Smartwatches are known for their physical health benefits, thanks to the various fitness apps and features available. But how does using a smartwatch affect your mental health? While owning a smartwatch sounds like the ideal notion of improving your well-being, the negative effects are often overlooked.
Whether you’re thinking of buying a smartwatch or if you already have one, it’s important to be aware of the potentially harmful effects of owning a wearable device. Here are six ways smartwatches can be triggers for your mental health.
1. Smartwatches Focus on Calories
You might be thinking, “Of course a fitness-focused smartwatch should track calories!” But for many people, focusing or being constantly reminded to burn calories can be counterproductive. For those who have a difficult relationship with food or exercise, the Apple Watch can be especially problematic, as you can’t disable calorie expenditure tracking.
To turn off your Apple Watch Activity ring each day, you need to complete three specific types of activity—exercise minutes, standing minutes, and active calorie burning—and there’s no talking to it.
Not only can you disable calorie tracking on the Apple Watch, but its inbuilt Fitness app encourages you to increase your daily calorie expenditure (read: increase exercise) every week that you meet your “Move” goal. or do more. With such a strict focus on calories, smartwatches also have the potential to cause distress in individuals who suffer from or are vulnerable to eating disorders.
2. They constantly remind you to walk and exercise
A common feature among all smartwatches and fitness bands is a reminder to stand up or move around after periods of sitting. Some smartwatches will remind you to meet your daily goals if you haven’t already.
On paper, these reminder features sound great. But, if you’re in a negative headspace, physically unwell, or struggling with an exercise addiction, being constantly reminded to move throughout the day can be detrimental to your mental health.
If not monitored, some smartwatches can remind you to walk repeatedly throughout the day. Some people will even ask if you’ve gotten enough exercise, even when you’ve achieved your goal for the day. While some smartwatch features can help improve your mental health, constant reminders to walk can easily lead to guilt and self-esteem issues, especially if these arbitrary goals aren’t met.
3. Smartwatches constantly distract you and disrupt your day
One of the main distinguishing features between smartwatches and fitness bands is the breadth of apps, features, and functionality available on each. Where fitness trackers focus most on activity tracking, smartwatches can track fitness as well as act as an extension of your mobile phone.
In a sense, having a smartwatch means you have another device to constantly ping you with notifications, which can increase your anxiety as well as distract you. As highlighted by a psychiatrist in an article by Wockhardt Hospitals, constant notifications can trigger anxiety, depression and other mental health problems. Getting a constant bombardment of information from both your smartphone and smartwatch will disrupt your concentration on other tasks, which can affect your focus level in the long run.
Constantly waiting on notifications or being interrupted can also disrupt your relationships. Many people won’t hesitate to check their devices as soon as a notification sound plays, often interrupting a face-to-face conversation. It’s worth considering what damage these device notifications are doing to your interpersonal relationships.
4. Smartwatch features are awesome
Remember to walk every hour, burn enough calories, meet all your goals, and get enough sleep… If you’re not meeting those goals as your smartwatch keeps reminding you, you’re setting yourself up for failure, Can feel nervous and have low self-esteem.