Disconnecting from our Phones, Reconnecting with Ourselves
March 4th 2022 was the National Day of Unplugging, a day that encourages us to take a 24-hour hiatus from phones and other screens. But could you or I stand an entire day away from our phones? And what’s more, why would we want to?
Most of us are aware that excessive screen time is correlated to increased risks of depression and anxiety, insomnia, migraines and other health conditions. But the fact is our screens are compelling. They draw us in asking us or even outright shouting at us with their alerts and reminders that we simply MUST take another look. And that look, of course, is rarely for just for a moment. Smartphones and the apps on them have been designed to be addictive by nature. The continuous scroll, the sounds of pinging, the wonder about what our friend may have posted, all cause our brains to release dopamine, the chemical of anticipated reward.
Many of us would agree that our relationship to phones is at least a somewhat addictive one. And while smartphone addiction is not a diagnosable psychiatric condition, it bears a resemblance emotionally to other addictions. Put simply, addictions of any kind serve to numb the more painful feelings of being human, like boredom, anxiety, grief and loneliness.
If we are looking to reduce our screen time then, we ought to consider the feelings that lead to excessive time on our phones in the first place. Do we pick up our phone at the slightest hint of boredom? Do we reach for our phones when lonely at home on a Friday night? Does FOMO keep us attached to our phones, hyper aware of everyone else’s lives, driven by fear that we will miss out if we aren’t constantly connected?
Once we can say what emotional need we are trying to meet with our phone time, we have an opportunity. We can choose to meet that need in a different way. Instead of reaching for our phones when we’re bored, we could stir up our courage and finally try that new hobby we’ve always wanted to do. Instead of using our phones as a bandaid for loneliness, we could reach out to a friend and share our feelings, or seek to join a group of like-minded people to have real connections with people face-to-face. Or we could recognize that whenever we listen to the siren call of FOMO, we are actually missing out on our own lives, our own feelings and needs, and are reducing our capacity to attend to ourselves, to be in the moment, and to live our own adventure.
So let’s try putting down our phones for a bit … we might be surprised at what we discover. We may find that disconnecting from all of the seemingly important things on our phones helps us reconnect with the most important thing of all … ourselves.
Amanda Jacobson, LMHC, Amanda is a licensed therapist in clinical practice since 2013. She has experience working in both inpatient and outpatient settings, with group and individual therapy and she has a passion for working with people recovering from addictions, as well as codependency, depression, anxiety, trauma, relationship challenges and major life transitions. She earned her master’s degree from Boston University.
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