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Redefining Wellness for the Digital Era

Digital Technology has become ubiquitous. A smartphone in every hand, even amongst the smallest of fingers. Some would argue that devices have become an extension of oneself, playing an essential role in just about every part of people’s daily lives.

Information, commerce, and communication are within a “click”, from knowing the time, booking appointments, and buying that last-minute birthday present, thus making life easier and more practical. Thank Goodness!

Yet terms such as ‘Zoom Fatigue’, ‘Digital Burnout’ and ‘Digital Detox’ have become prominent themes since the pandemic, as we transferred our offline lives to the online world. As our devices impact every aspect of our lives, it’s hard to think of  wellbeing without considering how our connection with technology and our relationships with our devices impact our health.

We cannot hope for balanced and healthy lifestyles if we don’t bring awareness to our consumption. How can we nourish a healthy body and mind if our use can impact us negatively? So we need to include another dimension of wellness to sit alongside the four principles (spiritual, emotional, social, physical).

We call this, Digital Wellness. It focuses on maintaining a healthy relationship with our digital technologies by understanding how use supports our goals and values rather than distracting us, interrupting us, or getting in the way of having a happy and balanced life.

We can look at it under two main strands when we think about our digital wellness. Digital Mindfulness and Digital Nutrition.

Digital Mindfulness

This is based on our awareness and intention behind using our digital technologies.

  • Do you find yourself getting sucked down that Instagram vacuum?
  • Are you scrolling through newsfeeds for 30 minutes when you only intended it to be 5?
  • Following accounts that don’t provide you with true inspiration or joy?
  • Do you switch from app to app, head down when you could be looking up?
  • Are we aware of how the apps we use and our platforms are designed to persuade us to remain on them longer?
  • Do we use our technology to serve our actual goals and values, or do we serve theirs?

Digital Nutrition

The psychologist Jocelyn Brewer came up with a fantastic concept of viewing our technology use the same way we look at food consumption. Based on this, device use is neither good nor bad, but we should be aware of how much we use it, how we use it and then bring awareness to the quality of our consumption.

For example, there is a vast difference between mindlessly scrolling through our Instagram feeds looking at influencer’s holiday snaps versus opening our podcast app and listening with intent to a topic of choice.

We are bound to devour some junk along the way and let’s face it, there is a place for that, especially during a long night feed or mid-way through half term. In general, however, to achieve optimal wellness, we should consume content and use devices that nourish and . Next time you pick up your phone to unintentionally scroll, ask yourself if it’s going to do just that.

We know our devices are an integral part of our lives; they can help us achieve incredible things and provide us with many opportunities, which would have been unthinkable in the past. They were a lifeline during the lockdown and continue to be on many different levels.

However, when we are not in our optimum state of use, it can harm all critical areas of our lives – our Mental Health, Physical Health, Productivity, Relationships and Personal Growth. One of the issues today is that our tech use, especially when it comes to our smartphones, tends to mean unintentional use fuelled by the design techniques implemented.

Sometimes, we are not even aware of it. We reach for our devices for many reasons, some of which are purely practical, some of which are subconscious, but some are surprisingly emotionally deep. It has become habitual to reach for our phones as a response to our internal emotional triggers, be that out of boredom, anxiety, or insecurity.

When we feel those uncomfortable sensations that we’re not ready to experience, we check the news, celebrity gossip, Instagram–anything not to feel them. ​Let’s take an example- It’s 2 pm Friday, you’re working and feeling unmotivated and bored, yet there is a big project you need to work on. Still, instead, you reach for your phone to recheck the news, scroll through social, look through old emails etc.

You have to do a challenging task you don’t feel connected with. It’s stressful, making you feel anxious. Emotions dictate our habits, so when we are feeling, e.g. bored, stressed, nervous etc., our brains respond by seeking to get out of those states or avoid them entirely.

We begin to form associations with these internal triggers, becoming part of our routine behaviour, creating a habit. ‍Spending lots of time unintentionally on our devices may make us feel bad about ourselves. We know it could be “time-wasting”, “not god for us”, or “unhealthy”, so what do we do?

We pick up our phones again, go on our laptops and open a new search either to avoid experiencing those negative sensations or to lift our spirits, perhaps by posting a picture and getting a dose of dopamine or serotonin, which makes us feel good.

By bringing awareness to one’s digital habits and recognising that we are vulnerable to being distracted by internal and external factors, we can hope to achieve optimum wellness. Tech use must be synonymous with wellbeing; it’s time to redefine what wellness means for the digital era. It’s time to focus on our Digital wellbeing too.