Technology is ubiquitous and improving every day. We all face a paradox in choosing between two best practices. On the one hand, entrepreneurs and builders are asking us to plug in to the long list of tools and resources made available by apps, devices and online search; benefiting from knowledge at our fingertips. On the other, the wisdom of generations who knew nothing of the iPhone suggests we disconnect, unplug and spend time off screen with friends and family, taking in the beauty of the natural world.
Truth is, more of us spend more time online than is widely considered “healthy.”
According to the Pew Research Center, 96% of Millennials and 95% of Gen Xers own a cell phone, 81% of Millennials have a Facebook, and 55% of Millennials have posted a selfie on a social media site.1 Have you ever tried leaving your phone at home for a day? Not bringing your computer to do work or study? Just the sheer thought of either of those ideas makes most of us pretty uncomfortable.
Being attached to technology and the internet isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Those technologies and online tools can make your life healthier too. There are also minor changes you can make to how you use technology to help offset the negative effects of using it as often as many of us do.
Here’s a deeper dive into making time spent on your phone or computer healthier, both physically and mentally.
Improving Your Mental Health While Online
You may not realize it, but your time online may be negatively impacting your emotional health. Studies show a direct link between internet usage and depression, anxiety and stress, possibly due to decreased social functioning and increased isolation from time spent on the internet. Being aware of the correlation might be all you need to maintain a healthy balance, but consider these tips if you’re worried about spending too much time online.
Limit Your Access
A good method for combating negative internet usage is installing a website blocker on your internet browser. This extension will temporarily block access to certain websites that may be fueling your never-ending desire to stay on your computer and keep scrolling through Facebook or Reddit instead of doing that productive thing you have to do.
Spend Time Learning and Expanding Your Horizons
If blocking websites is too drastic for you, you could also try finding content on the internet that can make your time on the web much more productive. There are plenty of educational and informative sites that can help exercise your brain while also satisfying your need to spend time online. Listen to a TedTalk, read new academic publications on Google Scholar, or, if you’re a Reddit lurker, subscribe to educational or self-improvement subreddits instead of watching cat videos and downvoting repetitive memes. Additionally, Google Alerts are a great way to receive content related to topics that interest you and they can be emailed to you as often as content about the topics you’ve selected gets published online.
Actively Treat Your Mental Health
Telehealth is rapidly growing in popularity and is becoming more and more accessible. There are a number of online options for finding a mental health provider who fits your needs and connecting for sessions from your home computer. Usually, all you need is a decent internet connection, webcam and a microphone. For example, try the Inpathy platform. Inpathy has a directory of social workers, therapist, psychologists, psychiatrists and other providers available for online sessions. They’re even all trained specifically in delivering care online. You can access the Inpathy platform on your computer or your smartphone in whatever private space works for you.
The Best Apps for Improving Health
It may not seem realistic to think you can improve your health while using your phone, but when used appropriately, your smartphones is an excellent tool to help maintain a healthy lifestyle. There are many apps that can make your life more efficient and enjoyable, check out these health-related apps that can help make a positive impact on your physical and mental health:
MyFitnessPal and Lose It: These diet and exercise apps are free to use and contain extensive databases of foods to help you make healthier choices. Track your caloric intake, your exercise expenditure and other health data to get a better sense of how you’re using your body.
Sleep Cycle: This “intelligent” alarm clock tracks your sleep simply by placing your phone on your nightstand or next to your pillow. Using the data recorded from your sleep cycles, it wakes you up within a 30-minute interval from the alarm time you requested, when you are in a light part of a sleep cycle. No more waking up groggy during a deep slumber from an annoying alarm clock!
Bulletproof Food Detective: This innovative app helps measure your body’s response to food you have just eaten. By measuring your heart rate, it detects your body’s sensitivities to certain foods, with the goal of detecting foods that you should probably avoid putting into your body.
SuperBetter: This fun app increases your resilience and improves your mental and emotional health by “gamifying” your path toward achieving one of your goals. Activate power-ups, battle “bad guys,” and complete quests to better yourself. These quests can include losing weight, finding a new job or recovering from depression.
Pacifica: This app is excellent for anyone struggling with anxiety. It’s based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and uses a combination of relaxation and wellness techniques practiced daily to help break the cycle of anxiety.
Overall, there are plenty of great resources out there that can make your time spent online significantly more productive and more healthy. Revamp your time online today!
1 Pew Research Center, March, 2014, “Millennials in Adulthood: Detached from Institutions, Networked with Friends,” http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/files/2014/03/2014-03-07_generations-report-version-for-web.pdf