I addressed the ways in which constant compulsive phone and computer usage can lead to a heightened statute of stress - which can exacerbate pain and get you stuck in a loop of chronic pain. We also discussed simple steps to loosen the hold your phone has on you, and how to eventually break your phone addiction.
In today’s article, I want to address something that comes up when you’re trying to break your phone addiction. If you follow the advice I gave in the previous article, you’ll find you have a lot of time to fill. All those hours you would normally being spending on your phone need to be filled. If you’ve been addicted to your phone for years or decades, this extra time can feel like a huge yawning gap of time that you have no idea what to do with.
All that blank time can feel daunting, and in boredom you might end up back on your phone or perusing the internet. So let’s talk about how to fill your time once you’ve broken your internet addiction.
This is the single most important thing you can do to improve your quality of life, clear your mind, and reduce chronic pain.
Think about this: unless you’re in a physical job like construction, plumbing, farming, etc. you probably spend 8-12+ hours looking at screens of various sizes. Any movements you do in a day are probably the SAME movements over and over.
Sit. Stand. Walk a couple steps. Sit. Stand. Walk a few more steps.
If you’re a bit more active, you have one or two sports or activities you enjoy once or twice a week. That means the vast majority of your life is spent at a screen, sitting in a car, or sitting in a chair.
That means your body physically deteriorates because you aren’t asking it to get stronger at much. Those once or twice a week activities keep you somewhat “fit,” but with every passing year you probably notice that they feel like opportunities to get injured more than anything…
In the evenings, with your newfound time, you can do some basic maintenance work that will keep your body healthy, mobile, and comfortable for the long run. It’ll make your activities more fun, and it’ll keep you capable.
You can easily fill your evenings with stretching and exercise of varying intensities. Remember your body doesn’t need you to HAMMER IT EVERY SINGLE DAY AS HARD AS POSSIBLE. It needs a variety of stimulus.
This is a nice simple follow along workout that can get you started on the path to moving more and getting stronger.
"How is this different from watching TV or reading articles on the internet?” you might ask.
If you asked that question, then it’s been too long since you read a book. Reading a book is a generally calmer experience than binging sixteen episodes on Netflix, and it trains your attention better than bounces from article to article on the internet.
It entertains and informs but at a manageable pace. The internet is like turning on a fire hose of information. A book is more like sipping a milkshake through a straw. Can it be addicting? Sure. But even if your brain gets tired reading a book, it doesn’t turn into the mush ball that two hours on the internet does.
To get the most out of this, don't go fact-checking and Google searching every single thing you read. You'll find yourself stuck rabbit holes.
Write down your ideas and to-do lists on pieces of paper! Journal. Start writing your great novel.
For the uber productive, this may sound like an idiotic recommendation. “But I can sync EVERYTHING to the cloud if I use my task manager software!”
I know. I’ve said the same thing a million times to myself. Just try it.
If you don’t like it, you don’t have to keep doing it, but I’ve found that writing things down on paper is a lot more efficient than opening a device, navigating to a screen, then starting to type on a keyboard.
It’s also apparently better for learning. The act of writing directly to paper seems to keep my thoughts clearer, and I don’t lose thoughts the way I do when I am busy trying to navigate to the right screen on my phone.
Writing on paper requires you to grab a pencil and paper. Unless your pencil breaks or your pen runs out of ink, you can reliably count on your implement to work. You just scribble away.
On the other hand, jotting something in your Evernote app requires you to wake your device from sleep, visually locate the icon, tap on the icon (hope that the tap registers), then tap on the “new note” icon (hope that the tap registers), and then wait for the keyboard to appear before you get to start typing.
Then, while you’re typing, you have to constantly recheck what the stupid auto correct system thinks your clumsy thumbs are trying to say. And don’t even get me started on the bizarre things phone dictation software THINKS I’m trying to say...
Each step in the digital jotting of notes may seem trivial, but the multiple potential fail points on every swipe and tap saps brain energy away from the original idea that I’m trying to get down!
So when I really want to free my brain from the added “fidelity checking” stress of digital note taking, I just use paper. It's the fastest way to do it with almost zero risk of forgetting.
After spending years trying to find my perfect digital system of notes and tasks and ideas, I’ve come to the conclusion that writing things on paper keeps my brain clearer and more capable for getting things done.
I still use digital calendars and task managers and other tools to augment my workflow, but there’s just nothing like physically scratching things off a list and crumpling up a sticky note!
If you’re like me, you love the power that computers and phones give us to get a lot of things done. It’s also vitally important to realize that time away from these devices makes us more effective, efficient, and happier people.
Start running an experiment on yourself using the phone and internet addiction tips in this article and my previous article. Keep notes in a journal (on paper). After two weeks, take a look at the changes you’re noticing. After a month, I bet you’ll notice some very positive changes to your overall health, mood, and mind.
Breaking phone and internet addiction can be a tough road. There’s so much shiny stuff out there on the internet! But the shiniest stuff is what glimmers in your mind when you allow it the space and time to do so.
With a few well-chosen activities to free you from your phone, you can free your mind from the stress and anxiety of constant connection and allow calm and energy to return!