How to stop compulsively checking your phone

Why are we addicted to our phones?

The reason why we automatically check our phones is that they tap into the reward mechanism in the brain. We know this from studies of rats. In a common lab experiment, rats are rewarded with sugar every time they press a little button. Obviously, this makes them press the button a lot more. The really interesting thing is that if they only occasionally get a sugar reward they will compulsively press the button in an addictive behaviour style. It’s the same mechanism that a poker machine runs on: occasional, random rewards. The brain gets tricked with our phone by the potential for some occasional, random reward so we end up compulsively checking it, even when there isn’t much there most of the time.


Manage Smart Phone Addiction with Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a complex skill that’s beyond the scope of this short post to summarise. However, you can still try the exercise below so you can get started and learn more about Mindfulness skills if you are interested.

First, let’s look at why you might want to learn it…

In an experiment, researchers had HR managers do multiple tasks like emailing, calling people and scheduling in 20 minutes. Then over a 8 weeks they taught them mindfulness, body relaxation or nothing at all. The group that did mindfulness training said they felt far less stressed and also had reduced compulsively switching tasks compared with the other groups.

Here is a link for a guided audio exercise about a mindfulness skill for managing compulsive phone checking. It only goes for a few minutes so feel free to take a look.

Uprise is a preventative employee assistance program (EAP) provider that improves employee engagement, retention and performance by enhancing psychological wellbeing. Learn more about how our program solves employee stress.

Jay Spence