Do you feel disconnected in our constantly connected world? When there's more virtual and less reality, screen addiction can take a toll on your mental health.
Shelley finished reading a dramatic news story of a celebrity's drug addiction, and their seemingly impossible journey to break free. She felt sorry for them.
And secretly a bit judgey.
She scrolled on, blissfully unaware of her own addictions. She got up to use the bathroom, dropping her phone on the tiles. She heard the horrible sound of a screen smashing in slow motion as her beloved digital companion seemed to be taking its last breaths in her arms.
Shelley didn't piece together the irony of the situation - no, it was pure anger, frustration, and a fair bit of denial.
And really - she said to herself - I need my phone! How am I going to connect to the outside world? Catch up on work emails when I'm not even working? What am I going to do when I'm drinking my coffee, or waiting at the bus stop, or sitting on the toilet!
Pfft, addiction? Even if it was, this was a much more socially acceptable one after all.
In today's digitally connected world, technology and social media have become central parts of our daily lives. Despite the benefits (hello efficiency), they've also introduced new challenges, especially when it comes to mental health.
If you've been feeling like perhaps you can't break free from the (wireless) tethers of your devices, you might need a little therapeutic help putting priorities into place for your own well-being.
Or perhaps you have a loved one who seems to be struggling with digital addiction. Online counselling with qualified psychologists can help you navigate the waters.
Today we explore the impact of technology and social media on mental health and offer practical tips for cultivating healthy digital habits.
Let's be realistic
Let's start off with a little reality check. For most of us humans, many parts of our lives truly revolve around needing to be online. Communicating with family and friends; working; organising life, planning travel, and paying bills.
It's hard to imagine that even a few generations ago, the world functioned on paper. And in person.
No matter where you stand on the love-hate continuum towards digital technology, there is a distinct feeling that unless you're incredibly committed to going off-grid and moving somewhere like the Amazon jungle - screens are here to stay.
So how can we approach the tech in our lives so that it doesn't overwhelm us?
Identifying the pain points
These might be different for each person, but some common themes arise.
The internet is a vast repository of information, making it easier than ever to stay informed on basically every topic you could ever think of.
However, that constant bombardment of news, social media updates, and notifications can quickly lead to overload. It's not hard to see how this constant stream of information can contribute to stress and anxiety.
Social Comparison and FOMO
By now, most users of social media platforms know that what is often presented are the idealised versions of people's lives. Yet "knowing" and feeling are two different kettles of fish.
Scrolling through curated, picture-perfect posts can lead to social comparison and feelings of inadequacy.
Fear of missing out (FOMO) can be particularly damaging, as it creates anxiety about missing out on exciting events or experiences.
Taking small steps
Research has found that limiting social media use to approximately 30 minutes per day can lead to significant improvements in your sense of well-being.
It can reduce loneliness and depression, as well as anxiety and FOMO.
It's not what you take away...
It's what you add!
You've probably heard that depriving yourself in fad diets is not what a nutritionist would recommend - and the same goes for digital devices.
If you try to quit cold turkey, the risk of yo-yo bingeing can knock your confidence as you swin back the other way.
So instead of trying to torture yourself by removing things - instead think about the positive things that you can add to your life.
Social connection and social media - the same thing? Thankfully not.
Check-in with yourself; what is it that you're actually craving if you find yourself in an over-consumption spiral? Many times, the answer might be the chance to connect more deeply with those around you.
Nurture in-person relationships and connections. Make an effort to meet friends and family face-to-face. Building strong personal relationships can provide emotional support and counteract the isolating effects of excessive screen time.
Curate your news and social media feed
Evaluate your social media accounts and make your feed work for you.
As much as you can't entirely control every little thing you view online, you can actively unfollow or mute accounts that contribute to negative feelings. While you're there, follow accounts that promote positivity, inspire, or provide valuable information.
Is there hope for balance?
In the history of humankind, the overwhelm of digital technology and devices makes for a unique challenge to our mental well-being.
It's helpful to know that - despite the pervasiveness of tech, its reach is still limited to the areas we allow it.
By adopting healthy digital habits, we can harness the benefits of technology while safeguarding our mental health.
Remember, it's okay to seek support when needed, and professional therapists are here to provide guidance, tailored strategies, and a listening ear as you navigate the complex terrain of the digital age.