How I ignored my smartphone addiction without a therapist

I am finally in a place where I can say that I have been able to ignore my smartphone addiction. It took me a while, and it took a while.

You must be wondering how someone like me who checks out a smartphone every week feels liberated from not being tied to a gadget anymore? OK, maybe this wasn’t an addiction in the truest sense of the word, but I was definitely so involved with my smartphone that I started losing touch with myself. Several times a day I drown in the phone to hide my negative thoughts. I was checking the phone all day and night, often until 2 am. This is when I promised to heal myself. Regular meditation along with a few other steps helped a lot in weaning myself off the phone. Here is how I did it without any help from a therapist.

Why do people become addicted to smartphones?

Smartphone addiction is considered a “behavioral addiction” and is defined as a “dependence syndrome” by the World Health Organization (WHO). This type of behavioral addiction is often called “Nomophobia”, which is the fear that sets in when the smartphone is away. Nomophobia is similar to other physiological states related to fears of certain things.

Research from King’s College London revealed that about 39 per cent of people between the ages of 18 and 30 reported symptoms such as losing control over how long they spend on their phones, distress when they can’t reach it, and neglecting other areas of their lives.

The study, conducted in 2021, used survey responses from 1,043 people and matched their response to the Addiction Scale tool, and found that 406 people met their criteria for smartphone addiction. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), the average smartphone user checks their devices 50 to 80 times a day.

The increase in phone use occurs gradually, which later becomes an addiction. Browsing Instagram, receiving messages on WhatsApp, or finding someone on Tinder gives you joy at first, but soon you become dependent and expect similar satisfaction every time you reach for a phone. Studies have shown that a small molecule in our brain called dopamine is released when you feel “high” about something. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that makes you feel good. It’s the “pleasure chemicals” that send signals inside our brains. The release of dopamine is normal, but if it is released too much, it becomes addictive.

The problem starts when your brain notices a fixed pattern, it starts associating your “smartphone” with your “dopamine.” Soon, your brain starts craving more for the phone. The likes you receive, the notifications, your Facebook feed – all of these activate dopamine. In a study published in Frontiers in Psychology, Veissière and Moriah Stendel, researchers in McGill University’s Department of Psychiatry, reviewed existing literature on the ineffective use of smart technology through an evolutionary lens, and found that the most addictive smartphone functions all share a common theme: They benefit from the human desire to connect with others.

Why did my smartphone start controlling me

How many times have you checked your smartphone recently? Yes, the answer must be many, to the point that you lost count. Then you must not be alone. I, for example, was addicted to some apps that I thought would help me discover myself. Instead, I became obsessed and started wasting time on these apps. It became a habit that I struggled to get rid of. Later, I realized how misplaced my desire for ‘conformity’ was… I was just trying to escape from my reality.

Our interactions with smartphones are more meaningful than ever. The problem starts when we are constantly communicating with the phone without any purpose. I don’t think we even ask ourselves what is the point of picking up the phone when we start messing with it again for the umpteenth time.

Tips for dealing with smartphone addiction

When I was addicted to my smartphone, I looked at myself and asked the following three questions:

What relationship do I want with my phone?
How much time do I need to allocate to the phone?
Does my phone help me become more productive in life or does it prevent me from achieving my goals?

It took me a while to figure out exactly what I needed from the device, but the answer helped me maintain a healthy relationship with the device.

So I used some tips and tricks that anyone can use to fix the smartphone addiction problem.

Use Apple’s Screen Time to develop healthy device habits

Try Apple’s Screen Time feature for iPhone, iPad, and Mac. It’s a feature built natively, which tracks and monitors the amount of time you spend on your devices. The feature can also lock you or the kids from apps after you reach a specific period of time. To enable Screen Time, go to Settings > Screen Duration and tap Turn on Screen Time. Navigate through the information on the Screen Time screen and click Continue. You are then asked if this device is for you or your child. If that works for you, tap This is My iPhone. Google now also offers similar tools on Android phones.

Hide your “last seen” status on WhatsApp

If you want peace of mind in life, turn off the “Last Seen” feature in WhatsApp now. By turning it off, the other person won’t be able to tell when was the last time you used the app. It’s just like incognito mode. If your partner and friends trust you, they won’t accuse you of repeatedly ignoring them. To turn off WhatsApp last seen on your phone: Launch WhatsApp > tap Settings, which is in the bottom right corner > tap Account > Tap Privacy > Change your last seen status from Everyone to Contacts (It will only be visible to your WhatsApp contacts) or “Nobody”.

Don’t check your phone first thing in the morning

Many people have the habit of checking WhatsApp or Facebook first thing in the morning. Instead of doing this, think about the goals for the day and the value you will add to your business. Go for a walk, make time for breakfast and during the meal, check important emails, read the news or catch up on missed updates on Facebook and Instagram.

Mute your phone before bed

Let the phone not distract you and interrupt your sleep. Make a habit of muting or turning off the phone before going to bed. This will help reduce the time you spend on the phone.

Interact with real people

There is no substitute for real-world interactions. Being in the company of a real person is much more interactive than chatting online or WhatsApping all day long. True friendships blossom when you meet someone face to face over a cup of coffee or tea. There is something real and emotionally satisfying about meeting someone face to face.

If these tips can’t cure your smartphone addiction, they will at least reduce your screen time.

Were you addicted to your phone? If yes, tell us your story and how you overcame addiction.

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