A phone is no longer just another tech tool to make our lives easier. It is now a very extension of our existence which you cannot put down. But you might want to if you want to have a long life.
Extended life! What does that entail? We are in a competitive world, and of course, the smartphone is our best buddy that can fetch you any solution in moments. But in return, it increases the release of the stress hormone “cortisol”, which endangers our long term health.
Evidence suggests that the duration we spend on our smartphones is deterring our life in many ways like our sleep, self-esteem, connections, remembrance, attention, imaginativeness, productivity, problem-solving and decision-making skills. Well, that’s a long roster, but these are the facts.
That is why there is a growing need for us to rethink our ways. You may question how our relationships are connected with our devices or how in general, is everything connected with our smartphone usage?
Until now, most conversations about phones were majorly focused on the biochemical impacts of dopamine, a brain chemical that helps us form habits and addictions. For instance, slot machines, smartphones, apps etc., are definitively built to accelerate dopamine’s release and make our smartphones impossible to put away. Such manipulations of our dopamine systems are why several specialists think that we are cultivating behavioral addictions to our phones. But the evidence suggests that our smartphones impact our cortisol levels which are even more startling.
What is Cortisol?
Cortisol is our fundamental fight-or-flight hormone. Its release hastens physiological alterations, such as spikes in blood pressure, heart rate and blood sugar etc., that assists us in reacting to situations and endure pressing bodily threats.
Although these effects can be a lifesaver, for instance, let’s say that you are in actual physical danger, like being chased by a bull. It helps you survive a potentially life-threatening situation. It’s that time when our bodies also release Cortisol in reaction to expressive stressors, but a boosted heart rate isn’t going to do you much good when you check your phone to find an angry email from your boss.
4 Hours of Stress
If they occurred only periodically, phone-induced cortisol spikes shouldn’t even matter. But the typical user across the globe spends at least four hours a day glimpsing at their smartphone and carries it around within arm’s reach virtually all day, according to a tracking app called Moment. Also, when Google conducted a study, they pointed out that when a mobile device is filled up with all social media, email and news apps, it can create a lasting connotation of obligation, generating coerced emotional stress.
What Happens When Cortisol Levels Rise?
David Greenfield, an esteemed professor at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, states that “cortisol level is heightened when your phone is in picture or handy, or when you listen to it or even reckon you hearing it.” He also pointed out that it’s a stress reaction, and it feels awful, and the body’s biological answer is to answer the need to check the phone to make the stress go away.
But while doing so might calm you for a minute, it may create difficulties in the long term. Whenever you check your phone, you’re likely to find something aggravating or stressful loitering for you, directing to another spike in cortisol and another longing to browse your phone to make your anxiety disappear. This cycle, when continuously bolstered, leads to chronically increased cortisol levels. And chronically raised cortisol levels are proven to increase the risk of significant health problems such as depression, metabolic syndrome, Type 2 diabetes, fertility issues, high blood pressure, heart attack, dementia and stroke.
In extension to the possible long-term health effects, smartphone-induced stress impacts us in other life-threatening ways. How, do you ask?
See, improved cortisol levels weaken the prefrontal cortex, a region of the brain crucial for decision-making and logical thought. To put it simply, the prefrontal cortex is responsible and keeps us from doing stupid things. Dr Lustig quotes that “The prefrontal cortex is the brain’s Jiminy Cricket.”
Impairment of the prefrontal cortex diminishes self-control. When fused with influential longing anxiety, this can lead us to do stuff that may be stress-relieving for the time being but is potentially disastrous.
The consequences of stress can be overstated even further if we often fear that something terrible is bound to happen, whether it’s a physical attack or some infuriating words below on social media. In the case of smartphones, this state of hypervigilance occasionally manifests as “phantom vibrations,” in which people sense their phone is vibrating when it isn’t even there.
Dr Bruce McEwen says that all the things we do and experience can infect our physiology and alter circuits in our brain in ways that compel us more or less reactive to stress. He also remarks that our baseline cortisol levels ebb and flow in a typical 24-hour cycle that is tossed out if we don’t get at least seven to eight hours of sleep in a day, which is all too simple to do if you’re in the addiction of holding up your phone before bed. This, in turn, makes off our bodies less resilient to stress and improves our chance of all the stress-related health ailments cited.
Put all together, and the hours we waste checking our mobiles may add up to much more than a waste of time.
How Do you Break the Routine?
The good thing is that if we crush this anxiety-driven cycle, we can curtail our cortisol levels, which in turn may both enhance our short-term judgment and shorter our risks for long-term stress relevant health problems.
Over time, says Dr McEwen, it’s even feasible to retrain our brains so that our stress reaction is no longer on such a hair-trigger to start up with. So to make your smartphone slight stressful, start by turning off all notifications except for the ones you want to see. Also, please pay attention to how individual apps make you feel when you use them.
Ask the questions to yourself, which app or website do you check out of anxiety? Which leaves you thinking stressed? Then after realizing the answers to self, hide all those apps of sight on the home screen or better; if you don’t use them more, delete them. Do this for a few days and see how you feel.
Start paying attention to how individual apps are affecting you emotionally or physically. Cause Dr Judson Brewer says that “If we’re not familiar with our physical impressions, we’re not going to improve our behaviors.” Also, according to Dr Brewer, stress and anxiety often manifest as physical symptoms like contractions in the chest, etc.
Regular breaks can also be a helpful way to rebalance your body’s chemistry and recoup your sense of control. Apart from the above, you can also try noticing what anxiety-induced phone longings take place in your brain and body without instantly giving in to them.
Unfortunately, it isn’t lenient to build healthy limitations with intentionally designed devices to hinder them. But lowering our stress levels will make us feel better in the upcoming days, and it might also increase and prolong our lives.