Digital health during the Coronavirus outbreak

The global Coronavirus outbreak is forcing many, if not all, of us to practise self-isolation and social distancing and while we are staying home to save lives (who would have thought?), we will be using our gadgets more to stay informed and stay connected. 

Connect smartly

Unfortunately, used wrongly, technology can spread feaand panic among us. As a countermeasure, here’s what the experts recommend doing during this time: 

  • We feel powerless in the face of a global pandemic, and having a sense of control over our own lives has been shown to be essential to our wellbeing. So, use technology to take back the control. Use technology actively (instead of passively, like streaming or scrolling) to make to-do lists, build wishlists and balance the accounts. 
  • Humans are social creatures and self-isolation can take a toll on our wellbeing. So, stay connected with loved ones digitally to maintain a sense of relatedness and care. Schedule regular phone callsshare positive news in group chats. As a bonus, practise acts of kindness like ordering food or groceries online for the people in your life who are less digitally savvy. 
  • Our wellbeing is related to our personal sense of competence. So, use technology in this time to increase your knowledge and be smarter. Take an online course, read up on a topic that’s always interested you, or even just get smarter about looking after your health. Download sleep, exercise, nutrition and mindfulness apps towards your self-care. 

Smart is healthy

It’s interesting how sound this advice is, because I was just reading new research on digital wellbeing which supports it. 

Overall, from over 9,000 survey respondents in six countries, people think technology has a neutral or positive impact on their wellbeing, but they also believe that how often they perform a digital activity has a resulting impact. 

The top five activities which participants believe to be the most negative to their wellbeing are looking at content before sleep, being on devices during conversations, dual-screening, passively scrolling through social media and checking their phone for notifications. 

And the top five activities believed to be the most beneficial? Reading books, listening to music or audiousing health/fitness/wellbeing tools, learning on educational apps or sites and video calling others. 

Those are exactly the enriching, productive measures outlined in the advice above. 

Start anywhere

I know it’s hard to change our unhealthy digital habits, but here’s some encouraging numbers from the research: 

  • 1 in 4 people have made changes to their technology use to gain a greater sense of digital wellbeing 
  • 4 in 5 people who took steps to improve their digital wellbeing reported a positive impact on their overall wellbeing 

If you don’t know where to start, perhaps knowing the top three ways people have changed their digital behaviour in pursuit of wellbeing may help: delete certain apps, change device notifications to receive fewer unwanted notifications and reduce time spent on certain apps. 

Even if you combine just one of those with another from the advice above, you’re off to a good start. 

The point here is, make your relationship with technology a healthy one so you can be healthy too – especially during this time (which of course includes, I wouldn’t be remiss to say, to disinfect all your gadgets daily).  

Stay safe indoors, everyone and let’s flatten that curve. 

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