Smartphones have become an indispensable device in people’s lives, but many studies have shown that smartphones can reduce people’s sleep, productivity, and mental health. In this article, Brad Ridout, a psychologist at the University of Sydney, explains how people today deal with smartphone stress.
How to deal with smartphone stress
In recent years, many people have become aware of the harmful effects of smartphones, and some believe that smartphones chronically increase levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol is secreted in situations where people are under stress and has the ability to raise blood sugar levels, suppress the immune system, and keep the body on alert. Therefore, high cortisol levels are helpful for immediate physical threats, but not so helpful for ongoing psychological stress.
With people wearing their smartphones 24/7, there is now the possibility of receiving emails and other important communications from their employers 24/7. When the body perceives this condition as stress, it causes a chronic increase in cortisol levels, which increases the risk of health problems such as obesity and high blood pressure, as well as heart attacks and strokes, according to the article.
At the time of writing, it is not clear what role smartphones play in elevated cortisol levels over the course of a day. Nevertheless, Ridout argues that many people are experiencing smartphone stress, and behaviors such as checking e-mail in the middle of the night or early morning can increase stress.
While many people feel smartphone stress, social networking sites and smartphone games are designed to precisely stimulate people’s reward systems, making it difficult to actually abstain from smartphones. They have a habit of checking their smartphones when they go to the bathroom.
No matter how much of a source of stress smartphones are, Ridout noted that suddenly cutting off smartphone use altogether may also be counterintuitive. In addition, smartphones have become necessary for maintaining work and relationships, and it is not realistic to abandon them. Therefore, we need to be careful not to become addicted to our smartphones, and we need to be moderate in our use of them. Ridout suggests the following seven tips for healthier smartphone use and less stress.
◆1: Monitor app usage time.
The “screen time” feature in iOS allows you to track how much time you spend on apps on your smartphone, so you can regularly check how much you are using your smartphone and try not to overuse it. Similar apps also exist for Android, so Android users can also use this means.
◆2: Significantly reduce the number of app notifications
It is also recommended to reduce the frequency of seeing your smartphone by turning off notifications for all apps except for the one app that is “indispensable. Turning off notifications at different times of the day, such as from 21:00 to 7:00, is also helpful in maintaining a healthy mindset.
◆3: Turn off email push notifications
Similar to the tip above, Ridout recommends turning off email push notifications so that you only see new emails when you open your email app. Smartphone notifications may be convenient, but notifications sent when users do not intend to receive them can have a negative impact on mental health.
◆4: Organize your social networking followers, etc.
When using social networking sites, the number of people you follow and connect with can become very large over time. However, there are cases where you continue to be connected with people who, on second thought, “I have no interest in what this person is up to,” or “I don’t even know who they are in the first place,” and it is recommended to organize such connections on a regular basis. Unsubscribing from unnecessary store or Internet service e-mails is also a good way to reduce the load on the digital society.
◆5: Create a “place in your home where you don’t bring your digital devices
When we are at home, we tend to bring our smartphones and tablets into the bathroom and even into the toilet to use the Internet and applications. In order to avoid this situation, Ridout argues that we should decide not to bring smartphones and other devices into certain places, such as bathrooms and bedrooms, to avoid seeing them while relaxing.
◆6: Establish “time off from using digital devices
Setting aside time during the night and morning to avoid using digital devices, including smartphones, can also help maintain mental health. They suggest avoiding continuous touching of smartphones after going to bed and starting the day with a short meditation, exercise, or a leisurely breakfast instead of reaching for your smartphone first thing in the morning to check your social networking notifications.
◆7: Be aware of how often you touch your smartphone
People touch their smartphones in their daily lives without even being aware of it, but once you become aware of it, you will realize how often you touch your smartphone. When you are aware that you have just reached for your smartphone, before touching it and being bombarded with a large amount of information, ask yourself, “Why did I reach for my smartphone? Ridout recommends that before touching your smartphone and being bombarded with information, you should think about why you reached for it, or do a short meditation to calm your mind. This habit will help you to use your smartphone not only as a tool to check your social networking notifications, but also as a clue to your own state of mind.