Modern life can feel overwhelming. Our smartphones keep us constantly connected to 24/7 rolling news and social media, the ping, ping, ping of WhatsApp group notifications, and the unspoken expectation to be checking your work emails at all hours of day and night.
While technology has undoubtedly made our lives easier in many ways, the information overload is enough to make anyone feel more than a little anxious. It's hardly surprising that 'digital detox' retreats and challenges are growing in popularity, with stressed-out tech addicts desperate for a moment's escape.
But, while technology is increasingly cited as the source of our biggest mental health woes, it can also provide some of our most powerful tools for boosting mental wellbeing. We took a look at some of the best technological options – from apps to wearables – to help you fight stress and stay mentally strong, resilient and healthy.
Headspace is an app designed to bring the ancient wellbeing techniques of mindfulness and meditation to a modern day audience. The idea is to cultivate awareness and compassion about your own situation, practising non-judgemental observations about what's going on for you in the present moment. Research shows that meditation can help to reduce stress, and improve focus and sleep – but many first time meditators feel totally confused about where to begin
Headspace helps users get started, and then guides you to create a regular habit of practising meditation, for just a few minutes per day. And, of course, the advantage of having the app on your smartphone is that you can use it absolutely anywhere – at home, at work, in the gym, or even on your commute.
Used by businesses including Barclays, John Lewis, Made.com and Deloitte, Unmind is a workplace desktop and smartphone tool offering confidential support to company employees. Founded by a clinical psychologist, staff can access mental health training programmes, assessments, and signposting to professional support, as well as mindfulness exercises and other useful tools. Their aim is to take a more proactive approach to staff mental health, using "scientifically-backed tools and training for healthier, happier, more human organisations."
There are strong links between physical and mental wellbeing, and research shows that regular exercise is great for your mind as well as your body. Fitbit's range of fitness trackers come with a host of features, including automatic step, exercise and sleep tracking, and hourly reminders to move – essential for desk-based workers who can easily forget to stretch their legs during the working day.
The importance of sleep to good mental wellbeing is often overlooked, but getting your nightly 8 hours really can make the world of difference to your mental health. If the stress of the day often continues buzzing through your mind after lights out, or you feel exhausted all day but find that sleep eludes you at night, Pzizz might be the app for you. Using the science of psychoacoustics – a branch of psychology looking at how sound affects us – Pzizz promises to help you "fall asleep fast, stay asleep, and wake up feeling refreshed." It does this using clinically developed sound sequences and dreamscapes – a mixture of sound effects, music and voiceover designed to promote a really great night's sleep.
Finally, and speaking of sleep, Lumie's Bodyclock wake-up lamps have reimagined how getting out of bed in the morning should be. Instead of the screeching alarm clock that jolts you from your slumber, Lumie's Bodyclocks use LED or halogen lights to mimic a natural sunrise, easing you gently out of your sleep with the illusion of daylight on even the darkest of winter mornings. Many of the Bodyclocks also offer a sunset mode, helping you to drift off in the same way, as the clock gradually dims from bright sunlight to total darkness. Plus, if you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – a seasonal form of depression that strikes during the darker autumn and winter months – Lumie also offer bright desk lamps and lightboxes, which are proven to boost mood and tackle SAD symptoms.
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