7 Ways to Take Back Your Screen-filled Life
Have you used your phone's screen time tracker to see how much time you spend looking at your phone? Or even disabled the tracker because you were shocked at how much time you actually spend on it? And that's just your phone.
It's not just kids and teens who get grumpy and restless when they're not on their consoles, computers, tablets, TVs, or phones. Yes, it can be YOU, too. Too much screen time can affect mood stability, personal social connection (translation: IRL, F2F), sleep, and other things that you might be noticing. Nobody (that I know of, anyway) is telling you to throw your phone out the window, because that would be just like the proverbial "throwing the baby out with the bathwater" - technology tools are useful, fun, and can offer different kinds of social connection. But if you find yourself wanting to disconnect more and don't know where to start...
Do "one thing mindfully. Dialectic Behavioral Therapy (DBT) has a mindfulness tool called "one thing mindfully. In this case, applying it would mean that you just do one thing online at a time - or not be online and do one thing at a time. It's the opposite of multitasking, which is overrated and can contribute to shortening your attention span. Doing one thing at a time is a mindfulness tool, and mindfulness helps with mood, making choices, and managing symptoms.
Balance. For every 2-3 hours of movie, shows, TikTok, etc that you watch, do at least 1 hour of something off-screen: talk, read, cook, bike, run, crochet, paint, puzzle, hike, pull weeds, build something.
Use a filter. No, not the kind you use on Instagram and Snapchat. Self-filter your content, if you're trying to cut down. For example, if you feel you watch too many things that waste time or add little-to-no value to your life, make a deal that you'll only watch positive or educational shows on Netflix or YouTube.
Titrate. Sometimes, you need to quit something but not cold-turkey. Titrating is making a plan to taper down on something you're taking in or doing too much. For example, set a goal on your phone of what you want that screentime report to be. Write it on the calendar. Create "phase 1, phase 2," and so on, if needed. If you're a tiptoe-into-the-pool sort, rather than a diver-in, then this is your strategy.
Schedule. One of the strategies I teach people who worry too much is to try worry scheduling - you create times in your schedule in which worrying is contained, and outside of those hours, you engage in something to redirect or distract you from worrying. You can do the same for screentime. The trick is to have a plan of action, even a list of activities, you can do so you don't need to come up with something on the fly.
Reward yourself. If you have a job, you don't work for free, do you? Then why give yourself a job in your personal life that's hard but has no benefits or paycheck. Build in rewards to any of the above plans for your hard work in trying to increase quality time: go thrift shopping, make cookies, buy a special bottle of wine (or kombucha, or Martinelli's), give yourself a ticket out of a chore, make a deal with someone else (invested in you cutting down on screentime) that you can do it, and help them reward you by losing and (for example) doing the dishes for you. Just take care that you're not trading one "addiction" for another.
Use it more wisely. You might find you can't cut down that much, or don't need or want to, but maybe you can use it more to your benefit. Writer your thoughts about the movie you watched, start a discussion with your partner/roommate/child/parent/friend, join a Meetup group related to what you're interested in so you can deepen its impact on your life. Use YouTube to learn a language or fix the radiator or cook a new dish. Let the content that draws you in be something that connects to the rest of your life, which is always right around you, no matter where you are or what blue-lit screen you're looking at.