How to Defeat Bad Habits and Tear Yourself Away from the Phone Screen

As a useful tool, the phone often becomes a dependency. On the one hand – without leaving home, you can buy tickets for a plane, chat with friends, order food delivery and choose a new dress. On the other – continually tightening the view of the new line, an endless stream of unnecessary information,

problems with concentration and scattered attention. How to get rid of the habit of always being distracted by the phone? How do we change our habits? How to strengthen the willpower and not give up after the first miss? In this post – the critical advice of the psychotherapist Richard O’Connor, as well as useful applications for the phone and simple tricks that will help get rid of telephone dependence.

The psychotherapist Richard O’Connor views our dependence on the phone and the Internet as one of the models of self-destructive behavior along with overeating, overworking from processing and the inability to prioritize. In his book Psychology of Bad Habits, Richard explains where our bad habits come from and how to get rid of them.

It’s hard to stop

“Such bad habits like procrastination, over-eating or refusal to exercise, strike us as a natural property of human nature. And even if they do not go too far and do not annoy, they still make them feel guilty and “eat off” a part of our self-esteem. A sense of guilt serves as a lever when something needs to be changed. But most often it does not work out, and the wine becomes an unnecessary burden, which we put on our shoulders.

We tried many times to stop because at first glance it seems that this is an easy thing. But knowing perfectly what is good and what is bad, we continue to choose the latter. So why can not we cope with this? “

“Why we do things that harm us is one of the great mysteries of the human mind. And this is a rather different secret since things that give pleasure motivates most of our actions, make us proud, love, evoke a sense of superiority.

Such aspirations, conditioned by the desire for satisfaction, underlie the pleasure principle, and he explains the greater part of human behavior. Then why do we sometimes do things that will make us feel bad and withdraw from the desired results? ”

Oh, I’m by chance!

Richard O’Connor believes that the reason for our bad habits can be the presence of two areas of consciousness in us, which are poorly correlated with each other. They give us conflicting advice, and we often make unconscious choices. We have a thoughtful, conscious and reflective self, but there is also an “involuntary self” that does its work without attracting our attention.

“Conscious I” can also make mistakes, but many troubles are brought down on our heads through the fault of “involuntary self.” It is guided by motives and prejudices that we do not realize. It is our personal choice, which often does not correlate with reality.

These are our old habits of living in a certain way and experiencing certain feelings. The “involuntary self” largely governs our behavior, especially spontaneous actions.

The “Conscious Self” enters when we think about our choice, but it can focus only one thing at a time. In the meantime, we constantly make many decisions at once. So the “involuntary self” makes us hungrily eat potato chips, while the “conscious self” is busy with something else.

The simulator for willpower

“People think that they do not have willpower, but willpower is not what we have or do not have, like the color of the eyes. It is a learned skill, like the ability to play tennis or type on a computer keyboard. Just need to train your nervous system, how we train our muscles and reflexes.

We must go to the “gym,” but not for physical, and mental exercises, each time to practice alternative forms of behavior, and each time it will be easier and easier. “

Neuroscientists have proved that if you practice good habits, the brain responds and develops in response, and it becomes easier to follow these habits. When we do something consistently, concentrating on this attention, the nerve cells create new material connections among themselves.

For example, there is a specific nerve center A – he is responsible for the intention to visit the gym. And there is a nerve center B that regulates the duration of the intention – it gives the signal to stay in the hall until you do all the exercises. Centers A and B develop new connections.

Neurons, activated simultaneously, form new contacts. As a result, training in the gym becomes a habit and gets physically embodied in the brain. We forget about the pain in the muscles and the desire to lie in bed – everything that can distract us, and just train. And whenever we do this,

Practice and practice again

The formation of new connections and new habits does not happen so quickly. We do not hope to learn how to play the guitar or learn a new language in a couple of weeks, but we often expect for the same time to overcome our habits acquired by years of life.

“Habits are dying hard. Every time, acquiring a bad habit, we make it easier for ourselves in the future. But at the same time, every time, acquiring a good habit, we get and a great chance to return to it. We can learn to program our brains in such a way that it is easier and more natural to make the right choice and train the willpower.

The concentration of attention and constant practice will change the “reward system,” and then bad habits will lose their appeal: new, creative forms of behavior will replace them. ”

★ Trying to get rid of bad habits (give up sugar, stop sleeping late, overcome dependence on the Internet), on one of the bad days, we smoothly roll back. 

At this moment, we can surrender and feel that we have spent our efforts in vain, but this is not so. Acquired knowledge is not lost. Every day of good practice leaves a mark in our brain, and on Monday we do not start all over again, but continue to move in the right direction.

60 minutes without Instagram

The editor of the scientific department of The Atlantic, James Hamblin, advises an hour before sleep to stop using the phone. This will help not only to fall asleep more quickly but also to do things that we have long delayed: dismantle things, sew a button to your favorite dress or finish the book.

★ Try for a week not to use the phone before going to bed, and you will see that the list of long-deferred cases has significantly decreased, and the quality of sleep has improved.

They are related: what is emotional support and how to give emotional support?

To be in 5 minutes

An hour before going to bed does not seem like such a long time, but what to do with the phone during business hours? If you often postpone working things for the sake of tape in Instagram, remember the law, written by psychologist Ruth Emmett in his “Lazy Book”: “The horror before the task takes us more time and energy than its execution itself.”

A simple practice from Dr. O’Connor helps cope with the desire to interrupt every 15 minutes and form the right connections in our nervous system and brain.

To cope with the procrastination, O’Connor advises taking a deep breath and imagining that you are stuck to the chair seat. On anything without being distracted, it is necessary to work five minutes. Only five minutes. Then take a short break and work for another five minutes.

Continue this cycle until you work productively or do not exhaust yourself completely. The impulse of procrastination of our “involuntary self” does not react to logical arguments, but responds to a narrow focus. In the end, you will catch a working wave and feel your ability to act, and the impulse of procrastination will further weaken. If this does not help today, try tomorrow and the next day.

★ If you do not know where to start, start with what lies on the surface or right in front of your nose. When you gradually become involved in work, it will be much easier to determine priorities.

3 applications for the phone, which will help not to be distracted by the phone

No matter how ridiculous it may sound, the applications on the phone can also help to win the habit of being distracted by the phone.


Count how much time you spend on the phone, and draw conclusions. Moment shows how many minutes or hours you spent on the phone, and also indicates which applications take up most of your time.


This app keeps track of what we’re spending our time on the computer and the phone. RescueTime shows how much time we spent on each site, and how much on Word and Excel.

On the chart, you can see how much time we spent on entertainment, training, and communication. Based on statistics, the efficiency index is constructed. The application can be installed as an extension to the browser or Android.

Forest: Stay focused

The application “Forest: Stay focused” saves when it’s hard to concentrate. The principle of operation is straightforward: you plant a seed from which a tree grows in 30 minutes.

During this time, you can not touch the phone (except – calls). Otherwise, the tree will wither and die. Here you can grow a whole forest, which can not but motivate.