- The Cohen Clinic
The Disaster of Doomscrolling and How to Stop
It seems like every day there is another devastating and shocking world event taking place. It made me once again think about the effects of this, on not only myself but society as a whole. With the introduction of the internet and social media, news has become so much more accessible. We often want to know every little detail, something that has become so easy to obtain. In addition, many forms of journalism are designed to evoke high emotional responses through disaster reporting to increase viewer numbers. While keeping up to date with current world events can be important, being exposed to a multitude of negative news sources has the potential to leave us with feelings of powerlessness, lack of safety, anxiety, sadness, and hopelessness. It may not always be obvious to us how much the intense exposure to these real life tragedies is affecting our psychological well-being. So, while as active members of society it would be almost impossible and even detrimental to exclude access to all forms of news, here are a few ways in which we can buffer ourselves and protect our mental health.
1) Find Balance
We can ensure balance by actively seeking out more positive ones. We then see not only the negative things happening around the world and in our community, but also the beautiful parts of it too. In this way we can keep perspective. For example, you can follow National Geographic or Tanks Good News.
2) Limit Access
How frequently do we find ourselves mindlessly scrolling through various apps? Often it’s the first thing we do in the morning and last thing we do at night with multiple times in between. We mindlessly engage in “doomscrolling” while losing track of time. Limiting the time we allow ourselves to do this can give our brains the much needed break it needs. This can be done through allocating ourselves designated scrolling times, actively choosing which news outlet we follow, deleting certain apps or even doing a time limited full social media detox.
3) Use Relaxation Techniques
According to Szabo & Hopkinson (2007), in their study of the harmful effects of watching the news, engaging in a relaxation exercise for 15 minutes after doing so was able to buffer any ill effects. While this may not be practical to do after each exposure, it does give rise to the potential benefits of incorporating relaxation exercises into your daily routine. This can be something as simple as going for a quick mindful walk, engaging in breathing exercises, stretching for a few minutes, to something more structured such as practicing yoga or going for a massage.
4) Schedule Worry Time
If you find you’re spending more and more time worrying, a good strategy to manage this is to schedule worry time. This is an effective Cognitive Behavioural Therapy technique to help combat excessive worry through structuring and limiting it to a scheduled time so as to prevent rumination and uncontrolled worrying throughout the day. Sanjana Gupta lays out an easy to follow description on how to do so here (Gupta, 2022).
5) Reach Out for Help
Lastly, should you feel your mental health is being impacted, it is important to consider seeking assistance from someone trained to help. Engaging in therapy can help process your feelings and also help you build coping strategies that are uniquely effective for you.
de Hoog, N., & Verboon, P. (2020). Is the news making us unhappy? The influence of daily news exposure on emotional states. British Journal of Psychology, 111(2), 157-173.
Gupta, S. (2022, May 1). Worry time: The benefits of scheduling time to stress. Verywell Mind. Retrieved July 11, 2022, from https://www.verywellmind.com/worry-time-the-benefits-of scheduling-time-to-stress-5267979
Szabo, A., & Hopkinson, K. L. (2007). Negative psychological effects of watching the news in the television: relaxation or another intervention may be needed to buffer them!. International journal of behavioral medicine, 14(2), 57–62. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03004169