Is Your Phone Making You Scatty?

It's for the good of your brain

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Sorry to state the obvious but mobile phones are pretty bleeding useful. They're nigh-on essential to staying connected to friends and family; keeping on top of unrelenting work emails; Facebook-stalking ex-boyfriends and new crushes without incurring a restraining order; deciphering Rihanna's song lyrics; #humblebragging on Instagram; and following news on Twitter… Then there's FaceTune, Spotify, Google Maps, Uber, CityMapper and all the other apps we can't function without. 

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But according to reports, new research by Dr Lee Hadlington from Leicester’s De Montfort University, constantly checking our mobile phones could lead to cognitive deficiencies. The research suggests that people who use their phones and the internet most frequently are most likely to be distracted and have trouble paying attention to what's going on around them. Jeez! That just hurts. It's like finding out that your most trusted companion is deliberately trying to make you stupid. 

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But let's face it, we did function before them. And maybe it's in the best interests of our brain function to scale back the scrolling and swiping. Just a tad.

It might be difficult to start with, we know, we get phone-separation anxiety too. But if it means you're more likely to be present in the moment it's definitely worth a shot. Here’s how to ditch it for a bit:

Turn off notifications

Ignorance is bliss. If you adjust the settings in your social media apps, you won't be tempted to check in every time your phone flashes. It might seem like a faff but you'll feel very popular when you do see all the likes waiting for you on your return. 

Go low-fi

Distract yourself from reaching for your phone and your daily commute Candy Crush ritual with a book. With pages. Old school, right? Reading a book could counteract negative effects of overusing your phone: just reading a book for six minutes a day can reduce stress by 68%, and keep your brain functioning effectively as you get older. 

Track your usage

There are lots of nifty apps available that can tell you exactly how long you've spent actively using your phone. Try Moment or BreakFree. When you realise just how much of your day has been spent tapping and swiping, you might just be shocked into putting your phone down for a while. 

Set limits

Why not try setting a timer whenever you settle down for a session on Instagram or Tumblr? If you know you have an Insta-addiction, set yourself a 20-minute limit goal. When the buzzer sounds, close the app. Be strong; it will be good for boosting self discipline.

Do not disturb

This setting is great way to make sure you get an uninterrupted night's sleep by silencing all calls and alerts that arrive when it's activated. You can allow calls from people on your favourites list to be audible, and calls from the same person twice in the space of three minutes will not be silenced if you choose - which is handy if there's an emergency. Schedule it to automatically silence your notifications 30 minutes before bed or during work hours.

Out of sight out of mind

Unless circumstances demand it (you're running late/lost/having a drama), put it away. Afraid of looking like a loner if you're waiting for someone? Don't. Look up, take in the world around you. Notice things. Smile at people. 

Call in reinforcements 

It might sound extreme, but ask a friend to bring it to your attention when your eyes start drifting down to your phone mid-conversation. We've all been guilty of it at some point in time, so ask people to call you out on it. It doesn’t have to be a conversation, a (gentle) prod or nudge will do. That way there’s no excuse for missing the crucial bit of information that your boss just gave you, or the sweet comment that your boyfriend made about your outfit this morning.

Words: Jazmin Kopotsha