Smart phones allow us to connect with the world simply by tapping a screen. However, it’s no secret that this technology can affect our mental health and wellbeing. Whether it’s following influencers on Instagram or receiving news alerts direct to your phone, research has shown that people who frequently use smart devices have more symptoms of depression, anxiety and sleep deprivation.
Fortunately, there are many ways you can use this technology while minimising the negative impact it can have on your mental health. Here are our top tips…
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Whether it’s on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or YouTube, many of us follow people who simply don’t make us feel our best. It could be a toxic friend, or it could be an influencer who you tend to negatively compare yourself to. No matter who it is, though, pressing the ‘unfollow’ button is the simplest and best way to start disconnecting from these unhelpful feelings.
Quite simply, if you find your mood being impacted by what you see online, consciously choosing to stop looking at it can make all the difference. Ask yourself, “do I feel good when I see this person’s photos/videos?” If the answer is ‘no’, it’s probably better to distance yourself. This doesn’t mean your anxiety, sadness or insecurities will magically disappear – it simply means you’ll have one less thing triggering it throughout the day. For those tricky situations where you don’t want someone to know you’ve unfollowed them, try pressing ‘mute’ on Instagram or Facebook to hide their posts and stories.
Change your smart phone settings
It can be hard to disconnect when your smart phone is constantly sending you alerts for news, Instagram notifications and Facebook messages. There are obviously a few things that are important – such as phone calls and text messages from your family and friends – however if your buzzing phone interrupts your good mood throughout the day, it can be a great idea to cull a few things from your notification centre.
If receiving news alerts is making you feel anxious, try turning them off. If you feel stressed about all your unread messages throughout the day, silent the notifications and manually check them when you feel up to it. Most smart phones also have setting options where you can limit your usage of certain apps throughout the day. For example, if you find that you’re constantly being tempted to open Instagram, you can set a ’20 minute’ daily limit and instruct your phone to lock the app at 9pm when it’s time for bed.
This method isn’t about avoiding the things that make you feel unhappy; it’s about feeling in control of when and how you consume this information. The truth is that you don’t have to be connected to everything that happens to the world 24/7. You might even find far more enjoyment in scrolling through your favourite app when you aren’t logging on multiple times throughout the day.
Start and end your day right
Do you roll over every morning, turn off your alarm and open Instagram? Do you have a habit of staring at your screen before you go to bed at night? You’re not the only one, but these seemingly normal activities can really impact your wellbeing.
In the morning, spending 30 minutes away from your smart phone can reduce anxiety and stress by allowing you to have a more mindful start to the day. In the evening, on the other hand, staring at your phone can stimulate chemicals in your brain that keep you awake. And we all know how important a good night’s sleep is to your mental health…
Instead, you can swap out scrolling through social media for activities that make you feel happy and relaxed. It’s important to remember that what feels good will, of course, differ for everyone. In the morning, it could be reading the newspaper, talking to your family or housemate over breakfast, or even sitting outside and enjoying a slow start to the day. At night, try reading a book or journaling to calm yourself down before bed so you set yourself up for a deep sleep.
Download helpful apps
While smart phones can be harmful in some ways, they can also do great things for our mental health. There are a wide range of apps now available to help with everything from falling asleep to calming yourself down and logging your thoughts and feelings.
Here are a few of our favourite free apps:
- MoodMission – Manage stress, moods and anxiety.
- Buddhify – Mediation and mindfulness exercises.
- ReachOut Breathe – Guided deep breathing for relaxation.
- BlackDog Snapshot – Track your wellbeing over time.