Wellbeing and technology

Yesterday I delivered a workshop on Wellbeing and Technology at the Civil Society Media Charity Technology Conference. We had about thirty people in the room exploring the costs of technology, whether we are addicted to our technology, what we want our relationship with technology to be like, and five strategies on how to achieve a more fulfilling and productive relationship with it.

It’s an important topic to explore. And I understand the irony that all of you are reading this piece on some sort of machine. One day I’ll go house to house each Thursday to share my blog with you face to face. Kind of like a wellbeing Santa.

Anyway… I’d like to share with you some of the ideas we explored yesterday.

Firstly, let’s look at the costs of using technology. A study by the National Institute of Mental Health has found a strong and significant association between social media use and depression. And a study by Science Direct has shown that as mobile phone use increases, so does anxiety. Social media, in particular, has a big part to play in low levels of wellbeing.

But technology across the board comes with costs. We also lose time spent down the internet rabbit hole, and connection with the humans and the environments around us is reduced when we’re constantly logged on. Fatigue and forgetfulness show up as we process the information bombardment we receive whilst being online, and we lose sleep due to working late on emails or feeling wired due to the blue light in our devices.

The costs are pretty hefty.

Further to this, we use technology to numb out to emotions. I know when I’m in struggle, I will ease the pain by scrolling through Instagram, looking at pictures of people I don’t really know. We numb ourselves out to our feelings by using technology, just as we might do with alcohol or overeating.

Essentially, we need to look at our relationship with technology as part of our process of taking care of our wellbeing.

Once we’ve looked at our relationship with technology, it’s much easier to identify what needs to change, and how we’re going to create that change.

So here are five ideas to think about.

#1 Stay mindful of the rabbit hole. Utilise your mindfulness practice to stay aware of when you’re spending too long looking at stuff that doesn’t serve you. Put the phone down.

#2 Have some boundaries. Tell others you are not online after 6pm, tell yourself you’re not online after 6pm!

#3 Be with your emotions. Rather than using your technology in times of vulnerability (ie when you’re waiting for a friend in a public place and you scroll rather than experience how you’re actually feeling), put the phone down and check in with yourself. And remember you can handle any emotion that comes up for you. Emotions are beautiful and not something we need to suppress or fear.

#4 Upgrade or downgrade. Get the most efficient technology you can so things don’t take a frustratingly long amount of time, or downgrade your mobile to a good old-fashioned Nokia 2210 so you actually can’t do anything on it other than send texts or call. (Do Nokia 2210s still exist?!)

#5 Positive replacement. Do something where you can’t use technology at the same time. Run, or read, or chat, or be in nature.

We can be in charge of our technology, rather than the other way round. And it’s crucial that we live this way for the sake of our on-going wellbeing.

With love, Hannah

PS. You can still get your hands on a Trigg Life Mapper with a 10% discount. Follow this link to purchase your copy and use the code BIRD2019. Trigg life mappers are actual physical objects that invite you to step away from technology!

Photo by Ales Nesetril on Unsplash

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