Anyone with a smartphone is probably guilty of doom scrolling — AKA endlessly scrolling through social media feeds or news sites on our phone trying to consume as much news as possible, even though it’s negative. We see all those headlines and stories about COVID-19 and politics and simply can’t stop our thumbs from scrolling. We want all the information that’s out there, and we want it now. Or maybe, at this point, it’s simply become a habit.
It’s a good thing to be informed about what’s going on in the world, and especially about how we can keep ourselves and others safe. But beyond that, how much news do we really have to consume?
Doom Scrolling is Harmful
While some might imagine that maximizing your news intake is the correct thing to do, less can actually be more in this case. Sure, make sure you know the facts around a certain topic, but it isn’t necessary to read every single headline or article out there, from every publication, on every platform. Doom scrolling and news overloads are not beneficial to our peace of mind. In fact, too much negative media consumption can harm our mental health and — literally — affect our brains.
“The constant stream of breaking news puts your brain into a state of alarm, which over time can wire your brain for hypervigilance by enlarging areas such as the amygdala that act as the watchdog for your brain,” says Talkspace provider Catherine Richardson, LPC.
It’s no wonder why we might feel constantly on edge and anxious if we’re spending a lot of time doom scrolling. Those headlines are designed to make us click — and a great way to get a quick click is to instill fear or alarm. Not to mention, it’s downright depressing to continuously read stories about all that we’ve lost during the pandemic. If you’re already feeling negatively impacted by the state of the world, doom scrolling can only exacerbate it.
How to Stop Doom Scrolling
So, how can you stop doom scrolling? Well, it’s easier said than done. Here are some tips to help you stop doom scrolling and limit your news consumption to healthy levels.
Set aside time for news
Instead of passively scrolling on and off throughout the day, Richardson suggests being intentional about when you take in your news. It can be helpful to set aside a block of time every day — preferably when you aren’t stressed — to consume your news.
Don’t scroll when you’re anxious
Many of us reach for our phones when we are anxious and proceed to mindlessly scroll through social media, news sites, Reddit, or you name it. However, you should know that scrolling through negative news when you’re already on edge only exacerbates your anxiety.
Turn off push notifications
Push notifications can be anxiety-inducing to begin with. Receiving them from news apps can be even more stressful. Whether or not you actually read the articles doesn’t matter in this case, as you’ll still be bombarded with alarmist headlines. Try to turn off any push notifications from any news apps so you don’t run into this problem, and you can stay in control of your exposure to the news.
Be selective of where you get your news
There are so many clickbaity websites that purposely try to get you that quick dopamine whoosh of shock to click on their story. Richardson advises simply avoiding these sites. “Be selective about the news you intake by selecting mediums that are meant for slow, thoughtful consumption instead of quick, emotional responses,” she says.
Get health facts from reputable medical sites
If you are looking for facts about numbers of COVID-19 cases, transmission information, and safety tips, it’s best to stick to reputable medical sites rather than media sites which might be biased. For example, you can always check out the CDC site or WHO site for up-to-date information about best practices.
Limit screen time in general
By limiting your screen time overall, you’ll be limiting the likelihood of scrolling past news headlines and getting sucked in. If you have an iPhone, try using the Screen Time feature to check out how long you spend on your phone, and each app specifically, and then set limits for yourself. If you have an Android, try the Screen Time app for the same features.
Remember that there’s good news out there
With so many negative headlines, it can be easy to forget that there is still good going on in the world! After you check out your normal news, put yourself in a better mood with more uplifting, happy stories. Here are some sources for feel-good news:
Have screen-free self-care time
It’s so important to take care of yourself physically and mentally during this time. We spend a lot of time looking at screens, so we must give our eyes and minds a rest by doing things that don’t involve our phones and computers that nourish our mental health and spirit. Some things you can do to replenish yourself and provide some a bit of self-care include:
- Taking a bath
- Going for a walk or run
- Writing in a gratitude journal
- Coloring or drawing
After months of dealing with the pandemic, we are all likely stuck in the habit of doom scrolling — there’s been so much that’s been frightening and we all feel like we need to stay up to date to protect ourselves.
It might take some time to break this habit, but the benefits are certainly worth it — better peace of mind and improved well-being. Follow these tips and stick with them until you develop new, healthier patterns. In the meantime, be kind to yourself and remember that the change you’re working on will improve your mental health in the long run. We’ll all get through this together!