4 Ways Cutting Down My Screen Time Changed Me

Check out how reducing screen time helped this author improve her life.

About five months ago I challenged myself to build a habit to keep my phone off for the first hour of my day. I’ve finally gotten the habit to stick and have noticed that I feel calmer and happier on the days I go without my phone for that first hour. 

This habit is not just about shutting out technology. It is also about being intentional about what to bring into my day’s first moments. Here’s how my past few months of a phone-free morning block has improved my spiritual life and mental health. Perhaps you’ll want to give it a try. 

I take more time for prayer and self-care.

Putting my phone aside for my day’s first hour has helped me to finally achieve a nourishing morning routine — a habit I’ve been struggling to form for years. Building a morning routine has led me to feeling happier and having a better spiritual life.

While my phone is off for that first hour, I fill my first moments of the day with nourishing activities rather than reading notifications and messages. Most mornings I write in my gratitude journal to reflect on the day before. I often say a prayer for different intentions in the world, which helps me feel interconnected without reading the news. I listen to a downloaded positive affirmation recording as I get ready. I go for a run and listen to nature sounds. Not surprisingly, it’s easier to keep this morning routine without a phone to distract me. 

I have more space in my life.

In addition to creating calm in my mornings, my phone-free morning routine has helped me to put more space into my life more broadly. This project has forced me to enter more slowly into my work days because it means that I must wake up at least an hour before any online work begins. This extra space for self-care before work makes me feel better for the rest of my day. Further, I now notice the opposite on days when I don’t do this. 

I have more mental focus.

This project has also put a space between my thoughts and my reactions to them, which has improved my highly active mind’s ability to focus. Before this project, I would wake up with a mind buzzing with plans and ideas. A random morning thought — such as should I move? — might lead to an accidental half hour spent scrolling through apartment listings in my city. Then I would be frustrated because I didn’t have time for journaling or whatever else I had meant to do before work. 

This phone-free morning project has forced me to pause when those random ideas arise, say I’ll come back to that later, and then move on with my original morning plans. Additionally, I feel more in control of my mind and my time. Training myself not to immediately reach for my phone in the morning has extended into less reactivity to messages and notifications throughout my day. As I said before, this has contributed to my focus and sense of calm. 

I understand how it helps me.

It can be hard to keep my phone off for the first hour of my day sometimes. Sometimes I just cannot wait to wake up and check for messages from loved ones abroad (note: as an expat in Australia, most of my U.S. friends are awake while I am asleep). When I do check notifications before doing my morning routine, though, I have noticed that it is more difficult to switch gears back into self-reflection. It can be distracting responding to news from home — especially if it isn’t always good news. For me, this has reinforced how important it is for me to look inward, pray, and reflect in the morning before opening myself up to external distractions of the day.

This habit hinges on me being completely unavailable to others for an hour of the morning, but I know that not everyone has this freedom. If an hour is not realistic, I’m certain that even 20 or 30 minutes of phone-free morning time can help even the busiest people feel more calm.  

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