Tips to Put Down Your Phone and Connect with the Real World

people using phone while standing

Our digital devices are important tools for engagement, and they can be powerful aids for happiness—when used mindfully.

But, as most of us have experienced, spending hours staring at screens can leave us feeling disconnected, drained, or overwhelmed.

Technology is a good worker but a bad boss.

We connect to the world through our bodies, and by tapping in to our five senses, we can make our experiences of the physical world richer, more compelling, and more gratifying.

If you’re spending too much time looking down into a screen, and you want to lift your head up into the real world, consider these ideas:

  1. Turn your phone to “grayscale” so the display is limited to gray, black, and white
  2. Turn off your notifications sounds, so those pings and buzzes won’t interrupt your train of thought
  3. Use your lock screen to remind you of an important aim—use an image of a tree to remind you to go outside or the word “READ” to remind you that you’d rather be reading than scrolling
  4. Delete time-sucking apps, or make them less accessible by putting them inside a folder on your last home-screen page, so you have to touch the screen repeatedly to open them
  5. Use the Strategy of Scheduling: Schedule screen-free time in the evenings or on the weekends, plan dedicated times to check the news or social media
  6. Use the Strategy of Inconvenience: To focus, put your phone out of reach, not just out of sight

If you feel dazed from being stuck behind a screen, get a hit of the physical world by tapping into your senses:

  1. Smell something with a strong odor first with one nostril, then the other, to compare how each nostril registers a slightly different smell
  2. Squeak some cornstarch between your fingers
  3. Light a match and notice the sight, sound, smell, and touch (no tasting!)
  4. Hold an ice cube in your mouth
  5. Pet a dog or cat and really notice the texture of their fur
  6. Visit a place you often visit—a drugstore, a park, a friend’s kitchen—and tune in to your five senses
  7. Take a deep whiff of five items from your fridge or spice rack
  8. Tap in to your neglected sense for a new source of comfort, energy, or delight (don’t know your neglected sense? Take the quiz here)
  9. Make a tiny sculpture from tin foil
  10. Eat with your non-dominant hand
  11. Put on lip balm and really notice the texture



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