Don’t touch your phone after you wake up – Here’s why

How many of you reached for your phones first thing in the morning?

…quite a lot of us, right?

Now, how many of you have regretted opening up an email, notification or message because it set your mood off negatively?

Research by the IDC found that upon waking, 80% of smartphone owners check their phones within 15 minutes of waking up.

Whether it’s your manager emailing you about something you haven’t done or a long message from a family member dishing out the latest family gossip, oftentimes you may wonder why you check your phone in the mornings at all. Out of sight means out of mind right?

I’ve compiled a list of reasons why you should not check your phone first thing in the morning. I hope they make you consider the habit. I feel like it has transformed my morning routine (particularly in 2022), and I hope it can do the same for you too.

Tabloid Headlines – Shocking!

I became obsessed with reading the news headlines first thing in the morning. In fact, it became a lot like an automated morning ritual. News is oftentimes sensationalized in order to rack up views and spread little awareness and in turn, encourage fearmongering. I realised my views towards the world itself became so negative as I just felt helpless and pessimistic. This became a lot more obvious during the pandemic when I’d check the daily Covid deaths and cases in the UK.

It is important to stay informed about worldly affairs. However, if you find yourself feeling extremely overwhelmed, particularly in the mornings, perhaps avoiding the news first thing will help. It may also help to look at the types of papers you may be reading as mainstream tabloids tend to influence the emotions of their readers by nature. I’ve found the Positive News site to be an excellent alternative if you really have to read something in the morning.

You’ve got mail

Reducing the frequency of reading emails has been correlated with a reduction of stress levels in participants. Now, this doesn’t mean we stop doing our jobs, but many of us are guilty of checking emails outside of working hours, especially when waking up first thing in the morning. How many times have we read an email that appears to be urgent, only to go to work to find that the issue has been resolved by somebody else? Or that “urgent” task that was sent to you was now not so urgent.

It is really important to maintain a work-life balance as you may find yourself feeling dread and reducing your job satisfaction while answering emails from your bed. The Four-Hour work week for example recommends reading emails twice a day. Now this depends on the type of job you have, but consider scheduling block times to catch up on correspondence.

Brain Jam

In her book ‘Never Check E-mail in the morning’ Morgenstern explained how parts of our brain involved in shallow transactional processing are activated when processing lots of information and so once this occurs, it can set off a wave of negative emotions. She recommends focusing our energy on one task in the morning, perhaps reading a few pages of that book you haven’t had a chance to read or working on your own personal project that generates a great sense of joy.

“When reaching for your phone…the relaxation stage directly after waking up is skipped entirely as you are flooded with lots of information…. throwing your brain into a frenzy…”

In other words, completing tasks first thing that require deep, focused processing can elicit feelings of productivity and accomplishment.

World Wide Wave

Scientists have found that staring at your phone when waking up disrupts the natural brain wave transitions that could impact your mood.

When waking our brains produce theta waves. As we continue to wake, our brains naturally settle into the alpha brain wave which is associated with relaxation and creativity. When reaching for your phone, however, this relaxation period is skipped entirely and so you are flooded with lots of information (the stress-inducing type) throwing your brain into a frenzy and straight into beta wave processing. These waves are involved in ‘wide awake’ processing. The type of waves produced when weighing pros and cons, or making decisions. Not what you should be doing in the morning.

This doesn’t mean that beta waves are bad. All brain waves are involved in different states of brain activity. The issue occurs when waves are intercepted in an unnatural way, in this case, alpha waves are taken over by beta wave processing.

Research submitted in the Nature journal found that stimulating alpha waves in those suffering from major depression reduced depressive symptoms. Though correlational, a link could be made between mood and brain wave usage.

Of course, we do not have access to alpha brain wave igniting technology (yet), however, we do have tools such as mindfulness and medication that have been proven to increase alpha wave in participants in a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience (the big guns of neuroscience research). So there’s a lot of science behind it all.

So to sum up:

  • put your phone away for at least an hour after waking
  • practice mindfulness to enhance alpha wave (the relaxed-feeling wave) longevity
  • work on a task you enjoy doing that doesn’t involve technology after waking

Could these ideas be used to conjure up an argument to not work in the mornings? Absolutely. But, one step at a time, eh?

Let me know how you found this week’s post by commenting below!

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