You love your smartphone. It helps you get from point A to point B, it keeps your email readily accessible, and it helps you to stay connected to friends near and far. There’s no way something so awesome could be harmful, right?
Smartphone addiction is a real concern, especially as people become increasingly dependent on these gadgets to conduct daily activities. If you fear your devotion to your smartphone is bordering on addiction, here are 10 signs it might be time to seek help:
1. You text people who are in the same room as you.
2. Your phone goes everywhere with you — even the bathroom.
3. You can’t recite any of your loved ones’ phone numbers from memory.
4. You sleep with your phone.
5. You don’t know how to turn your phone off.
6. Your self-esteem is tied to how many notifications you get.
7. You see more through the photo app on your phone than the eyes in your head.
8. You panic if your phone is out of sight.
9. You’d rather be late than arrive without your phone.
10. You can’t stop peeking at the screen, even during a movie or your favorite TV show.
What Smartphone Addiction Looks Like
Some of those signs may seem exaggerated or even silly, but they are real indicators that your dependence on your smartphone is reaching critical levels.
An addiction is characterized by an increased tolerance to something, so you need more to feel the same “high.” The instant feedback provided by smartphones is a pleasurable hit that drives us to constantly check our email or obsessively look up random facts. This pleasure-seeking behavior is indicative of an addiction; however, even though these habits might bug our friends and family, there is no real danger unless they are disruptive to your life.
That doesn’t mean a strong attachment to your smartphone is completely harmless. Difficulty concentrating, poor sleep, and increased anxiety — not to mention damage to interpersonal relationships and communication skills — have all been linked to smartphone overuse.
How to Take Your Life Back
It’s easy to shrug off smartphone addiction as a silly overreaction, but if you identify with two or more of the signs listed above, you may want to consider cutting back.
Here are four easy ways to curb your smartphone use without having to go cold turkey:
1. Set Limits
Start by setting some guidelines to help you manage your usage. For example, you might make it a goal to wait one hour after waking up before reaching for your phone, or keep it turned off during dinner or your favorite show. It doesn’t matter how much time you designate as phone-free, as long as you designate some time.
2. Let it Go
Do you feel like you have to immediately respond to every call, text, or email that comes your way? Try letting a call go to voicemail or leaving a text unread until you can give it your full attention. Gradually increase the number of times you wait until you’re truly available to respond. Eliminating these constant interruptions will ease tension, decrease anxiety, and enhance concentration and productivity.
3. Tune In to Your Feelings
Notice how you feel when you reach for your phone. Identifying your emotional state gives you a clue as to why you’re going for the phone. Are you bored, anxious, stressed out, or lonesome? Once you start to understand the feelings that lead you to lean on your smartphone, you can seek other ways to find relief.
4. Find a Substitute
Smartphones have become the number one self-soother out there. Identify other ways to provide comfort in situations where you tend to rely heavily on your phone. If you go to your phone when you feel bored or nervous, practice some mindfulness techniques that will help you tune in to your body and the world around you. This will help you to stay calm and connected to your surroundings, rather than using gadgets to disconnect and escape.
Whether you’re ready for a complete digital detox or simply want to loosen the hold your smartphone has on you, it’s healthy to take an honest look at your dependence on technology and explore ways to unplug. Disengaging from that small screen, even a little bit, can help you experience a more fulfilling daily routine.