Three ways to use technology to create good habits

graphic of a smart watch displaying a fitness report

We’re immersed with technology in every facet of our daily lives, from the moment we wake up to the time we arrive at the office or the gym. We use technology while traveling, spending time with family, and even getting ready for bed. And while technology can do a lot of good, we can sometimes fall into bad habits.

Tackling this simply involves a mindset adjustment, learning to use technology and all that it has to offer to create good habits versus encouraging bad ones. It isn’t really about how much we use technology but about what we use technology for. Here are some ways to use technology to promote better habits.

Using technology to promote fitness

A man resting from a jog to check the fitness tracker on his wrist

Devices like fitness trackers and other wearables are ushering in a new era where we can track, monitor, and gamify our fitness, which helps encourage us to be more active. That might be something as simple as taking the stairs more often, going for short walks, getting more sleep, or more involved like going to the gym, or doing daily breathing exercises to help reduce stress. Or maybe it’s all of the above.

Consistent use of fitness trackers has been shown to increase the number of steps we take per day by more than a mile as people aim to reach that ideal 10,000. “Tracking likely helps a lot of people when combined with a clear goal to shoot for,” confirms Seth Martin, M.D., M.H.S., a cardiologist at John Hopkins.

Gamification plays a crucial role when we compete with friends, family, and others within an online community of a similar age or fitness level to reach certain goals and achievements. The rewards – whether it’s a virtual badge or a friendly family or co-worker competition – can help drive you to make small but meaningful changes like getting up from your desk and walking around while on a call. There’s a level of accountability fitness trackers can promote, providing an incentive to get you moving and in shape when you might otherwise have had trouble getting motivated. 

Using mobile technology to free up time at home

a family of four seated on a couch, two people on their phones, one reading a newspaper, and one changing the channels on the tv

In 2019, for the first time ever, U.S. consumers spent more time on their mobile devices than they did watching TV, at an average of 3 hours and 43 minutes on mobile versus 3 hours and 35 minutes watching television. 

While it would be unrealistic to think that people might start using their mobile devices less, what they are used for could change. For example, 94 percent of people have a smartphone in hand while watching TV. Instead, we could watch TV on our phones during downtime, like a lunch break at work or a long commute home via public transit. This frees up home time to do something more productive, like catching up on chores or spending quality time with the family playing board games, chatting around the dinner table, or even watching something on TV as a family.  

Sherry Turkle, a professor of Social Studies of Science, coined the term “alone together,” and authored a book of the same name to describe the concept that while children spent more time with their parents in 2015 than they did in 2000, they also said they were “alone” during this time. Children and parents spend 90 minutes a day using mobile devices while they are together.

Carving out time for solitary mobile use means family time can involve more actual quality time. Perhaps everyone uses the 20 minutes after dinner to catch up on e-mail, check social media feeds, and browse content, then phones go down for the rest of the night.

Turning mobile time into quality time

a father and daughter playing video games together

Technology doesn’t have to be completely off in order to allow for quality time with family and friends. There are ways that some of the latest technology can actually bring people together.

Some examples might include board games with elements of technology (like Jackbox), video games with an interactive element, like those that use movement sensors (Just Dance is a great option that promotes physical activity, too), and virtual reality headsets that allow families to play games together, or team up for friendly challenges.

Technology isn’t the enemy. When used in the right ways, it can promote quality time, interactivity, and provide incentives to, ironically, do things that integrate technology in a way that’s helpful rather than promoting sedentary, and solitary, behavior. 

Finally, we are unfortunately in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic and many people around the world may find themselves quarantined or practicing social distancing through remote work, and children may need to stay home as schools close to try and stem the outbreak. We’ll be consuming tons of media content, using lots of various software tools to connect, and spending even more time on our mobiles and computers as we rely on them to work, order groceries and food, learn, entertain, exercise, and more. That said, it makes it even more important to set up some digital ground rules for yourself and your children so that everyone remains productive, happy, and not socially isolated. You can find some tips from a previous article on digital citizenship that is still applicable today. Stay safe and sane everyone!

About Futurithmic

It is our mission to explore the implications of emerging technologies, seeking answers to next-level questions about how they will affect society, business, politics and the environment of tomorrow.

We aim to inform and inspire through thoughtful research, responsible reporting, and clear, unbiased writing, and to create a platform for a diverse group of innovators to bring multiple perspectives.

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