Technology is the double-edged sword of the modern world. On one hand it brings us great convenience. And on the other hand technologies can greatly decrease our quality of life. One way we can deal with the negative effects of technology is to use technology itself – but we need to be discerning about what we use, and how.
There are several technologies that can help mitigate the negative effects technology might have on us and help to improve our health. I’d like to share the technologies – mainly apps – that have had a profound impact on my life, and my clients’ lives.
(Note: I do not have any vested interest in any of the companies below. I simply love their products and use these technologies regularly for myself and with my clients.)
1. Inner Balance
The research on meditation is abundant, and we now know that the benefits of meditation are many. The (very!) short list of benefits include:
- Improved immune function
- Pain control
- Decreased inflammation
- Anti-depressive effect
- Improved memory
- Increase in brain size
Although many people are well aware of the benefits, they don’t regularly partake in the practice. I’ve heard a variety of reasons from my clients, which I believe are common amongst the general public. Some of them include:
- “Meditation is too hard.”
- “I can’t clear my mind.”
- “I don’t know how to meditate.”
- “Meditation doesn’t work for me.”
Usually, when I push on and ask them how many times they’ve tried it, more often than not the answer is once.
One of the biggest limiting factors that prevents people from sticking with meditation is that the effects are rarely felt in the short term. Meditation gradually changes the brain and the brain slowly rewires itself to be more prone to the relaxation response. This happens over repeated meditation sessions. There is a great book on this phenomenon, known as neuroplasticity, called The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge.
If you are not training the relaxation response into your brain, then by default you are training the stress response into your nervous system. Meditation, and meditation-like activities, help to train the relaxation response.
A piece of technology, which I personally use daily, and use with my clients, is called Inner Balance. It can actually map how relaxed or stressed you are in real time. It works by monitoring heart rate variability (HRV). The definition of HRV is a physiological phenomenon of variation in the time interval between heartbeats. When we are in a relaxed state, the time between heartbeats becomes regular. Think of a drummer keeping a steady beat. But when we are stressed, the spaces between heartbeats are varied.
The Inner Balance System helps your body train the relaxation response by relaying back to you in real time your heart rate variability. Its biofeedback mechanism allows you to adjust how you are breathing and thinking to influence your physiology. You can literally see your thoughts change your physiology (the mind/body connection in action!). Studies have shown that when your HRV is balanced you are able to concentrate better, students get better marks, creativity flourishes, and stress hormones are reduced.
2. Waking Up
Sam Harris, a neuroscientist, podcaster, philosopher and bestselling author, is behind this meditation app. There are plenty of guided meditations you can try, but this app is more of a meditation course that offers lessons, delves into philosophical theory, science and gratitude, and has conversations with other experts about meditation and mental health. This is a next-level meditation app that takes you beyond the mechanics of a meditation practice and gets you deeply pondering about your greater purpose.
Do you know what the best thing on the planet is for repair, healing and recovery? It’s sleep! If we could encapsulate the benefits of sleep, it would surely be the top selling supplement in the world.
Sleep hygiene is as important as the sleep itself, as it determines the quality of our sleep. All too often my clients are reporting that they use their phones or computers, or watch television before bed. This greatly disrupts an important hormone called melatonin.
Melatonin begins to be excreted by the pineal gland at around 6:00-8:00 pm when there is an absence of light. It is a hormone made from tryptophan (more on this here), and has potent antioxidant activity. Higher levels have also been shown to be associated with lower breast cancer risk.
Back in the day when there was no artificial light, but only the sun and the moon (and maybe a little fire), we would wake up with the rising sun and go to sleep with setting sun. This was an optimal situation for melatonin production. Today, we have artificial light, phones, television, cell phones, and street lights. These all emit a blue spectrum light, that disrupts melatonin production.
The American Medical Association published the following statement in a 2013 article:
“Exposure to excessive light at night, including extended use of various electronic media, can disrupt sleep or exacerbate sleep disorders, especially in children and adolescents. This effect can be minimized by using dim red lighting in the nighttime bedroom environment.”
F.lux is an app that will remove the blue spectrum light from your screen as the evening progresses. In fact, as I write this, my screen has begun to turn a reddish colour. The red part of the light spectrum does not affect melatonin production.
4. Think Dirty
Do you think that your personal care products (fragrance, deodorant, antiperspirant, makeup, toothpaste, shampoo, shaving cream, etc.) are non-toxic? Think again. Estimates are that women apply over 100 chemicals to their body before they even leave the house in the morning. Remember this rule: whatever goes on the skin, goes into the bloodstream.
Over 80,000 chemicals have been introduced into our environment over the last hundred years. We need to make the best effort possible to limit our exposure in order to prevent various diseases such as cancer, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, and many more.
The founder of this app, Lily Tse, was inspired by the Story of Cosmetics, a short video about the chemicals in our personal care products.
After downloading Think Dirty on a smartphone you can scan barcodes of skincare products, learn the ingredients in them and if they are toxic or non-toxic. This is incredibly empowering as you learn that you can take control of a significant source of chemical exposure.
Technology is great, but we must treat it with respect or it can wreak havoc on our lives. Bringing mindfulness to our usage of technologies can help to mitigate some of their harmful effects and even provide a net benefit.