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Why you should switch off that smartphone

Why you should switch off that smartphone and be more digitally mindful.

Look around you on a train, in a queue or in a café and chances are most people are glued to their smartphones. They’re often the first thing we check when we wake up on a morning and the last thing we look at before going to sleep. Whether you’re obsessed by checking emails, distracted by Facebook and Twitter or lose hours to Instagram and Pinterest, it’s clear we live in a society that’s constantly connected and literally never switches off.

Our reliance on smartphones has hit the headlines recently with big names speaking out about their distracting and addictive nature. Jennifer Lawrence chastised a reporter for using his mobile at the Golden Globes, Andy Murray screamed at someone to get off their phone during his game in the fourth round of the Australian Open and Eddie Redmayne recently revealed he’d ditched his iPhone for an analogue phone in a bid to try to ‘live in the moment’. Half of us admit to being hooked on our mobiles and on average we check them 150 times a day. There’s even a term for it – ‘nomophobic’ which is the irrational fear of being without your mobile phone or being unable to use it.

Research shows that Brits have become so tied to their phones that the extra work they perform outside the office now cancels out their entire annual leave. Ironically a device designed to liberate and make life easier is in fact having an increasingly negative impact on wellbeing, stress levels and productivity as well as the quality and length of our sleep.

It’s a problem PR and marketing consultant Laura Willis, 39, knows only too well. Suffering from anxiety and close to burnout from constantly being online and checking work emails, she’s now set up a wellbeing company called Shine to help people and businesses develop a healthier relationship with technology.

‘There’s no denying smartphones are amazing,’ she says. ‘They enable us to work from the beach, Skype our families on the other side of the world and carry a whole encyclopaedia in our pockets. But no one gave us any rules. We’re not taking breaks, we’re constantly distracted and this is having a negative impact on all aspects of our lives and relationships.
‘Shunning technology in a digital world isn’t the answer, instead people need guidance to help manage their relationships with mobile devices so they enhance rather than control their lives.

‘It’s no coincidence that the increase in mindfulness in recent years runs parallel with the rise in smartphone use. As people become more distracted day-to-day they’re craving time out and a way to gain clarity and focus.

‘I’m not anti-tech, I’m just encouraging people to use it in a more mindful way.’
Laura’s tips on how to be more digitally mindful

1. Buy an alarm clock
Don’t use your phone as an alarm otherwise it’s the first thing you see on a morning and the temptation to check it is too great. I know people who check their work emails or log onto Facebook before they’ve even got out of bed or brushed their teeth. Banish your phone from the bedroom and set yourself rules – whether that’s not checking work emails until you’re on the train or not looking at Facebook until lunchtime. Take back control of your morning and ease yourself into the day. Also wear a watch so that you’re not constantly looking at your phone to check the time.

2. Have designated online time.
Create certain time frames to be online. I only go into my email twice a day – an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon. I also have designated admin time when I can Google things, make bookings, pay bills etc. Outside of those times I write ideas and notes down on a pad that I carry with me. If you want to check Facebook or Twitter then do it but set yourself time limits and stick to them. You’ll soon find what works best for you.

3. Turn your phone off in the evening.
If you sit with your phone by your side, the temptation is to check it every few minutes and to be constantly online. I used to leave my mobile in another room but I found whenever I went into the room I would still check it. Now I turn it off and put it out of sight in a drawer or even in a sock. You can still turn it on and check it a couple of times but the temptation to be on it all night is so much less.

4. Turn off your alerts and use ‘flight mode’.
If you’re signed up to alerts from things like Facebook and Twitter then your phone will be beeping constantly all day. The temptation will be too great to check it and also it will constantly disrupt your work and the flow of your day. If you need something more drastic then remove certain apps from your phone or use the ‘flight mode’ to cut out Wi-Fi completely and stop texts and calls coming through.

5. Reclaim your free time
If you’re sat on a bus or waiting for an appointment, the first thing most of us do is reach for our phones. It’s an automatic response whenever we’re bored or have a spare five minutes however it means we very rarely have any true free time. Try and be mindful and break that habit. Instead of looking at your phone on your commute, read a book, look out of the window or just close your eyes and breathe. Even just giving yourself 30 seconds of head space can make a huge difference.

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