We all understand that taking care of our mental health is important, especially over the last year and a half. We have found ourselves in a place where there are an incredible amount of options available to us in order to feel better about ourselves, each other, and the world at large. Yoga and meditation classes, hiking groups, therapy sessions, and socializing with family and friends are all ways to bolster your mood and confidence, as well as have some fun. Throughout the pandemic, though, many of us have had to change our relationship to these avenues of wellness since gatherings were not allowed. Over time, many adapted and folded in technology into their lives in ways that supplemented their routines and kept their mood afloat. While there are some distinct advantages to using technology in this way, there are, of course, ways in which it can be detrimental. Let’s look at some ways that using technology can help or hinder our mental state.
First of all, the convenience of technology cannot be understated. Having a personal computer in your pocket at all times opens doors we couldn’t have imagined a decade ago. If you need to take a minute to do a guided meditation, there are apps like Headspace and Calm that can help relax your breathing and focus your mind no matter where you are. You can track your mood throughout the day, set reminders to take your meds, or make a to-do list of the jobs you need to complete for the day, all at your fingertips. The anonymity of technology can ease some peoples’ minds as well, particularly if you have social anxiety. Being part of a community without having to reveal your name or any other personal details can be very liberating for some. Additionally, the ubiquity of our devices means that there will always be plenty of options for us to access unique services like therapy appointments over video, or catching up with friends in a group chat, allowing us to feel connected over even the longest of distances. These are but a few of many reasons why technology can be considered an essential component of our mental health, but of course, there are potentials for things to go wrong.
When we talk about our phones and tablets, there is growing concern over becoming addicted. If you find yourself spending an inordinate amount of time on your screen, maybe to the point where friends and family are pointing it out to you, it may be time to make some changes. Staying on your phone well into the night can also wreak havoc on your sleep routine. In addition to this, there is the chance of becoming detrimentally affected by social media, particularly the idea of social comparison. We often put our best foot forward on social media, so our lives can look wonderful and vibrant when viewed through this particular lens. The perceived perfection of others can contribute to lower mood and dissatisfaction with our own lives, so it is important to remind ourselves that we are only seeing what others allow us to see, which really only amounts to a fraction. Social media use can also lead to doomscrolling. This phenomenon occurs when we get caught up in our news feeds and feel overwhelmed by the negative, persistent news that is seemingly befalling our planet. Finally, the flipside to the convenience of technology is the expectation of instant gratification. We may become very used to getting what we need in an instant that we forget the value of patience, contributing to low frustration tolerance and a higher level of anxiety and anger if, for example, we don’t get a message back from our friend quickly enough. Hope is not lost though! A little balance can go a long way in managing these potentially harmful effects of technology.
There are ways of setting limits on the amount of screen time we have throughout our day. Certain apps shut down or offer reminders if we’ve been using them too long. A little awareness can go a long way in this respect. If you are finding it difficult to separate yourself from your device, try leaving it at home if you go for a walk (the fact that you’re likely balking at this idea means that maybe you should try it). Planning a hike where there is a lack of cellular connectivity can also do the trick, allowing the benefits of being disconnected to shine through. Set limits and boundaries with texts sent to friends; the faster you reply, the faster they expect the next reply. It can help to remind ourselves that people have rich, developed lives off their phones and tablets, and they may not be at them all the time, waiting to respond. There is no easy answer to incorporating technology into the betterment of the self; being more mindful and aware of your approach and usage is a great first step. You can follow that up with a short digital vacation if you need it. Like most things in life, it is up to us to decide whether something we use will be positive or negative.
Here are a few resources to get you started:
https://www.calm.com – A meditation app
https://www.anxietycanada.com/resources/mindshift-cbt/ - an online resource for CBT tools and meditations.
https://daylio.net – a daily mood/behaviour tracker
www.crisiscentrechat.ca – Crisis Centre for Adults
www.youthinbc.com – Crisis Centre for Youth
Robert Baker, MA RCC