Friday, 11 April 2014

The Great Phone Epidemic - Part 3

The Great Phone Epidemic – Bye Bye Happy Hormones (Part 3)

Claire - April 11, 2014 

There are two major ways that out body’s cells communicate, the first is the nervous system and the second is our hormonal system. Both not only control the functions of cells organs and systems within the body, they also effect our emotions, how we feel, how we process events and even how we think.

In the last blog we touched on how the posture we adopt while playing on a mobile device can have an effect on our brain and spinal cord, but the problem goes deeper than that. When you spend long hours looking at screens, our eyes perceive lots of ‘blue’ in the light spectrum. Blue light in natural daylight is most abundant in the mornings and almost non existent by late afternoon. In the morning this blue light is a trigger for our brains to switch off the production of a hormone called melatonin, which is not only a hormone that helps us sleep, but it also gets converted into serotonin, one of our feel good hormones. With our retinas being flooded with blue light from phones, iPads,computers and televisions at all hours of the day our brains are not making enough melatonin for healthy sleep and also not having enough to convert into our natural anti-depressant serotonin.

Adding another layer to this are that the types of things we tend to engage in while on our phones are often stress inducing. Reading about injustices, horrific crimes or even about someone’s crappy day can greatly increase your cortisol levels. What about how it makes you feel when someone is wrong? Or you think a snide comment is directed at you? Or even something as simple as a typo can send your stress levels through the roof.  Chronic high cortisol of itself can make you feel pretty ordinary, but because the constant production of cortisol robs the body of “hormonal building blocks”, it also inhibits your ability to make happy hormones. And let’s face it, most of what you read on social media is negative.

When we sit down with our friends and chat, we produce feel good hormones like oxytocin and beta endorphin. These hormones help us to feel relaxed, happy, trusting and connected to other people. If you add to this equation, sharing food and physical contact, like hugs, these hormones are dramatically increased and therefore the feelings are more intense. Social interaction via the internet totally bypasses this hormonal input. You just can’t reproduce that squishy-feel-good experience over a screen, your body is not adapted to do it. Not only is it a poor substitute for physical socialisation, but can even false levels of distrust and increase hostile feelings. Have you noticed how often people will say things on twitter they would never say to someone’s face? Cyber-bullying and trolling can show up the incredibly ugly side of humanity, but at least part of those tendencies come from the lack of oxytocin produced in virtual communication. Have you ever felt annoyed at someone online, but felt completely differently when you saw them in person?

Spending long periods of time on our phones has a multifaceted effect on our hormonal system. So much so, it can impact how we feel about ourselves, with lowered serotonin and increased cortisol as well, eroding our relationships as our oxytocin levels crash. Spending phone free time with your friends and family can help heal these hormonal upsets.

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