As with many people, you can choose to spend less time looking at your cell phone.
It's a good idea because a growing number of research shows that time spent on our mobile phones interferes with our sleep, self-esteem, relationships, memory, retention capacity, creativity and productivity, as well as problem-solving and decision-making skills.
However, there is another reason to reconsider our relationships with our devices. Because they chronically increase the levels of cortisol, the main stress hormone in our body, our phones could endanger our health and shorten our lives.
So far, most of the discussions on the biochemical effects of mobile phones have focused on dopamine, a chemical of the brain that helps us build habits – and addictions. Like slot machines, mobile phones and applications are specifically designed to trigger dopamine release to facilitate their stopping.
This manipulation of our dopamine systems is why many experts believe that we are developing behavioral dependencies with our phones. However, the effects of our mobile phones on cortisol are potentially even more alarming.
Cortisol is our primary reaction or flight reaction hormone. Its release creates physiological changes, such as sudden increases in blood pressure, heart rate, and blood sugar, which help us respond and survive serious physical threats.
These effects can save our lives if you are really in physical danger – say, for example, if you are crazy. However, our bodies also release cortisol in response to generators of emotional stress in which increasing the frequency will not be of great benefit to us, such as checking your mobile phone to find the email that your boss wrote to you when he was angry.
If it occurs only occasionally, a sudden rise in phone cortisol may not be important. The average American, however, spends four hours a day looking at his cell phone and keeps him close at all times, according to an activity tracking application called Moment. As a result, as Google emphasized in the report, "mobile devices loaded on social networks, e-mail and information applications" create "a constant sense of duty that creates unintentional personal stress."
"Your cortisol levels are high when your mobile phone is in or near sight, or when you listen to it or even think you hear it," said David Greenfield, Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction. "It's a reaction to stress and feels uncomfortable, and the body's natural response is to want the phone to check for stress."
However, even if it could calm you down for a second, it will probably deteriorate in the long run. Every time you check your phone, you'll probably find another stressful thing that awaits you, leading to a further sudden increase in cortisol and another desire to check your cell phone for anxiety to get away. This cycle, when it is steadily increased, leads to chronically elevated cortisol levels.
And chronically elevated cortisol levels have been associated with an increased risk of serious health problems, including depression, obesity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, fertility problems, high blood pressure, dementia, and cerebral infarction.
"Every chronic disease we know is stressed," said Robert Lustig, professor of pediatric endocrinology at California University, San Francisco Campus and author of The Hacking of the American Mind. "And our phones are contributing to that."
In addition to long-term potential health effects, cell-induced stress affects us more directly.
Increased levels of cortisol affect the prefrontal cortex, the critical decision-making brain area, and rational thinking. "Prefrontal cortex is Pepe Cricket's brain," Lustig said. "Prevent us from doing stupid things."
Affecting the prefrontal cortex reduces self-control. Combined with a strong desire to alleviate our anxiety, this may lead us to do things that may seem to relieve stress at the time, but are potentially fatal, such as writing a message while driving.
The effects of stress can be further amplified if we are constantly worried that something bad may happen to us, whether physical attack or commentary on social networks that provoke our anger. (In the case of phones, this hypervigilance condition sometimes manifests itself as a "ghost vibration" when people feel that their cell phone vibrates in the pocket when the phone is not yet).
"Everything we do, everything we experience, can affect our physiology and change the circuits in our brain in ways that can react more or less reactively to stress," says Bruce McEwen, laboratory director, Harold and Margaret Milliken Hatch Neuroendokrinology Laboratory. Rockefeller University.
McEwen also notes that our baseline cortisol levels are crumbling and flowing in a regular 24-hour cycle that gets out of control if we sleep less than seven or eight hours at night, which is very easy to achieve if you have a habit of checking your phone earlier. Going To Bed This in turn leaves our body less resistant to stress and increases our risk of all the stress-related health conditions mentioned above.
Think about it all, and the hours that we have necessarily controlled could mean much more than just a waste of time.
The good news is that if we break this cycle through anxiety, we can lower cortisol levels, which can improve our short-term judgment and reduce our long-term risk of stress-related health problems. As time goes by, McEwen says, it is even possible to train our brains again so that our stress responses that we start are no longer so easily detachable.
To make your phone less stressful, start by turning off all notifications except those you really want to receive.
Then pay attention to how each application feels when you use it. Which one do you check when you're nervous? Which leaves you feeling stressed? Hide these applications in a folder that is not on the home screen. Or, even better, erase them for a few days and see how you feel.
At the same time, pay attention to how each application physically affects you. "Unless we realize our physical feelings, we won't change our behavior," said Judson Brewer, Director of Research and Innovation at Brown University's Center for Attention and The Craving Mind. According to Brewer, stress and anxiety often manifest themselves as a feeling of contraction in the chest.
Regular breaks can also be an effective way to restore your body's chemistry balance and regain control. Twenty-four hours of "digital sabbat" can be surprisingly relaxing (once the initial contraction subsides), but even leaving the phone on the sidelines when going for lunch is a step in the right direction.
In addition, try to realize how anxious-induced desire of your phone feels in your brain and in your body-without giving up immediately. "If you realize what's going on inside you, you'll realize that you can choose how you react," said Jack Kornfield, a Buddhist teacher at the Spirit Rock Meditation Center in California. "We don't have to be at the mercy of algorithms that support the fear of losing something."
Unfortunately, it is not so easy to create healthy restrictions with devices that are deliberately designed to discourage them. However, reducing stress levels will not only make us feel better every day, but also prolong our lives.
* Copyright: c.2019 New York Times News Service