The term internet addiction is known by numerous other terms, including internet addiction disorder, electronic screen disorder, internet dependency syndrome, digital screen addiction and compulsive internet use covers a multitude of different uses from social media to gaming. Contrary to popular belief it is not always what you are viewing that causes problems, but the amount of time you spend staring at your screen that counts. Roy Morgan reports Australians now spent more time on the Internet than working or at school.

If you at this level then you may want to consider ways to curb your use of electronic device as over use can impact on your well-being.

Here are 3 simple steps you can take to bring you screen use under control.

Monitor your own use

It may sound a silly idea to monitor your use but much of our use of digital devices is unconcious habit. We do it so often we dont register our use in the conscious mind. By creating a diary of your daily use you will bring this use into your concsious awareness and see just how much time you spend on the internet.

We use the term ‘internet’ to cover all use: every time you check your phone, iPad, tablet, laptop, desktop note down the times when you use a digital screen, checking email surfing the internet, playing a game to pass the time, checking social media, watching netflix, even looking up a new recipe, literally anything you use a screen for.

Its also a good idea to note down if your use impacts on any other activities. For example did your use of the internet make you late for an appointment, Put off sporting activity such as going to the gym, sleep badly after using an electronic screen just before you go to sleep, do you use the phone when in conversation with another person, or maybe you stayed online longer than intended? Answering yes to these suggestions doesn’t necessarily mean you have an addiction, but it does highlight that your use of the internet may be impacting on some parts of your life and it is important to be aware of this. Awareness is one of the key players in breaking your habit!

Practice Mindful Awareness

Mindfulness is a practice that simply means you stop, breathe, observe, and connect with your inner experience. Mindfulness can be added to your life through meditation, yoga, art, walking the dog, spending time in the park with nature, or even going to the gym. Research suggests the more screen time we have the more impulsive we become as we lose the connection to our inner experiences. A little mindful thought will help to curb any impulsiveness and help you become a little more curious and mindful about your thoughts and actions

For example: if we check our phones every morning as soon as we get up and last thing at night before we go to sleep. How does this impact on our mood for the day or sleep that night? Good feedback tends to give you the feel good factor whilst no comment or a putdown can leave us feeling a little angry or low. Its important to keep in mind that those who check their phone just before bed run the risk of a very poor night’s sleep. The constant stimulation of screen time can also overload our minds making restful sleep difficult to accomplish.

Having a mindful approach will help you to build a short gap between your unconscious action, such as checking your email and a conscious response, like resisting the temptation to check your email. The gap is only a fraction of a second but taking a breath of two as you make your move can help you break the habit. Just breath or sigh if your prefer it does not matter, as long as you pay attention to the breathing. By doing this you break your thought pattern. Your mind moves into consciously awareness which gives you the opportunity to do a short internal check: how do I feel at this moment? what were my reasons for checking? What am I hoping to find? How long was it since I last checked?

We pick up habits as we go through life and if we do something on a regular basis for long enough it will eventually become an unconscious habit. Many people use mindfulness to break their bad habits and by monitoring your own use you will start to identify your habits of electronic screen use like why you actually went online how long you spent online, and how this made you feel. In psychology, any regularly repeated behaviour that requires little or no thought and is learned rather than innate, is a habit. Our habits can involve eating, sleeping, thinking and reacting, and are developed through reinforcement and repetition.

Habits are with us for a reason stress, boredom, anxiety for example may lead to nail biting, smoking or overeating. The internet is often used as an escape from reality and stress, boredom and anxiety can trigger over use in some people. Once we know the unhealthy habits we want to change we can identify ways to replace them. For example: if boredom is a reason for going online then we can look for a pleasant alternative, such as going for walk with the family, read a book or maybe play a board game with the family. We can all change our habits, if we want to, it just takes a little perseverance and practice.

Change Your Living Environment

Our local environment can have a big impact on our behaviours. For example: the person who wants to change their gambling habits can look to avoid walking past the betting shop or people who gamble to prevent a relapse back into bad habits. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy to avoid the internet as it is pretty much woven into the fabric of our lives. We go online to: chat, arrange our transport, order food, emergency contact in times of difficulty, buy goods, make a payment, the list goes on and on and it is almost impossible to avoid this part of our lives, temptation is always with us. So how can changing our environment help to change our habits?

Your environment may be supporting your habit and by changing your environment you can remove the temptation to fall back into old habits like using your phone, tablet or laptop at certain times and if you are serious about replace them with new habits.

Here are 6 simple ways you can change your environment and start to create new digital habits:

  1. Keep all laptops and phones etc out of bedrooms, especially when you go to bed
  2. Keep all electronic devices in communal areas
  3. Never take your phone to bed
  4. Have set times to use social media and emails and stick to them
  5. Set time limits for how long you use the internet
  6. Write down what you wish to search for. Stick it to the monitor so you are constantly reminded of what your task is