How many times per day do you interact with your phone? A few? A few dozen? Maybe a hundred? In that which is unlikely to surprise anyone, too much of it can be bad for your health ̵
According to a recent NeuroRegulation study, digital addiction is real, and smartphones are making it grow number of people. In addition, the symptoms and behaviors are similar to actual drug abuse and may include increased loneliness (the study is called "phoneliness"), anxiety and depression.
Although the study ends with some strategies to combat digital addiction, I wanted to know more about the problem and ways to overcome it. So I turned to the forensic psychologist dr. John Huber, chairman of the non-profit organization Mainstream Mental Health. We spoke by email; Here's what he told me.
Q: How would you define "phoneliness"?
Huber: The uncontrollable urge to pick up your phone and check it just in case you missed something.
How can I experience this phenomenon when surrounded by people?
Huber: The problem is similar to conditioning the response that Pawlow and his dogs first showed by ringing. When we receive a notification, like on "Instagram" or another social media app, our brain releases a very small amount of dopamine. This is the same neurotransmitter that is released when your brain is fed cocaine. It is mentally and physically addictive. In fact, research with only two hours of screen time shows that people show signs of depression.
If I'm a heavy phone user, does that mean I'm addicted to it? Maybe I just need it for work.
Huber: Modern life has made some great demands on our time, and we use technology to work most efficiently. Strong phone use is part of this trend.
When you're not at work, did you check your phone or did you not speak directly to you on the ground? Do you feel uncomfortable if you do not have your cell phone with you? Are you lost in thought and wondering what you could do on your phone? These are all signs that you are more than a strong user and maybe you should seek help.
What are some of the main symptoms of this addiction?
Huber: The feeling of being isolated when you do not have your cell phone, even with friends and family who are physically present. Feeling anxious if you do not have a good cell connection. You avoid that you interact with your phone. These are just the tip of the iceberg,
What are some good ways to reduce daily smartphone usage?
Huber: Do not charge your phone near your sleeping area overnight. Talking about 10 to 30 minutes in the morning increases the likelihood of increased interaction with other people – and you sleep better.
Turn off your phone while you eat. It shows respect for the people you are with and helps you prioritize the people around you.
Probably the most important are activities where you have to use both hands during your free time, preferably outdoors. Activities like tennis, basketball, fishing, camping, even martial arts give us time to clear our minds and pump our hearts, which is always a good thing.
Mindfulness meditation is very popular at the moment, but the irony is that we use meditation apps on our smartphones. Is this just worsening the problem?
Huber: Mindfulness meditation is a way of meditating by focusing on being attentive. The use of mobile apps and / or YouTube videos for meditation is in many ways the reason for defeating the meditation.
Phones are designed to focus on you, so do you really learn to meditate or are we just playing with your phone? If you want to calm yourself and get inner peace, the best way to do that is in yourself, not an app.
The use of social media and apps to increase our social interaction can be good for the economy and keep you [connected to] society and the world in general. These interactions, though enhanced by a neurochemical process, are similar to drinking a diet soda: it tastes sweet and fills the stomach, but it lacks its real nutritional value and in the long run can be too harmful.
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