According to TechCrunch, 2.6 of us have smartphones around the world. That number is estimated to explode to 6.1 billion of by the year 2020. While they make our lives easier, faster, and hyper-connected, there’s also a question as to what they’re doing to our mental health.
In a new article in The Seattle Times, the question is raised of the short-and-long-term effects of smartphones on not just our physical health, but our our mental health. Multiple examples of where we reach for our devices in order to avoid human connection, where babies are placed in front of glowing screens to keep them occupied instead of engaged with other people. In a world where the devices are supposed to make our lives easier, we find ourselves enslaved to them, seeking constant connection or being pulled away from our lives by a constant stream of beeps, buzzes, and pop-up notifications.
So, let’s talk about that effect on mental health. What exactly does all that streaming information and glowing light do to our brain chemistry? “Without open spaces and downtime, the nervous system never shuts down — it’s in constant fight-or-flight mode,” says Nancy Colier, M.D., a New York-based therapist and author of the new book, The Power of Off: The Mindful Way to Say Sane in a Virtual World (Sounds True, 2016.) “We’re wired and tired all the time. Even computers reboot, but we’re not doing it.”
The article is a fascinating, enlightening read, and we should all consider following some simple guidelines when it comes to our brains and our smartphones. Putting the device in Sleep or Do Not Disturb at night when you go to bed can ensure you get much-needed rest. Leaving the phone behind so you can take a break and go spend time with friends and family is another suggestion. I personally had to set a mandatory off time and place the phone across the room from me so I wouldn’t be tempted to check it before bed. But the more space we get from our devices, the more we use them for only meaningful activities, and the better our mental health may be because of it.