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We all struggle with phone addiction to some degree — it gives us so much pleasure at such a small reach. But we’ve noticed that joy to be fleeting, to be addictive, to be destructive. So we’re looking for tools to help re-wire our brains to seek out other experiences rather than the easy one of reaching into your phone and feeling important for having notifications and texts.

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One trick that I stumbled upon recently through a Podcast is making your iPhone grayscale (black and white). Your brain responds differently to different colors. The color most important to this discussion is red, which excites the brain, and is the color of all your notifications for that reason.

My additional theory is that the brain responds with a flurry of neurochemicals such as dopamine when it sees the vivid, HD color pictures on our screens, especially of the seemingly infinite number of awe-inspiring photographs. It makes it feel like the most wonderful experiences in the world are in our pockets.

Going Grayscale

If you make your phone grayscale all the time, you’ll notice less of the eye-catching, psychology-driven design of apps and advertisements. It’s important to remember that most websites, apps, and advertisements are acting out of self-interest.

It’s most beneficial for them if you use their app more, if you browse through their site for longer, or if you click their advertisement. Given that, it’s only logical that they’d use psychology in their designs, understanding which colors trigger different things in the brain.

By making your phone grayscale, you can reclaim your power to see the information for what it is, without the brain’s various responses to color triggers and design.

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One thing I’ve noticed from this experiment is that the real world has become much more colorful and vibrant. When you go to a truly majestic natural landscape, a joke that is commonly heard is “this looks like a Windows desktop background!” Modern displays have made things very accessible to us, and have allowed designers and photographers to show off beautiful pieces of art.

6But it feels like it’s made ‘regular’ nature more mundane, because it’s not as intensely stimulating. Turning my phone on grayscale is slowly helping me recapture the awe of natural beauty. It’s steering me away from overstimulation and oversaturation.

I will note that I still feel the urge for instantaneous communication (and validation) through text messages — it’s only slightly curbed that. The difference is that when I open my phone to text, I don’t stay on it for long periods. It’s lost a lot of its lustre. It’s simply communication.

If you own an iPhone, you can make an easy shortcut to toggle your phone between grayscale — you can make it turn to grayscale when you triple tap your home button. To do this, go to Settings → General → Accessibility → Accessibility Shortcut (on the bottom) → Grayscale. This way, you can toggle back to color whenever you actually need it (helpful for maps). I haven’t been able to figure out how to do this on Android, so if you know please mention it in the comments.

Try out this experiment for a week and see if you find yourself less captivated by your phone!

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