By Judi Light Hopson, Emma H. Hopson and Ted Hagen
Tribune News Service.
Do you feel compelled to check email every 10 minutes? Or, do you compulsively text as you eat, wait for a movie to start, or sit at red lights?
If so, your laptop, smartphone, or tablet might be controlling more aspects of your life than you can imagine.
According to John O’Neill, director of addictions services for the Menninger Clinic in Houston, some people are as addicted to personal electronics as junkies are to drugs! He believes some individuals neglect relationships with other people because of over-focusing on gadgets.
Paying attention to what’s going on in your life is key. For instance, is your to-do list growing longer and longer? If so, you are failing to accomplish your tasks each day.
Focusing too much on your phone and other gadgets uses time you can never get back. It can affect your health as well.
“I used to work out intensely four nights a week,” says a man we’ll call Richard. “I still work out four nights a week, but by the time I check my phone every five minutes, my workouts are pretty weak.”
“When I started my new job as a sales rep, I was so addicted to contacting clients that I was still texting when the curtain rose on my daughter’s ballet recital,” says a friend of ours we’ll call Mary. “My daughter could see me with my head down.”
Rudeness toward other people caused by interacting with gadgets is very real. Your significant other, children, and business associates can feel slighted by your need to look away at a screen.
“I’m from a small town in Tennessee, and I saw a really weird thing,” says a friend of ours. “I was driving through our business area, and I saw a man riding a horse downtown and texting!”
Another friend of ours, Charles, reported a college kid dancing around while listening to music near a heavy traffic area.
“The guy had to jump sideways to avoid getting hit by a car,” Charles says, “but he smiled and went right back to his own world of music. This scene was very disturbing.”
To break the addiction of loving electronic devices too much, try these tips:
-Start noticing how much time you’re investing. It won’t take long to figure out that you might be spending two-three hours or more just checking email each day.
-Make a list of people and activities you’re neglecting. For example, have you gotten behind on visiting family members or helping your favorite civic club? Investing face time in great people is likely the greatest investment of your life. Just ask anyone who’s lonely and confined to a nursing home.
-Find ways to comfort yourself outside of technology. Most of us carry our tablets or phones, so we can connect with people and ideas. Taking a walk with someone or playing a board game with others are two ways to comfort yourself and nurture someone else as well.
-Be sure to give yourself a 90-minute break from gadgets every night, if possible. Use that time to steer clear of technology altogether. Read a book, pet your dog, or take a drive with your mate. Give your brain time to relax and focus on something new and different.
-Keep a notebook to track new activities that are replacing your excessive time spent with devices. Work hard to enrich your life, not just distract yourself with gadgets.
(Judi Light Hopson is the Executive Director of the stress management website USA Wellness Cafe, Emma Hopson is an author and a nurse educator. Ted Hagen is a family psychologist.)