You've probably known it for a long time, but do nothing about it - or too little: excessive cell phone use is harmful. From concentration problems to deteriorated eyesight to poor posture, especially in the neck area. And those are just a few of the side effects.
In this article, however, we want to focus on concentration problems.
Who doesn't know it, you wake up in the morning and your hand already instinctively reaches for the smartphone. On a day off, you now start scrolling randomly on Instagram, TikTok or Snapchat. If we assume an average video length of 15 to 60 seconds, we have already seen 30 to 120 videos after just 30 minutes. These can be about anything from funny mishaps to self-improvement.
Every emotion we feel when watching these videos causes a wide variety of hormones to be released in us, but mostly dopamine or cortisol, depending on the mood. The former makes us feel happy, the latter gives us a thrill.
So we manage to go through more emotions in thirty minutes in the morning than we normally do in a day. And let's be honest: most of the time it can easily be even more than just 30 minutes on the smartphone during the day. After all, when we get home from work at lunchtime, we've earned a little time out and spend some time on the phone again, just as we do in the evening before we go to bed.
This flood of input is not only bad for concentration but also for the hormonal balance of our brain. For these reasons, when I'm on my phone I try not to spend too much time in apps that have endless short videos. Of course, it's not as varied to watch a thirty minute video instead of 100 short ones but it is, even if not as good as not being on the phone at all, much better than frying your hormonal balance and concentration with reels, shorts or TikToks.
Smartphone use can impair the ability to concentrate, as several studies have shown. A Studypublished in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions, found that using your phone between important tasks can impair your ability to concentrate. reduces.
Another Study reports that The mere presence of a smartphone in the room can have an impact on memory. This is because the brain can only fully concentrate on one thing and constant multitasking is bad for concentration.
That's why it's best not to look at your smartphone while you're trying to do things that require your full attention, like studying, working, or driving in traffic.
Smartphone use can also affect academic performance by distracting students from learning and reducing their cognitive abilities (Source).
How to keep your phone under control
To avoid negative effects, it's a good idea to limit smartphone use and turn off notifications when you're doing cognitively demanding tasks. Unfortunately, this is as difficult as it is obvious, as we have become so conditioned to squint at the screen very often. Even when there is nothing new, let alone important, to do. So how do you solve this problem? There are quite a few approaches and unfortunately you won't be able to avoid testing what works best for you. Here are some suggestions that can be combined if needed - let's start with our favorite:
- Monitor and limit your time on the smartphone with an app: Lukas and I both use the app YourHour (Android). Most of our acquaintances with iPhones (iOS) use Apple's integrated Screen Time app. In both cases, you can track how much time you spent with which app and set time limits. If you know of any other good apps like this, we'd love to hear about them in the comments below.
- Turn off notifications for unimportant apps and mute group chats: The idea is simple. If it's not an important app or group chat, you turn off the notifications. That way, it's not the app that decides when you open it, it's you. For example, I've found that I use apps much less frequently this way. In fact, for some of them I found that I didn't use them at all, which brings us to the next point.
- Delete or uninstall apps you don't use or that distract you from your goalsIf there are apps that you don't really use or hardly use, you can delete them directly in many cases. For apps that keep you from more important things, this is also worthwhile. Simon, for example, has a strict "no games on the phone" rule.
- Keep your phone out of sight and out of reach and find alternative activities that are more fulfilling and fun for youAnother tip is to leave your cell phone aside for the first hour after getting up and the last hour before going to bed. This way you can train your brain to devote itself to a single thing again for a longer period of time. For example, you can read a book, play music, go for a walk, meditate or do yoga instead. After all, it's not as if life outside the digital world has nothing to offer - after all, the adventure of your life doesn't take place on a screen.
Reclaim your ability to concentrate
But if you're like most people, it's not enough to reduce smartphone use. In most cases, the damage has already been done, and our ability to concentrate is largely shot. There are many different studies on this topic, but in almost all of them, the results are clear, Since the turn of the millennium until now, there has been a decrease in the average attention span by 25% to 50%. In certain reports it is even said that we now often have a lower attention span than goldfish (Source).
But it is possible to train your ability to concentrate again. It just needs the necessary incentive. And this incentive is not given if you don't see the necessity or at least the benefits that a good level of concentration brings. So:
The ability to focus is crucial for success - sounds a bit sweeping somehow, but it's true.
The ability to focus on something in your environment and direct mental effort toward it is critical to learning new things, achieving goals, and performing well in a variety of situations (this has been shown by research such as this several times).
Focus can be the difference between success and failure, whether you're trying to study for school, finish a report at work, or complete a big project that means a lot to you.
We recommend that you think about where lack of concentration has hurt you or is currently hurting you and where a better one would help you. If you like, you can also write it down so that you can look at it again when you need it.
Once the motivation for your training has been clarified, you need to the appropriate tools. There are a few here, as you can imagine, including brain training, meditation and exercise.
Our favorite here is the Meditation. The topic may seem a bit strange, especially for young people, because it is something that does not fit very well into the modern worldview. But it is something incredibly pleasant. As soon as you have felt your way around, it is very pleasant for most people to do nothing. There are no expectations as usual in everyday life and you are just for yourself. For the beginning, small sessions (~10 minutes) are enough.
There are dozens of meditation types and you should try around a bit, but one of the most popular types would be sitting meditation Zazen from Zen Buddhism. It is not a religious practice and can be practiced by anyone. Here you can find a Beginner's Guide to Zazen.
If meditation seems too abstract for you, you can Focus Training do. To do this, place your phone out of reach for a suitable amount of time (5, 10 or 15 minutes to start with) and devote yourself to a single thing. Ideally, one that requires your attention. Doing laundry without the influence of media can do you good, but it doesn't necessarily improve your ability to concentrate. At least not too much. Instead, you should: Read, write, paint, draw (it can also be simple doodles) or puzzle - which brings us to the next point.
A Study from 2015, in which 4,715 adults participated, shows that 15 minutes of Brain training per day for 5 days a week can improve concentration. Easily accessible with a corresponding app such as. Peak (Android / iOS) or Elevate (Android / iOS) or with calendar entries and puzzle books if you're more the analog type.
Brain training games, by the way, can also help improve your working and short-term memory, as well as your processing and problem-solving skills.
Even though smartphone use affects our ability to concentrate, in most cases it's unrealistic to completely do without our high-tech companions. But it's definitely possible to reduce their impact and make sure we're no longer constantly bombarded with notifications, mindlessly scrolling through social media feeds, and squinting at our smartphone over and over again while doing important things.
This can minimize the negative impact on our productivity, mental health, and relationships.
So let's counteract this trend and make time for concentrated work and meaningful interactions. In this way, we can not only improve our ability to concentrate again, but also enjoy life in a balanced and mindful way.
What is your opinion on healthy smartphone use? If you have a tip or two, feel free to write it in the comments.