Smartphones and Habits of Health
At this point, owning a smartphone is as normal as owning a set of keys. We can’t live without them, and they’re never far from our reach (if ever). Smartphones themselves are not harmful to our health. In fact, with the right approach and the right mindset, your smartphone can be a powerful tool for supporting your journey to Optimal Wellbeing. You could be taking advantage of a number of powerful health apps to help you exercise right and make smart eating choices, but for most of us, that’s not how we use our phones.
We check for messages and notifications.
Then we check them again.
Oh, and then we get an angry work email, and our night is ruined.
Even though smartphones have a huge potential to do good in our lives, we still need to be mindful of how our phones influence and determine our daily habits. The above example likely hits home for anyone that works in an office. One person working late and venting a frustration to a big list of CCed email addresses—many of whom won’t be able to do anything to help until they get into the office the next morning anyway—can quickly inject harmful stress into your evening plans, distracting you from spending time with your loved ones and even disrupting sleep.
If it won’t destroy your career (and be honest with yourself when you answer), simply turning off your email notifications in the evening can do wonders for multiple facets of your wellbeing.
Beyond their capacity to deliver stress from and to anywhere in the world, smartphone habits can impact your health in other ways too. Here are some big ones that you should be aware of:
- Smartphones can derail your sleep schedule. In addition to the mental distraction and excitement that a phone can cause, the brightness of your phone screen can interrupt your natural sleep rhythm. The brightness can trick your brain into starting a daytime routine instead of releasing the relaxing and calming chemicals that help you feel sleepy and ultimately get the restful night of sleep you need. Turn off your phone at least an hour before bed and leave it off!
- “Text neck” is now a real condition. Long periods of dropping your chin to your chest to look at your phone can strain your neck. As is true with nearly any posture problem, text neck can put you on a path to severe neck and back problems. If you have to use your phone frequently throughout the day, try to lift it up to eye level so that you maintain a healthy posture.
- Staying connected could actually create big disconnects. Once we’ve trained our brains to reach for our phones with every ding or flashing light, we might struggle to maintain healthy in-person relationships. Putting your phone away for family dinners or for gatherings with friends can help you to have more meaningful moments with the people you care about. Healthy relationships are in many ways as important as exercise and nutrition, so don’t neglect them. Put the phone away for a few hours.
- Smartphone distractions can actually be very dangerous. We have all heard by now that texting and driving is dangerous, but 1 out of 5 drivers admit to using their phones while they drive. That’s outrageous! If you’re on the go, whether on foot or behind a steering wheel, set the phone aside and focus on getting to where you’re going safely, for your sake and for the sake of those around you.
Anyone who is close to me will you tell that I love my iPhone. It’s a marvel of technology that has made my life markedly more productive, and it helps me stay in touch with more people more effectively. Despite those benefits, I’ve had to draw very clear lines as to how much I let it control my day to day life, and I encourage you to draw similar lines for yourself, for the sake of your health and your relationships.