This January many of us will be reflecting on the challenges of the past year, craving the connection we feel we’ve lacked and will continue to miss this winter. And it is most likely our devices we’ll turn to when seeking connection, comfort or distraction.
It’s an understatement to say that we’re more digitally connected now than ever – while it’s a great achievement to have been able to adapt to such a huge increase in new tech in our lives, that ‘always on’ connection can come at a price to mental and physical health if we don’t establish our digital boundaries.
Being mindful of our boundaries when engaged with our digital devices can be tough, especially now. But if, like many, you feel overwhelmed by the lack of time you have for yourself, or are consistently experiencing low-level anxiety, then changing your approach to your tech may help you find better balance in life.
This isn’t about being anti-tech. There’s a time and a place for your mobile phone, but the problem is it’s often too much time, in too many places.
So, how can you become more aware of the impact technology has on your time and health, and how can you address this in a healthy and achievable way?
As with most things, our phones come with pros and cons.
The benefits are obvious: instant communication and connectivity, portability, unrestricted access to as much information and news* as you want, whenever you want, and entertainment on tap.
*Though, it’s worth bearing in mind whether limitations around your consumption of news may help your wellbeing – especially at the moment!
The disadvantages may be less clear: constant interruptions, compulsion, information overload (much of it unreliable and unfiltered), time-wasting, a loss of social skills and less ‘real’ interaction.
The mental health implications of excessive phone use are well chronicled; stress and anxiety being the common issues.
In a 2017 study published by California State University, researchers discovered that the average person spent 4 hours a day on their phone.
But more interesting, perhaps, was the levels of obsession and addiction they discovered, and the important distinction they drew between the two.
Addiction, they concluded, was motivated by the need for pleasure and the release of dopamine and serotonin. Obsession, by contrast, triggered the release of anxiety and stress chemicals cortisol and adrenaline.
Of the two, they discovered that obsessive engagement with mobile phones was far more prevalent than addictive use, meaning anxiety is a more common by-product of phone usage than pleasure.
Excessive use of digital devices can also have an impact on our physical health.
Research has shown mobile phone use before bedtime inhibits the release of melatonin; the hormone we produce that make us feel sleepy. Meaning it takes longer for us to get to sleep and reduces the quality and length of healing deep sleep.
It’s always good to take a moment to consider how much control you have over your phone versus how much control it has over you.
Most phone users have a tendency to overuse their portable tech, so setting some goals for yourself when it comes to your phone use is likely to bring some benefits. For a start you’ll create the time for other rewarding and positive habits, including:
If you’re serious about changing the way you engage digitally with the world, you need to have an achievable plan.
Try these steps to more mindful tech use:
Identify the habit you want to change and a positive habit you want to replace it with
To do this, work out the trigger for the habit you have that you’d like to replace – for example, maybe your trigger is boredom/lack of motivation/avoiding writing a difficult email, and these triggers make you reach for your phone.
Next, identify the habit you’d like to replace – maybe when you feel bored, you take 15 minutes to read a chapter in your book, you go for a no-tech walk, or you just get up from your desk to make a cup of tea.
Lastly, try to predict the obstacles that might arise that are likely to stop you replacing the old habit with the new and create a plan for how you can tackle those obstacles.
Decide on a switch-off plan
When during the day can you commit to not using your phone and how will you remove the temptation to reach for it?
How many times do you want to pick up your phone each day?
What apps could you turn off or delete for a few days, or a week or a month?
In the time you’re not using your phone, what will you do instead?
If you’d like to know more about how we can help support your employees’ wellbeing – from managing workplace stress and anxiety to helping staff plan and execute a digital detox in 2021 – do get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 0203 637 7417.