instagram won't try to lick your face...
and why that's not always a good thing
By Ella Bowman, guest blogger
The internet and our hyper-connectivity is so obviously useful to us and widely adopted as a way of life, even, that we often talk about how it’s not all it’s cracked up to be: how it affects our meaningful connections to each other and how it can put pressure on our mental health. There are ways you can make sure you’re empowering yourself with it, though, with established boundaries to make you less drained by its sometimes empty allure so making you happier and more fulfilled.
the internet isn’t all bad.
In recent years there have been really impressive developments in how we’re using the internet’s powers for good. 1 in 4 adults in the UK will experience at least one diagnosable mental health problem each year, costing the NHS an estimated £105 billion a year. It doesn’t solve the issues, but by recommending apps, online services and curating web-hosted guides, our health service can help those for whom these are effective, lessening the demand on GPs. And for those needing more formal medical attention, these can help whilst they wait to be seen.
There are apps that people swear by, for meditation, such as Calm, Headspace and Smiling Mind. Each that can improve people’s patterns of thinking, giving them a chance to recharge when stressed, help them sleep, and for general self-care under the strains of everyday life. And early next year sees the launch of the Paradym app, which seeks to improve people’s emotional intelligence (EQ), through using the app’s daily activities for only ten minutes each day.
Not forgetting the internet as an open forum for mental health discussion: without the digital world would we have advanced as we have in our openness with and compassion for anxiety, depression, and the many other forms of psychological difficulties we face?
but don’t expect the internet to love you back.
It’s a great thing for getting the message out there, but it can also put us in a zombie-like state of scrolling, often through the glamorous feeds of those we might think better and more successful than ourselves. The messages this behaviour sends to our brains aren’t healthy: it’s been well documented that there is a connection between social media and anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and mental ill-health.
you're the boss.
It’s clearly important to put a premium on meaningful experiences offline, in which case. Face-to-face conversation (or face-to-muzzle, as they like to think of it at Paws in Work), outdoor activities, reading, cooking, or anything that doesn’t involve losing yourself (and your time) to a screen: being in control of your digital presence.
Catherine Price in the New York Times recommends reframing how we think about our screens, or phones: ‘Instead of thinking of it as “spending less time on your phone,” think of it as “spending more time on your life.”’ Giving yourself plans to look forward to is important, too. So snap up a chance to meet a therapeutic litter of puppies in the office (did you know that even just looking at cute images of puppies can improve your focus? For a quick hit check out the Paws in Work Instagram account. We may be biased, but imagine how much better it is to interact with a puppy, in real life!). Or maybe you book theatre tickets or plan a trip away: all the real rewards you have planned will help you stay grounded and help you get through tough times.
At Paws in Work events people are often coaxed from their desks by the novelty of meeting cute pups, but they’re finding that bonding with the puppies isn’t only a great Instagram story: that they come away recharged, refreshed and with smiles on their faces. One happy client, Creative Growth Strategist, Anique Coffee, said, ‘It’s strange to think I could have felt so good after only fifteen minutes with a puppy, but it really motivated my afternoon and put a lasting smile on my face. Even more energising for me was looking around the room and seeing all the smiles on the faces of my colleagues.’
The benefits of time spent with animals have been long understood. In fact, in the late 18th Century, at the York Retreat (a therapeutic retreat founded by Quaker merchant, William Tuke), patients were encouraged to care for the estate’s animals. ‘A writer of that era remarked that an animal not only provided pleasure to the patients, but " ... [it]sometimes tends to awaken the social and benevolent feelings" as well.'
Animals can be a small and fluffy but effective part of a healthy life not entirely devoted to a screen. Do you get enough face-to-muzzle contact?
Saying all this, I do encourage you to subscribe to the Paws in Work mailing list below, as I’ll be blogging about mental health in the workplace and sharing tips and tricks for surviving the Christmas festivities. And the team at Paws in Work are often sharing posts on how to ethically buy a puppy, how to train it, and when to rehome puppies if your dog has a litter. Remember: the internet isn’t all bad!