You might think phone usage is a strange topic for a nutrition doc, but as far as I’m concerned anything you put in front of your mind and body is nutrition and most of us are getting a whole lotta consumption from our phone.
In fact, a 2021 survey showed 50% of Americans spend 5 to 6 hours on our phones per day!
And I must admit, I am guilty and guilty!
I used to wake up every morning to my alarm on my phone. Before my eyes were even awake enough to decipher the letters on the screen I was already in my inbox 📫. I estimate that I check my email approximately 20-40 times before 9 am. Not to mention posting to social media, scrolling social media, answering the text message, responding to an alert, a notification…
And this is all just in the very morning hours of the day. The time of day mind you, in which we have the most energy, the most attention and the most will (power).
Shouldn’t that time be used for something more valuable?
But for me, it doesn’t stop there. I have my phone with me at my side at all times. Often I hold it in the palm of my hand. If I happen to need my hands then I will put my phone in the pocket of my white coat or in the back pocket of my jeans. Never in my purse, because that is not accessible enough. But aside from peace of mind, our attachment to our phones does not come without a cost. Here are some facts:
Mental Health Implications 🧠:
- Phone usage has been linked to an increased rate of depression, anxiety, OCD, and ADHD.
- In one study of adolescents, 48% of those who spent five or more hours a day on their phones—a lot of time by any measure—had thought about suicide or made plans for it, vs. 28% of those who spent only one hour per day on their phones.
- Researchers have shown that young people with excessive phone had imbalances in brain chemistry compared with controls: with higher levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter in the brain which is involved in among other things with mood and anxiety.
It has been shown that merely having your phone in the same room as you will increase your HR and blood pressure.
That is because even a signal that prompts you to check your phone activates your sympathetic nervous system, the part of your body that prepares you for fight or flight. With every interaction with our phone our bodies get a shot of adrenaline, a stress hormone that triggers us to be on alert and sets off a cascade of chemicals that increases heart rate, pulse and muscle tension.
It takes our bodies anywhere from five to 30 minutes to settle back to baseline after every one of these pings and yet we often don’t give ourselves enough time to get there because the next alert has already gone off. Over time, this chronic sympathetic drive not only promotes stress but can also cause disease.
Sleep disturbance 😴:
You can see how this could affect our sleep. And indeed phone usage not only takes time away from sleep because we are wasting precious time scrolling instead of sleeping but consider the content we are consuming. News, social media, emails in your inbox, all of which is stimulating and in fact agitating. Think about it, how is filling our minds with all this cr*$ conducive to sleep?
Not to mention the light emitted from our phones interferes with the production of melatonin, our sleep hormone, making it not only harder to fall asleep, but also affecting sleep quality by reducing the amount of REM sleep throughout the night. And what about those of you who get up in the middle of the night, how many of you sneak a peak on your phone, only to find, once again, you have been sucked into the abyss of endless content?
Productivity and Cognition 🤔:
Our smart phones definitely impact our productivity and the quality of our work by fragmenting our focus and attention. Let’s face it, it’s distracting! Think of all the times you start and stop a task or a thought because of an interruption by your phone.
Some experts have suggested that over-reliance on our phones has also resulted in mental laziness and in fact, one recent study has found a link between the two. I can attest to this fact! I cannot remember my children’s phone numbers for the life of me!
In another study appearing in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research found that cognitive capacity was significantly reduced whenever a smartphone is within reach, even when the phone is off. I suspect, once again, this has to do with the effect it has on our nervous system, when you are fight or flighting you are not exactly in a headspace geared for detailed attention.
Not to mention that this is time that could be spent on other things like exercise, socializing, self development, learning a new skill, sleeping or just chilling. All of which enhance our cognition, productivity, mood and let’s face it our quality of life.
I could go on about the perils of the phone, but you know it already and I do too. So this year I did something unbelievable. I got an alarm clock! And began charging my phone in my closet. I replaced my phone with a mini iPad that I cleared of everything but my meditation app and a few others where I get my inspiration. Now the first thing I do when I wake up is breathe in silence, clear my head, figure out which end is up, and set my own agenda as opposed to being steered by someone else’s. Before bed I read my inspirational articles, write in my journal and set my intentions to my subconscious as Thomas Edison suggested. It was he who said,
“Never go to sleep without a request to your subconscious”
I’m not sure if my subconscious is really taking direction from me but I sure like to think so. Next, I made a rule that I would only check my phone at specified times a day, instead of all the time.
I did it for three days and you know what, it was amazing! Within the first day, I literally could feel the anxiety dial down in my body. I started my days with more ease. My heart rate dropped, I lost that tight, I gotta do something feeling in my chest I had grown so used to…
I’m not going to lie, it has been a challenge too. I have also found myself walking to my phone, turning back, walking over, turning back, kinda like the crazy thing you do when you are trying not to call an ex-boyfriend. But, the benefits have been too great not to persevere. So I am challenging myself to stick it out and I am going to challenge you too!
Here is my challenge to you. Get out there and buy an alarm clock. Charge your phone somewhere other than your bedside and make a commitment to do something nourishing when you wake up and something nourishing before you go to bed, because what you feed your mind is nutrition too!