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How Much Screen Time is Okay for My Mental Health?

I've heard the term "doom scrolling" a number of times lately. Scrolling on social media for hours. Often leaving the person doing it feeling like they've "wasted" the day and not actually feeling any better in the long run. Let's be honest, we all use our phones and other devices as a short-term solution so we don't feel our feelings or to escape from our thoughts. And doing so in moderation is totally fine. Sometimes we do literally need a distraction. And yet, it's important to recognize that this is only a short-term solution, and in excess can make us feel terrible.




Social media in particular is a tricky one. Depending on what's on your feed, you might find yourself thinking everyone else's lives are better than yours. That no one else has any problems. That people are better looking, more successful, etc, etc, etc. In reality, people usually only put what they want others to see out there. They aren't putting the parts about their own struggles (unless you're specifically following people and feeds that do). What happens after we doom scroll content that isn't actually authentic? We tend to feel worse about ourselves, our lives, our problems.


Screen time before bed also isn't particularly helpful for sleep. The recommendations from researchers is that we don't have any screen time at least an hour before bed. This is tough for most of us (myself included). It also is suggested that we don't look at our phones immediately upon waking in the morning. We know that sleep is important for mental health, and so, limiting anything that makes sleep quality and/or quantity worse is important, even if it's not easy.


How can we help ourselves with some of this? As far as doom scrolling goes, when you notice you're doing it, see if you can put the phone down and find another activity - a meaningful one - to do. This is tough because we often have the thought of "I can't" do the activity. It takes some willpower. If you can get yourself to do something else, even for a short amount of time, it will have a lot of benefits for your mental health. For example, I will often just play the piano for 15-20 minutes when I've noticed my screen time seems to be a lot. Any kind of meaningful, fun, or helpful activity will do. As far as bed time goes, start with putting the screens away 15 minutes before bed, and avoid having a TV in your bedroom. Then see if you can work your way up from there.


Screens - phones, tablets, TV, computers, etc. - are a part of our everyday lives, and definitely no one is saying to cut them out (I'm not sure that's even possible for most of us!). We just want to be mindful of how much we're using them, so that we can find optimal mental health. If you're struggling with any of this, or your mental health in general, reach out of a counsellor/therapist in your area for help.

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