This Mindfulness App Wants to Break You of Your Smartphone Addiction

iStock
iStock

Most of us could use time away from our smartphones. Push notifications, bright colors, and other smartphone features are designed to keep us glued to our phones, and for the most part, they're working. Smartphone addiction is considered a growing threat to public health, and even Apple investors are concerned about it. Yet the answer to smartphone overuse, ironically, could come in the form of an app, according to WIRED.

Flipd is a smartphone app that aims to reduce the amount of time you spend looking at your phone, improving focus and helping you break your compulsive habit.

There are two different ways to use it. The "Light Lock" function is essentially a timer, much like you would use if you were employing the Pomodoro technique or another productivity strategy. It lets you set a period of time to put away your phone, and counts down the minutes until you can use it again. It's easy to navigate away from the screen and go back to texting or checking Instagram if you want to, but the Flipd timer will act as a subtle reminder to log off. If you try to exit out of the timer early, Flipd will shame you a bit, asking you if you're ready to give up yet. (You'll have to click a button that says "Yup, I'm weak.")

If shame alone won't keep you away from your Facebook comments, you can also use the "Full Lock" mode, which acts as a hard stop against your phone use. It allows you to hide all of your downloaded apps until the timer is done, making sure that you definitely can't renege on your smartphone-hiatus goals. However, you can still text and make phone calls, so it doesn't turn your phone into a brick.

The app tracks how much time throughout the day you spend consciously staying away from your phone, so you can see how many lock sessions you've initiated, how many minutes you've succeeded in locking yourself out for, and how many days in a row you've used the timer. Ideally, according to the Flipd team, you should be aiming to stay off your phone for three hours a day.

Even if you don't identify as one of the smartphone-addicted, you could probably use a break from your screen. Spending too much time on your phone is associated with not just garden-variety distraction, but depression, anxiety, neck pain, and a whole host of other issues.

The basic Flipd service, available for Android and iOS, is free. For an additional $6 a month, you can also unlock a few special features like custom timers and schedules.

[h/t WIRED]

You Can Now Order—and Donate—Girl Scout Cookies Online

It's OK if you decide to ignore the recommended serving size on a box of these beauties.
It's OK if you decide to ignore the recommended serving size on a box of these beauties.
Girl Scouts

Girl Scouts may have temporarily suspended both cookie booths and door-to-door sales to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be deprived of your annual supply of everyone’s favorite boxed baked goods. Instead, you can now order Thin Mints, Tagalongs, and all the other classic cookies online—or donate them to local charities.

When you enter your ZIP code on the “Girl Scouts Cookie Care” page, it’ll take you to a digital order form for the nearest Girl Scouts organization in your area. Then, simply choose your cookies—which cost $5 or $6 per box—and check out with your payment and shipping information. There’s a minimum of four boxes for each order, and shipping fees vary based on quantity.

Below the list of cookies is a “Donate Cookies” option, which doesn’t count toward your own order total and doesn’t cost any extra to ship. You get to choose how many boxes to donate, but the Girl Scouts decide which kinds of cookies to send and where exactly to send them (the charity, organization, or group of people benefiting from your donation is listed on the order form). There’s a pretty wide range of recipients, and some are specific to healthcare workers—especially in regions with particularly large coronavirus outbreaks. The Girl Scouts of Greater New York, for example, are sending donations to NYC Health + Hospitals, while the Girl Scouts of Western Washington have simply listed “COVID-19 Responders” as their recipients.

Taking their cookie business online isn’t the only way the Girl Scouts are adapting to the ‘stay home’ mandates happening across the country. They’ve also launched “Girl Scouts at Home,” a digital platform filled with self-guided activities so Girl Scouts can continue to learn skills and earn badges without venturing farther than their own backyard. Resources are categorized by grade level and include everything from mastering the basics of coding to building a life vest for a Corgi (though the video instructions for that haven’t been posted yet).

“For 108 years, Girl Scouts has been there in times of crisis and turmoil,” Girl Scouts of the USA CEO Sylvia Acevedo said in a press release. “And today we are stepping forward with new initiatives to help girls, their families, and consumers connect, explore, find comfort, and take action.”

You can order cookies here, and explore “Girl Scouts at Home” here.

Can't Find Yeast? Grow Your Own at Home With a Sourdough Starter

Dutodom, iStock via Getty Images
Dutodom, iStock via Getty Images

Baking bread can relieve stress and it requires long stretches of time at home that many of us now have. But shoppers have been panic-buying some surprising items since the start of the COVID-19 crisis. In addition to pantry staples like rice and beans, yeast packets are suddenly hard to find in grocery stores. If you got the idea to make homemade bread at the same time as everyone on your Instagram feed, don't let the yeast shortage stop you. As long as you have flour, water, and time, you can grow your own yeast at home.

While many bread recipes call for either instant yeast or dry active yeast, sourdough bread can be made with ingredients you hopefully already have on hand. The key to sourdough's unique, tangy taste lies in its "wild" yeast. Yeast is a single-celled type of fungus that's abundant in nature—it's so abundant, it's floating around your home right now.

To cultivate wild yeast, you need to make a sourdough starter. This can be done by combining one cup of flour (like whole grain, all-purpose, or a mixture of the two) with a half cup of cool water in a bowl made of nonreactive material (such as glass, stainless steel, or food-grade plastic). Cover it with plastic wrap or a clean towel and let it sit in a fairly warm place (70°F to 75°F) for 24 hours.

Your starter must be fed with one cup of flour and a half cup of water every day for five days before it can be used in baking. Sourdough starter is a living thing, so you should notice is start to bubble and grow in size over time (it also makes a great low-maintenance pet if you're looking for company in quarantine). On the fifth day, you can use your starter to make dough for sourdough bread. Here's a recipe from King Arthur Flour that only calls for starter, flour, salt, and water.

If you just want to get the urge to bake out of your system, you can toss your starter once you're done with it. If you plan on making sourdough again, you can use the same starter indefinitely. Starters have been known to live in people's kitchens for decades. But to avoid using up all your flour, you can store yours in the fridge after the first five days and reduce feedings to once a week.

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