Well-Being//

Why Looking Up From Your Phone Is One of the Best Things You Can Do for Your Brain and Body

You’ll boost your creativity, lessen your stress, and more.

Quarta / Shutterstock
Quarta / Shutterstock

Did you know that the simple act of looking up can increase creativity, help you live a life full of awe, and increase your overall well-being? Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 rescue you from getting sucked into the screen of the digital world with easy access to voice assistants, an unrivaled microphone system, and 11 levels of noise cancellation. It’s time to live life heads-up and in the present, and Thrive and Bose have teamed up to help you do just that.

If you are like the average American, you’ll be pulling your phone out and using it about 52 times today. There are so many functions that our phone provides — in addition to a multitude of pure distractions — that most of us can’t imagine our lives (or even our minutes) without them. We reach for our phones to check messages, consult apps, view videos, and escape into the rabbit hole of social media. We use them as alarms, as music portals, and so much more. 

But for all the convenience, entertainment, and diversion that our phones provide, they also come with a cost. Living life with our heads down and excessive screen time can contribute to a host of mental and physical well-being issues — from increased anxiety to a posture problem appropriately called “text neck.” And while no one is suggesting you ditch your beloved device, there’s a lot you stand to gain from taking dedicated breaks from staring at your phone. Here are just some of the wonderful things that can happen to your brain and body when you do. 

A creativity boost

Ever notice that some of your best ideas come to you during, say, a bath or an outdoor jog? Allowing your mind to wander is a prerequisite for having a eureka moment, and when your gaze is perpetually glued to your phone, mind-wandering is nearly impossible. To encourage the creative process, it can help to engage in behaviors that free your mind, such as taking a walk, Julie Albright, Ph.D., a University of Southern California sociologist specializing in digital culture and communications, tells Thrive. Even better if your walk is outside in nature. By spending time outdoors, we facilitate something called “diffuse thinking,” notes Albright. Different than focused thinking, which is the kind our screens demand from us, diffuse thinking allows our mind to wander and make random connections. This, in turn, “can lead to spontaneous moments of creativity and insight.” And you don’t have to go entirely tech-free during your walks. Throwing on some headphones and listening to music can further facilitate “out-of-the-box” thinking, research shows

Less stress

For as much joy as our phones often bring us, they can also be repositories for all sorts of things that stress us out: emails from bosses, overly chatty group texts, unsettling news alerts. The result: Our brains release a stress hormone called cortisol, which can cause our blood pressure to spike and our heart rate to increase (a.k.a. the “fight-or-flight” response). Stepping away from our phones — or at least turning off notifications so we can control the influx of potentially unwanted alerts — can help keep these stress triggers at bay. You can still listen to your favorite podcast or cue up a playlist; just disengage with the parts of your phone that can put a damper on your mood. And while it may be uncomfortable to disconnect from your phone in this way, it can also “help put life in better perspective, with the bad news perhaps seeming a little less urgent,” says Albright. 

Better posture 

Ever heard of the term “text neck”? (It could also be called email neck, Instagram neck, news-alert-neck — you get the picture.) The phrase was coined by a chiropractor who began noticing that all of the hours people spend staring down at their phones can lead to repetitive stress injuries. Essentially, having your head positioned forward and down while using your phone can tighten muscles in the neck and upper back. Disconnecting from time to time is a great way to escape this discomfort.

Improved sleep 

Scrolling before bedtime is a common evening behavior — but it’s one that takes a toll on our sleep. One study found that exposure to blue light before bed reduces the duration of sleep by about 16 minutes — which may not sound like a big loss, but it’s enough to interfere with our cognition the next day. Developing a wind-down routine that doesn’t include your screens can directly improve the quality of rest you get each night. So instead of scrolling through social media or sending off emails before you go to bed, try reading a book or listening to a sleep meditation. Technology is making it easier than ever to interact with our screens without actually looking at them. For instance, using the Google Assistant with Bose Headphones 700, your voice can cue up something calming to listen to — while you drift off in the dark.

The experts cited in this story were not paid for their participation, nor does their participation imply an endorsement of the products and/or services mentioned above. 

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