At this time of year we often embark on a diet to reduce food intake, but many of us consume an unhealthy level of digital fare. According to the Tonight programme broadcast on 4th February, 48% of us in the UK describe ourselves as hooked on our handsets and the average person checks their phone 85 times a day.
While Wi-Fi holds tremendous possibilities used wisely, screen dependency is a problem for those of us of all ages, who find it very hard to put our smartphones and tablets down and walk away. It can play a part in anxiety and panic attacks when clients contact me for solutions with Anxiety Breakthroughs
Stress & Insomnia
Stressed clients commonly complain of insomnia and screens at bedtime can cause sleeplessness, with consequent irritability, tiredness and anxiety states. You might think you are winding down on the internet, but while your body may be tired, your brain isn’t. Screens emit a high content of blue light which we think suppresses the hormone melatonin: the sleep hormone.
Your Brain’s Wi-Fi
Research into mental health shows that the fast food of digital information might stimulate quick reactions, but can so effect our brains that we become driven by impulse. We are training our brains to snack on short-term tit-bits of information and become incapable of strategic planning.
We lose the capacity to lay down deep knowledge and cannot think in-depth without becoming agitated and seeking distraction that the internet provides.
Every time your phone pings with a message for you, a little dose of dopamine, the pleasure chemical is produced in your brain and becomes irresistible. Like dependency on any substance we want more and more to just feel comfortable and normal. Rehab facilities are springing up all over the world to deal with nomophobia.
As wondrous as the internet is; indeed I couldn’t run my business or be talking to you right now without it, I try my best to remember that I have a choice to turn it on and off at will. Exercising choice is the most import human capacity we have. It is true that some things are out of our control but internet connection is not one of them.
Clients consulting me with stress or anxiety have lost control over the primitive, automatic reactions of the brain firing off alarm signals, most keenly seen in panic attacks. Their executive function or observing self is lost and constant contact with Wi-Fi doesn’t help.
Some years ago it was thought the mobile phone market was near saturation point and market share would fall when everyone had one. Through remarkably clever marketing the phone has wriggled its way into our lives and under our skin in quite a scary way. We now find ourselves depending on it for scheduling, listening to music and even our social life. Hyperconnectivity has a cost. With the promise of ever more rewarding connectivity we fill the coffers of the biggest commercial enterprises in the world while putting our sanity at risk.
One client, promoted at work was nervous about learning the ropes. An episode of disturbed sleep led to worries about performing well. Wide awake at 3am she thought: I can’t sleep so I’ll try and get on top of things and do some work emails. That was just the start of a vicious cycle of a tired, wired brain. As one small part of working through Anxiety Breakthroughs with me, she turned her phone off at night. With better sleep and life balance, her energy and focus restored, not only her performance but social ease was remarked upon by colleagues.
Is this You?
Are you wired and anxious if you haven’t played with your phone for a couple of hours? You are not alone. Known as Nomophobia, over 50% of us feel anxious at the idea of being without a phone.
Attention span of a gnat?
Do you go for a run or walk the dog ostensibly enjoying the sensations of a new day but really you are gone, head down on your phone?
Then its got you! You no longer have a computer to serve you – it rules you.
So what can you do to take your life back?
Break out with a Digital Diet
Turn Your Phone Off
Exercise your choice and power and turn your phone off. One of the things I love about trains is the freedom. Fresh ideas have a chance to arise without interruption to my natural way of being. I realised I don’t have to wait until travelling to take a technology break. There is no law that says that you or I must have our phones on at all times. As part of your structure of life, designate digital-free times and turn your phone off. Start with a few hours on Sundays and build up to digital-free days and week-ends off. If this feels too big a step start with the next tip:
Switch off Notifications
Don’t wait until you’re on a plane to put your phone in airplane mode. Or when concentrating on a task switch off alerts. That includes all pop ups and pings from apps, emails, texts and messages.
Come back to your Senses
Go for a no-phone walk. Practice Mindfulness by noticing your sensations in the moment, whatever they are, without judgement. Be aware of the sights, sounds, sensations, smells or tastes in the present moment. You can play the game of I see one thing, I hear one sound, I feel one sensation and repeat. Don’t worry if your mind wanders off track. Maybe thoughts of missing your phone;) This is natural and bound to happen. Don’t block thoughts but don’t follow them either. Gently escort your awareness back to what you are aware of with your senses moment by moment. This is re-training your brain to enjoy time out from extraneous stimulation. It is impossible to be bored when you are fully present to your experience.
Contact Avril for a free chat