Put Down The Smartphone And #TakeBackYourMorning

Arguably one of the defining characteristics of millennials is our attachment to technology, more specifically, our smartphones. By virtue of being an often-debated and discussed topic, millions of words have been written on the impact of the so-called “smartphone addiction” on our generation, from the impact on our productivity, our health, our quality of life, our relationships and even our morning routines.

What’s also become more prevalent is our tendency to be constantly connected, from the second we wake up to the second we fall asleep. On a quest to understand more about why these habits exist, how they impact us and what we can do about them, Dignity Health (one of the nation’s largest healthcare systems) conducted a survey alongside their #TakeBackYourMorning campaign.

A key finding of the survey showed that people estimated they check their phones 134 times each day, and that almost half of these occurred before getting out of bed in the morning. A third of respondents checked their phone even before saying “Good morning.” In order to shed some light on this finding, Dr. Pragya Jain, an internist with Dignity Health delved deeper into the reasons behind why we check our phones so many times before we even get out of bed in the morning.

One of the most obvious reasons as highlighted by Dr. Jain was that the smartphone has replaced the alarm clock for many of us. Our alarm clock is perhaps the first thing we interact with when we wake up in the morning and as soon as we’ve interacted with it, we have the immediate impulse to check other notifications that came overnight. “The nature of these notifications creates a compulsive need to check them: they expose us to positive and rewarding experiences, such as a Facebook ‘like’ or an email response we were hoping for, so we want to check those notifications to reap that tiny feeling of reward. As a result of this positive feedback, we have inadvertently become addicted to our smartphones,” she explained.

She went on to say, “We have also begun associating checking our phones with feeling prepared for the day.” In increasingly global world, with workplace relationships being spun out across time zones, many urgent emails are sent and received during odd hours and our ability to stay constantly on top of emails can help us to feel prepared and connected. In the similar way, checking the weather before we get dressed or checking our calendar before we head out, can also give us that same sense of feeling prepared for the day.

Whilst our phones connect us with productivity-enhancing tools and all the people we need to be connected to, the result of this can actually be counterproductive. A third of survey respondents said their phone use had harmed their relationships with others, and 56% said their phone took away from their hobbies. Dr. Jain says, “The constant distractions keep us from truly focusing on any one task or individual.” Furthermore, starting our days by overloading ourselves with information can actually negatively impact our energy levels and our productively at work, “We function much better when we ease into our mornings and give our brains a moment to ‘boot up,’ much like a computer.”

Luckily, with a little bit of effort, these habits and feelings can be unlearned. Dr Jain provided some really simple guidance on a few steps we can take in order to take back our mornings:

         Use another device ,such as an alarm clock, & starting your day technology-free

         Keep your phone far from where you engage in your morning routine

         Don’t expect to overhaul your routine all at one but rather begin by infusing your mornings with a few technology-free moments.

         Interact with your partner and other family members, pets or neighbors and connect with the people in the world around you.

         Morning exercise, which can be as simple as walking around the house or neighborhood for 10 or 15 minutes, can clear your mind, as well as help control weight, combat disease, boost your energy and even improve your mood.

There are an abundance of psychological benefits to taking back your mornings, “waking up and focusing on the world around you, including the sun shining through the window, your partner and your overall mental state, is important to maintaining your personal health,” says Dr Jain. The impact of this can be lower levels of anxiety which in turn, decreases the likelihood of depression and lowers blood pressure. Physically, in addition to lessening the pain that 40 percent of survey respondents attributed to their phone use, “if you take the time in the morning that you usually spend on your smartphone to exercise, walk around or even to sleep, you are benefiting your body.” 

As we thinking about aspirations and resolutions for the coming year, let’s embrace how the simplest positive changes to out morning routines can make a long lasting positive impact on our lives. Dr. Jain concludes, “There are severe emotional and even health consequences that come with checking your smartphone 134 times a day. Taking back our mornings could greatly improve the quality of life of everyone around us.” 

For more information about the survey or the #TakeBackYourMorning campaign from Dignity Health, please visit http://www.dignityhealth.org/take-back-your-morning. For more resources, check out HelloHumanKindness.org

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