We are faced with terrible news on a daily basis. We can choose not to read or watch the news, but we want to know what is happening around us. It is hard to escape the news and its anxiety-provoking content that might have a negative impact on our mental health. Furthermore, social media is ruling our lives.
As a therapist, I see more and more clients who are adversely affected by the news and social media, and they really feel the negative impact on their mental health. The topic and the intensity of the information can trigger anxiety, stress and contribute to existing negative thoughts.
What is doomscrolling?
The term “doomscrolling” means: “the practice of obsessively checking online news for updates, especially on social media feeds, with the expectation that the news will be bad, such that the feeling of dread from this negative expectation fuels a compulsion to continue looking for updates in a self-perpetuating cycle” ( Oxford English Dictionary, 2020).
We`ve all been there. So what drives us to read more and more even if we know that it negatively impacts our mental health?
We are craving knowledge like we are feeding an addiction. Social media triggers the same system in the brain as is triggered with addiction via the neurotransmitter called dopamine. It is made to hook us in, to make us want to keep scrolling. The more we do it, the harder it is to stop. We do it without thinking; we do it automatically when we have 2 free minutes.
What happens if we spend too much time on social media or watching the news?
The continuous negative information or thought patterns cause stress and anxiety, which has a further negative effect on our sleep and other bodily functions. Doomscrolling is the “self-perpetuating cycle”: the more we are feeling anxious, the more likely we are to seek out news that makes us feel more anxious.
Limit your doomscrolling
Of course, you are naturally curious about the world and your friends` life. But ask yourself, how often do you find yourself endlessly scrolling through social media? How often has it made you feel good? Being mindful of noticing the adverse effects is vital; it`s your clue to stop.
Limiting your daily time, setting your alarm on is helpful. Yes, you can still watch the news, but limit how often and how long you spend doing so. Limit your social media use too. No matter how enticing it is, try to avoid using your phone before bedtime. Make a conscious choice of changing your doomscrolling behaviour and enjoy the positive benefits on your mental health.