7 tips on how to break cellphone addiction

Jim Gustke profile image June 6, 2023 | 3 min read

Cellphone overuse, especially when it comes to social media, is getting a lot of news coverage lately, and rightly so. We’ve learned that too much of a good thing can harm both our physical and mental health. While smartphones entertain and delight us, they can also distract us, raise our anxiety levels and be a time-suck.

So how do we move from identifying the problems to solving them? Here are seven ways to rein in those powerful beasts and show them who’s in control:

1. Put yourself on a cellphone diet.

Limit the times you check your email, news feeds, social apps to specific periods during the day—and do your best to adhere to those times.

Some find value in phone fasts where they totally abstain from using their cellphone for one day each week. If that’s too big a step, start out by placing your phone in another room when you are working, dining with the family or going to bed.

2. Turn your phone off when socializing in person.

Give your friends special attention by focusing on the conversation and not the buzz of your phone. After all the texts it took to set the date, you all deserve some uninterrupted time to catch up and enjoy each other’s company.

If turning off your phone is too scary, simply put your phone on silent mode and hide it in your pocket or purse.

3. Set an example.

How many times have you been informed by a spouse or roommate that your cellphone just chirped or lit up? Instead of dashing to see what’s happening, just shrug and say you will check when you have time. Show that you don’t have to drop everything to respond to a tool that is supposed to help you, not turn you into a Pavlovian dog.

4. Control your phone’s notifications.

More is not necessarily better. Especially when it comes to alerts that ping or pop up on your phone screen. Do you really need to know every time you get a new email or text message with a 20 percent discount at your local store? Enough is enough—just turn off all notifications.

If you have a bad case of FOMO (fear of missing out), you can choose which apps you still want to give immediate notifications and which ones are fine to get a one-a-day summary. Go to Settings and configure when and how you want to be alerted to various types of messages.

5. Let your smartphone help you.

Apple and Android phones have built-in systems that can help you break your dependence on your mobile phone.

Maybe all you need is a way to track the number of minutes you spend in each app to realize you need to put yourself in a digital time-out. Use your phone’s settings to impose cut-offs that will prevent you from accessing certain apps when you’ve reached your limit.

6. Give yourself and your mobile phone a proper night’s rest.

Being connected 24/7 is exhausting. So, put your mobile phone on a do-not-disturb or sleep mode when you get ready for bed. You can customize do-not-disturb so that calls from specific people will still ring through.

Another restful tip is to charge your phone anywhere other than your bedroom. Of course, you might have to spring for an old-school alarm clock to wake you up, but the investment will be worth a good night’s sleep.

7. Spread the word that you’re trying to detox from your smartphone.

If you’re in the habit of promptly replying to your friends and family, give them a heads-up that you may not be as quick to respond as usual. Tell them to ring you on your home phone in an emergency. More than likely, they’ll understand and respect your need to disconnect.

Don’t have a home phone?

Check out the Ooma home phone. The Ooma Basic phone service plan is free—you only pay taxes and fees, which are typically less than $10 month. Get an estimate for your ZIP code.