Do you find it difficult to go an hour without checking your phone (go on, I dare you to try it)? Is your phone the first thing you reach for when you wake up? Is it the one thing you can’t leave home without? When the internet is down do you feel anxious, cranky and generally not know what to do with yourself? Having this level of reliance on a device makes it feel less like a gadget and more like an essential limb.
What started as a brick phone with the sole ability to take a call outside the home has now progressed to condense a telephone, walk-man, camera, game console, encyclopedia and social circle into a tiny portable device that fits in your pocket! There are many things in life that are handy, but why does this device have such a grip on us. The answer lies in a neurotransmitter in our brain called Dopamine. This is the chemical known as the happy hormone and is responsible for feelings of reinforcement and reward. Basically, when we interact online engaging in social media and receive a notification of a like, comment or reaction, we get a Dopamine hit that makes us feel great. This feeling satisfies an innate desire to feel acknowledged and loved.
But as the saying goes, too much of a good thing is…well…no longer a good thing. Soon you can become addicted to the sensation Dopamine gives you, which explains why we check our phones constantly to see if we have been contacted. When our brains don’t get that hit, we suffer with low levels of Dopamine, causing us to lose joy and pleasure in life.
The key to keeping your balance is knowing when you’re losing it. Take a moment to reflect and ask yourself how much you rely on technology for that feel-good feeling or pick me up. While you are doing your candid self-assessment let’s talk about why we need to unplug from technology and get our head out of the cloud.
Unlike machines, humans are charged not by electricity, but by human to human interaction. Yes, we are social creatures, and this kind of interaction is essential to our emotional, mental and physical health. You could say that people on earth have never been more connected online. But it should not surprise us that since this recent technological acceleration there has also been an alarming spike in anxiety and depression. And most interestingly, despite having hundreds of friends online, many have experienced feelings of isolation and loneliness. That is why it is important to recognise the need for balance.
Let’s talk about what strategies you can put in place to avoid total social media burnout:
Notifications. We recognise the need to be notified and not to miss anything important. However, notifications make you stop what you are doing and divert attention to something new. Being constantly interrupted leads to a drop in productivity. Set your notifications so as not to disturb or for minimal disturbances and see if it helps you focus a little more on the task at hand.
Time for a feed. Set aside a portion of your day to check your feed on Instagram, Facebook and other apps and feel connected. Make it a more purposeful, deliberate exercise and put a limit on the time you choose to spend on social platforms.
Become people centric. Use technology, not as a replacement for human contact, but as a segway to help you connect in real life. Spend quality time with family and friends. Join a sports team, start a jigsaw puzzle, make a meal for a friend, start a hobby. You will feel energised and centred.
Immerse yourself in nature. Live in the moment and soak up the beauty of the natural world around us. We are missing so much by staring at our screens for so many hours each day. Look up at the stars, visit a waterfall, plan a walk on the beach or in a local park and connect with nature, breath in the fresh air. Leave your phone in your backpack and relax your mind and body by being present.
Purposeful rest. Powering down and awakening our bodies takes time. Give your body time to wind down by putting your phone down 30 mins to an hour before bed, read a book or talk to your partner about your day. In the morning, clarify your thoughts in your head and plan out your day before picking up your phone and being bombarded with texts and notifications.
If you want better sleep, more meaningful relationships, feel more confident or just experience better quality of life, unplug so you can recharge. At Clinic 38 we are interested in your overall well-being and want you to feel in control of your life. So don’t waste away behind that screen, there’s more to life than friend requests and likes. Remember, life is what happens in between Wi-Fi signals.