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How to Kick Your Phone Addiction Using Stop-Smoking Techniques

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 16, 2020

I don’t know if you’ve been listening lately, but yesterday’s episode of Kottke Ride Home was a particularly good one.

I was amused by the jetpack story (as well as Casey Niestat’s denial) and the idea that there’s a 50/50 chance we’re all living in a simulation is right up my alley. But I was most interested in the segment on how we can curtail our phone usage using proven techniques learned from people who have successfully quit smoking (aka the thing that people did with their hands when they had free moment before phones came along).

From the article by McKinley Valentine that Jackson highlighted:

I tried turning notifications off on every app. I just got anxious and opened the apps more often.

I tried deleting the apps that caused problems-social media, news, messages-from my phone. I ended up just accessing them in the browser.

I tried using apps like Stay Focused to block my access. I’d just disable them.

I tried just not checking my phone — the cold turkey method — and folks, it didn’t go great. All it did was add a layer of guilt to my bad habit and sour mood.

I thought: I have to get smarter about this. Who knows about addiction? What addiction has been studied in-depth, for decades, with an absolutely massive group of experiment subjects, to establish the best-practice methods? Cigarettes!

Valentine tried three main methods to kick her phone addiction habit: substitution, urge-surfing, and following the techniques in Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking. Carr’s advice was the most effective:

Carr notes that there is a huge disconnect between what we want and what we actually enjoy. They’re different neurological processes. That’s why you can desperately crave, for example, an entire blueberry cheesecake, but when you actually eat it, it’s only OK. Or why you often don’t feel like going out with your friends at all — it seems like kind of a hassle — but when you actually see them, you have an amazing time.

So Carr recommends working to really notice and internalise that disconnect. He tells smokers to pay attention to their next cigarette. It’s like mindfulness but for noticing the unpleasantness. How does it taste? Not, “how did you imagine it would taste when you were craving it,” but how does it actually taste? Does it smell nice? Do your hands smell nice? How do you feel — do you actually feel more relaxed, or do you feel worse?

Wow, “a huge disconnect between what we want and what we actually enjoy”…boy, have I observed that in my life many times. Gonna totally use this on some of my less constructive pandemic coping habits… (via kottke ride home)