13 Ways to Stop Doomscrolling & Protect Your Mental Health
It’s not uncommon to continuously scroll through social media or the web and read bad news that gets you instantly hooked. However, this practice has gained new popularity during the recent pandemic and even a new nickname, “doomscrolling”. Worldwide, there has been a 35% increase in people watching news media and a 23% increase in people participating in social media use.
Doomscrolling is defined as the activity of spending a lot of time looking at your phone or computer and purposefully reading bad or negative news stories. The new phrase has picked up traction in today’s culture as experts are continuing to discover the impact that it has on mental and physical health.
Causes of Doomscrolling
The past few years have been filled with great uncertainty; COVID-19, vaccines, racial justice, international relations, politics, climate change, and the health of loved ones. There have been countless unanswered questions in almost every area of life. With these unknowns comes a natural desire to resolve the uncertainty, therefore seeking information.
There is a healthy side to this information-seeking that helps with learning what precautions are needed during this time of elevated threat. Yet there is also an unhealthy side that can cause feelings of being constantly on edge and worry about missing critical pieces of information that will increase safety.
Of course, there is no one magic piece of information, news story, or Facebook post. Instead, we have to learn to tolerate uncertainty. This can be difficult and sometimes overwhelming since the brain is hardwired to survive and see surroundings that can potentially cause harm.
For those that already suffer from a generalized anxiety disorder or other anxiety-related disorders, this innate part of human nature can increase the likelihood of developing a “doomscrolling” habit. As these disorders get worse, the need to control the situation around them increases. This want for control actually creates more fear and anxiety.
Signs of Doomscrolling
Here are some signs that you or someone you love may have fallen into the habit of doomscrolling.
How Doomscrolling Affects Mental Health
The act of seeking information and staying informed is normal, but when this habit turns into hours of reading negative stories, it can increase a sense of danger and vulnerability. Studies have shown that taking in negative news media can cause deepening or worsening mental health problems.
Mental health problems that can get worse from doomscrolling include:
It’s important to distinguish between “doomscrolling” and other social media and news consumption. Spending time online has provided an important way for people to stay at least virtually connected when they are not able to connect physically. It’s certainly not desirable to have children or anyone else spend their entire day on social media. Still, research indicates that time spent on social media is not always associated with a negative mental health outcome.
In reality, the role that social media plays usually depends on what the person wants from it. If it generates envy or anxiety then it’s probably not helpful, but if it connects people and promotes reliable or balanced information, then it can be beneficial. So, it can be helpful to monitor the feelings that arise after spending time online and track the impact it has on moods and behaviors.
Another problem associated with “doomscrolling” or other excessive social media use is that valuable and healthy activities are not occurring due to extensive time spent online. Going outside, getting exercise, actually talking to others, and getting good sleep are all really important right now as everyday routines have been so disrupted. It’s essential that time online does not take away from meeting those other needs that help manage mental health and wellbeing.
“Doomscrolling” may also lead to the risk of creating manic thoughts. Consuming media through news channels or social media can create an environment that caues constant reading of differing and sometimes conflicting sets of information on topics such as politics and health. Constant reading can cause confusion of thoughts and a difficulty determining fact from fiction.
13 Ways to Stop Doomscrolling
Although doomscrolling can cause negative thinking and behaviors, there is hope to put an end to this practice. There are ways to distance and reduce urges to dive into the media and information abyss. Developing healthier habits of mindfulness and news consumption can be accomplished by gently altering behaviors.
1. Do Something Else
After realizing that doomscrolling is taking place, best practice is stop the scrolling and change attention elsewhere. It’s recommended to change attention to something else on the web or simply put down the phone or log off the computer.
2. Set a Time Limit
While it’s normal to want to stay informed, keep from entering the “doomscrolling” by limiting time spent scrolling to only 20 minutes.
3. Seek Out Positivity
Instead of “doomscrolling”, search for positivity by watching something funny, looking at family photos, or reading a story about something good in the world. Practice gratitude and pinpoint things to be grateful for instead of focusing on things that should be feared.
4. Use Mindfulness
5. Avoid Catastrophizing
Catastrophizing is characterized by jumping straight to worst-case scenarios instead of taking situations into consideration. These thoughts are possible but realistically, not probable. Instead, question what is a more realistic outcome of the situation that is being read.
6. Engage in Thought Stopping
Thought stopping is a cognitive-behavioral technique that is used for ending obsessive or anxious thoughts. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of psychothreapy that is evidenced-based and used to treat many mental health conditions and behaviors.
Instead of checking the phone compulsively and picking it up, try to pick up the phone consciously and with purpose to avoid obsessive doomscrolling. When noticing that phone behaviors are compulsive, pause for a period of time and be mindful about behaviors and the cause of behaviors.
7. Slow Your Scrolling
If completing stopping scrolling habits sounds overwhelming, try to slow down the pace. Focus on the qualities within the content instead of the quantity of content in order to build a broad attention span. Consciously reminding to set a pace for content and not to race through it.
Reading bad news can cause feelings of hopeless and sadness. Try to enforce positive mantras, sayings, and slogans in the workspace or around the home. For example, “everything is going to be alright” can help to keep a positive mind space.
9. Focus on Right Now
Sometimes the focus and perspective can be on what is going to happen in the future instead of the present moment. The future is often not predictable or something that can be controlled. Focus on controlling what is happening right now, asking yourself what is going to help you feel better at this exact point in time.
10. Be Honest with Yourself
Being honest with yourself on what is at the root of your scrolling can help reduce doomscrolling behaviors. Understand what you are looking for whether that is an end to boredom, reassurance, guidance, or confirming fears. Whatever the reason is, being mindful of it and trying to find the answer to the root of the problem can be a more healthy way of scrolling.
11. Digital Wellness Apps
While the problem of doomscrolling mostly stems from technology, it can still be part of the solution thanks to the existence of wellness applications. These applications, both free and paid, can help ease the mind through meditation and guided readings of positive and reinforcing material.
12. Turn Off Push Notifications
Push notifications can be anxiety-inducing, especially from news apps, since they can be interpreted as more important. The actual reading of the articles is not important because these notifications cause a bombarding of alarmist headlines. Try to turn off any push notifications from any news apps as a way to stay in control of the exposure.
13. Have Screen-Free Self-Care Time
Taking care of physical and mental wellbeing during these hard times is so important. A lot of time may be spent looking at screens, therefore it can be essential to give the eyes and mind a rest by doing things that do not involve the computer and phone to nourish mental health and spirit.
Activities that can be essential for self-care and replenishment of the mind include:
Put the Phone Down, Stop Scrolling
Doomscrolling can cause negative effects on mental health and even worsening symptoms of present mental health disorders. Breaking the habit of doomscrolling may take time, but the benefits are undoubtedly worth it. Focusing on self-care and limiting screen time can help reduce or eliminate doomscrolling behaviors.
If you or a loved one are struggling with mental health as a result of doomscrolling, it may be time to seek additional help. Reach out to SoCal Mental Health to ask any questions you may have and get a better understanding of our program.
- Buchanan, K., Aknin, L. B., Lotun, S., & Sandstrom, G. M. (2021, October 13). Brief exposure to social media during the covid-19 pandemic: Doom-scrolling has negative emotional consequences, but kindness-scrolling does not. PLOS ONE. Retrieved February 22, 2022, from https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0257728
- Cambridge Dictionary. Doomscrolling. Retrieved February 11th from https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/doomscrolling
- Kemp, S. (2020, April 24). Report: Most important data on digital audiences during coronavirus. TNW | Growth-Quarters. Retrieved February 22, 2022, from https://thenextweb.com/news/report-most-important-data-on-digital-audiences-during-coronavirus
- Psych Central (2021, November 9). What is Doomscrolling? Retrieved February 11th from https://psychcentral.com/anxiety/what-is-doomscrolling#causes
- Deering, S. (2021, January 3) What is Doomscrolling? Retrieved February 11th from https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-doomscrolling-5088882
- Boynton, E. (2020, September 9) How To Stop Doom SCrolling — And Why You Should. Retrieved February 11th from https://rightasrain.uwmedicine.org/mind/mental-health/how-stop-doomscrolling-and-why-you-should
- Cleveland Clinic (2020, September 1) Everything You Need to Know About Doomscrolling and How to Avoid It. Retrieved February 11th from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/everything-you-need-to-know-about-doomscrolling-and-how-to-avoid-it/