Truth: We’ve all spent way too much screen time on our devices lately — and picked up some bad habits we may want to break.
On the bright side, though, we’ve also fostered some really good ones like meditating at home and self-reliance.
Screen time — and more specifically scroll time — is like the new mindless snacking.
And it’s largely motivated by the same impulses that make you reach for unhealthy snacks when you’re feeling bored or stressed.
Scientists have even started studying our brains on social media, which also fires up our dopamine reward system like candy.
The same way we’ve dialed back sugar and feel better for it, learning how to reduce screen time is all about smart swaps.
1. Scroll Mindfully
“Start building awareness on how you’re spending your time on devices,” says Amanda Stemen, M.S., LCSW. “Notice what you’re doing and assess whether it’s what you intended to do, if it’s productive, or if it’s contributing to your long-term goals.”
Did you mean to shop for groceries or spend an hour on Instagram?
2. Make Your Phone Less Convenient to Grab
“Keep devices physically away from you if you don’t have an intentional reason to use them,” advises Stemen.
Many of us carry our phones around as if they’re extensions of our arms — all those quick peeks add up.
3. Keep Your Hands Busy
Meal prep is a win-win for reducing screen time and staying on track for healthy eating. It’s hard to scroll when you’re washing and chopping veggies.
4. Turn Off Push Notifications
Many apps use the dopamine reward system to keep you hooked.
“Turn off or silence notifications so they won’t trigger the urge to pick up your device,” recommends Stemen.
5. Use a Tracker
Not sure how many hours you’re spending on your phone?
Use a screen tracker to count your digital “steps” — and how much time you’ve spent on adorable dog TikToks (we get it, we love them, too — but in moderation).
6. Keep Moving
Studies suggest we can probably walk and text if we slow down and are still aware of our surroundings, but not texting and walking by choice is another way to reduce screen time.
Looking up and “liking” nature around you is also a thumbs up.
7. Do a Screen-Time Cleanse
“Taking an intentional break can be like pushing a reset button for your brain while making more time for being active,” says Billy Roberts, LISW-S.
Spend a weekend — or even a few hours — off your phone to see how you feel without it.
8. Minimize Text-Only Catch-ups
“It’s been tough during the pandemic, but even a phone call or a socially distanced walk can offer support and motivation,” says Roberts.
9. Use Your Phone to Motivate
“Screen time is like junk food for the brain,” says Roberts. “Try replacing mindless scrolling with hobbies, physical activities, and passion projects that stimulate your desire to be creative and active, rather than take it away.”
Take those 30 minutes you might spend on texting memes and start on that home improvement project you’ve been putting off or head outdoors.
10. Switch to Speaker
You can still use your devices for tons of great reasons without staring at them.
You don’t actually need to look at your phone to tune into a podcast, listen to music (and dance around), or stream an audio meditation.
11. Put Your Phone Away at Meals
Mindless scrolling and mindless eating are a bad combo, or worse, ignoring your partner or family members to check text messages instead of sharing a meal.
“Break the pattern of screen time on autopilot,” says Roberts.
Make an effort to be present in the moment and engage with the people who are right in front of you instead of the ones in your phone.
12. Make Your Display Less Attractive
The grayscale filter on your phone has the exact opposite effect of shades of gray, making your phone instantly less sexy.
“Mindless scrolling is less intriguing when it’s not in color,” says Dana C. Avey, M.S., M.A., LMFT, BC-TMH, ADS.
13. Declutter Other Parts of Your Life
There are definitely not enough hours in the day to get everything done, but reducing screen time can increase time for other tasks.
Need some ideas?
14. Turn on a Nighttime Setting
Night mode settings on screens tone down the blue light, which keeps us alert and can mess with sleep patterns.
Like grayscale, it also makes your phone screen less exciting to look at.