Q&A

Break up with your phone by deciding what you want out of life, author says

Author Catherine Price compared her technique with going to couple's therapy: re-evaluate your relationship so it's healthy and fulfilling.

'I've noticed a huge difference in my own abilities to concentrate and focus,' says Catherine Price

Health and science journalist Catherine Price has released a new book on a philosophy to help people reduce their cellphone dependency. (Sara Remington/catherine-price.com, Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

if you Google "cut back on cellphone," you'll find tips from from going cold turkey to charging your phone at night in another room.

But Catherine Price says what you need to do is change your philosophy — and focus on what you want out of life.

Price is a health and science writer based in Philadelphia, and the author of the new book, How to Break Up With Your Phone: The 30-Day Plan to Take Back Your Life, which was released Feb. 13.

She got the idea after being up one night rocking her newborn baby when she realized she spent the whole time staring at her screen.

"That really upset me," Price said. "Of course there's a time for distraction but I didn't want my daughter's first impression of a human relationship to be me looking at my phone."

Speaking to the Calgary Eyeopener on Wednesday, Price compared her technique with going to couple's therapy: re-evaluate your relationship so it's healthy and fulfilling.

Here are her tips for taking precious time back from your smartphone:

Set a positive goal

"Instead of saying you want to spend less time on your phone, which feels restrictive, think of it more as spending more time on your life," Price said. "That phone changes from being a pleasure that you're denying yourself to a distraction that's keeping you from what actually brings you joy."

Pick new activities

"Think about what you actually do want to spend your time on. Use your phone as a prompt to get back in touch with what you want to be doing," Price said.

For example, she decided she wanted to spend more time with family, read more and get back into playing music. Now she's an active member of both an adult guitar class and choir.

"That's also why it's so important to ask yourself what do you want to do with the time you're going to reclaim from your phone," she said.

"Because if you do spend less time on your phone, you're going to end up with more time. And if you don't figure out what you want to do with that time, you're going to end up back on your phone."

Pay attention

"You need to get in the habit of noticing when you're on your phone, noticing when you're about to reach for your phone and asking yourself, 'Why am I doing this and how does it make me feel?'" Price said. "That's actually a very powerful way to encourage behaviour change.

She recommends creating a "speed bump" to remind yourself when you're reaching for that phone on autopilot.

"For example, put a rubber band around your phone so when you reach for it, you feel something strange and you're reminded to think about what you're doing," she said.

Phone abstinence

Take time off from your phone and watch how your feelings change, Price said. See how anxious and bored you are when you're waiting in line for lunch without your phone for entertainment.

Take advantage of those short phone breaks to have a brief quiet moment of thinking or a quick chat with the stranger next to you.

"I've noticed a huge difference in my own abilities to concentrate and focus, my abilities to relate with people and also the activities that I'm doing with my time," Price said.


With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.