Smartphones: The Newest Drug
If you or someone you know or love just can’t put that phone down — there’s a good reason. 60 Minutes journalist Anderson Cooper ran a great story on why you’re addicted to your smartphone. The link is in the research section-which is at end of this story. If you need to watch it now, go ahead, just bookmark this page and come back because, as Tech Wellness experts, we have some ideas on how to control this addiction.
Control Your Phone So it Doesn't Control You.
I learned early on that if I could exercise power over my cell phone. I realized I felt better, had better relationships and got more done when I controlled it, instead of letting it control me.
Addiction By Design
Turns out, tech addiction is on purpose! Oh my, really? Yep, apps, sites - even Google - are designed to engage you and keep you engaged. It’s commerce after all. Tristan Harris, formerly of Google, now founder of The Center For Humane Technology had this observation,
“Never before in history have a handful of people at a handful of technology companies shaped how a billion people think and feel everyday with the choices they make about these screens”
Harris wanted parents to know that tech addiction isn’t so innocent. I think most moms and dads know this. Heck, to be real, most of us adults feel the same way. Haven’t we all experienced, maybe even just a tad bit, the loneliness, depression, and anxiety that studies show, can be caused by our use of the various types” screens”?
Dopamine, Baby. Everybody Wants It
Yep. And you get it this way. Dopamine, one of the major neurotransmitters, the “feel good” one is released when picking up our smartphone to see that we got "10 likes" in the last ten minutes of the picture we posted. Yeah, the one that took us 20 minutes to take, filter, edit and write about.
Known as the feel-good neurotransmitter, dopamine carries many different kinds of messages, only some of which are known and understood. It plays a role in memory, attention, sleep, moods, and comprehension. And it's also vital for movement control.
Trouble is, thinking about social feeds or even our cell phones don't always lead to a dopamine release.
Dr. Larry Rosen, a psychologist from Cal State Dominguez Hills, showed research demonstrating that when we put our phones down, our brains trigger our adrenal glands to produce bursts of cortisol, the fight or flight hormone. That causes anxiety. It’s why after we’ve spent say an average of about 15 minutes away from our smartphone, we feel the need to grab our phones to reduce the anxiety. Depressing, right?
Higher stress levels correlating to higher cortisol levels were found by researchers in moderate and heavy users, when they had anxiety related to not being able to access their phones. High stress levels are been liked to heart disease, sleep issues and headaches.
Dr. Cheever a co-author of the study explained,
We asked them to leave their ringers on to mimic a natural environment and put their phones on the table behind them. I left the room and a lab tech took over the test. We connected the participants to a sensor to measure their perspiration and heart rate. Those two things combined measured physiological arousal. When someone perceives a threat there is an increase in cortisol — in ancient times when an animal came charging to eat you, that was the fight or flight response needed for survival. We see that same response in people when their phones go off, whether it’s a ring or a text message. They respond in the same way as if an animal were coming to attack them.
Being in that state is really not good for us. We’re only supposed to be in an anxiety state for a short period of time, but in this study the students perceived their phones as a lasting threat because they couldn’t answer them.
Those who react negatively to not being able to check their phone may exhibit OCD symptoms and depression. They can exhibit separation anxiety, which we used to say was children separating from their parents, but now we’re attaching that to a device. Also, antisocial personality disorder has been linked to that type of anxiety, as well as paranoid personality disorders — it’s really not good.
The dopamine rush, the cortisol stress response cycle can happen anytime we're on getting "highs" from social media, game playing or using a particular App and then being pulled away to do normal things like work or driving or having a real human connection.
It doesn't feel good and it's not healthy. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can fight what programmers call "brain hacking" by taking control and still enjoy all the good things that “measured” use of our smartphones can bring us. This is when you need to turn to a Daily Digital Detox via Tech Wellness!
Think you're addicted? We've got the the test to find out. Dr. Kimberly Young, who coined the term Internet Addiction 30 years ago has given us a short but powerful test to find out.
Tristan Harris had a big announcement on The Way Forward--a path to help developers, tech companies- and all of us, stop being a part of what he's calling the Human Downgrading Truly, we are not our best when we let tech take over and stop us from living our highest selves. Tristan noted that with each upgrade in technology, there has been a corresponding downgrade to our potential to be vibrant and creative human beings.
10 Easy Ways to Overpower Your Addiction:
1. Quick, grab that smartphone
And remove ONE app. Yes, I really said that. Take control over the “manipulated engagement” an app may be exercising over you. One important engagement tactic is the “game-i-fication” of apps that are contributing to addiction. My fabulous nephew was just showing me one of these “games” last week: He showed me how Snapchat lets you "direct-snap" a friend — You go back and forth snapping each other and you create a “streak” between the two of you. It becomes a contest you can become obsessed with and don’t want to break. He showed me how one of his snap streaks was over 300! See? A fun “game” and a dopamine rush!
One of Insta’s tricks is to “feed” you a bunch of likes all at once, so you get this big “They like me, they really really like me” rush. Yep, it’s dopamine and you want more. And Facebook, that “continuous scroll” keeps you engaged till you find something you want to read. Even Google and Linkedin are engaging. They have to be. Otherwise, you won’t stay there or come back. There’s SO much to see and do; it’s downright, well, addicting. So, right now, try it. Remove one. One that you know you’re using altogether too much and that’s not really adding to that amazing, full, meaningful life of yours or your kids. It can’t be that tough. Think about it - even the Kardashian’s did it!
2. No smartphones in the bedroom . . .
BUT how will you wake up? (gasp!) I use a simple old-fashioned battery alarm clock–with an optional light so I can sleep in total darkness. Sans blue light for optimal melatonin production. In fact, if you’re using a screen less than 2 hours before bed, you should be using a "night shift" function or wearing orange glasses.We have multiple styles--incognito, tech-bad a**, to ones that will have you looking like the person who knows exactly what they're doing.
3. No device dinners:
Great real life connections: No device dates = romance?! Well, at least the opportunity to talk! Try it – park your phones or devices in a basket and let the conversation begin. And the distractions melt away. First one who touches the phone stack has to do the dishes or pay the dinner bill! (That’ll do the trick!)
4. Drop devices from your exercise routine
OR if you love to exercise to sounds, turn your device on airplane and just listen to downloads, podcasts and more. And while you're at it, unplug or be on "airplane mode" with our Wellness Wear. Moreover, we believe it's especially important when it comes to kids who really need to be protected from EMF radiation, and for you too! Get in the practice downloading stuff ahead of time to safely listen (WiFi-free!) in moving vessels like cars and planes. All of that boomeranging EMF energy isn’t good for you, and you'll be set up with entertaining material for you and the kids when we don’t have internet connectivity or much battery life!! Maybe try putting your device in a Sleek Faraday Bag when you're out breaking a sweat. It'll force you to not rely on anything besides your strong, beautiful mind--you got the willpower!
5. Turn WiFi on only when. . .
You absolutely need it. Try it and you’ll discover you’ll be more mindful of when you really need to access the internet. Really need to check FB or insta? This gives you a bit of pause to think about it. Bonus: No WiFi = No EMF radiation! It’s best to not get super-close to the router to keep toggling it on/off. Use a remote switch to do so, safely and at a distance. I love this one.
Another idea; try allocating a certain amount of time for when you use your WiFi. You'll have a peace-of-mind knowing that you won't have various devices blasting dangerous energy. There's now a way to settle that down and have some control. Together now--"Ahhhhh..."
6. Pen to Paper.
This is so fun. Good therapy for your brain, your focus and organization — and your handwriting skills. Try it. Keep a pad handy in your bag or pocket and instead of whipping out your phone during class, seminars, church or meetings, take notes on paper. And, you’ll get a better recall. Experts say we remember things we write, more readily than we type. Try this with even simple things like your shopping lists. It feels good to physically cross stuff off lists—so satisfying.
I know this is NOT a pen. It’s a very cool stylus that I use with my phone. Available in the TechWellness shop! Our team also loves the Five Minute Journal--just a few minutes a day to write down some wonderful moments.
7. 15 minutes of mindfulness per day
without a phone or computer within eye-shot or earshot. Deep Breaths in, deep exhale out. Again . . .. ahhhhhhh. Hold for four seconds on the inhale and exhale. (it’s harder than you’d think!) You’ll be more focused and relaxed. Taking a yoga, Pilates or meditation class is great for breath work — but this will work for now for the mind/body connection.
8. Set a Social Media schedule.
If you need to Tweet, or FB, chat or Insta daily, then set a time and stick to it. After lunch for 15 minutes . . . Then, here’s the hard part — that’s it. You can use also use an app like Calendly that pre-schedules your social media ahead of time and shows you what the layout would look like. Feeling even more powerful? Try getting down on a bi-weekly schedule. I can’t believe I’m down to a weekly visit to FB. I allow an hour a week to stay in touch or you can take the app off of your phone (Facebook messenger, too — which is known to breach privacy.) This results in more time every day to be productive…and actually, enjoy this gorgeous world and the fabulous people and things in it.
9. Every day, no matter where you are in this big universe...
Take 5 minutes to feel your feet on the ground. Phone off or in airplane mode! “Grounding” is a now trendy centering practice, but doing it whilst on your phone defeats the purpose. Walking on wet sand on the beach at sunset feels great, but the effects of grounding are the same with grass or plain old dirt! It’s SO EASY to forget our connection with Mother Earth when we’re wearing shoes running around all day or stuck in an office. Grounders believe the earth’s energy resets our bodies and absorbs negative energy. For total Tech Wellness, schedule a camping trip or a beach day at one of these tech-free zones. No phones allowed! Just you, your loved one and the great outdoors!!
10. KNOW - without a doubt - YOU are stronger, smarter and more powerful than a smartphone...
Let the smartphone work for you. You shouldn’t work for it. If you’re distracted by notifications from pleasure-social or work-social apps: Turn them OFF. If you want to stop what you’re doing and take a phone call, do. If the person you’re with or thing you’re doing is more important. Don’t answer. Check your voicemail later and call back on your schedule (obviously Mom’s, you’re at the kids beckon call — but sometimes you’re not) Recognize when you don’t actually have to respond anytime your phone rings, vibrates or flashes. It’s up to you. We rep that mantra with our Wellness Wear; Unplug, Airplane Mode, Real Life Over Likes, because we believe in a healthy lifestyle without becoming a prisoner to the screen. You ARE smarter than a smartphone. You HAVE the POWER over your screen.
TBH, Honestly, if I can do it (and get my kids too) you can do it too! Let’s detox and be stronger than our smartphones!
Here’s to Tech Wellness!