Would it surprise you to know that according to Apple, we check our phones upwards of 80 times per day? Such is our smartphone obsession that almost half of us report that we can’t live without them, while at the same time we cite our attachment to our phones as being a major cause of stress!
It’s not hard to understand why we’ve become so dependent on our devices. They are, for most of us, not just a means of communication but also a major source of news and information, web browser, music player, alarm clock, camera, fitness tracker, weather forecaster and satellite navigation system. Yet still, for all their function and utility, they are a threat to our health, relationships and productivity. Constant messages and alerts give our brains a hit of dopamine, much like sugar, alcohol and any other highly rewarding (and addictive) substance. If you need convincing, consider these negative consequences of too much screen time:
- Constantly checking your phone will reduce your attention, focus and productivity but even just hearing a ping or alert is as distracting as if you actually read the message.
- The blue light from your phone screen sends confusing messages to your brain, making it difficult to fall asleep. Sleep deprivation is linked to all sorts of nasty health conditions like hypertension, obesity and heart disease as well as depression and anxiety.
- The mere presence of a phone during a conversation between two people has been shown to reduce intimacy and empathy. If you want to improve the quality of your relationships— phone down, eyes up!
You know you have a problem if you feel a strong compulsion to check your phone multiple times every hour, even when it’s not appropriate or safe such as when you’re driving, during conversations or meetings, at the movies or during dinner. If your phone addiction is getting out of hand, it might be necessary to break the habit and ditch your device.
Try the following strategies for weaning off your smart phone before leaping into a digital detox:
- Turn off your phone at least 30 minutes before bedtime and leave it off for a full 30 minutes after you wake up in the morning.
- Try putting your phone into flight mode for gradually increasing periods of time. This way, you still have it close by if you need it, can play music or take pictures but you give yourself a break from the constant alerts and notifications.
- When you’re feeling very brave, you might dedicate a full weekend to a digital detox. If a weekend is too much, Arianna Huffington and Katy Perry promote the idea of “Shut Off Sundays” to give yourself a whole day without your device. Start small if necessary but definitely start somewhere. Your body, mind and relationships will be all the healthier for it.
Cassandra Dunn is a psychologist for TIFFXO.COM.