3 things Gen Z can do today to reduce anxiety and be more productive

Nearly two decades into the age of smartphones, some experts are warning about the potential dangers of being plugged in anytime, anywhere. Especially when it comes to those whose brains are still developing.

Americans under the age of 30 reported lower levels of happiness from 2021 to 2023 than those over the age of 60, according to this year’s World Happiness Report.

Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at New York University’s Stern School of Business, puts the blame squarely on our devices.

His new book, The Anxious Generation: How the Great Reconnection of Childhood Is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness, argues that the constant access to social media that phones have given us has led to social comparison, sleep deprivation and loneliness in General Z. .

And it has struck a nerve: his book is currently #3 on the New York Times bestseller list.

Zach Rausch, the lead researcher at Haidt and an associate scientist at the NYU-Stern School of Business, says kids who had access to social media and iPhones in elementary and middle school are more anxious and less productive.

“The purpose of technology is for it to be a tool that we use to accomplish our goals,” he says. “If you don’t, you end up using us at the cost of our goals.”

But there are ways to curb these negative effects. Here are three things you can do today to increase your happiness and stay focused.

1. Buy an alarm clock.

Your phone being the last thing you interact with before bed and the first thing you wake up with can negatively affect your sleep and increase your stress levels.

Buying an alarm clock and keeping your device out of the bedroom can create a physical and mental distance from social media.

2. Use your phone to meet people in person.

Often, Instagram chats or texts don’t cross over from digital to physical.

“We used rotary phones to connect with each other so we could meet in person,” says Rausch. “The online world is kind of the opposite. We connect to stay there. And our argument is that that’s not enough.”

We used rotary phones to connect with each other so we could eventually meet in person. The online world is somewhat the opposite. We bond to stay there

Zach Rausch

Associate Scientist at NYU-Stern School of Business

Yale University happiness professor Laurie Santos echoes this sentiment.

“Every available study of happy people suggests that happy people are more social, they spend more time physically around other people, and they invest time in their friends and family members,” said Santos, who teaches the course “The Science of Well-Being” at Yale for CNBC Make. She.

3. Mute notifications.

Teens receive 237 smartphone notifications per day, according to a 2023 study that surveyed 203 teens and tweens between the ages of 11 and 17. Almost a quarter, 23%, arrived during school.

Silencing notifications can help you stay present and productive during the hours that matter most.

Rausch points out that getting rid of smartphones is not a cure for depression. But using your phone in a more thoughtful way can help you pursue activities that have been proven to increase your happiness, like socializing in person, and get more done.

“It’s not that we should reject technology completely,” he says. “It’s that as technology is rapidly changing the way we live our lives, we need to pause and think about how we want this to be in our lives. Does it fulfill us? Does it help us thrive? Does it help us fulfill our goals and if not, what can we do to change it?

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