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AI-Integrated Emotional Wellness: Five Strategies


by Mark D. Lerner, Ph.D.

Chairman, The National Center for Emotional Wellness

 

When we think of wellness, we consider preventing illness, keeping people healthy, and improving the quality of our lives. Historically, the focus is on our behaviors—including exercise, healthy eating, and losing weight. Yet, our emotional well-being is a critical and often overlooked component of wellness that profoundly impacts our lives.


The National Center defines emotional wellness as an awareness, understanding, and acceptance of our feelings and the ability to navigate challenges and change. The Center provides practical information, engaging presentations, and timely support to foster emotional wellness.


The rapid evolution of artificial intelligence (AI) provides an invaluable opportunity to address our emotional well-being through innovative AI technology. AI-Integrated Emotional Wellness (AIEW), the broad interface of the cognitive abilities of artificial intelligence and the complexity of human emotions, focuses on how AI can foster emotional well-being. Following is a list of five AIEW strategies that can improve emotional wellness:



  • Chatbots I attempted to engage a chatbot last night. I shared a real problem in my life and was curious to see how the platform would help. The comment I received was mechanical and robotic. While there was an effort to convey empathy (e.g., "I'm sorry to hear that you are facing...), the "communication" lacked emotional depth— it was devoid of warmth, genuineness, or compassion. Research has demonstrated that chatbots have the potential to help alleviate feelings of anxiety and sadness and offer evidence-based coping strategies (Fitzpatrick et al., 2020). However, to make chatbots a viable adjunct to authentic in-person communication, there needs to be a greater understanding of human emotion. One of my greatest concerns about chatbots is the potential for users to feel misunderstood and even more alone.


While chatbots cannot replace in-person, professional mental health care, in an article entitled, An Innovative AI-Integrated Emotional Wellness Strategy, I offer a mechanism whereby chatbots could be empowered with responses that were more consistent with mental health care.



  • Emotional Awareness Apps Just as an Apple Watch provides feedback on physical activity, such as the number of steps taken or the detection of atrial fibrillation (i.e., an irregular heart rhythm that can lead to blood clots, increase the risk of stroke, heart failure, and other complications), AI-powered apps can empower users to gain greater awareness and understanding of their emotions. Emotional awareness apps utilize algorithms to analyze patterns in mood fluctuations and provide personalized insights. Awareness of one’s feelings is critical to fostering emotional wellness (Fan, et al., 2019). By harnessing the power of these apps, users can not only track their emotional states but also be better equipped to manage their feelings. Emotional awareness apps can also serve as a valuable tool in mental health care. They can help counselors and therapists by providing data about their clients’ emotional states—which can be used to develop personalized treatment plans.

  • Emotion Recognition Utilizing AIEW, machines can be trained to analyze facial expressions, vocal tone and intonation, and other physiological movements with remarkable accuracy—enabling them to recognize and understand emotions. Integrating emotion recognition into various applications can empower users to receive real-time feedback about their emotional states. Emotion recognition fosters increased self-awareness and can empower individuals to manage their emotions more effectively. It opens new doors for personalized user experiences, revolutionizing how we interact with digital platforms and understand ourselves. As with emotional awareness apps, emotion recognition has profound implications for mental health support. Accurately identifying emotional states can provide timely alerts to healthcare professionals, enabling early intervention and support. This technology can also be integrated into therapeutic tools, helping individuals better understand their emotional patterns and triggers, promoting emotional wellness.


  • Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques These innovative applications leverage AIEW to guide users through meditation and relaxation exercises. They offer a unique, personalized experience tailored to each user's needs. Incorporating AIEW, these apps can tailor sessions to the user’s specific stress levels, preferences, and objectives. This level of personalization ensures that each session is as effective as possible for the user. AI-enhanced mindfulness and relaxation apps can more effectively reduce stress levels and increase emotional well-being than traditional mindfulness and relaxation techniques (Wahbeh et al., 2021). This research highlights the significant benefits of AIEW.



  • AI-Enhanced Cognitive-Behavioral Support The utilization of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has become a standard of care in the mental health field due to a plethora of empirical evidence. The basic tenet of cognitive-behavioral support is to help users understand how their thoughts impact their feelings and actions. By replacing maladaptive and unhealthy thoughts with positive self-statements, users can learn to think in goal-directed problem-solving ways. AI algorithms can identify and analyze user responses and offer personalized cognitive strategies. AIEW and cognitive-behavioral support offer a useful adjunct to in-person care.



AIEW, and the five strategies described above, hold tremendous promise for fostering emotional wellness. However, it's crucial to understand that these and other AI strategies should complement and not replace authentic human interaction and professional mental health care


I encourage AI executives, leaders, scientists, engineers, architects, and developers to consult with experts in human emotions while developing tools that interface AI with human emotion.


In this article, I addressed how users can actively participate in their emotional well-being by using chatbots, emotional awareness apps, emotion recognition, mindfulness and relaxation techniques, and AI-enhanced cognitive-behavioral Support. Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't conclude by emphasizing the importance of implementing responsible and ethical strategies with AIEW.



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