Albert Einstein once said, “I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.”
Are we there yet?
While the pessimists among us might answer, “yes,” we’d like to believe that technology has had an equal measure of good and bad effects on our human race. To illustrate this, here are three examples of positive and negative changes that technology has brought upon our mental health.
As we’ve gone deeper into the social media rabbit hole, we have moved away from things like small talk and eye contact. Some experts worry that the current generation of children are missing out on learning how to respond to conflict and uncomfortable situations in the moment, instead relying on the safety and distance that their screens provide. However, as Gary Small, neuroscientist and author of, “iBrain: Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind,” points out, scientists have yet to find conclusive evidence that texting is truly taking away social skills. More research is needed to tease out the exact effect of texting, but, as with anything, too much is probably not a good thing.
Technology has been a huge help for people with issues like Social Anxiety Disorder. With the advent of online groups, chats, and texting, people who were formerly adverse to social situations can now participate in various activities. Communicating through phones and computers can also be an enormous relief for introverts, who find their energy zapped by too much face-to-face time.
Studies have shown that both children and adults suffer negative consequences when it comes to sleep after engaging in screen time. According to Harvard Medical school scientists, specific wavelengths of light suppress the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin in the brain.
When used properly, technology can actually aid in sleep. Apps like Relax Melodies, that play relaxing sounds can help users fall asleep faster. Meditation and yoga apps are also available for smartphones, and many of these have programs focused specifically on good sleep.
In this age of selfies and picture-perfect instagram poses, it’s easy to assume that social media is causing a spike in narcissism. However, as researcher Shawn Bergman pointed out, “There is a significant amount of psychological research that shows that one’s personality is fairly well-established by age 7,” given that Facebook’s policy doesn’t allow users to register until age 13 “the personality traits of typical users are fairly well-ingrained by the time they get on a social network.”
However, seeing all of these perfect posts can make people feel bad about themselves in comparison, as shown in several recent studies of American college students who use Facebook frequently.
Following people like body-positive blogger Tess Holiday on Instagram or Facebook can remind us to subscribe to a more inclusive model of beauty. We are happy to report an increasing number of positively themed bloggers out there, who focus on all kinds of diversity, whether it be size, race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. Being exposed to these kinds of positive messages can help people build a solid sense of self-esteem.
You’ve probably heard the expression, “You are what you eat!” many times before. The idea, of course, is that the food that you put into your body, dictates a large portion of your health. While this may be true to some extent, there are actually some truly negative side effects to believing in this paradigm. We will tell you what they are, but, as we all learned in debate class, we have to give you the other side’s arguments first.
The “You are what you eat!” club will point to studies like the ones cited in this article to prove its point, and we have to admit, there are some pretty compelling findings here. For example:
Multiple studies have found a correlation between diets high in refined sugar and impaired cognitive functioning
Some studies have found a relationship between eating large amounts of refined sugar and an increase in depression and anxiety
Studies have found that people who take probiotics to aid in their digestive health have lower levels of anxiety, and stress, with a better outlook on life
People who eat a Japanese diet (filled with vegetables, fruits, unprocessed grains, fish and seafood) were found to be 25%-35% less likely to be depressed than people who eat a Western diet (filled with processed foods, sugar, alcohol, and dairy).
Food tracking apps also cause an increase in scrutiny and focus on food
Like we said, these are some mighty fine findings. We are almost about to jump on the “clean eating” bandwagon! Except, we aren’t.
The truth is that what you eat may not be as important as you think. In fact, over-focusing on what you eat, can lead to eating disorders, body shame, and Depression and Anxiety – exactly the things we thought we were curing by eating clean! If this all sounds confusing to you, you aren’t alone. The diet industry pays millions of dollars a year to make sure that we feel the need to make “lifestyle changes” that don’t truly benefit us.
Luckily, more and more professionals are becoming wise to a truly non-diet approach. One of our favorite anti-diet ambassadors is Christy Harrison, MPH, RD, CPN. Ms. Harrison is a nutritionist who ascribes to the Health At Every Size movement, and she runs a fabulous weekly podcast, dedicated to helping people make peace with food and their bodies.
Christy discusses one of these podcasts on her facebook page where she says:
“The “clean eating” movement suggests that eating certain kinds of food will inevitably harm our health, and that consistently making the “right” food choices will heal or prevent all ills. Scientific research disproves this belief by showing that people can eat plenty of “processed” foods and still be in good physical health, and that weight stigma is actually a bigger determinant of health than weight itself. You DON’T need to demonize certain food groups, or restrict your food to try to lose weight, or treat food as the be-all-end-all of health. In fact, putting too much emphasis on our day-to-day food choices doesn’t lead to improved health at all, but to a preoccupation with food and panic about our health.”
Christy goes on to say that it’s far more important to focus on things like your mental health, and eliminating weight stigma in our society, than it is to watch every little thing that we eat.
The Truth: Technology is as good as you make it. While certain behaviors can be detrimental to your mental health, other facets of this new era can be enlightening. Choose wisely!
If you’d like to talk learn more about ways to positively impact your mental health, contact us. We are here to help!