Skip navigation

How to break phone addiction? Here’s a digital detox you can actually do

If you find yourself checking your phone too often in a day or you’re starting to think of your notifications as more stressful interrupters than helpful reminders, it might be time to take a little digital detox. How to break phone addiction? Start by taking a serious look at how you use your phone, and start applying some principles of mindfulness to your phone use.

Ting Mobile is the phone provider that helps you use your phone less. On Ting, you only pay for the text, minutes and megabytes you actually use. When you use less, you pay less. See if Ting is right for you. We encourage you to use your phone less, and give you tips and tricks to do so, to help you save on your cell phone bill so you can spend on what you love.

Being mindful to conquer cell phone addiction: a technology detox

Being mindful or practicing mindfulness is all about being aware of what you’re doing in the moment. Let’s face it, most of us operate on auto-pilot most of the time, worrying about things in the past or future. We compulsively check our phones for messages when we don’t have any, we hear phantom vibrations from the other room and we scroll through Instagram instead of focusing on the here and now. It’s hard work to be mindful.

Our realistic digital detox doesn’t require you make the switch to a dumbphone (though, that’s always an option). All you need to undertake this detox is a willingness to use your phone less.

How to be mindful? Delete apps and curate notifications

Delete everything you don’t use on your phone on a daily basis. Yes, everything. In order to make your phone a true utility, you’ll want to remove every distraction. Food delivery apps, games, photo editors, multiple messaging services and more. All these extra apps only serve to make your digital life feel more complicated than it needs to be. Most of us spend a significant amount of time during the day on the computer, so get serious about what actually needs to be in your pocket all the time.

Everyone’s home screen is going to look different. Some of us need access to banking apps and some of us are content to deal with this on the computer only. Some of us have family abroad and need to use WhatsApp, while for others, iMessage really is enough.

Here’s a nice list to start with that doesn’t feel too difficult.

  • Your phone’s calling app and another calling app you can use over Wi-Fi to avoid getting charged for minutes (like FaceTime or Google Hangouts)
  • Your phone’s messaging app and another messenger app you can use over Wi-Fi to avoid getting charged for minutes (like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger)
  • One or two entertainment apps (like podcasts or music streaming)

You’ll notice we don’t have social media or games on this list. Again, think about how often you’re on the computer in a day. If you have a tablet at home, you can add your Instagram to that device to reduce scrolling mindlessly throughout the day. Your phone, ultimately, should be about staying in touch. It’s not meant to distract you from your day, so don’t allow it to.

You can apply some mindfulness to curating your apps and start self-monitoring. The next time your phone buzzes, take note of what is actually disturbing you. Disable notifications for everything other than the important stuff like calls and messages.

Create a “why/what/what” list on your homescreen

We got this next idea from Kevin Roose, who wrote about his experience doing a digital detox with Catherine Price, a science journalist and the author of How to Break Up With Your Phone. Grab a piece of paper or open a note on your phone and write down the following three questions:

What for?

Why now?

What else?

If you went with paper, snap a photo of those questions and set the image as your lock screen. If you went digital, screengrab that note and set it as your lock screen.

Now, every time you pick up your smartphone and your home screen lights up, you’ll be confronted with those three very important questions. This is a great way to get into mindfulness for beginners. When you pick up your phone, answer those questions. What are you going to do on your phone? Why are you going to do it now? Is there anything else you could be doing instead?

Eventually, you’ll do this so many times in a day (especially if you check your phone a lot) that you’ll start asking yourself those questions before you reach for your phone. That’s what mindfulness is. It’s not just doing the reflex behavior (picking up the phone), its being aware of why you’re doing the thing in the first place.

On silent, out of sight

Get your phone out of the bedroom, or at least off your nightstand. Studies have shown that refraining from phone use in the bedroom can improve happiness. Use your phone as an alarm to get up in the morning? Time to buy an alarm clock.

If you start your day scrolling in bed, you’ll find the withdrawal symptoms set in with this change. Try to set up a series of obstacles between you and your phone in the morning. You could have it in the kitchen, forcing you to get up and get ready for work before you even get your hands on your phone. And when you do, you’ll have to answer those three lock screen questions.

If you’re checking your phone 50, 70 or a hundred times a day, chances are you’re not missing out on any important emails, messages or calls. You’re checking for them. We recommend turning your phone on silent as much as possible. Set only the most crucial notifications to actually make a sound. That way, you can rest assured that you won’t miss the important stuff.

Healthy behaviors:  Pick up a non-digital activity

Remember the things you used to love doing before you got a smartphone? Like reading? Now that you’ve trimmed all those time wasters on your phone, it’s time to pick up a real-world activity. Maybe you’ve been meaning to get back on your bike for exercise or maybe you’ve been wanting to take up knitting. Whatever it is, do something that is completely unplugged. Your brain will thank you.

Mindfulness is all about slowing your brain down. Activities like hiking, playing an instrument for fun, reading a book, crafting and making something artistic can all help you disengage from your phone. Find an activity you can get lost in, and leave your phone behind on a walk or in another room at home while you paint.

Stick with it and enjoy the benefits of mindfulness

This is the hardest part. You’re going to have to stick with your digital detox. Try it for at least a month to see how it changes things like your attention span and anxiety levels. At the end of your month, you might opt to add back some apps, but we’d recommend staying away from the really extraneous stuff like games. You don’t want to slip back into old habits. Smartphones seem to be built to keep us coming back for more, and breaking a smartphone addiction, and sticking with it is no easy feat. That’s not to say it’s totally out of reach. We think with some changes to your mobile habits, and cultivating non-digital daily interests to engage with, you’ll be well on your way to using your phone more mindfully.

Ting can help

On Ting, when you use less you pay less. Keeping your bill low every month can feel like a kind of game. What’s more, when you don’t use data, you save even more. Trim all those distractions from your phone, and use your phone less when you’re away from Wi-Fi. If you’re serious about breaking a phone addiction, Ting might be the right provider for you.

See what you could save

See what you could save

Ting Mobile’s unique pay for what you use approach saves people a lot of money. See what you’d save.

Check Ting Rates