Australia's leading wellbeing expert and consultant at EQ Consulting, Chelsea Pottenger has announced research findings that show a staggering 90% of Australians check their phone as soon as they wake up in the morning.
This damaging trend is kicking minds into a wave of high stress from the moment they wake up, causing feelings of paranoia, worry, fear, anger and irritability - all of which are connected to a weakened immune system.
Pottenger, an ambassador for R U OK? and a world expert in delivering cognitive tools to recharge the human brain in the corporate world, began to notice the problematic pattern in those she was training. This then became a survey of over 95,000 participants over a three year period.
A similar study at Nottingham Trent University, found that the average amount of time people aged 18-33 check their phone is an astounding 85 times per day.
Pottenger is currently completing a PhD Program in clinical psychology and neuroscience and understands the importance of the brain's malleability in the morning, she commented on the findings to date as well as those in the UK: "When we first wake up, we transition from a delta brainwave of sleep into a theta brain wave - where the brain is more flexible and malleable. The theta brainwave is vital to becoming more emotionally intelligent individuals, creative and adept at problem-solving. But by waking up and scrolling through emails, checking Instagram and the news, Australians are skipping this important theta brain wave and heading straight into a beta brainwave of high stress which is having a significant impact on the physical structure of the brain, their ability to perform and their health and wellbeing."
As a result, Pottenger is urging Australians to start taking better control of their life, health, money, relationships and purpose and by owning the first eight minutes each morning. The new EQ Minds Vision Board Program, motivates and empowers people to become the master of their own success and combats the increasing rates of anxiety and depression, which have shown a direct correlation with social media usage. The online seven-day program curated by Pottenger herself, features a series of mindfulness and meditation podcasts, how-to-videos and a selection of downloadable guides to help people make positive changes to their daily life that will benefit them now and in the future.
Pottenger comments: "It's scientifically proven that a positive mindset can bring you success and improve many aspects of your life. January is the perfect time to enrol in the Vision Board Program, as you will be refreshed after Christmas and ready to define your goals for the year ahead, then we can help you achieve them."
For more information, please visit: eqminds.com or @eqminds
Question: Are you surprised that 90% of Aussies check their phone first thing in the morning?
Chelsea Pottenger: No, because phones and technology are incredibly addictive because of the dopamine reward response that it gives our brain. Every ping is like a rush of excitement for our brain. However if only people knew that this seemingly harmless habit is quite dangerous for us in the first few minutes of the morning.
Question: How does this habit have a detrimental impact on our day?
Chelsea Pottenger: This seemingly harmless habit - a quick scroll through Instagram, replying to texts - might be the worst way to start the day.
Chelsea Pottenger: When we first wake up, our brains switch from something called delta waves - which are associated with deep sleep - to 'daydream-y' theta waves.
In this theta state, the brain is at its most malleable, flexible and changeable. It's a crucial time for improving emotional intelligence, creativity and problem-solving skills, and basically setting yourself up for a great day.
We only get a short window in theta when we first wake up, so time is precious. So what do we do? We go and throw it all away, of course - and all for our mobile phone. "When we wake up and we check our phone, we skip the theta stage altogether and go straight to beta brain waves, which is basically where your brain is in high-stress mode," Pottenger explained.
Not only are we missing out on forming neural pathways that are actually beneficial to us, we're actually forming those that aren't.
When we check the news first thing in the morning and see a story on a terrorist attack, for example, it kicks off a fight-or-flight stress response, and that state of mind will follow us throughout our day.
Your brain is at the mercy of the information you're consuming - if your mind is being filled with negative, frightening things, it's hard to maintain a happy, peaceful state for the rest of the day.
Question: Can you tell us about the phone habits you've recently implemented?
Chelsea Pottenger: Instead of checking my phone, I spend the first eight minutes practicing gratitude with my daughter Clara, brushing my teeth, drinking a glass of hot water and lemon to detox my body and then do some gentle yoga.
Question: What phone habits can we introduce to increase our productivity, health and wellbeing?
Chelsea Pottenger: Limit technology for eight minutes when you first wake up. Our modern day is ruled by technology. Remove all temptations and keep your phone outside the bedroom if you want to have a calm and balanced start to the day.
Question: What morning routine should replace our mindless social media scrolling?
Chelsea Pottenger: There are a lot of things that you can do to replace our mindless social media scrolling first up in the morning.
I recommend practicing 30 seconds of gratitude and doing some exercise or doing some light stretches while setting an intention for the day. You don't even have to move, either. Meditating on or looking over a visual representation of our goals - Pottenger recommends the new EQ Minds Vision Board Program - are also highly effective.
These simple bite size wins will help you wire your brain for more happiness.
Question: Should we have our phones in our bedroom?
Chelsea Pottenger: I would recommend no. As it's too tempting to look at it before heading off to sleep and also when we first wake up. How about investing in an old school alarm clock?
Question: What message would you like to spread to teenagers regarding social media and phone use?
Chelsea Pottenger: Swim in your own lane. One of the easiest ways to stay happy is to not compare your path to others. Get super passionate about your own life, and don't do a disservice to your life by wishing you were living someone else's. You have a beautiful life and research is proving that spending too much time on social media is directly correlated with anxiety and depression.
Photo by BRUNO CERVERA on Unsplash
Interview by Brooke Hunter