For most Canadians electronic devices, such as smartphones and computers, are a necessity of day-to-day life; but what you might not realize is that reliance on devices may be taking a toll on your mental health….
When Canadians talk about limiting screen time, the conversation usually revolves around children – but experts say it’s equally important for adults to consider putting tech restrictions on themselves for the sake of their mental health.
“Technology prompts us to respond – those beeps and buzzes gets our dopamine flowing,” Lisa Pont, therapist and educator with CAMH. “The fear of missing out is huge.”
As Pont points out, all of those text messages, Facebook Likes and Instagram notifications lighting up our devices provide us with a hit of dopamine – which helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centre. This often leads to people constantly being tuned in to their devices.
“There is this expectation of people in our lives to be immediately responsive because everyone knows you have your smartphone on you,” Pont said.
Pont says its important for adults to reflect on their tech use to see how it’s affecting their day-to-day lives and attitude – do you feel the pressure to respond right away; do you feel anxiety due to information overload, or do you feel FOMO (fear of missing out) when you aren’t using your device; have you argued with your partner because they feel you are disconnected?
“You have to look at the consequences. If it’s affecting your work, or its impacting relationships, those are negative consequences,” she said. “This idea that I have to know what’s going on, it sounds so benign, but I think it truly affects our stress level.”
WATCH: Teens and technology addiction
If you feel your device is impacting your mental health, try imposing limits on yourself – for example, no devices after 8 p.m., turn phones off during family dinners, or no phones in the bedroom.
“Consciously not using it at times when you want to be present,” Pont said. “We have anxiety detaching from technology, but you might discover you like it.”…
Another important habit to break: using your phone as your alarm. Although sleeping next to your device may not seem like a big deal, Pont said those beeps and vibrations have the same effect our sleeping brain, causing you to lose sleep – and a lack of sleep can contribute to stress.
The light emitted from a smartphone or tablet, for example, can suppress the production of melatonin – a hormone that regulates a person’s circadian rhythm – and multiple studies have shown that using blue light-emitting, like smartphones and computers, before bed can lead to poor sleep.
Of course, cutting down on your screen time might be hard to do if you have a job that requires you to be available after-hours.
That’s why France banned work emails outside business hours earlier this year, Germany’s labour ministry banned managers from calling or emailing staff outside of work hours in 2013, and Volkswagen made it so that its servers would shut down the ability to send emails 30 minutes after an employee’s shift ended in 2011.
No such bans have been implemented in Canada, however…..