Smartphone detox: Why it’s critical to disconnect in our digital world

MIAMI — Are you addicted to your smartphone? Who isn’t! A 2016 poll released by Common Sense Media found that 50-percent of teens and 27-percent of parents feel they are addicted to their smartphones.

“Typically people are looking at their phones anywhere from 300-500 times within one day and it sounds crazy but you don’t even realize it. It’s an addiction,” explained personal finance expert Shani Curry St. Vil who admits she is part of the group.

More and more experts are adding excessive smartphone use to the list of addictions that lead to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. When you can’t put the phone down that’s where the problems can arise.

“It’s not just chemical substances that creates dependency in the body but I’m talking specifically about things that are pleasure seeking that our reward centers react to,” explained Coral Gables psychologist Dr. Margaret Mustelier. “In fact, I’m treating adolescents now and I know that I have more than one mom saying to me that their kid being addicted to their phone is affecting them.”

It may be a familiar feeling. You’re scrolling through Instagram and Facebook and 30 minutes later you are left feeling not as accomplished, not as happy, or not as rich.

“People getting into debt because they feel this excessiveness to travel more because there’s so many people that have this extensive travel with all these stamps inside of their passports. People really want to keep up, they want to be “in” and financially they may not be able to afford the way that comparison is costing them,” said St. Vil.

So how do you know if you have a phone addiction?

Dr. Mustelier says many people already display that first sign of addiction.

“I think one of the probably really key way is if you notice you are in traffic and can’t put [the phone] down. Also when you find that constant urgency to check your phone.”

You can curb that addiction with a combination of behavioral strategies like limiting the time you spend on your phone. For St. Vil, a more tactical approach works best.

“Another thing I do to counter my own addiction is that I have this app called Moment. What you do is download it to your phone when you looks at it and it starts to go into the red that lets you know you’ve been on social media within that day for 3 hours or more.”

It’s safe to say that most of us can’t cut the cell phone cold turkey but the key is to monitor and cut some of the time you spend on your phone. Secondly, take a serious look at who or what you follow on social media.

Dr. Mustelier advises to unfollow Instagram accounts that leave you feeling more empty than content.