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Digital Wellbeing, or: why your phone isn’t the problem

Introduction by Mike O’Brien

I’m a huge fan of Black Mirror, but it’s dripping with cynical dread about how unequipped we are to evolve at technology’s pace. Worse yet are the smug blogs that insist on chucking your phone in the bin, because friendship, mindfulness, parents in the landed gentry, and a two-year island sabbatical are the only basics you need in life. To that, we at Download say no thanks. Whilst it’s true that predatory anti-consumer practices are woven into social media’s DNA – flip over to our Tinder article for more – the digital landscape can work wonders for your mental health with the right tools and the right philosophy.

Headspace

By Lottie Ennis

Headspace is an app which provides different meditation and sleep guides. It offers both free meditation and a paid section which allows the user to access more meditation experiences. From the personal use of this app, I have increased my focus and concentration, plus it’s been a helpful tool for improving sleep. Some of the free experiences allow different lengths of daily meditation with a minimum of three minutes. I found that even three minutes of meditation left me feeling calmer and ready to take on the day. The good thing about a free app is that you can invest time in your personal development and mental health without paying a penny. If you do want to upgrade though, the paid version allows different options for sleep meditation which instantly became part of my night-time routine at uni. I would recommend Headspace to everyone as it offers a wide range of different meditations which can be very useful to those feeling overwhelmed or stressed.

CBT app

By Lottie Ennis

The CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) app was recommended to me by the Wellbeing and Counselling service at Cardiff University. CBT might be familiar to anyone who studied Psychology at A-level. It’s a way to challenge your own behaviours in order to live a happier, more balanced life. The CBT app allows you to note patterns or changes in your thoughts and feelings through different coloured faces. These faces can be assigned to any type of feeling, and when you note down a face, you can match them to a time, place or activity which may have caused the feeling. This is particularly useful to those of us who feel like we end up in cycles of low or anxious moods as we can see for ourselves what may have caused a particular mood change and how we can cope differently in the future. Once you start working on your mental health and see improvements, you can look back to see how far you’ve come; it’s easy to forget where you started!

Microsoft Surface

By Mike O’Brien

I won’t even attempt to disguise my feelings for the Microsoft Surface as platonic. This device has become symbiotic, it is my significant other on a spiritual level. In case you don’t know what it is, the Microsoft Surface is a two-in-one device with the form factor of an iPad and the utility of a laptop. You may be thinking; what does this have to do with mental wellbeing? Well, my friend, let me tell you: it makes my bipolar workable. Thanks to its touchscreen, kickstand, and god tier build quality, this thing can be used anywhere – and I mean anywhere. Sitting in an office chair at an office computer for longer than two seconds for me is a forlorn war. Having a versatile device that enables me regardless of whatever bizarre acrobatics I happen to be performing at the time has quintupled my productivity, and I bet it does for you too.

Besides that, it comes loaded with a tonne of productivity apps which sync to your phone, a huge aid for general living. Some favourites of mine include Microsoft To-Do, which is exactly what you think it is: a checklist app. You add a task, add an optional due date or extra steps, and tick it off when it’s done. Add tasks from your Surface and suddenly they’re on your phone now as well (it even works with iPhones!). There’s also OneNote, which is sort of like a digital notebook. It’s a bit more flexible than Word and allows you to organise notes a bit more efficiently than a bunch of jumbled files in a folder. And, again, these notes sync over to your other devices. This little family of apps and devices has kept my life in check in ways that I, someone vilely useless with paper, could never.

Last, and least, is the Microsoft Surface Pen. Alright, yeah, it’s a gimmick. Do you look like a smug, bastardy, discount Steve Jobs using it? Maybe in the right turtleneck, sure. But I love this thing shamelessly and so should you. Buy it – even if you’re just going to twirl it condescendingly in conversations with others. You could buy it to take handwritten notes with excellent precision, do little doodles or grand designs, or as a more relaxing and precise way to use the Surface’s touchscreen in tablet mode. It may be a nifty device for unconventional and visual learners. But I say it’s worth it for the twirling. Let’s face it: the worst thing about using a computer over a notepad is that you can’t twirl a pen whilst you procrastinate. To naysayers: take your technically more practical mouse and piss off.

Nintendo Switch

By Mike O’Brien

nintendo switch

My doctor told me something once that changed my perspective on mental health forever. If you’re a sufferer, you’re not normal. You’re not a weirdo – well, you might be – but not by default. It does mean, though, that you should stop banging your head against a wall when you can’t do things like ‘a normal person’. If you’re not up to a task, sometimes it’s best to walk away. A walk is good – but if you’d rather stay put and need something a little more mentally stimulating to concentrate that energy (or lack thereof), I say put the work aside and pull out a Nintendo Switch for a little while. When I get anxious or frustrated, sometimes I just want to keep leaving until I’m outside and there’s nowhere left to leave. My Switch is a little portal to another dimension of interactive bliss, whether it’s toying around on Super Mario, or soon, tending to my Animal Crossing village. Having Mario Kart, Jackbox Party Pack, and Smash Bros on the go can be great icebreakers for the socially anxious, too.

Facebook Support Groups

By Emma Murphy

Social media has been a great source of comfort for my family. Initially, when my father was diagnosed with brain and lung cancer, it was an enemy of sorts, only confirming that the worst was yet to come. But social media enabled a sense of community as we realized we were not the only family fighting. When he had his left lung removed in 2015, we stumbled across the ‘Living with One Lung’ forum. At a time when it seemed unfathomable that anybody could live a life of any quality with halved lung capacity, there they were, living, breathing (ha-ha) examples. The support these communities offered was priceless, and when my dad succumbed in 2018, they grieved alongside us.

My younger brother lives with Crohn’s disease. It’s a delicate subject for any kid (now teen) to discuss with school peers, girlfriends, teachers, and so on. He actually prefers to act like nothing is wrong at all. Thankfully, when his symptoms are extra worrying, or his treatment plan changes, there’s another lovely online community of people who get it. Sometimes, they’re more helpful than his doctors. It’s been a huge light in what can be a murky environment. I am forever grateful for the comfort that these beautiful pockets of the web afforded my family.

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