How to use your phone more mindfully

Jo Hooper

At the time of this being published, I am in the country of Georgia, experiencing an enforced digital detox as my phone will only work when on wifi, which I won’t get very often!

So it seemed an apt time to share my advice on how to use your phone in a way that can support your mental health. 

Aren’t we always told that our phones/social media are bad for our minds?

There is a lot of chat around this, but realistically cutting technology, or our phones out of our lives just isn’t going to work. 

However, I do find technology bring too much mental stimulation into my life, so I tried and tested ways to use my phone in a way that supports my mental health, rather than detracts from it.

These are all simple things that I’ve tried myself and found helpful, I hope they’re also helpful for you. 

Please do share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

Tips from a mad mind

  • Go cold turkey: As a first step, try getting rid of all social media apps, or apps that but into your life. I deleted all social media apps, my email app, news apps and more. Try doing this on holiday, or when you’re taking time away from work as a first step so it doesn’t feel as odd. I tried it while I was signed off work.
  • Test what works for you: While you’re app-free, consider what you’re missing and why you’re missing it. Does not reading the news each day make you feel a bit cut off? Do you miss connecting with people on Instagram? Try and watch out for what is just habit and what is genuine enjoyment that you’re missing.
  • Only keep what suits you: Simple, right? If you didn’t miss Facebook, or find Twitter over-stimulating, don’t re-download them. 
  • Start again: Once I’d gone cold turkey, I decided to re-download Twitter, but to start again with a new account and start curating who I followed from scratch. After having a social media account for a few years, it can seem pretty overwhelming to start culling who you follow, and the task in itself can be anxiety inducing, so I would recommend just starting again. Now I follow a more concise group of people and I find Twitter a much more positive place.

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  • Curate your feed: If you don’t want to start again, make free use of the unfollow button. Instagram gives you lots of ways to filter the content you see. In your explore page, if you see an image that’s triggering, click on it and hit the three dots in the top right – you can select to ‘see fewer images like this,’ which the algorithm will act on straight away. You can also mute people. On Twitter, I mute certain words (Boris Johnson, Brexit for example!) and accounts – this means I don’t see strings of terse conversations that I know will get my anxiety rising while I’m engaging on there.
  • Decide WHY you’re using them: I have some pretty clear boundaries with social media. I only use Twitter and LinkedIN for work and most of my posts are planned and scheduled in advance. This means I don’t need to check in there every day, as I know my proactive content is done, I just check in and engage when I want to. Instagram is different for me and is more of a mix of work and personal use. I try not to use Instagram at all on Saturdays and only in the evening on Sunday, these boundaries work for me.
  • Put some physical space between you and your apps: Put all of your ‘work’ apps (for me, that’s email, Twitter, Hootsuite, Linked In) into a collection on your phone and move it at least two empty home screens across from any other app. This way, you have to actively swipe a few times to reach them – it will cut down on the mindless checking.
  • Turn off those red dots: This one has had the biggest positive impact for me and if you try nothing else, please try this one. TURN OFF ALL NOTIFICATIONS. This means that you will only look at those apps when you want to, not when pushed to by a red dot with a number in it springing up in front of you or a ping from your phone. This has massively reduced my screen time, but most positively, my sense of focus, concentration and calm.

Please let me know how you get on with any of these tips! 

Want some support with your comms around World Mental Health Awareness Day in October? I’d love to help you make your activity really impactful. Please get in touch if I can help.

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