How to use your smartphone to boost health and wellbeing

Screen time isn’t always bad, but a balanced approach is key. These tips can help you on your way to a healthier lifestyle and a more positive relationship with tech.

Mobile phones are an essential part of modern life. But while we love our tech, it’s important to use it in a balanced way. That’s partly because research suggests prolonged screen time can harm our physical and mental health. There are also clear benefits of staying off your phone if you use that time to maintain healthy habits or focus on hobbies that make you happy.

Digital activities can be positive, whether we're catching up with friends or playing a game that brings us joy. And there are lots of clever ways you can use your phone to boost health and wellbeing – including making it easier to put your phone down in the first place. So what can you do on your smartphone to create a happier, healthier lifestyle? Read on for our tips.

coffee, earbuds, phone and notebook on a table

Limit screen time

To enjoy the benefits of putting your phone down, you have to actually… put your phone down. Sometimes, this can feel easier said than done – but screen time limits can help. For iOS users, go to Settings > Screen Time. For Android users, go to Settings > Digital Wellbeing. Here, you can block specific features and apps at certain points in the day or after you’ve used them for a set amount of time. Being reminded of how long you’ve spent on your phone can be a powerful prompt to stop scrolling.

runner smiling by a river

Track and boost your fitness

Phones aren’t inherently bad for our health. It’s all about how we use them. So why not use an app to help you monitor and improve your physical wellbeing? Android devices and iPhones each come with a fitness app built in. Remember, if you’re into a particular workout or sport, there’ll almost certainly be an app for that in your Google Play Store or App Store. (If not, you’ve just hit on a business idea…). You could also pair your phone with a smartwatch to track your health and fitness in even more detail. Feel the freedom of heading out on a run while leaving your phone at home.

person and children playing football in a field

Use Focus features

Hands up who gets distracted by their phone when they should be doing something else, then feels guilty and frustrated? Us too. Settings that silence calls and notifications can help you concentrate on the task at hand. Go to Settings > Focus in iOS or head to Digital Wellbeing on Android phones to find Focus mode. This lets you set no-notification schedules for specific apps – for example, no alerts from an app between 9am-5pm or no work emails in the evening.

person in bed asleep

Set up sleep schedules

The blue light emitted by smartphones can decrease feelings of sleepiness and reduce how long we spend in deep sleep. On a less scientific level, they can distract us from going to bed. Either way, good sleep is essential for health and wellbeing. Try using Downtime mode (which pauses notifications from a set point every evening) or Night Shift to reduce blue light on an iPhone. Bedtime Mode in Digital Wellbeing on Android devices lets you silence alerts and tone down screen brightness before sleep. You can even find soothing sleep sounds in the Android Clock feature to lull you into a peaceful slumber.

person in a forest smiling with headphones on

Make feel-good playlists

When we listen to music we enjoy, we experience a surge in dopamine (the feel-good chemical in our brains). Our smartphones give us access to limitless music libraries – so why not spend some time curating playlists that give you a boost? You don’t have to stick to upbeat tracks; think about what songs make you happy on lazy Sunday mornings or quiet nights in. But if "We Like To Party" by Vengaboys gets you going, you’ll find no judgement here.

Published: 5 May 2023