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Mobile Phones And Your Health: How You Can Improve Your Wellbeing By Addressing Your Digital Habits

A Wake-Up Call…After Spending 13 Years On The Phone Imagine you live to the grand old age of 81 and you reflect on some of the best times you’ve had....

A Wake-Up Call…After Spending 13 Years On The Phone

Imagine you live to the grand old age of 81 and you reflect on some of the best times you’ve had.

The ultimate joy when your daughter was born…

Family holidays abroad with plenty of sunshine and laughter…

…and spending 13 years of your life on your mobile phone.

Well, of course phoning, texting, or scrolling through Facebook on your iPhone isn’t exactly going to make the shortlist for your top life experiences – but this is indeed the cumulative amount of time you could give away to that fancy device that lives in your pocket.

The average person in the UK spends four hours per day using their mobile phone, according to Statista.com.

We whipped out our calculator and discovered that this equates to roughly 60 days per year, and 13.3 years of your life overall if you live to 81 (the average life expectancy of Britons these days).

But mobile phones have become a big part of our everyday lives in this digital age and are a necessity for keeping us all connected. So, in this article we’re going to cover finding a healthier balance, and:

  • Why cutting down on using your mobile phone can help reduce anxiety.
  • The specific light emitted from your device that can affect your sleep.
  • The debate over whether phones increase productivity or hinder it.
  • How you can at least reduce your mobile phone use without going completely off grid and becoming a full-time hermit.

Are you dialled in? Okay, let’s begin…

Smartphones, Social Media And Anxiety

It’s fair to say that most people experienced anxiety at some point when the world was upside down during the pandemic. 

Anxiety was even labelled the ‘world’s biggest mental health problem’ after researchers estimated in 2016 that around 275 million people across the world suffered from this type of disorder.

What many people are unaware of is the link between excessive mobile phone use and mental health issues including anxiety and depression. Numerous scientists have issued warnings, and studies have also linked the use of social media – accessible in seconds via your mobile phone – with low self-esteem, poor attention, and hyperactivity, most often in teens and adolescents.

Of course, a huge upside to mobile phones is that they keep us connected to our friends and family, and may even help prevent loneliness. 

On the flipside, smartphones can mess with the brain’s chemistry as each new text message, or notification for a new Twitter follower, can produce a release of the feel-good chemical dopamine – which can then create addictive patterns.

Even a former Facebook chief admitted he felt “tremendous guilt” over the way the social media platform operated that kept people glued to their phone screens. 

Chamath Palihapitiya, a former vice president of user growth at Facebook, told an audience of students at Stanford University: “The short-term dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works.”

Mobile Phones And Your Health: The Light That’s Bad News For Your Sleep

We all know the importance of good night’s sleep for your overall health. That’s why you should be ‘aware of the glare’ when it comes to using your mobile phone at night.

All of your devices – whether it’s a smartphone, tablet, or laptop – emit what’s known as blue light. Research has shown that too much exposure to blue light before bed decreases natural melatonin production.

Melatonin is the hormone that regulates sleep. The brightness from the blue light can interfere with that, interrupt your natural circadian rhythm, and lead to sleep deprivation.

Lack of sleep of course leads to increased stress levels, and you not looking, feeling, or performing at your best.

This is why most smartphones have a ‘night mode’, or options to reduce brightness of your screen, so that you can reduce exposure to blue light and night and get a good night’s rest.

Still, it’s a smart move to cut down on use of any technology at least an hour before bed to give your mind and body time to switch off.

Mobile Phone Use And Productivity

We’ve all become rather attached to the fancy smartphones and they can be a lifesaver in certain scenarios. But can they be a help or a hindrance when it comes to your career and getting things done?

It appears there’s no straight answer. A study conducted by the University of Kansas on mobile phone use during a working day concluded that ‘smartphone micro-breaks’ are productive.

The wrote: “Workers who use their phones for short breaks throughout the day tend to be happier and have a more positive attitude.”

According to this study, employees spend an average of 22 minutes per eight-hour working day on his or her personal phone.

Meanwhile, three psychologists based in Austria and Germany pointed to smartphones can block good workflow and hamper productivity.

In their review article, they wrote: “We believe that constant interruptions lead to greatest productivity loss, rather than the total time spent on the phone. 

“It is a different matter to spend one hour on the phone without a break or to have one hour of smartphone consumption on a given day which is defined by 60 one-minute sessions.”

Top Tips on How to Use your Phone Less

#1 Track your usage with a nifty app

There are various free apps you can download that track your phone usage, such as Moment. This means you can start paying attention to how many times you pick up your phone each day. That number might just surprise you. 

You then have a target to work with, and you can start working towards decreasing that number gradually. 

#2 Disable app notifications

By disabling your notifications for social media apps, you’ll significantly reduce your phone’s ability to grab your attention.

#3 Set social catch-up schedules

Using our social media apps, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or WhatsApp, is one of the primary reasons we spend longer periods on our smartphones. 

But if you find this is interrupting your day too much, and halting productivity, then why not schedule specific times where you will catch up on social media instead? i.e. Between 12noon and 1pm on your lunch break, and again any time between 7pm and 8pm to catch up on your social news feeds.

#4 Have a digital day off

For some people, losing their mobile phone is close to a natural disaster wreaking havoc on the planet. But rather than the panic of losing your device completely, how about putting it away safely and having a digital day off?

This isn’t always practical for busy business leaders or parents, but it’s not impossible. Why not try it on a Sunday and tell people close to you that you won’t be available on the phone that day, but they can reach you at home, or call another relative, in case of an emergency.

That digital day off may be exactly the type of TLC your brain needs.



REFERENCES

Average Daily Mobile Phone Usage In UK, 2019-21

https://www.statista.com/statistics/1285042/uk-daily-time-spent-mobile-usage/

This Is The World’s Biggest Health Problem

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/01/this-is-the-worlds-biggest-mental-health-problem

 

Adolescent social media use and mental health from adolescent and parent perspectives

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0140197117301318?via%3Dihub

Dopamine, Smartphones & You

https://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2018/dopamine-smartphones-battle-time/

Carpe Diem Instead Of Losing Your Social Mind: Beyond Digital Addiction And Why We All Suffer From Digital Overuse

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/23311908.2016.1157281

 

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