You Are Your Habits

Being mindful of how we interact with what’s around us is connected to our habits and overall health.

Those on the front-line with children (like parents and teachers) have seen a big increase in stress related anxiety and addiction the past decade. These issues also affect their learning ability and habits.  (It should be noted that the modern day smartphone has been around since 2007.)

Why is this happening? It can be attributed to persuasive tech. The art of persuasion is nothing new.

There isn’t a consensus regarding how all the screen time affects children’s brains, adolescent moods, or our mental health.  Yet most of us have a “feeling” it’s not good long-term. Should we ignore those innate feelings?

A recommended read is Your Addicted to Your Smartphone. This company thinks it can change that. This is an eye opener. The founders of Boundless Mind are trained neuroscientists and they want to disrupt our addiction to technology. “It used to be that pathogens were killing us.  Now it’s cheeseburgers and social media; it’s our habits and addictions.”

Here are a few stats from the Time’s article:

  • average number of times we check our phones each day: 47
  • % of people who check their phones within an hour of waking up: 89%
  • Ratio of Americans who think that unplugging (periodically) is important for mental health:  2/3

I knew data about me was being collected, but didn’t consider how product designers were identifying behavior patterns. I admit it’s hard to put my iPhone away sometimes and I’m an adult. So what is that doing to children and teens?

Snapchat is an example of an app used mostly by teens and relies on the trigger-action-reward loop. That loop is a compelling method for users to use the app regularly; it becomes a habit. (I never understood the appeal of Snapchat.)

There are a lot of behavioral apps available to help you step away from the screen. Onward is an example. It helps track daily phone usage and sets limits and access to certain apps.  Onward’s goal is to help you achieve a Tech-Life balance through understanding your behavior.

My recommendation? I don’t have my iPhone on me all the time. One simple solution is to not have the smartphone in your bedroom at night. My habit is to keep the iPhone on the kitchen counter. There is nothing digital in my bedroom, not even a TV.  Sleep is important to your health and being distraction-free helps you sleep better.

I wrote about my favorite “app” before – which is meditation.

In mid-May, I plan to attend a forum in Atlanta to better understand, learn and engage on how to address the behavioral needs of children and teens. This is an important issue that should be addressed to help them create better habits.

Smartphones and tech are not going away, and we should learn how to manage that to affect our habits in a more positive way.


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