Kick your smartphone habit and lower stress with this expert advice

Dr. David Greenfield Founder of The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction and Director of The Healing Center, LLC The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction

We all love our smartphones. The problem is that we are not so smart when we use them. They condition us unconsciously to respond to all the bells and beeps with never ending attention; all this leads to overuse, elevated levels of stress hormones, and leaves us near-addicted and tied to our phones like a virtual ball and chain.


Do remember what the cell phone is for

Your smartphone should help you be happier, healthier, and more productive. It should not be there to control every aspect of your life. So get in the mindset of treating your phone as just that, a tool to be more productive, and nothing more.

Do remember that we are conditioned to respond

Smartphones and the internet are the world’s largest slot machines. They condition us to respond to the beeps and buzzes with elevated stress hormones, and when we get a reward, for example an email, text, tweet, for google search result we like, we get a nice hit of dopamine, which is a pleasure neurotransmitter.

Do remember that not everything needs to be responded to instantly

The beauty of digital technology is that it affords us the opportunity to deal with our information and communication needs at a later time. It shifts time and space for us and allows us the luxury of doing things when it is more convenient. If we resist the temptation to respond instantly, we don’t have to feel like we are controlled to stop everything we are doing just to respond to a notification the second it happens.

Do take a tech holiday

Pick a day a week, or a day a month to leave your cell phone off or at home, even if it is only for a few hours. Take control of having it on or off. Yes, you can actually turn it off. If you can’t do a day. Take a few hours. You’ll be amazed how much more you get done and how liberating it feels.

Do try to do other things

Instead of mindlessly staring and surfing on your smartphone, be conscious of how and what you are doing with your time. Instead of playing with your phone, turn it off. Read a book, take a walk, relax, talk (real-time) with someone near you. Try to untether yourself from the closed world of your smartphone.


Do not stare at your cell phone all the time

Try to be more conscious of when you are automatically looking at your smartphone without thinking. The idea is to change your pattern of use. If you notice yourself looking at your phone for no reason than to check to see if you missed a text, put it back in your pocket and take a break from it.

Do not talk on the phone in public places

When you are social, be social in real-time. When you are with people, doing something to not to be distracted from the moment. Besides, by answering texts, emails, or phone calls while you are with people, it can be considered rude and will only make you disconnect from the group.

Do not use your cell phone while driving

You can easily get in a wreck if you are staring at your screen while you are driving down the road, no matter how fast you are going. Try to liken the use of your cell phone with drinking while driving. You don’t drink and drive do you? Well, it should be a never-do-it activity when it comes to texts, emails or surfing, and sparingly with voice as well.

Do not take your cell phone to bed with you or keep it under your pillow

Buy an alarm clock and turn off your smartphone. Get a good nights sleep without the buzzes, beeps, and rings that usually happen every night or early am.

Do not keep your cellphone on and next to you when you are eating

Eat when you eat, and leave the smartphone out of it. Find other things to do when you eat, like talking with your friends or loved ones. Be present at your meals and don’t be distracted by setting another place at the dinner table for your phone.

Jumping cartoon

Try to do other things besides mindlessly and automatically staring and surfing your phone. The first part of reclaiming real-time living is to take control of your use and fighting the neurochemical habit that has you conditioned to reflexively look at your phone. The beeps and buzzes are indicators to your nervous system that a possible reward (dopamine) is around the corner, so conscious use is your only antidote.

When you notice you’re unconsciously using your phone, try to do something different. Read a book, take a walk, talk to real person that is standing or sitting next to you. Untether that automatic twitch to check your texts or email for the 79th time that day. This will help to create new neurological pathways for your habit which may take a month or two. Begin to take control of your use, and that means turning off for a while. Yes, there is an off button on your smartphone.

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Photo Credits: Businessman using Windows Mobile device in taxi by flickr: gail; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas -

Dr. David GreenfieldFounder of The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction and Director of The Healing Center, LLC

Dr. David Greenfield is founder of The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction ( and is Director of The Healing Center, LLC. Dr. Greenfield has appeared on CNN, Good Morning America, The Today Show, CBS Early Show, Fo...

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