Health

22 Ways To Break Up With Your Cell Phone

Or at least take some time and see other people.

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Your cell phone... it's like an extension of you.

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And maybe your friends have noticed.

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And you're actually beginning to think that they may have a point: You might, in fact, have a cell phone problem.

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Here's how to tell your phone that you need a little space.

1. Use an app to find out how many times per day you check your phone.

It seems counterintuitive to use your cell phone to, um, use your cell phones less. But this step is important. "The first thing is recording and awareness of your use and abuse — become aware of how much time you're spending on [your phone] and how many times a day you're checking it," Dr. David Greenfield, Ph.D., founder of The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, and assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, tells BuzzFeed Life. "Most people are flabbergasted when they see they're checking it 300 times a day."

Checky, pictured above, is a super simple app that keeps count of how many times you've unlocked your phone in a day. It gobbles up a lot of battery life (and doesn't tell you what exactly you were doing on your phone), but it's a great way to get a sense of how often you use your phone. You can also take a smartphone abuse test from The Center For Internet and Technology Addiction for some perspective on how problematic your cell phone use is.

2. Set realistic limits for yourself: Vow not to use it for more than 90 minutes a day, for example, or for longer than 15 minutes at a time.

The app Moment (pictured above) should be able to help you with this. Moment tracks how many minutes you've spent on your phone, and it also lets you set a self-imposed limit for how much time you want to be spending. It'll then send you little updates when you get close to that time limit (or go over it). It'll also give you little nudges if you're spending more than 15 minutes in one sitting looking at your phone.

3. And if focusing on numbers isn't going to work for you, target the times that cell phone use is the most disruptive and/or lame.

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Think about the times your cell phone has gotten you in trouble: Maybe your partner always gets cranky when you play on your phone at the dinner table. Or maybe you've been busted texting at work when you should be doing something else. Make note of any patterns, and then vow to stop using your cell phone during those times, James Roberts, Ph.D., tells BuzzFeed Life. Roberts has studied cell phone use in college students, so he has a good sense of just how significant the issue can be.

An obvious tip (that more people ignore than you'd realize): The best way to avoid cell phone-related conflict is to just put your phone away where you can't see it or hear it during those high-conflict times. "It's easier to avoid temptation than to resist it," Roberts says.

4. Make a to-do list of real things you want to do during the day — and don't check email, Facebook, or Instagram until it's done.

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"Create a daily bucket list — what you want to be doing more of but feel like you don't have the time for," Levi Felix, founder of Digital Detox and Camp Grounded - Summer Camp for Adults, tells BuzzFeed Life. Then make a rule for yourself that you won't check Facebook or browse your email until you've accomplished something (or multiple things) from that list. This helps you prioritize what you actually want to do with your day.

Think back to that Moment app, which sends you reminders about how long you've been on your phone. If you get a reminder after fifteen minutes, it means that you just spent fifteen minutes doing nothing of substance, when you could have been doing any number of other important things that actually help you: Putting a load of clothes into the wash; doing the dishes; making the bed; making some cool Mason jar salads to bring to work for lunch every day. You could have even done a full-body workout during that time period.

5. Kill the notifications. Kill them!

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Pretty much every app in existence sends you text message notifications from time to time. And while staying informed is great, being forcibly informed can be enormously distracting.

Here is a beginner's guide to turning off notifications if you have an Android. If you're on an iPhone, you can look in the Notifications tab under Settings and see just how many apps you've enabled to send you push notifications. Then you can turn them off! This even includes notifications from messages (your texts) and phone calls.

Then select the app that you want to turn off notifications for:

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In this case, I'm showing you how to turn off notifications for phone calls. But the process is the same for all apps.

Then uncheck (untoggle?) where it says "Allow Notifications."

Carolyn Kylstra for BuzzFeed

You can do this for all your apps. And you can also follow the same trail to turn notifications back on. It's super easy.

6. Take a social media vow of silence for a set amount of time and make it a recurring event.

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Take a set amount of time — an afternoon, a day, a weekend — and vow that you won't post anything to social media during that period. Then make a habit out of it.

It might feel hard or lonely at first, but that's actually part of the process or unlearning potentially damaging behaviors. "There's this idea that if other people don't know you're doing something, it has no value," Greenfield says. And that's a major problem, because it means we spend more and more time documenting what we're doing, instead of living our lives. "When you become an observer of the experience, rather than an experiencer of the experience… you're not really present," he says. Research backs that up: You'll be less likely to remember things if you spend the whole time taking pictures, rather than taking it all in.

7. If you're feeling extra brave, go ahead and delete the social media apps from your phone altogether.

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Or if that's too extreme for you, then sign out of each app after you've used it. This will require you to sign back in every time you try to use them again, meaning that you can't just mindlessly open them up and scroll through whenever you have a free second. Everything you do on your phone should be intentional.

8. Get a hobby.

Felix says that the best way to think about using your phone is to think about why you want to disconnect. What are you missing out on by using your phone so much that you wish you could be doing instead? "As we carve out space by unplugging what do we want to fill that space with?" Felix says. "If you create space and you don’t fill it with anything then you’re going to be challenged."

Here are some ideas: Join a book club or bowling league. Learn to cross-stitch (some cool patterns above, from Etsy!). Get started working on that dystopian novel that's been bouncing around your brain for ages. Read all those books or back issues of the New Yorker you've been meaning to read. Try living your life according to Pinterest as a fun experiment. Whatever. Just fill your time with purposeful activities so that you have less of it to while away aimlessly. On your phone.

9. Unsubscribe from all of the email newsletters.

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Go to Unroll.me. Sign up. It'll show you a list of all your subscription emails. In order to unsub from more than five you'll need to share something about unroll.me on Facebook... which is annoying, yes, but totally worth it to have a much less cluttered inbox. Ahhhhhh, freedom.

10. Carry a book with you. Or a magazine!

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It's not pretentious, it's just smart! This way whenever you're waiting in line and boooored, you have something to look at that isn't your phone.

You may want to start out with any of these 24 best fiction books of 2014.

11. Put your phone on silent before every meal... and then put it away so that you can't see it and aren't tempted to look at it.

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This is just good manners. And it also forces you to connect better with the people around you. Win-win! "What the smartphone [at the table] does is it conveys to everyone you're with that you're not really there," Greenfield says. "You're physically there but psychologically you're not."

Don't be that person.

12. Don't bring it in the bathroom with you, either.

I know, I know: The horror. But make a few rules like this that are non-negotiable, Felix says. Having a few hard and fast rules to follow actually makes things easier for you: "When you have so much choice in your life, it's hard to make a good choice," he says. "When you're constantly making small choices, by the end of the day you're exhausted." If you know that you must leave your phone outside when you go to the bathroom, you'll do it. And then when you're in there, you can take some time to just think... or read some books or magazines that you've stashed by the toilet. It's just a few minutes without your phone, but those few minutes can add up over the course of the day.

13. And definitely keep it out of your bedroom.

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"You don't need a $400 phone to be your alarm clock," Greenfield says. A cheapo alarm clock will work just fine (or the very cool cube one pictured above from Uncommon Goods). Keeping your phone away from where you're sleeping means that you don't have easy access to it before you go to sleep or right after you get up. This will make falling asleep easier... and it'll also make it easier to get out of bed and on with your day in the mornings. "Before you go to bed and after you wake up, you buy yourself between ten minutes and half an hour of time – or longer — without your phone," Felix says.

14. In fact, put it away at least an hour (or longer) before you go to bed.

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An hour or longer before bedtime, go plug your phone in to an outlet in the kitchen or living room — somewhere away from where you are. Out of sight, out of reach, out of your damn head.

This will help your brain prepare for sleep, and just chill out in general. "Anything we do [with the cell phone] in the evening tends to elevate our nervous system and that can keep you awake," Greenfield says. "As you're expecting a message to come in, you go into a state of hyper-vigilance — and that elevates your cortisol, a stress hormone. It's a state of arousal that we're not wired to be in permanently."

15. And along those lines, don't send texts or emails, or post anything to social media, within a few hours of going to sleep.

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You can schedule your emails to go out first thing in the morning (or even schedule your social media posts to do the same). This lets you go to bed without stressing about whether anyone has liked your photo or written you back yet. No more anxiety over misery-inducing ellipses. Hyper-vigilance, managed!

16. If you're worried about being accessible at night, put it into Do Not Disturb mode.

Here's how to do it on newer Android phones. And if you have an iPhone, Do Not Disturb is kind of a magical thing: You can set a time period where you allow calls to come in from everyone, no one, or just people on your favorites list (this means that only the really important calls come through). And you can also enable a "repeated calls" setting within Do Not Disturb, which guarantees that if the same person calls you twice within three minutes that the second call will go through as intended. It gives you the peace of mind of knowing that if something terrible and important happens, you'll hear about it... but otherwise, you can enjoy your sleep, totally uninterrupted.

Access Do Not Disturb under Settings (pictured above, left). Then select your preferences, as shown above, right.

17. Don't bring your phone to work meetings, or to class.

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This is another easy rule to live by without a thought. Make a habit of bringing a pad of paper and a pen instead. This way you won't be tempted to check your phone mindlessly during especially boring periods. It also makes you look more attentive and respectful.

18. Also, stash your phone in a desk drawer when you're at work.

That way you won't notice when someone has texted you and you won't be tempted to look away from what you're doing to respond to it. Make a conscious decision only to check your text messages at specific times during the day — maybe at lunch and again at 3 PM for a short break, for instance. Whatever makes the most sense. Reminder: It's easier to avoid temptation than to resist it!

19. Seriously, truly, honestly: Do NOT text and drive. Put your phone AWAY when you get behind the wheel.

View this video on YouTube

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This video is from a police car's dash-cam. The officer is following a man driving erratically. The driver in the front car looks drunk... but it turns out he's actually just texting. Skip ahead in the video to see him crash the car. (Don't worry — neither the policeman nor the driver were injured).

Some sobering facts: Texting and driving kills more teenagers than drunk driving does. And a survey of 18 to 65 year old Americans found that 31% admitted to texting and driving in the previous 30 days, according to the CDC. And that's just the people who admitted to it.

Here's one idea: put the phone on silent and put it somewhere completely inaccessible without actually parking the car and getting out to grab it.

That can mean in your purse in the back seat; in the passenger's side door; in the trunk if you have to. There is absolutely nothing you need to look at on your phone while you're driving.

But what about GPS?!

If you can spring for it, you can buy a Garmin nuvi from Wal Mart for about $100. And if you rely on Google maps on your phone for GPS, then actually turn off notifications for messages, phone calls, and all social media accounts before you start driving. And do it every time!

But what about my MUSIC?

OK, look. If you've set up your phone to connect to your car speakers via Bluetooth, that's great. Just make sure that you have a playlist queued up before you pull out of the driveway… and then put your phone in airplane mode until you get to where you're going.

20. Download some apps to keep you from texting and driving, if you need to.

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Apps worth looking into: AT&T Drive Mode; Sprint Drive First; and an app called Cellcontrol. These apps all work to keep text messages from showing up on your phone while you're driving.

21. Be aware that you might actually experience symptoms of withdrawal. Seriously.

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This is just a heads up, so if you do experience it you don't feel like you're going crazy (and knowing about it might help you power through).

In his research, Greenfield found that about 50% of survey respondents exhibited signs of withdrawal when they accidentally left their phones behind, or when their phones weren't working. Signs of withdrawal can be feeling agitated, upset, distracted, and incredibly stressed out about the lack of connectivity.

And it makes a lot of sense, if you think about it. Greenfield says your compulsive cell phone behavior is basically created by a Pavlovian conditioning system — when you hear the ding of a text message or new email, or even when you reach into your back pocket to take your phone out to look at it, you know that there’s a possibility that something great could happen. Not every time, but sometimes. And when something great does happen, your brain gives you a hit of dopamine and you experience actual pleasure. And then you begin to crave that pleasure. And then your cell phone behaviors can begin to look a bit… compulsive.

And then when you don't have your cell phone around, you lose that source of pleasure. Cue the anxiety!

22. Tell people that you're making a serious effort to cut back to establish new expectations.

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Another thing about that withdrawal. Your friends, family, and coworkers deserve some blame for it as well. "Part of the reason that we're so attached to our phones is because social expectations exist that we'll get back to people right away," Roberts says.

With that in mind... if you tell your friends and loved ones (and even coworkers) that you're making a serious effort to cut back, that helps establish new expectations. Spell it out for them that you might take a few hours responding to texts and emails, and that it's not personal, but this is so that you will be happier and more calm. Which if you think about it allows you to be a better friend, sibling, and so on in the long run. (They may not take it well, but stick to your guns, guys.)