Are you addicted to your phone? How to enjoy the benefits of technology without becoming a robot.

By Dr. Alex Avila

Can you live without your phone? Today, an increasing number of people say they can’t. 81% of people have their phone on all the time, 44% fall asleep with their phone, and 67% look at it even when it doesn’t vibrate or ring. Moreover, a significant number of people have “Nomophobia”—a fear of not having their phone or phone service that causes them to have withdrawal symptoms like a drug; they become anxious, irritable, and miserable.

Although a phone can connect you to an amazing world of opportunities, it can also make you addicted to using it so you miss out on other wonderful parts of life like family, leisure and creative activities, physical exercise, and a meditative/spiritual practice. Here are some tips on how to be the master of your phone instead of letting your phone control you:

*Be aware of how much time you spend on the phone: The average person spends 8 hours a day on their phone or laptop. Find an app that tracks the time you spend on your phone, and determine if it’s excessive, or if you’re spending too much time doing certain things that are not very productive for you (video games, social media, YouTube binging).  Ask yourself on a daily basis: “Is what I’m doing life-taking or life-enhancing?”  You may be surprised to discover that you’re spending several hours a day on “life-taking” activities—watching mindless video entertainment, repeatedly checking social media profiles, ingesting negative news—instead of on “life-enhancing” things like writing a book, redecorating your house, learning a new skill, practicing your favorite hobby, contributing to charity, or spending quality time with loved ones.

*Recondition your phone use for a positive purpose.  If you track your phone use and determine that you’re wasting a lot of time on unproductive activities, decide that you will alter your phone use to more beneficial things.  You can install an app that helps you meditate, or a notification that tells you it’s time to exercise, read, or listen to music.   At the same time, you can use an app that turns notifications off for a certain period of time, and eliminates phone distractions, so you can focus on rewarding activities like spending time with your family, playing with animals or children, or simply relaxing without any technology around.

*Take a phone fast. Although it may sound difficult or even impossible to do, you can take a “fast” and turn off your devices for a period of time.  You may decide to be phoneless for an hour or a few hours, or even a day.  Of course, when you do this, you can make sure that you have alternative forms of communication in case of an emergency.  The good part about a phone fast is that you will discover an interesting fact:  Most of the messages and emails you receive aren’t that important or urgent. It’s true that many people have a lottery mentality when it comes to their phone—they hope the next text or message could be my “dream date saying ‘yes’,” or “a great financial or career opportunity.”  Yet, most of the time, you get junk messages and emails or everyday communications that aren’t that urgent or important.  On the other hand, when you take a phone fast, you will reap the benefits—you will be more sociable, creative, aware, and relaxed—and best of all, you will feel in control of your life.

Yes, your phone can be a marvelous tool in many ways. It can bring you new opportunities in love, finances, business, health, and travel. It can help you connect with friends and family who live far away; it can guide you on where you need to go, what restaurant or movie to select, how to find the best worker, employee, or helper.  It can teach you valuable things and help improve your health and happiness. But, the phone can also detract from your life—decreasing your ability to focus on just one task, overstimulating your mind, taking you away from real human connection, and making you feel more impatient, irritable, and overwhelmed.

The good news is that you can find a good balance—a middle ground—in which you are able to use your phone as a tool for growth, enjoyment, and connection, while giving yourself an occasional break from digital life to engage with real people in the real world. Remember that your mind is the most powerful tool you have—your phone is simply an extension of your thoughts, and you can control your phone just as you control your mind. And most importantly, you can recognize that one of the most important uses of the phone is to bring people together—in the spirit of harmony and caring—as we become one world and one mind propelled by the ultimate source: the power of love.