Alice Bradley was sitting with her family last Christmas Eve and planning the next day’s events. Her son Henry, 16, said, “Here’s what Mom’s likely to be doing while I unwrap presents,” and mimed an individual scrolling, zombie-like, on a handheld ­device. Horrified, Bradley realized he was right. As her son was opening is definitely the next day, she would be looking at her Instagram feed and watching other people — friends and strangers alike — opening theirs.

She’s not by yourself. On average, Americans pick up their phones 52 times a day. There’s even a name for the anxiety that arises whenever your device is out of reach: nomophobia (“no mobile phone” phobia). The jury has gone out on whether it’s an actual phobia, but many people report feeling panicky when they leave home without their phones.

This “phone addiction” may also disrupt sleep patterns, reduce attention span, and diminish social connections. (For more on these health consequences, see “How you can Break Free of Tech Addiction.”)

But not many of us are willing to abandon our smartphones altogether. They’ve become integral to just about all aspects of our lives: social, work, entertainment, even education. So, we need to learn how to use them in healthier ways, says Tony Stubblebine, creator of the habit-coaching app The important thing, he argues, is treating the phone “as a tool rather than a boss.”

After her son’s remark, Bradley, deputy editor from the website Lifehacker, deleted most social-media apps from her phone, changed the screen to grayscale, and instituted a “no phones within the bedroom” rule for the whole household. Since then, she says, she’s noticed a cohesiveness in her own family that had begun to wane.

It’s not only individuals who are reexamining their relationships to their phones. Due to the prevalence of addiction and it is consequences, even telecom companies and app developers are providing tools to help us solve the tech conundrum.

These are some of the best strategies for making your phone work for you and not the other way around.

Turn Off Notifications

The pleasure core brain is activated each time you obtain a like on Facebook or Instagram, and since the notifications appear randomly, developers have hit on the gold mine of triggers.

“Our conscious mind is not making many of our decisions,” Stubblebine notes. “More often than not our unconscious brain does what feels instinctual: seeking pleasure, seeking food, seeking comfort. App developers have built many to take advantage of that fact.”

You can begin to combat this craving by switching off the push notifications on your phone. “It’s a one-time thing you can disable right away and never think about again,” Stubblebine says.

You’ll continue to get phone calls and texts, but your apps won’t be sending alerts to your house screen. This means you can be more purposeful about when you pick up your phone and why.

Make Your Device Work for You

Even if you disable push notifications, you can still find yourself reaching for your phone out of habit, an impulse some apps will help you resist. Forest, for instance, covers your screen having a growing seedling to discourage you against using the device. You set the time-frame for your session. Ignore the phone because the timer counts down, and also the seedling grows into a tree. Get it, and you’ll see messages like “Put it down,” and “Keep working!”

Another tip: Arrange your apps from a to z. This will activate your conscious mind when you’re trying to find something, which naturally slows it down. “Activating the word what center means that you’re more likely to act purposefully,” Stubblebine explains. “Instead of grunting your way around your apps, you need to think your way through it. It’s using a different part of your brain.”

Keep just the apps you use as tools in your home screen, like your camera and navigation app. If you want to ­retain a seldom-used app, store it in the folder. A more streamlined arrangement will minimize stimuli, making it easier for you to think of your phone as a tool rather than a dopamine mine.

You may also experiment with leaving your phone in silent mode, setting do-not-disturb times, and manually applying deadlines for certain apps.

Try a Cleanse

If you’re looking to really rethink your relationship with your device, you might consider a “phone cleanse,” like the one digital-business coach Deb Lee helped develop for Xfinity’s mobile-phone division. This program, which the telecom giant promotes on its website, offers seven strategies designed to help you unclutter your phone and transform how you use it. And because it’s a seven-day process, participants don’t have to transform their tech habits overnight.

One from the strengths of the cleanse is its flexibility. “These strategies aren’t ‘put your phone in a safe and lock it away’ type things,” Lee ­explains. Instead, the cleanse includes seven simple steps to improve your relationship together with your device:

  • Day 1: Delete unused apps.
  • Day 2: Set screen to grayscale.
  • Day 3: Turn off notifications.
  • Day 4: Clear out unneeded photos and files.
  • Day 5: Review your phone only once per hour.
  • Day 6: Place it far away from your bed at night.
  • Day 7: Organize your home screen.

Day 2’s grayscale tip is becoming an increasingly popular antiaddiction technique. To apply it, simply search for “color filters” on the iPhone or “color adjustment” on Android, and toggle the colour switch. Minus the bright colors, the apps become less visually appealing, and you’ll be less inclined to scroll endlessly.

After doing the cleanse, you may or may not want to maintain some of the strategies. The point is to be more aware of what you’re doing when you reach for your device so you can use it as a tool to aid the life you want.

“Every night you have a routine. You brush the teeth, wash your face, etc.,” Lee explains. “With phones, it may be similar. Once you start integrating some of the strategies into your life, it won’t seem like a chore. You’ll get it done because it helps you be more mindful and purposeful when you do reach for your phone.”

Tech ethicist David Ryan Polgar, JD, founder of the ethical technology initiative All Tech Is Human, believes that the evolution of device me is analogous to the evolution of food consumption. “Food used to be finite,” he explains. “We were hunters and gatherers, and we’d just grab as much food as we could. But as soon as it became easily available, many people in first-world countries began to struggle with food intake. We ate too much, and then eventually we said, ‘OK, how can we adjust?’”

Our phones aren’t going away, and like Alice Bradley, you might be experiencing your tech intake. The key to adjusting, Polgar says, is balance. “The aim is not to be unplugged. The aim is to not be overplugged.”

He hopes we’re on your journey to this goal already. “If you look at the rise of adult coloring books, the truth that there are all these painting places where individuals make art and drink wine, the fact that vinyl-record sales have gone up each year since the release of the iPhone — it’s because, after the day, we still want something real that people can touch.”