Everybody is familiar with this routine: your alarm goes off. You wake up and reach for your phone. You check your messages, your social media, the news sites and it’s all the same thing – one bad news after the other. 2020 has been a year of unprecedented disasters and calamities.

When constantly surrounded by bad news, there’s two ways people respond: they either completely ignore it and go absent on social media or they get deeper in looking at negative news – the coronavirus cases, the scrambling economy, schools and businesses being shut down.
Scientists have called this “doomscrolling.” It’s a scenario where people scroll through a slew of negativity on social media, endlessly. Such incessant consumption of bad news is adversely affecting people’s mental health.

Doomscrolling is a sure way of trapping ourselves into a vicious cycle of negativity that fuels our anxiety.

Dr. Amelia Aldao

It’s a very passive way of engaging with content – all you have to do is scroll and let the cascading bad news do its job of causing you despair.

Mental health experts warn that as humans, we are not built to function or deal with such constant bombardment of stress every day. It’s important to disengage from these stimulants and work on healthier alternatives. But with social media and its addictive nature, breaking from doomscrolling can seem a bit difficult. 

What Is Doomscrolling, Exactly?

According to Merriam-Webster, doomscrolling is characterized as a tendency of a person to consume incessant amounts of negativity even though it causes feelings of stress, depression, and anxiety.

Previous research has already demonstrated that there’s a strong link between depression and social media. People who spend more time on Twitter or Instagram tend to be more depressed or socially anxious. The current pandemic has exacerbated this phenomenon. Now wherever we turn, we’re faced with bad news.

As human beings, we’re hardwired to look for information – negative information in particular. From an evolutionary perspective, it’s a way of sensing out danger and keeping it from harming us.
But there’s a bit of good news about the bad news habit that everybody seems to have. It’s difficult to disengage, but not impossible. TABIIB lists out 3 simple ways you can lessen your time doomscrolling and get some mental peace back.

1. Set a timer

The first step is to acknowledge that doomscrolling is a problem. The second step is to create a realistic plan and stick to it until it becomes a habit.

If you have trouble managing the time you spend on social media, setting a timer for 15-20 minutes can help you reel it back. The best way to resist information overload is to limit how much time you spend consuming it.

Schedule time for daily, mundane tasks such as walking the dog, reading a book, cleaning, etc. Dividing time into chunks with reminders can help you break out of the never-ending practice of scrolling through social media. It’s also a good idea to skip social media for a day and indulge in a digital detox.

2. Introspect and meditate

Exercises that promote mindfulness and introspection go a long way in helping you deal with stress and anxiety. Doomscrolling is a passive and mindless task. Actively breaking away from the habit can force you to be mentally present and mindful.

Take some time to look back on your day and introspect. This doesn’t have to be a time-consuming activity. In fact, allowing your mind to drift while you’re washing the dishes or taking a walk is very helpful. Your body is physically active and your mind is engaged.

3. Replace doomscrolling with another activity

This one seems fairly obvious but it is pretty effective. If you don’t have your phone with you all the time, then it becomes easy to resist the temptation of checking for updates. Try to cultivate hobbies which can help you keep your mind busy and engaged.

It’s up to us to snap out of terrible habits. It’s difficult but not impossible. Taking care of one’s mental health should always be a priority, especially in these trying times. If you’re looking for professional help, you can consult a doctor on TABIIB.

Read more about how you can manage stress and anxiety here and here.

I am a writer, covering the sprawling expanse of healthcare, among many other things that I love writing on. I write on healthcare because I want to do my part in informing people about the health industry, When I am not blogging about research and medicine, I enjoy reading, playing squash and backpacking around the world.

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