How to prevent social media from damaging your mental health

  (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)

You’ve heard time and time again about the negative impact social media can have on your health. It may lead to depression, anxiety, and a myriad of other issues — even physical health problems. Chances are, you know social media is doing more bad than good to your mental health. But what are you doing about it?

Instead of continuing to scroll through Instagram, take your life back so you can start feeling good about yourself again. In this article, we share five tips to help you cut back on your social media usage. From creating no-phone areas to finding a new hobby, these tips will help you start feeling good about yourself. And remember, if you’re struggling mentally, don’t be embarrassed — mental health treatment is available. 

1. Determine How Much Time You Spend on Social Media

Do you know how much time you spend on social media? One of the first things you should do is figure that out. Thankfully, your phone tracks your social media usage.

Whether you have an iPhone or Android, simply go under “settings” and hit “screen time.” There, you’ll find a breakdown of your daily activity. You’ll see how much of your time is spent on social media, and even what apps you use the most. You can also find this information by opening up your account settings on each app. 

From this information, you’ll gain a better understanding of your social media habits. You’ll also be able to put a plan into place to cut back on your usage and improve your well-being.

2. Set a Goal

Once you determine your social media usage, create a realistic goal to reduce your activity. For example, let’s say you spend on average five hours a day on social media. According to research, spending as much as three hours a day can negatively impact your mental health. With that in mind, maybe you set a goal to spend only two hours a day on social media. 

After setting your goal, put a plan in place to reach it. One way to do that is with the app limit category under “screen time.” There, you can set a limit for your social media use. Your phone will manage your activity and send you a notification five minutes before you reach your limit. When you receive the alert, you’ll know it’s time to stop scrolling. 

Setting a goal is a great first step. But it's important to make sure you have the tools to follow through. Continue monitoring your social media usage with regular check-ins to stay on track.

3. Hide Your Apps

Which social media apps do you use the most? Instagram? Facebook? Consider removing those apps from your phone altogether. This way, you won’t have instant access.

Sure, you can always log in through your web browser, but that is time-consuming. And there’s a good chance you won’t take the time to do that, at least not as often.  

If you don’t like the idea of deleting your apps altogether, consider moving them from your home screen. You could also silence your app notifications, so you aren’t tempted to look throughout the day. How you go about hiding your apps is up to you. Just remember, the goal is to remove the temptation.

4. Have Phone-Free Locations

Having phone-free areas in your home can help you reduce your online activity, and improve your well-being. Instead of having free range to scroll whenever you want, try limiting your phone use to certain rooms. 

For instance, maybe you decide to make your dinner table a phone-free area. That means you should avoid using your phone while eating meals. Feel free to pass that rule to your guests as well. Next time you host a dinner with your friends, suggest they keep their phones from the table, too. 

You should also consider making your bedroom a phone-free area, at least before bedtime. Your phone emits a blue light that suppresses the production of melatonin (the sleep hormone) in your body. Using your phone at night can make falling and staying asleep difficult. 

5. Find a New Hobby

Think about all the time you spend on social media, whether that’s three hours a day or more. Now think about where else you could allocate that time. For example, maybe you could spend the afternoon hiking with a friend, or grab dinner with a coworker. You might even consider starting a new hobby or opening up a new business. 

Adding three hours to your day can be a game-changer. Not only will you be able to accomplish more, but you’ll also feel better. Many people don’t realize how much of a negative impact social media has on their life. That’s probably why so many are still actively swiping. The sooner you replace screen time with something productive, the sooner you’ll see a shift in your mood and energy. 

Social media is a great tool to keep people connected and updated with what’s going on in the world. With that said, spending too much time on social media can negatively impact your well-being. Research has found a direct link between social media usage and an increase in anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions. Chances are, you know social media is harmful, but even still, you struggle to stay offline. Integrating the tips above can help you cut back on your usage and keep you from damaging your mental health. 

This article was written in cooperation with Shauna Smith