Xav: How Technology has Affected our Mental Health (Part 2) - How Technology Can Improve Mental Health

Part 1 looked at the Good and the Bad of technology for our mental health. As mentioned:

"Even for adults, much of our stress is caused by technology. We often become overwhelmed by technology's flood of incoming demands on our time and energy. Mobile phones, texting, e-mail, WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram notifications all insistently demanding an immediate response. We sometimes allow our gadgets to dictate our lives."
If we are unable to effectively manage our use of technology, it will not be good for our mental health.  Here are some technological methods to help you:

1. Mood tracking
In recent years, many mood tracking applications have appeared on the digital market.  While more research on digital mood trackers needs to be done, experts have acknowledged that digital mood tracking can bring new insights to the clinical psychology field (Malhi et al., 2017; Caldeira et al., 2017).  Mood tracking helps individuals understand their mood patterns better, thus improving one’s self-awareness.  As such, while studies have shown that technology affects psychological health - for example, it drives anxiety, as mentioned by Jerry in the previous post - it can be used as well, to cope with anxiety and low moods in the context of mood trackers.

2. Sleep quality
Many studies have also shown that browsing through light-emitting devices such as smartphones and laptops can disrupt sleep (Chang, Aeschbach, Duffy and Czeisler, 2015).  The over-usage of technology is linked to poor sleep quality.  As we know, quality sleep is the foundation of health- better sleep is linked to higher well-being.
However, technology can improve your sleep quality.  There are many applications and technological devices available these days for you to track REM sleep, snoring and even how much you toss and turn in your sleep!  Some applications even synchronise sounds with your breathing pattern to help you fall into slumber.  Evidently, if used right, technology can too, improve your sleep quality.

3. Meditation
In recent years, meditation has been highly raved about on social media and health websites because of the health benefits it brings.  This is also backed up by many scientific studies.  Research has found that meditation can improve stress-related conditions such as fibromyalgia and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (Kozasa, Tanaka, Monson, Little, Leao and Peres, 2012; Lang, Strauss, Bomyea, Bormann, Hickman, Good and Essex, 2012).
But, despite all the benefits of meditation, it can be undeniably difficult to find meditation lessons or take time out for meditation classes, especially if you are in a fast-paced society like Singapore.  This is when technology comes into handy.  There are many meditation phone apps available currently in the market, focusing on breathing and providing guided meditation.  These applications usually allow the user to choose the duration of time they can afford, and even send out daily reminders that help you to cultivate a habit.  Evidently, technology allows us to fit healthy mental health habits such as meditation into our busy schedules.

4. Improving attention
As mentioned by Jerry, technology affects attention span and cognition.  However, there are applications that can improve one’s attention span.  These applications allow you to add distracting applications to a blacklist and when you use the application, it prevents you from accessing those applications on the list.  This allows the user to be fully focused on the task at hand without getting off-track due to distractions such as social media or the internet.
If you do not want to download an application for this purpose, you can always use the alarm function on your phone and allocate time-slots to work and breaks.

5. Reaching out to communities
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Indeed, using technology around people disrupts our social life, eventually leading to social isolation.  However, technology can also be used as a platform to facilitate social bonding and ease feelings of loneliness.  There are many online communities that provide social and emotional support for those without a social support structure, as well as those facing mental health issues.  These communities seek to educate and spread awareness.  Under circumstances where an individual is facing difficulties and has no one to turn to for advice, these communities provide information for these individuals and give them empowerment.

Indeed, technology brings about psychological effects and can impact our mental health.  However, if used correctly, it can also empower an individual and get our health on track.
Here's an infographic to help you summarise this post!