Don’t Hold the Phone!

Don’t Hold the Phone!

When you instinctively reach for your phone because you have a spare moment, here are 15 ways to fill that moment instead.


Quick math: How many times a day do you touch your smartphone? According to Network World, the average user racked up 2,617 touches per day, while heavy phone users—the top 10 percent—touched their phones a boggling 5,427 times a day, clicking, tapping and swiping their fingers into a frenzy. We’ve become a society so obsessed with our phones that normal, everyday activities, like walking the dog, now include the “crutch” of a cell phone. We can’t even take a dog to do his bidness without checking Instagram!

Researchers say this type of fixation on cell phones causes a host of problems. It can damage our connection with other people, harms our ability to have restful sleep, and stops us from enjoying whatever is happening around us. For this week’s Healthy Habit, let’s wean a bit from the cell phone. When you instinctively reach for it because you have a spare moment, here are 15 ways to fill that moment instead:

  1. Organize your day by jotting down a to-do list.
  2. Become aware of your breath. In. Out.
  3. Take a gander at the fabulous variety of humans going by.
  4. No interesting people? Witness nature. The shapes of the trees, the colors of a sunset, the arch look on the pigeon’s face.
  5. Doodle. It’s a lost art and you, my friend, are bringing it back.
  6. Do a crossword puzzle. Brain games like puzzles or Sudoku may preserve memory and cognitive function as we age. What was I saying?
  7. Pray. Connect with your version of the Divine. He/She/It/They... are always there for you.
  8. Read a section of a book or magazine. Yes, paper.
  9. Speaking of paper, how about writing a poem? A love letter? A note to a kid?
  10. Strike a yoga pose. (This works better at home than in line at Starbucks, true.)
  11. Kegels. Guys, they have these for you, too! Who knew?
  12. Repeat a mantra or positive affirmation. “All I need is within me now.” Or something similar.
  13. Give some loving care to a plant or pet.
  14. Take a walk. Enjoy the sensation of not being hit by a car as you cross the street.
  15. Do nothing. This one is especially scary if you’re truly addicted to your phone. Just sit, or stand in line, and be patient. Let your mind wander. Recent research shows that unstructured thinking is a key component in creativity. For more on this, check out our column, The Free-Range Brain.

In turbulent times, it’s easy to get into the bad habit of compulsively reaching for our phones. What we really need to be doing is reaching out for each other.

Kathryn Drury Wagner is a writer and editor based in Los Angeles. Her latest book is Hawaii’s Strangest, Ickiest, Wildest Book Ever!, a science and natural history “gross out” for young readers.

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