I can’t stop checking my phone. What can I do to lessen its grip on me?
Glued to your phone? Let Science Focus prise you from its techno grip and lessen its control over you.
There are some simple practical steps you can take: switch off as many automatic notifications as you can (the less your phone is pinging and vibrating in your pocket, the less inclined you’ll be to check it), and set yourself some boundaries, such as not taking your phone in the bedroom or having it to hand at mealtimes.
Banning yourself from checking your phone altogether is unlikely to work long-term. Instead, get more control by planning specified times when you’re allowed to indulge in some news browsing or social media bingeing.
At a deeper level, consider the psychological need(s) that your phone-checking is satisfying. As with beating any unwelcome habit, you’re more likely to succeed if you can replace the habit with a healthier alternative. For instance, if boredom is the issue, consider carrying an entertaining book or magazine that you can glance at instead.
Alternatively, perhaps you’re really craving more social interaction – if so, consider finding ways to increase your opportunities for more face-to-face contact, such as by joining a sports club or volunteering for charity.
Dr Christian Jarrett is a cognitive neuroscientist, science writer and author. He is the Deputy Editor of Psyche, the sister magazine to Aeon that illuminates the human condition through psychology, philosophy and the arts. Jarrett also created the British Psychological Society's Research Digest blog and was the first ever staff journalist on the Society's magazine, The Psychologist. He is author of Great Myths of The Brain and Be Who You Want: Unlocking the Science of Personality Change.