Headphones in, world off

17.04.18

Lauren Johnston

Trainee Research Executive, London

Digital detoxing, switching off, unplugging yourself… these are just some of the phrases we’ve come to associate with an ‘always-on’ age.

 

With our technological consumption steadily rising it’s no surprise the benefits of going cold turkey seem increasingly compellingespecially as the impact of our reliance on digital technology becomes linked with poor mental health.

As design researchers, its vital to consider this impact. As Dieter Rams put it ‘you cannot understand good design if you do not understand people; design is made for people’. In one of our earlier blog posts we looked at how the Siempo phone had been designed to cut out unwanted distractions and notifications.

 

But what if we flipped our thinking and actively engaged with technology to aid in the pursuit of wellbeing and mental resilience?

 

Digital wellness can already be found at our fingertips with apps such as Headspace, which has pioneered mobile mindfulness for the masses since its launch in 2012.

 

Mindfulness is often touted as the go to alleviation for our modern day stresses many other brands have followed Headspace’s lead, with some offering a more immersive toolkit.

Take for example Muse, a piece of wearable tech that takes the meditative process that bit further for those that might struggle with the mindfulness practice. The user experiences real time feedback and calming techniques via a headband that monitors their brain activity.
Similarly, Spire behaves as a mental fitbit, tracking and identifying periods where the wearer is physically tense, an indicator of anxiety, then prompts them to interrupt their cycle of anxiety through alerts.

Whether these technologies, like Spire and Muse, will be adopted into the mainstream is yet to be seen. However, it does indicate that the approach to good mental health is becoming less clinical and increasingly inclusive. It is promising to see such examples of user centric design being applied in such a way that can allow for some real autonomy for those that feel that may have lost a sense of control.

 

The pursuit of improving ourselves and embracing new technology are key characteristics of our modern-day lifestyle, so it may be no surprise we now can shop a plethora of gadgets and apps to support our physical health. As tech giants such as Apple muscle in on the health sphere it will be interesting to see how wellness, and its accessibility, will come into the digital fold.