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Dopamine and Your Phone

Updated: Nov 21, 2023

I just listened to a fascinating chat between Joe Wicks @thebodycoach and @tjpower a neuroscientist, to understand the effect of our phones on our mental health, physical health, sleep and social confidence.

Before phones, we used to watch a film, chat, and cuddle (hello oxytocin). Now, while we’re side by side and in every ad break (at least), how much of your attention goes on the phone? We're losing the art of presence and our attention span is shrinking.

Teenagers prefer virtual connection to in-person social experience. It's like we’re still in lockdown. But there is a danger ⚠️ because less physical connection means less social confidence and more anxiety. This is bad news for our nervous system that was not designed to cope with so much stimulation. We are designed to spend equal parts of the day in active and rest states, known as the sympathetic and parasympathetic states.

Did you know that we top up our dopamine levels in our sleep? We use it up on phones too - this explains the lethargy we feel after scrolling for too long, or the lack of motivation and creativity. TikTok is the most addictive due to its algorithm.

Try this experiment: put your phone in another room to work. You can connect to a speaker or Alexa if you find working to music helpful. It takes the human brain 17 mins to get into the “gain of momentum”. Better productivity means more free-time.

Parents - let’s role model and meet teens where they’re at in a non judgmental way. It’s not their fault that society and education are running on tech.

❓Can you do a task without looking at your phone?

❓ Have you ever scrolled for so long that you felt lethargic? (That means you're running low on dopamine).

❓ What’s the first thing you do when you wake up?

Here are some suggestions from TJ:

1️⃣ Avoid your phone in the first 10 mins of the day

2️⃣ Get out into the morning sunlight each day

3️⃣ Celebrate and lift up people around you

4️⃣ Have a 60 min phone break with your fam in the evening

5️⃣ Observe your screen time each week

What are the benefits of making these small changes?

✅more social confidence

✅ less anxiety

✅better productivity and creativity

✅better sleep and memory

✅less lethargy and more motivation

Yoga for "Slumpasana"

In his book, Yoga of the Subtle Body, Tias Little coined the word, Slumpasana (see below). He describes how sitting for long periods of time can be ruinous for the entire spine, as the lumbar spine plays a vital role in support. Over time, when the lumbar spine collapses backward and downward, it can compress the discs, leading to bulging discs or slipped discs. A simple movement, such as bending down to pick something up can end in a slipped disc. That's not to mention the effect on your physiology through minimising lung capacity. So watch your posture when you're on the phone and maybe get up and walk around every so often, and open your chest. Channel your inner ballerina posture!

Tias suggests we counter this posture by mobilising the lumbar spine and pelvis. Cat-Cow, Cobra and Sun Salutations are great all-rounders for this, or you can put your records on and move those hips!


Full interview between Joe and TJ Power available @thebodycoach on Instagram

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