Whether using sensors to capture stress related blood-borne chemicals, or 3D printing to recreate exact trouble spots in arteries, technology has given the medical community many reasons to celebrate. Along with physical health, technology has also made exceptional contributions to the field of positive mental health. Contrary to popular belief that technology increases mental health issues, a spike in efforts to increase well-being through technology has brought mindfulness to people who lead stressful lives otherwise. Harvard psychologist and mindfulness research pioneer Dr. Ellen Langer says, “It’s never the fault of the technology. It’s thoughts of indispensability that we impose on ourselves when using these gadgets, that causes problems.”
Pivoting around the quantified self market, there is unique technology available today, that can be used to establish a deeper, more harmonious relationship with ourselves. Let’s take a closer look at some of them.
- Headspace: Described as ‘gym membership for the mind’, this app has revolutionized digital meditation with over three million downloads. Designed by Tibetan Buddhist monk Andy Puddicombe, this app delivers over 350 hours of meditation/mindfulness lessons. Stemming from his personal journey through stress of various kinds, the sessions are created with themes ranging from creativity, happiness, focus, to relationships and anxiety. What’s better is that it not just allows us to track our personal journey, but also sends us reminders to take breaks! The idea behind the lessons is to help people build the skill of being present in the moment, and become more compassionate. On being asked about his intention, Puddicombe says, “a little bit more calm, a little bit more clear.”
- Spire: The goal of this wearable is to get you to manage your breathing better. Clip it to your clothing and Spire tracks your breathing throughout the day, sharing statistics of how long you’ve been focused, what your changing breath patterns suggest, and how to get your breathing to a steady state. An intuitive feature of this wearable is that in moments of frustration or stress, it prompts you to notice your heavy/ strained breathing, and then guides you into breathing calmly. And if your breathing is shallow or slow after sitting for long, this nifty wearable tells you to get some exercise. Genius, right? Spire’s creator Moraveji’s intent is to “give people the awareness and control over their state of mind, and breathing is the simplest way to do it because it’s very measurable and actionable, while the mind is amorphous.” Also, it claims to reduce stress by 50%!
- Day One: If meditation and breathing isn’t your thing, then you might want to look up this journaling app. Though it’s been around for almost five years, this is one app that brings together written word as well as imagery, and facilitates a huge range of services like cloud storage, exercise records, weather inspirational messages, privacy locks, etc. How does it release stress? By letting you be ‘you’ while you journal, and providing full freedom of thought and language. Over time, you can also trace your thought patterns and life events. And those can surely be telling. Moreover, journaling has been proved by research as cathartic for psychological and emotional well-being! Go on. Tell your story.
These three apps and wearables are part of a sweet spot where technology meets stress release and well-being. And the number is only growing. This trend underscores the fact that stress is going to be an integral part of human existence. But how we respond to stress and manage it, can always evolve with time. All we need to do is shift the lens through which we look at the world. How would you like to join this bandwagon?