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Have you ever found yourself on your cousin’s girlfriend’s sister’s Instagram page, or locked on a TikTok live with a creator pretending to be a video-game cat, and wondered: how on earth did I end up here? No? Oh… us either.  

If “less screen time” is on your 2024 list of resolutions, goals, or intentions, raise your hand (yes, we just raised our hands too). We are living in an era when screen time is at an all time high - 2020 alone saw a 50-70% increase in time spent online - and our lives are feeling increasingly wrapped up in the four corners of our smart-phones. 

Our devices are usually, if not always, the portal to feeling connected and part of the cultural zeitgeist, but we are more anxious, isolated, and depressed because of it. 

As time online reaches a fever pitch, more and more of us are intentionally disconnecting from technology, and seeking simplicity outside an internet connection. Sales of “dumbphones”, or cell phones without smartphone capabilities like flip phones or Nokias, are on the rise. Just a few months ago, the Australian government announced the “Right to Disconnect'', which allows workers the right not to respond to work texts, emails or calls outside of work hours. 

At Rise Centered, we believe that intentional disconnection from technology is a powerful tool for deeper introspection, connection and reverence for ourselves, the people we love and the world around us. But the more entwined we become with our devices, the harder it is to see the (metaphorical and literal) light. While it might seem like the solution is to throw our devices down the drain, the key to lasting change is taking small, actionable steps, one day at a time. So let’s fish our phones out of the toilet and start somewhere a little closer to home. 

The Power of a Phone-Free Bedroom

The beauty of keeping phones out of the bedroom is that the benefits span past reduced screen time. This simple (albeit not always easy) habit sets us up for more moments of presence, clarity and calm, better sleep and connection, in the bedroom and outside. 

Part of the reason why it feels so stressful to have our phones next to us while we sleep, is that it represents non-stop demands on our energy. We are always accessible, and conversely, everyone else is always accessible too. With our phones so close by, it’s easier to succumb to the ping of an email or text, or fall into the throes of an Instagram doom scroll. Leaving your phone out of reach gives you a few extra moments of peace in the morning and evening, before you become accessible to everyone else. 

 Scrolling on social media spikes our dopamine, increases our stress hormones and sends us down comparison and despair spirals. Not to mention the added impact of heightened exposure to blue light, one of the culprits that keep us up at night. These consequences combined mean that if our phones are the first thing we use in the morning, and the last thing we use before bed, not only will we be chasing after that dopamine high to recreate our morning spike, we will also be setting ourselves up for disrupted sleep, self-criticism, and stress throughout the day. Recharge your mornings and enhance your sleep by keeping your bed a blue-light free zone instead. 

Without the distraction of a phone in the morning or at night, we are given the gift of time and space. Opportunities to connect with ourselves, our partner, or our roommate (if we want to), often come in short supply. Use these phone-free hours to ask your loved one how their day was, or if they had any strange dreams last night. Get out your journal and unload your thoughts, feelings and goals on paper. Make yourself a delicious breakfast or take your time on your skincare routine. 

The How of Disconnection

Here are some practical tips to keep your bedroom phone-free. 

  1. Leave your phone behind: This might seem like an obvious one, but you can’t have a phone-free bedroom with a phone in your hand! Store it in a drawer in your office, in the kitchen, or anywhere else that feels right for you. Turn it on airplane mode for some extra peace and quiet.  
  1. Find alternatives: If you use your phone as your alarm clock for example, use your Sunrise Alarm Clock or another digital alarm clock instead. Find alternatives to make your transition smooth and stress free. 
  1. Schedule a time for shows, movies or Youtube: If you are someone who likes to watch shows before bed, set a designated time to catch up on your favorite content, and watch it outside of your room. Make sure to switch off and head to bed at least 30 minutes before bedtime, to give your body time to get ready for sleep. 
  1. Find new ways to spend your time in the evenings that are device free: Whether it’s journalling, writing love letters, reading, meditating, a skincare ritual or asking your partner about their day - use this time to intentionally connect with yourself or your community. 
  1. Practice mindfulness and notice when you want to reach for your phone: The temptation to reach for your phone will come up, that’s a given. Can you use those moments to pause and see what need is underneath? Are you looking for community? Distraction? Entertainment? Are there other ways you can have this need met? 

The key to any new habit or lifestyle change is keeping it sustainable and steeping it in self-compassion. Underneath the doom scrolling and TikTok fatigue is a desire for more connection, tranquility and entertainment, and we aren’t wrong for wanting any of these things. Practice patience and self-love, and if you find yourself on YouTube instead, that’s fine too.

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