THE BLOG

Put Down Your Phone! An Exercise in Happiness

04/21/2015 03:52 pm ET | Updated Jun 21, 2015

I'm always looking for more ways to be happy. Let's face it -- happiness can be challenging at times. Even expectedly joyous occasions like weddings, holidays or moving to your dream home can have serious side effects of stress. The more I can do to attract happiness in my life, the better, so I'm always open to new suggestions.

Which brings me to a few days ago when I sat in the waiting room of a doctor's office and picked up a recent magazine featuring ways to invite more happiness into your life. There were typical suggestions like spend time with your pet, listen to music and take a road trip, but one tip stood out to me: Put down your phone!

We've all heard it before. Maybe you've even told someone else that. I've heard it many times, and I say to myself that I'm not that bad so this doesn't apply to me. But it actually does, and if you have a smartphone that you carry with you, then this applies to you too!

I have a 9-month-old daughter. When she was just 1-month-old, I would rock her in my arms, watch her drift off to sleep and ignore my phone. I was so content, I promised I would never let a call, email, text, app or Internet search distract me from enjoying every moment -- good or bad -- with her. That lasted three months.

Once we moved into the phase of repetitive children's shows, lullabies and baby toys, I got kind of bored. When I realized she was content doing many activities on her own, I figured she wouldn't notice if I checked Instagram or answered emails. The article I read was a good reminder of the promise I made and inspiration to put down my phone and live in the moment! Here are a few tips for you to try too:

Lead by example!
This is the golden rule of smartphone etiquette. Treat others how you want to be treated. Texting and emailing in the company of others sends a strong message to them: you have other priorities. Being fully present with others improves relationships, so go ahead and show people how it's done!
How to do it: Put your phone in your bag, pocket, or face down on a table. If you want to be on top of urgent communication, change the ring tone of your priority contacts.

Disconnect before bed!
Studies show that cell phone emissions disrupt sleep. Sleep is vital for improving mood, physical health and more.
How to do it: Use an actual (good old-fashioned) alarm clock if you're using your phone as an alarm. Charge your phone overnight in a room where no one is sleeping.

Take back control!
You might think that responding immediately to text messages and emails wards off stress because it's off your to-do list. Not true exactly. Messaging is continuous. Once it's off your list, it is likely to come around again, and responding immediately can allow the task to control you. Turn it around by being in charge of your messages.
How to do it: Choose a few times per day to check and respond to messages. Remember -- simply change the alert tones for contacts that are urgent.

Break the addiction!
Two words: dopamine loops. Text messages, Internet searches, social networks, etc. provide instant gratification and gets you hooked. You seek and receive immediate fulfillment which makes you seek more. In this case, prompting you to constantly refresh Facebook, check text messages, etc. Break the cycle!
How to do it: Put down your damn phone and stay strong. Live in the moment and remember that we survived for a very long time without Facebook.

Don't ruin the moment by taking pictures!
Capturing moments is great, but being fully present is top priority. A study in Psychological Science shows that taking photographs instead of taking in the moment hinders memories from fully sinking in.
How to do it: Take in the moment first and then decide if the moment is camera-worthy.