Going Digital and Mental Health: New Study

A University of Nottingham study finds that mindfulness and digital confidence in the workplace reduce stress, anxiety, and overload, highlighting the need for new mental health approaches in the digital age.

In today’s fast-paced digital science world, it’s becoming increasingly clear that we need to plan how we handle mental health, especially as our work lives get more entangled with evolving technology. The rise of digital tools is not slowing down, and this calls for fresh strategies to keep our mental well-being in check. A fascinating study titled “Mindfully and confidently digital: a mixed methods study on personal resources to mitigate the dark side of digital working” from the University of Nottingham’s Schools of Psychology and Medicine throws a spotlight on this issue, revealing a rather hopeful insight: being mindful in our digital workspaces can actually shield us from the stress, anxiety, and the feeling of always being overwhelmed.

The study, which delved into the experiences of 142 employees, found that those who navigate their digital work life with mindfulness and a bit of digital savvy tend to dodge the negative vibes more effectively. Elizabeth Marsh, a PhD student leading this mixed methods research, shared their goal of uncovering how the digital revolution impacts our health and finding ways to soften any blows. Published in PLOS ONE, their work strongly suggests that a touch of mindfulness and confidence in our digital skills are key ingredients for thriving in today’s work environment.

The study, which delved into the experiences of 142 employees, found that those who navigate their digital work life with mindfulness and a bit of digital savvy tend to dodge the negative vibes more effectively. Elizabeth Marsh, a PhD student leading this mixed methods research, shared their goal of uncovering how the digital revolution impacts our health and finding ways to soften any blows. Published in PLOS ONE, their work strongly suggests that a touch of mindfulness and confidence in our digital skills are key ingredients for thriving in today’s work environment.

Survey participants opened up about the darker sides of digital work life, like feeling stressed, swamped, anxious, missing out, or even addicted, and how these factors played with their health. The findings were quite eye-opening: those who felt at ease with digital tools were less prone to workplace anxiety. Moreover, a mindful approach seemed to create a protective barrier against all sorts of digital work-related stress. Interviews with 14 individuals further underscored how keeping a mindful mindset could really boost one’s well-being.

Dr. Alexa Spence, Associate Professor of Psychology, highlighted how everyday digital tools—think emails, instant messaging, and smartphones—can amp up stress levels. Without proper checks, this stress can spiral into burnout and negatively impact health. Mindfulness, which is all about being present and kind to yourself in the moment, emerged from the study as a powerful antidote to these challenges.

Professor Elvira Perez Vallejos, focusing on Digital Technology for Mental Health, pointed out the bigger picture for organisations. She suggests that alongside traditional workplace safety measures, there’s a need to weave in strategies for tackling digital stressors. Be it mindfulness or other mental health strategies thinking about and planning for mental health issues will hopefully become a bigger part of the digital dicusssion.

Backed by the Economic and Social Research Council – Midland Graduate School (ESRC-MGS), this study is part of many helping show the way for how we think about work, technology, and mental health. It’s a call to action for not just navigating but thriving in our digital workspaces, armed with mindfulness and a dash of digital confidence.

You can read the full article Mindfully and confidently digital: a mixed methods study on personal resources to mitigate the dark side of digital working on the PLOS ONE site.

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Our in-house science writing team has prepared this content specifically for Lab Horizons

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