May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so there’s no better time to focus on improving your mental health. Reports from the World Health Organization (WHO) indicate that worldwide, a growing number of people face mental health problems. What’s to blame? Experts point to two major factors, the COVID-19 pandemic, which increased anxiety and depression by a massive 25 percent, and the increased use of social media.
While a global pandemic is outside of our control, we can make positive changes with regard to our daily exposure to social media. Results from a study in Cyberpsychology, Behaviour and Social Networking suggests that taking just one week off social media improved individuals’ overall level of well-being, as well as reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Positive Effects After Just One Week
The study, carried out by a team of researchers at the University of Bath in the UK, asked participants to stop using social media for just one week. For some, this meant freeing-up around eight hours of their week which would otherwise have been spent scrolling Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and TikTok. One week following the break, participants demonstrated significant improvement sin wellbeing, depression, and anxiety, as compared to the control group that continued to use social media. Screen usage stats were provided to check that individuals had adhered to the break.
Scrolling through social media has become second nature and many perform the action throughout the day without giving it much thought. However, there are increasing concerns about its mental health effects. Interestingly, the positive effects of taking a break were realized after only one week, with participants experiencing an improved mood and reduced anxiety – illustrating that even a small break can have a huge impact.
Take a Digital Detox
A digital detox may be just what you need to beat the blues and restore wellbeing. Here are additional tips to help reduce social media screen time:
- Disable smartphone notifications
- Log out of digital platforms you regularly visit so they are not as easily accessible
- Create a list of things to accomplish during your idle time
- Unplug at least one hour before bed and keep your phone in another room while sleeping
- Reward yourself when you abstain from digital content
For many people, social media is an indispensable part of who they are and how they interact with others, but if you are spending hours each week scrolling and you feel it is negatively impacting you, it could be worth cutting down on your usage to see if it helps.
Lambert, J., Barnstable, G., Minter, E., Cooper, J., and McEwan, D. (2022) Taking a One-Week Break from Social Media Improves Well-Being, Depression, and Anxiety: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Cyberpsychology, Behaviour and Social Networking, published online. https://doi.org/10.1089/cyber.2021.0324
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