Practicing mindfulness means being more mindful or present in the current moment. So, now we are going to practice some tech mindfulness with some Q & A:
How many times a day would you guess you look at your phone?
How many times a day do you think you touch your phone?
One study of mobile users found they looked at their smartphones 221 times a day and touched their phones more than 2,000 times a day.
Do you know that horrible, panicked, pit-in-your-stomach feeling you get when you realize you left your phone at home? That anxious state actually has a name: nomophobia. Translated as: No-mobile-phone-phobia, or the fear of being without our phone. Are you plagued by the fear of being without your phone? Without technology? Is homophobia harmful to your health?
What does science say about nomophobia?
Doctors and scientists have shown a possible biochemical link between smartphones and disease by studying our response to stress. A group of scientists hypothesized that smartphone addicts would have higher levels of stress hormones when they were without their phones. At high levels, this stress hormone, called cortisol, starts your body’s “fight or flight” reaction. It increases your heartbeat, releases more sugar into your bloodstream, and activates your brain to get ready for any potential threat. But Mother Nature never designed human beings to have this fight or flight response multiple times an hour or even a day. Science has already shown us that chronically-high levels of cortisol increase your risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, infertility, dementia, and stroke.
In the smartphone cortisol study, participants’ cortisol levels rose even when their phone was in sight or nearby when they heard it, and even when they thought they heard it.
We all are living in a state of hypervigilance, on edge, just waiting for the next text, notification, email, or social media slight.
We know higher levels of cortisol make it harder for your brain to do its job. High cortisol levels are bad for brain function (memory), job performance, sleep quality, and the ability of our bodies to stay healthy and fight off disease (immune system function).
Researchers believe that years of smartphone addiction and associated elevated cortisol levels could potentially cause both chronic health conditions.
Psychologists propose smartphone addiction be added to the catalog of psychological disorders. They see smartphones as a threat to our mental health. That doesn’t mean you need to check yourself into a digital detox boot camp or addiction treatment program quite yet. Instead, applying some principles of mindfulness can ease your technology addiction.
Tech MindfulnessTips to Tame Nomophobia
1. Be mindful. Try to notice how long you can wait before picking up and checking your phone. Be curious. Notice what you are thinking and how you are feeling when you are tempted to check your phone.
2. Take a break. Purposely leave your phone outside of your bedroom for one night a week. Turn your phone off and put it in another room while you eat dinner each night. Try to wait one hour after you wake up each morning before turning on your phone. These are all examples of phone vacations. By choosing realistic and small goals when you first start out increases your chances for long-term success with overcoming nomophobia.
3. Avoid notifications. The “Notifications” tab under the “Settings” section on your phone can be your newest health coach. Challenge yourself to turn off as many notifications as possible. The less your phone beeps, buzzes, flashes, or tries to steal your attention, the lower your cortisol levels will be, and the healthier you can be.
Tech Mindfulness is a Healthy Habit
Once you try this out with your phone, why not practice tech mindfulness with some of your other devices? Limit all tech and media exposure. Prioritize in-person conversations as much as possible. Your relationships will thank you. This is a practical list of suggestions for how to be mindful when social networking. Video calling now ties us even more to our screens. The screen barrier makes it harder to find true empathetic connection, especially for health care providers, as we wrote about how to avoid telemedicine burnout. If it helps you, think of tech mindfulness like a fitness habit or a healthy habit you are choosing to be healthier. Remind yourself that something as simple as putting your phone out of sight for a few hours could help you live a longer, healthier, and happier life.
Afifi, Tamara & Zamanzadeh, Nicole & Harrison, Kathryn & Callejas, Acevedo. (2018). WIRED: The impact of media and technology use on stress (cortisol) and inflammation (interleukin IL-6) in fast-paced families. Computers in Human Behavior. 81. 265-273. 10.1016/j.chb.2017.12.010.
Price, Catherine. Putting your phone down may help you live you longer. New York Times, April 24, 2019.
Mindful staff. Mindful social networking. https://www.mindful.org/mindful-social-networking/. Accessed on January 23, 2021.