Modern social stigma may suggest that more screen time equates to poor mental health, but that's not necessarily true. There are ways to use technology to your advantage and benefit your mental health.
It’s common to see screen time being vilified in mainstream media today, and some practices are toxic. Yet, there are so many ways tech can be used positively to boost people’s mental health. A screen itself has the potential for healthy or unhealthy use. This article focuses on how you can use it in the right way.
Guidance surrounding tech use at the moment neglects people’s individual needs. While going out and socializing in person might benefit many people’s mental health, for introverts it could be a major source of stress. For these people, screen time could be a major source of comfort and relief.
Here are five ways to use tech positively.
Connect with friends and family
The importance of digital communication came to the forefront during the pandemic. So many people were unable to see their loved ones in person for months on end, which took a heavy toll on their psyche. The ability to jump on a Zoom call and laugh with friends and family kept many people going as a substitute.
For many other people, being away from the people they love is a normal part of their everyday lives. They may have moved to another city or country for their work and travel may be too expensive. They can use video calls to fill this void. It’s especially important for parents working away from their young children or people who have elderly parents who are lonely.
In a perfect world, people may wish they could always have an in-person connection, but modern schedules and distances can make this unfeasible. Seeing a loved one on a screen is better than not being able to see them at all, and is the best way to mimic the intimacy of meeting in person.
Play stress-busting games
Video games have been proven to have a positive impact on mental health in the right conditions. One study showed that boys who play video games have a lower depression risk than those who don’t. Games are designed to give players an enjoyable flurry of activity to keep them hooked. This feeling can have a significant positive impact on one’s belief in their own abilities.
When times got tough in the pandemic, many turned to video games as a way to relieve their stress. There was a 44% increase in the like-for-like sales of games as a result. It’s an important aspect of self-care for so many people across the world.
You don’t need to be a hardcore gamer to get the positive benefits of playing games. It’s common for people to love simple games for the comfort they bring. Elizabeth Planert found playing solitaire can ease anxiety. This method has worked for her for over a decade!
Seek professional help
Seeking the help of a psychiatrist is a difficult but necessary step for those suffering from poor mental health. Talking about their problems to a stranger in an unfamiliar environment can be understandably nerve-wracking. This hesitance can be compounded by the perceived stigma associated with being seen at a therapist’s office.
Yet for those who take the bold step forward, the lack of access in their area may hinder them from the services that could boost their mental health. The majority of the world has less than 10 psychiatrists per 100,000. This can mean long and painful waitlists, which gives time for their situation to deteriorate.
Telehealth can break down these barriers and allow people to get access to the help they need regardless of their location.
It can feel less intimidating for people to seek professional help behind a screen, which can only be a good thing.
Download meditation apps
Experts from all around the world tout the benefits of meditation – yet for the average person, it can feel like an impossible habit to start. Not everyone can afford to have a personal meditation teacher like their favorite Hollywood celebrity can.
Here’s where apps such as Headspace and Calm have been able to provide a sorely needed service to the world. They’ve both been downloaded millions of times. They have guided meditations from experts available at an accessible price point. Users can often trial the apps to find which style suits them the best and discover the satisfaction of a less busy mind.
Meditation apps democratize access to high quality resources, allowing people to de-stress from the comfort of their own homes.
Find your tribe
Adults can typically find it hard to make new friends, but the health consequences of loneliness can be severe. It’s an incredibly common problem, with 1 in 3 adults over the age of 45 admitting they are lonely.
Former US Director-General Surgeon, Vivek Murthy says, “I think part of the reason we underestimate the loneliness of people is that it’s frequently hidden. Loneliness, unfortunately, carries a stigma with it. People who feel lonely typically are ashamed to admit it. They think it’s equivalent to admitting that they are not likable or that they’re socially insufficient in some way.”
Online communities can be a powerful way for people to satiate their loneliness and find a tribe of people who understand them. It can be far less intimidating than traditional ways of making friends in person, and mean introverts in particular can find that essential friend who can offer support.
If you are stressed out or anxious, you aren’t alone. You don’t need to feel guilty about using tech to help you get out of it, and in some cases, it can be the healthiest path available to you. Productivity gurus might preach banning screens, but their circumstances are different to yours. Test these methods and find what has a positive impact on you and continue using it.