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Break the pattern: How your Phone habits might be the reason your mental health is struggling

Do you reach for your phone first thing in the morning, and not simply to turn off the alarm? Do you spend the last waking minutes of your night scrolling through social media and answering emails? Are you reading this and thinking disconnecting may not be an option when your business relies on you staying connected?


Well, you are not alone. Waking up and going to bed with your phone by your side has become a common practice for many people regardless of age or profession. To some, the phone feels like a life line - and that is why we make more effort to 'stay connected', even when it comes at a high cost to our mental health. We know spending a majority of our day on our devices can have negative effects on our mental health and wellness yet we just can't resist the temptation.

Our devices are constantly demanding our attention and reward us with instant gratification, leading to the release of dopamine, a feel-good chemical in our brain. This physiological response combined with constant stimulation and the need for validation and social connection, leads to an endless cycle of checking and using our devices.


However just because something makes us feel good and is seemingly convenient, does not mean it is good for our overall wellness. Having struggled with disconnecting on occasion, I have sought out some ways to take a break from my phone for my own wellness - particularly in the morning and before bed.

Why? Studies have shown exposure to the blue light emitted by your phone can disrupt your circadian rhythm and suppress the production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep. This can make it harder for you to wake up and feel alert, leading to feelings of grogginess and fatigue throughout the day.

In the morning, starting your day by scrolling through social media or checking emails can increase feelings of anxiety and stress which can set a negative tone for the rest of the day.

Before bed, using your phone can also disrupt your sleep. The blue light can interfere with your brain's ability to relax and fall asleep, making it harder for you to get a good night's rest. This can lead to feelings of exhaustion and moodiness the next day.

Here are 5 tips for breaking your unhealthy relationship with your phone to better support your mental health and wellness.


1. Keep your phone out of reach and with notification settings set to 'do not disturb' at least 30 minutes before bedtime. The beauty of technology is that your phone now has the ability to filter what notifications are essential, adjust lighting for sleep routines, and even set reminders to encourage you to stay mindful of your usage before bed. To offer peace of mind, you can even choose which contacts can connect with you while your phone is set to 'do not disturb' so you don't have to worry about not being unavailable when it matters. Additionally, you can decide which apps you would like to limit alerts for, allowing you to focus only on what you need to know. Below are some helpful links on how to adjust phone and tablet settings for better sleep routines (can also be used for parents or children who could benefit from healthier sleep routines).




2. Establish a relaxing bedtime routine. Routines are more than schedules - they are also about ritualistic habits performed. Many of us have adopted watching TV shows or movies before bed on our phones, tablets and Televisions. It's our way of winding down after a full work day in front of a screen. Winding down is essential for our mental health but not when it translates to even more exposure to blue light and stressors before bed. When we were younger, we often had a bedtime routine to create structure for our day and ease us into sleep. If this worked then, no reason why you can't try it again now. If bedtime stories were what you looked forward to, try reading a book (paper book/ kindle) before bed. Audio books and podcasts are also a great replacement for story time. If bath time was your thing, maybe a warm shower or taking a bath can be your thing again. Discover what worked for you, and try it again now - with a few modifications of course.



3. Use an alarm clock instead of relying on your phone to wake up in the morning. Some of you may be too young to know what a radio alarm clock is - I am fortunate to know the joy of choosing an alarm clock with the right features. I remember having my eyes on a run-away robot alarm clock with wheels at The Source, and a dancing clock that tuned into your favorite radio station when the alarm goes off. There are even better options out there now. It may be another gadget to add to your bedside table but it is an investment in possibly better sleep for your nights, and better mental health for your days. You can easily find one on Amazon (I wish I knew of a s small local business that sold these as I would prefer supporting local).


4. Start the day with a physical or mental activity instead of immediately reaching for your phone. If you opt for an alarm clock it is easier to start your day with more physical activity instead of immediately 'connecting' on your phone. If you prefer a more slow-paced morning, avoid your phone for the first 30 minutes after you wake up and practice mindfulness or meditation in the morning. This can be as simple as laying in your bed, awake and mindfully reflecting on planned events for the day or verbally stating affirmations. You can also do this before bed, focusing on moments of gratitude, to clear your mind and reduce stress.


5. Lastly, connect like you mean it! Connect with friends and family in person or through phone calls, rather than relying solely on social media whenever possible. I am a little old school and lately I have been quite nostalgic - I miss the feeling of opening the mail to a hand-written letter just because I was on someone's mind. Having grown up in Uganda and moving from Kampala to Mbale, letters were one form of staying connected with friends who were a good distance away. That and phone calls on a landline. There was beauty in the simplicity of the intention.


Word of the week:

INTENTION : When we act with intention and purpose about the things that consume a majority of our days, we start to see the value in what makes our lives better.


This is your weekly reminder to take a break from your phone, tablets and other viewing devices, even if only for a few minutes in the morning and before bed. This small change can help you better regulate your sleep, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve your overall mental health and wellness - so why not give it a try. You owe it to yourself! You will thank yourself for it in the long run.


Here are a few more helpful links on blue light and features in the palm of your hand that can aid with your sleep routine such as Blue light filters and White Noise background sounds.



If you are looking to recharge with intention as a creative or entrepreneur, you don't want to miss FLOW - The Eden Experience



With Kindness and you in Mind,

Madonna

The Wellness Studio by Cicco Aroma



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