The vast majority of us spend a great deal of our time on and with technology. From laptops and smart phones to ipads, e-readers and fitbits, our lives revolve around – and often feel dependent on – technological devices. We find ourselves constantly connected, informed and stimulated, but how does this reality impact our mental health? Is technology harming or helping our psyches?
While the research is largely mixed, there is slightly more evidence to support technology being harmful for our mental health and general well-being. Social media platforms in particular seem to lead to increased anxiety and depression, and decreased levels of sleep and self-esteem. Stress and loneliness also seem to be positively correlated with social media use, although in some cases, social media can be beneficial.
Considering that it isn’t practical or feasible for most of us to simply do away with technology altogether, we must find ways to ensure that our use of technology isn’t creating or exacerbating mental health issues. Here are some tips and suggestions:
- Give yourself a “tech break”: Therapies related to sensory deprivation have been around for years, falling under the category of “restricted environmental stimulation therapy”, or “REST”. Set boundaries for yourself and make sure that you spend time away from technology so that you can tune in to yourself, rest and recharge. Twenty minutes of simply sitting in silence, noticing the sights and sounds around you, is often all it takes to feel refreshed.
- Be mindful of how you use technology: Choose what, how and when you engage with technology, selecting content, articles or social platforms that feed your mind and soul.
- Be aware of your emotions and moods as you use technology: Pay attention to how certain technology makes you feel. If you notice that your mood is often worse after spending time on Facebook (for example), it might behoove you to re-think when or how you use that platform. Check in with your mental health so that you can become aware of the sites or content that helps or harms your peace of mind.