And…….what is the Effect of Electronic Devices on Your Well-being?
I often say to my active ageing clients, health and fitness is a lot more than a quick cardio session or throwing a few weights around for forty minutes or so three to five times a week. It is far more encompassing than that.
Total wellness is an overall feeling; something bordering on the edge of a kind of euphoria. In our modern society it can be quite an elusive feeling, difficult to achieve you might say. It seems there is always so much stress to endure and it takes a huge toll on our health and general well-being.
One thing that has changed dramatically in my lifetime is people’s dependence on digital devices. How many people are totally lost without their iPhone? It is like an extension of their right arm, they can’t live without it.
In the last several years, many studies involving the regular use of communication devices such as mobile phones have been conducted to verify their impact on health. While some definitive results have been achieved, it is difficult to know the effect those results actually have on the well-being of the population overall.
There are numerous studies showing the low levels of electromagnetic radiation from mobile phones and other broadcasting devices have a direct impact on the molecules in our bodies.
The radio waves and microwaves emitted by these devices cause increased oxidation in certain enzymes, marking an increase in overall oxidation levels in the body. At this time, it is still unclear just how much this increased oxidation actually harms the body, if at all.
Oxidation is a regular part of life, but increased levels of oxidation over time can damage cells and possibly even lead to cancer. Therefore, there is at least some reason to be wary of the potential damages.
There have been a few studies that have shown strong evidence that those foods and substances high in antioxidants can prevent a large portion of radiation-induced oxidation. Substances such as gingko biloba and bee propolis are good examples (Ilhan et al. 2004) (Ozguner et al. 2005).
A more concrete and perhaps even more dangerous potential threat of improper technology use is the psychological effect it can have.
While many studies have been done on the mental and social impact of technology, a few particular studies stand out from the pack.
A study done by Andrew Przybylski at Essex University demonstrated that even the mere presence of a mobile phone during a one on one conversation can decrease the mental and emotional effectiveness of the interaction via decreased bonding and decreased attentiveness (AK Przybylski, 2013).
While this may not have a large impact in situations such as a business conference or other group settings, it can have potentially disastrous consequences when it comes to establishing and maintaining personal relationships. How many couples do you see each day sitting in a café going hell for leather on their mobile devices rather than being engaged in some old fashioned face-to-face conversation?
The second study, done by Sara Thomeé and a few others, shows how many young adults suffered increased levels of stress, anxiety, and depression due to increased mobile phone usage (Thomeé et al. 2011).
There is no firm mechanism for the cause, that has yet to be established, but there are several likely candidates. One possible cause of technology related stress is the sense of constant inadequacy targeted at one’s self and their life circumstances.
As technology advances, it becomes easier to keep an eye on the progress of your neighbour, and also to publicize the best bits about yourself. Sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are loaded with photo-shopped pictures of friends and acquaintances looking beautiful and having the time of their life. As a result, this often leads people to compare themselves to others, and the result is increased dissatisfaction with their own life.
Another way digital devices impact psychological health is by having a constant tether to the stresses of life.
Having a smartphone or something similar on hand at all times means the boss can get in touch at any time or the bill collectors can find you no matter where you are, even if that happens to be on a tropical island loaded with piña coladas. Even when the stressful calls are not coming in, the mobile phone serves as a reminder that debts, obligations, and work emergencies still exist, and make it much more difficult to truly let go and relax.
I can’t help but add my thoughts here; the one activity proven to relieve stress of course is regular exercise. But don’t take your phone onto the gym floor and check your email or Facebook accounts after each set which is what I see so many people do.
Turn it off and put it in your locker so you can get the full benefit of your daily gym workout.
A more tangible reason for increased stress levels are the continual distractions allowed by devices that don’t allow a person to focus on one task long enough to finish it, and so you are constantly having to find your place and in effect, start all over again. This causes mental confusion, decreased productivity, and increased feeling of perceived stress as the mind is bombarded by multiple threats simultaneously, instead of being able to focus on thing one at a time.
The adverse effects observed by this study varied depending on individual use and perception of technology, but the overall results show the issue is big enough to merit attention to how a person approaches the use of their technology.
They studied how mobile phone use contributed to external stress issues such as arriving to class or work late, being interrupted in the middle of the night, missing out on vital information and turning in homework late. All of which tend to be heavy sources of stress in the lives of everyday people. The study found 25% of participants experienced an increased amount of technology-induced stressors (Gemmill and Peterson, 2006).
While technology has powerful potential to help facilitate a fast-paced and productive lifestyle, it can also be a double-edged sword, especially if used irresponsibly.
Unfortunately, that is why we are seeing more and more alarming stories in the press like this one: Heavy Technology Use Linked to Fatigue, Stress and Depression in Young Adults.
Here’s 9 tips to keep in mind to help maximize your efficiency and manage digital damage from technology related stress:
1. Check emails and messages only at prescribed times of the day or week. Tell people to call you instead if it is an emergency.
2. Don’t multitask with your technology. Focus on one task, and leave the messages and emails until you are done.
3. Turn off your mobile phone at night and for most of the time when you are on holidays. If you use it for your alarm to wake up in the morning make sure notifications are turned off, or just buy a cheap alarm clock.
4. If using social networks, limit your use to only a few hours per week. When you get on, do what you intended to do, and get off. Don’t just browse endless photos and posts. This only promotes negative thoughts and heightens your stress levels.
5. Don’t compare your life circumstances to those of others which are often photo-shopped or exaggerated in other ways.
6. Limit news media browsing to only a few minutes per day. Don’t overwhelm yourself with information. Most news we watch or listen to is in 3D……Death, Destruction and Disaster so it will only do your head in.
7. Take some time to disconnect each month, or better yet, each week. Leave the phone at home and go outside and do something active with your friends and family.
8. Put your phone away when you aren’t doing anything specific with it. When you feel the itch to take it out and check it, opt to start a real face to face conversation with someone nearby instead.
9. Never have the iPhone present or the TV on when trying to have a deep or emotionally charged conversation with someone you care about.
Fortunately or unfortunately, digital damage from the overuse of smartphones and other technological devices is here to stay. But, you (personally) can do something about it and have a better lifestyle for yourself. Learn to turn your phone off every now and again and get a regular exercise program going for yourself; you will be surprised how your stress levels drop and how much better you feel.
I know from personal experience, when a few of us go on our surfing or fishing trips we go to places where there is no reception so for two weeks no one has a clue where we are and we have virtually no contact with the outside world except for our emergency radio link.
Technically we have just dropped out of society for a while and the feeling at the end of such an event is so good I have difficulty in finding the right words to convey such a feeling……..but amazingly relaxed and stress free is a good start.
Give it a go right now…..pick up your phone and turn it off for at least one whole hour.
And don’t forget to let me know how that feels.
Cheers – John.