A recent study from Kent University researchers indicates that those who use cell phones with greater frequency report lower levels of happiness and higher levels of anxiety. Published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, the study monitored behavior of 536 college students and found that "cell phone use/texting was negatively related to GPA and positively related to anxiety; in turn, GPA was positively related to [life satisfaction] while anxiety was negatively related to [it]."
It can't help but remind me of insights comedian Louis C.K. shared with Conan O'Brien a few months ago. Louis C.K. is convinced that cell phones inhibit the "ability to just be yourself... to just sit there." As he sees it, "I look around, pretty much 100 percent of people driving are texting. . . . But people are willing to risk taking a life—and ruining their own—because they don't want to feel alone for a second." Louis C.K. is convinced this is standing in the way of individuals' authentic happiness, and he compellingly illustrates his point with a personal story in his classic melan-comedy style—the moral of the story being, if you can't live with yourself alone for a second you're not going to find happiness running away from it.
It appears the research backs up Louis C.K.'s intuition about compulsive cell-phone use. "The lower frequency users use their phone to keep in touch, check the web and update Facebook but they can put it away and get on with other tasks," researcher Andrew Lepp told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "The higher users are not able to control it and are glued to the cell phone. They need to unplug and find some personal time where they can disconnect from the network. You need time to be alone with your thoughts, recover from the daily stressors in a way that doesn’t involve electronic media."
How do you know if you're too connected to your phone? If over half your photos are selfies, you might be too attached. Especially when at social events, which we're bound to be over the holidays, don't be that person who's texting compulsively in the corner. What are some ways in which we can disconnect?
1) Use a digital camera.
Just because your smart phone is an one-in-all machine, doesn't mean it's smart to use it for everything. If it wasn't enough to know cell phones take lower quality photos than real cameras, it should bring us pause to know it can cut down on your happiness, even from all those photo-worthy moments! So pull out your old camera or consider investing in one. If you can't afford one right now, the next step works just as well.
2) Put it on Airplane Mode.
Take periodic breaks from being hyper-connected. When you're not expecting an important call, swipe it into Airplane Mode and voila—you're off network. Those texts and voicemails can wait for you when you turn it back on. It's also wise to put it on Airplane Mode at night. If you like having your phone nearby as an alarm clock, spare your brain the unnecessary all-night exposure to your phone's radiowaves.
3) While driving, put it in the glove compartment.
Don't give yourself the temptation to reply to texts while driving. If you've gotten in the habit of using your phone for GPS, buy a separate GPS unit and the temptation is gone! Most new cars these days allow you to connect your phone through your car stereo so, if someone really needs to reach you, you an have a verbal conversation without your hand leaving the steering wheel.
(Photo by Nima Salimi)