Imagine a day without your phone. . .
Does a quick hit of Instagram make the grocery store line bearable? Are you texting your friends more than you’re talking to them? If you’re panicked at the thought of a day without your phone, it might be time to set some boundaries with your internal phone checker.
When it comes to numbing behaviors, checking our phones might be one of the most insidious because it’s comprised of mostly good things, right? Our phones are the conduit by which we connect to the outside world. They help us work and stay connected with friends. And yet. . . our constant access to the outside world through this little portal can get extreme and keep us distracted. As innocent as it may seem, constant phone checking can keep us from cultivating qualities other parts of our souls need: awareness, connection, patience, and clarity, to name a few.
Here are 4 questions to ask yourself to see if you might be numbing yourself with your phone:
- Do you check your phone regularly without a good reason?
- Is your phone within reach at all times?
- Do you feel compelled to read or respond to text or email even when it’s not safe or untimely?
- Is your phone the first thing you pick up in the morning and the last thing you look at before going to sleep?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it’s worth taking a look at your phone habits and what function they’re serving. You may want to start setting some boundaries with your phone checking impulse.
I thought I was in pretty good shape with my phone, until I took a look at my Screen Time statistics. At first, a part of me felt proud. I’m hardly on my phone at all – well below average! And most of my time is spent on “reading & reference” – well that has to be good, right?! I’m educating myself.
But then one stat jumped out and stopped me in my tracks – the “Pickups” stat. And that’s when my pride got the fall.
I was picking up my phone on average 79 times a day! ?
So while I don’t spend a lot of time on my phone. . .apparently, I’m constantly checking it. (That’s a “yes” to questions 1 and 2 above.) What’s that about?
I decided to take a 1 day fast from my phone to get curious. I picked a day that I didn’t have to be on my phone for work and deleted my 2 social media apps so I wouldn’t even be tempted. (They’re simple to reinstall.)
Then I set a boundary with my internal “phone checker.” I set the phone in another room and away from reach. I reasoned with myself that if there was an emergency, that person would know to call (like in the old days). Then, I identified only 3 reasons to use my phone: 1.) to answer an incoming call, 2.) to call someone, or 3.) to listen to an audio book.
Here’s what I noticed:
I didn’t miss my social media apps. It was a relief not to see them. But I had to work to manage the impulse to check text and email – those were the hardest. When I saw that little red indicator that a text had arrived, the impulse to check was almost imperceptible. So I really had to pay attention. Then I worked through the Five Steps (see an example of how to apply the Five Steps here) with that part of me that felt so compelled to be “in the know.” I extended compassion toward that part of me, but held firm: You can read that text tomorrow. The world will not fall apart, nor likely that friendship.
When the day was over, I realized that this had been one of the most life-giving experiments on numbing behaviors I’ve completed so far. By the end of the day, my mind felt clear and rested. Setting boundaries with the compulsion to check my phone had freed up so much mental space.
I had discovered a surprisingly simple way to experience Sabbath rest and replenish my soul.
I’ve continued this practice of taking mini “phone-fasts” each week. And it’s helped me become more mindful of how I’m using it in general. As always, the goal isn’t self-deprivation. Instead, it’s to increase awareness, connection, and Spirit-led self leadership.
“The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places” – Psalm 16:6
What are your phone checking habits, and what are some ways you try to reign them in? Drop a comment if you’ve found something that works!