May 7, 2021

What Exactly is Digital Wellness?

by Jennifer Kane

What Exactly is Digital Wellness?

Today is International Digital Wellness Day.

If you don’t know what that’s celebrating, you’re not alone.

“Digital Wellness” sounds like it should be about using digital technology to make yourself well—like wearing a Fitbit or using a meditation app—but that’s not quite the whole story.

Digital Wellness isn’t just about using tech to make yourself well, but also preventing tech from making you unwell.

It’s about maintaining wellness while living in a digital age—one in which our lives are deeply immersed in technology and every tool we use can be harmful or helpful (or both at once!) depending on our intention and behavior while using it.

It’s also the new focus of my 20-year-old consulting business—a shift I’ve made slowly over the past few years after being an early adopter and cheerleader for emerging tech and then experiencing and studying its effects in my own life, the lives of others, and the industries in which I’ve worked.

The Wellness Wheel

To understand Digital Wellness, it might be helpful to first simply define “wellness,” which is having fulfillment, health, and balance within and between different aspects of your life, like your body, your job, your relationships, your home, etc. Picture it this way…

Digital technology can play a role in any/all of these overlapping circles, sometimes contributing to a sense of ease, flourishing, and happiness, OR a sense of harm, struggle, and unhappiness.

Digital wellness then is about assessing the impact of digital technology in each circle and making intentional shifts and boundaries in your exposure to or usage of that technology in order to achieve better wellness in your life as a whole.

The Spectrum of Digital Wellness

Still unclear? Consider the following examples of how digital technology can simultaneously negatively and positively effect your own Wellness Wheel…  

Physical Wellness

Digital tools can help us monitor, improve, or change our overall physical health.Use of digital tools can also lead to injuries like back pain, “tech neck,” and eye strain, as well as memory problems and cognitive impairments.

Social Wellness

Digital tools can help us connect with our community, build relationships, maintain social bonds, and affect societal change.Digital tools can also lead to isolation and/or tribalism, which can damage relationships, social connections, or societal cohesion.

Financial Wellness

Digital tools can help us better track and manage our finances, budgets, or investments as well as conduct business transactions.Digital tools are also subject to security issues that can damage our finances such as hacking, identity theft, phishing attacks, and fraud.

Spiritual Wellness

Digital tools can help us access worship communities, enable us to discover art, beauty, and joy (which feeds the spirit), or connect with the great wisdom teachers of our times.Digital tools can also cause us to disconnect from the people around us and even our own humanity, sometimes even leading to addictive behaviors that further isolate and drain our spirit.

Occupational Wellness

Digital tools play a key role in many occupations, helping us increase productivity, achieve professional goals, build careers, and stimulate economies.Digital tools also can lead to more workplace distraction, blurred boundaries between work and home life, and less time/brain space for high quality, deep focused work.

Emotional Wellness

Digital tools can help us monitor, improve, or change our overall level of mental and emotional health.Digital tools can also expose us to trolls, cyberbullies, triggering content, or toxic people that can harm our mental and emotional health.

Intellectual Wellness

Digital tools can be used to educate our minds, stimulate our intellects and creativity, and improve our world.Digital tools can also be used to simply comfort and cocoon us so we can escape the world, as well as to spread disinformation and misinformation that sows confusion and discontent.

Environmental Wellness

Digital tools can be used to improve our work and home environments, increasing our comfort, security, and productivity.Digital tools have also created an epidemic of e-waste that harms our planet and can negatively impact our health and homes.

What’s your level of Digital Wellness?

As you can see, no one piece of digital technology is good or bad. No one piece of digital technology can make us well or unwell.

It all exists in a spectrum.

Understanding that spectrum and how it looks for you, making boundaries to accentuate positive effects and eliminate negative ones, is the current focus of my work.

My goal is to help companies and individuals be more mindful about Digital Wellness and guide them in setting intentions, making plans, and drawing/maintaining boundaries to improve their overall health, happiness, and productivity so they can achieve their goals.

There’s lots to cover within this emerging field—digital literacy, wellness tech, multitasking vs flow work states, social capital, technoference, mindfulness, digital safety for kids, corporate digital culture—if you’d like to stay in the loop and learn more, or want information on my new service offerings, please join my email list.

Photo credits (all on Unsplash):  Daniel Fazio, Mollie Sivaram,  Chris Montgomery, Clay Banks, Mika Baumeister, Sebastian Scholz (Nuki), John Cameron, Markus Spiske, Solen Feyissa,  Christina @, Sydney Sims, Titania Jordan, Hero Images for Kingsland


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