Study: We’re Addicted to Our Smartphones

Disclaimer: Results are not guaranteed*** and may vary from person to person***.

Smartphone AddictionI don’t spend too much time on my cell phone, but most of the people I know can’t leave it alone for more than about 10 minutes or so—and I’m being generous.

Whether I’m in a meeting, at a dinner party, or sitting in a café looking around, there are phones within arm’s reach of nearly everyone, usually being grasped at the first opportunity.

Smartphones have become a major part of North American life, and they offer all kinds of benefits—I won’t argue against that. But countless people have formed a dependency that’s sacrificing their ability to live in the moment. They’ve become more concerned with what’s happening on their phone’s screen than with what’s happening around them.

In fact, I recently read about a study from the University of Missouri that illustrates the severity of this dependency. Researchers found that when subjects were separated from their phones, they displayed serious psychological and physiological effects, including increased heart rate, blood pressure levels, and anxiety, and poor cognitive performance. When phones were in their possession, the symptoms subsided and their test performance improved.

Study: Smartphones the New Addiction

This research indicates two main points: 1) that smartphones have become an extension of the self; and 2) that people don’t have very good attention spans—something that is perhaps a result of overusing smartphones. In a way, smartphones have eliminated the need to focus. They provide a way for constant stimulation and an opportunity to have access to anything and anyone, right at your fingertips.

What surprised me the most about this study is that the research team said the results support the idea that separating users from their “iPhones” in certain situations—tests, meetings, presentations—is a bad idea because it can negatively impact one’s performance. That’s basically like saying obese people should be given “Big Mac” combos when they’re feeling stressed or that alcoholics should drink whenever they’re feeling uncomfortable; supporting this kind of dependency doesn’t seem like such a great idea, does it?

Yes, it’s important for treatment and medicine to evolve as the landscape of the world changes, but I don’t think it’s right to eliminate all forms of personal responsibility. If a person is addicted to their smartphone and the addiction is creating health problems, then it’s important to find a way to break the addiction without giving in to it.

How to Reduce Your Dependency on Your Cell Phone and Refocus

If you need to improve your focus and reduce your reliance on your smartphone, here are some things you can try…

  • Schedule time during the day during which you either turn off your phone or set it to sleep mode. For example, I leave my phone on sleep mode for the majority of the day, and answer any texts/e-mails before I turn it off at night.
  • You can also practice mindfulness and meditation. This helps you appreciate the moment for what it is, so you don’t need to seek outside stimulation. Instead, it will teach you to appreciate what’s in front of you.
  • Caffeine can help when you’re performing tasks requiring extra focus. Drink a coffee about 30 minutes prior and it should help you stay focused. Don’t make this a regular occurrence, though, or you’ll soon find you may have developed another addiction.
  • Finally, fish oil supplements have also been linked to improved cognitive performance, so including a teaspoon or two of fish oil in your daily routine might also help you to improve your focus and ditch your smartphone dependence.

Sources for Today’s Article:
University of Missouri, “iPhone separation linked to physiological anxiety, poor cognitive performance,” ScienceDaily web site, January 11, 2015; http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/01/150111195734.htm.
Northumbria University, “Boosting mental performance with fish oil?” ScienceDaily web site, October 21, 2011; http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111021074640.htm, last accessed January 13, 2015.

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