woman looking at cellphone screen

Smartphones put us in a trance, reinforcing our fragile human brains to keep tapping and swiping.

Spend any time observing people, and you’ll see heads down, fingers engaged, and eyes glued to screens. Smartphones put us in a trance, reinforcing our fragile human brains to keep tapping and swiping. We are witnessing a scary brain rewiring, putting the pleasure-pain cycle on extreme overdrive.

The human brain, and hence our mood, thoughts, and actions, are influenced by the release of neurochemicals including those responsible for pain and pleasure. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that plays a main role in pleasure, while dopamine inhibitors do the opposite. Dopamine is released when we purchase the perfect pair of jeans, eat something delicious, have sex, smell our morning coffee, and have positive social interactions. Pressing the dopamine button makes us want more, motivating us to do more of the behaviors that press that button again.
While pressing the pleasure button causes a release of dopamine, our brain’s built-in requirement for balance will compensate by releasing dopamine inhibitors. The problem many of us face today is that our constant need for pleasure – and dopamine – is causing the brain to overcompensate and create a dopamine deficit. The only way we know how to cope is by re-engaging the pleasure-inducing behaviors, like picking up our smartphones only minutes after we put them down.


Smartphone – or technology – addiction is pervasive in North America and globally. The average person spends 3.25 hours on their phones daily; typing, tapping, and swiping over 2,600 times! The health impacts from smartphone use are diverse and include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Fatigue, sluggishness, and lack of motivation
  • Changes in short-term memory
  • Sleep pattern changes
  • Weight gain
  • Other mood and behavioral changes, such as irritability, impulsivity, guilt, social isolation, and procrastination

In our children, we see all the above, including higher rates of ADD, ADHD, and suicidal thinking, and the development of emotionally immature youth. We are living a mental health crisis. To add insult to injury, there is also the question as to whether radiation is complicating the story. In September 2023, France announced it was banning iPhone 12 sales over levels of electromagnetic frequency (EMF) emission above European Union standards for radiation exposure. While the research into the health implications of EMFs is still inconclusive, it is just another reason to limit smartphone exposure in our children.


Can you leave your smartphone alone for an hour? Six hours? 24 hours? Do you feel a mild state of panic when you simply misplace your phone (like close to 75% of people claim to experience)? If you feel consumed by your smartphone and cannot put it down for a set number of minutes, it’s time to make a change. Managing this behavior is best assessed by a clinician with experience in addiction, but there are some things you can do now to support your dopamine levels and break the addiction cycle.

PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY FOR ONE DAY A WEEK. Creating this habit is one of the best ways to break the smartphone cycle. If you’re concerned people may be trying to contact you, understand that they can wait. Or set up an autoreply to incoming texts and emails, so you notify the sender that you’ll get back to them the following day.
TRY A 30-DAY SMARTPHONE CLEANSE. For one month only, use your smartphone for necessary tasks like emailing and texting. Stop the posting, the shopping, the gaming, and the feed scrolling. This will help your mind and body get used to healthier smartphone use, allow your dopamine to normalize again, and show you exactly how much free time you now have!
DON’T CHARGE YOUR PHONE IN THE BEDROOM. One of the best ways to keep your kids off their phones is to stop them from charging them in their bedrooms. This applies to you, too! Having a smartphone within arm’s reach just increases temptation, and with your kids, it’s a temptation you can’t control when you aren’t in the room. Buy an alarm clock, so there is no excuse to keep smartphones in the bedroom.
TURN OFF NOTIFICATIONS AND SET DAILY USAGE LIMITS ON SPECIFIC APPS LIKE GAMES AND SOCIAL MEDIA. Turning off your notifications will eliminate the constant distractions that make the brain crave more instant gratification. In the settings of your smartphone, check how much time you spend on your smartphone and then limit it accordingly to bring down your screen time and bring up your free time!

  • Move daily
  • Support your body with a multivitamin
  • Protect yourself with antioxidants such as vitamin C
  • Make sure you are getting enough vitamin D
  • Take personal quiet time every day
  • Consider holding off on buying a smartphone/tablet for your kids until they are old and confident enough to deal with temptation