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“Doomscrolling” is as Bad for your Mental Health as it Sounds

“Doomscrolling” is as Bad for your Mental Health as it Sounds

By Pam Dewey • October 22, 2020

You may not be familiar with the term “doomscrolling,” but you’ve likely engaged in it. You open up a social media site like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram on your phone or tablet, start scrolling through your feed and read about all the bad things happening in the world. You lose 30 minutes, an hour or two hours scrolling through posts, news stories and memes. And now you feel even worse about the state of the world.

Such is the destructive power of doomscrolling. But here’s some ways to avoid doomscrolling.  

Set limits

A lot is happening in the world right now. Staying informed about COVID-19 information is important. However, you don’t need to read every story about it.

“Spending hours reading bad news isn’t good for your mental health,” says Fraser Director of Mental Health Aric Jensen. “It can change your outlook on the world, and you are more likely to experience anxiety, stress and depression.”

Try to limit your social media scrolling. When you get on social media, you can set a timer for 15 minutes. Or there are settings on your phone that allow you to limit screen time.

There are also apps LeechBlock or Mindful Browsing that limit your time on websites. LeechBlock is an extension for Firefox and Chrome. It lets you block certain websites or set a timer for how long you use a website. Mindful Browsing is an extension for Chrome where you select sites to avoid, and then write a few sentences about what you’d rather do instead of spending time on these websites. Then when you try to go to a site like Twitter, a calming image appears, along with your reminder about what you’d rather be doing.

Find other ways to connect

Spending more time on social media is a coping mechanism to handle being isolated. Instead of being able to chat with coworkers, you might hop on Facebook or Instagram.

“It’s incredibly important to connect with your loved ones, especially right now,” says Jensen. “However, social media can breed a lot of negativity, and it’s not always the healthiest place to seek connection. There are plenty of other ways to reach out to family and friends.”

Text or call your best friend, siblings or your parents if you’re feeling lonely. Set up a regular FaceTime or Zoom call with friends. Buy blank cards or a stack of postcards, and mail these out to loved ones. Plan a watch party with a friend, and connect via text or video. You can also plan a socially distanced get-together, like a bonfire, with friends.

Don’t start your day with your phone

Many of us start our day by picking up our phones and scrolling through email or social media. Instead, start your day with mindfulness exercises. Mindful.org suggests after you wake up, take 3 slow, deep breaths in and out, and then create an intention for the day. You can set a goal like, ‘I will be easy on myself, I will be patient with others and I will try to maintain my sense of humor.’ Or whatever you identify as important goals for the day.

This means your day starts with a focus on positive goals, rather than negativity online. Then throughout your day, stop what you’re doing and think about whether you’re working toward your intention. This keeps you mindful about working toward positive goals.

Remember to engage in things that give you joy

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed. We’re in the middle of a pandemic, an election and the continued fight for racial justice. You want to stay informed and support your community, but we all have limits too. You need to practice self-care. Engage in activities that give you joy like going on a walk or a hike, have an impromptu living room dance party, work on an art project, read a good book or plan a socially distanced visit with a friend. If you find yourself feeling anxious or filled with sadness, it’s time to take a break and do something just for you.