13 Ways Your Cell Phone Af­fects Your Body and Mind

Reader's Digest - - Contents - MICHELLE CROUCH

1

First, some good news. Your phone can keep you safer. A study in the Jour­nal of Emer­gency Medicine that an­a­lyzed emer­gency dis­patches over an 11-year pe­riod re­vealed that 137 more lives were saved per 100,000 pa­tients when peo­ple called 911 from a mo­bile phone rather than from a lan­d­line.

2

But there are plenty of con­cerns too. Scan­ning your phone right

be­fore bed can dis­turb your slum­ber. The short-wave­length, bright blue light your de­vice emits boosts your at­ten­tion dur­ing the day, but at night the light can in­hibit the pro­duc­tion of mela­tonin, which helps you fall asleep. To avoid that, make a habit of not us­ing your phone for at least 30 min­utes be­fore you close your eyes.

3

When you are awake, a sin­gle buzz, buzz sig­nal­ing a new no­ti­fi­ca­tion on your phone can weaken your abil­ity to fo­cus on a task, re­searchers at Florida State Univer­sity have found. Switch your phone to “do not dis­turb” mode to re­move the dis­trac­tion.

4

Putting your phone aside when you’re alone—rather than tak­ing it out to play games—can help in­spire cre­ative ideas. “When you’re bored, four dif­fer­ent ar­eas of your brain ac­ti­vate and work to­gether to pull in ran­dom thoughts and com­bine them in unique ways,” says psy­chol­o­gist Larry Rosen, au­thor of The Dis­tracted Mind.

5

Amer­i­cans now spend more than five hours a day swip­ing, typ­ing, and tap­ping—and feel­ing achy be­cause of it all. “Selfie el­bow” is a strain in­jury caused by hold­ing your el­bow at an ex­treme an­gle, and 85,000 peo­ple a month search for “tex­ting thumb” and sim­i­lar terms on Google.

6

Most cell phones are crawl­ing with germs—ten times what you would find on most toi­lets, says Univer­sity of Ari­zona mi­cro­bi­ol­o­gist Charles Gerba. Wipe your phone down daily with a gad­get-friendly an­tibac­te­rial wipe or a mi­crofiber cloth.

7

That said, your phone can help you be health­ier. In a study of over­weight vol­un­teers, those who used a smart­phone app to record their food in­take were much more dili­gent than those who used a pa­per di­ary or a weight-loss web­site—and they lost al­most twice as much weight.

8

Ra­di­a­tion ex­po­sure, long thought to be a risk for heavy-duty phone users, is prob­a­bly not a sig­nif­i­cant con­cern. Smart­phones do emit ra­di­a­tion, but most sci­en­tific ev­i­dence has not linked the use of a cell phone to can­cer. One draft study found that ex­pos­ing male lab rats to the high­est lev­els al­lowed for cell phones was linked to one type of rare tu­mor in the tis­sues sur­round­ing nerves in the heart. If you’re wor­ried, use ear­buds or a head­set when you talk on your phone.

9

Nav­i­gat­ing by con­sult­ing a map and try­ing to re­mem­ber it may be bet­ter for your brain than pas­sively re­ly­ing on step-by-step in­struc­tions from your phone’s GPS.

Re­searchers found that older adults who chose the more ac­tive ap­proach in­creased ac­tiv­ity in the hip­pocam­pus, a part of the brain important for mem­ory.

10

Snap­ping a pic with your smart­phone may also hin­der your mem­ory. On a test af­ter a visit to an art mu­seum, stu­dents were less likely to re­mem­ber ob­jects they had taken pho­tos of. “As soon as you hit ‘click’ on that cam­era, it’s as if you’ve out­sourced your mem­ory,” says psy­chol­o­gist Linda Henkel.

11

Your phone can do a num­ber on your eyes. About 60 per­cent of Amer­i­cans ex­pe­ri­ence dig­i­tal eye strain symp­toms, such as dry­ness, ir­ri­ta­tion, blurred vi­sion, eye fa­tigue, and headaches. Try blink­ing of­ten, in­creas­ing font size, and tak­ing a break from screens ev­ery 20 min­utes.

12

We all know that walk­ing around town with your face in your phone can be dan­ger­ous, and there are stud­ies that un­der­line the point. City pedes­tri­ans us­ing their phones looked left and right less of­ten and were more likely to be hit by a ve­hi­cle, ac­cord­ing to a re­view of stud­ies on dis­tracted walk­ing in the Jour­nal of Traf­fic and Trans­porta­tion Engi­neer­ing.

In an­other small ex­per­i­ment, 94 per­cent of pedes­tri­ans who were us­ing cell phones to talk and text didn’t see free cash hang­ing from a tree. (That’s right, they walked right by a bunch of dol­lar bills.)

13

It would be easy to avoid all these mal­adies by sim­ply putting down your phone. The prob­lem: It isn’t so easy. That twinge of phone sep­a­ra­tion anx­i­ety is real. In fact, Rosen says, de­tach­ing from your phone can cause your brain to re­lease the stress hor­mone cor­ti­sol. Of course, there are many phone apps (with calm­ing names, such as For­est and Mute) to help you con­trol your phone ad­dic­tion. Or you can just let the bat­tery run down and for­get about it!

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