Home Latest Articles Why Smartphones Are as Addictive as DRUGS | Break Your Phone Addiction

Why Smartphones Are as Addictive as DRUGS | Break Your Phone Addiction

by Chetna Vasishth

Do you know that more people own a mobile phone than a toothbrush? That’s right! According to a survey done by the Mobile Marketing Association of Asia, worldwide about 4.8 billion own a mobile phone while only 4.2 billion own a toothbrush. The average time an adult spends on a smartphone is 3 hours 54 minutes a day. Another survey by author Adam Alter revealed that 46% of young adults would rather break a bone than break their phone! Surprised? Me too. Leave me a comment below and tell me how many hours a day you use your smartphone.

So, today we are going to understand the science that makes smartphones as addictive as drugs. And in the second part of the video I will give you seven ideas of how you can break this loop and one bonus tip to take charge of your own powerful brain.

So, what is it that makes smartphones as addictive as drugs? Let’s peep into the human brain. 

Dope – uh – me

Imagine playing a game of PUBG and  winning a chicken dinner at the end of the match . This stimulus of pleasure causes your brain to release Dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is produced in the Ventral Tegmental Area (VTA) of the brain. From the VTA it moves to four different areas of the brain – 

The first is the Amygdala which processes emotions, and we feel this happiness or euphoria. 

The second area this Dopamine travels to is the Hippocampus, which is responsible for the formation of memories. The hippocampus will remember that the game, or the chat notification made you happy, and the next time you encounter it, you will click on it based on previous experiences of pleasure. 

This action of clicking is controlled by the third region in the pathway, the Nucleus accumbens. The nucleus accumbens is also called the brain’s pleasure centre. This directs our motor actions and prompts our fingers to keep tapping. 

And finally, the dopamine also reaches the Prefrontal Cortex. The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain towards the front that is larger in humans than in any other animal. It powers our ability to think, plan, solve problems and make decisions. This area is also responsible for our focus, and in response to the dopamine surge it diverts all the attention from the studies we’re supposed to do, towards the smartphone.  

If dopamine is making us happy, what’s the problem? The problem is that the dopamine puts our brain into overdrive. As a habit forms, the brain responds by “toning down” the impact of dopamine. Now you need more of your phone to get to that same pleasure level. Excess dopamine also causes the level of Serotonin to drop. Serotonin is a hormone responsible for satiety or contentment. Thus the more dopamine we get, the lower serotonin levels drop, and we are just not satisfied. We keep going back to our phone for more and more, which leads to addiction. 


The algorithm – 


Don’t our brains get bored of playing the same game over and over? Mm mm (shake head from left to right) These apps and games are very clever, they have in-built techniques to  generate novelty like new levels in PUBG, or new video recommendations on Youtube. This starts the dopamine loop all over again, and is called Compulsion loop. This is the same loop responsible for addiction to Cocaine or Nicotine. Do you know that in the last one year there has been a 55% increase in social media usage, and 45% in online gaming. I want you to share with me how you feel about your phone and why you are unable to put it down 


Digital escape room 


93% people confess to using their phones to avoid boredom as against reading a book or engaging with other people. And 47% millennials admitted  that they often use smartphones with the sole intention of avoiding people around them. In fact, this behaviour has led to some new English words like Nomophobia, which is the fear of being without your cell phone; or Ringxiety, which is the constant illusion that your phone is ringing,  and phubbing, which is the practice of ignoring the people in front of you to check your mobile. 

Ha! Do you know any other interesting new words like these, drop them in the comments below.


So, how do we stop ourselves from falling down the rabbit hole of mobile addiction? Here are 7 solutions to control your device before it controls you: 


1. From reel life to real life — The search for dopamine outside our phones. 

Scientists have found  that one hour of meditation increases dopamine by 64%. Doing half an hour of yoga, listening to your favorite songs and getting 7-9 hours of sleep also refuels your body’s dopamine. And not only dopamine, these activities also release serotonin. So, we feel satisfied and truly happy.

And in case you are looking at some scientifically proven ways to increase your brain power then check out this video and I will drop a link for you below


2. Set it right!

Some of you ask me how to do this since you need your phone to study. So, there are many ways to keep your notifications off – try to disable notifications, keep your phone on DND, Zen Mode, or switch it off when you are not using it. You could also uninstall addictive apps like Instagram and Facebook and use them from your browser instead.


I’ll share a trick with you.

Switch your phone from color to grayscale. Colored objects activate the Visual Areas of the brain. These parts of the brain process color and store positive memories associated with bright colors like red and blue. In contrast to these, black and white and don’t have any refreshing memories associated with them and will not keep our attention for long


3. The 3-2-1 Rule

Imagine your productive , focused mind to be like this calm lake, and each notification is like a stone dropping into the lake. Now if there are drops all around, the lake is disturbed. It can take long before you can get back to that productive state of mind. So how about you Check your personal messages only 3 Three times a day. Respond to these with a voice note to save time. 

Use recreational apps (for videos and memes ) only 2 twice a day and 

Check your group chats only 1 once a day.  


Make your phone  a reward for finishing your work. For example,  “I will watch one episode of F.R.I.E.N.D.S only after I finish revising 2 chapters”


4. 5 minutes challenge

Did you know that an average user checks their smartphones about 120 times a day! Most of the time, we do this between two activities—for example the 5 minutes between classes, In these 5 minutes, try alternative activities like meditation, some stretches, or even a power nap. This will help you focus on the next activity. 


Cut down these 5 minute phone breaks and note how much time you save in total. Let me know in the comments below!


5. Buddha said, The trouble is you think you have time

One of the most difficult steps in controlling our addiction is To regulate time spent on social media. How about you set a daily reminder under Your Activity on Instagram, or Remind me to take a break under Time watched on YouTube. Start with 1 hour, and gradually reduce to 45 mins, 30 mins and so on. It’s impossible to go from 3 hours to zero in 1 day, so remember to take baby steps 


My personal trick is to become publicly accountable. Take a sheet of paper, write down your target time, and daily usage, and stick this paper on the fridge. Once I  realise that all eyes are on me, I feel pressured to stay within the time limit. 


6. Tuck your phone to bed…away from you

This is the hardest one, I struggle to keep my phone in another room when I go to sleep. But it’s a must do. Also, challenge yourself to Complete 5 small tasks in the morning, before you look at your phone. Once you get into the rhythm of the day, you will not spend a lot of time on the phone yourself! 


7. Out of sight, out of mind—

Let’s admit that we are lazy . So how about we keep our phone far away— in another room or locked in a cupboard. Make your weakness your best friend.  


Now, for the bonus tip.   

Bonus Tip

  1. Phone-free living  — You and your family can demarcate some phone free zones in your house, like the dining table or balcony; phone free timings like evenings or lunch time; and maybe even phone free days like family vacations. 

You can turn this into a game. Whoever uses their phone first will have a fun punishment!


I hope this video helps you to be phone free for  a bit! So stay happy and happy learning

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