Trisha Swift, DNP is a Whole-Person Care expert, an Ayurveda Medicine student at MIU, and the VP of Innovation & Transformation at ZeOmega.
There are plenty of warnings regarding the negative impacts of technology on our mood, sleep, attention, vision, mindfulness and overall health. While I agree with many of the cautionary tales, I also believe there is an effective way to apply technology to enhance health and well-being — specifically the health of your brain.
One of the fastest-growing areas in technology includes digital mindfulness and wearable devices. Apps and wearables are easily accessed through smartphones and can interface across devices, even in your car. Overall, mindfulness tech solutions are designed to offer users a sense of well-being, inner peace, calmness and focus.
Holistic medicine practitioners often view technology as manufactured or impersonal and, therefore, can disregard its utility for whole-person care (WPC) and brain health. However, I believe technology and holistic medicine should be viewed as symbiotic partners in support of a whole-person care model. In fact, there are several ways high-tech holistic medicine can enable whole-person care, specifically by enhancing brain health. In reviewing how high-tech holistic medicine can boost the brain, the following aspects of the whole person come to mind:
Meditation And Mindfulness
There are hundreds of meditation techniques, each one embracing diverse traditions, cultures and methods to reduce stress and expand consciousness. Scientific research on meditation confirms it has a wide range of health benefits to the body and the mind — each technique having a unique intent, purpose and desired effect.
Nowadays, it’s easy to adopt a meditation practice through a smartphone app. Meditation apps provide guided sessions, relaxing music, breathing techniques and reminders — some even offer social networking for meditators to connect on their shared interest. Using technology to support mindfulness is far from what most imagine meditation to look like. However, it’s exactly what high-tech holistic medicine is — blending the old with the new to provide a modern approach for whole-person care.
Beyond meditation, the idea of positive affirmations has its place in whole-person care. The technology available in this area is becoming wildly popular, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, when intentional social isolation and depressing news headlines are common. Technology for positivity has a wide range of use and is customizable. Smart devices can remind us to slow down and breathe when our heart rate spikes unexpectedly. Apps can push uplifting quotes to start the day, and voice-activated devices can speak directly to us with a cheerful note. Chatbots can carry on a conversation and help address negative emotions.
The tech market is full of options when it comes to meditation and mindfulness. It’s only a matter of time before the medical community recognizes its utility for improving quality of life by enhancing brain health.
Many suffer from sleep issues such as an inability to fall asleep, stay asleep or get restful sleep. Lack of good quality sleep brings on a host of health problems ranging from mood disturbances to headaches to obesity to heart disease, among others.
Whole-person care models seek to address the root cause of an issue rather than treat symptoms. Therefore, applying technology to monitor and improve sleep, rather than taking a sleeping pill, would be the preferred course of action. There are several apps that assist in falling asleep by providing soothing music, white noise or nature sounds. Wearable devices can monitor sleep quality and duration so one can draw correlations between their behaviors and habits that result in better sleep.
Other devices can monitor sleep and initiate a wake-up alarm when you are in the lightest phase of sleep as to not disturb the more restful phases. Looking ahead, there is emerging pillow technology where sounds and vibrations are transmitted to the sleeper that trigger the brain to relax and slow down for a smoother transition to sleep. Technology and sleep have a love-hate relationship, as a dependence on technology can result in real sleep issues. However, there are many tech solutions that are specifically designed to optimize sleep.
The term “digital detox” refers to a set time period where one avoids the use of tech devices such as tablets, TVs, smartphones, computers and social media. Taking a hiatus from technology is referred to as a “detox” because the constant mental stimulation by technology and devices can act as a toxin to health and well-being. In fact, some research indicates that nearly 20% of adults report that technology is a significant source of stress in their life.
Honoring an intention to unplug from technology has been shown to help people refocus their attention on in-person social interactions without virtual distractions and associated stress caused by the constant connectivity. As ironic as it sounds, using technology to avoid technology is not only helpful but, in some sense, necessary. Going off the grid is not only hard to do, but it can also cause friends and family to worry.
There are several apps designed to assist in doing a digital detox by setting limits for screen time and keeping tabs on consumption so there is visibility into when a user has had “too much.” Other apps lock down your device for a set period of time as a way to force a break from social media. Going one step further, there are apps that track and trend online behaviors to allow users to take a data-driven approach for self-management and modifications.
A digital detox shouldn’t be viewed as any different than a juice cleanse, bowel flush, nasal wash or skin exfoliation. Digital detox is for the brain, and its positive results on brain health speak for themselves.
High-tech holistic medicine to deliver whole-person care facilitates personal connections without the need for physical touchpoints. This connection with self and others, in many cases, is the missing ingredient in achieving feelings of wholeness. To feel whole, one must also care for and maintain optimal brain health, which is foundational to a WPC model. Therefore, applying technology in ways that enhance brain health is not just complementary, it’s essential to your overall quality of life.
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