Is digital nutrition the new Soul Food?


Listening to Kristen Scott Thomas could seriously enhance your mood


The mental health menu is full of apps designed to de-stress, de-compress and de-tangle cluttered lives. From the whale and aquatic mainstreamed by health spas to the spoken word, the digital mindfield is bathed in wellness.

Whatever works for you, works for you. But are we focussing too much on providing calming antidotes rather than building mental strength?

Being that May is Mental Health Awareness Month  in the US and Mental Health Awareness Week is in full swing in the UK,  new downloads, apps and digital initiatives are in full flow.

I’m no app reviewer, and this is not a product endorsement, but one approach intrigued and prompted the headline question. Moodrise styles itself as the world’s first on-demand digital drug delivery system for mobile devices with a sweet spot of supplying bite-size sounds, graphics words and images designed to upgrade our mental health through digital nutrition.

They are short snaps of uplifting or deflecting content – called pillcasts – with an innovative approach. Oscar-nominated actress Kristin Scott Thomas, who starred in The English Patient and Four Weddings and a Funeral, reads scathing restaurant reviews and proverbs. They also feature actress Daisy Lewis, star of ITV’s Downton Abbey.

And it is that idea of feeding yourself morsels of content to build a stronger self that needs more traction in the campaign for better mental health. Could a diet of strategically taken digital ‘drugs’ do the trick? Is this the new soul food?

Its founder, Michael Phillips Moskowitz, an entrepreneur and former chief global curator at eBay, believes the content can be particularly effective at breaking the often corrosive impact of social media and building a resilience through the pill casts. This, he claims, is founded on solid scientific evidence and brain chemistry principles and has the power counter the addictive and depressant elements of social media.

They are not, he insists,  an instant fix but can make it easier for people to balance their social media exposure, manage mental health issues and clear away some of the weeds on the path to happiness and fulfilment.

“We developed Moodrise to empower people to proactively manage their mental health. It helps users improve their digital literacy and progressively enhance our emotional resilience,.” he says.

Scott Thomas, a BAFTA award winner, is supportive, and says: “I worry that communication through social media doesn’t allow for tone. We miss the subtleties understood through expression, tension, warmth etc.

“There can be a tendency to exaggerate for effect so that subjects and ideas become very black and white. We’ve seen how extremely detrimental to self-esteem and for body image this can be.”

Not everyone has the time and finance to have regular spa days and the thought of carving out a free hour – when and where?! – to listen to relaxing sounds is a mission, but a daily hit of digital nutrition could be a powerful ally to mental health resilience. This idea of feeding our mental literacy is compelling. Mental health campaigning can be stuffed with negativity – the stats from the World Health Organisation are chilling – so it is good to try a different drumbeat.

How well Moonrise works is not the central point here; it is the notion of almost mirroring social media’s gameplay to promote positivity. Rather than the obsessive scroll through Instagram and twitter feeds, pop a pillcast and enjoy the diversion.

It is innovative, has scientific merit and listening to Kristin Scott Thomas is a joy.