Here are my four steps to hacking back your smartphone and saving yourself countless hours of mindless phone time. The best part is that implementing this plan takes less than an hour from start to finish, leaving no excuse for calling your phone distracting ever again. The first step to managing distraction on our phones is to remove the apps we no longer need. To do so, I had to ask myself the critical question of which external triggers on my phone were serving me and which were not. Based on my answers, I uninstalled apps that didn't align with my values. I kept apps for learning and staying healthy and removed news apps with blaring alerts and stress-inducing headlines. I also deleted all games from my phone. I'm not saying you need to do the same, of course. Many games today, particularly those made by indie studios, are works of masterful craftsmanship and are no less entertaining or morally virtuous than quality books or films. But I decided that, for me, games didn't align with how I wanted to spend my time on my phone. As a technophile, I love trying out the latest apps. However, after a few years, I'd collected screen after screen of untouched apps that were now clogging up my phone. If you're anything like I was, you likely have a number of apps you never use. These apps take up storage space in our phone's memory and bandwidth when they update themselves. But worst of all, these zombie apps fill our devices with visual clutter. Add some Pleasure and Mastery activities to your week, even if you don't feel like it or don't feel that you deserve it. It is not enough to eliminate negative experiences from your life. You also need to have positive and pleasurable experiences. Pleasurable activities will help decrease the chance of your depression symptoms getting worse. They are a way to help yourself, part of your Relapse Prevention plan.

Create a list of pleasurable activities that you like to do, or used to like to do. Choose to do some of these regularly, and add them to your schedule. Next, list activities you like that challenge you, that provide you with a feeling of competence and effectiveness. They should be a little difficult for you to do (such as overcoming an obstacle or learning a new skill). These are called Mastery activities. Choose to do some of these on a regular basis, and add them to your schedule. Stress is an emotionally and physically disturbing condition you may have in response to challenging life events. When you are suffering from depression, dealing with stress can be more difficult. It can also make your depression worse and contribute to relapse, or a return of symptoms. You can actively take steps to lessen the effects of stress and decrease your vulnerability to stressors. This is called coping. When you manage stress using effective Coping Strategies, you decrease the negative effect that stress has on your depression. Maintain a regular schedule and structure of activities. This includes optimizing your sleep, diet and nutrition, exercise, and self-care. Manage the little daily stressors. Prioritize your responsibilities and activities. Keep yourself organized. Maintain a schedule but don't overschedule, and adjust as needed. Break down large or complex tasks into smaller pieces that are more manageable. Keep a to-do list and a daily reminders list.

Write things down in a notebook, including healthcare-related questions and instructions. Use a daily pillbox for your medications, to keep track of when you took them. Develop a system that you like and that works for you to manage the mail, bills, and housekeeping. Avoid overstimulation. Be mindful, in this moment. Use CBT strategies. An event can cause stress depending on how you interpret it in your mind. Usually we interpret events based on individual beliefs and past experiences. Sometimes we also interpret events with distortions in our thinking. Challenging these distorted thoughts and interpretations using cognitive behavioral therapy can affect the way you feel and respond and can improve your level of stress. Try any of these examples of Coping Strategies to find what works for you. The more familiar you are with your options, the easier it will be to remember them during stressful times or an episode of depression or mania. Is it the simplest explanation? Many people learn how to walk over a bed of hot coals with their bare feet. In fact, you can take seminars on how to accomplish that feat from fire-walking gurus--for a few thousand dollars! Firewalkers often maintain that some mental or psychic energy protects them from getting burned, and that they can teach you how to harness that energy. But there's nothing mystical or spiritual about fire walking--it's just the physics of heat capacity and conductivity of the coals. You may have noticed that different materials can be the same temperature, and yet some will burn you while others won't. If you stick your hand into a 350o oven, it feels hot, but it won't burn. If you place your hand on top of a cake in the oven, it still won't burn.

But if you touch the metal pan holding the cake, you'll burn instantly. Why? The heat capacity and conductivity of these things are different. The air and cake have low capacity and conductivity, while the metal is high. Even though the coals in firewalking have been heated to 1,200o F, they have low capacity and conductivity, and therefore won't burn your feet--unless you linger too long. So some people are paying thousands to learn how to walk quickly. What does this mean for setting our beliefs? All other things equal, we should choose the simpler of two different explanations for a phenomenon. By that I mean the explanation that makes the fewest untenable assumptions. The simpler the hypothesis, the less likely it is to be false since there are fewer ways for it to go wrong.13 To accept many of the firewalkers' explanations, you have to assume that some extraordinary psychic or mystical power exists. But you don't need to believe in such mystical power to explain firewalking. The laws of physics offer a simpler explanation.14 This guiding rule of science--choosing the simplest explanation--is called Occam's razor, after the fourteenth-century English philosopher William of Occam. As a general rule, we should always apply Occam's razor to cut away unnecessary and unsupported assumptions when setting our own beliefs. Does it conflict with other well-established knowledge? I was in Australia awhile back and caught some type of flu. I went to the pharmacy and, as I was searching through the traditional cold and flu remedies, the pharmacist suggested that I try a homeopathic cure. Just to the right of the traditional medicine was a large display containing numerous homeopathic remedies. "Do they work?" I asked. "Definitely, I use them all the time," he exclaimed. So what is homeopathy?

Homeopathic medicine is based on the belief that very small amounts of substances that cause illness in healthy people can cure a sick person. A fundamental proposition of homeopathy is the law of infinitesimals, which states that the smaller a dose is, the more powerful it is. Doses are diluted to such an extent in homeopathic remedies that, in some cases, not even a single molecule of the active agent is left in the treatment. But that's okay, because as German physician Samuel Hahneman, the creator of homeopathic medicine, believed, a "spirit like" essence was left in the small doses that cured people.15 Homeopathic medicine would certainly not survive Occam's razor. It requires belief in unsubstantiated, unproven "spirit like" essences. In addition, it conflicts with other well-established knowledge that we have about how the world works. There's no other instance in science where a smaller dose of something leads to a greater effect. And yet, homeopathic medicine is based upon that premise. Other things being equal, we should prefer a hypothesis that doesn't disagree with well-established knowledge, since if it does, it's more likely to be wrong. Homeopathic medicine has been tested and shown to be bogus, but millions of people still pay good money for homeopathic treatments. Again, don't hesitate to look back at the individual chapters on internal factors, and to the material you wrote for each, to stimulate the most thorough responses you can provide to each of the five questions under Step 2. I trust that you are already changing your internal dialogue. I trust that you are learning as we go. For example, you might have discovered that you could not possibly have been responsible for the event you are reviewing. Many, many people, in doing this work, for the first time see the event with mature eyes. They discover for the first time that they have been remembering it, for years, with the eyes they had when they were children. These new perspectives allow them to make new judgments about themselves. Once we begin to listen to our internal dialogue, the audit can have amazing results. We can learn astounding things about ourselves. His little brother is still lost forever, but his interpretation and perception of it is dramatically changed, and so is his life.