Despite what everyone thinks, you were born with a wonderful brain. Chock-full of neurons, dendrites, axons, lobes — all sorts of cool stuff.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke — NINDS to its friends — your brain is your hardest-working organ. In fact, you could think of your brain as the James Brown of your body.
Just don’t tell your spleen. You know how sensitive it is.
The one problem with your brain is that it is easily distracted by bright, shiny objects like your phone. Or so I learned in “You Can Trick Your Brain into Using Your Phone Less,” a recent article by Whitson Gordon on popsci.com.
According to psychologist Larry Rosen, “the young adult unlocks their phone more than 70 times a day, checking it for 3 or 4 minutes before locking it, and then repeating the same process about 10 minutes later.”
The same dynamic, one assumes, happens with the middle-aged adult and — my personal age group — the getting-pretty-ancient adult, but less frequently because, most times, we can’t find our phones.
The problems with telephonic obsessive behavior include “symptoms ranging from anxiety to stress to sleep disruption — not to mention hazardous walking.”
“Not to mention,” indeed. You realized that looking at your phone while walking can be dangerous the third time you were hit by an inter-city bus.
Given the dire consequences, you’d think more people would hang up on their phones. The fact is we’re hooked. We simply can’t abide missing an important KimPe sighting or a really cute cat video.
A cat that plays the cello? Who’d have thunk it?
Is there hope for phone addicts? A 12-step program is not available, but here are five steps you can take right now.
No. 1: Wean yourself gradually
“Don’t detox cold turkey,” advises psychologist Rosen. The withdrawal symptoms can be severe, and include anxiety, indigestion and repeated attempts to make calls on your TV remote and your electric toothbrush.
Instead, start by going 15 minutes without looking at your phone. Be sure to keep your phone in sight, lest your brain sabotage your efforts by initiating the classic “Oh no! I’ve lost my phone” response, which will force you to use the “find my phone ” app to find your phone, which you will be surprised to learn is in your hand.
Gradually increase the time you spend ignoring your phone until you reach six weeks, at which point you can look again to read the 700 increasingly frantic messages from your manager informing you that you’ve been fired.
No. 2: Don’t sleep with your phone
The National Sleep Foundation recommends you put your phone away an hour before bedtime.
If you do decide to deny entry to your bedroom, make sure you don’t leave your phone alone. iPhones should be left next to other Apple products so that Siri and all your other digital assistants can gossip about you. Same with Android phones. Don’t mix. Leave your Apple iPhone next to your Amazon Echo and Siri could turn Alexa against you. Then you’ll really be in a fix.
No. 3: Make your phone less enticing
Turn off as many notifications and alarms as possible. If you use your phone to keep track of time, buy a watch. A Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Black Diamond is only $67,500 on AuthenticWatch.com (reduced from $74,995!) If you feel neglected at work, this is the watch to wear, since it almost certainly guarantees your company’s legal department will launch an extremely personal and very intense audit of your expense account.
No. 4: Put up “lock screen wallpaper”
Use your phone to remind you not to use your phone. These digital samplers greet you with messages like “Put the phone down” and “Keep your hands to yourself and off this phone.” Be careful to choose the right message. Your honest response to “Don’t you have something better you could be doing?” has to be “No, not really.”
Instead, choose a message that you can’t argue with.
My recommendation: “What’s the point?”
No. 5: Turn on “airplane mode”
Airplane mode works even when you’re on the ground. Get the most uncomfortable chair you can find and move it into a crowded closet. Get two co-workers to jam in with you. Tell everyone you’ll come out in 30 minutes, but keep the door locked for two and a half hours.
If your co-workers start getting angry, turn off airplane mode and text me. Rest assured I won’t text you back.
Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at [email protected] To find out more about Bob Goldman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.