What is the first thing you do when you wake up? If you tend to roll over and pick up your phone, you’re not alone. However, this morning habit may be bad for your health.
According to Merriam-Webster, “Doomscrolling and doomsurfing are new terms referring to the tendency to continue to surf or scroll through bad news, even though that news is saddening, disheartening, or depressing.”
The habit is not new, but the term was recently coined during the pandemic. The recent onslaught of doom-and-gloom news related to global events, combined with stay-at-home orders, have given us endless hours to sit in front of our devices and binge on bad news. Doomscrolling is a form of digital addiction that many of us can relate to, where we keep scrolling the scary headlines and can’t seem to stop.
Some say this habit may be helpful, as it helps you stay up to date and feel more in control of your environment because you’re aware of what’s happening in the world around you. But this becomes a problem when you feel the behavior is controlling you, or when you notice it causing negative feelings like anxiety or hopelessness. Ultimately, the habit can erode your mental health.
Science says doomscrolling is harmful to your brain
Turns out, your brain loves this stuff. We are all hardwired to see the negative and be drawn to the negative because it can harm us physically. Essentially, our minds are wired to look out for threats, and we have a subconscious drive to understand more about the danger in the world so that we can make ourselves safe from it.
Unfortunately, doomscrolling traps us in a “vicious cycle of negativity” that fuels our anxiety. This can lead to an overall negative view of the world and impact your outlook on life. The feeling of dissatisfaction drives you to look for more information to help yourself feel better, and the cycle continues. A 2009 study found that viewing the news can worsen depressive moods, while research from 2015 reported a link between constant news viewing, and increased anxiety symptoms. While keeping up to date on current events may be important, we also need to be vigilant about media addiction and its impact on mental health.
How to stop doomscrolling
Notice the problem
Reflect on your news consumption habits. Recognize how you’re feeling and why it is happening.
Break the cycle
When you notice yourself starting to get into your repetitive pattern, check yourself and take a moment to be aware of what you’re doing and why.
Talk it through
Talk through your thoughts and feelings with another person to help you check in with reality and remind yourself that you are safe in the present moment.
Practice a different habit to replace your scrolling, such as counting, breathing, exercising, or going for a walk.
Ask for help
Share your concerns about doomscrolling with someone close to you, and ask them to help you keep an eye on the habit. You could even have them put your devices away so you can’t access them.
Limit your intake
Practice a pre-determined amount of media intake – just to stay up to date on current events and no more. Try setting a timer for five to ten minutes to help you set a boundary and limit your media intake.
Only allow yourself to go online to look for specific information and stay focused on what you were looking for. When you’ve found what you went looking for, turn off your device and engage with another activity.
Set up alternatives
Rather than just banning yourself from your device, make sure you also facilitate helpful alternative activities for those moments when you would normally reach for your phone. If you’re having issues with compulsively checking before bed, maybe get your phone out of your bedroom and put a book on your bedside table instead. Put some kind of craft project or a puzzle out on your table so that when you do have a down moment, you have an option that’s really easy to get to that’s not your phone.
Seek out positivity
Incorporate several happy activities throughout your day, such as catching up with a friend over the phone, or playing with your dog. Listening to comedy podcasts or watching cute baby animal videos never hurt either. Remind yourself that there are many positive things in the world to enjoy and appreciate outside of the doom-and-gloom of your newsfeed.
With a little awareness, you can set a limit on your negative media consumption and break up that addictive relationship with your device. As you distance yourself from doomscrolling, you might even notice your day looking a little bit brighter!