While many people have realized they ought to lessen their phone time, some still stay hooked to their screens despite knowing the dangers. Research suggests that putting down your phone may actually help you live longer, improving your mental and physical health
According to an increasing body of evidence, the time spent on smartphones interferes with one’s sleep, relationships, self-esteem, memory, creativity, attention span, productivity, problem-solving, and decision-making skills.
The excessive use of smartphones chronically raises the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, in the human body, thus threatening your health and shortening your lifespan.
According to the prevalent discussions, smartphones and apps are designed to stimulate dopamine’s release, the brain’s “feel good” chemical that helps form habits and addictions. This factor makes it difficult for a person to put down their devices.
This dopamine manipulation is the reason experts say that people are developing behavioral addictions to their phones. Apart from that, the phones also have alarming effects on cortisol, the primary fight-or-flight hormone.
This hormone’s release triggers physiological changes, like an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar. While these effects can be life-saving in real danger, cortisol release in response to emotional stressors, like receiving an angry email from one’s boss, is for not good and contributes to stress.
Keeping phones loaded with email, social media, and news apps give rise to a “constant sense of obligation, generating unintended personal stress,” notes a Google report.
David Greenfield, founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction and a clinical psychiatry professor at the University Of Connecticut School Of Medicine said that cortisol levels rise when the phone is in sight or when a person hears or even thinks that he/she hears it.
“It’s a stress response, and it feels unpleasant, and the body’s natural response is to want to check the phone to make the stress go away,” he said.
Doing so can have a soothing effect for the time being, but it makes things worse in the long run. Whenever you check your phone, chances are that you may find something stressful waiting for you. That results in another spike in cortisol and another urge to check the phone to get rid of the anxiety.
This cycle leads to chronically elevated cortisol levels, which are linked to an increased risk of health problems like obesity, depression, obesity, metabolic syndrome, heart attack, dementia, and stroke.
Moreover, elevated cortisol levels impact the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for decision-making and thought process. Impairment of this brain area decreases self-control, which when combined with the powerful desire to alleviate anxiety, can lead a person to do things that can be potentially fatal (like texting when driving).
The stress can aggravate further if one constantly worries that something bad is about to happen. The habit of checking your phone before sleep worsens your sleep quality and makes the body less resilient to stress. It eventually increases stress-related health conditions.
So, if you want to live longer, turn off all the notifications except the important ones. Get rid of the apps that leave you stressful or hide them in a folder off of the home screen.