The programming: Turn to a screen whenever you need something. Anxious? Upset? Lonely? Bored? The screen has what you need. Paw at the screen like it’s a slot machine. Trigger those hits of dopamine. Relish your superiority.
It’s fine to take a spin on the hamster wheel of impulse gratification every once in a while. Where it kills you is when it becomes a way of life. When your every waking moment is filled with Instagram binges, and little tappy games, and refreshing your news apps, and texting friends, then — that’s where your dreams die.
Be intentional when using your digital devices. Ask: “Why am I doing this? What am I hoping to accomplish here? What’s my goal?” Your digital devices are tools to be used purposefully, not slot machines to be slapped over and over for your amusement.
Cut back on your aimless browsing. Way back. Don’t treat digital like a cheap way to fill dead air with mindless clicking. This is like eating out of boredom. Use digital when you need to, and put it down when you don’t.
Reintroduce friction. Denature the “whip-out-the-phone” impulse. When you aren’t using your phone, put it away—in a bag or on a stand on a table across the room. When you aren’t using your laptop, close it and put it in a drawer. Create separation.
Oh, and… SLOW DOWN. Don’t whip out your phone like you’re going to resuscitate someone with it. Try thoughtfully stopping… opening your bag… removing your phone… mindfully using it… putting it back. It sounds silly, but these are precisely the kinds of tweaks that train your mind to be more spacious and calm.