Digital Mindfulness vs the Real Thing During the Pandemic: Digital Age’s Impact by@gershwin.aaron

Digital Mindfulness vs the Real Thing During the Pandemic: Digital Age’s Impact

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Aaron Gershwin HackerNoon profile picture

Aaron Gershwin

Cyber security copy writer, tech support with a degree in political science

People are very social beings by default. Even the most introverted ones still have people that they like a bit more than the rest of the bunch. We rely on co-operation to survive and thrive. We usually learn from each other quicker than by ourselves.

The disconnect that happened between all of us and between us and nature during the pandemic hit us fast and hit us hard. Rates of anxiety and depression among U.S. adults were about 4 times higher between April 2020 and August 2021 than they were in 2019. People had and still do have a lot more time on their hands and minds and it’s even easier to get wrapped up in social media, the fast-moving world, and forget to connect with other humans, nature, and ourselves.

Constant regulations, changes on how to fight the pandemic every day, preventive measures, and other things daily spin in our minds and occupy our thoughts. No wonder a lot of people are turning their heads into this thing mindfulness and are trying to find and learn the best practices. 

The times when you thought that mindfulness only exists somewhere on a mountain with a bald man all wrapped up in cloth sitting inside a tree are long past. The word itself is pretty straightforward, it means being present in your mind, your body, with all of your senses.

Imagine standing in the shower and feeling the drops of the water on you, feeling how you stand, your posture, the breathing in your lungs as you inhale and exhale, and the sound of the running water. That's mindfulness, being there in the present moment without thinking about the past or the future and that’s generally how people that look into this movement want to feel like.

Mindfulness is a great way to reduce anxiety, however, just like anything else, it needs practice.

The Pandemic and its Impact on Mental Health

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Anxiety rates have increased during the pandemic and people more often than not turned to yoga, meditation, therapy, and other methods. However, some have seen themselves run into the arms and art of escapism, which is another method, albeit not always looked upon positively.

According to research, there is evidence that the fear of isolation that many people experienced during the lockdown measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic is positively related to the consumption of media that elicits nostalgia. People run off to TV shows, movies, books, video games - anything that takes them away from current life and situation, aka they escape into the world of fiction.

The recent increase in consumption of media that seems nostalgic is one of the reasons why people started listening to decade-old songs or why TikTok’s dance trends saw a rise with songs that most consider nostalgic. 

Running away from the trap that becomes your mind is not an easy feat. People who struggle with mental health issues have to find the time in their usually busy schedule to book appointments, go to a yoga class, meditation or a therapy session.

However, during the pandemic, most of these activities became unavailable due to numerous restrictions in the communities country-wide. Therefore, those who already struggled started struggling even more, not to mention that others who’d become impacted during lockdown didn’t even have a chance to start exploring mindfulness, as they had fewer options to choose from. All the options accessible before were not available due to restrictions, making people try to come up with other ways to fight mental illness. 

Another thing to keep in mind is that these options are a good way to improve mental health and dip into the world of mindfulness for those who are not struggling with income, or other criteria.

Therapy sessions with a trained psychiatrist can be an expensive solution that somehow needs to fit into your daily life and busy schedule. Yoga classes may be full by those doing it for years and finding a suitable time slot can be challenging as well. Let’s not forget that all of the options may not be available at all depending on where you live.

The Rise and Popularity of Mindfulness Apps 

The pace of everyday living is extremely high and there’s just so much to do, we’re currently on the edge of our seats when it comes to just living our lives. What is more, in the thriving age of technology it’s more and more difficult to disconnect from reality, as you are always available and reachable via social media.

The consequences of being constantly interrupted by today’s hyper-connected digital lifestyle are a chronic state of anxiety, stress, busyness, and a general sense of restlessness. “Focus is one of the most important skills of the 21st century but it’s becoming much harder to pay attention because our smartphones are always interrupting us.” Sometimes it feels as if it is difficult to run away and wanting to throw your phone away becomes a constant. 

But there’s an antidote to this age of digital distraction. That antidote is digital mindfulness, which involves developing smartphone habits that enable you to focus and concentrate for long periods of time by training your attention and minimizing interruptions. The coronavirus pandemic has led to a surge in downloads of mental wellness applications, and specifically, those focused on meditation, dealing with anxiety and helping users fall asleep.

According to a new report from app store intelligence firm Sensor Tower, the world’s 10 largest English-language mental wellness apps in April saw a combined 2 million more downloads during the month of April 2020 compared with January, reaching close to 10 million total downloads for the month.

From what we can see, the mindfulness topic is becoming closely entwined with technology, which I personally find fascinating, therefore deciding to write an article about it.

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It may seem counterintuitive to solve digital distraught and constant social media notification onslaught with another app but as long as it works, the world is our oyster.

The rise of apps like Headspace, Calm, Yours App and others that offer a variety of breathing exercises, yoga, music for better sleeping, meditation and even psychological advice seems logical. You can now explore being mindful and practice mindfulness without even leaving your apartment or your room. And the biggest advantage and one of the reasons these types of apps see a rise in downloads and installs is that they can be used anywhere at any time. You don’t have to book an appointment with your therapist, you can just sit down during your lunch break and immerse yourself into the calming waters of mindfulness.

Yours App, a recent application to join the mindfulness scene, even offers professional psychologist advice, which sets the tone for future and current applications to amp up their game in addition to current features. Moreover, and let’s be real for a second, things are expensive - lessons, classes, therapy sessions. Applications can provide a lot of various content and cost less than one yoga class. 

Mindfulness Apps Vs. the Real Thing

Let’s think critically about mindfulness applications and physical therapy sessions, yoga classes, meditation exercises.

Applications pros and cons:

  • App content is available at any time during the day or night and at any location;
  • A lot of apps provide customizable features and content, so you get what you’re in need of;
  • Different people require different needs and being social (aka a group yoga class) can improve their mental health;
  • It is easy to get sidetracked when using an application, as you’re the one responsible for attentiveness;

Physical activities pros and cons:

  • You can get out of the house and change your surroundings, which is also crucial to your mental health;
  • One on one sessions or activities are accustomed to you, specifically, therefore might be more accurate;
  • Activities can be expensive and not available to everyone (f.e.low income, rural areas, etc.);
  • Activities are scheduled and may be difficult to reschedule when plans change.
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Summary

The pandemic hit us hard not only physically but also emotionally and mentally. Anxiety and mental health issues have seen a rise during Covid, making it more difficult for those already struggling and increasing the number of people who suffer. While there are a number of methods and possibilities available like meditation, yoga, psychotherapy and others, not all of them may be accessible to everyone.

The rise of mindfulness applications seems to be making a positive impact on those having issues, not to mention being more available to the majority. It is enthralling to see how technology evolves to fit the specific needs of the users of such applications that focus on mental health. These kinds of adjustments and flexibility are always welcome, as technology becomes more personalized and ready for those who want to immerse themselves into the world of mindfulness.

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