Between Covid restrictions, pandemic stats and violent rioting in Washington DC, it’s easy to get caught up in the act of ‘doomscrolling’ – the term used to describe detrimentally consuming a large quantity of negative online news, usually in one sitting.
Endlessly reading bad news stories is not great for our mental health, and when it becomes a habit, has been linked to greater fear, stress, anxiety and sadness.
While staying informed is important, there are boundaries we can put in place to keep our news consumption healthy and our mindset positive. Here are a few tips to note…
Divert your attention to positive news
“It’s important to moderate the amount of news you consume. Even though it can feel reassuring to know exact statistics, this is often unhelpful in terms of emotional health,” says Dr Meg Arroll, chartered psychologist with Healthspan.
Arroll says being glued to the news can also lead to over-worry, which can have a negative impact on your sleep and day-to-day functioning. “Make a pact with yourself that for every negative headline you read, you find a counter positive story,” she suggests. “This will help put the current situation into perspective.”
Set yourself limits
“It’s entirely natural to think the worst during times of crisis, but it’s unhelpful to ruminate on negative outcomes,” stresses Arroll. “As tempting as it is to seek reassurance online, try to avoid spending large quantities of time returning to news sites as this will reactivate the stress response, [potentially] leaving you in a perpetual state of anxiety.”
Arroll suggests setting time limits on the amount of news you consume per day – for instance, you could check the news once in the morning and once in the evening. “This will help reset your mindset to the positive,” she adds.
Find something physical to do
When you find yourself becoming overwhelmed or aggravated by what you’re reading online, it’s a good idea to replace all that scrolling with a relaxing activity, like knitting, puzzling or painting.
“We can’t control bad news individually, but we can exert control over a small space in our lives,” says Arroll. “Find a junk drawer, messy wardrobe or disorganised bookshelf and funnel all your desires for control onto this.
“Notice how much calmer you feel afterwards. This kind of simple micro-exercise can help anchor us when the wider world feels uncertain.”
Return to content that makes you happy
“If you’re struggling to process the bad news headlines, find humour and light-heartedness in each day by making sure you take what I call your ‘laughter supplements’,” says Arroll.
She explains this is the type of content that brings a smile to your face, whether that’s silly cat videos on YouTube, or sharing relatable memes with friends on WhatsApp.
It can be difficult to recognise when you’re doomscrolling, so if you find yourself anxiously picking up your phone, try to navigate your attention away to something that will raise your spirits.