The smart choice? The health benefits of switching to a dumb phone - Hindustan Times
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The smart choice? The health benefits of switching to a dumb phone

Jan 19, 2024 11:22 AM IST

Yes, not a smartphone. Cut down your devices’ capabilities to counter technology-induced stress, suggest experts.

"When the work-from-home culture enveloped the world, digital burnout—physical and mental fatigue due to prolonged screen time, broadly speaking—followed right behind. And perhaps, the rising aversion to technology is not surprising. After a decade or so of the digital revolution and two years of pandemic-driven workspace evolution, exhaustion, anxiety, a general loss of interest, and loss of sleep are at an all-time high. Ergo, people are rethinking their exposure to screens.

When you are drowning in a sea of endless notifications, dumbing down the phone could be a solution.
When you are drowning in a sea of endless notifications, dumbing down the phone could be a solution.

When you are drowning in a sea of endless notifications, dumbing down the phone could be a solution. This can be achieved by reducing its functionality to use it only for basic tasks such as making calls, sending messages, and taking pictures. You could buy a less-capable phone or, better still, try in-built features like the grayscale mode.

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“Our brain’s dopamine reward system reacts strongly to bold colors and hyper-realistic animation, convincing us to keep going back for more,” says Dr. Abhinav Ghosh, a healthcare expert. “Going grayscale — a popular ‘dumbing down’ strategy that involves turning on the black-and-white mode on your phone — strips away the hormonal shift, disengaging our brain from the subconscious decisions that company logos and colors impose on us,” adds Ghosh.

Other popular ‘dumbing down’ strategies include removing entertainment and accessibility apps to avoid using the phone for streaming, online games, and shopping. While the first few weeks can be a challenge when starting out, Dr. Ghosh emphasizes that it can be a game-changer for your health in the long run. Deleting unnecessary apps and disabling features that are rarely used can be other ways to dumb your phone down.

Next, opt for a basic launcher that simplifies the home screen layout. Turn off notifications and use a minimalist wallpaper can also help to reduce distractions and streamline the device’s interface.

WAYS TO OPTIMIZE YOUR SMARTPHONE

On Android, go to the digital well-being and parental control settings to disable applications beyond calling, texting, and safety. On iOS, go to the screen time feature and set a time-blocking limit.

Bulk-delete apps and set your home screen to display only what you need. If you are not ready to entirely wipe out your phone, create a folder and hide apps so you reach for them a lot less.

Make use of the DND feature and the sleep and in-built focus modes to further avoid any calls or texts when not necessary.

WHAT TECH STRESS CAN DO TO YOUR BODY AND MIND

High screen time has several potential risks, including physical and psychological issues. Digital eye strain, which results in blurred vision, dry eyes, and neck and shoulder pain, can be brought on by prolonged usage of electronic gadgets. Excessive screen time leads to poor posture, which can cause musculoskeletal problems. Psychologically, high screen time has been linked to increased stress, anxiety, and depression, as well as decreased social skills and communication abilities. Besides interfering with the body’s circadian rhythm, other risks commonly associated with blue light exposure include dimmed vision, persistent headaches, obesity, and age-related macular degeneration. In children, high screen time has been associated with delayed language development and impaired cognitive function. Inputs by eye specialist Dr. Mahender Singh Basu.

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