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Study Finds Being On Your Phone Constantly Can Be Harmful

A new study shows how being plugged in constantly reduces mindfulness.

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A new study published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking has found that being constantly online and on your phone can make you feel worse. Researchers found that checking your phone decreased mindfulness and caused people to be preoccupied and more distracted.

Being plugged into your smartphone creates a state of “online vigilance” where one's mind is automatically monitoring communications like email, texts, or phone notifications. This state of constant alertness does not give your mind a time to rest and focused on what happened in the past or future-- in other words, the opposite of mindfulness or training the mind to focus on being aware of the present moment.

The study found that people who spent more time checking their smartphones and being connected online were less mindful and more easily distracted either by past texts or emails or the anticipation of future communications. Mindfulness was particularly low in people who were automatically monitoring or texting on their phones without being aware of what they were feeling or thinking.

While there are many benefits to being connected to our phones— like being more socially available or well-informed— this study confirms the importance of reflecting on how much you want to be connected to your phone or online. Checking your phone or email constantly can cause you to miss important moments with your family and friends, be more distracted during dinner conversation, or can even make it difficult to sleep or relax. It may worsen anxiety about texts earlier in the day or cause more worry while waiting on someone to message you back. Being online and monitoring your texts or email can become so automatic you may not even be aware of how much it is adding stress to your life. If so, these might be signs to give yourself some time to disconnect from your phone and instead choose to connect with the people or experiences right there in that moment.

More from Dr. Marlynn Wei M.D., J.D.
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