The theme of Mental Health Awareness Week (9-15 May) is loneliness and while the annual campaign uses social media to raise awareness of this important message, here at Aptus as part of our wellbeing programme we have been looking at how social media can impact upon our mental health, and the ways we can manage it to maintain a better balance between our real and online lives.
Social media can be an incredibly useful tool in raising awareness and providing a platform for important issues helping to connect us all. It can also be an outlet for creativity and is even good for our health and is known to help ease stress, anxiety and depression. But multiple studies have also found a link between heavy social media use and an increased risk of depression, anxiety, loneliness, self-harm, and even suicidal thoughts.
To look after our mental health and wellbeing as best as we can it’s helpful to think about the reasons why we use social media as well as how much time we are spending on platforms such as Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram, and find ways to take control.
Research around our social media habits by workplace health and wellbeing provider Health Assured found the following behaviours:
Constant access to social media through our smartphones and iPad can trigger impulse control problems, affect concentration and make you a slave to your phone. Some of the following may be signs that social media is negatively impacting your mental health.
If social media is making you anxious, stressed, and depressed, talking to your GP or a counsellor about how you feel is a good first step towards improving your mental health.
If you are just looking for some ways to regain control and make the most of social media in a healthy way here are some ideas which may help.
Be mindful of how the content you’re viewing is making you feel. This will help you recognise when to take a break, switch off – or unfollow someone!
Use an app to track your time on social and set a goal to reduce it by. Disable your notifications to help you regain control of your time.
Follow people and accounts that make you feel good; explore and discover positive online communities, encourage helpful interactions.
The charity CALM says avoid ‘doomscrolling’ by limiting the time you spend with your head in the news – 30 minutes or less on the headlines is probably enough.
Turn your phone off at certain times, such as when you’re driving, or playing with your kids. Avoid checking your phone right before bed.
Challenge what you see. News can get distorted as it travels through the internet grapevine – try this fact checker tool to learn more about that story your friend posted.
Take a break from social media and meet a friend IRL (in real life) rather than scrolling through their timeline!
Clean up your social feeds: unfollow or mute accounts, delete apps, limit your time, think before you post.
We used the following resources to put this together – they contain a wealth of information and many more tips and guidance for staying safe and well on social.