Guest post by Catherine Price is Miraval’s Digital Wellness Ambassador, founder of Screen/Life Balance
When smartphones arrived in 2007, we didn’t anticipate negative consequences because we loved their benefits so much. Suddenly, a single device allowed us to let us stay in touch, take photos, listen to music, learn new things—and more. What could be the downside?
But we’ve reached a point where the balance of power has flipped. Today, most of us can’t go very long without checking our devices. They are the first thing we reach for in the morning and the last thing we interact with before bed. We interrupt conversations with loved ones for random notifications. We spend vacations responding to work emails. We go through life half-present, with our bodies in one place and our minds somewhere else.
Put it all together and, when it comes to our relationships with our devices, it can be hard to tell who’s in control.
As the author of How to Break Up With Your Phone and the founder of ScreenLifeBalance.com, I’ve now spent more than half a decade investigating the effects that our relationships with our devices are having on us, and have discovered that the frazzled feeling you get after a long day of screen multitasking isn’t imaginary. Splitting our attention between browser tabs, emails, and texts exhausts our brains. With every beep and buzz, we breathe more shallowly, move less, and produce more stress-related hormones that make us feel anxious in the moment and that can harm our long-term health.
Indeed, if you feel like you don’t remember things like you used to, or have trouble concentrating, or feel increasingly lonely or insecure, your interactions with technology may be partially to blame. The stress of constantly being on high alert hurts our attention spans, memories, productivity, relationships, and mental health. And relentlessly posting photographs to social media turns life into a performance and encourages us to make decisions based on others’ opinions instead of our own.
That’s why Miraval Mode is so powerful. The relaxation you feel at Miraval isn’t just in your head—it’s a result of physical changes in your body as it responds to a calming environment. By asking you to disconnect from your screens—and reconnect with real life—Miraval Mode offers a rare opportunity in our always-on lives: to step back, catch your breath, and reclaim your agency and connection to the world.
Don’t have a trip to Miraval planned? Good news: it’s possible to extend this practice beyond our properties and use it to improve your everyday life at home.
Here are some simple steps you can take to create a healthier relationship with your devices, no matter where you are:
Set Boundaries. I recommend creating “no phone zones” in your home where everyone knows that phones are allowed, no discussion or arguments required. The best two places to start are your dining room, so that you can enjoy your meal and connect with whomever you might be eating with, and your bedroom, so that you can get a good night’s sleep. To make the latter easier, I highly recommend that you create a charging station outside your bedroom. (or, at very least, out of arm’s reach) and that you put something relaxing on your bedside table where your phone usually sits, such as a book you’ve been meaning to read, or a crossword puzzle. That way, when you reach for your phone on autopilot, you’ll have an easy alternative at hand.
Create Speedbumps. We often reach for our phones on autopilot – that’s why we frequently find our phones in our hands without knowing how they got there. The problem is that you can’t change a habit if you don’t even know that you have it. That’s why it’s so important to create speed bumps, which are small obstacles that force you to slow down and make a conscious decision about what you want to do next. Try putting a rubber band or hair tie around your phone. Then, when you reach for your phone and encounter the band, you’ll be reminded to notice that you picked up your phone—and can ask if doing so is really what you want to be doing in that moment.
Make a Mantra. When you’re making a shift, mantras can help. I personally like to remind myself that “my life is what I pay attention to”—which then prompts me to ask myself how much of my limited time on earth I want to spend on my phone. I also like to keep in mind Mary Oliver’s question, “How do I want to spend my one wild and precious life?”
Look Up. When you are out and about and have a few minutes—or even seconds—of downtime (say, while you’re waiting in line), get in the habit of looking up rather than staring down at your devices. It’s much better for your posture—and it also lets you notice beauty in your surroundings and connect with the people around you.
Keep a Journal. I’m a bit biased, given that I’m a writer, but I find it useful to spend the last few minutes before bed writing in my journal instead of scrolling through my phone. I ask myself questions like, “What was the best moment in my day?” and “What am I excited about?” This allows me to go to bed much more relaxed and content than I would have been if I’d spent that time checking things on my phone.
Catherine Price is Miraval’s Digital Wellness Ambassador, founder of Screen/Life Balance®, and author of books including How to Break Up With Your Phone and The Power of Fun: How to Feel Alive Again. She helps people scroll less and live more. Guests can learn more about her work—and get her books, plus more resources and practical tips—at ScreenLifeBalance.com (and @_catherineprice on Instagram, where she does her best to use social media for good!).