Monday, July 25, 2016

Your Cell Phone: The Good, the Bad, and the Happy Medium

Keys? Check.

Wallet or purse? Check.

Personal, pocket sized, all knowing, all powerful super computer? Check.

If you’re like many adults in the U.S., you don’t ever leave home without your smartphone.

These mobile marvels can connect people all over the world, entertain them, and boost productivity into the stratosphere.

Thanks to the seemingly cosmic expansion of 21st century technology, we can now talk to anyone, learn anything and transport anywhere in what feels like the blink of an eye. 

However, because smartphone technology is relatively new, the positive and negative impact these modern marvels may have on long-term health is largely still a mystery, and this realm of seemingly superhuman connectivity could be coming at a price, gradually grinding away at some of our most fundamental human needs.

The Good

Smart phone apps can be global-positioning devices, music players, game consoles, and even pocket sized personal trainers.

Your phone may help you eat better. You may already have a favorite website or app for healthy recipes. But you can also use your phone to record the foods you eat — much like a food journal. It’s easy and convenient, and one study found that people who used their phones instead of paper and pen for this purpose were more likely to stick with their diet plan.

Your phone may keep you moving. You can use it to track your physical activity. Research shows such apps are quite accurate in their step counts and distance measurements. They can also motivate you with instant feedback and goal setting. What’s more, people who use their phones to listen to music while they exercise report liking the activity more.

Your phone may help lower stress. In just a few clicks, you can download soothing music or nature sounds. Or try some yoga. Its physical movements and breathing techniques may help you relax.

The Bad

Despite its seemingly superhuman capabilities, your smartphone may not always be good for you.

Your phone can be a distraction. Whether driving or walking outdoors, pack away your phone. You are less likely to pay attention to your surroundings when using it. And your reaction time won’t be as quick. You may want to skip it while exercising, too. Although music may energize you while working out, talking and texting have been shown to reduce exercise intensity and duration.

Your phone may make you anxious. Keeping up with social media, text messaging, and other alerts can be overwhelming. In fact, one study of a group of college students found heavy cell phone users were more likely to be anxious and unhappy. They also tended to have lower grade-point averages.

Your phone may disrupt your sleep. Just like a television or computer, your phone’s glowing screen may keep you up at night. Such artificial sources of light can mess with your body’s natural sleep cycle. Plus, constant alerts can interrupt your slumber.

The Happy Medium

With a small computer always in your pocket, it can be hard to disconnect. Too much phone time may cause physical problems, too. Try adjusting your phone use with these healthy habits:

Turn your phone off at night. Or at least put it on mute. Also limit the amount of screen time before bedtime. Playing games or texting may make it hard for you to relax.

Take frequent breaks.
Too much texting or similar activities can cause overuse pain in fingers and wrists. Your eyes can also become strained from looking at the screen too long.

Turn down the sound.
If you use earphones or ear buds to listen to music from your phone, a loud volume setting can quickly damage your hearing.

Plan some no phone time.
Nearly half of smartphone users say they can’t live without their phones.


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