Last updated on November 20, 2020.
Do you often find yourself scrolling through social media or surfing the web and taking in a constant stream of terrible news? And we all know the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t helped. This digital habit even has a name: it’s called doom scrolling, and it isn’t good for your mental health.
For most people, it’s really hard to stay off screens and phones and according to a recent Pew Research Center study, about 28% of adults in the United States go online “almost constantly”. If you’re hooked on the scroll, here are some helpful tips to break the addiction.
How Does Doom Scrolling Hurt Your Health?
Doomscrolling can trigger negative thoughts and a negative mindset, which can greatly impact your mental health. Consuming negative news has been linked in a recent Russian research with greater fear, stress, anxiety and sadness.
Ruminating on anxiety triggers can increase depression and anxiety. If you find yourself regularly checking your phone for more than just a few minutes, it doesn’t necessarily mean you will develop clinical depression or an anxiety disorder; however, you may notice a rise in your anxiety or a worsen mood.
What Can You Do to Prevent Yourself from Compulsively Scrolling?
#1. Admit You Have a Problem
Like with any addiction, the first step in battling it is recognising you have one.
Be honest with yourself about the reasons behind your scrolling. Are you looking for reassurance? Guidance? Confirming your fears? Are you just feeling bored ?
If you are feeling lonely, a more durable and healing intervention would be to connect with someone like a family member, a friend, or a colleague.
#2. Turn Off Your Notifications
Not surprisingly, the key to cutting back on mindless scrolling is to avoid being on your phone all the time.
It sounds easy but it can actually be quite a task when your phone lights up every time you get a new message or breaking news. Notifications can be very distracting and the reason why you can’t stop looking at your phone.
Try to check your phone consciously, not compulsively. For instance, when you pick up your phone, pause for a second and be mindful of what you are doing: do you really need to look at your phone? Have you been checking it less or more today?
#3. Stay Away from Your Phone
The best way to stop yourself from compulsively looking at your phone is to remove the temptation itself. Removing its physical presence by simply putting it in another room for instance can be an easy trick to slow down your scrolling.
Plus, it’s also a great way to make sure you are fully focused on what you are doing, whether it is working, cooking or playing with the kids!
Unhook yourself from your screen with ‘mindful exercises’. Exercising and deep breathing can help you to reconnect you with your body. It also gives your mind a rest while exercising your muscles.
You can also replace your usual doom scrolling time with a positive activity, like going for a walk, listening to music or practicing yoga.
#4. Set Boundaries
Setting specific boundaries for phone and screen usage can help tremendously. Try to define what time you are allowed to check what, and how many minutes (or hours!) you take between scrolls.
For instance, instead of looking at your phone as soon as you wake up in the morning, you could take some time to meditate, get up and get tea or coffee, or do a little stretching session. Instead of checking your emails or news late at night, turn off the TV and put your phone away an hour or two before bedtime and dig into a good book!
You’ll see, the need to scroll will fade away.
#5. Focus on the Now and Look at the Big Picture
You can control what is happening right now in your life. Ask yourself what would help you to feel better in the moment. Usually, social media aren’t the answer to this question.
However, watching the news can also be a positive thing, enabling you to put things into perspective because suddenly your problems may seem more manageable compared to some of the things you are reading about. It could also help you to be more grateful for or appreciate more of the little things in your life.