Using Technology to Help Maintain Mental Health
By Maryam Sheikh
A recent census conducted by Common Sense Media concluded that on average, teenagers spent up to 7 and a half hours on smartphones daily. Most of that use is dedicated to video watching, playing games, and using social media. However, there has been an interesting link between increased smartphone and technology use and the rise in mental health problems.
This begs the question- is it possible to use apps and the Internet as tools for positive change? With the widespread availability of resources today, it is essential to utilize technology to our advantage. Moreover, many of these resources that are available are provided free of charge or come with minor subscription fees, which makes them easily accessible to a large audience. They provide an alternative to therapy and can be appropriate options for people who either cannot leave their homes or lack the financial means to reach out for professional help. They also come with a sense of anonymity and provide safe spaces for people who aren’t yet ready to talk to others.
The practices of mindfulness, meditation, and focused breathing have all become methods that people have used and found to be effective in combating struggles with mental health. Mindfulness is a process that is used to focus on one’s experiences in the present while accepting emotions and thoughts. Meditation is another practice in which an individual focuses their mind on a specific activity or object to practice awareness and achieve a peaceful state of mind. Lastly, focused breathing emphasizes relaxation which also helps attain a calm state.
All of these practices have proven to be beneficial. In fact, a study published in the Consciousness and Cognition Journal concluded that the mindfulness meditation training group, members showed improved mood and reduced fatigue and anxiety.
An app that includes all three practices is Calm. It has over 50 million downloads worldwide and has been named by the Centre of Human Technology as “the world’s happiest app”. It includes guided meditation recordings, sleep guides, calm music, mindfulness movements, and stretching exercises.
On the app’s website, calm.com, users can look through mental fitness training guides, calm intention cards, peak performance journals, and sleep stories. Furthermore, they are able to read blog posts and download eat, sleep, and mindfulness journals. Calm has a lot to offer- both under the free trials and paid subscriptions.
Another app that is widely available is called What’s Up and used cognitive behavioural therapy and acceptance commitment therapy practices to help users deal with depression, anxiety, and stress. The app focuses on tracking positive and negative habits in order to break the unhealthy ones and maintain the good ones. What’s Up provides questions to help guide users through their emotions as well as tools to help curb unhealthy internal monologues.
In conclusion, Internet and technology have evolved rapidly and have become tools that people use worldwide. Though they can be unhealthy when used excessively, there is no doubt that they can be used as positive tools of change. Calm and What’s Up are just two great resources to help anyone struggling or looking to establish a routine in managing their mental health. It is extremely important to practice self-care, mindfulness, and calming techniques in today’s busy world!