Scientists are still figuring out the potential downsides of having the miniature computers known as smartphones forever in our pockets, but the research so far suggests that these devices are having a long-term detrimental effect on both our posture and mood.
Harvard Business School professor and social psychologist Amy Cuddy in a recent New York Times article says that posture can cause negative emotional states as well as reflect them. A study published earlier this year found that when people were forced to slouch, it had a negative effect on mood and self-esteem. The trouble is that looking at a phone usually requires hunching over and looking down, unless you regularly hold your phone at eye level. This means we’re putting around 40 pounds (18 kg) of extra strain on our neck at 30 degrees, 60 pounds (27 kg) at 60 degrees.
“Ironically, while many of us spend hours every day using small mobile devices to increase our productivity and efficiency, interacting with these objects, even for short periods of time, might do just the opposite, reducing our assertiveness and undermining our productivity,” writes Cuddy. “Your physical posture sculpts your psychological posture, and could be the key to a happier mood and greater self-confidence.”
She suggests avoiding the practice of hunching over smaller screens where we can, and using larger devices whenever possible. It’s also a good idea to regularly run through a series of exercises that stretch the back, shoulder, and neck muscles.