Improve Smartphone Addiction with Mindfulness

Improve Smartphone Addiction with Mindfulness


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


As we get more connected to our wireless technology, we appear to run the risk of damaging our brains’ wiring, and disconnecting from the face-to-face interaction that our social and psychological systems need. With its emphasis on harnessing attention with intention (i.e. redirecting it on purpose), mindfulness—with all its scientifically-established health and well-being benefits—has the potential to keep us from drifting hopelessly away from one another.” – Mitch Abblett


Over the last few decades, the internet has gone from a rare curiosity to the dominant mode of electronic communications. In fact, it has become a dominant force in daily life, occupying large amounts of time and attention. As useful as the internet may be, it can also produce negative consequences. “Problematic Internet Use” is now considered a behavioral addiction, with almost half of participants in one study considered “Internet addicts”, developing greater levels of “tolerance” and experiencing “withdrawal” and distress when deprived. This phenomenon is so new that there is little understanding of its nature, causes, and consequences and how to treat it. The dominant mode of accessing the internet is through smartphones creating smartphone addictions.


Future time perspective is the ability to anticipate and plan to bring about desired outcomes in the future. Most addictions involve being completely driven by present needs. So, future time perspective is contrary to addiction and may help to overcome addiction. Mindfulness training has been shown to be helpful with each of the components of addictions, decreasing cravings, impulsiveness, and psychological and physiological responses to stress, and increasing emotion regulation.  Mindfulness has also been shown to be associated with a balanced time perspective. It is no wonder then that mindfulness training has been found to be effective for the treatment of a variety of addictions. Hence, there is a need to further explore the relationships of smartphone addiction with future time perspective and mindfulness.


In today’s Research News article “Smartphone use disorder and future time perspective of college students: the mediating role of depression and moderating role of mindfulness.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at:, Zhang and colleagues recruited freshman and sophomore college students aged 18-22 years. The completed measures of future time perspective, smartphone use disorder, depression, and mindfulness.


They found that the higher the levels of mindfulness the higher the levels of future time perspective and the lower the levels of depression and smartphone use disorder. They also found that the higher the levels of future time perspective the higher the levels of mindfulness and the lower the levels of depression and smartphone use disorder. They then performed a mediation analysis and found that future time perspective had not only a direct and relationship with smartphone use disorder but also was indirectly related via depression such that future time perspective was negatively related to depression which, in turn, was positively related to. smartphone use disorder. Finally, they found that mindfulness moderated the indirect path with high mindfulness decreasing the relationship of future time perspective on depression and decreasing the relationship of depression with smartphone use disorder.


This study is correlational and as such causation cannot be determined. Nevertheless, the results suggest that the ability of college students to focus on the future is associated with lower depression and smartphone addictions. Also, college students’ addictions to smartphones are lower when mindfulness is present. This relationship occurs directly and as a result of moderating the relationships between thinking and planning for the future, depression, and smartphone use disorder. It remains for future research to train students in mindfulness to determine if mindfulness can be used to treat addictions to smartphones.


So, improve smartphone addiction with mindfulness.


“just as technology is increasingly being developed to attract and hold our attention, with mindfulness we can develop the capability to be much more aware of where the spotlight of our attention is being drawn to, and consciously choose to direct and place our attention and energy on an activity of our choosing.” – Neil Tranter


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ and on Twitter @MindfulResearch


Study Summary


Zhang, Y., Lv, S., Li, C., Xiong, Y., Zhou, C., Li, X., & Ye, M. (2020). Smartphone use disorder and future time perspective of college students: the mediating role of depression and moderating role of mindfulness. Child and adolescent psychiatry and mental health, 14, 3. doi:10.1186/s13034-020-0309-9




Smartphone use disorder (SUD) of college students has drawn increasing attention. Although future time perspective (FTP) may be an important protective factor for individual SUD, the moderating and mediating mechanisms underlying this relationship remain unknown. We tested the individual roles of depression and mindfulness as moderators of this relationship.


A cross-sectional study was conducted in two colleges in Shandong and Chongqing in China using a sample of 1304 college students recruited by stratified cluster sampling. Data were collected through a validated self-report instrument. A moderation–mediation model was constructed, and an SPSS PROCESS macro was used to analyse the data.


The correlation analyses showed that FTP was negatively associated with SUD of college students. The mediation model revealed that depression partially mediated the link between FTP and SUD of college students. The moderation–mediation model suggested that mindfulness moderates two direct paths: FTP to depression and depression to SUD. In the first path (FTP to depression), a high level of mindfulness among college students had weakened the relationship between FTP and depression. Here, the relationship is strengthened by a low level of mindfulness. In the second path (depression to SUD), low levels of mindfulness strengthen the link between depression and FTP. In contrast, significant association was not found with high levels of mindfulness.


Results suggest that interventions, such as improving the individual level of FTP and mindfulness, should be conducted. These interventions, in turn, help control the level of depression in college students and ultimately decrease their level of SUD.