How to Use Tech to Enhance Your Wellness Program
For a long time, technology has suffered from a poor image in terms of supporting our health. Most of us associate it with large amounts of sitting, looking at screens and general malaise. Despite that perception, we accept the trade off as worthwhile in exchange for the many conveniences technology provides us.
But what if there were another way? What if technology could actually prove beneficial to our health and wellness rather than serve as an impediment? Utilized correctly, that’s exactly what modern technology can and does do. Quality of life needn’t be a tug of war.
With the right tools, a suitable plan and the proper state of mind, technology can be a tool to enhance your wellness program in ways previous generations may never have imagined. Here’s how you can get the most out of your tech when it comes to health.
Before we can even dive into the many benefits of technology for improving our health, we have to understand what the meaning of wellness even is. The truth is that there’s some debate over the exact definition. In my opinion, there are two polarized meanings:
· A state of being free from pain, disease or general restriction; a lack of illness or associated malaise
· Optimum function, characterized by the realization of maximum potential, performance and the ability to achieve one’s goals, including physical, mental, spiritual, emotional and social.
While the former definition is technically correct, it does seem to fall a little short. Is it really enough for us just to feel not in pain? Do we consider wellness to be successfully achieved if we can sit on the couch without feeling ill and watch TV all day, or do we want something more?
While there may be those who only dream of being able to achieve that state, I believe it’s fair to say that we should aspire for something more. In general, the second definition for wellness will be the one to which we refer to most heavily in this article, so keep that in mind!
Securing the Bases
Before realizing the benefits of technology, it’s important to plan ahead. Improperly secured technology can prove to be anything but an asset; it can be an incredible headache and actually contribute to stress levels in a seriously unhealthy way.
That’s why you should start by examining any tech you plan to utilize to see if it could prove to be more of a liability than an asset. For instance, wearable tech is something we’ll be considering as one of our tools. Yet understand that not all wearable tech is universally appropriate. A swimmer certainly wouldn’t benefit from a watch that can’t go underwater.
Smartphones, computers and tablets all serve as incredibly versatile tech items, but they also carry risks in the data and privacy department without the use of proper security software, such as a Virtual Private Network, an anti-virus app and a backup app.
The first two are to ensure data isn’t lost to hackers or malware while the third is to restore anything lost in any kind of accidental situation (things do happen sometimes!). As a special note for those in a professional field, these steps are even more important because you could be liable for more than just your own wellness (as client information leaks could have very negative impacts on the lives of others).
With a suitable foundation, we can address each area of wellness individually.
While physical wellness is predominantly associated with diet and exercise, technology can make the process easier. For instance, learning appropriate ways to build muscle can be aided by professional research that you can access online. You can use this research with your mobile or access apps that provide workout programs to aid your journey.
Wearable tech is another great tool that’s come into its own over the past few years. Serving largely as a tracking instrument, devices such as smartwatches help you track your heart rate, breathing, number of steps, distance traveled and workout times.
Some even help you from getting bored by allowing you to stream your music over Bluetooth straight into your headphones or ear buds. Music is a powerful mood changer to begin with, and combining it with your exercise routine can keep you motivated.
You can also turn exercise into a game. Geocaching, for instance, has you travel to specified locations using hints and GPS to find a notebook and leave your mark. Pokémon Go sends you walking around to visit stops and catch Pokémon, making travel on foot preferable to just driving everywhere.
Diet benefits tremendously from the app world thanks to services such as MyFitnessPal. These types of apps use food databases to help you track the amount of nutrition you’re getting from what you eat versus daily requirements. You may come to find you’re lacking critical nutrients needed for maintaining a healthy body or are just consuming too many calories for your activity level.
For instance, a vegan diet, while an excellent way to reduce inflammation, is severely lacking in Vitamin B12. It also has difficulty providing adequate iron, zinc, calcium and omega-3 fatty acid. Using a nutrition app can help you identify what you’ll need to supplement in order to stay healthy.
Some of the benefits tech has on the physical end are easier to see, but did you know technology is also making strides in helping us stay more mentally well? App developers, academic institutions and tech engineers are working together to promote devices and apps that can help.
One good example is a wearable called Spire. Unlike watches and pedometers that seek to track activity exclusively, Spire helps keep track of your breathing patterns and helps you achieve a calmer state.
It is backed by StanfoUniversity and focuses on promoting physical life habits that can have a calming effect on your brain and, by extension, your body as well. Besides that, there are a number of apps that focus on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and help their users set and achieve mental wellness goals to combat problems such as anxiety.
You might also be surprised to hear that research done over the past decade has turned the tables on our knowledge of how video games impact overall mental health. In fact, those who play video games occasionally have been demonstrated higher levels of mental agility and focus.
The rewards system built into most games helps to foster a sense of achievement and improves our attitude about life in general. That includes games traditionally associated with more violent tendencies, as ultimately the player is still able to experience the satisfaction of winning sooner or later (particularly in modern games that are designed to be won).
In the same vein that technology expands and augments our ability to handle everyday tasks, it also connects us. The advent of social media platforms and technology has forever altered our understanding of human interaction and fostered incredible opportunities for expanding our social selves.
Communication is the key element for many of tech’s latest boons; from promoting healthier diets to support groups for sufferers of disease or abuse, technology grants us an expanded understanding of one another and complements the social wellness that might otherwise be very limited for us.
Consider the stay-at-home mother or the traveling business person. In both cases, contact with important family members and friends have been traditionally very limited. Yet with services such as Skype, contact is available virtually anytime, anywhere. And contact is evolving.
In the past century, distant communication was first by written or transmitted word, then by audio only and finally by video. But many of these means were severely limited or expensive. Even when home video calls first became available, they were limited to those with fast internet and digital cameras.
Now most of us have access to a phone with a relatively good camera and either a data plan that’s fast and efficient or WiFi that’s free and convenient. Even our soldiers on the other side of the globe can call home and see their families in just seconds.
Using services such as LinkedIn also foster our professional relationships by providing a platform to host professional information and to connect with other people for the purposes of business. School alumni associations link us with academic institutions and provide help meeting people to accomplish our financial and social goals.
Some of what constitutes emotional wellness overlaps with mental and social wellness, but it still remains a distinct field of interest. Emotional wellness is fostered by our daily interactions and shaped by how we see the world.
Technology helps us by providing a more objective view on the world around us. Fears and anxiety tend to be bred by unhealthy patterns of thinking and feelings of inadequacy. Things like positive affirmations and goal tracking curb those irrational thoughts by providing us with proof of progress.
Apps are particularly helpful in tracking your goals, with those that include timelines and schedules such as LifeTick being especially resourceful. Many of these apps are also cross-platform, allowing you to access them on your personal computer and many or all of your mobile devices.
Other services, such as WayForward, focus on providing access to specialists to deal with the daily emotional stress we’re forced to handle at home and at work. The use of digital journals and blogs can help to share our feelings and access the support of the community to help fight through trying times.
Creating a positive paradigm of emotional thought isn’t just restricted to our own wellness either. As emotional providers for others (including our children), we’re virtually obligated to use technology to research how we can provide safer, more emotionally stable environments for those we’re responsible to.
It’s worth noting that Spire, mentioned above, is just one of many wearable tech items being utilized for nonphysical wellness. Other research is being done to sense changes in our feelings and states that we may not even be aware of. Newer devices might even be used to help us understand the feelings of those who have trouble communicating, as with autism.
The exact definition of spiritual wellness varies depending on your personal beliefs, but for nearly all of us it means a sense of connection with the world beyond just our social interactions with other people. It also comprises our values.
For those on the more religious spectrum, there are a number of gadgets and apps available. A mat for reducing the physical pains experienced during prayer was developed by the Timez5 company to help Muslims with their daily prayers.
Anyone seeking to meditate can find helpful guides and videos on YouTube to assist in a step-by-step format. The same is true of yoga practitioners and those learning Tai Chi or any other physical activity tied to spirituality. In some cases, these videos also teach chants or provide soothing music to help with relaxation.
Alongside more mainstream spiritualism is the development of tech items used by ghost hunters in an attempt to establish communication with nonephemeral entities. A variety of items circulate in the field, from digital recorders said to pick up the voices of spirits to full-spectrum cameras designed to see what our eyes cannot.
In each case, technology helps us pursue our own spiritual goals, which ultimately is what allows us to establish our own spiritual wellness. Despite differences of opinion, we all share the need to reach out and connect to something.
Perhaps the final area where technology can enhance your wellness program is in the financial sphere. Our careers shape much of the other aspects in our life. Time spent in a successful company can help anyone feel more accomplished.
One of the greatest contributions of technology in the last few years has been in the realm of employment. Thanks to the popularity of blogs and freelance work, many of us are facing a future with greater opportunity and freedom to choose work rather than be assigned it.
Platforms such as Upwork and Freelancer give us a chance to seek work at our leisure without committing to a long-term position. Physical location is no longer the sole mediator of what jobs we can do; the only limit is how much effort and drive we have.
As we discussed above, you can make good use out of LinkedIn and other social services to build your resume for jobs you want and meet with other professionals. You can also engage in online training using apps and services to learn new and exciting skills to further augment your portfolio.
Pushing the Limits of Wellness
Before technology and the age of information, our wellness was largely limited by what was immediately available. But thanks to the advent of the internet and gadgets to interface with it, we now have considerably more angles to improve ourselves and our lives.
Using technology to augment our understanding of what constitutes maximum wellness goes a long way in improving the quality of our lives. Naturally, we must be cautious about relying too much on technology, but we would be fools to turn a blind eye to its benefits.
How will you use tech to boost your wellness program? Will it serve as an integral part or just as a situational tool? Leave us a comment about what you plan to do.
Guest Post: About the Author: Diamond is a technology specialist and health enthusiast. Her personal foray into the world of wellness has exposed her to an incredible array of different options we have available to live our lives to the fullest.