The Art of Digital Minimalism
Recognizing an unhealthy relationship with your phone is the most important step
It’s the 21st Century things have never been easier.
The rise in accessible technology brings a tidal wave of opportunities. You don’t need the most advanced equipment, a degree, or a fancy minimalist set up in order to sculpt a remarkable life.
With just the iPhone in your pocket and two thumbs, you can create an entire business, start a meaningful cause, or discover a passion.
There are only two requirements; time and discipline.
Most have these incredibly powerful tools ready to go at their fingertips. But few recognize how their relationship with technology is unhealthy. Most phones do not truly enhance their life, in fact, many people wish they were a little less involved with their phone.
Poor use of technology will waste time and damage your wellbeing.
If you’re unsure how to gauge your current relationship with your phone, answer the following questions:
- Do you feel reluctant to be without your phone for even a short time?
- Do you find yourself mindlessly checking your phone many times a day, even when you know there is likely nothing new or important to see?
- Do you wish you could be a little less involved with your phone?
- Do you check your phone while driving?
If you found yourself saying yes to more than one of the above questions, I’m sorry to break it to you. You use your phone too much.
Having the majority of sensation derived from an artificial source is a fairly new phenomenon. Without deliberately sounding too conspiracist, we are in a sense a Guinee pig generation.
The use of mobile phones has far outpaced the available research on the subject, researchers are just at the beginning stages of understanding the potential short term and long-term effects of smartphones.
The first iPhone was only released in 2007 — but Apple is working at ferocious speeds with new features being added yearly to expand upon their functionalities.
We know from Psychology research our brains are capable of re-wiring themselves according to the tasks we demand of them. More specifically known as neuroplasticity.
Figures show people can spend on average up to 4 hours per day on their phones. By engaging in any activity for that long, it is more than likely you’re changing your brain. This could involve positive changes, but research has already revealed significant negative effects.
For example, a recent study found chemical imbalances in the brain chemistry of those who are addicted to their phones compared to a control group. Another study found that cognitive capacity was severely reduced whenever a smartphone was within reach, even when it was off! From an anecdotal standpoint, I notice how difficult it can be to maintain attention for cognitively demanding tasks, such as reading after spending large chunks of my time on digital media.
I don’t know about you, but this scares me. More so than all the speculation surrounding 5G government space laser beams brainwashing us, isn’t the real danger already here?
Again, I’m not anti-technology. I love technology. But technology becomes a serious problem when they’re no longer used as tools and people become dependent upon them.
So, what can we do?
Firstly, recognizing you have an unhealthy relationship with your phone is the most important step. Dependence is something that can be challenged, and with time change will come.
For now, stop telling people “I’m going to use my phone less” and aim to be more intentional.
Whereas we can’t immediately undo the Pavlovian conditioning. You can begin by removing unnecessary triggers for the habit and become more conscious by questioning the intention behind each compulsive phone grab.
Try to identify the elements of your phone which are useful and enjoyable, and then figure out what makes you feel like you are wasting life?
Personally, my primary sources of joy involve writing, exercise, and reading.
And for the later, this involves any time spent browsing through social media. I felt passionate enough about this topic to dedicate an entire article to social media, listing my top 8 reasons why you should delete your social media account today! If you’re interested, you can find it here.
But this is just my interpretation, social media might be the highlight of your day- who am I to judge you? The point is to figure out what’s meaningful to you then cut out all the excess noise. Remember you’re not missing out, the purpose of doing this exercise is to feel good.
Go experiment, you may have to re-install a few apps after regretting your initial decisions, that’s ok we’re aiming at making progress, not perfection. The goal is to become more conscious of your behavior to become a digital minimalist.
I thought it would also be helpful to include a few general tips to help you immediately cut down unnecessary phone use.
Turn off your notifications.
Instead of reacting to people all day long, be proactive, and set up a time window in which you can check email and reply to texts. You can even remove the little red number icon, like magic you’ve shut down two key components in our habitual checking. If there is much less stimulus to draw you in, you are unlikely to become a victim to unintentional scrolling.
I would also suggest you stop wrestling with autocorrect and just call people, the back and forth nature of texting can amount to large periods of time throughout the course of a day whereas a single phone call will get you straight to the point, just make sure you have your exit plan ready…
Keep the first and last hour of the day phone free.
Construct your environment in a way that is conducive to the goal you have. For example, don’t sleep with your phone next to your bed, the blue light emitted from your phone screen can actually modify your sleep cycle, delaying the production of melatonin and reducing the period of REM sleep (Goodbye sweet dreams!).
The quality of your sleep, mood, and focus will likely increase as a result of this simple trick.
With the removal of a bad habit, you could even replace it with a beneficial one. Get your dusty books off the bookshelf, and set up a small lamp.
You can even buy a manual alarm clock or sleep in a different room from your phone. This is not some sadist form of self- deprivation. You are making more time for the things that are beneficial to you and bringing more attention to that which adds value to your life.
And It doesn’t always work exactly as planned but more than often you’ll start and finish the day with something beneficial to your health.
And finally, when you’re going into Social situations, another rule I implement is to make this phone-free time. Don’t bring your phone. Leave it in your car, in a bag out of sight- a phone can severely take away from your ability to be present and really connect with others.
I hope these techniques help you live a more intentional lifestyle. On a final note, phones are not evil devices out to destroy your brain. But, they’re extremely powerful tools. Which we may not have yet cultivated the discipline to use appropriately.
Nevertheless- technology isn’t going anywhere and you can’t stop the speed of development all you can do is focus on how you manage your own device time and aim to achieve a healthy balanced relationship.
When was the last time you spent a week without your phone? A day? An hour? My bet is it was difficult to remember a time.
I would regard myself as a slight extremist, I love a challenge — if, like me, you’re a maniac, why not see how long you can without our phone. In this time, you can explore alternative ways of having fun. This is a great way to show you exactly how you could be better spending your time.