Christine Ruggeri, CHHC via Dr. Axe – Do you have a habit of scrolling endlessly through social media, looking for answers or clarity? If this perpetual rabbit hole of scrolling — refreshing and scrolling again — is leaving you feeling agitated, hopeless and drained, you’re officially doomscrolling.
Doomscrolling can have a major impact on your mental and physical health. If you’re caught in the routine of scrolling several times throughout the day, searching aimlessly for more and more negative content, it’s time to cut back on your time online and find new, more positive outlets.
It’s for your own health, after all.
What Is Doomscrolling?
Doomscrolling is when you continue to scroll through bad news or even seek it out, even when it leaves you feeling sad or agitated. It’s been described as an “endless procession of negative online news.”
For many people, the pandemic has intensified these habits.
Findings from this past April that were reported by Pew Research Center indicate that 53 percent of American adults say the internet has been essential for them during the pandemic. In addition, 34 percent of U.S. adults describe the internet as “important, but not essential.”
It appears that we may be using the internet now more than ever. Over the last eight months, many adults began working from home, from their computers, making internet use even more prevalent.
People also are suffering from feelings of isolation and loneliness, so they use the internet to connect with others.
But why are people doomscrolling if it leaves them feeling sad or even panicked? For some, it’s like an addiction that’s fed by the false notion that staying informed will provide a sense of security — when, in reality, it causes just the opposite.
Doomscrolling not only negatively impacts your mood, but it can also disrupt sleep, focus and concentration. Because it alters your mental health, it can also negatively affect your physical health and cause issues such as:
- sugar cravings
- low energy
- brain fog
- digestive issues
If you’re constantly doomscrolling, you may be dealing with chronic stress, which can have a serious impact on your overall health.
How to Stop
1. Set Aside Time to Scroll
If you like to scroll through your Facebook feed or Twitter for the latest news, you’re not alone. Many adults use social media as their news source.
To avoid doomscrolling and its effects on your mental and physical health, however, set aside a specific amount of time for scrolling through the news.
Maybe that’s 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the evening. Make it work for your schedule, and set a timer on your phone if you have to. You can also track your screen time to keep yourself accountable.
Why is it so important to reduce your social media and scrolling time? One study published in the American Journal of Health Behavior indicates that people categorized as “Wired” or “Connected” in defining their social media use have an increased association with the the risk for depression and anxiety.
2. Declutter Your Phone and Laptop
If you’re prone to doomscrolling, it may be time to minimize the apps on your phone, laptop and desktop so you’re less likely to use them in between tasks or when “wasting time.” If you’re triggered by one app in particular, then delete it from your phone so that it’s not always at your fingertips.
Why consider deleting a social media app? A study published in Cureusfound that prolonged use of social media platforms, such as Facebook, may be related to negative signs and symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress.
3. Stop All Notifications From News Sources
Are you getting a push notification every time a news story breaks? If so, stop!
Push notifications are meant to enhance and increase smartphone engagement. They can be distracting and leave you scrolling, again, even when you were in middle of a task.
Stop all push notifications, which entice you to spend more time scrolling.
4. Don’t Click on Triggering Articles
You can usually tell from the headline whether or not the article will trigger you.
More bad news? More divisive? Then skip it.
These articles can leave you feeling isolated, sad, angry and hopeless. Instead, stick to positive, informative and uplifting content.
5. Avoid Debate Commenting
Let’s face it — your social media debate commenting rarely changes a person’s mind or gives you a sense of security or community. In fact, it likely makes you feel more isolated and agitated.
One study conducted in the U.K. suggests that posting about feelings and venting on social media predicted low mood and self-estreem and high paranoia.
If you’re doomscrolling and come across a post that makes you want to comment, perhaps discuss the issue with your spouse or loved one instead. You’re likely to get better clarity and positive reinforcement that way.
6. Don’t Read News Articles on Social Media
Does all of your news come from social media? If you are constantly refreshing your social media timelines for the newest stories, it’s a much better idea to visit a specific news website instead.
Or, better yet, rely on a printed newspaper that you can read leisurely in the morning and put away for the remainder of the day. You may actually retain the information when reading news in a different format, like print.
One study published in Human Factors found that a scrolling format reduced understanding of complex topics from web pages, especially for readers who were lower in working memory capacity.
7. Find Your People
We need to maintain a sense of community for our mental and physical health. Communicating with groups of like-minded people is good for the soul.
Organizing charity events or working together to conduct acts of kindness make it even better.
Research shows that community-belonging is an important component of health prevention and can even promote healthier behaviors, like exercise and improved diet.
8. Find Other Outlets
If you’re doomscrolling out of boredom, work on finding other outlets that actually improve your overall health and well-being. Add uplifting activities into your daily routine, like going for a walk outdoors, yoga at home, meditation, reading a fictional story, talking on the phone or Zooming with friends, and cooking for loved ones.