by Stacy Blakenship, MSW, LCSW
Our devices are a constant companion and keep us connected to the world. They are next to us when we sleep and keep tabs on our life while slumbering. How much of this companionship is helpful and how much is detrimental to our mental health?
Research states that we become “hijacked” by technology through notifications and reminders. Tristan Harris, Design Ethicist for Google, reports that technology can have an impact on our attention span, our self-concepts, and our fears. By sending us constant notifications and reminders, we are drawn away from the present, into the world of the device at our fingertips. Experts claim it can take up to 20 minutes to return our focus after being distracted by reminders. A research study conducted by Duke University showed an increased use of technology linked to higher reports of symptoms and disruptive behavior and mental health concerns.
So, is technology ALL disruptive?
The National Institute of Mental Health says technology has proved beneficial to connecting to mental health resources, especially in rural areas. The use of websites, apps, and video conferencing has proven beneficial in offering convenience, privacy, ease of access, lower costs, and 24-hour support that traditional services cannot. Other ways technology can be helpful for people include medication reminders, fitness trackers, mindfulness coaching and breaking down stigma through a connection.
What does this mean for you?
The take away from all this information is that technology has both negative and positive impacts on our mental health; it all depends on how you use the gifts this new age progress has given us. As a psychotherapist at Pasadena Villa, I love my technology, but I also understand the importance of being mindful of how it affects life. Below are just a few suggestions to help us all decompress in the technology age:
- Take time to turn off! One of my favorite features on my phone is the “Do not disturb” switch. Make your time yours when you are with loved ones, eating dinner, playing games, or just hanging out. All the noise will be on your phone when you turn it back on. Research has shown a positive correlation between being mindful of joyous moments and positive mental health. Taking this time for yourself can ease anxiety and stress. Remember that time is yours so keep it sacred.
- Use technology to help with connecting. Use reminders to help you remember to schedule a time to do the things that are important for your wellness. I have reminders for things such as mindfulness, taking the time to move and stretch, gratitude practice, healthy sleep times and making dates with friends.
- Find apps that help with reducing the impact of symptoms on your life. Apps are a great way to help you understand and manage a diagnosis. Some of the ones I often suggest to people include:
- Booster Buddy
- 7 Cups
- Stop Breathe Think
- Meditation Studio
- Dialexis DBT
- Life Cycle
- Simple Habit
Apps are endless, so explore! The great thing about apps is you can keep the ones you like and ditch the ones that don’t work.
As a DBT therapist, I understand the importance of balance in life, and this includes technology as well. Use technology moderation, and it can work wonders, but too much or too little can leave us tilted. I wish you a happy technology partnership! If you are feeling anxious or stressed and need someone to talk to, Pasadena Villa Outpatient can help. Call us or complete our contact form to help with the next steps of treatment. Pasadena Villa Network of Psychiatric Services currently offers treatment at two residential locations in both Orlando, Florida and Knoxville, Tennessee, and outpatient services in Raleigh, Charlotte and Greensboro, North Carolina, and McLean, Virginia.