Yesterday, I took a long phone-less walk in the neighborhood. Before I left my iPhone behind an internal debate raged “What if I get a business call?” or “ What if my mom or my kids need me?” to “What if I miss a good deal on eBay or great recipe on Facebook?”

Surrendering the battle, I left my phone on top of some boxes in the garage and closed the door. Sad, because years ago, bc (before cells), a long walk alone was precious thinking time. Now I have to convince myself to leave without it.

What gives?

It turns out, applications and websites are engineered to get us scrolling as often as possible. One study says smartphone owners consult their device an average of 150 times a day. Smart phones have hijacked our brains.

How?

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter enables us to see rewards and move toward the rewards. Fast food joints know that sweet, salty and fatty foods captivate the brain’s reward circuit in much the same way that cocaine and gambling do.  Smart phones similarly bewitch our brains.

The most prosperous sites and apps hook us by tapping into our deep seated human need for social approval and connection. Just like Pavlov’s dogs began to salivate, anticipating food at the ring of a bell the smart phone’s every ding, buzz, and vibration keeps us scrolling through our phone, salivating for more.

What now?

Take back your life by taking a break.  Turn off your smart phone notifications. Make a commitment to take time away from your phone daily, so you can reconnect to the here and now of everyday living.

Because?

Sans the phone my walk was more enjoyable. I noticed the lush green grass, watched kids practicing softball, petted dogs and greeted other pedestrians along the path. I overheard some birds’ angry conversation with a naughty squirrel and observed a tiny black ant dragging an enormous french fry home.
Pretty cool stuff and I didn’t even once have to find a shady spot to check my phone.

Life is a gift, but you must be present to win.