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Your Body Needs You to Take Breaks from Your Phone Each Day

13 August 2019

Barbara read Putting Down Your Phone May Help You Live Longer by Catherine Price and learned it’s not just texting while driving that is dangerous.

Tags: balance, barbara read, email

Some people in my life have been annoyed that I didn’t regularly check my phone for messages. When I first got a smartphone, I wouldn’t even keep it turned on all the time. I got over that, but I still wouldn’t always get it out of my purse. Now, just when I’ve finally found pants and shorts that have proper pockets to keep my phone from falling out when I sit down, I read an article about how dangerous it is to keep it on my body all the time.

I’ve been hearing about the dopamine hits we get that make looking at our phones so addictive and ignoring the evidence that the “four hours” a day the average person spends on the phone is “interfering with our sleep, self-esteem, relationships, memory, attention spans, creativity, productivity and problem-solving and decision-making skills.” I also know that sometimes we aren't as focused on the people we're with when everyone is checking their devices or will possibly be pulled away by a notification.

But now in this article Catherine Price says that constantly looking at your smartphone increases the hormone cortisol, which helps us survive in physically dangerous situations, but a steady flow of it is harmful to the body. If we read a nasty social media message or get an angry email from a superior at work “our bodies release cortisol in response to emotional stress….And chronically elevated cortisol levels have been tied to an increased risk of serious health problems, including depression, obesity, metabolic syndrome, Type 2 diabetes, fertility issues, high blood pressure, heart attack, dementia and stroke.”

I’ve watched how much children want to stay on their devices if they are not provided with enough activities. I’m grateful they didn’t exist when I was raising mine because I think I would have given in and let them be a baby sitter too much. I did use Sesame Street, the Electric Company, and Mr. Rogers, but I’m grateful I didn’t have the temptation of devices because parenting small children often exhausted me.

Allison has written several blog posts about the importance of detaching from your email and other devices on vacation, but Price has some other small changes you could make right away and every day to help you put the genie back in the bottle.

To begin taking better care of yourself, she recommends paying attention to how your body reacts when you get an upsetting message on your phone. We often have a sudden rush of irritation but keep moving fast to the next one. She says stop and think about how you feel, what caused it, and what you can do about it. “Regular breaks can also be an effective way to rebalance your body’s chemistry and regain your sense of control. A 24-hour “digital Sabbath” can be surprisingly soothing (once the initial twitchiness subsides), but even just leaving your phone behind when you get lunch is a step in the right direction.” Here are some of her other suggestions I'm going to try:

  • Turn off as many notifications as possible.
  • Move apps that cause you anxiety off your home screen.
  • Notice when you crave your phone and make yourself wait a little longer to grab it.
  • Don’t check your phone before bed.
  • Carry it in a bag rather than in your pocket.

I don’t know if I can do that last one when I’ve spent all year trying to learn to keep it with me, but I’m hopeful that if I make the other adjustments that it might help me to reduce stress I didn’t realize the phone was creating.

There are so many ways that having my iPhone and iPad has improved my life and connection with my loved ones, but I want to make sure I’m in charge of these devices rather than letting them be in charge of me. Would your life be better if your phone were a little farther away from you more often during the day?


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