International Self-Care Day – tips for wellness through mindful tech use
Start being mindful of how you are using tech in everyday life!
You’ve probably heard that we spend a third of our lives sleeping. But did you know that a survey conducted last year found that Singaporeans also spend a third of their lives online? That’s 54 hours a week working, streaming movies, playing games, surfing social media, and doing the countless things the internet offers.
If you find your cyber habits taking a toil on your wellbeing, it’s time to have a healthier relationship with technology. And with International Self-Care Day around the corner, there’s no better time to pick up some tips on mindful tech use (yes, we’re aware that you’re reading this online, staring at a screen right now, but at least you’re not doom scrolling through social media.)
Be aware of the digital overload
It’s true what they say: you can fix a problem only after you acknowledge it’s a problem.
Do you catch yourself reflexively reaching for your phone to unlock the screen and randomly tap at some apps?
If so, then it’s time to recognise that the notifications will never end. Checking for that latest update at this moment will make very little difference in your life. Every time you pick up your device during the slightest moment of downtime, ask yourself if something specific to check on.
Fight the problem by tracking your screen or activity time (many mobile devices offer such functions nowadays). Another option is to set yourself a challenge of not checking your email or social media feed for say, three hours. Once you get used to it and realise that life goes on without having to be tethered to a constant stream of updates, you can stretch your time away from the phone.
Remember, awareness is the first step towards mindful tech use.
Fight tech with tech
Sometimes you have to use tech to curb tech. Now, before you laugh us out of the room, let’s remind ourselves that tech use is not the problem; the problem is its excessive use for purposes that don’t enrich our lives. So don’t feel self conscious about using the myriad of apps out there aimed at helping you restrict tech use or to maximise your productivity.
For example, there are mindfulness apps where you can set aside a period of time for meditation or reflection. These apps are great on wearable devices like smart watches, as they send gentle, periodic vibrations to mark time and guide you along the mindfulness exercise.
Other apps gamify the time management process, turning your focus time into tokens that can progress the game inside the app. These techniques work to get us coming back again and again to shopping and social media apps, so we might as well tap on them for something that improves our wellbeing.
Embrace digital detoxes as a way of life
The digital detox is now a well known pursuit: Haul yourself off to some remote location for a set number of days and go cold turkey with no tech use at all. Such challenges bring to mind silent retreats in ethereal mountain getaways.
The problem with such thinking is we elevate the digital detox as some rare, special event that can be pulled off only under perfect circumstances. And even if we did succeed, we slip right back into our tech routines the moment we get back to our daily lives.
So work the digital detox into your everyday habits instead and start simple. Get through an entire movie without checking your phone, even during the slower portions of the film. Set tech-free zones in your home. The dinner table is a great place to start, especially for young parents, who can demonstrate to their kids that yes, it is entirely possible to get through a meal without watching Cocomelon.
Optimise your tech use for positivity
If you constantly feel inundated by negative feelings after using tech, then perhaps it’s time to shake up your digital habits.
For instance, the internet can be a great place to exchange ideas, but if you’re feeling the heaviness of too many internet fights, it might be a good moment to dial back on engaging in charged debates online.
Likewise, email subscriptions are a great way to get the latest news and updates about topics you care about, but if your constantly exploding inbox is making you anxious and you spend more time deleting than reading the emails, it’s a sign you should be unsubscribing from the mailing lists.
Of course, no one can (or should) be totally shielded from the slightest negativity, but one shouldn’t be constantly immersed in it as well. So be honest with yourself and see if you feel happy after your tech use. If you don’t, it’s time to make a change.
Form real world connections
Cyberspace can be an exciting place to meet new people and bond over shared interests and activities, be it in video games, books, or collecting stickers.
If you’re learning a new language on an app, go for meet ups with fellow students to practise speaking it in person. Or remember those sticker albums of football stars that you used to collect every four years during the World Cup? There are online groups and physical trading sessions for those looking to complete their albums.
Whatever your interest, mixing in real world elements with online friendships can keep us grounded and helps us have a good mix of virtual reality and well, reality.
Everything in moderation
Face it, we spend a lot of our time staring at screens these days. Whether it’s the dual monitors at our work station, our smartphone as we ride the train, or our TV when we unwind at home – screen time is happening all the time.
It’s extremely difficult to live our modern lives totally without tech (and not something we advocate, we are GovTech after all!) but it is possible to strike a balance when it comes to our relationship with tech.
This is where dietary advice for physical health can also apply to mental wellbeing: Everything in moderation!https://www.tech.gov.sg/media/technews/international-self-care-day