Mental Health Benefits of Taking a Break From Social Media

There’s no doubt about it, social media can help us to be more connected to others, to the world, the news, the ups and the downs of loved ones near and far. But it can also make us feel depressed, envious, anxious, worn down, and overwhelmed- Which means, it might be time to take a break. 

Child and adolescent psychiatrist of Harvard Medical Neha Chaudhary, MD, echoes this truth, by saying about social media that”On one hand, it helps us stay connected to each other and combat loneliness, which could be good for our health since studies have shown that social isolation and loneliness can negatively impact health,” Chaudhary says. “On the other hand, social media is often associated with cyberbullying, social comparison, and other phenomena that can be detrimental to our health and wellbeing.”

Another expert, behavioral health therapist Jane Pernotto Ehrman, was also interviewed on the subject and focused on the importance of having a healthy relationship with social media, plus signs it might be time to take a break. She says, “Social media pulls us up into our heads,” says Ehrman. “We’re judging, comparing, and daydreaming about what we’re seeing online, so we’re not fully living our own life. Instead, we’re caught up in a virtual world that might not be exactly the way it appears.”

Exactly. A virtual world. A world based on creating perceptions and images that are often much different than reality. In an interview with SELF magazine, Christine Moutier, MD, a practicing psychiatrist and chief medical officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, states that “Seeing others’ curated, polished images of only happy moments or attractive photos can set up an unrealistic expectation of ourselves and the destructive experience of constantly comparing oneself with others.”

She goes on to explain that we might find ourselves feeling more disconnected and isolated when we’re overusing social media. This is especially true if you’re already dealing with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, as well as low self-esteem, and stress in general.

As if that isn’t enough of a reason to take a break, in 2018 a British study tied social media use to decreased, disrupted, and delayed sleep, which is associated with depression, memory loss, and poor academic performance. They found that social media use can affect users’ physical health even more directly due to the connection between the mind and the body that can turn anxiety and depression into nausea, headaches, muscle tension, and tremors.

Here are some signs that you should take a break from social media:

It’s not fun anymore
You’re comparing yourself to others.
It’s the last thing you see at night.
You find yourself just scrolling aimlessly for long periods of time.

So now what? Should we delete all of the apps and get off social media for good?

Not necessarily. But a break is highly recommended. 

And how do we do that?
Here are a few suggestions:

Schedule a specific time to look at social media.
Set aside time each day or week when you’ll allow yourself to look through social media.

Turn off your notifications from all platforms.
Notifications have been shown to provide a hit of dopamine, which can trigger addictive feelings- making it harder to avoid looking at social media.

Prioritize self-care and be present.
Make plans to hang out with a friend in person, cook, read a book, go for a walk, watch a movie- without your phone.

Put your phone across the room at night.
This can help keep you from scrolling before bed, thus activating your mind and adversely affecting your quality of sleep.

Use social media-limiting apps.
If you have an iPhone, you can track your screen time, and on any smartphone, you can utilize different apps that will set time limits for social media platforms.

Put a rubber band around your phone or swap out your lock screen.
Use a rubber band, an inspirational quote, or some other reminder that you’ll see every time you look at your phone that will remind you that you are taking a break from social media.

This all may sound like a lot, but remember, it’s progress, not perfection. With a little effect and a pinch of discipline, the action of decreasing the amount of time you spend on social media will become a habit for better living.

So give it a shot, take a break once in a while, and experience the positive impact this will have on your health, happiness, and well-being.

For more information and advice on decreasing social media usage. Please check out the following link:

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