Researchers have recently looked at the use of technology as a potential for increased anxiety, social isolation, sleep disrupter, and a negative mood changer.
The barrage of information that comes in from our devices can be overwhelming and downright paralyze us. Social media alone has been linked to social isolation as we try and compare ourselves to others and feel left out, making our lives seem less significant.
How many times have you gone out to dinner and seen couples on their phones, rather than communicating with the person in front of them.
I don’t know about you, but I see it all the time, and I have been guilty of looking at my phone too when someone walks away.
The constant need for technology has created an unhealthy addiction for dopamine releases, just like a drug does, leaving us paranoid if we don’t check our notifications every minute. We feel like the world is going to change in an instant and we can’t miss out.
By not being in the present moment, we actually create more feelings of anxiety, depression, and negative moods due to the fear of missing out on something that is not even in our control, nor does it have a significant impact on our day to day life.
The other big thing is that we use our devices at night time, tricking our brain to be stimulated, thinking it’s still day time due to the screen lights. This decreases our ability to wind down and actually prepare for bed, while also over stimulating ourselves with information that may cause us to have more discomfort than if we never looked at it.
Now our devices are certainly great at helping us get useful information when needed in nearly an instant, but they should be used what they were intended for and not as an escape from life.
So how can I do that? (While you read this on a device 🙄)
You don’t need to burn everything and live off the land.
Tom Hanks found his disconnect with Wilson in Castaway.
Having scheduled use for technology is a great way to integrate this. You can schedule to look at emails at certain times of day or only on certain days. Same goes for social media and checking voicemails.
There was a study that followed 124 adults over two weeks. During one week, the participants were free to check their email continually throughout the day. During the other, they were limited to checking email messages (both work and personal) just three times per day. Participants reported less daily stress during the week when their email access was limited. That reduced stress was associated with positive outcomes including greater mindfulness, greater self-perceived productivity and better sleep quality (Computers in Human Behavior, 2014).
By utilizing the principles in the study laid out above, you can see that these individuals were able to be more in the present moment and reduce their overall stress and anxiety by limiting and scheduling their technology use.
A simple thing you can do is just go for a walk and leave the phone at home. Even starting out with not looking at your phone our watching TV for 15 min can start to ingrain a habit where you can become less reliant on your devices and be more present and reduce the FOMO.
One thing I implemented was to place my phone on do not disturb for the last two hours I am awake and first hour I am awake. That way I do not have a need to check anything to overload the brain before bed and I can ease into my mornings. It has worked wonders.
Another great tip is to just keep the phone on silent when out to eat or with friends. What can you possibly be missing out on? You are with your friends and people that truly mean more to you than some update on social media or in a work email, so why not enjoy that time, rather than be pulled into a bad mood.
See what works for you and start taking back control of your mood and not let your devices take control of you.
Dr. Peter Dionisopoulos is the owner and founder of Dynamic Performance & Rehab. He has worked with many high-level athletes and military personnel, but his true passion is to help active adults maintain their lifestyle by providing information and potential solutions to their aches and pains so they can continue with the activities they love.