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How to Slowly Wean Yourself Off Your Smartphone

Trouble Sleeping? Your TV, Computer or Phone May Be the CauseCell phone addiction may not be formally recognized, but for many people the thought of going somewhere without their phone is inconceivable at best. It can cause a lot of anxiety, stress and worry. As we become more and more dependent on cell phones to connect with others, organize our time, and track down information, it can seem impossible to cope without it.

For many people, looking at their phone obsessively has become a new way of navigating the social complexities of modern life. Some might find that it relieves psychological distress. Others use it as a way of avoiding uncomfortable situations, as we pick up our phone to avoid unwanted attention or simply to look busy when we’re standing in a line. Social media is a way of meeting potential partners, a way of getting constant validation as we share information and salivate at the number of “likes” we receive.

Staying hyper-connected may feel good in the moment, but it can interfere long-term with your engagement in real relationships and experiences. It can even cause aches and pains, affect your mental and physical health, and interfere with sleep. It can even lead to internet addiction, if you are constantly online and unable to switch off.

So what should you do when you want to disconnect from your cell phone and find it difficult? Try the tips below, and see if it makes any difference. You can try incorporating one method at a time at first, and take it from there; otherwise it may seem too overwhelming of a task.

Choose Real Experiences Over Virtual Ones

Make it a conscious choice to have real rather than virtual experiences. Instead of checking the internet for information, head to your local library and pick up a book. Or get comfortable with not knowing the answer right away; maybe it will come to you later. Instead of playing video games, join a team or develop a hobby with others. Get out and see a concert, rather than viewing everything online and zoning out on YouTube.

You may like the simplicity, efficiency, and practicality of doing everything from your cell phone, but this won’t provide you with the best or most meaningful experiences. Changing things up for the better will improve your physical and mental health, and reduce addictive patterns of behavior. If you do, you might just find the real world is more dynamic, multi-faceted and enjoyable than the virtual world.

Savor the Empty Spaces in Your Day

One of the reasons we become dependent on our phones is because it is so easy to take them out to fill empty space in our day. People might get uneasy with the feeling of not being busy. An unfortunate consequence of this is that it can feel like a waste of time whenever you aren’t multitasking. Yet the empty spaces are important for being comfortable with yourself, and the process of just being, which is an important part of mental wellness. Practicing mindfulness can help, as well as becoming more self-aware and reflective.

Set Your Own Limitations

Instead of automatically thinking your should have your cell phone nearby at all times, set limits around when you will or will not look at it. Deliberately leave it out of reach and out of sight when you would really and truly rather focus on some other part of your experience. Returning calls and replying to emails, unless it’s an emergency, can surely wait.

Meet Face to Face

Replace your phone with face to face communication. Whether for business or pleasure, arrange to meet in person, rather than relying on the ease of texting or talking on the phone. If you have something to tell someone in person, resist texting, or posting your news on social media. Doing this will prevent your verbal and social skills from deteriorating through overuse of texting, which is a big problem for people with computer addiction.

Make the Bedroom a Place for Sleep and Sex Only

A central component of good sleep habits, keeping your bedroom for sleeping and sex only, and leaving your cell phone in another room of the house will not only improve your sleep quality, it will reduce the likelihood that texting and phoning will encroach on your personal time.

These method(s) might not be easy to incorporate at first, but it becomes much easier with an I don’t vs. I can’t philosophy. For example, you might consider saying I don’t look at my cell phone more than once every hour, vs. I can’t. I don’t being more resolute, firm and definitive than I can’t. The trick is to find out what works the best for you, and stick with that, much like an exercise regimen.

Another tactic to employ might be to replace your bad habit with a good habit, so you become engrossed in something healthy and beneficial. For example, not checking your phone obsessively before bed, and instead replacing that with brushing and flossing your teeth — a healthy habit. By putting your phone down, or at the very least, placing some restrictions on it, in time you might find that you actually enjoy life more, and as a result become grateful and appreciative of the little things in life you missed out on before.

How to Slowly Wean Yourself Off Your Smartphone

Emily Waters

Emily Waters earned her Master's degree in industrial psychology with an emphasis in human relations. She possesses keen insight into the field of applied psychology, organizational development, motivation, and stress, the latter of which is ubiquitous in the workplace environment and in one’s personal life. One of her academic passions is the understanding of human nature and illness as it pertains to the mind and body. Prior to obtaining her degree, she worked in both the corporate and nonprofit sectors. Presently, she teaches a variety of psychology courses both in public and private universities.

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APA Reference
Waters, E. (2018). How to Slowly Wean Yourself Off Your Smartphone. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 25, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 6 Apr 2018)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.