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Want to step away from your smartphone? The solution is black and white

Want to step away from your smartphone? The solution is black and white

When it comes to managing his addiction to his smartphone, Sam Littlefair says the solution is black and white.

The 27-year-old magazine editor in Halifax recently stumbled upon the "greyscale" mode on his device. It means there are no colours on the screen, something he credits with helping him scale back his smartphone habit.

"Somehow it just makes your phone less alluring," he told CBC's Information Morning. "When you look at it, it's just information."

A recent report by the Royal Society for Public Health in the U.K. found social media, particularly the photo-sharing app Instagram, is associated with increased feelings of depression and anxiety among young people. 

Littlefair said he's not sure if turning his phone to greyscale has made him happier, but it has reduced the appeal of eye-catching apps.

"The information is still there, if you want to see a photo you can still look at it, but it's not as grabbing," he said.

David Mensinck, a psychologist and counsellor at Dalhousie University, said while there's no research on the effectiveness of greyscale in reducing smartphone addiction, it's one of several strategies that people can use to limit their dependence on devices.

Others include turning off notifications, deleting social media apps, and using apps that help you track how often you check your phone.

"If all else fails, I recommend take a vacation from your smartphone and just see how you feel," he said. "Just set it away for a certain period of time, and that can be helpful."

Mensinck said one effective strategy in limiting the amount of time spent checking a smartphone is to figure out the roots of that behaviour.

"From a psychological point of view, we're finding that there are certain personal triggers that would lead to more smartphone use, like people feeling lonely, or bored, or anxious, or depressed, or stressed, and sometimes recognizing those are triggers can be very helpful."

'It feels unnatural'

Finding the greyscale mode on your phone can be tough. A good start, however, is to tap on settings, then accessibility, and search through the subsequent tabs.

For his part, Littlefair said the handful of times he's changed the settings on his phone back to colour have shown him just how distracting the brightly coloured interface can be. 

"It feels unnatural to have this much color shining in your face," he said, adding other people he showed the greyscale mode to thought the idea was "awesome."

"I know four people who turned it on instantly, and I don't think any of them have turned it back off."