While facilitating personal communication and information access, the rise of digital platforms also highlights the importance of ‘digital wellness.’ Digital platforms pose unique threats to mental health, with risks of cyber bullying, disorders, addiction, anxiety, and depression. An emerging priority for wellness experts, digital wellness addresses these risks, ensuring that tech use is compatible with personal wellbeing (IGI Global, 2017).
Digital wellness initiatives now attempt to pool the expertise of professionals in technology, education, healthcare, and wellness. With direct access to clients and their needs, wellness professionals can play a pivotal role, improving day-to-day relationships with digital and online platforms. Here is a closer look at digital wellness, which considers common mental health risks, demographics, and ways in which wellness counsellors can help address current issues.
Digital Wellness Efforts Identify Common Mental Health Risks
Digital mental health efforts focus on the complex ‘cyberpsychological’ factors that can mark an unhealthy relationship with social media and the internet (McMahon and Aiken, 2015). Among these risk factors, high levels of anxiety are common, taking different forms according to one’s uses of information technology. For instance, ‘cyberchondria’ refers to internet-fuelled hypochondria, a source of anxiety for users searching medical symptoms (Semaan, 2017).
Anxiety is also among the common outcomes of obsessive social media use. Moreover, an unhealthy relationship with social media can also contribute to depression, ADHD, and paranoia. Offering curated glimpses of other peoples’ lives, platforms like Facebook and Instagram can compound these mental health risks in users, and lead to feelings of inadequacy and isolation (Fader, 2018). According to the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health, data from over 10,000 Canadian adolescents showed that those who spent over two hours a day on social media were likelier to classify their mental health as “poor” or “fair” (Whitley, 2016).
Digital Wellness Experts Follow Demographics
In addition to common mental health risks, students pursuing a diploma in wellness counselling can track the demographics of digital wellness. Perhaps unsurprisingly, digital wellness initiatives are often youth-focused (University of Washington, 2018). Yet, with 40 per cent of the world’s population on social media (Brown, 2018), the wellness risks extend beyond the youngest users. A 2015 Pew Research poll determined that digital platforms made people more aware of stressful events in the lives of those they followed. Moreover, Pew concluded that women were more susceptible than men to the stresses of these digital updates (Hamton et al., 2015).
Yet Pew also found evidence of a healthy digital diet contributing to lower stress levels. For example, women who used Twitter, sent or received 25 emails, and shared digital pictures every day were up to 21 per cent less stressed than women who were inactive on these platforms (Hamton et al., 2015). Thus, with the potential for both added stress and greater personal organization, digital platforms can either help or hinder mental health depending on their uses.
How Professionals with Wellness Certification Can Help
Professionals with wellness certification can work closely with clients to ensure constructive uses of digital platforms. Trained wellness counsellors can help clients identify particular problems with their online or social media use—and empower them to adjust habits toward greater wellness. In cases of anxiety, isolation, or depression, digital wellness might be achieved by challenging negative thought patterns and asserting a level of control over one’s daily digital intake. Digital wellness may also be a matter of questioning one’s motives for posting or sharing, as users may determine that they are relying too closely on ‘likes’ for personal validation (University of Washington, 2018).
Wellness students can track organizations like the Global Wellness Institute, whose Digital Wellness Initiative takes a multidisciplinary approach to healthy uses of technology (GWI, 2018). Wellness professionals can also prepare for closer collaboration with tech, education, and health experts, as digital wellbeing continues to evolve with the rate of technological progress.
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Brown, J. (2018). What the science suggests so far about the impact of platforms such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram on your mental well-being. BBC. Retrieved from: http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20180104-is-social-media-bad-for-you-the-evidence-and-the-unknowns Fader, S. Social Media Obsession and Anxiety. Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). Retrieved from: https://adaa.org/social-media-obsession
GWI (2018). Digital Wellness Initiative. Global Wellness Institute. Retrieved from: https://globalwellnessinstitute.org/initiatives/digital-wellness-initiative/
Hampton, K. et al. (2015). Psychological Stress and Social Media Use. Pew Research Center: Internet & Technology. Retrieved from: http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/01/15/psychological-stress-and-social-media-use-2/
IGI Global (2017). What is Digital Wellness. IGI Global, and Handbook of Research on Transformative Digital Content and Learning Technologies. Retrieved from: https://www.igi-global.com/book/handbook-research-transformative-digital-content/170860#table-of-contents
McMahon, C., Aiken, M. (2015). Introducing Digital Wellness: Bringing Cyberpsychological Balance to Healthcare and Information Technology. IEEE Xplore, Digital Library. Retrieved from: https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/7363256/
Semaan, J. (2017). Confessions of a Cyberchondriac. Health Line. Retrieved from: https://www.healthline.com/health/cyberchondria-modern-day-hypochondriac#1
University of Washington (2018). Student Life, Digital Wellness 101: Taking Control of Your Life Online. Retrieved from: https://www.washington.edu/studentlife/digital-wellness-101-sr/ Whitley, R. (2016). The Blog: Here’s Why Social Media Harms Your Teen’s Mental Health. Huffington Post. Retrieved from: https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/robertwhitley/social-media-mental-health_b_11893462.html