We live in a world surrounded by electronics, screens, beeps, pings, notifications, and devices all created to make our lives “easier.” FOMO has become a common acronym we use to describe the new-age fear of being disconnected (Fear of Missing Out).
Sometimes though, our devices can cause more harm than good. I will openly admit that there have been many days that I’ve spent way too much time in this alternate reality and wondered where my day went.
Don’t get me wrong. I love social media and believe there are many advantages that outweigh the disadvantages; but that’s if and only if the necessary boundaries are set. My personal time sucker is with social media, Instagram specifically, but yours may be any number of things that require you to use or look at a device.
But there is hope for improvement. I’m so excited about the different features coming out that help in monitoring screen time, tracking usage, and reminding you when it’s time to put the phone down.
Today, I’m sharing my tips and tricks for how you can find balance in time spent using electronics, or, as Google coined it, Digital Wellbeing.
1. Download the Digital Wellbeing app to help you track your habits
This app provides you with some pretty astonishing insights.
- how many times you’ve unlocked your phone today
- how many notifications your phone has shown you (which you can change in your phone’s settings)
- a graphical representation of time spent by app
It also provides you with ideas for how you can disconnect more, many of which I have adopted.
2. Create and implement a morning routine
What’s the first thing you do when you wake up? If the answer is check your phone or turn on the morning news, this may be unintentionally enhancing your unconscious feeling of FOMO – What did you miss out on while you were sleeping?
Instead, try doing something that helps your mind and body wake up peacefully. This might be brewing a cup of coffee, walking your dog (my favorite), meditating, reading, or showering and brushing your teeth.
3. When you go to sleep, put your phone in the other room
You can buy an alarm clock to replace your phone’s alarm.
Having your phone in the other room when you lie down in bed will eliminate the risk of you picking up the phone to check one more thing or scrolling one more time.
Additionally, there is some concern around the electromagnetic field / radiation that mobile devices produce. There isn’t any concrete evidence to support this concern currently, but I don’t think it’s something to ignore completely. Certain types of frequencies (x-ray, for example) have been proved to be carcinogenic, and that’s not something I personally want next to my head all night long.
4. Have your phone remind you when it’s time to start winding down for bed
I have my Android phone set to remind me to wind down at 9:15 pm each week day.
It’s best if you can avoid looking at any screen 1-2 hours before you go to bed. Humans’ natural circadian rhythm, which is from sunrise to sunset, tells your body how to operate. This includes your metabolism, appetite, and mood. Artificial light at night can confuse your body and mess with its rhythm. Your mind also needs time to enter a restful mode before actually falling asleep. You wouldn’t expect to run a lap around the track and then get in bed and fall asleep right away, right? It works similarly with your mind. The endless stimulus from our pocket computers wind up our brains as oppose to winding them down.
5. Enable “Do Not Disturb” on your phone for sleeping hours
I’ve enabled my Android phone to automatically turn on the Do Not Disturb feature as soon as it tells me it’s time to start winding down at 9:15 pm. You can customize this feature to your individual preferences, however I’ve set mine so that my phone only notifies me if any of my starred contacts text or call me. Everyone else is silenced until my alarm goes off the next morning.
6. Enable “Night Light” on your phone from sunset to sunrise
I’ve set my Android phone to turn on “Night Light” from sunset to sunrise, which gives the screen an amber-colored filter that’s not as disturbing to your brain as the brighter day-time screen. So, if you have to look at your phone for some reason during the wind down period, it’s not a blaring bright screen.
Side note: I’ve also changed my screen from blue light to pink light at all times, as it’s easier on and healthier for the eyes.
7. Limit your notifications to only absolutely necessary
Studies show that device notifications (even just the sound) can actually increase stress and anxiety levels. You may not think it’s terribly distracting, but the truth is that it’s likely stealing your attention away from whatever you’re actively engaged in each time the screen lights up and demands your eyes or dings and derails your train of thought.
Which notifications are absolutely necessary? For me, it’s texts, phone calls, and (some) emails. I have trained by Gmail account (through built-in machine learning) to filter out most spam emails and only notify me of legitimate emails to my primary inbox. I’ve been playing with the idea of limiting notifications to just phone calls and texts, as 1 or 2 spam emails seem to still sneak in daily that I don’t want to be notified about, but I’m not completely there quite yet.
Is it crucial for you to be notified each time someone likes your Instagram post or comments on your Facebook post? I can’t answer this question for you, but, for me, I know it’s definitely not.
8. Enable “Shh” feature (if you have a Google Pixel)
This feature automatically turns your phone on Do Not Disturb by simply setting your phone face-down on a flat surface. I’ve found this super useful when I’m running into an important meeting or a movie theatre. If you have a Pixel, definitely utilize this!
9 & 10. Discover and embrace JOMO
This step deserves two, as it’s the most important of them all.
JOMO, in opposition to FOMO, is the Joy of Missing Out.
As challenging as it may feel to pull away from the digital world, it’s so important to carve out time daily to intentionally disconnect so that you may be fully present in your environment. Rather than looking at what others are doing on social media or watching world news, I prefer to find relationships and activities that make my life feel vibrant and joyful in a way that’s unique to me. I encourage you to give it a try! There’s no comparison, no fear that someone else is having more fun than you, because you’re completely satisfied in this moment right here, right now.
I hope this list is useful to help you disconnect easily and effectively.
Remember to be kind to yourself. If you set an intention to disconnect and end up scrolling past your wind down time, don’t be too hard on yourself. Balance in everything. Keep making it an intention, giving your best effort, and don’t fret the rest.
If you have any more tips that I didn’t cover, I’d love to hear them and try them out myself! Feel free to drop them in the comments below and I’ll let you know how they work for me.