We love our technology, especially smartphones. We use these gadgets to keep us connected to the world. We can talk to each other, send and receive quick text messages, read email, research recipes, and check out what others are doing on Facebook.
With so much going on and an endless connection to information, smartphones never leave our side. As a result, we are constantly interrupted by our smartphones with new notifications every time something happens that it thinks we need to know.
Research is now saying these constant interruptions are causing unnecessary stress and anxiety as we feel strongly urged to check the alert. Over time, the abrupt beeps and dings coming from smartphones throughout the day and night are actually changing our brain chemistry.
Per a Daily Mail report, every time a smartphone interrupts with a new notification, our bodies respond with a rapid release of a stress hormone called cortisol. With an overabundance of cortisol in our system, we experience anxiety, increased heart rate, sweaty hands, and muscle tightening. Being unable to check the alert will only increase these symptoms.
As soon as we grab the smartphone and check the alert, we are relieved and the body relaxes. This near-constant daily pattern of stress and relief changes our brain chemistry, leading to an addiction to the experience. According to Dr. Steve Bea, a psychology doctor with the Cleveland Clinic, the satisfaction of responding to the notification is a “reward” for the brain, which leaves a person wanting more and anxiously waiting for the next one.
A smartphone addiction is similar to any other addiction. It can lead to family issues, social problems, and lower productivity. Notifications change our focus, and we “switch away” from something that may be more important.
“There’s this phenomenon called ‘switch cost’ that occurs when there’s an interruption – we switch away from the task that we’re on, and then we have to come on back,” said Bea, as cited by the Daily Mail. “We think it interrupts our efficiency with our brains by about 40 percent.”
Dr. Bea says beating the addiction is possible, but it takes discipline. While it will be uncomfortable at first, he says staying away from technology is key. At first, a person will anxious or nervous about missing something, but with time and practice, the brain will “get used to it.”
As time goes on, the brain will begin to reduce the amount of cortisol released every time a notification interrupts. Stress and anxiety will slowly dissipate, and the urgent need to check your device will subside. Once the addiction is conquered, a person can actually experience life as it was meant to be instead of incessantly worrying about what our phone is doing.