This is a guest post by Hannah Hutchinson, a freelance blogger currently working for the UK-based HandsetExpert.
Mobile phones are everywhere. Not having one is the exception and no longer the norm.
For the most part, this is a good thing. It enables us to keep in touch with our friends and loved ones wherever we’re at. A mobile phone is also a lifesaver in emergencies.
Nevertheless, as convenient as a mobile phone is, our addiction to them may have an effect on our mental hygiene. Are these nifty electric devices harming us more than it’s helping?
Can Phone Overuse Hurt Our Mental Health?
It’s a known fact that phone overuse can have negative physical impacts. It can, for example, hurt eyesight. It also causes a condition known as “text neck,” in which you suffer neck pain due to always tilting your head down to stare at a mobile screen.
However, the research regarding mobile phones and mental health are fewer. They do exist, though, with more researchers chiming in with their own expertise and input.
One such study in 2016, titled “Computers in Human Behavior,” revealed that excessive phone use may be linked to symptoms associated with anxiety and depression. The study consisted of 308 volunteers who answered a series of questions regarding their mental health as well as general phone use behavior (e.g. how often they use it, what they use it for, etc.).
The findings? High phone usage had a strong correlation to depression and bouts of anxiety. Researchers speculate that this was likely due to an endemic known as “Fear of Missing Out,” or FOMO. Since the bulk of social interactions are done over the phone and online, people tend to feel like they’re missing out if they don’t jump in the fray.
Cell phones even made the list of addictive substances in the 5th edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The manual states that users may undergo a withdrawal phase if separated from their phones for a prolonged period.
In another study from the University of Derby, it found that participants spent an average 3.6 hours a day on their phones, with 13% of the subjects listed as “addicted” to their devices. The study also found a link between excessive phone use and narcissism and neuroticism.
Finding the Right Balance
Should you immediately cancel your phone carrier and smash your phone with a hammer? No, you do not need to go to that extreme, nor do you need to drastically limit your phone use to just emergency use.
We do, after all, live in a digital world where not having a mobile device makes it rather difficult to get by without one. Rest assured that continued mobile phone use will not put you in a downward spiral path of depression as long as your eyes aren’t glued to your phone screen 24/7.
We do, however, recommend putting your phone down if you suspect you’re a borderline phone-addict. Here are some ways to help you spend more time in the real world and away from the digital world taking place behind a screen.
1. Turning Off Notifications.
There’s nothing wrong with checking phone notifications. The problem, though, is that checking a single notification alert often turns into half an hour of mindless browsing, texting, or playing games.
Unless you’re expecting an important call, turn notifications off.
2. Establish a Phone-Free Time.
Does the phone really need to be within arm’s reach at the dinner table? When was the last time you actually read a hardback book instead of an e-book?
Establish a timeframe each day where you put your phone away. This may include meal times, an hour before bed, etc. This is also a good ritual to do with your kids to ensure they don’t fall into the phone addiction trap.
3. Take Regular Phone Breaks.
Unless it’s an important or work-related purpose, establish a limited timeframe for phone use. Perhaps set a limit of a 15-minute break for every 30-minutes of non-essential phone use.
Decrease the phone use time and increase break time as you become accustomed to not using your phone so much. If you’re old enough to remember the days before cell phones, you’ll realize that you got by perfectly fine without them at one point.
There is nothing inherently wrong with mobile phone use as long as you don’t become too fixated on your miniature portable device. As a phone deal service, Handset Expert wishes for everyone to use their phones often but responsibly and never to the point of addiction.