It’s no secret social media and mental health are very closely intertwined; social platforms help us build and maintain connections with friends and family, share ‘wins’ and keep track of our memories. But this virtual lookbook can also bring up negative feelings of anxiety or depression, addiction or social comparisons. As digital consumers, most of us unconsciously reach for our devices in times of stress, discomfort or boredom, and these habits play a huge role in our individual and collective well-being.
As an Urban Wellness Consultant, I study how technology—specifically social platforms—keep us from being our most expressive, open and loving selves. For instance, how social media can easily take us away from the moment, rather than make us more connected to the people who matter most to us. My goal is to reframe our relationship to digital tools so we can create more balance in our daily life, not to make them disappear. The bottom line is releasing the grip on any habit is never easy, especially when we’re reliant on its resources. However, creating healthy boundaries with our devices will have long-term benefits on mental, physical and spiritual health.
Below are 7 healthy habits to adopt to help slow the scroll and start living with more personal power, peace and presence:
- Mindset is everything. Don’t blame yourself. There is nothing wrong with you or your connection to social media. Scroll too long? Get lost in Instagram holes? Can’t stop watching ‘the next suggested video’? These platforms have been designed to keep us connected and psychologically dependent. So start by releasing the grip on blame, and start using that energy toward taking back your power.
- Practice leaving your phone behind. Next time you are running a small errand, going out to dinner with a spouse or a friend, taking a quick coffee break or walking your dog, make an active decision to leave it behind. It may feel weird at first, but being without our phone helps us realize just how wired and dependent we are, which is a great place to start. The more you practice, the more free you’ll feel, and leaving it behind won’t feel so scary.
- Fill your time with activities you love. What’s one practice you want more of in 2020? If it’s coloring, reading, writing or playing games with your family, fill your time with these activities. Most people are surprised by how much of our lives rely on the digital tools — The latest digital trends 2019 report by the Next Web shows we’re spending on average 6 hours and 42 minutes online each day, and half of that time is spent on mobile devices. When we sign offline—even for a bit— we can unlock creativity and deepen connections to others and ourselves, and end up feeling more fulfilled and gratified at the end of the day.
- Turn off data on certain apps. If you’re like most people, you can probably always find time for an unassuming distraction, whether that’s waiting in line, riding the subway or killing time before a meeting starts. Turning off data on apps that typically distract you halts your habit and gives you peace of mind. For iPhone users, simply click your settings, then cellular, then disable the app or apps of your choice. This is a helpful tactic to manage your habits with certain apps.
- Silence social media notifications. Seeing who liked your photo in the exact moment that they like it is not only distracting, but it triggers dopamine—the happy chemical in your brain—to be released. This sensation is precisely the source of what keeps you coming back for more! Turning off your notifications in the settings bar of your phone will allow you to be more present in the moment and only check your notifications at the time you decide.
- Commit to a ‘screenless’ times during your day. Do you know the feeling of walking into a restaurant or other social space and seeing a crowd of people buried in their phones? What would happen if all of these people were looking out instead of down? Try to stack your habits and set one rule that feels good for you, such as no phones while eating, limiting screentime in certain rooms of your house, or staying offline during your commute. Whenever you choose to press pause will empower you to fill your time with activities that bring you joy.
- Plan your anti-social media time. First thing in the morning and right before bed is the best time to get off the ‘gram. Trust me! I know it might sound hard, but consider how much mental energy is spent absorbing other people's lives. At times, catching up on where your friends are traveling can feel inspiring, but more often than not, we get caught up comparing ourselves to the digital persona of others. Try setting this goal for yourself: for one month, carve out an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening dedicated for you and you alone! Set an alarm in the evening to remind yourself when it’s time to put your phone away, then put your devices on do not disturb or airplane mode. This practice can be incredibly powerful in reclaiming a healthy relationship to technology.
Learning to change your digital behaviors and shift your mindset around technology can take time, patience, care and attention. Be easy on yourself. Choose one of these tips that resonate with you and start integrating it into your day-to-day. Once you’re comfortable, add another share these habits with friends and make it a group journey! Better yet, put down your phone and get started now.