Why You Should Stop Checking Your Phone In The Morning
What you should do instead...
How many of us out there are guilty of reaching for our phones just moments after waking up? Checking email, scrolling through social media and seeing what the latest news is can be so tempting. Granted, our phones can help us be more productive and improve the quality of our lives, but they are also a major source of distraction and stress, especially when we check them first thing.
What Checking Your Phone Does To Your Brain
When you first wake up in the morning your brain switches from delta waves, which occur in a deep sleep state, to theta waves, which occur during a sort of daydreamy state. The brain then moves to produce alpha waves when you are awake but are relaxed and not processing much information.
Now, by grabbing your phone first thing and immediately diving into the online world, you force your body to skip the important theta and alpha stages and go straight from the delta stage to being wide awake and alert (also known as the beta state).
Scientific American reports that "the ideation that can take place during the theta state is often free flow and occurs without censorship or guilt." This makes theta state an ideal time to tap into your subconscious mind to visualise what you want and help your brain drive your actions forward toward achieving your vision.
In skipping these states and checking your phone right after waking up you are priming your brain for distraction. Seeing or reading something negative first thing in the morning can trigger your stress response and put you on edge for the rest of the day. Similarly, if you see unanswered work emails, you may feel compelled to respond even while you’re still lying in bed. That's a problem because, as Julie Morgenstern, author of the book Never Check Email In the Morning, puts it, “Those requests and those interruptions and those unexpected surprises and those reminders and problems are endless … there is very little that cannot wait a minimum of 59 minutes.”
What To Do Instead
When you first wake up in the morning, your creative brain is most attuned, so it’s important to use this time to create the conditions you want for your life. Now that you've carved out time for yourself, train your brain to be OK with less stimulating — yet more beneficial — activities. Here are a few tips for starting your morning off in a more positive way:
Adjust your settings and surroundings.
Before going to bed, put your phone on airplane mode. Your alarm will still work in this setting, but you won't be greeted with messages or notifications right when you wake up. Better still, you can turn off your phone or charge it in another room and use a classic alarm clock. This way, you almost remove the temptation entirely.
Plan to do something else.
If you don't make a plan for how you're going to spend your morning, it's easy to slip back into old habits and return to using your phone first thing. Consider using this time in the morning for more constructive activities like:
- Spending time with family.
- Listening to a podcast or music or looking at art.
- Appreciating the real world around you.
- Looking at your schedule for the day and prioritising tasks.
- Mindfully make a cup of coffee.
It might seem cliché, but from experience the best days are the ones where we take the time to meditate, focus on taking deep breaths and think about how we want to feel. And research shows that the morning is a perfect time to do so. One study found that in alpha state - when your brain isn't totally at rest, but it’s not attempting to tackle anything big that requires concentration - meditating can help produce even more alpha waves.
As for setting intentions, one way to do it is to repeat affirmations that fit with your beliefs and core values. Things like “I expect good things to happen” and “I am going to achieve my priority tasks today” are great statements to start with if you’ve never used affirmations before.
Unlike checking your smartphone, these activities decrease stress, help you become more focused and productive, and provide clarity of thinking. Tomorrow morning, instead of reaching for your phone as soon as you’ve switched off your alarm, get into a better headspace by visualising what you want to happen that day and the things you want to achieve. Remember, the way you start your day determines how well you live your day.
Credit: Jay Rai
Jay Rai is an Empowerment Psychologist specialising in the neuroscience of mental health, and a corporate public speaker.