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Dr. Meyer

Hi Sandy -

Research does suggest that electronics before bed interfere with sleep. Maybe reading or a book on tape?

Sounds like you are looking for moderation when it comes to electronics. Establishing routines for yourself in terms of when you use them is a great idea. Spend a few months devoting mental energy to following a schedule of when you can use electronics, and make sure you build in cues for when you can use electronics (times of day, locations, etc.) the routine (using electronics) and reward (ensuing pleasure) will do the rest. If you currently have certain times of day or circumstances during which you usually use electronics and you want to change these habits, then you need to:

Discover what is triggering your use of electronics.

Substitute a new routine.

Figure out a reward that will help ensure the routine (for example, pride, alternative fun activities like regular "cell phone free" lunch dates with your friend, extra time lounging in bed).

Eventually you'll have a habit that governs your use of electronics effortlessly. And then you can use your mental energy (and the time you are saving from not getting lost online) to build your next good habit.


Excellent post. I know one thing for sure, the internet can be a huge time waster especially if I don't limit my time. It's easy to get sucked into looking at gorgeous decorating blogs, facebook etc. I've developed a routine where I limit my time with electronic devices and only check my e-mails at certain times of day and limit my time online. I noticed if I'm on the internet too late in the evening, it takes awhile for me to wind down. It's almost like the electronics wire-up my brain like coffee does. Having noticed the effects of this helps me to build better internet, electronic habits. Heck, it's difficult to go out to dinner with anyone anymore, it's like everyone is wired up. I recently went out to eat with a friend and said, "I really want to be present and thoroughly enjoy our lunch together, I'm turning off my phone, would you mind turning off yours?" We both did and had a fabulous lunch. It seems our culture is moving away from truly connecting and we are moving more towards social media and building more likes on our facebook page. I think it we can be balanced with the internet it can be a wonderful tool to help stay truly connected but balance is key.

Dr. Meyer

Excellent point! We all love the familiarity of our habits because at least we know what to expect. This can make bad habits seem much friendlier than they actually are. Thanks for your comment.

Marilyn Jacobs

Dear ED:
I enjoyed today's post.
I want to add that sometimes people do not want to give up bad habits because it makes them feel safe!
A paradox but I think a reality.
Thanks for making me think about cues - your example of the smart phone is especially relevant.

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  • Dr. Meyer has worked in private practice in West Los Angeles for over 25 years, and is an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychology at UCLA. She earned her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from UCLA and her B.A. from Oberlin College.

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