This post is Part #2 in a three part series about mental health and your smart phone. Check out Post #1 to learn why reevaluating how you infuse technology into your life is important to your mental wellbeing.
I am well aware that this is a difficult relationship to re-imagine, but this is possibly what is standing between you and living your best life. Again, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE, my tech toys, especially my smartphone. However, I am very aware of what it does to my self-concept, my time management abilities and my overall ability to focus on tasks. Ready to love that little tech wonder in a different way?
- Do you compulsively check your phone for messages (from any source)?
- When you are stressed, do you find that you spend more time on your phone?
- Are you noticing a loss of interest in face-to-face social interactions?
- Do you feel “lost” when you do not have your phone?
- Are you able to be in public alone and not look at your phone?
- Do you have trouble getting to sleep? Do you spend time on your phone before you go to bed?
If you said “yes” or even “sort of” to any of the above questions, I think you need to re-evaluate your relationship with Smartyphone.
PsychNerdy Stuff that Relates to Your Tech Toys
Before I get too far down this rabbit hole, I just have to share one of my favourite psychology experiments, The Marshmallow Test!
In the 1960s, a Stanford professor, Dr. Walter Mischel, began conducting a series of important longitudinal psychological studies on the importance of delayed gratification (being less impulsive). I will let the videos below explain the fascinating and hilarious details of this study. My hope is that it will give you a little insight into the importance of learning to be less impulsive with your phone. If you get nothing out of it, at least you will see young kids struggling to not eat the marshmallow and the side-splitting strategies they try in the attempt to avoid actually eating it. I still LOL when I watch these vids 🙂
Resisting the Marshmallow
A Little Extra for You Fellow PsychNerds!
Delayed Gratification, Impulse Control, Digital Dieting, Tech-Life Balance, Mindful Use of Tech, whatever you want to call it you have a choice. A healthy brain or a brain that struggles. A successful life for your future self can start with living more in the real world and less in the digital world.
The Marshmallow Study makes one thing clear: if you want to succeed at something, at some point you will need to find the ability to be disciplined and take action instead of becoming distracted and doing what’s easy.
Ok, so I hear that you may be tipping in the right direction but have no idea how to actually stop eating the marshmallows (aka looking at your phone).
Here is a recap..
Eating 1 Marshmallow (Looking at Your Phone) = Building Psychological Distress
Waiting for 2 Marshmallows (Phone -Life Balance) = Building Mental Wellbeing
So, let’s talk about the very cute but large elephant in the room. FOMO!
In my opinion, this has got to be the worst side effect to this tech revolution. Studies show that FOMO leads to extreme dissatisfaction and has a detrimental effect on your physical and mental health – mood swings, loneliness, feelings of inferiority, reduced self-esteem, extreme social anxiety, and increased levels of negativity and depression.
So, put your phone down! The person who texted you (or Snapped) will be there later, the person in front of you won’t be.
Simple Tips to Spend Less Time on Your Phone
- Turn off Notifications:
- Every time that phone buzzes you are prompted to check it for that little dopamine rush in your brain. Do you really want to be a pavlovian dog?!?
- Get the Facts!
- Set Boundaries and Create “Living in the Real World” Time:
- Set up phone free periods every day. Go for walks, to the gym, to study, to lunch, etc. without your phone.
- Tech Break Strategy: “Start by looking at your phone for one minute and checking all forms of communication, including texts, calls and social media. Then turn it off, set the alarm for 15 minutes and place it face-down in plain sight. The upside-down phone reminds your brain to not release stress and anxiety neurotransmitters” Dr. Larry D. Rosen. Practice practice practice!
- Bedtime: No screen time 30 minutes before bed. This just fills your brain with rumination information (negative thinking) and light that messes with your melatonin.
- Get Some Sleep!
- When you are tired, it is way harder to fight the urge to check your phone.
- Try not to use your phone as an alarm clock, or at least set it to airplane mode or “do not disturb” when you sleep.
- Challenge Your “Real-Time” Convo Fear:
- Avoid succumbing to ‘texting syndrome’ by fostering a variety of communication skills. Don’t just rely on texts, Snaps, Instas or even emails. Try actually talking to people on the phone, or even better, in person. Force yourself, build this habit, it is worth it for your mental wellbeing.
- Fight FOMO!
- Stop Looking: The more you look the more you feel like you are missing out. Us GenXer’s could only imagine our friends out there having a great time without us, now all you need to do is scroll Instagram or SnapChat to get the full sad picture of everyone having way more fun than you (which is actually a lie).
- Perspective: Remember that people only post their best selves, the highlight reel, the incredibly curated selfie that took at least 20 shots to get. You are probably having a great time now, be in THAT moment.
Next blog post I will be going into more detail around how to manage specific challenges with applications such as SnapChat, Instagram and getting caught in the endless streaming cycle with YouTube and Netflix. Join me and please feel free to ask questions or suggest topic areas 🙂
Dr. Heather Drummond, EdD (Counselling Psychology)
eSuccess-Coach * Passionate Advocate for Student Success