Technology & behavioural habits

Recent research has shown that constant digital connection, smartphones and social media are creating a depression and anxiety epidemic. So, we must then think about what we can do to help our mental health, by way of increasing exercise – yes, but what else can we do which may also help to raise activity levels? Social connection (not social media connection!) is the foundation of happiness. Tech addiction in many ways is equivalent to where the smoking issue was decades ago, and the initial reluctance to believe the negative impact on health will be overwhelmed by the evidence. To counteract this serge in negative digital connection – ironically 2018 has seen the rise of ‘tech-fighting’ tech with the trend of a new wave
 of technology and apps that helps us to spend less time on our smartphones and screens.

Do we really need this – can we not just put down the phone and go for a walk or meet a friend? Of course, I know it’s not that simple and I would never reduce mental health issues to being so. I am also very aware of how important technology can be, how it opens doors for small businesses and can help people feel more connected, if they themselves are isolated through illness or distance from loved ones.  When talking about screen time, it is important to address the research. Studies have shown that ‘blue light’ from your devices can affect sleep as it suppresses melatonin production which can interfere with the natural sleep cycle known as the circadian rhythm. This really is something to take note of when preparing for sleep. What’s the last thing we do before we attempt to sleep? If it is to check social media…maybe it’s time to change this habit.

More often than not, I feel we should strive to add positive changes, rather than focusing on limitations. If we naturally increase activity and exercise we will naturally decrease screen time which both have a positive effect on mental health.

We can also think about adding in a bedtime routine for the last 30 minutes before attempting to sleep. See if any of these help you prepare for a restful night sleep.

  1. Have an alarm clock next to your bed so you don’t need to check the time on your phone. Or if you really can’t stand that classic alarm sound, set your phone alarm 30 minutes before bedtime to you don’t need to pick up your phone.
  2. Switch to your phone to airplane mode 30 mins before bed.
  3. Aim to go to bed at the same time each evening. If you aim to be asleep at 11pm, prepare for bed at 10:30pm.
  4. Try a yoga stretch to help you relax. A spine twist is my favourite as it can easily be done whilst lying on your bed. Sarah Hunt Yoga recommends this to help to relieve stress and tension as it massages your internal organs, encouraging the elimination of toxins. Lie flat on your back with your arms outstretched. Lift your knee up and twist to one side with your head turned in the opposite direction. Do this on both sides with 5 slow breaths (count in for 3 as you breathe in and 3 as you breathe out).