Unsplash, Creative Commons Zero
Source: Unsplash, Creative Commons Zero

Smartphones have a bad reputation for contributing to our sense of being always "on" and the stress associated with that.  However, there are some ways your smartphone can reduce your stress. These are some of my favorites, accompanied by the psychological rationale behind why these smartphone features are stress reducers.

1. Location-aware reminders.

Holding information in mind is mentally taxing.  "To do" lists are useless if you don't refer back to the list in the situation or moment in which you need reminding.  Therefore you still need to hold in mind the self-instruction to look at your list.

When an event is time-specific, a calendar reminder works well.  However, another way to approach an overwhelming amount of things to do is to use location-specific reminders.  

It was life changing for me when I realized my phone could use GPS to very reliably alert me to something I needed to do, when I arrived at a specific location.  

For example, I might set the reminder "When I'm at (office supply store), remind me to look for X, Y, and Z."   Or, "When I'm at (natural grocery store), remind me to look for A, B, and C."  

On the iphone, you can use Siri to set location-aware reminders verbally, without even needing to type anything.  

You can also ask to reminded of something when you leave a location, instead of on arrival, e.g., "When I leave my house, remind me to take my...."  

2. Use a heart rate app to calm yourself.

My favorite "meditation" app isn't a meditation app at all, it's the free instant heart rate app by Azumio (no affiliation.)  You can use the app to practice slow breathing and watch the impact on your heart rate in real time.   This is a form of biofeedback. 

3.  Snap a picture to remember where you parked your car.

Another phone feature that saves you from having to hold information in mind is your phone's camera.  Use your phone so that you don't need to hold information in your temporary memory, like which section of a car parking building you parked in. 

Other examples of the same principle include:

- signs that contain information you want to remember, like the phone number on a flyer.

- receipts

- business cards you're given and anticipate you might lose. 

Since photos are date stamped, anything you do with your camera is usually easy to find later. 

4. Create connection when physically apart from loved ones. 

Happy relationships are generally those in which people feel emotionally together when physically apart.  You can achieve this by sharing positive experiences via photos and videos, and letting loved ones know they're on your mind when you're not physically together.  

5. "When the forecast is for rain, remind me to pack my umbrella."

Beyond location-aware reminders, you can also utilize other context-driven reminders. For example, you can ask your phone to remind you to take your umbrella whenever the forecast is for rain.

6. "Hey Siri, set a timer for 5 minutes."

If you think you're at risk of getting distracted or lost in thought, you can set a timer just using your voice.

Use this strategy so that you don't burn your food, or to limit the amount of time you spend on a particular task.  

Your stress is reduced by not having to remember whatever you need to remember, and by reducing screw ups caused by getting distracted. 

7. "Hey Siri, add ... to my shopping list."

When you think of something you need, add it to your shopping list via your phone. Why does this reduce stress?  It means you don't have to interrupt your current task to find your shopping list.  Learn how to add items to lists by voice rather than typing, since this will minimize the interruption to the greatest extent possible.

8. Get lost / stuck in traffic less.

How many times have you thought to yourself that you "sort of" know how to get somewhere, only to get lost? 

If you're feeling rushed and low on willpower, it's easy to not take the extra few seconds to put your destination into your phone's maps/directions app.  

If you practice setting directions by voice rather than typing in the address, you'll make it easier to do, and consequently you'll be more likely to use your GPS, rather than winging it and risking the extra stress of getting lost. 

9. Eliminate unnecessary extra steps from tasks by using your phone's camera.

For example, for those annoying situations where someone asks you to fax a form, you can always take a photo of the form, email yourself the photo, and use an online fax service to send it (typically free for the occasional fax.)  This can save you from having to use a scanner or make a trip somewhere to send a fax. 

Bonus point.

Utilize your phone so you don't need to turn on your computer.  Paradoxically, using your phone can help stop you multitasking as much (since it's much harder to have multiple tabs or applications open on your phone than it is on your computer.)   It can also be much less stimulating to take a quick peak at your phone when you're expecting an important email or want to check something vs. opening up your laptop.

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How does your phone reduce your stress?  How does it increase your stress?  How can you do more of the former, and less of the latter? 

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Top photo credit: https://unsplash.com/jfelise

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