Facebook feed even though there’s nothing new or interesting to look at.
So avoid the ludic loop by making a conscious intention to stop after a set amount of time before you start doing what you need to do on your smartphone.
4. Replace Your Habit Instead of Breaking It
Instead of cutting smartphone use out all at once, make good use of your time spent on your device by replacing time-wasting activities like scrolling through social media or playing games with productive activities instead.
Download Kindle, Kobo or educational apps so you can read a book or learn a new skill instead of checking Facebook. Now, when you reach for your smartphone, you’ll be doing something productive and something that’ll make you feel good about yourself.
5. Plan and Anticipate
When trying to break any addiction, it’s important to plan and anticipate when you’ll be in situations where you’re more likely to relapse. Do you tend to check your phone when waiting in lines or waiting for food at a restaurant? Keep your phone in a backpack where it’s harder to get to. Bring a book along so when you do reach into your bag, you can pull that out instead of your smartphone. If you tend to use your phone to fill in gaps in conversation, make sure you keep your phone in your bag or another room the next time you’re with friends.
When you plan ahead, you can make decisions beforehand to remove temptation, which will make breaking your habit much easier.
Poll: Your Smartphone Habit
Build Meaningful Connections
Much of addiction is about soothing psychological distress, so surround yourself with people who love and support you. Spend time with them in person without relying on a piece of technology as the middleman. If your loved ones live far away, reach out to new people and don’t be afraid to build new meaningful connections. If you lack confidence or are feeling a little rusty in interacting with others, there are ways to rebuild your self-esteem.
When you have a strong network of people around you and are focused on living a full life, you won’t need to depend on your smartphone for moments of loneliness or boredom anymore.
© 2018 KV Lo
Jasmine on October 07, 2018:
I love the subtle difference between can't and don't! will have to try this!
lauren on September 10, 2018:
I do check my phone a lot and am trying to break that habit a bit - these are great tips!
Twinkle on July 23, 2018:
I do check contantly my phone and that irritates many people around me. I honestly in need of these tips that you had shared so will need them to implement now.
Zehra on April 24, 2018:
I love how you back up your post with all these polls! Smartphones are already connected so deep into our daily lives, I think it will be hard to shut them out completely. But its definitely important to use them in moderation.
Jennifer Prince on April 24, 2018:
Whew! This is SO convicting - as are the results. It's something I check way too often and doing so leaves for little down time.
Elle on April 24, 2018:
I don't like feeling like I need my cellphone with me regularly but I've become dependent and people expect to be able to get in touch with you at all hours of the day. If my work wasn't directly connected with the internet I'd be able to do away with it for the majority of the day.
Ali Rost on April 23, 2018:
I think I'm in the minority when it comes to my smartphone. During the day I rarely look at it or even carry it with me. I much prefer not to have the distraction. It drives my kids nuts because if they send me a text, I might not reply for a couple of days because I've left my phone on the charger and forgotten to check! I know, in this day and age, it's almost sac-religious, but alas, it's true. xx
whatcorinnedid on April 23, 2018:
i used to be addicted to my phone and indeed did not have the best night. Then decided to turn everything off one hour before bed at least and read. and everything got much better!
Stella on April 23, 2018:
I am addicted to my smartphone. It is getting better. I am making a conscious effort to not be with my phone as often.
Inbar on April 23, 2018:
Such a cool article, we tend to take our smartphone addiction for granted now without thinking of the real reason that we wish to acknowledge and ignore, I think that if people will realize that checking their smartphone actually makes them look lonely and not as if they have actual friends they might use it less
Mira on April 23, 2018:
I love your strategy #4. It is very effective regardless of the habit you want to break. And building meaningful connections won't happen if you are staring at your phone...
Dalene on April 23, 2018:
I can now agree that I'm a smartphone addict since I find myself scrolling through the screen at times when I have nothing to do online. And it's quite hard to quit this addiction although I agree about replacing the habit. Finding more crucial things to attend to can help really reduce this habit.
KV Lo (author) on April 18, 2018:
@Elaine: Yes, technology has too often become a crutch for social and emotional issues. Thanks for reading, I'm glad you found it interesting!
Elaine on April 18, 2018:
I have never stopped to think about this. Maybe it is a sense of loneliness because everything we need is simply at our fingertips and can be brought to us. Great post! Got me thinking!