Do you find yourself endlessly scrolling the Internet in every spare moment, looking for bad news, predicting disaster, and otherwise fighting off your demons, real or imagined? If so, you might be doomscrolling. And you’re not the only one.
Lately, there’s been a lot of commentary on the psychological impact of constant bad news on our society, with the media blamed for weaponizing information to create anxiety, uncertainty, fear, and anger. But like other behaviors such as binging TV shows or spending too much time on social media, doomscrolling is not just a problem caused by the media. Instead, we’re becoming our own filter bubbles as content flows through our fingers into our eyes and minds.
You probably already know that reading the news has a way of ruining your day. It’s okay, though, and it doesn’t have to be that way. You know that doomscrolling isn’t healthy, but it can seem impossible to stop. But thankfully, there are things you can do to quickly replace this toxic habit with ones that will add value to your life and improve your mindset.
How do you stop doomscrolling?
Changing direction so that you’re consuming less negative news will require an active, focused and consistent change of behavior, but the great thing about it is that you truly are in full control.
Once you break the habit by replacing the time you spend scrolling for negative information with positive, uplifting habits that nourish your soul, you’ll immediately feel the benefits.
Minimize News Sources
To start, minimize your news sources. You don’t need to spend time on dozens of news sites, and once you limit the number of websites you visit, you’ll subsequently limit the amount of negative news that reaches you.
If you currently visit more than five or six websites, the chances are that a lot of what you’re seeing is just more of the same, catering to your habit of doomscrolling while also reactivating those stressors and anxiety triggers because you see a repeated announcement of the same frightening situations and events.
To change this, you’ll need to start monitoring the emotional impact of the information, no matter the source.
If it’s feeding your anxiety and causing you to be in a constant state of panic, you need to start cutting that source off.
“Start to front-load happy stuff,” says Rutledge, “to provide an emotional buffer.”
Taking a break is one way to help and the easiest habit-breaker, to begin with. Stepping away for a bit by shutting off your computer or placing your mobile device out of sight can help reset your brain and calm your fears.
A short break will also help you be more logical and less emotional when evaluating the content you’re seeing.
Ask Yourself These Questions
Rutledge recommends asking yourself:
- Is this relevant and useful information—or am I “rubber-necking” at an accident site?
- How does this make me feel?
- Is this interfering with other things I’d rather be doing?
- Is this causing me problems like becoming angry or unpleasant to be around?
- Am I actually investigating the information to make sure it’s true before letting my emotions carry me away?
- Am I investigating the truth of the information before I share it?
This isn’t recommending that you bury your head in the sand like an ostrich, ignoring actual important events.
But if you monitor your news intake and make sure it’s both useful and necessary to your life, you’ll be able to “avoid many of the paralyzing emotions that, in fact, make you less effective in the rest of your life, from relationships and work to social advocacy.”
Fear and anger actually decrease your ability to empathize with others and understand the world around you. You become so consumed by problems in the world that have no real impact on your life that, in turn, it impacts your life.
Understand You’re Hard-Wired to Doomscroll
Rutledge says, “Recognize that, thanks to the elephant, we are essentially hard-wired to doomscroll. So don’t beat yourself up. Instead, increase your awareness and control over your information consumption.”
Our brains evolved in very different circumstances from what exists today, and what worked for them at that time is no longer needed for survival. Your ancestors needed to look for those lions on the savannah, not examine “the firehose of information (and misinformation) that is flowing 24/7 during a pandemic and social upheaval.”
So instead of mindlessly doomscrolling and spending hours a day consuming negative news that you really don’t need to know about, recognize that your instinct is to do just that and fight those natural habits.
Protect your mental space and your time. Be conscious of the amount of information you’re consuming every day and start segmenting it into a “need to know,” “want to know,” “don’t need to know.”
That will give you a clear picture of how much information you’re taking in based on natural curiosity (and pure habit) and make it easier to weed out anything that doesn’t directly impact your life.
Assess your feelings as you read and stop if you start feeling anxious and stressed. And finally, always do your best to make sure the information you’re consuming is accurate and based on fact, not opinion, before you allow yourself to react to it or share it with others.
1. Worry less about what other people are doing
2. Spend less time consuming bad news
2. Take breaks in between doomscrolling sessions
Choose Your News Intentionally
You can end the cycle of doomscrolling, but it’s going to take a bit of effort on your part. Just as doomscrolling has become a habit, so must your avoidance become its replacement habit.
You’ll need to remain conscious of what you’re doing throughout each day, becoming diligent in holding yourself accountable and being self-aware. It’s too easy to mindlessly scroll news sites or spend hours of your day consuming negative content.
Whenever you feel the desire to scan news sites, keep in mind that doomscrolling leads to stress, anxiety, and depression, think about how this habit is lowering your quality of life and taking away from the time you could be spending on other things that make you happy.
“Opt-out of … news alerts,” says Dr. Nerurkar. “Become intentional about signing on to read. When you start being intentional, you start using other aspects of your brain. Make it difficult just a little bit. You need to move away from the mindless repetition and shift to intentional checking.”
Nerurkar also advises you to replace your phone with something equally as important. “Nature doesn’t like a vacuum,” he says, “so keep something where you used to have your phone—like a book of poetry that you really enjoy. So when you read a quick passage and get that dopamine hit you’re looking for—but it’s a pleasant, uplifting, inspirational, and perhaps calming jolt.”
With some work and effort, you can break the vicious cycle of doomscrolling habits and regain control of your life. Doomscrolling doesn’t have to be a part of your life, nor do you have to feel helpless and stressed during these chaotic times.
You’ve got this.
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