Top tips from a leading UK psychotherapist on improving your digital health
Figures for the North West reveal an astonishing reaction to remote working - with a quarter working longer days than pre-COVID times and finding it difficult to find time for themselves to wind down or destress.
The move from the office to a work from home basis has not been without its problems.
From failing WiFi signal, to interrupted zoom calls, to the dog barking in the background, the adjustment has been fraught with pesky difficulties.
For the most part, we’ve managed to navigate them without any serious consequences. But what’s worrying experts is the role home working has played in our nation’s ‘digital health’: how we use technological devices and what patterns of use we follow.
New research from Microsoft Windows has revealed that lockdown has contributed to declining digital health in 2020.
Figures for the North West reveal an astonishing reaction to remote working – with a quarter working longer days than pre-COVID times and finding it difficult to find time for themselves to wind down or destress.
Again, one in four of those surveyed reported that they continued to check their devices throughout the night with 8.2% not taking any breaks from their screens during the working day.
Over half of the North West admitted to spending more time online than last year, with one in five British men confessing to greeting colleagues and friends online before their partner in the morning.
With lack of defined lunch and coffee breaks, and the absence of social interactions for a quick office catch up, a decline in digital health seems almost inevitable. But with unclear plans on returning to the office, remote working is something we will have to become accustomed to.
Leading UK psychotherapist Zoe Ashton, author of Your Mental Health First Aid Kit said: “Just like the crucial role of diet, exercise, sleep and relationships to our overall health, digital health is the fifth pillar we have to consider in our journey to improve our overall mental and physical wellbeing.
“Our world has changed more in the past 12-months than it has in the past five years and for many of us, our new reality has left us feeling overwhelmed and off balance.”
Microsoft Windows has partnered with Zoe to help people assess and address their digital health, offering some top tips to help people improve their digital well-being:
Make technology work for you
Just like a balanced diet, your digital use also needs to be varied. Score yourself daily from 1 (lowest) to 10 (highest) on how energised, productive, connected and relaxed you feel. If you are at the low end of the scale, use your technology in ways that create energy and make you focused. This may be silencing notifications, and regaining balance. Treat your digital health as a sliding scale and use your technology to help you achieve harmony.
Set yourself digital boundaries
Place limits on how late you respond to work emails, or the amount of time you spend on social media per day. Separate your work life from your home life. This can be done by creating two different desktops for work and personal use.
Notice your patterns
Do you have lunch in front of your laptop or wake-up reaching for your phone? What digital patterns do you notice throughout the day? How do they make you feel and what would you like to change? Begin to note down these unhelpful behaviours and consider how you might be able to change them. Think about reaching for a warming tea first thing, rather than your phone. Create reminders to scrap these bad habits.
Move your body
Consider your physical and digital wellbeing as one and the same. Move your body regularly allowing it to refresh, as you would your browser. You could take advantage of some of the online classes Microsoft 365 have to offer.
Unlock your imagination
Mindfulness is a simple practice of choosing where your energy is directed. If you are scoring on the high end of the aforementioned scale, use your energy and channel it into something creative. This might be digital doodling. Use the night light settings on your phone to do an evening sketch, transitioning you from an invigorated work mode into a relaxed state of mind.
With over 20% of Brits unsure what good digital health boundaries look or feel like, this checklist should assist in identifying and acting on bad digital health patterns.
“We need to take a deeper look at our overall relationship with tech so that we can feel fulfilled by it consistently – truly making it work for us,” Zoe added.
Visit Zoe’sInstagramchannel here to access the Digital Health Diary and Checklist.
Unexpected Manchester city centre street named ‘one of the most polluted’ in the UK
A new fieldwork study has revealed the worst air polluted city centre streets in the UK, and a popular Manchester thoroughfare has been named one of the worst.
Except, it’s really not the street you’d expect it to be.
For some bizarre reason, despite the fact it’s a pedestrianised commercial shopping street in the heart of Manchester city centre, Market Street has been named one of the most polluted streets in the country.
Recordings were taken at high streets in the 25 largest towns and cities in the country over a two-week period, and the results found that 76% are exceeding the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommended annual level of air pollution, The Hoot reports.
The study enlisted a planning consultancy to collect samples using an air quality monitoring device at 11am on either a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday to ensure as much comparability as possible between the locations.
The study comes after a poll of 2,000 adults found that 36% have concerns over the health of the community due to air pollution, or the health of their family (26%) or themselves (25%).
Speaking on the shocking findings from the new study, Sam Clarke, who is the chief vehicle officer at the sustainable energy business, said: “With millions set to hit the high street this festive period, we wanted to look at the state of the nation’s air quality in the locations people will be doing most of their Christmas shopping.
“It’s shocking to see that so many were above the World Health Organisation’s annual recommendations for air pollution, and that one in 10 shoppers are even planning on foregoing the highstreets altogether due to air quality.”
20 streets in the UK were over the recommended World Health Organisation recommended levels of 5 µg/m3).
The Most-Polluted Streets in the UK
Stoke-On-Trent (Parliament Street) – 11.7
Newcastle (Northumberland Street) – 11.5
Leicester (Gallowtree Gate) – 11.2
Coventry (West Orchards Way) – 11.1
Hull (Jameston Street) – 10.7
Bradford (Broadway) – 10.6
Southampton (Above Bar Street) – 8.8
Nottingham (High Street) – 7.7
Luton (George Street) – 7.6
Manchester (Market Street) – 7.6
Northampton (Abington Street) – 7.3
Birmingham New Street – 7.3
Liverpool (Church Street) – 7.1
Derby (St Peter’s Street) – 6.9
London (Oxford Street) – 6.8
Sheffield (Fargate) – 6.3
Brighton (Western Road) – 5.6
Leeds (Briggate) – 5.3
Portsmouth (Commercial Road) – 5.1
“If we’re to reach the World Health Organisation’s annual target of 5 µg/m3 of PM2.5 in our air, collectively we need to change our behaviours,” Sam Clarke added.
“With vehicle emissions being a key contributor, anything we can do to travel more greenly, from walking more to cycling, and including electric vehicles, is a very valuable set forward to improve the air we breathe daily.”
Although born in London to Irish parents, she moved to Manchester at the age of two, was raised in Wythenshawe, went to school in West Didsbury, and kick-started her illustrious and hugely-influential career on the city’s comedy circuit by performing as a collection of characters, all before developing the iconic ‘Mrs Merton’.
Aherne developed her Mrs Merton character with Frank Sidebottom for his show on Piccadilly Radio, where she worked as a receptionist.
She made a number of television appearances as the hilarious character, before rising to prominence in 1994 with the mock chat show The Mrs Merton Show, where she was known for asking celebrity guests a series of outrageous fake questions – the most-memorable example being to the wife of magician Paul Daniels, Debbie McGee, asking: “So, what first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?”.
Aside from the Mrs Merton character, Aherne was known for appearing on BBC comedy sketch programme, The Fast Show, and then cemented her place in the heart of us Mancunians when she co-wrote and starred as Denise in beloved Manchester-based sitcom, The Royle Family.
The Royle Family ran for three series from 1998 to 2000, and was a largely stereotypical portrayal of working-class family life at the turn of the millennium, with almost all of the episodes taking place in the Royles’ telly-centric living room and showing the hilarious conversations they’d have.
Both before and after her sad death in July 2016, Caroline amassed a loyal fanbase, so it’s only right that we properly celebrate her legacy, right? Well that’s exactly what BBC Two is doing this ChristmasDay from 9pm, with the airing of a brand-new TV special, as well as lots of other programmes dedicated to the late legend and all she is loved for.
The 80-minute documentary is described by the BBC as being a “celebration of the unique life and talent of Caroline Aherne”.
Titled Caroline Aherne: Queen of Comedy, it will feature unseen photographs and contributions from a cast of her lifelong friends – including Steve Coogan, Jon Thompson, Craig Cash, and producer Andy Harries.
Caroline Aherne: Queen of Comedy will air on BBC Two at 10:25pm on Christmas Day (25 December), and will be available to stream on BBC iPlayer shortly after.
This new TV special also follows BBC Two’s re-run of The Royle Family’s classic Christmas episode – which is titled ‘Christmas With The Royle Family’, and first aired back in December 1999 – a little earlier in the evening at 9:15pm.
It’ll also be on after a 15-minute long moment of reflection from Ricky Tomlinson at 9pm too.
According to the BBC, Ricky – who, of course, is most famous for his role as the Royle Family’s patriarch, Jim Royle – will sit back in his iconic chair and take a fond look back at the much-loved comedy series, sharing his memories and experiences working with Caroline Aherne.