Sometimes I reach for my phone because I need the do something productive, but many other times I reach for it out of habit. Can you relate?
When I habitually fill my free moments with phone use, I become distracted and out of balance. This is not an ideal state for creativity to flourish, and flourishing creativity is really important to me (way more important than looking at ads on my phone).
How does too much phone use steal our creative energy?
Excess phone use, whether it be social media, browsing my email, watching videos, or checking for updates, either sinks me into a dull feeling of inertia and slowness or propels me into a state of mental overwhelm and heightened overactivity. Both of these states take away from a more ideal state for creativity which is luminous, balanced, and properly energized. The words for these energies I’ve mentioned above according to my Ayurvedic studies are tamas (dull) rajas (overactive) and sattva (clear, calm, bright, and balanced). I think this is such a great framework for understanding our relationship with our phones and digital media. In order to be the best creative version of ourselves, we need clarity and balance in our systems. To bring ourselves back to a peaceful and balanced state of sattva and cultivate conditions for a more fulfilling and spacious creative life, I’ve come up with strategies for what to do instead of reaching for your phone.
In a world dominated by addictive apps and notifications, I’m confident we are still able to be in control of our personal peace. Here are my five practices for minimizing your phone usage that will significantly shift your energy into becoming more connected, clear, and authentically creative:
1. Phone-Sized Sketchbook
If you’re like me, your Instagram feed is full of other artists and lots of art. It’s easy to get swept away and let what you see on the internet determine what you think you should be creating. But what if this takes away from what might arise from within yourself? Solution: Swap endless Instagram art scrolling for a small sketchbook. Mine is about twice the size of my phone. (Our dotted jotters are the perfect size.) Stick one in your bag along with your phone, or keep it around your house. This shift minimizes the influence of external comparisons and "inspiration overload." Instead of picking up your phone when it isn’t necessary, just start sketching or doodling. Create little quick thumbnails of some ideas you’ve been having. Focus on creating your own unique ideas, just seeing what comes up. Pay attention to how satisfying and easeful this feels vs. mining for dopamine on your phone. You might be surprised! Replacing scrolling with low-stakes sketching immediately helps you foster a more authentic and personal channel of creativity.
2. Grounding Practices
When I’m feeling overwhelmed, uncomfortable, or creatively blocked, the last thing I need is to get sucked out of my body and into my phone. Screen activity pulls so much energy up and out of the body - literally through our eyes and ears - as the attention is placed out in front of our faces and our external senses are activated. We often lose awareness of our spines and the rest of our body when focusing so much externally. So, Instead of habitually reaching for the phone some more, reestablish your relationship with the physical world by practicing some grounding techniques. These techniques are meant for you to connect with your body, call your energy back in, and direct it downward. What I like to do is lay on a yoga mat either flat on my back or with my legs up the wall and just let the tension drain and melt. If this is not accessible for you, sitting in a chair with your feet planted on the floor works too. Imagine and feel the energy draining downward from your external senses as you release tension from the eyes and head. Relax and allow for the feeling of gravity in your lower body. Feel heavy and embodied. Grounding can also be as simple as feeling the texture of the ground with your feet, taking a mindful walk, exhaling longer than your inhale for several deep breaths, or any ritual you enjoy that involves consciously directing energy downward. These make the body and mind feel less "all over the place" and more "here, in one place", providing a solid foundation that our creativity can more freely emerge from.
3. Analog Brain Dump
If you've read and implemented strategies from any of Julia Cameron's Artist Way books, you may already know that stream-of-consciousness journaling is therapeutic in a league of its own, especially for fostering creative clarity. Being inundated with content on our phones can stir up more thoughts and impressions than the mind can process in real-time, leaving us feeling unregulated and fragmented. And for those of us who also share a lot on social media, we've adapted to making our content into short form as little "digestible" crumbs. But when there are 1000s of different crumbs, we can't actually digest them. Some studies show that both creating and consuming long-form content is better for the nervous system. Journaling your unfiltered stream of consciousness not only helps slow the mind down, but it is an exercise for getting out of your own way and seeing what comes forth onto the page. This is undoubtedly wonderful for opening a clear creative channel. Put your pen to paper in a lined journal and write for three pages, that's Julia's instruction at least. Bonus effects if you do it in the morning before looking at your phone. It really works.
4. Intentional Quiet Time
Embrace moments of silence with closed eyes to nurture your sensory well-being. Creativity thrives when given the opportunity to process and synthesize information from the outside world. Taking intentional breaks from external stimuli allows your mind to generate its own unique perspectives and ideas. If just sitting with your eyes closed causes your mind to race, try paying attention to your breath. But not just the sound or feeling of your breath - but the energy behind it. This takes you deeper in yourself and can lead to more quieting of the mind. There are many strategies for experiencing silence that can't be covered in a blog post, but other options simply include taking a break from podcasts and music, finding a quiet space, and just being a part of the silence that is always there in between all of the noise around us. Let go. Even 10 minutes of this can make a huge difference.
5. Reunite With Nature
Step outside and immerse yourself in nature. Whether it's a park, a forest, your garden, a beach (if you are so lucky to have one nearby), a conservatory or botanical garden, or honestly... anywhere where you can see sky and plants, being in natural surroundings makes us remember what home really is: Earth. The beauty and tranquility of nature can center us back into our own creative spirit, offering a palette of sights, sounds, and sensations that can't be replicated on a screen.
By incorporating these practices and minimizing your reliance on your phone, you pave the way for a more profound and authentic creative experience. Embrace the freedom and remember - you have the power within you to make positive changes in your habits! Any more strategies you can think of? Leave them in the comments.