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How to Stop Looking at Your Phone So Often Podcast Episode 111

The average person looks at their phone 96 times a day! Clearly not great for your overall stress levels.

But how do you stop the habit of constantly reaching for your phone?

Dr Orlena makes it easy for you to bust the "phone habit" and replace it with a healthy habit.

How to Stop Looking at Your Phone So Often Transcript

This is a transcript that’s generated by a computer with a bit of light editing. Please read it as if someone were talking to you. 

Podcast Intro

If I had a miracle cure that would guarantee you and your family living to a ripe old age whilst feeling vigorous, fit and fabulous. Would you be interested? Well, I do. It's called healthy living. Hello, and welcome to fit and fabulous with me, Dr. Orlena Kerek.

Healthy living for families made easy.

How to Stop Looking at Your Phone So Often Podcast Episode

Hello, and welcome to fit and fabulous with me, Dr. Orlena Kerek. I'm super excited that you're here today. Today. We're going to talk more about habits and how can you stop using your mobile phone so much.

I know I'm not alone in thinking, "Oh my goodness. I check my phone so often. It's just one of those easy habits to do."

Now that we're all in lockdown, it's one of those things that can take over your life a little bit. And there's lots of benefits of not being attached to your phone.

What are Habits?

Let's start by having a think about habits. You know, me, I'm all about routines systems and habits. Habits are things that we do without thinking about it.

Habits Can Be Good or Bad for Your Health

Habits are a Double-edged Sword.

It doesn't matter whether you have a good habit or a bad habit. Your "habit brain” doesn't care at all whether it's a good habit or bad habit. But there are big ramifications for whether that has a knock-on effect.

The habit of smoking isn't very good for your health. The habits of running, walking, or eating vegetables are good for your health or better for your health.

One of the things we need to pay attention to is "without thinking", because that's the key. We do these things without thinking. That's the hallmark of a habit.

Our "habit brain" is much more efficient than our "thinking brain". Putting our habit brain to use is a great idea but we have to be aware of bad habits that aren't helping us out.

Related Podcast: How to Create a Routine that Includes Me Time

Related Podcast: The Unbelievably Easy Way to Nurture Healthy Habits for Kids so they Grow Up Fit and Fabulous

Related Podcast: How to Balance Screen Time Limits for Kids for a Calm and Healthy Family Life with Dr Tara Egan

Dopamine is A Neurotransmitter that Rewards our Brains

Habits have something called a reward, particularly when you're starting out. A neurotransmitter called dopamine rewards us for doing something exciting.

Think back to when our ancestors were hunter gatherers. If we didn't have dopamine, we wouldn't have gone out to hunt for food. We wouldn't have gone berry picking. When we did go berry picking, we'd be like, "aha, I've got a blackberry!" Dopamine would serge through their bodies.

Dopamine is a very short acting transmitter. It's a very quick and easy reward to get. Nowadays, there are many different things that cause us to get a dopamine reward. (Shopping, exciting adventures, pornography). And of course sweet sticky food. A big glucose surge will give you a dopamine surge.

For my kids, it's definitely screen time. They love playing on the Nintendo or watching movies. Oh my goodness.

(The sigh of a mother who wishes that screen time hadn't been invented!)

Other things will give you a reward It can be something exciting. It can be something not so exciting.

As we Get more Dopamine, We Develop Dopamine Resistance

The problem is the more we have dopamine, the more we want the dopamine. We get to the stage where we need to get a bigger hit. Our brains get resistant to dopamine. So we need more chocolate, more, whatever it is, more screen time to get that same hit.

Inconsistent Rewards are Good for Creating Habits

The other thing that happens is we always want that reward. For example, if you take social media, actually, sometimes your brain will be going. "Yeah. There's not much exciting happening on social media. It's a little bit random!" Occasionally there'll be something exciting.

We check our mobile phone 96 times a day. That's the average people check their mobile phones, 96 times a day. Can you imagine it? And one of those times might be interesting. Or there might be something vaguely interesting.

We're busy checking, busy checking. One time we get a bit of a dopamine hit. And as I say, we can get used to dopamine.

You Can Reset Your Dopamine Levels

If we look at the world of quarantine, it isn't a bad thing for us to reset our dopamine levels.

It's a good thing to actually go, “okay, I'm going to do a reset”. In my one-on-one coaching and my group program, (which is going to be starting after April) I recommend doing a "reboot". You get used to the way that you're eating and your body expects dopamine, or it might be a glucose and dopamine combo.

If you can reset that, it's good to sort of wipe the Blackboard clean. Actually we can take quarantine and say, "do you know what being bored a good thing for resetting my dopamine receptors".

On the other side of the reset life the same. You still get dopamine rewards, but you're going to get those dopamine rewards for much less. Rather than having to be on your mobile phone, 96 times or eating lots and lots of whatever it is.

Doing a reset is useful. And we've kind of had this reset thrust on us.

Our mobile phones are what is going to throw this reset. We've replaced everything with mobile phone and social media.

Personal Connection and Social Media Aren’t the Same

I'm not at all suggesting that we don't use screen times and the amazing technology we have to connect with people.

Connection is important. And it's important to remember in these times that we need to connect. It's better to chat to someone on zoom and have a proper social connection than checking social media.

How can we Stop using our Mobile Phones so Much?

I can tell you so much about habits. I love habits, but let's keep it simple for today. Let's think about how to make good habits easy and how to make bad habits difficult. So putting friction in and thinking, okay, I'm going to give myself a barrier and that's gonna make me stop using my mobile phone.

Step 1 To Changing Habits is Self Awareness

The first thing is self-awareness. You have to be aware that you have this problem because remember the habit is without thinking. So you have to be a little bit self-aware and go, "okay, I know I've got this problem. Now I'm going to stop. I want to make a concerted effort to stop."

Now you can do what I call "Cold Turkey" and say, “right! I'm going to hide my mobile phone for two weeks”. You might think that's not practical because you need your phone for working, for security, for all these kinds of things.

Oh, by the way, I forgot to tell you. Can you guess how many hours people spend on their mobile phones?

The average is 5.4 hours a day. I guess that includes reading and answering emails and all those things. It still seems like an awful lot of time. And the vast majority of people who work online, we'll be doing a lot of that on their computer. So that's not screen time. That's just mobile phone usage.

I find that absolutely amazing.

So step number one self-awareness and understanding. Self-awareness is more than saying, "okay, I know that I use my phone too much."

You can take self awareness a step further and you can say, "okay, I see that when I have a quiet time. I sit down and I get a little bit bored and I automatically reach for my phone."

Or “I want to know what the time is and so I get my phone out and I look at the phone to see what time it is”.

And suddenly Facebook is there and half an hour has passed. And who knows what’s happened.

Or I'm in the habit of drinking my coffee and thinking, "I'll just check the news". And suddenly Facebook is open. You can see that Facebook and social media are alluring.

We like to check them.

It's a kind of mindlessness that makes us feel a little bit like we're busy. Particularly if you’re using social media for your business. It kind of makes you feel, "Oh yes, I’m doing some work."

But not really!

How can we make it difficult for ourselves to use our Mobile Phones?

Leave your phone behind

Well, we can leave our mobile phones behind. I'm very much in that habit. Well, we weave in and out of habits, but I do often leave my phone behind them. People will say to me, “Oh, you never answer your phone”. And my response is “well that's because it isn't always attached to me. It's quite often in another room in the house.”

And so I don't hear it ringing and generally if people want to call me, it's not an emergency.

Now not everyone is going to say, “I want to leave my phone on the other side of the house”. But you can think about times when you can go out without a phone.

Can you imagine, can you remember? Am I showing my age here, but back say 20 years ago, hardly any of us had mobile phones. Before that go back 25 years. None of us had mobile phones and we used to go out and we would meet people and say things like, “I’m going to meet you on the corner of this road at four o'clock. Please make sure you're on time!”

And of course your friend wouldn't be on time and you’d have to wait until they turned up or they didn't turn up. And you went home and walked off and went and did something else. But that was how life was back in the day and you know what? We all survived.

It’s perfectly possible to walk out of the house without your mobile phone.

And there are definitely times when you can do this. I like to go for a walk. I walk down to the sea, which takes about five, 10 minutes and walk back 20 minute round trip. I might want to take a photo photograph from time to time, but really, and truly, I don't need to take my phone with me.

And sometimes actually I find it inconvenient because I don't have a pocket to put it in. So think when you go out, do I really need my phone on this trip? Or can I be fine without it? Am I just dropping the kids off at school? And I'm going to be back in 10 minutes.

Put Your Phone in An Inconvenient Place

If you think, “okay! I can't leave my phone behind.”

You can put it in a pocket that is more difficult to reach, make some other barrier there. Or even if you're in the same room, in your living room instead of having it right next to you, put it somewhere else so that you have to get up and go and get it.

It may sound like, “Oh my goodness. That sounds like such a minor change!” But those small changes, those small barriers will interrupt your habits so that you’ll think, “Oh! now I have to get up and go and get it.”

Or you might say, “okay, I need my phone, but I want to give up this particular social media”. You can leave that social media. You can delete it from your phone or another trick is you can put it right at the back.

You have to swipe through three screens to get to it.

There are lots of different things you can do now.

Can You Turn Your Bad Habit into a Good Habit?

You can think about turning it into a good habit. For example, every time you pick up your mobile phone, you have to call a friend and chat to somebody. Rather than be on social media.

I'm going to give myself this rule. If I pick up my phone to mindlessly look at some social media. What I'm actually going to do is pick a friend at random or a relative and I'm going to phone them up out the blue and say hello. It’s nice to chat and actually have some social input.

How Can You Replace the Habit?

Another thing we want to think about is replacing habits. It's quite difficult to take a habit and make it disappear without putting something in place.

Have a think about what you want to put in place. One of the things that we have forgotten how to do is just sit and have nothing to do.

During the day we have those two or three minute breaks, you're waiting for your children to put their shoes on or get their coat on, leave the door. And we're used to being busy. But there's a little break and we could just not be busy. We could just sit and do nothing.

It feels difficult when you try and do it. Now, if you live in a sunny place, I suspect it's much easier. You can think “I’m just going to go and sit in the sun for two minutes and enjoy the warmth of the day”. But you don't need to live in a sunny place for it to happen. You can say, “okay, I'm going to sit here and almost like a mini meditation. I'm just going to sit and breathe and sort of let out all the emotions and busy-ness of the day”.

Just calm down and breathe.

I suspect that this is one of the big reasons why we have so much stress in our lives today. We jump from one thing to another thing and we never give ourselves time, our bodies, a chance to calm down and relax. There’s always a long, long list of things.

Often we find ourselves in those moments. When, you know, the kids are faffing, doing whatever, we're chivying them along. We're saying, “come on, hurry up! We have to go! It's it's time to get into the car!” You know, this kind of constant chat, chat, chat, slight stress, slight stress. And we very rarely take the time to go, “okay. In your own time, I'm ready when you are. I'm just going to sit and chill for a bit. You let me know when you’re ready!”

Obviously you have to make sure you get to school on time. You have to have your routine set out . You can see how routines and systems and habits all combined together to get you to where you want to go. To enforce your goal.

So that's another thing. Just sitting, breathing, spending a little bit of quiet time. Relaxing.

What else have I got on my list?

If finding out the time is your trigger, you could get a wrist watch.

Another thing that you could replace that time with is reading. Reading a physical book, or get something like a Kindle, which doesn't have all those extra phone things on. I have a Kindle and I absolutely love it.

I use it for night time reading as well, or, you know, evening time reading so that I'm less tempted to be on social media. Although often I confess I have my phone and my Kindle, and now I'm aware of it. I'm going to make sure I hide my phone.

The Benefits of Not Looking at Your Phone So Often

I hope this has given you a few ideas and I hope that you can see the benefit of letting go of being on your phone all the time.

It can do is reduce your cortisol levels. We don't think of social media as stressful, but it can add up. A little bit of extra stress that you don't need in the day. Somebody might disagree with what you've said, or you look at the news and think, “Oh my goodness, what has the world come to? There's no good news out there. There's only disastrous and more disastrous news.”

That adds a level of stress to our day.

There are times when social media lifts you up and you think, "hooray, I feel great because I've made that contact with people". But really, and truly, I think it's about making proper contact with people rather than just commenting.


Dr Orlena's Magic Likes and Dislikes Exercise

Wouldn't it be amazing if you could dial down your cravings for certain foods?

Or increase your like for healthy foods? Wouldn't that make healthy eating so much easier?

Well, you can! In just 30 minutes.

Alea didn't like blueberries until she did the Magic Likes exercise. She was eating them and enjoying them by the end of the call!

Tory stopped eating pretzels after she did the exercise.

Find out more about Dr Orlena's Magic Likes and Dislikes Exercise.

(Psst... if you sign up for the "Overeating quiz" you can get a huge discount!)

Written By Dr Orlena 

Dr Orlena Kerek (MBChB from the University of Bristol, UK) trained as a pediatric doctor. She is now a family health coach. She helps busy mums who want to feel amazing by eating healthy food. So they can enjoy a healthy life, get back into their honeymoon shorts and teach their kids healthy habits.  All without thinking about it.

If you want a healthy family and healthy lifestyle without having to think about it. And you'd like help, book a 30-minute "Healthy Life Roadmap" call here.

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