Why is Technology Important to Consider in Self-Care and Wellness?
Technology or digital wellness is a relatively new dimension to self-care that brings attention to our well-being around forms of electronic devices and communications. Technology is considered to be any electronic information and communication devices and may include devices such as computers, mobile phones, and televisions.
The use of technology has dramatically increased over the past decade. Most people now have 24/7 access to technology and information as we are moving towards a more virtual world. To put this into perspective, there are 3.5 billion people using smartphones (Statista, 2021c), 3.5 billion people using computers at home (Statista, 2021a), and over 4.5 billion people actively using the internet all over the world (Statista, 2021b; Loubier, 2020).
Increasing numbers of people are working and learning remotely and are using more technology devices, such as phones, tablets, laptops and televisions for longer periods of time. It is important to be aware of our use of technology and the impact that this may have on our well-being.
Technology is not inherently good or bad for our well-being. The value depends on how technology is used (Howard-Jones, 2011). The use of electronic devices and technology has proven to be responsible for many advancements and positive benefits. Technology can be used to fundamentally enhance and transform our teaching, our learning, and our research. It can also be used to increase social connectedness and integration and decrease isolation. However, there may also be negative consequences to mindless use or overuse of technology. This could include negative social comparison, lower self-esteem, and social snacking (Clark, 2019). It is important to consider how often and for what purposes you use technology to be mindful of the potential positive and negative impacts that it may have on you.
Clark, J. (2019). What Makes Technology Good or Bad for Us? Greater Good. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/what_makes_technology_good_or_bad_for_us
Howard-Jones, P. (2011). The impact of digital technologies on human wellbeing: EVIDENCE FROM THE SCIENCES OF MIND AND BRAIN. Nominet Trust. https://www.thechildrensmediafoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Howard-Jones-2011-impact-digital-technologies-on-wellbeing-copy.pdf
Loubier, A. (2020, October 6). How to Balance Tech and Everything Else in Life. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/andrealoubier/2020/10/06/how-to-balance-tech-and-everything-else-in-life/?sh=d98629d61833
Statista. (2021a, February 18). Computer penetration rate among households worldwide 2005–2019 [Dataset]. https://www.statista.com/statistics/748551/worldwide-households-with-computer/
Statista. (2021b, March 5). Worldwide digital population as of January 2021 [Dataset]. https://www.statista.com/statistics/617136/digital-population-worldwide/
Statista. (2021c, March 18). Smartphone users worldwide 2016–2023 [Dataset]. https://www.statista.com/statistics/330695/number-of-smartphone-users-worldwide/
How to Manage Self-Care in Your Digital Life
The increasing use of technology and time spent online highlights the need to be mindful of self-care in our digital space. Managing our time online can be challenging, especially when we are using these devices for many purposes and needs. Here are some general tips to improve self-care and wellness with technology.
Set Digital Boundaries
Our personal boundaries are our guidelines that we set for ourselves about how we interact. It is imperative that we take the time to think about what we need to properly take care for ourselves and our health. You can create healthy digital boundaries to protect yourself from the effects of technology overuse. Examples of healthy digital boundaries:
- Start your day tech free – limit checking your phone or devices for 20-30 minutes after waking
- Put away or turn off electronic devices 1 hour prior to bed
- Set specific times to respond to communications for work, school, and leisure – for example, no work/school communication after hours
Your brain and body need to recharge after using excessive amounts of technology. Switching off for periods of time that fit with your schedule can be a helpful way to free your mind and refocus yourself to the present.
- Take time away from digital devices – set times each day/week
- Completely turn off devices
- Turn off push notifications
- Set devices on airplane mode when needing to focus
Manage Your Screen Time
Too much of a good thing can be detrimental to your health and well-being. A self-report of Canadians showed that individuals in Ontario, on average, spent 11.1 hours per day in front of a screen (Canada, 2019) and this number is likely increasing. It is important to manage screen time to reduce the negative impacts of sitting for extended periods of time looking at digital screens.
- Set parameters: Limit your use of technology to what is appropriate for you
- Time limits
- Device curfews
- No television in the bedroom
- No devices during meal time
- Self-manage screen time using apps to limit the use of certain devices at certain times
- Built into most smartphones and devices: Digital Wellbeing (Android), Screen Time (IOS)
Use Time Online to Connect with Things You Enjoy
- Technology can be used to refuel ourselves and can bring entertainment and happiness when used to connect with people or hobbies that you enjoy.
- This might look different for everyone.
- Online Communications with friends/family
- Digital photography
- It can be easy to spend too much time connecting online; therefore, it is essential to ensure that we create a balance
Canada, A. (2019, September 10). Canadians spend 11 hours per day on screens, Alcon survey shows. Cision. https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/canadians-spend-11-hours-per-day-on-screens-alcon-survey-shows-811357674.html#:%7E:text=Canadians%20say%20they%20spend%20the,1.5%20hours%20looking%20at%20tablets.
CMHA BC. (2019). Wellness Module 10: Staying Mentally Healthy with Technology | Here to Help. Here to Help. https://www.heretohelp.bc.ca/wellness-module/wellness-module-10-staying-mentally-healthy-with-technology
Coalition, Y. (2020, September 16). Self Care for Youth Workers. The Youth Coalition of the ACT. https://www.youthcoalition.net/self-care-for-youth-workers/
D. (2021, January 19). Why Now More Than Ever, Its Important To Have Digital Boundaries! Dainty Dress Diaries. https://www.daintydressdiaries.com/2020/12/digital-boundaries-why-they-are-so-important.html
Freele, C. (2021, March 9). RAW: Digital Photography as Self-Care. LondonFuse. https://londonfuse.ca/raw-digital-photography-as-self-care/
Millard, E., & Young, A. (2020, July 30). How to Get Into a ‘Mindful Tech’ Self-Care Habit | Everyday Health | Everyday Health. EverydayHealth.Com. https://www.everydayhealth.com/wellness/5-tips-for-kick-starting-a-mindful-tech-self-care-habit/
O. (2020b, July 13). The Importance of Setting Boundaries in a Digital World. You Matter Suicide Prevention Lifeline. https://youmatter.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/the-importance-of-setting-boundaries-in-a-digital-world/
Smyth, N. J. (2014, March 9). Self Care in the Digital Age. Virtual Connections. https://njsmyth.wordpress.com/2014/03/09/self-care-in-the-digital-age/
Wojtowicz, H. (2019, October 18). 11 apps that will help you reduce your screen time. Ladders | Business News & Career Advice. https://www.theladders.com/career-advice/11-apps-that-will-help-you-reduce-your-screen-time
Virtual Learning Tips
Online learning has increased the accessibility of education to the comfort of your home but has also drawn attention to factors that may impact health and well-being. Virtual learning has led to a dramatic increase in the time spent using technology. It can be challenging to maintain clear and appropriate boundaries between your personal, school, and work life. Here are some helpful tips to assist with virtual learning:
Self-Care Tips for Virtual Learning:
- Treat online learning the same as in-person classes
- Set a routine as you would for in-person class – i.e., get up early, shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, go to class
- Get out of your pajamas and into real clothes – this can help to feel more productive and focused
- Make a dedicated workspace
- It is important to create a space that makes you feel good to spend time in
- A dedicated space signals the brain that it is time to work on assignments or that it is time to end school/work when you leave the area
- Intentionally end your day
- Stretching/running, rituals, cleaning your workstation, etc. to signal the brain that you are done for the day
- Set “school” hours
- It is easy to become distracted when working and learning online
- Minimize distractions, turn phone off, turn phone on do not disturb
- Schedule specific times for studying, reading, completing assignments, etc.
- Develop a routine
- Know your school’s expectations for login and assignment submissions
- Keep your routine similar to what you have now
- Helpful to write it down (ex. daily expectations, times, schedule)
- Take breaks during the day
- The brain needs time to relax and recharge (ex. Lunch, snacks, movement, mindfulness, healthy activities)
- Social breaks – non-school related conversations
- Practice gratitude
- Practicing gratitude can change the brain to focus on the positive and lead to feeling more at ease in times of stress and uncertainty
- Think of 3 grateful thoughts each day
- Get the recommended number of hours of sleep
- 8-10 hours for adults
- Utilize sleep/meditation apps to assist with sleep difficulties