Is Our Smartphone Addiction Affecting Our Mental Health?

Your smartphone: how many times a day do you check it? Please be honest. And what about your teens? Is their smartphone permanently attached to their fingers?

In my world – I would absolutely hate to count. I often find it difficult to go anywhere without my phone without feeling a certain level of separation anxiety. And as for my kids… well, I sometimes think their smartphones are just another one of their body parts!

Research Shows Smartphone Addiction Is Rife

But the research shows that our little suburban family is not alone. In fact, we may be doing a lot better than we think. US mobile insight company Dscout studied the behaviours of Americans and deduced that an average user touches their phone over 2,600 times a day!! While the heaviest users (top 10%) clocked up a score of over 5,000 interactions! Absolutely mind-blowing!!

So, if the ‘average user’ is spending that much time touching their smartphone, surely there is an ‘opportunity cost‘? Yes, and – no surprises – it’s human interaction.

Bank of America released statistics last year that showed nearly 4 in 10 millennials (18-34 year olds) interact more with their smartphones than they do with their significant others – their parents, friends, children and co-workers. This figure does decrease to 1 in 3 when you look across all age groups but this is still a concerning stat.

The ‘Opportunity Cost’ Of Time Spent On Smartphones

Speaking recently at an event in the UK, Prince Harry urged young people to take a break from their mobile phones. During his speech he said youngsters can be overly reliant on technology. He believes taking a break from devices can help us become ‘more effective and efficient’, and help us cope with the pace of modern life.

And it seems that Prince Harry’s sentiments are backed up by many professionals from the world of psychology, including New York psychotherapist Nancy Colier. In her new book The Power of Off Colier details how our near-universal access to technology is having negative effects on physical and mental health, neurological development and personal relationships.

In a recent interview Ms Colier said, ‘It’s connections to other human beings – real life connections, not digital ones – that nourish us and make us feel like we count. Our presence, our full attention is the most important thing we can give each other. Digital communications don’t result in deeper connections, in feeling loved and supported.’

So, it seems smartphones are affecting our relationships and mental health, which is absolutely not ideal. But many experts also believe that over-usage of mobile devices can also affect productivity, anxiety levels, sleep and, most importantly, set a bad example for our kids! And it’s time to address this elephant in the room, people!

How To Nip Your Smartphone Addiction In The Bud

So, here are my top tips to help you get your smartphone addiction under control. Why not start with one or two, and gradually ‘downgrade’ the priority the device has in your life? Going ‘cold turkey’ is not always sustainable, in my opinion!

1. Get rid of unnecessary apps

Do you really need Facebook and Twitter on your phone as well as your laptop? No! Not only does this waste time, it lures you to your smartphone.

2. Limit notifications

Do you actually need to be notified every time you receive an email or someone new follows you on Twitter? No. It simply drags your attention back to your device.

3. Invest in a watch

Do you realise one of the main reasons we are drawn to our smartphone so regularly is to check the time? So spoil yourself, and lash out on a groovy new (single function) watch!

4. Set boundaries for smartphone usage

Designate certain times when your phone is off limits. Dinner time, social gatherings, religious services and work meetings are a good place to start.

5. Ban smartphones from your bedroom

Set up a charging zone in your kitchen and invest in a $15 alarm clock. Not only will the temptation to check your phone for messages or emails be reduced, you might be able to indulge in a little meditation instead of frantically checking your smartphone as soon as you open your eyes in the morning.

So, if you feel you are constantly stimulated but not actually achieving anything, if you never seem to get to the bottom of your to-do list, and are maybe feeling a little lonely: put your smartphone down! Technology can be and is a phenomenal tool but not when it’s over-used. Let’s get some balance back and focus on face-to-face human interactions.

Till next time, take care!

Alex xx

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