Put the phone down, not only to improve your productivity, but to actually boost your emotional intelligence. Science now back what others have argued: Too much device time actually lowers your sensitivity and overstimulates your emotions.
The best part? You can begin to achieve a more balanced outlook by just unplugging and enjoying solitude for 15 minutes.
In the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, They-vy Nguyen and her research team at the University of Rochester compared a group with high social stimuli (including their mobile devices) for 15 minutes with a group that had solitude for the same amount of time.
For their new paper, Nguyen’s team first asked 75 student participants to spend 15 minutes sitting alone in a comfortable chair at the psych lab, away from their digital devices and without engaging in any activity. For comparison, 39 other students spent the same time chatting with a research assistant. Before and after this 15 minute period, all the students completed a questionnaire measuring their “high arousal” positive and negative emotions (examples being excited, interested, scared, distressed). The results were clear: the participants in the solitude condition, but not the comparison group, showed reductions in their positive and negative emotions – what the researchers described as a “deactivation effect”.
The power of the deactivation effect
It isn’t a panacea for challenging moments, but the scientists found that 15 minutes of solitude with no stimulation resets our equilibrium. Emotional intelligence is the ability to respond maturely to others as well as to outward circumstances. In a sense, ‘The deactivation effect’ turns down the volume of our own anxiety.
It seems solitude doesn’t have a simple emotional effect that can be caricatured as good or bad; rather, it changes the intensity of our inner experience, both positive and negative: accentuating low-key emotions, while dialling [sic] down our stronger feelings.
How to use it today
Fifteen minutes isn’t very long: That’s a coffee break, a meditation session, a brisk walk or a power nap. In fact, if you’re doing any of these things, you may already be utilizing the deactivation effect.
And the importance of the deactivation effect is twice as important if, like me, you are an introvert. As famous introvert advocate Susan Cain recently said, “Once again, here is social science research, confirming what you already knew: 15 min of device free solitude can make you calm and happy.”
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