Help or Hindrance: The Fine Art of Balancing Technology and Health

Top tips on how to maintain a healthy relationship with technology for mental wellbeing.

No doubt about it – technology is a huge part of our professional and personal lives and it’s here to stay. Consider your office – how many technological items do you use throughout the day? A computer? Tablet? Mobile phone? Perhaps even virtual assistants, smart speakers, presentation screens? The list goes on.

Our reliance on technology stems from its utility. It’s smart, it’s fast, it connects us to the rest of the world and has transformed our working environments. Often for the better! However, we also hear messages of concern: how it’s addictive, inhibiting human interaction, keeping us awake at night.

With both benefits and pitfalls to technology, a fine balancing act is required. That’s why we’ve explored the nation’s use of technology and share tips on how you can ensure a healthy relationship with your digital devices.

What does a ‘healthy relationship with technology’ really mean?

Over the past year, we’ve all used technology for entertainment. Whether it’s been for virtual quizzes, Zoom calls with loved ones or even learning a new skill – tech has been vital in helping us get through the tough months at home.

But let’s face it, we don’t always use tech for the greater good. It’s all too easy to get stuck down the internet rabbit hole, scrolling for hours. Plus, with the new Screen Time function available on smartphones, it’s difficult to ignore the amount of time we spend glued to our screens.

In her article in Greater Good Magazine, Digital Wellness Institute co-founder, Amy Blankson, suggests that we should: “Think of digital wellness as a spectrum, ranging from excessive technology use to complete unplugging”.

We should all aim for digital flourishing – right slap bang in the middle!

Picture from Digital Wellness Institute

Why’s it so difficult to achieve digital flourishing?

Our relationship with technology has moved on a lot over the past decade. Staying connected is no longer optional, but a key component of most office working environments.

Harvard Business Review explains the difficulties of maintaining not just a work-life balance, but also a tech-life balance. Setting strict deadlines for tech use can be tricky, and extreme behavioural shifts can be “unproductive”. They describe how “finding tech-body balance is a constant experiment, and one that is different for everyone”.

Top tips to encourage a healthy relationship with tech

In his TEDTalk, marketing professional, William Meara, offers a few practical ways to improve your relationship with technology. In just under 12 minutes, he shares a great toolkit we can all follow:

  • Use a traditional alarm clock to help you wake up, rather than your phone.
  • Give your mind a break. We give ourselves a break from work, but we don’t let our mind relax. Try to eat lunch without looking at your phone.
  • Airplane mode – use it!
  • The number one symptom of a tech addict is insomnia. Try turning your phone off at least one hour before you plan on sleeping; it can help you fall asleep quicker and reduce stress too (no late-night checking of work emails!). If you must be on your phone before bed, make sure to enable night mode to dim the tone of the screen.
  • Live for the moments. When we rush to capture special moments on our devices, we can sometimes prevent ourselves from being present in that moment. Remember to live it, not just film it!

P.S. Who else has nomophobia?!

In addition to the tips above, technology itself can sometimes be a benefit when it comes to balancing our wellbeing needs. Many people are turning to wellbeing apps as a means to manage physical and mental health in their day-to-day lives. Popular options include Calm and Headspace for meditation, as well as Fitness+ for exercise.

“Making technology work for you means that it’s not necessarily about ‘on’ or ‘off’ anymore. It’s about figuring out where your middle ground is, where your balance is.” – Zoe Aston, Psychotherapist.

Lucile Allen-Paisant at MindIt suggests:

  • Be aware of your habits: do you take out your phone to check on your notifications as soon as your hands are free? Do you open social media apps as soon as you wake up in the morning? Awareness is the very first step towards change! Turn off notifications from social media and emails: it will enable you to only open the app when you have the time and mental space, preventing any distractions.
  • Set boundaries: make use of the boundaries you can set on your phone, such as ‘downtime’ (setting up a time when your phone is going into sleep mode automatically), ‘app limits’ (to set time limits to use certain apps) or simply ‘do not disturb’ for you to focus on other things!
  • Delete time-consuming apps from time to time. I personally delete Instagram regularly, and set myself goals, such as ‘I won’t use Instagram for a week’. I always realise that I have so much more time!
  • And last but not least, start small! If it seems hard, try to plug this new habit of disconnecting onto one of your daily habits, such as ‘I won’t look at my phone while I have lunch / brush my teeth / have my morning coffee…’ and try to do this consistently for a few weeks. One step at a time!

Thank you to MindIt for taking part in this blog post. Lucile’s LinkedIn profile can be found here.