Technology is a double-edged sword. Take social media, for example. It allows us to connect with friends and family across the world, share our lives, and discover new interests, but it’s ironically a social technology that reduces social involvement and psychological well-being.
According to the World Health Organization, more than a quarter of people worldwide aren’t getting enough physical activity, which can lead to poor health and poor quality of life. The rise in sedentary lifestyles is often attributed to the rise of technology – we work, study, and even socialize sitting at home more than ever before.
And it’s not just physical health that technology can affect. Our mental health can also be impacted by technology, with studies showing a link between excessive smartphone use and higher levels of anxiety and depression.
But before we start looking at technology as the enemy, we have to keep in mind that technology is also a wonderful tool that has the power to improve our health and wellness. There’s wearable technology like Apple Watches and FitBits that lets individuals track their physical activity levels, telemedicine to access medical care at home, and transformational mental health technology like tDCS devices.
So how can we navigate this tech-driven world for the better? How can we effectively reap its benefits without suffering from its drawbacks? We’re about to dive into the positive and negative effects of technology on health and wellness and the rise of mental health technology.
How Has the Development of Technology Positively Affected Our Wellness
The Global Wellness Institute talks about wellness as a multidimensional state that involves intentions, choices, and actions that work toward an optimal state of health and well-being. Thanks to technology, the pursuit is much more accessible and convenient.
With just a few clicks, we can now find reliable medical information online and even connect with medical professionals through telemedicine and virtual healthcare services. About one-in-five Americans use a fitness tracker or smartwatch that allows them to monitor physical activity levels, heart rate, and sleep patterns. And health and fitness apps remove the barrier of needing to hire a trainer or nutritionist.
It’s also revolutionized the way we approach mental health. Mental health apps and support groups provide people with easy access to therapy, self-care practices, and community support, while virtual reality (VR) therapy allows people to experience anxiety-provoking situations in a safe and controlled environment. VR therapy has been deemed promising for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other anxiety-related disorders.
The ease of communication through digital devices has ultimately made it easier for people to connect with each other, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
When Too Much is Too Much: The Downside of Technology for Our Health and Wellness
Like all good things, technology comes with a catch. Technology makes daily living less labor-intense and more efficient, but also a lot more sedentary. Although advances in medicine have increased our life expectancies, we’re living longer but with higher obesity rates and with poorer physical function due to a lack of physical activity.
Another major downside of technology is its impact on our sleep. With 95% of people saying they regularly use electronics within an hour of bedtime, there’s a reason for interference in our sleep quality and length. Blue light emitted by screens can interfere with our circadian rhythm, making it harder for us to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Our mental health can also take a serious hit. People often spend too many of their waking hours on social media in replacement of socialization, which has led to feelings of loneliness, isolation, and lack of companionship. Countless studies have shown the positive correlation between excessive smartphone use to be alarming, one demonstrating its association with psychiatric, emotional, cognitive, and brain changes.
Mental Health Technology: tDCS, EEG Headsets, PEMF, and More
In recent years, there’s been a growing interest in using technology for mental health treatment. Mental health technology simply refers to a range of tools and resources aimed at promoting mental health and wellness.
From therapy apps and mental health chatbots to more advanced tools like tDCS, tACS, PEMF, EEG headsets, neurofeedback, and TENS, these devices use a range of techniques to improve brain function and alleviate symptoms of mental health disorders. For instance, home-based transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) has been touted as a complement to other mental health treatments, using low-level electrical currents to stimulate the brain’s nerve cells.
Arguably the biggest benefit of using mental health technology is improved access to resources. Individuals need more alternatives to antidepressants and more options for seeking help. This can be especially important for those who live in remote areas, have limited access to mental health care, or live in low-income areas.
These technologies can make people feel more empowered and reduce the stigma around seeking help for mental health issues, as some people may feel more comfortable seeking help from a device or app rather than a face-to-face interaction.
However, there are also concerns about using mental health technology. One of them being privacy, as many apps and devices collect personal data that can be sensitive in nature. There are also concerns about the effectiveness of some mental health technologies, with some needing stronger scientific evidence to back up their benefits.
Despite these concerns, the future of mental health technology is promising. It’s a great way to encourage individuals to manage their mental health and well-being the way they feel best. With each passing day, it seems as though we get to witness exciting developments in the field of mental health treatment – it’s truly an exciting time in the mental health sphere.
As we wrap up, let’s take a moment to reflect on the impact that technology has had on our health and wellness. While it’s undeniable that technology is responsible for many of the amazing advances in the field of medicine and mental health treatment, we want to remember to find balance and use technology in a responsible way.
Health is truly our greatest wealth, and we owe it to ourselves to prioritize it in a world that’s becoming increasingly driven by technology. Our commitment should be toward our physical and mental well-being and to continue exploring new ways that technology can enhance them. Here’s to a healthy and balanced future – powered by the incredible possibilities of health and wellness technology.