Mindful Technology

Trends / Technology
Catherine Falls Commercial
Carolina Sampaio Lechner
Jul 13, 2022
It starts with a sigh, then soft instrumental music.1 Then we see a video of the user, followed by pictures of them from childhood, ending on a caption: “being mean to myself and then realizing I’m also talking about him/her.” With these trending videos, TikTokers remind themselves and their viewers that they deserve as much kindness as their younger selves.2

As our VisualGPS research shows, nearly half of Europeans are prioritizing their mental health more now than ever before. However, even as we use technology to advocate for mental health, as in the example above, our relationship with this very technology is not a simple one. When was the last time you picked up your phone? Sent out an e‑mail? Checked incoming messages on your smartwatch? I will take a leap of faith and say: probably not too long ago.
In European countries like Germany, France and the UK, for example, smartphone users have spent on average over three hours per day on apps in 2021.3 Our digital devices have become our companions 24/7. At times, technology can feel like Kryptonite to our wellbeing, the next distraction just a buzz or TikTok away. But despite our efforts and tools to stay away from our devices, like turning off notifications, media usage warnings and so much more4, it seems that plain silence from our devices can be as distracting as a notification—did nothing happen in the past 20 minutes?5 Technology can become an ally to our wellbeing when it cares for us, empowers us, and fosters collective wellness. But what does mindful technology look like?
Technology can become an ally to our wellbeing when it cares for us, empowers us, and fosters collective wellness.
Mindful technology that cares
The market for digital fitness and wellbeing apps and devices has been continuously growing and is projected to reach 157.47 million users in Europe by 2026.6 Indeed, our VisualGPS survey shows that nearly 7 in 10 Europeans—Millennials even more so—are excited by the impact that technology such as meditation apps, fitness or health trackers has on wellness. Today, even the fitness devices which usually serve as a reminder and motivator to exercise more are adapting their functionalities to fit a wider understanding of wellness. In this understanding, they do not only focus on fitness goals, but also make sure the user knows when it is time to stop and recover.7 So, the next time the fitness app buzzes, it might be time to relax on the couch, instead of getting up to exercise.

With this in mind, consider in your visual choices how tech devices are being purposefully applied in scenarios like sports and leisure, and how technology can empower us to look after our health and wellbeing. Think about scenarios that show tech devices being used to support physical wellness, like fitness trackers. However, also consider the moments people turn to technology to wind down, like using a meditation app or simply listening to music.
Mindful technology that promotes wellness in the workplace
Employers are being held accountable for employee wellbeing: our VisualGPS research shows that nearly 7 in 10 Europeans agree that companies have an obligation to implement policies and provide resources to support employees’ mental health. This, however, goes beyond providing meditation apps and shifting their offline wellness programs to online solutions.8 Knowledge workers and their employers are now embracing the possibilities a hybrid model brings, like flexibility as to when and where work is done. Despite the challenges that come with working from home, like childcare, blurry boundaries between work and life, or limited space, nearly 7 in 10 Europeans surveyed say it allows for a better work/life balance.

When it comes to the visuals you choose, reflect on if and how you represent people’s current realities and challenges in hybrid work, and empower employees to look after their wellbeing by encouraging a healthy work/life balance. Consider showing how tech allows people to feel comfortable at home or immersed in nature while on the job. But remember to also show casual escapes from screens. This can be by either unwinding by themselves or connecting with people around them, be it colleagues in the office or partners, kids, or roommates at home.
Mindful technology for collective wellbeing
Wellness today goes beyond individualized “self‑care”: it is now about bringing the community to the foreground,9 and technology can be an important part of fostering collective wellness.10 Take the app Chill Pill, for example. Targeted at young users with its bold, playful and colorful design, it offers “a peer‑led safe space” where people anonymously exchange their personal stories, and get support and validation from others in the community.11 Or the German site nebenan.de, which helps overcome the anonymity of city life, connecting people from the same neighborhood. Finally, we all remember how, not so long ago, our only means to connect with many of our loved ones was a video call—and for some people and relationships, this is true regardless of a global pandemic.

Despite all of this, over a third of Europeans surveyed in our VisualGPS research say that communicating online has made some of their relationships worse. This number rises to over half when we look at younger generations. So, more than half of Europeans of all age groups are generally using social media less, now that they can see their loved ones in person again.

Think about reflecting the social relationships that technology facilitates in your visuals. Show how people interact, perhaps sharing the same screen or by being on opposite sides of it. Also, celebrate the personal connections we have won back as we put aside our devices, even if just for a minute.
Find out more:
Hybrid Work is Here to Stay
Patient Empowerment in Video Storytelling
The Computer on My Wrist

[1] Lloren (TikTok)
[2]  "TikTok trend reminds people to be kinder to themselves" (Mashable)
[3]  Number of hours spent per day using apps worldwide from 2019 to 2021, by country (Statista)
[4]  "Digital Wellbeing: Minimize distractions" (Google)
[5]  "Der Schmerz der Stille" (Süddeutsche Zeitung)
[6]  Digital Fitness & Well‑Being (Statista)
[7]  Whoop App (Whoop)
[8]  "How Organizations Can Promote Employee Wellness, Now and Post‑Pandemic" (MIT Sloan Management Review)
[9] "Togetherness is Wellness" (Getty Images Creative Insights)
[10]  "Self‑care isn't enough. We need community care to thrive" (Mashable)
[11]  Chill Pill App (Chill Pill)
[12]  Nebenan (nebenan.de)
Technology Across Generations