If you have ever found yourself endlessly searching for negative news online, you may have been experiencing symptoms of a relatively new mental health condition known as doomscrolling.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings, along with all of the significant issues that impact your life and the lives of others that you care about. However, by focusing the majority of your attention on the negative, painful, or depressing side of things, you can easily end up stuck in a self-induced state of debilitating anxiety or depression.
Stop Doomscrolling and Boost Your Mental Health
Nevertheless, given all of the major issues currently occurring in the world today, now may be the best time to look at five simple ways that you can stop doomscrolling to improve your mental health. Similar to other compulsive behavior disorders, the more time you spend searching for negative news, the greater your obsession will be to find even more unpleasant content.
As with any other compulsive behavior, if you happen to find yourself doomscrolling regularly, you can get a handle on it before it negatively impacts your emotional well-being any further.
Below are a few strategies that you can start using today to stop doomscrolling to improve your mental health.
1. Limit Your Time Online
Put yourself in charge of your online time. Although most of us use the internet and its applications countless times during any given day, try setting realistic limits on the amount of time that you spend online, especially when you do not need to be on it.
Surfing the internet can be an enriching, entertaining, and enlightening experience, not to mention an unavoidable part of living in a modern technological world. Nevertheless, many of us find ourselves intermingling work and personal online time.
Start by compartmentalizing your time and allocating it wisely. Focus on taking care of your most important online tasks first, especially those that are work-related. Then, with time permitting, try visiting more positive and productive content when you have the urge to surf online.
Similar to someone battling any other compulsive behavior disorder, you may not be able to quit doomscrolling altogether. However, more than likely, you should be able to significantly reduce the urge to do so over time.
2. Block Sites With Graphic Content
There may be no way to avoid gloomy, doom-filled online content altogether. Just take a look at the feed from your favorite streaming news service or search engine.
Trust me, other than the results of an occasional sporting event, the headline is almost always the worst news available at the moment. Nevertheless, if you find yourself gravitating towards sites with graphic or distressing content, try self-regulating yourself.
One way that you can control the sites that you visit is to place your own restrictions on the content that you are permitted to receive. Other than that, you just may have to gain a greater sense of self-control to help keep you from falling back into the seemingly endless pit of doomscrolling.
3. Talk to a Therapist
Whether compulsive gaming, compulsive gambling, or doomscrolling, I am a firm believer that most compulsive disorders can be effectively treated with professional counseling, more specifically with cognitive behavioral therapy, simply known as CBT.
CBT essentially refers to the therapeutic practice of focusing on identifying unhealthy, irrational, and negative thoughts and beliefs and then replacing them with healthier positive ones. In addition to finding a caring, professional, and well-trained therapist, there must also be a genuine desire on the part of the patient to change.
It is as if the doomscroller is subconsciously trying to achieve a more intense “high” with every tragic or unpleasant story that they uncover.
Then, after repeatedly observing negative and depressing content, the doomscroller may become desensitized to the real emotional pain, despair, and anguish felt by those actually involved in any given story that they find online. Since the bad news does not impact them directly, the doomscroller may feel little or no empathy for anyone negatively impacted by the situation at hand.
Therapy will help you work through the underlying issues that may be driving you to look for negative and depressing online content.
4. Join a Support Group
Although there may not be a support group for doomscrollers per se in your community, there is probably one right around the corner from you for people battling depression, anxiety, addiction, and other compulsive online behaviors.
In addition to therapy, a well-organized support group provides a person trying to cope with any given issue or condition a sense of connectedness to others going through a similar situation. There is comfort and strength in fellowship.
In fact, the doomscroller may experience an even greater sense of satisfaction by being able to interact with others who may be observing the same unpleasant event. In other words, at least in the psyche of the doomscroller, misery may in fact love company.
Rather than looking for someone or something to help lift them up when they are feeling down or motivate them to move forward when they feel stuck, the doomscroller often finds themselves counterintuitively gravitating towards people, places, and things that are unhealthy, unpleasant, and often depressing and/or anxiety-filled.
By joining a support group, you do not have to come out of the shadows of compulsive behaviors associated with doomscrolling alone.
5. Start a New Healthy Habit
One of the best ways to get rid of a bad habit is to start a healthy one to take its place. Other than setting online time limits or disconnecting from the internet altogether, perhaps one of the best ways to stop doomscrolling is to actively engage in more constructive offline activities.
I have learned that although I may be a compulsive person, I also have the power to choose the nature of my compulsions, as well as the ability to manage them effectively. In other words, although you may be a compulsive person, you do not have to engage in unhealthy online behaviors, such as doomscrolling.
Although you should always consult with your doctor before starting any exercise routine, physical activity, such as walking, swimming, hiking, or working out in the gym may be one of the best ways to cope effectively with whatever it is that may be driving you to continue doomscrolling.
As you exercise, your heart releases more blood to the brain, along with increased levels of oxygen and nutrients. While at the same time, your body releases chemicals such as dopamine and endorphins that help to elevate your mood.
The Negative Effects of Doomscrolling
There is no question that the advent of the internet and all of its applications have reshaped the way that we look at the people, places, and things around us.
There is no question that along with all of the amazing applications that it provides, similar to the concept of jet propulsion, the internet—with its instant access to information, especially regarding images and information broadcast on social media—may also fuel an equal and opposite plethora of societal issues, one of which being doomscrolling.
As I mentioned above, whether by nurture or by nature, some people find themselves gravitating towards people, places, and things that are anxiety-inducing or depressing.
It does not necessarily mean that you are mentally ill if you occasionally find yourself doomscrolling. However, doomscrolling may increase the likelihood that you could end up experiencing severe and sometimes debilitating symptoms of mental illness by actively engaging in it.
A recent study conducted by the University of Florida has shown that people who report spending extended periods of time doomscrolling were significantly more likely to experience symptoms of both anxiety and depression than those who spent an equal amount of time online scrolling through more positive and uplifting content.
In conclusion, the internet is not going anywhere. Technology is not going backward. The Information Age is happening right in front of us, every day and everywhere. As a result, we are learning more and more about ourselves and everyone around us, the good, the bad, and even the horribly unpleasant.
As a professional mental health intervention counselor working all across the country, I have learned a lot about coping effectively with change, as well as the importance of being able to process all types of information constructively. But perhaps most importantly, I have learned how to avoid being emotionally bogged down in doom, even when placed in some of the doomiest, gloom-filled situations imaginable.
When it comes to trying to stop doomscrolling, the reality is that although it may be impossible to “just say no” to learning about bad news online, there are actions that you can take to avoid compulsively searching for it.
Featured photo credit: Shane via unsplash.com
|||^||PubMed Central: Treatment outcomes using CBT-IA with Internet-addicted patients|
|||^||ScienceDirect: Acute effects of aerobic exercise on negative affect and obsessions and compulsions in individuals with obsessive-compulsive disorder|
|||^||PubMed Central: The Benefits of Exercise for the Clinically Depressed|
|||^||Cleveland Clinic: Everything You Need to Know About Doomscrolling and How to Avoid It|
|||^||University of Florida News: UF study finds ‘doomscrolling’ is a unique behavior|