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Mindful : June 2019
odependent. If any word captures the relationship between phone and user, it’s that one. And not just because we depend on our phones and our phones depend on us. Too often our “codependence” is an unhealthy and unbalanced relationship with a sleek, seductive sliver of technology. The tell-tale signs: cramps in our “texting thumbs”; sleep lost to round-the-clock games; conversations with friends and partners that go nowhere because our eyes—and atten- tion—are plugged in elsewhere. With tech addiction, as with all kinds of dys- functional relationships, identifying the problem doesn’t automatically make it better. The Ameri- can Psychological Association’s 2017 Stress in America report, which surveyed over 3,500 American adults, revealed that 65% believe they should periodically unplug or do a digital detox to improve their mental health. However, only 18% report actually doing so. Phone addiction is real. The reason lies partly in our neurochemistry. As smartphones keep us informed, connected, and distracted, our brains get used to a steady ABOUT THE AUTHOR Catherine Price is an award-winning writer and science journalist whose work has appeared in many publications, including the The Best American Science Writing and the New York Times. Her previous books include Vitamania: How Vitamins Revolutionized the Way We Think About Food and Mindfulness: A Journal. C The brain’s modern craving for constant connection—with one-time acquaintances, total strangers, and your cousin’s cat’s Instagram— can leave us disconnected from the people and the things that really matter. flow of stimulation. Over time, merely picking up the phone triggers the release of dopamine, that tiny blip of excitement and satisfaction. Like any high, the feel-good sensation doesn’t last and our brains hunger for the next hit. Ping! and we’re reaching for another fix: an addiction cycle that plays out, on average, 47 times per day. The brain’s modern craving for constant connection—with one-time acquain- tances, total strang- ers, and your cousin’s cat’s Instagram—can leave us disconnected from the people and the things that really matter. A 2018 study found participants who were highly preoccu- pied with their phones showed greater absent- mindedness and difficulty focusing on tasks. They also experienced less well-being and life satisfaction. Sadly, we’ve become so convinced that we need our phones all the time—to assuage our FOMO—that we’re lulled into missing out on real life. Our own well-being and relationships take a backseat. These are the problems journalist Catherine Price set out to solve. Troubled by her own phone habits, Price researched what under- girds our tech relationships and tested ways to transform them. As described in her most recent book, How to Break Up with Your Phone, Price devised a Technology Triage that is a gentle yet motivating warm-up for creating healthier phone boundaries. You’ll jump-start the practice of mindfully noticing how you relate to your phone, and learn to shift from self-sabotaging phone habits to new patterns that leave time and mental freedom for the people, experiences, and dreams you really care about. → m Three Mind Tricks That Keep You Addicted to Your Phone Tech compa- nies use psychology hacks to keep us craving, scrolling, and lingering longer. Here’s how to get unhooked. mindful.org/ mindtricks June 2019 mindful 67 mindful tech