Why you need to look up from your phone

A woman looks at a cell phone and appears stressed.
A person on a cell phone. Photo credit: Getty

People should be prioritising daydreaming or chatting to others over spending time looking at their phones, a neuroscientist says.

Fiona Kerr told ABC Australia people get more benefits from interacting with others or daydreaming than looking at whatever is happening on screen.

It may not seem like it, but staring into space gives your brain the chance to relax and let the mind wander.

"When we don't hamper our brain by either thinking of a task or by distracting it in other ways, then what it does is it starts to make connections, maybe about a problem you're thinking about, or something creative," she told ABC.

Talking to others is also beneficial and helps produce hormones that make people feel safe and content.

"If you talk to someone else... we start this lovely chemical cocktail when we interact," she said.

"Even if you don't know them, we start various parts of the brain, which are to do with our socio-emotional parts of the areas that start putting out [feel-good hormones] oxytocin, dopamine, vasopressin."

Compared to both of those staring at a phone screen can make people feel like they're being productive when they're actually preventing their brain from thinking creatively.

"If you were to either interact or to daydream, your brain is probably much more efficient at dealing with the problem that you're trying to think about than if you try and do it quickly in an email or a process situation on a screen."


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