Your cell­phone is not your boss

Toronto Star - - LIFE - Neil Pas­richa

We are buzzing peo­ple liv­ing in a buzzing world.

Our lives have never been so stim­u­lat­ing, in­ces­sant and full.

Cell­phones cre­ate all-ac­cess tick­ets for any­one to chime into our purse or pants pock­ets. As Ni­co­las Carr wrote in The Shal­lows, they turn us into “lab rats con­stantly press­ing levers to get tiny pel­lets of so­cial or in­tel­lec­tual nour­ish­ment.”

We scroll through them like drugs. And aren’t they drugs? Re­search firm dS­cout re­ports the av­er­age per­son touches their cell­phone more than 2,500 times a day. No, that’s not a mis­print. It’s a con­stant fon­dle.

When we’re scrolling through so­cial me­dia, we’re al­ways com­par­ing our direc­tor’s-cut life with ev­ery­one else’s great­est hits. Not only that, but clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist Amanda Gam­ble con­ducted a study called “Ado­les­cent Sleep Pat­terns and Night-Time Tech­nol­ogy Use” and found that many of us are tak­ing our de­vices to bed as brightly lit alarm clocks, books and TVs.

We’re de­priv­ing our brain of nec­es­sary down­time as ar­ti­fi­cial screen light messes with our cir­ca­dian rhythms and re­duces pro­duc­tion of mela­tonin, which helps reg­u­late sleep. And don’t get me started on “tex­ting thumb” or the new health prob­lems crop­ping up.

But what’s the so­lu­tion? None of us want to sac­ri­fice the mas­sive ben­e­fits cell­phones give us, but we know we need to be care­ful they don’t get in the way of our hap­pi­ness. So, I sug­gest three very small things:

Place cell­phones on charge in the base­ment Sounds silly, but it works. When you keep your power charg­ers in the base­ment, you’re much less likely to walk down the ex­tra floor or two when­ever you think of that “one last email” you need to send be­fore bed. For me, it also helps sep­a­rate work and life a lit­tle bet­ter. When I get home, I drop off my bag in the base­ment and plug my phone in be­fore com­ing up­stairs to play with the kids.

No screens in the first or last hour of the day You don’t jar your brain sense­less with an elec­tron-smat­ter­ing flood to your eye­balls first thing in the morn­ing. Let your thoughts un­fold and open up nat­u­rally. Let im­por­tant rise above ur­gent.

And no screens be­fore bed helps with that mela­tonin pro­duc­tion. Think about the warm up and cool down you give your body when you go to the gym. Give the same favour to your mind each day.

Live in air­plane mode Your cell­phone pushes things at you all day. No­ti­fi­ca­tions. Texts. Alerts. It’s in­tense. I say air­plane mode isn’t just for air­planes. Live in air­plane mode and you’ll ac­tively flip your de­vice from a push sys­tem to a pull sys­tem where you’ve taken back con­trol. Just flip it out of air­plane mode to an­swer texts or make your calls and then flip back in.

So be the boss of your cell­phone. And don’t let your cell­phone be the boss of you. Neil Pas­richa is the New York Times best­selling au­thor of The Book of Awe­some and The Hap­pi­ness Equa­tion. His bi-weekly col­umn helps us live a good life. Watch his new TED Talk at thes­­richa.


Our brains need a break, so stay away from your phone for the first and last hours of the day, Neil Pas­richa writes.

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