• child with busy parents

    A lot has been said about what we miss while looking down on our smartphone - exchanging loving gazes with our spouse, hearing our children’s urgent question about ants, and actually tasting the dish that we just posted on Instagram.

    It seems that our smartphones stay firmly on our hands, or at least in swiping distance, wherever we go and whatever we are doing. We text-chat with friends, scroll through our social networks, play games, watch videos, and read magazine articles like this one; most probably, we do all those while doing something else.

    Smartphones and other mobile gadgets have easily become an indispensable part of modern life. In fact, Nielsen Media Research found in June 2013 that Southeast Asian smartphone owners use their gadgets at least three hours a day.

    There is something addicting about always being connected to the digital world. We are on top of the latest news through various news apps and we satisfy our inner voyeur as we scroll down through images of other people’s lives. Inspiring ideas are constantly available on our newsfeed, and it seems that something interesting is always going on somewhere. A habit is formed, one that constantly interrupts our real life.

    Smartphones and other mobile devices are definitely not evil and are actually helpful and convenient; our problem lies on how we use them. If you are feeling tired of always being connected, here are 7 things to do to reclaim your life from your smartphone:

    1. Turn off notifications
    Email, games, news apps – do we really need all of these at the tip of our fingertips? Consider what you absolutely need to be notified of in real time and turn off the notification for everything else. You will be conserving precious battery power, too.

    If you get your high from seeing all those likes and comments, save them like chocolate and enjoy them in one big bite at the end of the day.


    2. Delete extraneous apps
    Just because an app is free doesn’t mean that you should download and use it. So, observe which ones suck your time the most. Is it CNN, Daily Mail, or Candy Crush? Even if you just use them when you are bored, those precious minutes can be used for something more consequential. Quit cold turkey and delete them immediately.

    As for emails, it’s best to check your inbox when you’re already on your laptop and ready to start your workday. If you’re worried about getting an urgent message on your email, you can be sure that if it were truly urgent, it won’t be sent via email alone.


    3. Put boundaries in place
    Protect the sacredness of your time with others and commit to putting away the phone when you are with people who matter to you.

    Talk to your family during dinner and enjoy your meal. Look into your child’s eyes and listen to the twists and turns of his story. Join your friends in reminiscing about your childhood escapades. You can do all these when your phone is somewhere out of reach.


    4. Unplug at certain hours
    If you are like the average Southeast Asian smartphone user spending three or more hours on the Internet, commit to have unplugged time every day. This will allow you to breathe, pursue interests, and accomplish something other than knowing the latest news.

    Write, bake, paint; you’ll be surprised with what you can accomplish in the time otherwise spent mindlessly consuming online content.


    5. Leave your phone at home
    Mobile phones are convenient for connecting people with each other. But when you are going out with the people you want to be in touch with anyway, why bother bringing your phone?

    It will serve families well to have uninterrupted time to revel in whatever experience they are having together.  Leaving your phone at home makes it easy; just make sure not to lose sight of each other in a crowded place!


    6. Make memories, not photos
    Because smartphones come with cameras, it is so easy to take photos of each and every move that we make -- and post to Instagram and Facebook, as well.

    But let’s make memories, not photos. Besides, the Internet is already flooded with images of various restaurant dishes and vacation spots. You don’t need to add more shots of Boracay’s pristine beaches, Bohol’s adorable tarsiers, or the delectable buffet of a five-star hotel.


    7. Go to bed with your spouse, not your phone
    According to the study published in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, using your smartphone after 9 p.m. causes sleep quantity to decrease at night and affects quality of work in the daytime.

    Other than the harmful effects of sleeping with your smartphone, it is infinitely more enjoyable to snuggle with your spouse and your kids. Let your mind rest from the dizzying number of content available anytime. Enjoy your bedtime.

    There is nothing wrong with using our smartphone, as it is an ingenious device that allows us to do so many things from wherever we are. We should just not let ourselves get sucked by its addictive powers.  Reclaiming our life from our smartphone is possible by controlling our behavior, establishing rules for use, and gradually weaning ourselves from it.

    Before you reach out for that phone or tablet, ask yourself why your hands are itching to swipe through it. Look up from your gadget, look into your spouse’s eyes, answer your children’s questions, and savor the food you are eating – and truly be alive.

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    Image from perch.com

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