We’ve all seen it before, people walking, biking, eating, and even driving while on their cell phone! Our phones used to just be for making phone calls but now they’re our cameras, personal computers, alarms, calendars, entertainment, etc. The companies that create apps for our entertainment are actively trying to figure out ways to get us hooked… and it’s working! For example, Instagram will hold back on notifying you about your “likes” until a larger amount accumulates so they can give you 50 likes at one time, for example, which causes a little burst of pleasure that keeps the user coming back for more.
Psychologists at California State University Dominguez Hills found that when people spend time away from their phone their adrenal glands release cortisol and it’s like a mini fight-or-flight response happening in your body. In other words, it’s like having a mini anxiety attack every time you can’t access your phone, texts, emails, social media, games, etc. Nottingham Trent University recently found that we spend an average of 4.7 hours on our phone each day! Also, the typical person checks their phone every 15 minutes or less. Wow! When I hear this I am also reminded that almost everyone complains about not having enough time- myself included. Research has shown time and time again that not having enough time in our day is a considerable source of stress in our lives, and yet it seems we are wasting so much of it on our phones. Yes, some of our screen time is spent on important tasks but if we’re honest we also waste a ton of time.
I remember a time about a year ago when I planned on spending a weekend at my parents in WPB and I was driving up straight from work. When I got to work that day I realized that I had forgotten my phone at home and I definitely felt a little panicked! Unfortunately, I couldn’t leave work and it would take an extra hour of commute time to go home to get my phone after work. So I decided I would have to suffer through 2.5 full days without my phone. All day at work I kept having the urge to check my phone but once I got to my parents house I had mostly forgotten about it. Since I couldn’t spend my time texting, emailing and on Instagram I spent more time really visiting and being present with my family, spent more time outside, sat in the garden just enjoying the view, and read a book before I went to bed. It ended up being the most peaceful and relaxing weekend and I thoroughly enjoyed the technology break. Of course, when I returned home to Miami my phone had a huge list of missed calls, messages, and emails…
Like everyone else I am guilty of phone addiction but I made a resolution this year to use technology less and interact with people more. I have to remind myself of this commitment constantly as I have the urge the check my email, instagram, or texts messages during every red light, bus ride, or walk. Then I remember it’s more important to make eye contact with the stranger on the street and say “good morning!” then scroll through Instagram, more important to take in the beauty of the nature around me when I walk my dog then respond to an email, and certainly more important to be present at meal times with the person across the table then to post on Facebook.
So my challenge for you this week is to be mindful of how much time you are spending on your phone, how often do you have the urge to check it, and is there a more productive way you could be spending your time? Also, remember “productive” could most certainly mean taking time to meditate, walking outside to be with nature, or spending time with a friend to reconnect. I hope you’re up to the challenge of breaking the addiction and find that life can be more enjoyable when you’re fully present for yourself and everyone around you!
To your health, happiness, and some screen-free time!
Sabine Gempel, DPT, PT