9 Ways Technology Can Boost Your Mental Health

9 Ways Technology Can Boost Your Mental Health

Technology has become a double-edged sword for humanity, bringing with it great benefits on one end but also posing significant risks on the other. A study by Dr. Gini Harrison and Dr.Mathijs Lucassen explored the top stressors of technology, and these included anxiety, perpetual distraction, sleep dysregulation, a disruption of work-life balance, and social comparison. The APA has also had the same findings, with a strong correlation between technology and increased stress levels. 

But technology also has a hidden side of it that we can use to our advantage. Tech offers the opportunity to use applications that can better our mental health and promote wellness. The National Institute of Mental Health has also acknowledged the importance of technology such as smartphones in increasing access to mental health care, monitoring progress, and increasing our understanding of mental health. 

In this article, we’ll explore 10 ways tech is helping to transform and better mental health care:

Chatbots and Voice Assistant

Think of chatbots and voice assistants as compassionate listeners in times of need. For many individuals, talking to another person about their problems can be difficult. This is where chatbots and voice assistants play an important role. 

With ongoing advancements in AI, these digital tools are becoming highly advanced to the point of engaging in empathetic conversations. Thus, they provide a safe space for people to discuss concerns, worries, or intrusive thoughts. They can also offer 24/7 support and personalized coping strategies.

Woebot and Wysa are examples of mental health chatbots riding on AI technology but there are many options. My preference is Open AI where I can explore the many GPTs to find some that are dedicated mental health (or physical health) chatbots.

Virtual Activities

Covid-19 saw the rise of virtual activities such as learning, meetings, and remote work. More students also chose to pay for essay services during the pandemic period, to cope with increasing workloads, and to get the feel of having a tutor nearby. Feelings of isolation and anxiety increased during this period. 

To cope, virtual activities sprung up, including virtual museum tours, live-streamed music performances, and even online trivia nights with friends and family. These digital gatherings not only provided entertainment but also a sense of connection.

A common virtual activity was Zoom virtual exercises which not only helped folks keep physically fit and mentally healthy. When the Covid Pandemic was taking place, I was in college. I completed two terms on zoom including a Geography course full of ‘labs’ that could only happen online. It was quite the experience but amazing at the same time.

Of course, the best virtual activity in the world is a good game of bridge with friends and peers. You can find many opportunities to play online bridge using apps and platforms on our Play Bridge Online page.

Mood-Tracking Tools

Mood-tracking apps help in enhancing self-awareness and monitoring progress. Numerous mood-tracking apps such as Daylio and MoodKit are available to help users monitor their emotional well-being over time.

Self-awareness logging can be a valuable resource for individuals and their healthcare providers. They enable data-driven decisions about mental health treatment. These apps can be used to identify patterns and triggers, helping users make lifestyle changes for improved mental health.

And speaking of ‘sleep’ – there are many sleep apps on the market now – one I use is called SleepCycle and it’s Free. I can track my hours asleep, noises around me, my snoring, breathing interruptions etc. It will also set an alarm that will wake me up when I’m near waking anyhow in order to help my waking be as refreshing as possible.

E-Therapy and Counseling

Tech has made it possible for individuals to connect with mental health professionals through telehealth services. E-therapy isn’t meant to replace in-person therapy, but rather to complement it. Individuals can access Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) treatment and approaches, just as traditional therapy meetings. Virtual sessions eliminate the need for in-person visits, making therapy more accessible and convenient. 

College students who need something more affordable, or people with particularly busy schedules are in a great position to use e-therapy. E-therapy providers such as BetterHelp, Talkspace, and Calm all have web applications as well as apps, making them even more accessible. 

With e-therapy, ensure that your provider is accredited and can provide services as outlined by the NIH. Read reviews of different apps until you make an informed decision on who you want. 

Mindfulness and Meditation Apps

Some apps are used by people who want to be mindful of their state at different times of the day. Others might want to access tools to manage stress, anxiety, or sleep problems. 

Many apps send periodic mindfulness reminders to help users stay aware of their thoughts and feelings. This helps individuals practice mindfulness regularly and integrate it into their daily routines. Apps can include guided breathing exercises designed to calm the mind and reduce stress. These exercises can be done anywhere, providing immediate relief. Some offer guided meditation sessions tailored to different needs, such as reducing anxiety, improving focus, or enhancing relaxation.

Apps  Calm and Headspace are two of the more popular.

Wearable Devices for Stress Reduction and Mindfulness

Wearable technology, such as smartwatches and fitness trackers, can assist individuals in managing stress and practicing mindfulness. Additionally, they can be used to track heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing patterns. And steps! There’s nothing like a joyous walk outside to improve a person’s mood and setting a daily steps goal is the best way to get you outside. That and adopting a dog.

These devices offer features like guided breathing exercises, heart rate monitoring, and stress-level assessments to promote well-being throughout the day. In return, users can learn to regulate their stress levels based on this biofeedback.

Online Support Groups and Webinars

Online support groups and webinars on platforms such as Zoom gained popularity during the pandemic period. Here, individuals get to share experiences, strategies, and coping mechanisms for managing mental health issues. 

These virtual communities offer a sense of belonging and a space for learning from others. They can also provide a lifeline for someone in a crisis, connecting them with peers who’ve been through similar experiences. My personal go-to is Facebook where I’ve found lots of support in dedicated Facebook groups.

Virtual Reality (VR) for Exposure Therapy

VR is increasingly employed in exposure therapy to treat phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and anxiety disorders. It provides a controlled and immersive environment for individuals to confront their fears safely and therapeutically. You’ll have to look for this in a clinical setting to be sure you have the right equipment set up and a human guide.

Community Help Websites 

The internet offers a treasure trove of information about mental health, its symptoms, and treatment options. Websites like Mind and NHS provide valuable resources, while online communities and forums connect individuals facing similar challenges, reducing feelings of isolation. Be sure to add your home town or city to your google query so you will find local resources as well.

The Dark Side

Technology has a complex relationship with mental health. As we’ve discussed above, technology provides new tools for managing your daily mental health and wellbeing. On the other hand, certain technologies contribute to social isolation and withdrawal, especially among young people.

  1. Social Media:
    • Comparison and Self-Esteem: Social media platforms often present idealized versions of people’s lives. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem.
    • Cyberbullying: Online harassment is a serious issue, particularly for teenagers. It can cause anxiety, depression, and in extreme cases, lead to suicidal thoughts.
    • Addiction: Excessive use of social media can become addictive, reducing face-to-face interactions and contributing to social isolation.
  2. Gaming:
    • Isolation: Excessive gaming can lead to neglect of real-world relationships and responsibilities.
    • Addiction: Video game addiction is recognized by health organizations and can negatively affect mental health, causing anxiety and depression.
  3. Smartphones:
    • Constant Connectivity: The pressure to be constantly available can lead to stress and burnout.
    • Sleep Disruption: Blue light from screens can disrupt sleep patterns, contributing to mental health problems.

To mitigate these risks, parents can set clear boundaries for screen time, encourage open communication about online experiences, and promote a balance between virtual and real-world interactions. Regularly discussing the importance of healthy technology use and modeling positive behavior can also help children develop responsible digital habits.

In our article, the Psychology of Gaming, we talked about the rush and addictive nature of gaming, and young people are more likely to experience this than those of us who are older and wiser. It’s important for guardians to be involved in their young person’s digital and online activities – play games with them, chat with them, use the technology. Scheduling ‘screen time’ will be far more successful than denying it altogether. Spending real-world time with the child is also important.

Wrapping Up

Some forms of technology are  adversarial to mental health, with rising incidences of social isolation and withdrawal especially among the young population. However, tech also offers huge opportunities for individuals battling mental health challenges to deal with these problems in a flexible, effective, and affordable way. 

If you’re exposed to any mental health struggle such as stress, worry, or anxiety, know that you are not alone. Reach out to friends and loved ones first, if it’s nothing over the top. However, for more persistent and overwhelming conditions, reaching out to a mental health provider is always recommended. 

Use technology to your advantage, making use of apps, websites, and any of the other tools we’ve discussed to find a tailored solution for yourself. Best of luck!