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Digital wellness: it's all inside your mind

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Startup Jedi

We talk to startups and investors, you get the value.

There are different aspects of digital wellness in our modern world. During the EMERGE conference there was held a 4-hours panel dedicated to digital wellness moderated by Eddie STERN. Akesh Mehta gave a social media presentation and Eliza Vinokurova presented her view on neuroscience and biohacking to improve quality of life.


Digital wellness

Digital consumption, security and privacy

Today the average person checks the phone every 12 minutes, that’s 30 000 times a year. We have almost 8 different social media accounts ranging from WhatsApp to LinkedIn. And it takes 2.4 hours per day to use our phone.

Let’s think about the main people on any social network — influencers. They usually have a combination of three key factors: reach, contextual credibility and salesmanship. As we see, the number of followers is not the key factor to become an influencer. Influencers are associated with positive words — inspiration, productivity, education or motivation. Thinking about traditional influencers as the people with a high number of followers leads us to the false path. A lot of people join social media for monetary reasons only. They buy fake followers which is a huge problem in today’s world. They are building ad accounts and no longer have the sense of authenticity or conveying true message. Besides, we are over editing images and showing our best part of life only, we spend more and more time on social media daily.

Are you/ we conscious of that?

Most of us aren’t conscious about the content we are consuming. And that’s the main reason we feel drained. It doesn’t matter whether you’re scrolling through Instagram pics or reading text posts in social media. The key idea is that you should post only those things that matter in your life. Making a post reflecting your true persona gives you inner peace and the ability to be more authentic. Millennials show the most signs of negative effects on physical and mental health because of social media. We need to address these issues now as they are causing more and more negative effects on mental health. And this is proven scientifically by many studies. They clearly show a negative effect on our mental health. 9% of the population has internet addiction disorder. It changes the white matter of the brain which can cause Alzheimer at much earlier age.

Another big issue is security and privacy in social media. There is an algorithm which can “read your mind”. After 70 “likes” it is more accurate than friends. 150 “likes” makes it more accurate than family members. And 300 “likes” give it the ability to guess better than your spouse. We should remember simple media safety advice. Try to avoid geo tagging, so people could know where you’re located. You should try to keep account settings private and always enable two-factor authentication. Last but not least, avoid real-time posting.

There are six tips to sum up our social media usage:

- pay attention to your social media usage;

- approach social media mindfully;

- vet and limit content;

- social detox;

- listen to your moods and behaviour;

- real life triumphs all.


Digital wellness

Mindfulness and neuroscience for quality of life

Akesh talked a lot about anxiety caused by social media and choosing the wrong path to be an influencer. Eliza started her presentation with the solution of this problem. Regular training of the mind changes the brain both structurally and functionally. Mediation from the point of view of science becomes more and more popular in our modern world as wellness practice.

Many of us know the burn out when our work-life balance or social media consumption is broken. This could be the cause of serious mental problems. Science and the world are changing rapidly. New ideas and completely innovative paradigms transform thinking.

We have several key challenges in today’s world:

  1. Attention management

  2. Mindfulness

  3. Vision of system contexts and interconnections

  4. Flexibility of thinking

  5. Ability to think outside the box

So what are the tools and technologies that we can use in our everyday life to transform it? Before we start talking about the tech let’s look at some fundamental facts about the brain.

First of all, the brain makes a decision before our consciousness. The first experiment aimed to study human free will was conducted by Benjamin Libet, American pioneer of neuroscience, in 1983. About 10 years ago the results were confirmed by neuroscientists J.D.Haines and C.S.Sun. The results are counterintuitive. Human brain “knows” our decision before we realize it.

The second fact is that the brain makes decisions based on past experience. It offers top athletes a shortcut to sporting success. Also this fact pushes the boundaries of performance beyond its current limits. Amit Katwala wrote a brilliant publication “The Athletic brain: How Neuroscience is Revolutionising Sport and Can Help You Perform Better” where he shows these results.

The next one is that the brain targets simplification. You can read a lot about this fact in Nobel prize laureate Daniel Kahnemah books. Our reflex brain will choose the simplest solution. After that it will give the mind false interpretations of current events. This helps us build a coherent story about the reasons we are doing this and not otherwise.

The fourth fact is that the brain becomes what we think. Now scientists are more and more convinced that the basis of our thought processes are the very notorious quantum effects. At the quantum level, matter responds to human attention (“Observer’s Effect”). Consciousness affects matter. Thoughts affect the state of the thymus. What we focus on is starting to respond to us.

The last fact is that the brain is very flexible (the neuroplasticity). The idea of “plasticity” of the brain isn’t new. It was proposed by William James in the 1890s. But it was almost forgotten for the next fifty years. The term “neuroplasticity” itself was introduced in the middle of the 20th century by the polish scientist Jerzy Konorski.

So lifelong learning became a must-have reality in our modern world. We have to train our brains constantly.

There are 4Cs of Soft Skills:

  1. Critical thinking

  2. Creativity

  3. Communication

  4. Coordination

They provide 85% of human’s success in the profession. And hard skills are responsible for 15% of success only. It is scientifically proven that soft skills are based on cognitive abilities.

We can use the latest methods of training to upgrade our brain cognitive abilities, increase speed of reading and develop super memory. But first of all we need to learn how to learn and use some tools to boost the brain.

There are three main types of tools for brain training:

- neuro devices for training in-home use;

- scientifically proven apps for brain training;

- neuroscience based learning e-platforms or brain training with a coach.

There are just a few examples in each of the types but sooner it will become many more.

Also there are key factors to improve your body and brain abilities:

- exercise because the brain needs movement;

- nutrition because the needs support;

- sleep because the brain needs effective rest.

If we look at tools for our whole body there are much more than neuro devices. First of all, we should track everything — our activity, nutrition and sleep. We can use quantified self methods through the local labs. There is a app, for example, based on neuroscience to improve quality of sleep and concentration. And you should not forget about sleep quality with neuro devices to track it (Muse S or DREEM) and blue-light blocking glasses to improve quality of sleep.

At last, let’s talk about mindfulness practices, meditation and breathing. They help us to improve mental well-being, performance and overall health. These practices help us to train our brain anywhere. You can use neurofeedback devices for meditation and breathing, others are used for stress relief. One more useful type of device is heart variability trackers including the OURA ring, for example.

Don’t think about meditation as religious practice. In our modern world this practice is widely used for stress relief or improving sleep quality. And while you could use mantras or chants during meditation, when you close your eyes and focus your attention on breathing you are already meditating.

Everything above mentioned needs some financial investment but buying a $300 gadget is much cheaper than paying $100/hour for a good coach or therapist. And in today’s world tech becomes cheaper and cheaper so the main investment you need to make is your attention and will to become better human. Just remember that everyone is superhuman!

19 Aug 2020


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