8 ways to unplug and stop checking your smartphone today
To celebrate National Unplugging Day 2016 this week, we’ve decided to help you turn off the tech and remember what it's like to not check your smartphone every few seconds.
Of course, by virtue of reading this article in the first place, you’re clearly not unplugged. But stay for a few minutes more to read these tips, and you'll be inspired to switch off completely.
And with a recent study by the University of Virginia finding that one in 10 of us check our smartphones during sex, there's really no better time to give yourself a digital detox.
1. Turn your phone off
Simple and effective advice but damned hard to put into practice. So if it's too difficult or impractical to spend a day sans smartphone, try putting it on silent or turning off notifications - apart from phone calls. Some phones have the option to be on silent unless someone calls repeatedly, suggesting something urgent.
Other options can be to turn your phone upside down, so the screen isn't constantly flashing and catching the corner of your eye. Even not looking at it directly can be helpful and relaxing.
2. Leave tech behind
For some, this may involve a weekend break in a quiet WiFi-free village. For the rest of us, it's important to create that same distance from our technology, even at home.
Physically moving away from your computer, or putting your phone in another room, stops you from being distracted by the tech in front of you. It may loosen the urge to send unnecessary messages, or scroll mindlessly through social media feeds.
3. Stop checking
If you really want to, you can go a day without snooping at what other people are doing on social media and reading the latest Brexit news. If you desperately want to know? Buy the Sunday newspaper. If you need to check a map route, dig out the A-Z and enjoy the novelty of planning your journey the old-fashioned way (borderline hipster). If you need to Google a pointless fact to win an argument? Put a pound on it and check whether you've won the bet tomorrow.
4. Stop checking at night
Not only does this disrupt your sleep pattern and cause temporary 'blindness' in extreme cases but it can also be detrimental to other people, too. Friends and co-workers can find it intimidating to receive late night messages or emails...and you risk waking them up. Instead, make time to check your phone every evening - long before you start your 'bedtime routine' and set a time limit. Then put your phone on flight mode, or even better leave it outside the bedroom and buy an alarm clock.
5. Give yourself breaks
If you really can’t spend an entire day without your phone glued to your side, then at least give yourself limited tech time. This can be 10 minutes in the middle of the day, or if necessary, a few minutes every couple of hours. Try and discipline yourself - just so you know that you can.
6. But not bathroom breaks
If there's one place you shouldn't take your phone, it's the loo. Yet, according to a US study from a couple of years ago (the delightfully named 'IT in the toilet'), 75 per cent of people use their devices in the lavatory.
And it's not just our wellbeing that it could be impacting - a UK study by scientists from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Queen Mary University in London, found that one in six mobile phones is contaminated with E. coli bacteria. Avoid.
7. Find alternatives
You don’t need to stay in and watch the entire of Orange is the New Black season 4. If it’s too grey for outdoor activities, read a book or magazine. Bake something. Frame a picture - or do another household job you've been putting off. Invite a friend for coffee and talk face-to-face. Be retro and write someone a postcard, instead of a throwaway text or email. When there’s no tech in your life, you’ll be surprised by how much you can get done.
8. Get natural highs
Many of us are addicted to technology because of the dopamine rush it gives us. ‘Likes’ on Facebook, the excitement of a celebrity retweeting you, or the joy of a really great Instagram filter, all produce chemical reactions in our brains.
The key to breaking this addiction is to find natural highs elsewhere. This means doing things that make you equally happy. Try going for a run to get the endorphins going or eat enough chocolate to give you a sugar rush. We didn't say you needed to be super healthy - just to step away from the screen for a bit.