“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.” Matthew 7:12
We’ve all seen the statistics. Americans check their phones an average of 50-80 times each day, depending on their age, with 18-24 year olds in the lead. Although our phones are an amazing resource and catalyst for connection, they’ve also become our greatest distraction, keeping us from being present to the beauty, joy, and relationships right in front of us. Living without a cell phone isn’t a practical solution, but there are five times each day that you can ditch your phones and reap some pretty great benefits.
1. Upon Waking. When we keep our phones on our nightstands (or, even worse, in our beds), we make it nearly impossible to resist the temptation to look at them first thing when we wake up. In doing so, though, we sacrifice those precious first minutes of the day to the demands and distractions of the outside world.
According to this article, checking your phone first thing in the morning leads to these three negative effects:
- Increased stress and anxiety
- Hijacking of time and attention
- Priming the brain for distraction the rest of the day
Do yourself a favor and park your phone in another room at night. Choose to spend your first waking moments ordering your inner world by connecting with God, making your bed, and looking over your day in your planner (I’m using this one right now). Taking just 10 minutes to do these three things will give you a better perspective on the day than anything your phone has to offer.
2. During Meals. Mealtime is a wonderful opportunity to connect with your family and friends. Bringing your phone to the table, even if it is facing down, is a distraction–not only for you, but also for those sitting at the table with you. It says to them, “I am more important than you. When I ring or ping, what you have to say no longer matters.”
According to one study, “the mere presence of our phones nearby — even if they’re face-down, on silent, or in our bag or pocket — reduces our available cognitive capacity and functioning, even though we may feel like we’re fully focused and attentive.” Make a “No phones at the table” rule for your family and see how it transforms your mealtimes.
3. When Exercising. I admit, I do bring my phone on walks, but only to count my steps, keep track of the time, and take pictures of beautiful things along the way. Back in the day, I also used it at the gym as a way to incorporate worship into my workout. However, this 2017 study showed that using your phone while working out can lead to impaired balance and decreased intensity.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been to the gym and seen people spend more time looking for the perfect song to listen to than they did actually working out. Although the article does say listening to music can improve your workout, it also advises that you prepare your playlist ahead of time to avoid distraction.
4. During Family Time. Whether it’s movie night, game time, playing or having a campfire in the back yard, or some other activity, have everyone ditch their phones for that time and commit to being present with one another.
In a study conducted at the University of Virginia, the results found that, “people felt worse and less connected when they mixed face-to-face with digital socializing, compared to when they solely socialized in person. Our results suggest that digital socializing doesn’t add to, but in fact subtracts from, the psychological benefits of nondigital socializing.”
As with mealtimes, nothing feels worse than having someone choose their phone over your company. The same goes for time with friends. Take your group picture as soon as you all get together and then turn your phones off and enjoy each others’ company.
5. Before Bed. If you are having trouble sleeping, your phone may be the culprit. The blue light emitted from your phone disrupts your circadian rhythm, which means that your body has trouble telling the difference between night and day.
By choosing to turn off your phone (or laptop, TV, etc.) one hour before bedtime, you will not only benefit from a better night’s sleep, but you can use that time to develop a healthy before bed routine. This can include:
- Writing a line in your journal about the day, or jotting down something you’re grateful for;
- Reading your Bible and praying
- Getting ready for bed (i.e. brush teeth, shower/bathe, removing makeup)
- Spending time with your family (i.e. reading a book to your child, talking with your husband, tucking kids in for the night, etc.)
- Creating self-care rituals, like: enjoying a cup of herbal tea, reading a book or magazine, lighting a candle and listening to relaxing music, etc.)
- Planning for tomorrow
My challenge for you is to pick one of these times to ditch your phone each day this week, and see how it changes your interactions, productivity, or sleep habits.
In the comments below, share which one you’ll choose, or share another time of day you’ve chosen to set your phone aside to be fully present in your life. And, don’t forget to sign up to receive more helpful tips for how to make time for what matters most.