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After years of doomscrolling through Twitter, Facebook, and other apps for hours at a time, Jose Briones felt like the world had smacked him in the face. Literally: The 28-year-old Littleton pastor began suffering from eye strain and headaches, and after a little research, he discovered he wasn’t alone. Not only does excessive smartphone use affect memory and attention span and increase anxiety and stress, but it also causes the exact kind of pain he was experiencing. Briones gradually cut back on his phone time, launched a YouTube channel in 2019 where he talks about digital minimalism and slower tech, and published his first book, Low Tech Life, this past year. 5280 Health caught up with Briones to find out his five secrets for a digital-lite life.
1. Divvy Up Devices
One way to ensure you don’t get sucked into your phone is to own different devices for different uses. “I used to pick my phone up for one thing, like looking up directions to somewhere, and then I’d get a social media notification or see another shiny app, and before I knew it, I was down the rabbit hole and on my phone for an hour,” he says. The fix? Consider a standalone GPS navigator for your car or bike. Dust off your iPod for music. Or embrace extreme minimalism by using a so-called dumbphone—one with limited features such as calling and texting.
2. Find A Helping Hand
This could be a partner, friend, family member, or roommate. “Psychologically, we’re hard-wired to take more action when we have someone holding us accountable for our goals rather than self-imposed pressure,” Briones says. This might look like asking your spouse to tell you when you’re on the phone around the baby or setting household rules around screens at the dinner table.
3. No Phone Zone
No matter how seductive your phone may be, don’t take it to bed. According to Briones, screens can slow the production of melatonin, a natural hormone that regulates our sleep-wake cycles. Not only does extended exposure to the blue light from your phone detract from healthy sleep, Briones says, “but going to bed with your phone nearby makes it easy to pick it up first thing in the morning”—which only ratchets up your stress levels. What if you rely on your phone to rouse you from your slumber in the morning? “Pick up an actual alarm clock,” he says.
4. Clean Screen, Clear Mind
“The more apps you have on your device, the more likely you are to have a reason to pick it up,” Briones says. Social media apps, many of which are designed to keep you hooked, are a good place to start your purge.
5. Rethink Replies
While not everyone’s jobs allow them to disappear for a short break, those whose can should schedule regular self-care for themselves away from screens, whether that’s taking a walk, brewing a cup of tea, or just sitting still and paying closer attention to one’s surroundings. “I have times I work and times I don’t, and I keep the boundary between the two as clear as I can,” Briones says. Even a 15-minute respite can leave you feeling refreshed.