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Episode 86

Darshan Pindoria - Mental health in the age of digital transformation

Posted on: 07 Nov 2023

Darshan Pindoria is the founder of the psychology services agency Deep Psyc, coming with a background in both IT and life coaching.

In this episode, we talk about mental health in the age of digital transformation. We discuss topics such as social media/device addiction, the effect of the overabundance of stimuli and convenience on the human psyche, burnout, and more. Darshan particularly highlights the decline in mental strength and the importance of finding and nurturing your own style in life to better tackle the challenges of the modern way of life.

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Transcript

“We know mobile phones could handle everything, but now, what can our mind actually handle? What’s left for our mind to even do? Fair enough, right now, we’ve still got stuff that we need to process mentally, but in the coming years, we’re not going to have that. And the biggest thing is cause of frustration to the unknown.”

Intro:Welcome to the Agile Digital Transformation Podcast, where we explore different aspects of digital transformation and digital experience with your host, Tim Butara, content and community manager at Agiledrop.

Tim Butara: Hello everyone, thanks for tuning in. I’m joined today by Darshan Pindoria, founder of Deep Psyc, who has a unique background in both IT on one hand, and psychology and life coaching on the other. He also trained as a monk for 9 months, and so he’s probably one of the best people we could get to talk with us about today’s topic, which is mental health in the age of digital transformation.

And we’ll be discussing things like social media and device addiction, the overabundance of stimuli and convenience and the impact that these have on the human psyche, change management, burnout management, and similar topics. Darshan, welcome to the show, it’s great having you with us and talking about this super important topic. Do you want to add anything before we jump into the questions?

Darshan Pindoria: Great to be here, Tim, it’s always great listening to you as well.

Tim Butara: Awesome, always happy to talk with people who are active listeners. And especially, this is a topic that’s very close to me, and I feel like it’s a topic that should be very close to many more people and should be discussed much more often than it actually is. So, let’s get right down to it. And I want to start off with this: what would you say, Darshan, what technology innovation has had the biggest impact on mental health in the past few decades?

Darshan Pindoria: Main thing is, do we have a clear explanation for what mental health is a lot of the time? What’s going in the world is, everyone thinks mental health is just either sad or happy type or thing, or some people think mental health is addictions. So, mental health is your ability to control your thought process. And then illness is your inability to access that control. So if you’ve got an addiction you can’t even access controlling your thoughts. If you’ve got good mental health, essentially mental strength, you've got really good control of your thoughts.

Now, when it comes to technology, if technology is controlling your thoughts, what’s to say you even got any mental strength left at all? This example, I spoke to someone who’s a 100 years old, so when I was in India. He said, back in the days, everyone used to press their tumb to sign, because they never knew how to write. They’ll put ink and then they’ll just stamp their thumb, that’s how they signed for stuff. So, if they wanted to buy a house, if they wanted to do anything literally, it was all by stamping your thumb.

And then he was telling me, he just looked at me, he’s like, you don’t know how to do anything either, you need to push your thumb. How do you heat up your food? You push buttons on a microwave. How do you wash your clothes? You push buttons. How do you calculate stuff? How do you do maths? How do you talk to people? We all use our thumb right now.

So, it’s an analogy to say we don’t use our head anymore. We know mobile phones could handle everything, but now, what can our mind actually handle? What’s left for our mind to even do? Fair enough, right now, we’ve still got stuff that we need to process mentally, but in the coming years, we’re not going to have that. And the biggest thing is cause of frustration to the unknown.

So, all the technology, it’s made us want to know everything. So, right now, I know when the next train is going to come or the next bus is going to come. Before I never used to know that, I used to sit in peace until the bus or train comes. But now even though we know when the bus or train is coming, we still can’t sit in peace. So, frustration towards the unknown, it’s a given now. So we know the whole that’s immersed in technology is going to have frustration for the unknown.

People are being educated now. YouTube, everyone’s giving clickbait titles. It’s all about throwing the unknown at people, making people feel that, okay, there’s something that they should know about. And frustration towards the unknown, it’s become a core of all mental processes; that’s thanks to technology now.

Tim Butara: So, we have this frustration with the unknown that’s fueled by the overabundance of the possibilities of knowing everything. So, this is the main problem, right, the overabundance and the ease of access to all kinds of information that previously you had to invest time and effort and energy – you know, you either had to go to university or you had to take up a trade for a local craft or something like that.

But right now, as you said, you can click on a clickbait YouTube video, you can teach yourself the basics of something that would previously require 5 years, you can teach yourself that in half an hour, and because of all the different tools and everything else that goes around with it, you’re actually able to do something with that.

Darshan Pindoria: If you just look at the trends over the last hundred years, there were a lot of people that didn’t have access to education, so they were left seeking, I want to be educated. Then there’s people that are in education being compared to their cousins or being compared to other people. So everyone was formatted to say, I need to know more, I need to know more.

Now, even though we’ve got all the answers, we’re still thinking, I need to know more. But the practical application of everything that we know, there’s no way to apply it because technology, technically, is handling most of the stuff. So, even for us to innovate this, this and that, we’re just trying to innovate ways to make things faster.

So, it does add to the frustration; it’s a good thing for life styles, but in terms of the mental processes and mental capacity, we don’t really have to remember much. To be honest, you can get through your life a lot easier without even using your decision making processes these days. You can just whip up 10 ways to do this, you can just rely on something external to live your life. It’s giving that control away, if that makes sense.

Tim Butara: It’s definitely very much a double edged sword, right. We’re trading independence and mental strength, as you pointed out, for convenience. And in a sense it’s kind of turning us into low-key control freaks, right. Because you have all of this information, all of these capabilities literally at your fingertips all the time.

You have them in your pocket 24/7, you have your phone by your bedside; if you wake up in the middle of the night, if you’re super addicted, you can check social media in the middle of the night if you want. And that’s – yeah, it’s convenient, but also, long-term, we’re probably not even starting to see the negative consequences of all of this.

Darshan Pindoria: Imagine when your life crashes, essentially, let’s say if you go into depression or if you struggle with getting into a relationship or breakups happen or something bad happens in the family, or anger – all these things, because we’re so unaware of how to be in the unknown, the crash is even bigger.

It’s like, imagine people that are healthy their whole life, they’ve never had to look into medicine, this this and that, when they finally do crash, then they’re living more confused for a longer period of time, and their body– they might not even have an immune system, they’ve just crashed their body, type of thing. So, that’s what we’ve done with our mind; we’ve made it so weak that when we do have a tough situation, we can’t jump out of it.

So, if you think about people in Ukraine at the moment, their mental health, imagine how good it has to be to even run with daily life even though there’s loads of stuff going against you. Compare that to the average anxiety sufferer of today – what’s their situational hardship compared to other people in the world?

Their situational hardship isn’t even that much, but yet they’re struggling with things like anxiety and depression. And people that actually do have situational hardship, they’re super strong at the moment. It’s strength of the mind. It’s things we don’t talk about; we talk about physical health, we talk about getting a six pack, but we don’t really talk about mental strengthening.

Tim Butara: You need to get mental abs, basically, right?

Darshan Pindoria: Oh, yeah, you need to work that out, you need to put some resistance training on the mind.

Tim Butara: So, let’s start talking about this, actually. And the first thing I want to talk about in this context is, how can people tackle all of this, this addiction and this frustration? So, specifically, how can they tackle their addiction to social media and mobile phones and better manage their usage of all of these devices and different apps?

Darshan Pindoria: Fair enough. Social media, it’s programmed to keep you sucked in, basically. It’s a vortex. Now, whether you want to live in that vortex or whether you want to live in your own vortex, that’s what I always advise. Do you have your own vortex that you want to live in? Do you have your own life, passion? Do you have your own hobbies? Do you have some sort of thrill that you’re living for? Or are you just living to jump into other people’s thrill? Are you just living to jump into other people’s clickbait? Do you have your own?

Now, if you don’t have your own, whether it’s social media, it could be the newspapers, it could be some other form of media that will just suck you in. But if you’ve got your own, if you’ve got something of your own that’s building, a passion of your own – basically, are you a fanatic of a certain topic in your life? Are you going towards anything, basically?

If you’re not, then social media, it’s all there just to grab you. It’s not going to show any sympathy for you, it’s not going to say, you spent one hour on social media, you wasted one hour of your life. It’s not going to say sorry or anything, it’s just going to say, yeah, come back for more.

Imagine, back in the days, there was a heavy habit of reading. There were a lot of biographies that were read back then. So, what happens is, we used to read in depth, so we used to get full pictures of reality. Right now, we only get short little snippets of people’s reality; we put them together, and technically we’ve got distorted realities going on.

So, in terms of the clients, I deal with a lot of teenagers, they’ve got this mindset of quick success and quick money, that type of thing. And I can’t imagine where that came from. It might be true, it might not be, whatever it is. But they think that if they skip university, they could somehow become a millionaire within a year, because a lot of other influencers have done it, etc.

Whatever it is, if you live by that, it also sets your work ethic to a lower level, because you can just chill and somehow passive income’s going to come through. So, what I’m saying is, that reality is short snippets of conclusions that you’ve made from everywhere. You’ve put them together and now you think you’ve gained a mastery of some sorts. But back in the days, we used to have to dive in to the whole story. So, diving into the whole story, that’s all forgotten about. So, we need to make our own big story; this is how we get control, this is how we have some sort of direction in life as well.

Tim Butara: So, we should invest more of our energy into ourselves rather than give all of our energy to these digital entities that just feed on it, basically.

Darshan Pindoria: Imagine if you spent that much time on yourself as you do on social media – oh, boy!

Tim Butara: For some people, imagine if you spent 10% of the time you spend on social media on yourself, right.

Darshan Pindoria: Oh, boy. That’s the reality. This whole concept of the quick fix, the quick, short-term buzz, all of that, it could all be done towards our own life. But because we haven’t set it up towards our own, it’s being used up by someone else, essentially.

Tim Butara: And it inherently clashes with the way the human psyche works and has worked for, I don’t know, hundreds of thousands of years, right? We’re not meant to get everything we want as soon as we want it. We’re meant to work hard for things and get the delayed reward instead of the instant gratification that we’re getting every day, like, thousands of times. Every time you scroll to a new news story, every time you watch a new TikTok video, a new short, it’s just that dopamine hit that just prolongs the cycle and just keeps moving it forward.

Darshan Pindoria: That reminds me of something. Essentially, our mind is always asking questions and answers, that’s how our mind, your thought process is always working for questions and answers. But it’s also doing conclusion making. So it makes conclusions after the whole question-answer has gone on. What should I eat? Should I eat this, should I eat that? Then there will be a conclusion made.

Now, on social media, you’re making conclusions, so you’re rewiring your thinking. You would see something, all of a sudden your mind is opinionating everything that it’s seeing: oh yeah, this is fake, or this person’s ideas, this person must be really successful. Whatever it is, those opinion makings, they’re making conclusions, and that is actually shaping your life a lot faster than you would just on your own, essentially, if you were just sitting alone.

Now, you can’t track your own change in mindset. And this is what’s happening all around: people don’t even know that their mindset is changing, because they’re not able to track it, because every time they go on social media, it rewires it. Now, if you’re rewired, you end up lost at some point in life. You end up lost; why am I thinking this? What’s going on? Why are people talking to me differently, this, this and that.

Or you actually lose track of your life until you’re lost at some point. Whether something happens in your life to make you admit that you’re lost, or whether you gradually come to that conclusion, okay, yeah, there’s a part of me that’s lost, is missing, is changed – that’s where we say, okay, the rise in mental health cases is just rising and rising and rising.

Tim Butara: So it’s definitely– we talked initially about this overabundance of information, of knowledge, that’s having a negative effect. But that’s at least, knowledge is useful, it’s helpful, I guess. But in this case, with these other stimuli that there’s even more of than the helpful ones, than the educational ones – you just have random videos, random content that’s not esthetically really pleasing, it just feeds this craving for dopamine and craving for more and feeds the cycle – I guess this is even more destructive and I guess it gets talked about even less.

Darshan Pindoria: That’s definitely the case.

Tim Butara: And another thing that’s really relevant here, and we also kind of started talking about it, is this overabundance of convenience that comes with it. And I just mentioned how we should be investing more effort into things, and we should be working harder and more deeply and not get everything instantaneously.

I know that we already talked about this, but is there anything else that we didn’t cover here, that’s important here, that can maybe help listeners who are maybe having such problems, or maybe don’t even know that they’re having them, right? Like you just said, that you maybe don’t even admit to yourself that you’re lost – what can people in these positions do?

Darshan Pindoria: If you talk on the topic of measuring where you are in terms of if you are addicted, if you have weakened up or if something else has affected you in life, is when this concept of challenging yourself comes in. So, if you think about the physical health here – if you’ve never eaten right, if you’ve always had an unhealthy eating habit – when it’s time to go on a diet, when it’s time to fix your eating, if it’s harder for you, you know that’s your level of your strength towards that topic, essentially.

The same thing mentally. If it’s time to remember something, if it’s time to do some calculations, if it’s time to sit your mind down and focus on something, if it’s time to improve your happiness, or if it’s time to do some strategic planning or step up to the challenge, put yourself in uncomfortable situations – whether it’s stuff like bathing in cold water or if it’s to deal with someone that’s frustrating you.

If all these are starting to get harder and harder for you, that’s when you know, ok, yeah, I am totally on the whole convenience side of things, because you can’t handle any challenges. And if you can’t handle any challenges, what are you going to teach your kids, or anyone that looks up to you, even at work, in your team? Because you’re not made to handle challenges, you’re always a shortcut-maker, you’re always backing away, you’re always getting fragile on certain topics.

Now, you, as a necessary strength, you don’t have it. So, these are the things you’re going to avoid and the schemes often used, try avoiding it this way and that way, you’d try avoid topics that relate to the mind, and it’s only so long you could live in avoidance schemes, because life catches up to you one day in some way, shape or form.

Tim Butara: This is actually leading perfectly into the next thing that I wanted to talk with you about, which is burnout. Let’s dedicate a few minutes to talking about burnout and why it’s such a common problem particularly in the tech industry. And I’m wondering if you have any tips for people who are going through burnout, for managing it – or, maybe even more importantly, if there’s something that can be done preemptively to mitigate the risk of getting to burnout as much as possible.

Darshan Pindoria: If you’ve got something draining you, the more you do of the– so, it’ll be something like this. I’ll do an activity. 50% of that activity is bringing me alive but the other 50% is draining me. So whatever the percentages are, you can’t say, let me just do more of that activity and I’ll be better, I’ll feel better.

Why? Because there’s a side percentage going up and up of how much is draining you. So it might be draining you emotionally, it might even be because you’re avoiding a life situation at home, it might be with your health, it might be a whole case of fulfilment; you might be seeking fulfilment at work or wherever you’re seeking fulfilment and not getting it. So there’s a drainage volume being put up, so that’s when the whole burnout kicks in.

I’ve seen this when I worked in the whole technology field. Work is heavily taxing on the logical side of the mind. Now, over that, you’re using it at maybe 80% capacity, 100% capacity all day long. If you’re using your mind to that level, your next step is how to turn it off, or to free it up into some other space. So, at the end of the day, if you go play football, all of a sudden, yeah, you’ve freed up your mind, you’ve engaged in a fun activity.

But what we end up doing is bringing that home, bringing that mindset home and then causing an issue at home because someone hasn’t done something, someone’s frustrating you, this, this and that. So, you never actually free up your mind. Now, burnout is always a default option. Unless you practice some sort of healthy mechanism for it, you’re always going to hit that wall. Same thing with physical health. We never do that to us physically, we never overstrain ourselves physically, because we know that there are signs that we’re getting tired, we’re getting to that burnout.

No one’s thinking about signs for mental, that’s a conversation no one’s having at the moment. So, yeah, definitely want to promote that, but people, bosses, managers, they might not want to have this conversation. Because if you start having that conversation, it’s like, no no, we need maximum productivity out of everyone, maximum amount of work out of everyone.

But they don’t want to admit that people are working that hard, they’re getting the results, but the fatigue level is also that much. And then they’re calling in sick a lot more, then they’re also having health problems, just with basic stuff that should be okay in the day, just breathing normally; as soon as something happens, there’s a whole panic attack being introduced. All of these type of things, they’re happening, but when we start to address them, then we have to start admitting there are faults in the way we’re running this organization.

Tim Butara: And this is exactly the reason why they should be having these conversations. Also, I think that one of the biggest problems with burnout is that typically, you don’t really spot it in its early stages, right. You don’t really realize, oh, I’m headed towards burnout, I should do something about it.

But then a month, two months, six months, a year later, you’re like, oh, damn, I’ve actually been burning out for all this time. And now mitigating it and getting out of this hole will be much much harder than if I had invested in some mitigating strategies initially when it wasn’t so bad.

Darshan Pindoria: This is what every industry is saying, prevention should be promoted more than the cure. Same thing in physical health, all the adverts are about the cure, but who’s talking about prevention?

Tim Butara: And also, this, usually it’s not even the cure for the cause. It’s just a cure for the symptoms, right? You’re not really curing anything, you’re just kind of alleviating the negative impact of the thing that’s causing it, but you’re not getting down to the root of it.

Darshan Pindoria: That’s genius, yeah. Cure the cause, not the symptoms. Oh, wow, imagine if you’d done that for mental health. With mental health, your body, your mind can actually handle a lot. So we’ve seen this in the technology industry. We’ve seen certain companies that have made their workplace super fun, they’ve got the whole agile concept going on.

We used to talk about what the Twitter office used to be, how they changed the scape of the workplace office. Same thing, Apple, Google headquarters, they’ve already used table tennis, this, this and that. Whatever it is, certain companies are engaging in trying to make mental health friendly workplaces. And then there are people that are still focusing on the productivity side of things, but failing to realize that you could maximize productivity if you maximize people’s ability to function properly mentally.

Tim Butara: Not just productivity, but creativity, right? Because you can be super productive and you can just dole out products, and just basically automate yourself and automate the production of some experiences or some products without ever trying to reach that next level.

But, if your well being as an employee is taken care of, if you’re employer, your manager, your director, whatever, if they actually take the care and invest into helping employees get through difficult situations, helping them get through either personal or societal disruptions, then this improvement in the employee experience will kind of by default translate into an improved brand, an improved brand offering. It’s just logical.

Darshan Pindoria: That makes sense. I’m a big fan of the whole concept of your mental performance, if it goes down, how do you know it’s gone down? Because you’re struggling to adapt to any changes. So, as soon as that happens, you’re putting too much load on keeping things the way they are.

Some companies are south in that way, we like to do it this way and we want everyone to carry on doing it that way without any change. When companies are using the whole agile models. The agile model where we say, okay, let’s change and adapt, let’s change and adapt.

And some people can’t handle it. Why? Because we’ve set people so regimen in certain ways, now change is actually stressing them out. Adapting to change, being innovative around change, that’s what keeps you on your feet, that’s what sends a good amount of adrenaline for you. So, all these type of things, keeping a track on mental performance for people, that is definitely ideal.

Tim Butara: I think one of the problems is also that because there’s so much change going on all around us, because of all the disruptions and all the things that we can’t control, then we’ll have this innate, super strong urge to at least keep the things internally the way they are, right.

At least, okay, there are all these disruptions, there are looming recessions, looming wars, we just got through a pandemic. At least, can I just do it like I’ve always done it at this company for the past five years without introducing new processes, right? In these cases and for some people, I guess it can kind of be their grip on reality and on their personality. So that’s why I guess it can be even more complicated in the times that we’re in right now.

Darshan Pindoria: Yeah, makes sense.

Tim Butara: Well, Darshan, this has been an awesome discussion, I’m really glad we got to speak with you today about all this. Just before we wrap it up, are there any final tips you’d like to give to listeners who are maybe struggling and who are maybe lost as we pointed out initially?

Darshan Pindoria: Fair enough. So, especially in this industry, you’ve got the logical thinkers, you’ve got the creative type of thinkers. You’ve got people that sit nice and in the middle. But if you do have a style of thinking, really master it. If you know you’re really good with numbers and doing logical things, really master how you use it.

Now, if you master that, you can create a mental well being structure for yourself. Otherwise, life is always going to throw unprecedented situations at you. Whether it comes to your physical health, whether it comes to your situations, relationships, whether it comes to finances, whatever happens, life is still going to throw stuff at you.

If you’ve got your mindset, if you’ve got your style of thinking, if you’ve got it at hand, you can better for anything. But if you don’t, it leaves you so lost that you can’t even use your own mind to get up and get some support. This is what’s happened to the industry. There are support options out there for people struggling with mental health. But because of what’s happened, they don’t have their own mind in control to that level, where they can’t even get up to get the support.

So, like I said, know your style and really master it so you can reuse it, you can revamp it to help you out in life. And what happens is, once you know your style, once you know the way you handle things mentally, it starts getting stronger and stronger. Oh, boy, you can take it to different levels.

I was out in India for nine months. I was with the yogis, so, 250 yogis. They all come from different backgrounds, they all have different parents, different villages they’re from, everyone’s got a different style of thinking. What is promoted there is you use your style to further your journey.

You don’t cut off your style. So, if you’ve got a up, loud, speaking loud, this, this and that type of style, or if you’ve got a sit and meditate and just focus inwards type of style. Or you might have a proactive just do stuff, do stuff, don’t think about it, that type of style. Whatever your style is, it’s promoted. Why? Because if you use your style to get further in your journey of life, it’s going to be much faster.

But if you try to sit, stop, look at social media, find out other people’s styles, jump into anyone else’s style, all of a sudden, you do it, it works on the surface, as soon as you try to implement it a bit further, it breaks you and then you are fluffing it. Then you have to try jump in to someone else’s theory. You never actually master your own style.

So, I always promote, master your style of thinking. If you master it, oh boy, moving forward in life, no matter what situation you get, you put it into your style, ok, my way of handling things is this, this and this way, let’s go for it. So, my personal way is, ok, I’ve got a situation, let me find out the raw activity that I need to do, and the rest of it, let me discuss with three other people that I have in my life, let me just discuss that.

And all of a sudden, that challenge, it was vague at the start, it was big. Now, it’s a simple activity, and it’s a sense of direction that I needed from three to four other people that I know I can get that sense of direction. So, like I said, it’s find your style and make it work for you.

Tim Butara: So, you just have to allow yourself to be who and what you really are, and not fight that and not try to destroy that in yourself for the sake of being something that’s not actually aligned with your journey.

Darshan Pindoria: Exactly. It’s like people that are addicted to smoking, or drinking, whatever it is. We can’t go in there and say, oh, just change. We have to go in there and say, you like to do this more often, so why don’t you just do more of that so then you don’t need to do much of this basically?

So, it’s, use their style and throw them in that style as deep as possible, because it’ll work miracles for everyone. Because essentially, we’ve all got a lot of achievements to our life, we’ve achieved plenty till this day. Even if we don’t think we have, we still managed to wake up this morning, whatever it is, we’ve achieved plenty till this day, and we’ve been using a certain style to achieve that. So, master that style and you can send it in a direction that you want.

Tim Butara: That’s the perfect way to finish off the conversation, Darshan. If listeners would like to reach out or learn more about you, what’s the best way that they can do that?

Darshan Pindoria: So, yeah, YouTube, Instagram, it’s all Deep Psyc. Should be posting a lot more content real soon. My concept is, find the reason for the reason. So, like you said, cure the cause, not the symptoms, that side of things. When it comes to mental health, I was lucky enough, I got to train in the whole western side of things, did the whole uni, trained in hypnosis. Then went out to India, trained in the whole yogi theory.

So, you’ve got the way the whole shaolin monks, the buddhists, zen, all these theories out in the west, they’re all focused on finding out what’s going on inside first and then portraying the outside and using that as an ability. So, got lucky, and hopefully should be posting a lot more content to inspire viewers.

Tim Butara: Awesome. Looking forward to checking it out, Darshan. And thanks so much for joining us, this was awesome. And to our listeners: that’s all for this episode. Have a great day, everyone, and stay safe.

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