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Checking Your Phone When You Wake Up Is Ruining Your Day -- And Your Brain

Almost all of us share this bad morning habit and it's making us super stressed.

Wellbeing expert, neuroscience PhD student and R U OK? ambassador Chelsea Pottenger surveyed over 95,000 Aussies and found 90 percent of them check their phone as soon as they wake up.

She said this seemingly harmless habit -- a quick scroll through Instagram, checking the news, replying to emails -- might be the worst way to start the day.

"Everyone does it -- we're in a habit of doing it, but not many people know the science behind what it's actually doing to us," Pottenger told 10 daily.

And what is that exactly?

To explain, we need to go back to bed, or more accurately those moments before and after we wake up.

Wake up, sleepy head

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.

READ MORE: How Screens Are Sabotaging Your Sleep And What To Do About It

"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.

According to Pottenger, emotions like stress last in our nervous system for about 90 seconds but if we continue thinking or "ruminating" on those emotions they literally become fixed in our brain.

In the long term, this can lead to feelings of paranoia, worry, fear, anger and irritability, all of which are connected to a weakened immune system.

The eight-minute rule

What should we do instead of checking our phones in the AM? Well, first up, Pottenger wants us to remove the temptation to check altogether, and that means no more using our phones as alarm clocks.

In fact, a 'no phones in the bedroom rule' is best as it removes all temptation. Instead, she suggests charging phones in the kitchen overnight "while you charge your brain in the bedroom."

Oh, and invest in an alarm clock, of course.

READ MORE: How To Break Your Phone Addiction Right Now

Don't worry -- you only have to be apart from your phone for a short while in the morning to make the most of the theta brainwave period. Eight minutes to be exact.

Pottenger is urging Aussies to spend the first eight minutes after waking up "embedding" something positive in our minds. That might be as simple as saying good morning to our partners or drinking a glass of hot water and lemon.

Going for a gentle walk or doing some light stretches while setting an intention for the day will also help wire our brain for happiness.

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.

Anything as long as it's not staring at your phone.

Feature image: Getty.