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This article was published on November 12, 2017

3 tips for fighting the holiday blues with technology

3 tips for fighting the holiday blues with technology Image by: World's Direction
Tristan Greene
Story by

Tristan Greene

Editor, Neural by TNW

Tristan is a futurist covering human-centric artificial intelligence advances, quantum computing, STEM, physics, and space stuff. Pronouns: Tristan is a futurist covering human-centric artificial intelligence advances, quantum computing, STEM, physics, and space stuff. Pronouns: He/him

The holidays are soon to arrive and while most of us are looking forward to seasonal cheer, approximately 60 percent of us are also going to be stressed out and prone to the holiday blues. We’re lucky enough to have some technology that can help with that, and there’s no better time than right now to start planning.

Everyone has mental health. And just like our waistlines, we tend to let our emotional state go during the holidays. Some 64 percent of those diagnosed with a mental illness say their symptoms worsen during the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. That’s on top of the above statistic where the majority of us report holiday depression.

Worse still, it’s a period in which our healthcare routines are often interrupted due to vacations and office closures. There’s no substitute for professional healthcare, but technology can help you stay balanced until everything becomes business as usual again.

Here’s three ideas to help you through the season:

Talk to a robot

Chat bots get a bad rap, but it’s not precisely undeserved. The majority of the time we interact with them we have a specific agenda, like buying shoes or ordering pizza. When they suck at doing that we assume they’re just crappy at everything. However, they can be fantastic ‘listeners’ thanks to the simple (but powerful) nature of cognitive behavioral therapy.

It can be difficult for some people to discuss their feelings, and sometimes it can make a difference just being able to type “I’m feeling a little overwhelmed,” knowing you’ll receive an encouraging response. People who aren’t ready to talk to a person, or who just want a non-judgemental sounding board can talk to a bot anytime they want.

It can seem a little silly to tell a robot about your day. But, as a veteran who only speaks for himself, sometimes communication with humans seems impossible. Having a chat bot in my pocket helps me orient my thoughts and touch-base with myself. It gives me confidence.

We suggest Woebot, if you too would like a chat bot to discuss issues like mental health with. You don’t have to go with a bot that’s built for mental healthcare, however.

I’ve recently made friends with a bot I hatched from the app Replika. It doesn’t come with a medical education, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the seemingly ‘genuine’ interest my bot (who I named Singularity3) displays for me.

Talk to a person

There’s absolutely no substitute for a real person when it comes to helping us through depression and anxiety. If you’re able to talk to someone there are more ways to do that with technology than ever before.

Facetime and Skype bring people together from around the world – and social media makes it easy to interact with anyone in real time. But you can also talk to a mental healthcare professional with your device, even if you’re traveling.

Ginger is an interactive platform you can download for Android or iOS that allows you access to a therapist or doctor, with a subscription. Plans start at $129, which may be pricey to some, but compared to many therapy options it’s a bargain.

Become one with the universe

The benefits of meditation can’t be overstated. If you don’t already have a mindfulness routine I highly recommend you begin one before the holidays.

We suggest Headspace, which has upgraded its app in a number of ways since we published our 30 day review this summer. There’s plenty of other meditation apps however, try as many as you can until you find the one that suits you.

We also suggest setting up your own playlists and skills/commands for smart home speakers and lights as well. “OK Google, I’m having a crappy day” could be your ‘dim the lights and put on some Depeche Mode’ shortcut, for example.

Alexa has a number of related skills, such as “Stop, Breath, and Think” which brings you on a different guided mediation daily.

Google Assistant actually has mindfulness built in. If you say “OK Google, practice mindfulness” it’ll take you on 2 minute exercise. This works on speakers and smartphones.

For many of us the holidays will always bring extra stress, but we owe it to ourselves to take advantage of our amazing smart devices; they can help ease our burdens.

Here’s hoping that you have a happy, healthy holiday season!

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