For many of us, this is our first week back at work after the holidays, and the reality of getting back into the swing of things can feel a bit daunting. Some have got it so bad they've even decided to bring the so-called 'Blue Monday' name forward a week (it's usually the third week of January, but who's counting). As if that wasn't enough, then there's our heaving inbox... just looking at all the messages is enough to make us want to get back under the duvet, or at the very least book another holiday as soon as possible.
But it isn't just this week's inbox that can feel like that. Whether it's email, social media or just getting our devices to work how we want them to, most of the time our relationship with technology feels like one of discomfort, stress or even anxiety...when was the last time you looked at your inbox with a sense of total peace?
We've got to the stage where we have a pop technology culture built around distraction, and as such it is changing our neurology, our behaviour and our lives. But while our technologies have evolved and improved by exponential leaps and bounds, our ability as human beings to deal with them simply has not.
As individuals and as communities we have to come up with ways for us to deal with this avalanche of available information and stimulation. And from what I see, there are three broad strategies that we can use: Retreat, Remedy or Redesign.
The most tempting option when trying to climb up today's inbox mountain!
Many people feel that it's not possible to have an active digital life as well as great mental wellbeing, and so choose to disengage with the digital side completely. While this is a strategy to be respected, it's just an escape route that doesn't solve anything - it merely avoids contact with the problem. Retreating also ignores the fact that digital technology is not going away. Not learning a functional way of working with the digital part of our lives risks it all blowing up at some point.
Techniques for managing your inbox, only working online for certain hours, limiting the number of social networks you use - these remedial strategies are what most people think of when it comes to digital wellbeing. All of them look to see how we can work with the existing technologies we have in more mind-positive ways. This can be very effective and freeing, but does of course require us as individuals to recognise that a) we have a problem and b) we have the power to do something about it.
This third strategy is the one with the most potential to change our worlds.
So many of our popular technologies have been built around maximising advertising revenue. Distracting us from what we are looking at now in favour of those flashing banners on the side of the screen has become the name of the game... and we wonder why there's a problem!
We need to invest in designing popular technologies which have positive mental qualities such as awareness, concentration and compassion built into them from the start. The more that is prioritised, the more we will start to see our digital lives being something we associate with positive wellbeing.
What might it be like if our interactions with our technology actually developed mindfulness, calm and compassion instead of distraction and disconnection? What would it be like if your phone was a wellbeing device? At this start of the year what better resolution than to start to re-frame how we understand the relationship between technology and our minds.