Words: Cassandra Stern
Photos: SolStock, Calm, Checky, Offtime, Flipd, Space
It almost seems counterintuitive, but there truly is an app for everything in today’s virtual age- even unplugging from your daily mindless social media scrolling. After a long, challenging, and physically grueling day on the jobsite, it’s almost natural to want to kick back on the couch and swipe through news, videos, photos, and other media. However, while it may seem harmless or even beneficial in allowing you to relax, this type of behavior has the insidious potential to cause more harm than good.
Staying up late watching videos interrupts a healthy sleep schedule, and the ability to be reached 24/7 disrupts the delicate work-life balance already so challenging to maintain. A recent study on stress and phone use by the NHS in the UK concluded: “smartphone users unlock their phones on average 85 times a day; and use it for about five hours each day….showing correlations between high smartphone and internet use, and poor cognitive skills such as attention, memory, and learning.”
The phenomena of what researchers have dubbed “avoidance coping” is far from new. Still, the advent of smartphones, social media, and the internet presents a uniquely contemporary and pressing issue: moderation. According to the most recent Pew Research study data available, 97% of Americans own a cell phone, and of those, 85% own a smartphone. With a cell phone available in virtually every household, it’s easy to see why our collective societal dependence on technology has already become a public health issue- and why the issue is critical to address in our daily lives.
It might be tempting to smash the cell phone and go on a drastic information diet, but the reality is between family, work, and day-to-day life, this isn’t possible for most. Mindful cell phone use is a great way to start, but it can be a difficult challenge, especially when starting. Rather than relying on sheer willpower and white-knuckling your way through a cell phone detox, instead turn to a cell phone app that can help. These options have been carefully selected to help even the most die-hard smartphone lover kick back, relax, and unplug from daily life, and all are compatible with Android and iPhone OS.
For those who need to determine just how much they need to unplug from their smartphone use, check out Checky. Super simple in both functionality and design, Checky helps users track how many times they pick up their phone in a day. They can then use data to help establish patterns and a conscious connection between boredom and mindless cell phone browsing. If you’re a smartphone lover who is just looking to forge a more conscious relationship with your daily phone use, this app is a great place to start.
You may not have heard of Flipd before. Still, with recommendations and endorsements ranging from the Wall Street Journal to UCLA, this time management app is a great asset for individuals who constantly find themselves using their smartphones as a tool to procrastinate. Though immensely popular with high school and college students as a study aid, Flipd is also an excellent option for professionals in any industry, including masonry. Struggling to process a massive stack of invoices and estimates? Set a custom timer, organize your tasks, and track your progress as you work through large and small projects.
While many of the options on this list focus on modifying how users interact with their smartphones, Calm takes a different approach in focusing on the users themselves. Calm is not just another meditation app either- there is a variety of stories, songs, and other media available for users to peruse, all designed with relaxation and stress relief in mind. The app is unique in that users can select stories and meditations narrated by famous actors like Matthew McConaughey and can choose to listen for as long or as short as they need to relax and unwind. This is an excellent choice for those trying meditation as a stress-relief technique for the first time or who have tried before without success and are searching out a new approach.
Some smartphone users already know their excessive scrolling is an issue and are looking for a solution to get their use back on track. For those who are ready to get serious about tackling their digital avoidance coping behavior, Space is an excellent option to explore. The app allows users to set personal goals for phone usage. It offers an 8 Day Phone/Life Balance course providing easy-to-understand research into breaking unhealthy habits and forming more positive ones. Those motivated through competition will particularly love Space as it offers the ability to share progress with friends and family, and other Space users. The app is also available in both free and pro versions, so users can try the app before committing to the more advanced option.
Unfortunately, physically putting the phone down while at home is not an option for everyone, particularly those in management roles. It can be frustrating to repeatedly have focus drawn away to other tasks or projects, significantly when this detracts from the day’s productivity. Offtime assists users by blocking certain apps like social media or specific communications and includes the ability to set different custom modes depending on the frequency of use. Users who find themselves using Facebook as a tool at work but as a distraction at home will love the easy usability afforded by the Offtime app.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to curbing excessive cell phone use, but there are positive benefits to all who work on reducing or eliminating these habits. Engaging less with a screen while at home and more with loved ones or hobbies can result in improved sleep hygiene, mood boosts, and even a lower resting heart rate over time, which can, in turn, lead to even further benefit. The only question that remains: which app will you use to unplug first?