All of us who are older than say, 18, remember well what life was like before smartphones. We remember how quickly how they went from being a luxury to a necessity. Now, many of us couldn’t even do our jobs without them. Smartphones are so pervasive that physical therapists are now warning against a phenomenon called ‘text neck,’ which is a deformity in posture due to constantly looking down at a phone. But bad posture may not be the only side effect of phone addiction. Scientists are just now beginning to understand how smartphones may actually be changing our brains–and mostly for the worse. Today we look at some of the cognitive effects of smartphones; also, we will explore ways you can detach from your phone and enjoy life.
Your Phone May Be Training Your Brain For Constant Stress
The more our lives are taken over by smartphones, the more we are inundated with calls, texts, push notifications, and alerts. Endocrinologist Robert Lustig said in a Business Insider article that this trains our brains to be in a nearly constant state of stress. He said that establishes what’s called a ‘stress-fear memory pathway.’ Being in this state of high alert can actually interfere with our prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for our highest level of thinking.
Phones May Impact Childhood Brain Development
The National Institutes of Health conducted a massive $300 million-dollar study the impact of digital devices on children’s brain development. MRI machines were used to measure the changes in children’s brains based on how much screen time they spent over a certain period. The early results indicate that kids who spent over 2 hours a day on screens scored lower on language and thinking tests. Scientists say that it’s still too early to make any conclusive claims about the long-term effects of ‘screen addiction.’ However, Dr. Dimitri Christakis of Seattle Children’s Hospital said, “…The concern that investigators like I have is that we’re sort of in the midst of a natural kind of uncontrolled experiment on the next generation of children.”
Reliance On Smartphones May Affect Your Memory
Nobel prize-winning neuropsychiatrist Eric Kandel said in an NBC interview that smartphones may likely be both a blessing a curse. He speculates that smartphones may benefit some mental functioning, such as multi-tasking. However, he warns that our devices could impact our memory. He said that they could ‘compromise our long-term memory storage and ability to retain information over the long-term.’ A 2017 study also found that smartphones create a phenomenon called ‘memory externalization.’ Basically, because we turn to our smartphone for information, our brains no longer bother to store data in our memory bank. This could create potential problems down the road if we need to remember something in a real-world scenario.
4 Ways to Break Free From the Digital Ball And Chain
If all this talk is inspiring you to get less screen time, here are some practical suggestions that will help you get there.
1. Turn off notifications
If your phone is going off every 30 seconds, it might be good to turn off all notifications from apps or social media. In fact, unless you’re expecting a call, you could leave it on silent or even airplane mode.
2. Have a cutoff time at night
This will not only benefit your mind; it will benefit your sleep. Putting your phone away at a certain time of night will help you wind down and relax, preparing your body for rest. If you need ideas of how to establish a sleep routine, check out this article.
3. Take a phone detox
If you truly feel addicted to your phone, then perhaps you need a dedicated time apart. Consider taking a vacation from your devices: maybe a week or two. You may come out on the other side feeling refreshed!
4. Find ways to spend more time with others
Think about your daily routine, and then consider how you might involve others more. Maybe you could take a walk with your spouse in the evening or meet friends for breakfast in the morning. Deeper relationships will make phone reliance less of a struggle.
Brain Health Is A Serious Thing