When we think about wellness, we tend to think of fitness classes, getting in our steps, and eating healthy meals, but there are so many more facets to wellness, including digital wellness. Digital wellness is about creating a healthy relationship with technology and contributes to overall wellness.
It can be hard in the digital age we are in to create healthy boundaries with technology, and in the era of COVID-19, technology is not just a tool for work and play, but also a connection to the outside world, how we go grocery shopping, and even a method for assessing the rest of our wellness through virtual physical and mental healthcare appointments. So it’s important to assess how you are using technology on a daily basis and how it’s either contributing to or holding you back from overall wellness.
Have you had one of those days where you wake up, immediately grab your phone, scroll through it until it’s time to open your laptop for work, work all day then spend your evening hours toggling between computer, phone, and TV screens? It can be easy to blur the lines between work and personal life when it’s all done on a screen, especially when there is no commute to signal the end of one activity and the beginning of another. So create one: close your laptop and get up and physically move out of your workspace when you are done with work. Try to spend a half hour after work doing something else, maybe it’s spending time with the people, pets, or plants in your home, or maybe it’s going for a walk or cooking dinner. Even if you return to screens after that half hour, you have created a clear break between work and personal time.
Socially distance from your devices
By now you are probably very familiar with keeping a six-foot radius between yourself and the next unrelated person in public — but you probably don’t do that with your phone. Create times and places where you can and will keep a six-foot distance from your phone. Many sleep experts recommend keeping your phone and other devices out of your bedroom, or at least charging them farther than an arm’s reach from your bed. This may not be possible if you live in a studio apartment, but you can at least move your phone to a place where you must stand up to retrieve it. Other boundaries might include technology-free meal times, or not allowing yourself to take your devices into the bathroom. Maybe the hour before work is your digital down time, or the 6pm hour in the evening — whatever works for you, find specific times and places you can commit to keeping tech free.
Set realistic expectations
Remember that it is about creating a healthy balance, not about removing technology from your life altogether. If you create expectations that are too difficult to reach you might find yourself giving up completely. Not every day is the same — maybe on Tuesdays you have community meetings after work and you can’t shut off your computer between work and play. Not every goal is going to be met everyday. Just like you wouldn’t beat yourself up if you didn’t meet your daily move or step goal, forgot to take your vitamins, or didn’t get enough sleep, don’t be too hard on yourself for falling short of your digital wellness goals either. Not every day is going to be perfect, but it’s about becoming aware and intentional about your relationship with technology, not banishing it from your life.
Use technology to help
There are many apps that can help you promote wellness, for instance there are alarm apps that help remind you to close your laptop or that you are entering the no-screens-before-bedtime window. You can download apps to help you breathe such as Calm, ibreathe, and Breathe In. These are all examples of apps that can help you focus on inhaling and exhaling when you are feeling stressed and want to relieve anxiety and feel grounded. If you find yourself getting bummed when your weekly screen time reports show an increase, you can use app timers to help reign in usage. It may sound odd to use technology to create digital wellness, but again, it’s not about removing technology — it’s about creating overall wellness and acknowledging the part that technology plays.
Between living in the digital age and during a time of social distancing, it can seem like everything from grocery shopping to doctor’s appointments are conducted through a device. It’s hard enough to keep mentally and physically well during a pandemic, but you don’t want to add technology overload to the mix. That’s why it’s crucial to take a step back, look at your digital habits, and set goals on how you can mindfully use digital technology in ways that foster a healthy, fulfilling, and balanced life.