5 tips and 4 apps to overcome smartphone addiction

Phobias are uncontrollable and mostly irrational fears that can clearly influence the lives of those who suffer from them. There are some that are well recognised such as: agoraphobia, which is the fear of being in open spaces and unfamiliar situations, and its opposite, claustrophobia, which is instead the fear of closed environments. We also know arachnophobia as the absolute terror of spiders or hydrophobia as repulsion for water but few of us know what nomophobia is, although we are all - in one way or another - now inevitably subject to it.

If only in the next few minutes we started to detach ourselves from the screen of the mobile phone and look into our eyes, after all we would already be one step closer from freedom.

The term nomophobia was coined in Great Britain and is the result of the contraction of no-mobile-phone phobia: it is a disconnection syndrome that can be briefly described as fear of being without a mobile phone. Hands up who doesn't suffer at least a bit from the idea of forgetting their phone at home or the thought of getting stolen? Who has never feared that it would download content while on the street without access to Wi-Fi and who, even worse, has found themselves for a few days or, only a few hours, without an Internet connection and has felt completely lost?
Compulsive use of on-screen devices can be detrimental to health
Technologies have, in many ways, simplified our lives and made possible changes that only a few decades ago seemed like science fiction, but there is no doubt that, in addition to this, have made us a little less autonomous, a little 'lazy, perhaps even more alone.

Nomophobia, or rather we are prisoners of our devices

You just have to look around to rediscover us all prisoners of our devices:

  • smartphones have now become extensions of our upper limbs, palliative for all states of anxiety, boredom, waiting and embarrassment during which it is easier to slip with the look on the screen rather than face our own emotions;
  • cameras are the mirror in which we reflect what we want to see of ourselves and we need them to investigate, browse and compare our lives to those of others;
  • the constant connection has broken down the boundaries between countries and time zones, but it has also abolished the alternation of day and night and between the time dedicated to work and our private life, making us live in a dimension of permanent alert, in a need to be and feel always present.

The effects of this pervasive relationship with smartphones and tablets are also felt on the physical plane: there are more and more cases of "text neck" with which especially women and young people are having to deal, so much so that we could talk about the epidemic.

Even at concerts, smartphones seem to be essential

The symptoms of a real disease

The symptoms caused by having your head always bent on the screen are muscular tension at shoulder level, stiffness in the neck and discomfort in the cervical area, and it is not surprising if you consider that, if in an upright position the head weighs from 4.5 to 5.4 kg, a bending down significantly increases the load to which the vertebrae are subjected: from 12 kg with an inclination of 15 ° to 27 kg for a 60°.
Tendinitis or thumb syndromes from smartphones affect those who overstress this joint to send messages and type continuously; headaches, eye discomfort and even problems with the proper production of melatonin, the hormone necessary for sleep-wake balance, are instead due to the constant exposure to light of monitors and screens of various types.

From fear to addiction: the first clinic to detoxify from smartphones

According to some recent studies, beyond certain levels, nomophobia from simple fear risks becoming a real addiction, like those from gambling, compulsive shopping, work or emotional relationships, with manifest side effects such as shortness of breath, tremors, sweating, nausea or heartbeat acceleration.

57% of people check their phones when they wake up and as many as 83% are distracted by work emails even during the night. We check the screen at least 200 times a day.

To understand the scale of the phenomenon and the need not to underestimate its risks, it is enough to know that Brazil has already created the first clinic for digital detoxification, the Instituto Delete of Rio de Janeiro, which offers free treatments to those who need help to heal from this form of obsession.

Statistics on the daily use of mobile phones

Alarmingly, the statistics report data that should at least make us think: it is estimated that 57% of people check the phone when they wake up and even 83% let themselves be distracted by work e-mails even during the night.

Whether the phone really rings or it's just our perception (it's called ringxiety, or phantom ring syndrome), we check the screen at least 200 times a day and, if we don't seem to have enough time for all our commitments, it's probably because, to make up for the time lost in consulting notifications, messages, emails and various apps we need two more hours of work.

Every occasion is good to check your email on your smartphone
We are so obsessed with FOMO (fear of missing out) that we often don't focus on what our best friend is telling us at a coffee shop, what our desk colleague has just asked us, or what our partner is asking us at the table in front of us.

Dealing with nomophobia as an addiction

To heal nomophobia, like any addiction, it can be useful to face a path of detoxification: you can start with simple rules of common sense, such as turning off your phone during the night, watching a whole movie without checking social notifications or having lunch leaving your phone in the bag, but you can also think of taking a few days offline.
Le radiazioni di schermi e di smartphone facilitano l'insorgere della nomofobia
There is no shortage of solutions: in fact, there are increasing numbers of retreats, mountain huts, hotels or luxury resorts that are opting for "analog" tourism, and they are full of proposals for holidays in search of a renewed connection with themselves, perhaps through practices of yoga, mindfulness or meditation.

4 Apps and 5 rules to detoxify from smartphones

Although it seems like nonsense, the smartphone can come to our aid in detoxification: there are in fact many apps that aim to help us stay away more than 20 cm and a handful of minutes.

- Siempo, one of the most used, allows you to silence some apps for a set time and show the missing notifications only at the end of the quarantine period;

- QualityTime allows us to check our (bad) habits and activities on our smartphone, giving us the opportunity to set limits of use on some apps and advising us to take a break whenever it detects abuse;

- Forest is an application that compares our attention to a tree that grows: every time we light it, deciding to dedicate some time offline, we can plant a seed, see it sprout and thus go to cultivate - literally - our concentration, but at the same time we can contribute to the good of the planet, through a real project of reforestation.

- BlackOut, more essential, makes us decide the start and end time of the digital block, leaving it to us to manage what to do with "our" time.

According to the Digital Detox program, the recipe for winning nomophobia is based on five simple rules:

  • Slow down, to learn to live in the present moment and not in past stories or future projections;
  • Reduce the waste of time, energy and attention caused by the massive use of devices;
  • Redraw the environments in which we usually live by repeating the wrong behaviors;
  • Reprogram our habits in a healthy way;
  • Recharging through hobbies, passions, interests, holidays or, simply, taking care of ourselves.

It is said that it takes 21 days to unhinge a habit: if only in the next few minutes we start to detach ourselves from the screen of the mobile phone and look into our eyes, we would already be one-step closer towards freedom.

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