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How to manage your digital wellness

What is Digital Wellness?

Digital Wellness is the ability to ensure that your use of digital technologies has a positive impact on your own well-being.

You might, for example, find that you get anxious if you miss out on social media updates on your smartphone. Likewise, you may be so addicted to playing online games that you neglect social interactions to the point where it is unhealthy.

It is worth pointing out that, when we talk of digital wellness, it is not to suggest that using digital technologies (DTs) is necessarily bad! In fact, there are so many benefits to using DTs.

As we use digital technologies more and more, we are starting to see the impact that these technologies can have on our wellbeing, our general happiness, and health.

So the idea of digital wellness is about managing how you use digital technologies correctly and not about avoiding them!

What Is Meant by Digital Technologies (DTs) in Wellness

Digital wellness solutions

By digital technologies, we mean anything that works digitally, including desktop computers, laptops, tablets, e-readers, smartphones, smart TVs and radios and wearable devices such as smartwatches and fitness trackers.

We also include digital programs and applications that we can use either over the internet or offline and any content that we can access using these programs and devices.

6 Questions to Ask Yourself about Your Digital Habits – Self Reflection

Digital wellness questions to ask yourself

In research for an academic paper on digital wellness, Dr Valeria Lo Iacono suggests asking these questions about your digital habits just to give yourself an initial idea of digital habits.

Ask yourself, for example, with digital technologies:

  • Do I spend more time on them than intended?
  • Do they distract me from focusing on the tasks that matter?
  • Do I feel insecure after seeing other people’s posts on social media?
  • Do I feel anxious if I am not up to date with everything that my contacts post on social media?
  • Do I find it hard to disconnect from checking my digital devices outside office hours?
  • Do I feel that I lose out real-life (as opposed to digital) social interactions because I spend so much time using digital technologies?

If you find yourself answering yes to several of the questions above then you might benefit from some digital detox or from a digital diet!

If you are also interested in evaluating the positives you are gaining from digital technologies (as balancing the positives is, of course, equally as important), then consider these questions also, that Dr Valeria Lo Iacono asks:

The Positives: Do Digital Technologies (DTs):

  • Often give me useful and interesting opportunities (for work, friendships)?
  • Help me to work in such a way that I am geographically independent? (i.e. work from any location)?
  • Help me to learn many new things?
  • Help me to achieve my goals and ambitions?
  • Help me to meet new people and redevelop old friendships?

So with Digital wellbeing, the emphasis is really all about balance rather than ignoring digital technologies altogether.

By the way, you can also find some alternative questions aimed directly at Internet addiction, created by Dr Kimberly Young listed here.

Four Steps to Going on a Digital Detox Diet

1.Understanding the PERMA Wellness Model

Although originally designed to assess one’s happiness, the PERMA model (created by Dr Seligman) is very useful in understanding digital wellbeing and we, in fact, use it in our Digital Wellbeing training course materials.

The model is composed of 5 sections and these are shown in the diagram below.

PERMA model for well-being
The PERMA wellness model

So let me explain each part and how you can use it to better understand your own Digital Habits.

Positive Emotions

When you think about your own relationship, as it were, with digital technologies, are they positive or negative?

Are you experiencing stress and anxiety because of digital technologies? If so, what can you do to reduce the negative emotions?

Engagement (and Flow)

By engagement and digital wellness, when using these technologies are you getting into the flow?

Are you, for example, letting yourself drift mentally as you absorb yourself in a digital eBook?

Or are the technologies giving you the chance to chat on Skype video with your mother who lives afar and these conversations give you the chance to go with the flow, to relax and find some quality time?

Socializing online is part of the PERMA theory

Positive Relationships

The PERMA model points do sometimes bisect in that, for example, your positive ‘engagements’ can also impact on the ‘Positive relationships’.

Have you used social media to reconnect with old friends or to make new friends? Or to make new business connections?

The reverse is using the likes of Facebook to argue over political matters or to do things can cause us only to become agitated. So what you want to avoid are negative relationships and interactions via these technologies.

Meaning

Does your use of these digital technologies help you achieve greater meaning? Quite often I am sure they will for you, such as if you build a connection with old school friends through social media.

Perhaps these technologies help you to connect with causes that are close to your heart such as part of an online charity tackling mental health awareness, for example.

Accomplishment

Quite simply, is the time you spend with digital technologies time that leads you towards accomplishing something worthwhile?

ACTION: When you have a chance (such as when you are sat on a train or bus), spend 5 minutes to think about both the negative and positive emotions that you experience regularly from using DTs.

How can you remove or reduce those negative digital technology experiences?

Also think about what positive engagements you get from your digital usage. Reflect on the other times you use these technologies and do not get this level of positive engagement. Think about how you can reduce the negative engagements in favour of the positive engagements.

Do you spend time on pointless dicussions on Facebook trying to influence other people’s views? Do you get caught in meaningless debates on Twitter? Can you use time for much more positive relationships online or even reduce your time on these technologies in favour of offline relationships?

Beginning to Make Changes to Improve Your Digital Wellness

i) Use Time Management Techniques

Why not begin to use some Time Management Techniques to improve your Digital Wellness?

Do you have the will-power to start only checking your emails once a day? I have to admit that I don’t! Such a technique though is a very easy example of how you can very quickly begin to improve your digital wellness.

Likewise, try and allocate one time of the day ONLY for using social media and learn to be comfortable with that time.

ACTION: Set a specific time of the day to check emails or social media and other digital tasks.

ii) Turn off Notifications and Clean Accounts

Social media overload

Avoiding what you can call ‘notification insanity’ is a powerful way to improve your wellbeing.

It is becoming a popular trend by online companies to try and give you what are known as ‘push’ messages (notifications). These are messages that are automatically sent to your message box on your computer or on your phone.

Do you really need these companies sending you texts or messages every 5 minutes? It is very unlikely you do.

ACTION: Turn off notifications that you do not need (almost all of them). If you are ever asked if you want auto-notifications just say no! Also consider removing any friends you do not need on social media accounts to reduce unnecessary digital clutter.

iii) Use Non-Digital techniques

Let me ask you some simple questions and you can answer them and I am sure that you can work out what you need to do. So here we go:

  • Do you really need the digital devices by your bed? Have you considered a tech-free room?
  • Are you mentally strong enough to allocate yourself tech-free hours?
  • Ever considered a digital detox holiday?
  • Can you dine with family and friends and put away or even turn off your phone and maybe even persuade others to copy you?
  • Can you learn to be a better active listener and refocus on interpersonal relationships (turn off your phone or ignore calls whilst engaging others)?
  • Are you able to go on a weekend break without your laptop and without your iPad and other gadgets?
  • Do you spend enough time being creative in non-digital ways? When was the last time you danced, sat and wrote something using a pen and paper, went to a dance or fitness class? Isn’t it time?
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Paul Symonds PhD

Paul is a trained researcher with a PhD in wayfinding. Paul is a co-founder of Symonds training. We focus on providing high-quality training materials packages and programs for trainers, classroom teachers and HR departments.

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