Our phone, we would be lost without it. Checking out the latest stories on your feed, replying to multiple group chats or watching those ‘likes’ pop up. Social media can be a great way to connect and keep in touch. Yet, overuse of smartphones can result in losing a lot of precious time and take a toll on our mental health.

Mental Health & Phone Use

From a study conducted in 2019 on the Prevalence of problematic smartphone usage and associated mental health… amongst children and young people, PSU (problematic smartphone use) increased odds of depression, anxiety, higher perceived stress and poorer sleep quality. PSU also defines the dysfunctional use of smartphones, such as anxiety if the phone was not at reach or neglect of other activities.

The study investigated a range of personality and emotional factors in relation to PSU. Certain traits were associated including emotional instability, low self-esteem and perfectionism.

Problematic phone use shares traits with substance abuse disorders and behavioural addictions. Smartphone use is socially acceptable and available to all, which arguably can be seen as a bigger health issue ‘than substances of abuse or even Internet gaming.’

Mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression have increased considerably over the last ten years. There isn’t a sole answer for why this is, but it can be said that there are parallels with increased phone use. In fact, the study concluded that 1 in 4 children and young people are demonstrating problematic phone use. And there is evidence that suggests a correlation between PSU and mental health symptoms.

So how can you cut down on using your phone? Here are 5 things to do…

Things to do: 

Exercise/Take a walk

Unless you are changing a song or checking the clock, use your time to release those endorphins without your phone. See it as a break from the online world and focus on you. If you are looking to get a new PR on the weights or take in the outside surroundings, your attention should be on this rather than what a person on Snapchat is having for tea…

Do something creative

It is GREAT to get stuck into something creative. Whether it be cooking up a new dish, painting a ‘paint by numbers’ or even picking up the knitting needles. Finding something creative to focus on other than a phone screen is a healthy habit to start implementing. You may find yourself feeling accomplished after completing a project. Maybe you’ll set yourself the creative task of upcycling a few furniture pieces or MASTER the lemon drizzle cake!

Learn a new skill

Using those hours spent finger scrolling to learn a new skill is a more valuable way of using time. Learning a new skill can be as easy as watching a couple of Skillshare or YouTube videos and putting those skills to practice. Maybe you find yourself often staring at the chessboard in your living room, debating whether to actually learn the game? Or have always wanted to pick up where you left off in your Spanish lessons at school? Learn a new language, pick up a musical instrument or become an expert in looking after plants –  whatever interests you!

Do your unwanted chores

Not the most exciting, but getting stuck into doing those unwanted jobs is an alternative to spending hours on TikTok. And yes, these things need to be done. Cleaning your room, organising your wardrobe or taking those parcels back to the post office are chores which can be a BORE. But, they keep you busy and give you that separation from your phone. So it’s time to crank up the tunes and get into the productive zone – you’ll feel better for it!

Spend time with family & friends

When spending time with your family and friends, ideally you should not feel the need to go on your phone. Remember that time is precious and if you don’t get to regularly see certain family members or friends, why would you want to be looking at a phone screen? Plus, it is rude – has to be said. As much as a buzz can cause the urge to check our phone, putting it on silent and appreciating the in person moments is more important than who has recently liked your Insta pic.

Study Mentioned: Prevalence of problematic smartphone usage and associated mental health outcomes amongst children and young people: a systematic review, meta-analysis and GRADE of the evidence