In October last year I attended a conference (7in7) for the first time since I turned my life 180 degrees and became a digital nomad with an online counselling practice. I also co-presented a workshop there about the mental health of digital nomads. In my former life in Germany, in both research and the clinic, I regularly attended conferences and congresses. I always found it exciting to exchange ideas with colleagues from all over the world, to gain insights into various fields of research and, of course, to present our results.
The 7in7 Conference
The 7in7 conference is for digital nomads and other people working online. Interestingly, the initiative for the conference came about when the organisers were at a not so well organized conference and, during a lunch break, began to fantasise about what they would do differently. A little later the concept for the 7in7 conference was born.
The reason the conference is called 7in7 is because there will be a total of 7 conferences in 7 years on 7 continents. In the first year it took place in Bangkok, the second year in Barcelona and last year in Medellín, Colombia. This year it will take place in Wellington, New Zealand, and yes, the last year of the conference will actually take place in Antarctica.
Why a conference is so helpful
Research into the health of digital nomads is still new, but there are indications that people who lead a very mobile life experience mental health disorders 2.5 times more frequently than those who don’t. No wonder, because the frequent moving, finding one’s way in new countries and cultures, and the great distance to family and friends make life and managing one’s mental health more difficult.
Typical protective factors, such as a stable social network, are rare among digital nomads. A conference like 7in7 can make a valuable contribution to changing this as it can provide opportunities to create and nourish new friendships. And this is exactly what 7in7 does! It is a relatively small (max. 100 participants), intimate conference, which not only consists of lectures and workshops but also includes opportunities for a lot of Meetups, which take place before, during and after the conference. Every participant can initiate a Meetup, from a joint city tour to professional blogging discussions, Facebook Ads and much more. Last year, over 40 Meetups took place around the conference, providing many opportunities to meet new people, share ideas and build networks. I made it to 6 or 7 myself and made some wonderful new friends while exploring the city and of course, eating a lot of delicious food.
Of course, conferences are also great places to attend informative workshops and presentations about topics that can help build mental health resilience, like the one I presented with Dr. Melissa Parks.
Our workshop on mental health of digital nomads
Together with my colleague Dr. Melissa Parks, I held a workshop on the mental health of digital nomads. This is a topic close to my heart because of my personal way of life and also because of my work as an online psychologist. In terms of content, our workshop dealt with the question of whether and why digital nomads are particularly susceptible to mental health issues and what one can do to care for one’s mental health when on the move. We provided a lot of background knowledge about Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and introduced some exercises, like the ‘Hands and Thoughts’ exercise you can see below.
This is what it looks like when 30 digital nomads perform the ‘Hands and Thoughts’ exercise at the same time:
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Have you ever asked yourself what the difference is between values and goals and why it perhaps makes more sense to concentrate on values instead of goals? Watch this video, that we shared in our workshop!
I really loved how open the participants were to our workshop and topic of mental health. In general, there are still a lot of taboos around psychotherapy and mental illness, but the number of people who were not only looking forward to our workshop but were also willing to talk about their personal challenges and therapy experiences in the group was really encouraging.
In summary, I can say that this was probably one of the best, if not the best conference I’ve ever been to – especially in terms of the community. I got to know an incredible number of wonderful people, got a lot of new ideas for my online business and was reminded of how much I enjoy working offline with groups. I am looking forward to presenting this and similar workshops in other places in the world in the future, and to educating even more digital nomads and international people about the topic of mental health, giving them a few methods that can help them to live a happy and fulfilled life.
Have you ever been to a conference that really inspired you? Or do you know one you’d like to attend?