Three phone habits that are ‘killing your brain’

Your phone habits could be the reason you have a “stressful life”, a doctor has warned.

These days we use our mobile phones for almost everything. From making calls and sending texts to keeping up with the latest news, watching videos, listening to music, and even playing games, there’s next to nothing that the pocket-sized devices can’t do. But with many of us glued to our phones for several hours a day can have negative effects on our health, as one doctor has warned that some habits could be “killing” our brains.

Doctor Aditi Nerurkar explained that using your phone with its brightness turned up can make us feel stressed, especially when paired with viewing “graphic content” that is often visible on social media and news platforms that many of us scroll through before bed.

Speaking to Steven Bartlett on an episode of his Diary of a CEO podcast, Dr Nerurkar said that if you want to live a stressful and anxious life, the best thing to do is to “get on your phone, make sure it’s on high brightness and scroll through every social media platform, every news platform, watch graphic content, videos of horrible things happening in the world at midnight. And keep doing that off and on until 4 or 5 am.”

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The doctor also shared three phone habits many of us have that are negatively impacting our daily lives and making us feel worse – including how often we check our phones and how bright the screen is.

Late-night scrolling

Dr Nerurkar urged people to stop scrolling on their phones late at night as this can make it difficult for us to disengage and get a good night’s sleep. She claimed that our desire to scroll on our phones is a “primal urge” to scan for danger which comes from a feeling of being stressed, so putting your phone down and doing something else to relax before bed can stop you from spending hours reading unpleasant news.

She explained: “In recent times there’s been a lot of bad news in fact it feels like the onslaught of bad news one thing after another, whether it’s a climate disaster or a conflict in a certain part of the world or something or the other is always happening now. The information stream is rapid and unprecedented, and so we are constantly scrolling and scanning for danger.”

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Checking your phone too frequently

Many of us are guilty of checking our phones far too often throughout the day, especially when we don’t have any messages to answer and are unlocking the screen for no reason in particular. Dr Nerurkar said that checking your phone as soon as you wake up and before you go to bed can create “mobile phone dependency” and make you feel more stressed.

She claimed that on average, we check our phones 2,600 times a day, with 62% of us checking them within 15 minutes of waking up, and 50% checking them in the middle of the night. To stop this, the expert recommended limiting your phone usage to 20 minutes a day, and to “set a timer if you have to for engaging and consuming”.

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Consuming traumatic content

Social media platforms are often full of distressing content from conflicts, climate disasters, or simply people sharing videos of arguments they’ve had with people on the street. Watching these videos can lead to emotional distress, PTSD, and indirect trauma – and because it leaves you feeling stressed, your urge to keep scrolling is increased.

Dr Nerurkar explained: “Graphic images and videos on your phone can increase your risk of PTSD and mental health conditions, as it triggers the fight or flight response and can lead to indirect trauma. Studies that your risk of PTSD increases when you consume graphic images, even if that thing that you’re consuming is happening thousands of miles away, like any conflict, any climate disaster, anything.

“It’s a cycle. The more videos you consume or the more graphic content you consume, your amygdala gets fired up, your Primal urge to scroll starts going haywire, and then you scroll some more, and then you scroll some more because you don’t feel safe. This is a common occurrence.”

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