I've been helping out a dear friend, who just lost her mother. Long story, but, I was there when she had to write a critical email to someone.
As I watched her, I noticed something: she wasn't breathing as she typed. Over the next few days I started to watch other people, fingers and eyes glued to their smart phones. They weren't breathing either for five to 10 seconds--and, sometimes, longer.
Then I noticed myself. Wait...every time I composed a text or email, I literally held my breath the whole time I typed. What?! How did I never notice this before?
The physiological effect of holding your breath, even for seconds, works like this. Holding your breath kicks in the amygdala brain's "flight/fright" sense that you are in danger, and that message is sent from the brain to body. Then, the body is pumped full of adrenalin.
You may have just been replying to a quick text, but your body is left stressed and anxious thanks to the adrenalin surge. And this cycle repeats itself again and again.
Amazingly, I learned that Dr. Margaret Chesney at National Institute of Health (NIH) has researched this phenomenon. She says it exists and she calls it "email apnea". She cites evidence of stress-related diseases in the body as oxygen and carbon monoxide levels are thrown off. Over 80% of us seem to suffer from email apnea while working at our desks and managing the stress of our in-boxes.
When will scientists extend their studies to mobile devices? These palm-size devices now ask us to land our big fingers on our little keyboards at the average rate of 33 words per minute! (Yes, 33 words per minute is the average speed, according to IBM.)
I have a theory: "smart" devices are making us more productive, but they are starving us from air, over and over again. No wonder, they don't make us feel more fulfilled. They are literally depriving us of our most essential lifeblood: oxygen.
Smart devices are here to stay. But, the next time you check your phone, or text a message, notice if you are breathing and then do yourself a favor: consciously, mindfully, and deeply breathe.