Get Your Brain Back: 4 Tips for Dialing Back Your Phone Addiction

Have you ever glanced at your phone to read an incoming text on the lock screen? What about swiping through apps to get directions or find a place to eat? If you have, you’re not alone. A recent survey found over half—54 percent—of drivers admit that they’ve texted while in command behind the wheel.

That’s particularly frightening when you realize that at least nine Americans are killed and 100 are injured in distracted-driving crashes every day.

Most people could stand to cut back on their screen time, and the best way to make sure you won’t be tempted by your phone while you’re driving is to reduce your subconscious need to pick it up in the first place. That means getting a grip on your addiction today.

Try these four tips to break your habit.

1. Make It Harder to Pick Up

Catherine Price, author of How to Break Up With Your Phone, recommends creating "speed bumps" that will force you to pause before you pick up your phone. So much cell phone use is mindless, so the idea is to make yourself stop and think before you scroll.

Price recommends putting a rubber band or hair elastic around your phone as a reminder to take stock before you swipe. This creates a literal speed bump for your thumb, making it just a little bit harder to use the phone. Every time you touch the elastic, ask yourself if you really want to be using your phone right now.

Car Tip: Turn on your phone’s "Do Not Disturb While Driving" setting to create the perfect behind-the-wheel speed bump.

2. Turn Off Notifications

Is your phone constantly vibrating, dinging, and pinging? Every time you hear these alerts, you’re pulled out of the moment and your mind immediately goes to your phone. That’s a major distraction not only from driving, but also from work, school, and even your relationships.

Release yourself from these distractions by turning off notifications. You can do this individually for each app by making sure the alert sounds are off. It’s also a good idea to turn off the alerts and banners for your lock screen, as these can flash up while you’re driving even when you’re not holding your phone—and it doesn’t take much to pull your eye from the road.

3. Remove Social Media Apps

Social media is particularly addictive. It’s rewarding to see all those likes and shares, and that little hit of dopamine in your brain keeps you eagerly coming back for more. If turning off notifications for these apps isn’t quite enough to help you break free, try deleting the apps from your phone entirely.

Note that this isn’t the same as deleting your social media accounts. You’ll still be able to use Facebook and Twitter on your desktop computer and tablet. You just won’t be able to use them on the road.

4. Try a Silent Ring Tone

If you’re more likely to be distracted by talking than texting, consider downloading a silent ringtone and making it your default. This will keep incoming calls from pulling your attention away from the task at hand.

For total silence, don’t forget to turn off your phone’s vibrating function for calls as well. This will allow you to develop the habit of checking your phone and returning calls on your schedule—not whenever the phone beckons.

Car Tip: A silent ringtone will still interrupt your music in the car if you’re connected to Bluetooth. Consider disconnecting your phone for calls in the car to help keep your attention squarely on the road.

Breaking your phone addiction can help you live a more balanced, productive life. It’s also an effective precaution against dangerous distracted driving. This Spring, make some changes to your smartphone habits to ensure greater safety on the road, both for you and for your fellow drivers.

Andrea Leptinsky