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Mental health

5 ways to stop doomscrolling in its tracks

Many of us try staying up to date with current events about things like the weather, culture, economy, politics and public health. While it’s good to be aware of what’s going on in the world, it’s also important not to become too focused on events you can’t control, because excessive scrolling through bad news or other anxiety-inducing content may makes us feel sad or depressed. This is called “doomscrolling” or “doomsurfing”.

Doomscrolling and mental health

Research shows that excessively scrolling through news has negative mental health impacts. One study found that roughly 17% of people consume news in a highly problematic way, resulting in them facing more stress and anxiety. In fact, 74% of these people reported experiencing mental health issues, and other studies done during the pandemic link anxiety and depression to consuming COVID-19-related media and more time spent using smartphones.

Plus, doomscrolling is mostly a sedentary behaviour, since you’re likely staring at a screen while sitting or lying down, and high levels of sedentary behaviours are linked with poor health (including mental health symptoms) and lower physical activity levels.

A worried-looking woman lying in bed while looking at a tablet.

What causes doomscrolling?

If doomscrolling makes people feel bad and harms our mental health, why do we keep doing it? There might be several reasons:

  • You feel upset about something shown in the news, so you look for information that validates your feelings.
  • You get caught up in negative news while you’re looking for positive news.
  • You try so hard to keep up with the news that your mind enters autopilot mode and scrolling becomes a habit.
  • You’re feeling down, so you pass more time online than you normally do to try to boost your mood, even though this could make you feel worse in the long run.

A frowning woman looking at her smartphone while lying down on a couch.

5 ways to stop doomscrolling

Now that you know more about doomscrolling and how it affects your mental health, here are five ways to stop or limit it:

1. Be aware of your doomscrolling habits. How often do you do it? Are there particular triggers? Do you do it at a certain time of day? Whenever you find yourself doomscrolling, take note of how you’re feeling. If you feel sad, stressed or anxious, have a break and go offline.

2. Limit how much time you spend on your devices. Set short time limits on your social media accounts or alarms on your devices to remind you when to log off, and put your device down as soon as your time is up. You could also change your news and social media app settings so you get fewer notifications from them.

3. Unfollow or mute negative news and social media accounts that make you feel bad and follow positive ones that make you feel good. Try following accounts that share fun workouts, inspirational content, self-care tips, tasty recipes, cute animal content and good news.

4. Practice mindfulness. This means focusing internally and being aware of what you’re sensing and feeling in the moment, without interpretation or judgment. Mindfulness increases focus and reduces stress, and when combined with exercise, you can see improvements in depression and anxiety. Try activities closely linked with mindfulness like yoga and tai chi.

A man and woman doing tai chi in a living room.

5. Try active alternatives to doomscrolling. Physical activity can boost your mood by increasing endorphins and the feel-good chemicals, dopamine and serotonin. So, instead of doing a doomscroll, go on a stroll or wheel around the block, dance along to a TikTok video or follow along with an online workout like one of our new energizing YMCA workout videos now available in the free ParticipACTION app.

Move for your Mood today!

Looking for a way to get active and feel better this winter? Download the free ParticipACTION app and join the Move for your Mood challenge, taking place January 16-31, when getting active not only makes you feel better, but it might just win you some great prizes, too! The more you move, the more chances to win!

*While physical activity can be an essential tool to help boost your mood, you should always reach out for additional supports and services if needed:

Crisis Services Canada (24/7)
Call 1-833-456-4566 (QC: 1-866-277-3553)
Visit www.crisisservicescanada.ca

Your CMHA
Find your CMHA cmha.ca/find-your-cmha

BounceBack
Visit www.cmha.ca/bounceback
Call 1-855-873-0013

Wellness Together Canada
Visit ca.portal.gs/ 

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