A psychologist reveals the one thing that’s making you miserable – and what you can do about it

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Odds are you that you are reading this article on your smartphone or your tablet.

That’s because we rely on these devices to get us the information we need and as a byproduct, these devices give us access to many things we don’t need, and aren’t particularly good for us.

Adam Alter took to the stage to give a TED talk and described one of the biggest problems in our lives is our screentime.

The amount of screentime humans consume has gone up exponentially in the last 10 years. And it doesn’t seem to be making us happier, even though we are drawn to these devices like our lives depend on them.

In fact, according to researchers, too much screen time can damage brain structure and function.

Watch Alter’s eye opening TED talk to understand why too much screen time is bad for you and the one thing you can do about it:

If you can’t watch it right now, here’s a text summary of Alter’s talk:

If you feel like you can’t leave your phone or your tablet for more than a few minutes at a time, you’re not alone.

The biggest problem with the amount of screentime we engage with, according to Adam Alter, is that it has removed our ability to limit time. This is called a “stopping cue” and we’re losing our ability to listen to the cues because our devices provide us with endless amounts of information and potential entertainment.

What happens when we read a book or a newspaper is that we eventually get to the end of the reading, and we put it away and move on to the next thing in our day.

When we sit with our smartphones, tablets, or laptops for any length of time, it becomes a struggle for us to get up and walk away. There’s always something else to see, do, read, like, and comment on, but it’s not actually making us happier.

The addiction is real. According to research authors summarizing neuro-imaging findings in Internet addiction:

“Taken together, [studies show] internet addiction is associated with structural and functional changes in brain regions involving emotional processing, executive attention, decision making, and cognitive control.”

In short, excessive screen-time appears to affect brain structure and function. Most of this damage occurs in the brain’s frontal lobe, which is an area of the brain that can effect every area of life – from a sense of well-being to academic or career success to relationship skills.

So how can you limit your screentime?

One way is to actually remove your device from within your reach. Just like the television remote stays firmly planted on the TV stand across the room because you don’t want to get up to get it, you can leave your phone in a spot away from you.

By creating a barrier to access, you can reduce the amount of time you use your screens.

Another way to overcome your screentime obsession is to create rules for yourself whereby you leave your phone at home if you are going to dinner with friends, or if you are running errands.

Fifteen years ago people couldn’t reach you while you were grocery shopping, why is it so important that they do so now?

Finally, work at not being at work. When you get up and leave for the day, decide that you are not going to answer emails on your phone until you return to work the next day.

This might be hard for some, but setting those boundaries can give your hours of your life back you didn’t even realize you had lost.

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