Here’s something Apple didn’t tell you when you bought your phone - every button, sound, light, ring, bing, message, and notification on it is meant to addict you to it. We rely on our phones for everything, often for good reason. Why wouldn’t you want to have a full GPS system (rather than print out Yahoo Map Directions), multiple social networks to connect with friends and family, and any of the other millions of apps available? Those little devices are responsible for so much of our attention.
But is giving it all of our attention really the best idea?
While I don’t necessarily agree with the “cell phones are ruining our ability to communicate” sensationalism, there is some merit to spending some quality time actually talking to the people you’re with (whether you know them, or not). Yes, I can manage to walk to the sidewalk without bumping into people and chat with someone new on a plane, but as I reflected the past couple weeks on how much I use my phone every day, I realized I am guilty of being slightly anti-social (at times).
My “No Cell Phone Challenge” involves specific times to put your phone down and engage. I like Instagram (and the subsequent endorphin rush of getting a “like”) just as much as the next person, but I’m going to try this with you (note: if you see me break one of these rules, call me out!).
In the Elevator
We have a tendency to bury our head in our phone every time we step into the elevator. I’m not sure why no one talks to each other, but it’s awkwardly quiet. We make sure our headphones are plugged in, our Snapchats have loaded, or just do anything at all to avoid eye contact. Fight the urge to make a comment about the weather, leave your phone in your pocket, and smile at those riding up with you.
During All Meals
“Breaking bread” is ceremonial among all cultures and a time to be social. We spend all kinds of money to have a wonderful dinner out with friends or a significant other, yet we’d probably get more talked about if we just all texted each other at the table. Our goal here is to engage with the people we chose to spend time with. Schedules are busy - don’t waste it. Plus, being mindful about the food we're eating (where it came from, how good it is, remembering what it tastes like…) helps us both appreciate it as well as slow down (helping to curb accidental over consumption). I would like to extend this part of the challenge to watching TV as well. Try reading a book, listening to a podcast, or chatting with your company if with people.
Just After Waking
The first moments after waking (in or out of bed) are crucial to how you start your day. If our goal is to be less reactive, meaning we are able to control our emotions and response to stressors through the day, it is important to filter the inputs we receive right away. Think back to the last time you immediately checked your email right after waking…if the email started a firestorm, reflect on how that made you feel. Your cortisol is high enough just after waking, don’t send it higher.
Try spending two minutes (under the covers) telling yourself three things you are grateful for. The goal here is to smile (not squint at your Twitter feed). This is part of having “the best day ever” - manage the information you consume, or it will direct your attention wherever it wants to take you (see “phone addiction” article).
Passenger in the Car
I am guilty of this, mainly because I hate driving. I bike everywhere in the city (thus avoiding all traffic woes), so usually find it a waste of time. My wonderful girlfriend is usually kind enough to take the wheel (except on long trips where I take over), so this one is something I’m working on.
Similar to eating a meal, this is time to chat with the driver. I also want to extend this challenge to taking a cab or Uber. People lead interesting lives - question them about it. Enjoy some good music and conversation; your email will still be there when you arrive.
One Weekend Morning
This challenge involves leaving your phone untouched until noon, either Saturday or Sunday. If you plan to wake up at 11:30am due to the previous night’s activities, please wait a few hours.
Be productive or relax, your choice, first thing in the morning. If someone emailed you at 6pm on Friday letting you know there is a firestorm in the office (that can’t be fixed until everyone gets in on Monday), it’ll surely occupy some headspace that should be reserved for that first, wonderful cup of Bulletproof coffee or a morning workout. Read the book you’ve been putting off all week. Take a walk outside with a friend, pet, or significant other. Prearrange to meet someone for brunch (and don’t check your phone during it!).
This has been one of my favorite challenges to tackle.
Seemingly self-explanatory, it’s still lost on almost everyone. In the most selfish manner of self-preservation, I ask you put your phone away while driving, mostly because I don’t want to punch my ticket getting run over by someone playing Pokemon Go in their SUV. You’ve seen the commercials (“the text can wait”); now do as they say. Make a driving playlist and jam out, but don’t pick up that phone. My life and your life may depend on it. Plus, your passenger (also participating in this challenge) is awaiting lovely conversation from you!
Alright Live Better team, there you have it. Six “no cell phone” challenges. If you’ve found another area of your life that you feel it’s been beneficial to ditch your phone for, please share it with me!