We are all very aware of the importance of everyday physical wellbeing. Most of us try and exercise regularly and eat well and we understand the benefits of using a spa to relax and reinvigorate our bodies. Indeed the global wellness industry was estimated to be worth $3.72 trillion in 2016. But it is only fairly recently that the correlation between physical and mental wellness has been highlighted. The importance of mental wellbeing has almost been forgotten in the past.
In today’s world of portable technology, such as smartphones, tablets and laptops, it is very difficult to switch off our brains. We are bombarded with images, news, sport, videos, texts, status updates, and emails all day, every day. And very few of us actually switch off our phones, let alone our brains.
This digital noise has a detrimental effect on our mental health. The line between work and home becomes more blurred as we are constantly connected to our emails. This can lead to lost sleep as we worry about how to reply, or about a meeting that has suddenly come up, which in turn creates higher stress levels and greater anxiety.
We mindlessly scroll through social media, worrying about other people’s status updates – how are they so thin/rich/happy/beautiful? Why don’t my posts get as many likes as others? Social media makes a lot of people feel inadequate and as if they don’t match up to social expectations. Before getting stressed about it, we need to take some time out to remember that people only portray what they want people to see. Most of it is completely fake, or at least only true at that one moment in time (hence the need to boast!). We never post the really bad things, the rows, the money and drink problems. We just put up photos of perfectly dressed children in impractically neat houses in front of that perfect roaring fireplace! The pressure that people feel trying to keep up is incredibly stressful. But still we scroll.
(In a recent survey it was found that young girls take around 40-50 selfie shots of themselves before they see one they like. Once uploaded, if it doesn’t reach a certain amount of likes they feel as if they have failed, as if they’re not beautiful and they take down the picture and start again). Rates of depression in young people have increased by 70% in the past 25 years and it is estimated that around 80,000 children and young people suffer from severe depression. Online bullying has a huge impact on this and we must ask how much is social media to blame?
So how do we combat this digital noise? We need to help the digital generation switch off more and we all need to re-train ourselves back to a time before we relied so heavily on looking at a screen 24/7!
Constant looking at a screen before bedtime interferes with sleep patterns, and as we have highlighted in a previous blog (Goodnight, Sleep Tight ….) sleep is essential to mental and physical wellbeing. So make a point of turning the phone off an hour or so before bedtime allowing your mind to relax. Read a book or have a soothing bath, leaving the phone out of reach!
Start to interact with others more. All too often we text or email rather than actually using the phone to talk to people. Even at checkouts in shops we are too involved with screens to interact with the people serving us. Face to face interaction also reduces misunderstandings that can arise from reading a text or email in the ‘wrong’ way and putting meanings into it that weren’t intended. Any issues can then be cleared up quickly, not allowing us to fester and stress over them. Instead of using free time connected to a pocket computer – get out and socialise with friends. Take up a hobby that stops you looking at your phone for an hour or two!
Beth McGroarty, Research Director at the The Global Wellness Institute has recognised a growing demand for digital silence in the world of spas and travel, with the Mandarin Oriental spa group holding a global silent Spa evening last December. Silence, both digital and physical, is becoming more popular with spas even being developed in former religious spaces such as monasteries and abbeys. These spas have a no mobile rule and offer absolute disconnection along with noiseless bathing and treaments. This offers the opportunity to re-connect with your inner self through contemplation, mindfulness and a truly peaceful environment. Spending time in true silence can improve memory, aid restful sleep, reduce stress and stimulate brain growth.
More industries are realising the benefits of switching off from the digital world with trains offering mobile free zones and even restaurants, gyms and some airport lounges having quiet zones.
So take some time out to think through how you interact with your smartphones and tablets. Set some boundaries, especially with work, and let everyone know when you are and aren’t available. Make time for socialising with friends and family and switch off screens well before bedtime so that you can benefit from a decent night’s sleep. Your mental and physical wellbeing will thank you for it.