The official name for smartphone addiction is nomophobia, simply defined by the fear of not having your phone. Studies show that it’s worse than we thought, with most smartphone users having it. Common symptoms include having difficulty concentrating, completing chores or work, and sleeping, or feeling anxious when your phone isn’t with you. It’s easy to diagnose too, just take this short test.
Forest was created to help users stay concentrated without the disruption of a phone. You start by planting a tree in your very own virtual forest by setting a designated time to stay off your phone. As time goes by, your sapling grows. When you leave the app your tree withers and dies. Everyday you can see your virtual forest filled with, hopefully alive, trees, representing your focus time. For every tree that grows, you earn virtual coins that can be used to plant real trees in the real world. Forest partners with Trees for the Future to plant over 319,000 trees so far. Trees for the Future works with farming families in five African nations - Senegal, Cameroon, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. Not only does the organization plant trees, but growers are part of a four year training program on reforestation and commercial crop cultivation. The program proves effective, with graduates earning four times more annually than before the program. In 2018, 3,200 farming families will graduate. With families earning extra money, many families can afford to send their children to school, improving the education and literacy rates in small communities. They can also afford bigger and better meals than before. The creator of Trees for the Future hopes in the long run that the organization will help end hunger and malnutrition across Africa, and eventually, the world.
Not only is Forest good for the Earth, it’s good for you. Researchers at Korea University in Seoul used brain imagaing technology to study the brain of teenage boys diagnosed with smartphone addiction and teenage boys who were not addicted. They found that the addicted teenagers had higher levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter that inhibits neurons. Higher levels of GABA slow down neurons, causing poor attention and control, making you vulnerable to distractions. But through limiting internet time, through mindfulness training and apps like Forest, GABA levels can normalize.
There’s a reason Forest is ranked among the top 5 productivity apps in the App Store in 85 countries, and that’s for its simplicity and effectiveness. Watching a healthy virtual forest grow is motivation itself, but knowing that you’re earning coins to plant real life trees is inspiring. To find out more about Forest go here.