October 16, 2013, 3:06 PM — Cell phones are ubiquitous and so is the sight of people staring into them while doing something else - waiting in line, driving a car, walking into a pole and so forth.
The Boston Globe reports that phone-checking has become a major - and in the case of texting while driving, deadly - habit.
"Our phones have effectively programmed us with new habits, including a powerful urge to pull them out when we’re not supposed to," notes writer Leon Netfakh.
What causes that urge? Simply put, habit. We are programming ourselves to pick them up constantly. These habits are caused by triggers - an action, thought or feeling that lead to another specific act, in this case, checking your phone.
Think about it: If you have it programmed to vibrate or emit a sound when you receive a text message or e-mail, there's your trigger. You hear the sound or feel the haptic feedback and that triggers your brain to pick up and scan your phone.
However, you may be picking up your phone repeatedly even without such an obvious trigger. Netfakh cites a study in which participants were given smartphones for 6 weeks. The phones were loaded with usage tracking software, which revealed the more than 130 subjects "pulled out their devices for very brief periods up to 60 times per day."
If you're triggered by sounds or vibration, habit-breaking is easy: set your notifications to mute. But how does one battle the habit of incessant phone checking in other instances? Netfakh argues: "fight habit with habit."
In this case, treat phone-checking like any other bad habit you're trying to break.
Step 1: Identify what's triggering your urge to check your phone.
Step 2: Develop another response to the trigger to circumvent unnecessary or excessive phone usage.
Say, for instance, you realize you constantly check your phone while driving. You assess the situation and realize you do so because you're bored, stuck in traffic, etc. In this case, you can create a new habit by leaving your phone in your trunk, in the back seat or anywhere not in arm's reach.
Click below for more ideas on creating new habits.