How our applications are presented on the screen can induce temptation. Certain apps are more addictive than others. Identify your most addictive apps and place them on a screen that is not immediately visible when you unlock your phone. Or take it a step further and delete them, if you are feeling brave enough.
Besides providing gentle reminders, smartphone notifications are designed to achieve something else that is rarely spoken about. Notifications activate our dopamine trails. They remind the brain that ‘Application A’ is fun and exciting and therefore you should return to it, right now. Disable notifications and the temptation will gradually subside.
Be very careful with video streaming
Video streaming platforms can provide some of the most powerful dopamine trails. Millions of visual experiences at the click of the bottom. The brain is completely spoilt for choice. Once a video has been streamed, you’ll be presented with a new list of recommendations, based on historical viewing patterns. It’s not difficult to see how this continuous stream of content creates an addictive dopamine loop that is incredibly difficult to escape from.
I would say video streaming addictions are the hardest to overcome. But stick with it. Maybe tip 5 will help.
Moderate your time
Then comes the final tip: moderation. Cutting smartphones out of our lives completely would be counterproductive. Virtually disconnecting ourselves from society would be counterproductive. But moderation could be the way to strike a balance between indulgence and overindulgence.
Set yourself time limits, have no phone zones in the house, perhaps set a streaming freeze for 1 hour before bedtime. How can you moderate the time spent on your smartphone? Think about it and don’t be afraid to get creative.
By staying in control of your phone usage and keeping it within a set of pre-defined boundaries, you send out a very clear message to your brain – “I’m in charge!” Your brain will begin to realise that its smartphone dopamine trails are no longer effective, and will turn to more natural experiences to feel fulfilled. Maybe you’ll start learning to play that musical instrument that’s been gathering dust, or train for that marathon you’ve been putting off for years. Don’t be surprised if old skills and hobbies resurface again.
There is a concept within Eastern religions and cultures known as Brahmacharya. Despite a widely adopted (and possibly erroneous) western perspective that Brahmacharya means only to be celibate, its definition expands much wider and does not need to include celibacy for ordinary lay people. Brahmacharya is the complete devotion to aligning with the true self by moderating the human senses. Sensory experiences are believed to keep us trapped within the bounds of Maya (illusion and ignorance) if we become attached to them. It is believed that one who practices Brahmacharya masters the self and transmutes sensory habits to attain inner peace.
Cutting out your smartphone addiction could inadvertently turn you into a Brahmachari – the complete master of self.