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Rethink your relationship with your phone

Time Out! Let me ask you, do you know where it is? How close is it? At the moment what are you using it for? And how often are you on it? You know exactly what I am talking about. That thing glued to your hand, the thing giving you carpal tunnel in your fingers. It’s your smart phone.

If the next words out of your mouth are either fuck, ouch, oh my God, or you throw your phone onto the table and back away slowly because you think it has a listening device (it does) or a magnet attached to you, maybe it’s time to rethink your relationship with your phone.

Are you ready to get your life back?

In this post you will read facts, enthusiastic guidance, and a jaded, cynical, and concerned therapist’s view for our society and most importantly for your mental health.

This is not my manifesto. I did not write this on a typewriter. It’s more a suggestion to consider. Although, I can tell you if you change the way you engage with your phone – you will change your life forever.

First, let me paint the picture. Insert [tangent side story]

Steve Jobs Originally imagined the iPhone as mostly a phone. The base of the story of the first iPhone reveals that he was just trying to make a really cool phone. Jobs unveiled the iPhone in 2007, which was less than half-inch thick, had Internet capability, an MP3 player and a two megapixel digital camera.

Fast forward 14 years later, and we are looking for our freedom back.

I’ve had 31,536,000 seconds, 525,600 minutes, 8,760 hours, 365 days, 52 weeks, and 12 months, or 1 freeing year without a smart phone.

Freedom comes with commitment. Healing comes with courage. And self-compassion comes from being honest with yourself.

Time Out! Quick Public Service Announcement

Check out these amazing stats below:

  • Most mobile phone users check their phones over 65 times daily.

  • Americans spend an average screen time of 6 hours on their mobile phones daily.

  • Currently, there are 295 million smartphone users in America.

  • Social media is responsible for 2 hours and 30 minutes of global Internet time spent online by an average user daily.

  • 15% of millennials spend over 12 hours on their phones daily.

  • Baby Boomers spend an estimated 6 hours using their phones.

  • Millennials spend a solid 2 hours texting every day. AND THAT’S NOT THE WAITING TIME BETWEEN MSGS. That may add another 3 hours.

My Personal Experience

I remember the first moments like it was yesterday. I was unconsciously grabbing my phone, feeling the “phantom buzz” and there I was watching myself – watch myself in an outer body experience. Lost in my phone like I was one of B.F Skinners rats. It was then I realized I was putting it down and then I picking it back up like a robot, finding myself without benefits, without new information, or even understanding the motive for what I was doing?

There I was, ready to do it! Fuck it. I was going to get rid of my “smartphone”, or what I like to call the “shock collar”. One year ago last week I walked into my phone provider and said can you cancel my phone. I would like to get rid of my smart phone for good. After the shock and confusion from the employee and the first few days of my own acclimation without the phone. What has unfolded in this process has been nothing more then a combination of simple recognitions of the obvious, benefits beyond my wildest imaginations, a deeper appreciation for life, a more profound professional relationship with my clients, and most importantly being present for my wife and three children.

I will not lie; it also brings a sense of isolation, weird questions from people (like are going to use a rotary phone? Or how are you going to keep up?) Some insecurity pops up, loneliness and a deep sense that you may be crazy is often lingering. I shit you not, you question your motives, you consider backpedaling into what I have coined “phone disassociation”. Yet, with all those internal and external questions at the end of it all I have found a profound sense of peace and deeper connection in my life.

Here are some (but not all) of the benefits of reclaiming my life by dropping the f*&King phone.

The following are some details of my personal experience.

· I have more time: (Lower leisure activities, high leisure activities). Having more time also increases my productivity. I am busier than ever before, I have time to regularly engage with my hobbies, do all of my writing, and made more time to be engaging with my wife and children. I don’t waste my time on Doom Scrolling or watching people brag about what they ate for lunch on social media, YouTube videos or Instagram anymore. Take a look at the hours not minutes you spend on your device. Can you try to drop it by 50 percent?

· I live in the moment: When living without a smartphone, you can’t check your notifications, post Instagram pictures or text to someone. When you are with family, you are 100% with them, with no distractions. It is by far the most wonderful chance to see who you really are and how aware you really can be. When you go to an event, you enjoy it rather than take pictures/videos of it. It is a much more valuable experience. When is the last time you said, “I need to take a photo of this.” Can you try to just experience it?

· I focus on my body: When I have a free moment, I don’t turn to my phone anymore. I have found new ways of spending my time. Quick 3-minute yoga, or a 15-minute morning walk allows me to be closer with myself. Walking or stretching helps me to clarify my thoughts, solve problems that I have, or relax my mind. By engaging in my body regularly it adds to releasing my worry. Next time you get the tinge to pick your phone up to see the same news, sit-down and stretch you legs or do 10 push-ups instead.

· I’m less nervous: As I have more time for meaningful activities and didn’t have to check my phone every other minute, I feel less anxious. This comes over time. At first you feel crazy as fuck and lonely due to desensitizing yourself and learning how to be away from the phone. I’ve even had the phantom rings or vibrations. That’s anxiety knocking at your door. Next time you go to the store, try to leave the phone in your car.

· I interact more consciously: You have a conscious purpose for reaching out to someone. It’s far less often, yet with significantly more substance. From clients, to my father, I initially had a significant amount of push back from everyone. Yet when I reach out or ask to connect or someone reaches out to me, I am present, focused and full of curiosity for what they are up to. I learned texting was just random filler without much connecting substance. And the tone in texting was always misunderstood. When you are inclined to text someone, try calling him or her or reach out and ask for a phone call. Challenge yourself to consciously connect.

· I’ve gained patience: What do you do when standing in a line? Waiting for a bus? Sitting in a traffic jam? Most of the people are looking at their phones. They can’t have a moment of doing nothing in their lives. Doing nothing in these situations actually trains your patience. Consider next time you are in a line at the grocery store – rather than doom scroll… try to just be with your breath.

Time Out! Public Service Announcement

Fact: Did you know that research proves people will take an electric shock to their body before they’re asked to drop their phone or sit in a room with nothing to do?

Enjoy this topic? I’m hosting a digital detox therapy group to discuss practical ways to finding freedom without your smart phone. You can email me at to discuss your interest.

Dr. Ryan Westrum is a clinical psychologist that supports people with detoxing from digital and addiction to the Internet


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