My dream morning routine goes like this: wake up naturally with the sun, enjoy warm water with lemon or a cup of coffee with collagen while I meditate for 20 blissful minutes, go through a ten-step skincare routine (K-Beauty style) and gleefully head off to a workout or a walk outside, all before it’s even time to get ready for the workday ahead (aka 7:30am). Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?
Here’s how my morning routine actually goes: alarm goes off, and I groggily think about how Apple should offer less angry alarm tones (but all of the 20+ alarms sound angry to me when it’s 6:24 (precisely)). I turn it off, do the math on how much longer I can possibly stay in bed for (“I don’t really need to put on mascara today”), and sift through Instagram for much longer than even my own bad math allows for. When it’s anywhere from 4-10 minutes too late, I finally get out of bed, brush my teeth, slather on some serum and moisturizer, and either run off to a workout class or leave for work, always a little bit late.
Yes, mornings are hard, and sleeping in is tempting, but I was waking up with more than enough time to achieve my dream morning routine (okay, not as gleefully and naturally as I envisioned, but still…), or at least to just be on time. So what’s the problem? Well, I stay in bed for 20-30 minutes every morning on my phone. That might seem like not that big of a deal, but I did the math (this is more math than I’ve done since high school calculus!) — even just being on my phone for 30 minutes every day is 210 minutes in a week. That’s 10,920 minutes in a year.
That’s right, I was wasting 182 hours a year that I could’ve spent doing something that made me feel productive or happy. Not to mention all the other times in the day I sit around on my phone (aka the nights I get to bed 45 minutes late because I was watching food videos on Facebook). I no longer wanted to waste time, I no longer wanted to always be rushed and late, and I no longer wanted to always resort to my phone out of laziness.
What I did: For two weeks, I was going to commit to not looking at my phone at all, until at least an hour after I woke up, and at least an hour before I wanted to go to bed.
I also vowed to be more mindful in general about my phone usage, and would only go on Instagram to see my notifications and check on the few favorite accounts that I feel genuinely inspire me (@theeverygirl_, duh!). Even those quick checks would be limited to a few times a day (no mindless scrolling!).
Full disclosure, the only exception to these rules would be calling my boyfriend before bed (#LDRers, you get me), but absolutely no snapchatting, Facebook messaging, or Insta scrolling. Not only did I succeed in my two weeks, but I’m still keeping up the habit.
Here’s how it changed my life:
I’m not so rushed.
Sure, in the big game of life, 30 minutes is practically nothing. But 30 minutes before a long day of work? That’s everything. I can make sure I give enough time to my skincare, makeup, hair, and outfit as I need to feel comfortable throughout the entire day and make sure I have everything I need before I leave the house. This saves me more stress than you can possibly realize unless you know how many times I get to the end of the driveway and realize I forgot my wallet. But it’s not just morning routines that this challenge streamlined — I didn’t have to be rushed any time during the day, at all. With my extra time in the morning, I could schedule out my day and lay out or prepare something I may need later like my lunch or workout clothes for evening exercise. I was not late for anything.
When I wasn’t starting my day with sitting around on my phone, I had the time to at least take a 20 minute walk if not a full on workout (thank you, Youtube!). Getting my body moving first thing in the morning made a huge difference on the energy I felt throughout the day, and kept me motivated to make healthy decisions, well into dinner time. I also had the time to make a delicious and nutritious breakfast (I even made yummy avocado toast one morning instead taking a smoothie on the road — phone, who!?).
I’m more confident.
I’m the first person to claim that I actually use social media for good — honest! Instagram helps me find and spread inspiration, harness my style and creativity, and learn about woman’s careers who I admire and would like to learn from. I don’t think I easily compare myself to others, but, let’s be honest, whenever anyone is bombarded by pictures of people living their “best life” (aka a flawless, edited, version of their life without any of the inevitable bad stuff), it starts to shift their mind frame. Instead of starting my day by looking at (unrealistically beautiful) people traveling to amazing places, having amazing clothes, and living amazing lives, I focus on only myself and how amazing my life is. I take time to read a little bit from self improvement books or do something that I know makes me happy like doing a quick yoga session or cooking breakfast. Which brings me to…
Obviously, all of these factors make anyone happier. Being more confident, healthy, and less rushed sounds like a damn happy life, doesn’t it? But beyond just filling the time with activities that make me happier, not checking my phone in the early morning or late at night has psychological benefits that are scientifically proven to change your psychology. For one, screen time gives us a constant subconscious feeling of FOMO. If the first thing we do in the morning is check notifications on our phone, it sets up the mind frame for the day of focusing on all the things we missed since yesterday. Subconsciously, this makes us already feel disconnected and behind.
Checking your phone in the morning will also make it harder for you to focus throughout the rest of the day — seriously. Julie Morgenstern, author of Never Check Email in the Morning, says it’s hard go from using your frontal cortex to the other parts of your brain where strategy and relationships happen. That’s just science-y talk for, your mind goes all over the place when you look at Instagram, check emails, or text, right when you wake up, and your brain can’t adjust as well into a focused state for the rest of the day. Not being able to focus and not being mindful causes stress, and you know what stress causes? Unhappiness.
The world knows how harmful it is to stare at a screen before bed; the blue light tells your body its supposed to be awake, so its harder to get into a deeper sleep cycle (and getting enough sleep is crucial to feeling healthy and happy). If you need another reason, your mind can’t relax if it’s keeping up with Instagram stories and group texts, and that can causes anxiety. What if those horrible nightmares or tossing and turning over your next day to-do list is all because social media scrolling before bed left your mind unable to relax? There’s a very good (scientific) possibility that that’s exactly the reason.
Now, I realize that for many people, they could not even imagine wasting as much time on their phones as I had been (damn kids, these days!), and this article about not looking at your phone for two designated hours of the day is not a life hack, it may just be, well, life. But for us millennials, a phone is like second skin. It’s what we use to communicate, count our steps, wake us up in the morning, and put us to bed at night (thank you, Headspace app). While there are thousands of genius apps that can make you happier and healthier, we need space from our phones in order to be as happy and healthy as we can be. We should be using our phones only to add quality to our life rather than excessive scrolling, and we should not feel dependent on the little screens in our back pockets. A semi-digital detox totally changed my life and it might for you, too.
(And I swear, I only checked Instagram once while writing this!)