It is hard to imagine that only fifty years ago, people all over the world kept in touch, found their way, and recorded their memories without using their mobile phones. These days, technology is everywhere and the Internet of Things is lending intelligence and intuition to the most innocuous devices. Technology has been wonderful for keeping us connected and entertained, but does it also have its benefits in helping us build better lifestyles?
There are an abundance of studies that show how sensible lifestyle choices can improve physical and mental health as well as enhance the overall quality of life. Truthfully, the difficulty is not in making wholesome lifestyle resolutions but in upholding them. Modern life can be hectic and chaotic. And, more often than not, it can get in the way of our good intentions. Technology is on our side, however, and there are many ways it can help us build and maintain healthier habits.
Where’s Your Head At?
The most powerful application of technology that most of us possess is the smartphone. We have it close to us for most of the day and usually by the bed at night. It collects data on our motions, knows the places we visit, and how long we spend on Facebook. While excessive doom-scrolling and screen time overstimulation can lead to a variety of mental and physical issues, some mobile apps can actually do your mind good.
There are a variety of meditation and anti-anxiety apps that can help people who seek a calmer headspace. These apps often offer guided meditations, mindfulness coaching, and breathing exercises. There are other apps based on cognitive behavior therapy that are designed for people dealing with anxiety, anger, or depression. They help people to identify the thought patterns that lead to undesirable outcomes and offer up alternative ways for users to handle their triggers.
Technology is also helpful for those who suffer from mental health issues but are reluctant to seek face-to-face help. Smart speakers with virtual assistants can ask users about issues affecting their mental state and respond with targeted information on how to deal with their distress. While this is certainly not a replacement for bona fide mental health treatment, it can assist to lower the hurdle for talking to a professional.
Although the blue light of screens may seem to be contrary to promoting sleep, there are many smartphone apps and smart speakers that are designed to facilitate sleep. Some of them play soothing and relaxing audio experiences specifically designed to help listeners drift off. Others work with a range of wearable devices to track sleep cycles and can recommend changes to daily habits to achieve better sleep quality.
You Are What (and When) You Eat
We all know that a well-balanced and nutritious diet is important for our physical health. But did you know that what we eat affects our mental health as well? A poor diet can impair decision-making, lead to lethargy, and contribute to mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. Our brain and nervous system require a large number of nutrients daily to function effectively and so we have to pay attention to what we eat.
During busy or stressful times, people at work or school are often tempted to skip meals, reach for stimulants, or binge on processed food. Stimulants and sugar both act to activate the dopamine centers of the brain, creating a reward and pleasure sensation that is, sadly, fleeting and misleading. Excessive intake of sugar can lead to systemic inflammation, one of the major physiological triggers of depression.
Intelligent touchless vending machines can be situated in strategic spots and communal pantries to dispense nourishing food options like high-protein salads and plant-based soups, making it easier for workers to make prudent food choices. Smart fridges with built-in recipe suggestions and meal planners are likewise excellent tools in guiding people towards consuming a more balanced diet.
Pair these modern appliances with apps that calculate and track calories and the nutritional values of food, and it becomes easy for people to ensure that they adhere to the right diet for their needs. There are even apps that can help users determine if they are emotional eating and some that help users practice mindful eating by timing each mouthful.
An Exercise in Self Control
Exercise is another vital activity that has multiple benefits for physical and mental wellness. Regular physical activity can reduce anxiety and depression and improve your mood and cognitive function. A key criticism of technology is that it is creating a more sedentary lifestyle for users. However, there are plenty of applications of technology that can lead to a more active way of life.
Smartphone workout apps are becoming highly popular as people try to lose the weight they have gained after a year in lockdown. Some apps just feature guided workout videos while others allow you to schedule over a thousand individual exercises and customize your routine. The marriage of wearable devices and sport has enabled virtual races and virtual mountain climbing challenges, where competitors can track and submit their activity via their smart devices. Users can share their achievements online, encouraging others and creating a positive feedback loop.
The truth is, technology will always come with its pros and cons. As modern advances make life more efficient and convenient, we should make a concerted effort to continue to look after ourselves and not become couch potatoes. Numerous intelligent devices exist to enrich our physical and mental health. Let us use their power wisely to build healthier lifestyle habits that last.