After I Made These 3 Tweaks on My iPhone, My Mental Health and Happiness Improved

I've never been good at setting personal boundaries, but as part of my commitment to making 2021 my most successful year yet, I've started implementing more boundary-setting techniques in my life. Unsurprisingly, by not allowing others unlimited access to my energy, my self-confidence (and overall mental health) feels stronger than ever.

In this digital age, most of my boundaries are set by technology. By changing the way I use technology to communicate, my iPhone has remained a way for me to both work and connect with loved ones, and not a source of unrelenting stress. Here are three settings I changed on my iPhone to set better boundaries and ultimately feel happier.

1. Turn Off Read Receipts

If you, like me, are someone prone to always thinking everyone is mad at you, getting rid of those little blue checks on WhatsApp will free you from the chains of that irrational thinking. Whether it being a client, a close friend, or someone I liked, getting "left on read" was enough of a trigger to send me spiraling into insecurity. It's been just a week with read receipts off, and honestly, I never thought such a small setting change could positively alter my mindset so much. It's allowed me to trust that people will respond to me when they're able to, and that a delayed response is no reflection on myself or our relationship. More importantly, I don't feel that pressure to answer people right away either. With the blue checks gone, I feel more peace.

How to Do It
On WhatsApp: Settings → Account → Privacy → Read Receipts → Toggle "off"
On iMessage: Settings → Messages → Send Read Receipts → Toggle "off"

2. Use Do Not Disturb

I had never thought to use Do Not Disturb. As someone who has had her phone on silent for at least a decade now, it never felt necessary. However, when a close friend, who, by no coincidence, is also one of the most driven and confident women I know, shared she kept her phone on Do Not Disturb at all times, I realized she may be on to something.

So I did the same. I keep DND on constantly. If that feels too much for you, you can simply use DND during work hours, when you need to focus unbothered, or even during off hours, when you don't want messages from your employer or clients causing unnecessary anxiety. I've added a select few people to my "Favorites" contacts, allowing them to contact me whenever. (As a rule, I only add people I'd want to talk to in an emergency.) By not allowing calls and messages to come through unfiltered, I'm less distracted by my phone and also feel more in control. My time is valuable, and the world does not deserve unlimited access to me.

How to Do It
Settings → Do Not Disturb → Toggle "On." You can then choose whether you want notifications always silenced, or just when your phone is locked.
To add people to favorites: Open contacts → Click on Contact Name → Choose "Add to favorites." There you can customize if you want to receive messages, calls, or both from this person when you have DND turned on.

3. Set Downtime For Apps

This has made the biggest difference for me. All my apps, except for "Clock," are set for Downtime between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. During this time no notifications will come through to my lock screen. If I unlock my phone and try to click on an app, a prompt will ask if I want to ignore downtime on that app for 15 minutes, or for the whole day. I've found this extra inquiry from my iPhone is what keeps me from the temptation to scroll on Instagram at bedtime. (Putting my phone on airplane mode is too easy for me to undo — I need that extra push!) After 10 p.m., I don't look at social media, I don't look at the news, and I don't respond to messages. By doing this, I protect the sanctity of my sleep, and I'm not inundated with messages in the middle of the night if I check the time, or first thing when I wake up. By using Downtime, I'm able to set boundaries during a time exclusively dedicated to my rest.

How to Do It
Settings → Screen time → Downtime. You can then set your own personalized timeframe based on your own schedule.

Just because technology gives us the ability to communicate at all times doesn't mean we need to be available at all times. Setting boundaries is not something that comes naturally to me. However, by taking full advantage of my phone's technology, I'm able to set those boundaries with a literal push of a button. By adopting these three settings, I've felt more connected with myself, more productive, and more at peace. Communicating with others should never come at the expense of my mental health.