How to switch off (and have a mindful relationship with your phone)

July 17, 2019

Do you need to switch off?

I don’t know about you but I struggle to remember the last time I felt bored. If I cast my mind back, I think I was on a train, in an area with no 4G and I didn’t have compatible headphones to watch anything I’d downloaded. I didn’t have any option other than to switch off.

I quite often find myself mindlessly looking at Instagram and realising I’ve lost 10 minutes without even realising it. I’ve caught myself looking at wedding photos of people I’ve never met, have no connection to and zero interest in. So why am I doing it?

Comparison and social media

Comparison is the thief of joy – Theodore Roosevelt

Social comparison theory was developed in the 1950s and looks at how we evaluate ourselves against others.

I know I regularly compare myself to others on social media (mainly Instagram tbh) and criticise myself for not having enough followers or making enough effort. It’s ridiculous – it’s a bloody App.

I’ve made the conscious decision to stop looking at insights and best times to post so I get the most engagement. I don’t make a living from this (and I feel the ever-changing algorithms are unfair on people who do) so why bother?

I’m just posting for me now and images that I like.

Sod the ‘gram…

Dopamine hits for likes

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, which sends signals from the body to the brain. It plays a massive role in motivating behaviour by giving us a feeling of reward.

The feeling you get after taking a bite of some good food = dopamine. The feeling you get after exercising is also dopamine. It’s responsible for giving us a little rush every time it wants to reward us.

This is all great when it’s rewarding good habits. However, dopamine also gives us a hit every time we get a like or new follower on social media. It’s the reason we keep coming back to Instagram, looking at our likes and thinking about if our posts are working. It’s a form of social validation but fundamentally it does us no favours. The only people it serves are the ones making money from advertising.

Is social media destroying our relationships?

Esther Perel is a psychotherapist and host of the ‘Where should we begin’ podcast. She says that social media is creating a new feeling of loneliness in relationships. I can completely see why. I have a rule with my husband that we don’t have phones when we’re at dinner or out together. I don’t want to spend good money looking at someone looking at their phone.

I became more conscious of my phone activity after my son was born. It’s not always easy: I’ve had work emails to respond to or situations to deal with. Plus, looking after a child can be hard and at times on maternity leave, social media was a bit of a lifeline for me. I try to think about it though and make sure I switch off.

Creating the space for creativity

There is a reason why people say they get their best ideas on holiday or on planes. It’s because they actually have to switch off. It’s hard to have good ideas when your brain is permanently cluttered.

I find it hard these days to go through my 20 minute train commute without having some form of entertainment: music, a podcast or a mindless scroll. But am I really giving myself time to think? Probably not. Staring out of the window would be more conducive.

How to have a more mindful relationship with your phone

  • Self-awareness is key. Are you on your phone in the company of others? If so, put it down. It’s rude. If it’s an emergency, then communicate it – even if it’s to your 2 year old.
  • Become more comfortable with silence. We don’t need constant entertaining but we’re so used to it, it’s hard to sit with our own thoughts.
  • Think about your relationship with social media. There are hundreds of positives and I love the fact it’s given a platform to people. However, I know it has at times made me feel a bit shit about myself and that’s when I know it’s time to give it a break.
  • Equally, remember social media isn’t real. I enjoy following interior accounts – however, they don’t show what’s gone wrong or the arguments that have taken place, which are generally part of the DIY experience. It’s a highlight reel – not life.
  • Reply
    Emily Ann
    July 18, 2019 at 1:10 am

    I’ve been trying to have healthier relationship with my phone too- not being on it so often, not posting for the likes, not being on it before bed, or when I’m bored… it’s tough but it’s made me appreciate being on social media more! And it’s also helped my mental health so much as well. I’m no longer comparing myself to others and putting myself down. I still reach for my phone when I’m bored sometimes, but I’m getting better at it and I feel like I’m not wasting as much time scrolling on my phone anymore.

    Loved this post! It’s a great reminder to switch off more and enjoy life!

    Emily | https://www.thatweirdgirllife.com

    • Reply
      365 days of wellbeing
      July 20, 2019 at 11:17 am

      I think I was using it as a stick to beat myself with and fundamentally, it’s supposed to be fun. I need to be in control of it, rather than letting it control me!

  • Reply
    Mom of the Moment
    July 19, 2019 at 10:23 pm

    Great post! And you’re right, it is a highlight reel – love that analogy!

    • Reply
      365 days of wellbeing
      July 20, 2019 at 11:20 am

      Thank you for commenting. It’s so easy to forget that other people have real lives when all we see are curated images.

  • Reply
    July 20, 2019 at 11:04 am

    I won’t do social media on my phone when I’m with others, but if I’m struggling to stay I will sometimes to a mindless game to try and calm my anxiety enough to stay engaged.

    Podcasts, music, sound cancelling headphones in general make the world a much more accessible place for me, and social media helps me to have a social connection that I wouldn’t otherwise have, but I am becoming more mindful and turning off notifications and only engaging on my terms.

    I sometimes wonder if I’d be better off going back to the old days of using an MP3 player (or walkman) but then that’s yet another thing for me to carry around when I can access the same things on my phone.

    I think mindful use is key <3

    • Reply
      365 days of wellbeing
      July 20, 2019 at 11:27 am

      Thanks for commenting. I really like your phrasing about engaging on your terms. That’s exactly what I need to do. I get a lot from listening to podcasts, music and engaging with people through social media. I’d just started to get caught up with algorithms and I don’t think it was doing me any favours, which is why I’ve taken a step back and feel far happier about it.

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