Take Back Your Thoughts… And Your Day

Do you wake up and reach for your phone in the morning? Whether it’s current pandemic and you’re working from home and whether you rely on your phone to entertain you on your commute to work, being glued to your phone is not helping your well being. Your brain may being hijacked from the moment you wake up. Time to take back your morning and take back your thoughts! Making a pledge to start the day phone less has benefits too. You are framing your day how YOU want to frame it, instead of being batted around like a cat’s backyard catch. You can decide to have a positive day or a crappy day without your phone being involved.

Here’s my simple proposal:

Wake up, shower, have breakfast, and if you can, write a couple morning pages in your journal. Get to work or school and settle in for your day. Try to take stock of the world around you, the lovely smell of your coffee or that yummy bagel, the weather outside, that book you’ve been wanting to read, pet your dog or cat, tell your kids you love them. Be in the moment instead of inside your phone. Avoid looking at your phone until you’ve gotten done with the rest of your morning. If you need to pull up your commuter app to get on the train or bus, that’s fine, but swiftly put it back in your pocket.

That wasn’t so bad, was it? I bet you noticed things about your world that you haven’t thought about in a while. Did your breakfast taste better? Is your brow a bit less furrowed? Do you feel a spring in your step? I’m so glad! Try it again for at least 10 days in a row and see how it works for you. If after ten days, you’re feeling all the feels, shoot for the moon and set a longer goal.

Why’s it so bad to start your day staring at your phone? Let’s take a look at a few reasons to postpone your screen time for just a bit each morning:

  1. That extra screen time is probably causing some level of fatigue for you. When you look at small things, small screens, small print, you are in “focus mode” and your brain has only so much energy allocated for deep focus each day. Even if you are watching a funny video, or pictures of your friend’s cat, you brain still perceives it as an activity that needs extra brain power.
  2. The stress from reading negative news makes your muscles tense up before they’ve even had a chance to great the day. Just the idea of worrying about what horrible thing may have happened since the last time you checked the news may be adding to your stress. I’m definitely NOT proposing that you disconnect entirely, especially right now. There are lots of social, ethical, and political reasons for us to educate ourselves and stay “plugged in” but it doesn’t mean we have to frame our day with the latest political scandal at the forefront of our minds.
  3. Stressful news also spikes our cortisol levels. Adding news to that highly caffeinated cup of Joe is like add a quad shot of espresso to it. Too much cortisol can wreak havoc on your body, from your brain, to your heart, to your gut. That amped up feeling you get when you read about the stupid thing some politician said? It’s going to guarantee that your 3 o’clock afternoon crash is going to come down on you hard as a rock. I used to crash hard around that time, and back in the days of office life, I’d reach for a vending machine candy bar to spike up that cortisol level again. No wonder one in three adults is pre-diabetic.

I’ve been making the phone-free morning a habit for a few weeks now. I love spending a little time in the morning with my journal and a cup of tea. I get to think about what I’d like to achieve for the day so it starts my day off feeling like I’m the master of my day. I used to feel like I reacted to whatever came at me, now I can prioritize my time better and make sure I’m getting what I need instead of just feeling like I’m giving it all away. I’ve also found that I some days don’t even care about the news or instagram. This is a huge step for me. For a long time I felt compelled to overshare. I’m pretty sure it lead to more depression and anxiety for me. And I’m definitely not alone there.

Is it easy for me? Absolutely not. There are many days I have to resist the urge. Today was one of those days. I told myself, ‘gee, if only I could check the weather,’ but then I remembered I could just look outside. I feel like I’m relearning to be content with the amount of information that used to be normal. If I’m really excited for a Saturday hike, bike ride or camping trip? I can wait until later on in the morning when I can check for the weekend forecast. I really didn’t need to know it right then.

The take-away: It’s time to take back your life from the chains of your tiny, addictive screen. Changing your morning routine is the best way to take back your day. It might take a little practice, but you’ll be grateful you did.

More great articles about phone use and addition here, here, and here

Alanna Risse is an instructor, web developer, and artist living in Portland, Oregon.

Alanna Risse is an instructor, web developer, and artist living in Portland, Oregon.