Every day, the first thing I do when I wake up — despite the fact that I use an old school alarm clock — is reach for my phone. Even while I'm still half-asleep, I have an immediate impulse to see if I've missed a text, or an email, or even a huge development in the news. Of course, most of the time, I'm just met with Facebook notifications or package tracking updates. It's not really the most enlivening way to start the day, frankly, and I have to wonder if looking at your phone when you wake up is bad for you. It certainly feels that way, and yet, for some reason, I still do it. Every freakin' morning.
Well, it turns out my gut feeling was on the right track: Dr. Nikole Benders-Hadi, a psychiatrist at Doctor On Demand, tells Elite Daily that immediately turning to your phone when you wake up can start your day off in a way that is more likely to increase stress and leave you feeling overwhelmed — but that's not even the full scope of the effects.
"The information overload that hits [you] before you're fully awake also interferes with your ability to prioritize tasks," Dr. Benders-Hadi explains.
In other words, it's almost as if you're sabotaging your day before it even has a chance to begin.
Tristan Harris, a former design ethicist at Google, and co-founder of the Center For Humane Technology, expanded on this issue in a 2016 post for Thrive Global: Looking at your phone first thing in the morning, Harris wrote, essentially "frames the experience of 'waking up in the morning' around a menu of 'all the things I’ve missed since yesterday,'" which could make you less productive overall for the rest of the day. Yikes.
Harris has spent years investigating how to design things in a way that stops people’s minds from "getting hijacked," as he puts it. He explained in his article for Thrive Global that your phone is basically built to make you feel like you need to be notified, by constantly updating you on things that aren't always important or necessary for your life. It's distracting, derails focus, and it can make you feel like you're somehow "missing out" when you aren't looking at your phone (aka FOMO, or as Harris called it, "FOMSI," or the "fear of missing something important").
Despite the seemingly blatant self-sabotage behind this habit, so many of us are doing it every single day. In 2013, Adweek reported that a whopping 80 percent of smartphone users between the ages of 18 and 44 check their phone first thing in the morning. But there's more: About 79 percent of smartphone users surveyed, according to Adweek, also have their phone on them all but just two hours out of the entire day. Plus, many of the people surveyed said they feel more "connectedness" as a result of using their phone so much.
Even though people might feel like they're more connected to the world by being so close to their phones at all times, the cons seem to outweigh the pros overall.
Julie Morgenstern, author of the book Never Check Email In The Morning, told the Huffington Post that when you check your email (or notifications) first thing in the morning, "you'll never recover." In other words, much like Harris explained in his post for Thrive Global, your focus is pretty much shot when you begin your day with your eyes glued to your phone — or, at least, your focus won't be what it could have been, if you'd started your day off differently.
It’s hard to go from your transactional, shallow part of your brain, the frontal cortex, to the other parts of your brain where strategy happens and relationships happen.
It’s easier to start in the deep recesses of your brain and go to the shallow parts.
Basically, Morgenstern is saying that your mind sort of goes all over the place when you scan your email or notifications as soon as you wake up, and it can leave you feeling directionless and overwhelmed as you move forward with your day. But if you start off with something important and focused in the morning, Morgenstern explained, you'll be well on your way to feeling, and actually being more productive.
So, when you wake up in the morning, what can you do instead of scrolling through missed notifications right off the bat?
Dr. Benders-Hadi tells Elite Daily that, for one thing, leaving the work emails and text messages for a bit later in the a.m. is a good start. To start your day in a healthier way, she suggests practicing mindfulness and meditation.
But really, there are a ton of other things you can do as soon as you wake up that'll feel way better than staring at your smartphone. You can stretch, have a nice, leisurely cup of coffee, or you can even start the day by doing something you really care about, like working on a passion project you normally don't have time for.
For now, try leaving your phone in another room overnight, so you're not tempted to reach for it first thing. Or, at the very least, consider putting it somewhere across the bedroom, far away from arms' reach. Baby steps, people!