What is doomscrolling and how does it negatively affect your mental health?
The COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing economic downturn have negatively impacted the mental health of many people and created new barriers for those already suffering from mental health issues. Doom scrolling, often known as doom surfing, is one such effect. It is the result of excessive use of social media and addiction to smartphones.
What is Doomscrolling?
The act of “doom surfing / scrolling” involves excessive use of a screen while scrolling mostly bad news. It is not uncommon to find yourself browsing the pages in search of more information about a scary news item. Many of us can’t seem to stop reading / watching the news about the pandemic and the various issues that people are facing. We are constantly checking various websites and news channels in hopes of learning something new.
It may surprise you to learn that the event is not new. Due to our negative bias, we are more likely to seek negative news than positive news. However, we are all aware that it damages our mental health.
How does this affect your mental health?
The use of social media has been shown to have a harmful impact on mental health in studies. It causes worry and despair, increases loneliness, and leads to negative comparisons with others. Doomscrolling now adds another level of devastation to the misuse of social media, with headlines on illness, death, violence and political crises. The consequences on mental health are serious:
- Doomscrolling is a game that reinforces negative thoughts and feelings. When you’re depressed or nervous, it’s natural to seek news and information to validate your feelings. It’s a vicious loop that pulls you down.
- It worsens mental disorders. Existing mental health issues are exacerbated by this cycle of bad news.
- If you suffer from or are at risk for depression or anxiety, this habit can trigger an episode or exacerbate symptoms.
- Doomscrolling intensifies fear and anxiety. Rumination, a harmful habit that exacerbates depression, is triggered by the scrolling of dark headlines in the news. It can also make you anxious, sometimes leading to episodes of panic.
- Doomscrolling keeps you awake at night. Lots of people read their social media accounts before nightfall, which increases the tension just when you are trying to fall asleep. Sleep deprivation exacerbates stress and other mental health problems, thus perpetuating the vicious cycle.
Five ways to protect your sanity from doomscrolling
Make sure you spend minimal time on social media. Smartphones have a feature where they can keep track of the time you spend on each app. It is important to keep this in mind so that you don’t fall into the trap of using it all the time. It’s best to avoid scrolling before bed and right after you wake up.
Keeping your phone away from your bed is the best way to do this. Keep an eye on your health. Regular exercise promotes the release of feel-good neurotransmitters. Relaxation can also be accomplished through yoga and meditation. While looking in your phone, eat a healthy balanced diet and avoid eating non-nutritious foods. Mindfulness is the right thing to do. Keep an eye on everything you do.
You need to devote your full attention to whatever you’re doing, whether it’s reading, writing, or exercising.
Check if the news source you are reading is legitimate. Plus, get in the habit of reading the good news and sharing it with your friends and family. Try the STOP method. If you have difficulty controlling scrolling, use the STOP method. If you feel like you’ve gone too far with your screen time and can’t control your fingers, say STOP out loud while giving yourself a physical stimulus, such as a slap on the hand. When you do this often enough, your brain will learn to recognize when it’s time to stop what you’re doing.