Day 2 of the 31-Day Mindful Wellbeing Challenge, January 2023

Do you use your phone as a morning alarm? If so, do you jump right out of bed and get started with your day? or, do you turn off your alarm and start scrolling through your social media, checking one news feed after another, running through your emails or missed texts? Do you find that five minutes becomes 30 minutes .. or longer?

I have fallen into this mindless and poor habit over the past few months. And, while I can use my phone as an alarm and then sit for morning meditation; my concern recently has been how quickly the impulse to pick up my phone post-meditation has become – and it doesn’t make me feel good or productive.

Using my phone first thing in the morning is an unwelcome and mindless habit.

Day 2 : Starting the Day Well

A recent study by (Dec 2021) surveyed 1,000 Americans 18 years and older, and found that 71% say they check their phones within the first 10 minutes of waking up. A Deloitte survey (2016) then showed that 18% of consumers worldwide check their phones immediately upon waking, 43% of people within five minutes and 62% within 15 minutes.

My own concern is twofold – the stress and overwhelm that comes from scrolling first thing on waking, and the precious time that feel’s lost; making for a poor start to the day. When we wake from a restful sleep we are often at our most relaxed and open state, and our creative brain is most attuned and receptive to create the ideal conditions we want for our life. But when we pick up our phone and start scrolling – we disconnect from this state.

I know that this is NOT a Mindful Wellbeing habit.

Some Science

When you first wake up in the morning your brain shifts from a deep sleep state (delta waves) to a daydreamy state (theta waves) until you awaken more fully, but still in a relaxed state, when the brain progresses to producing alpha waves (non-arousal).

However. When you grab your phone immediately upon waking and dive into the noisy/busy online world, you are forcing your body straight from delta stage to beta state (high arousal/alert) – which means that you skip the important theta and alpha.

Theta state is where a free flow of ideas and meaningful, creative contemplation can unfold, where you can tap into your subconscious mind to visualise what you want and develop creative ways to achieve that vision.

Why do we do it?

A study conducted at Harvard University showed that when we check social media and see a ‘like’ or positive comment, or get a sweet text from a loved one, the brain releases a chemical called dopamine, a neurochemical that makes you feel rewarded and happy. Unfortunately, your brain craves dopamine like a child craves sweets .. so, it stimulates the repetition of behaviours that lead to additional dopamine releases – leading to a cycle of checking your phone again and again in a bid to feel good.

When you start your day mindlessly scrolling through email or social media, your brain will stimulate you to repeat this behaviour throughout the day – because it knows it will quickly and easily feel good (especially if you are not engaged in something stimulating or challenging in the real world).

Consequences of Scrolling Each Morning

#1: Increased Stimuli + Stress. Waking up and immediately checking your phone simply bombards the brain with external stimuli that is distracting and often negative, which triggers the stress response and puts you on edge for the rest of the day. High mobile phone use has also been directly correlated to increased reports of depression in both men and women.

#2: Time & Attention Are Hijacked. Instead of starting your day proactively and positively, with a gentle focus on your own goals and the endless possibilities of the day ahead; when you jump into social media you are being influenced by other people’s thoughts and opinions, along with advertising – which leads to you becoming reactive. Time is also easily hijacked as “just 5 minutes” quickly becomes 30 minutes or longer.

Starting Your Day Well

Over the course of January, we shall be exploring a range of Mindful Wellbeing practices to best support YOU in 2023 – but, there may also be some habits or behaviours that we might wish to release or let go of!

Today, I shall be setting up some Downtime parameters on my iPhone (Android have a similar function) so I can mindfully schedule what will be available in the early morning .. and this will support me to be more mindful of my choices in the morning (to NOT pick up my phone) and give me more time for other, more valuable practices.

If this is something you might like/need to address, you might consider:

~ Use an old-school alarm clock, and charging your phone outside the bedroom so it will be much less tempting to check first thing in the morning.
~ Putting your phone on flight mode before you go to sleep so when you wake up you are not immediately confronted with messages and notifications, which can be what makes it harder to resist checking.
~ Making a mindful commitment to NOT look at your screen for a predetermined period of time. One hour post-waking is often considered a beneficial period of time to wait.
~ If you do not currently have an established morning routine, then imagine what you might be able to do and achieve with an additional 20-30 minutes of free me-time each morning. Find a replacement activity:
*Mindful movement or stretching
*Reading one chapter of a book
*Journaling your dreams
*Listening to a positive mindset podcast
*Cooking a healthy breakfast
*Meditation and Breathwork
*Spending time with your child or partner
*Setting goals for the day.

Change only comes from taking action, so I encourage you to consider if it might be best to avoid using your smartphone for the first 60 minutes of your day. Remember, the way you start your day sets the tone for the rest of the day — so make sure you start it well. Now Do It!

“What you do today can improve all your tomorrows.”
Ralph Marston