Break Your Smartphone Addiction In Three Steps, Says Habit Coach

By Lindsey Weedston 04/10/19

Habit Coach Niklas Göke claims by using three essential steps “you can escape your phone’s toxic grasp in the next five minutes.”

people using their smartphones

Smartphone addiction has been an increasingly popular subject as 77% of the adult population in the U.S. has come to rely on these devices. Naturally, cautions against overuse of smartphones as well as advice on how to break an addiction to them have followed.

Diagnostic criteria for this kind of addiction, which is not yet included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), varies. However, one 2014 study estimated that 84% of people worldwide are addicted to their smartphones.

In an article for Fast Company, writer and “habit coach” Niklas Göke lays out three essential steps to breaking oneself of a smartphone addiction. He draws upon his own experiences and behavioral psychology to claim that “you can escape your phone’s toxic grasp in the next five minutes.”

The first step is simply “don’t give up before you start,” by which Göke means, don’t automatically dismiss the suggestions he’s about to make. The next step is to “change the default,” drawing on the book Nudge by behavioral economist and Nobel laureate Richard Thaler. Both Thaler and Geoke argue that humans will stay in their default mode unless seriously compelled to change it. 

“In Austria, 99% of people are organ donors,” Göke writes. “In Germany, that number is just 12%. Why? Germany has an opt-in system. You have to fill in a little card and carry it in your wallet. But that takes effort, so most people never do it. Austria has an opt-out system. You’re a donor by default, and most people never change it.”

He therefore recommends not only putting your phone on silent, but changing the settings so that it doesn’t vibrate when on silent mode.

The third step is to “make yourself take one extra step” by doing things like turning off the “raise to wake” setting so that you have to push a button to wake up the phone and removing notifications from your home screen. This way, Göke argues, there’s less of a reason to be picking the phone up every few seconds.

Unfortunately, being separated from one’s smartphone can cause its own form of stress.

Dr. Dale Archer talked about nomophobia—fear of being without your smartphone—in 2013. Citing studies which found that, among other things, 70% of women feel anxious when they don’t have immediate access to their phones, Archer argued that smartphone addiction is a real and growing problem.

“If checking and rechecking your phone comes as naturally to you as breathing, or if you feel anxious or restless any time your phone is not on or near you, you may have a technology addiction,” he said.

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

Lindsey Weedston is a Seattle area writer focused on mental health and addiction, politics, human rights, and various social issues. Her work has appeared in The Establishment, Ravishly, ThinkProgress, Little Things, Yes! Magazine, and others. You can find her daily writings at Twitter: