The holidays are always a time to reach out to family and friends, but spending too much time on the phone and not in person might be doing harm to your health. There is no question that texting, social networking, and new media tools have changed the way we interact with each other, do business, and live our lives. How is this impacting your health? Like any tool, it depends on how you use it. Read on to find out how to use the opportunity of connectivity wisely to protect your health and longevity!
The Downside Of New Media Connectivity: Stress
Checking your smart phone compulsively may not be so smart. A recent preliminary study found an association between Web-enabled cell phone use and a rise in stress levels, especially when used for personal purposes, like keeping up with friends and social networking feeds, which can give us a relentless urge to immediately respond to every incoming message. Researchers found that the more someone checked their phone for personal reasons, the more their stress level rose. Interestingly, the stress level wasn’t as pronounced when the smart phone was used for work purposes. This may be because the smart phone helps people better manage their work tasks.
It’s also come to light that people with many virtual social connections, such as more Facebook friends, often seem less happy than peers with fewer friends. Part of the reason for this is that a person with hundreds of friends gets the skewed perception that their friends are living better lives. Also, surveys of Facebook users have shown that seeing pictures of themselves compared with others on the site can make them more conscious of their body image and weight. Additionally, many users become stressed about all the things they may be missing out on; this phenomenon has become widespread enough to merit its own moniker “Fear of missing out”– or FOMO, as it is now popularly called.
Take A Connectivity Break
The trick to reducing the stress that comes with constant connectivity is to take periodic breaks from email and social networking. It may be wise to reduce your friend circles to fewer, closer friends. While your sense of “I’m missing out!” may preclude you from unfriending or taking a whole day off from connectivity, consider the findings of a University California study: a group of U.S. Army workers were cut off from office email use for five days. When they returned, they experienced more natural heart rates and less stress and they were more productive on the job, evidenced by the fact that they switched between computer windows only half as much. Imagine taking a whole weekend day away from your screen to do something fun with friends and family out in the real world. Give it a try!
Bonus Tip: If stress is overwhelming you, try a guided meditation to release the tension. My Meditation for Stress Release audio CD will help you achieve a state of relaxed body, tranquil mind, and restored spirit.
The Good News About More Connection
There are some ways that social media is helpful, including that it is much easier to stay in touch with loved ones. This connection also makes it easier to find out about events that benefit our health and enrich our lives. At meetup.com, for example, you can find like-minded groups of people to meet with in the real world, such as gardening workshops, cooking classes, or walking clubs. And, of course, connectivity offers us a simple and effective way to share articles about healthy living, significant personal milestones, worthy causes, or even silly pet photos for an endorphin-boosting laugh.
This new connectivity opportunity also gives us a way to make positive lifestyle changes. Many people have gone public with their weight loss health plans to hold themselves accountable and have reaped successful rewards. It makes sense. When you are tweeting or Facebooking your progress to all your peers, you feel the motivation to stay on task.
Research is starting to confirm this positive effect. A recent study found in the “Archives of Internal Medicine” found that people living unhealthy lifestyles are more likely to eat better and limit sedentary leisure time if they receive financial incentives and if they use technology to track their progress and get periodic reminders from coaches. This study took 204 people who had four indicators of poor health: high amounts of sedentary time, low levels of exercise, high saturated-fat levels, and low consumption of fruits and vegetables. These four lifestyle habits are typically very hard to change, and yet with the incentive of financial gain ($175 if goals were met) and the motivational role of coaching – even though it was virtual coaching – the participants did show positive behavioral health changes. Five years ago, a person who wanted to change their lifestyle would have had to hire a real live person for coaching, which could be expensive and inconvenient. These opportunities for support were just not available until now.
Go Public With Your Ambitions!
The next time you want to break an unhealthy habit or embark on a new project, try going public! Make a long-held goal public, like running a marathon, writing a book, making art, or learning a new skill. Tweet, Facebook, or keep a blog of your progress and be receptive to the responses of your friends and family. You may even start a positive ripple effect through your social circles!
May you live long, live strong, and live happy!
Dr. Mao Shing Ni, best known as Dr. Mao is a bestselling author, doctor of Oriental Medicine and board certified anti-aging expert. He has appeared regularly on “Dr. Oz,” “The Doctors,” and “EXTRA.” Dr. Mao practices acupuncture, nutrition and Chinese medicine with his associates at the Tao of Wellness in Santa Monica and Newport Beach. Dr. Mao and his brother, Dr. Daoshing Ni founded Tao of Wellness more than 25 years ago in addition to also founding Yo San University in Marina del Rey. To make an appointment for evaluation and treatment please call 310.917.2200 or you can email Dr. Mao at email@example.com. To subscribe to his tip-filled newsletter please visit www.taoofwellness.com.