Many of us recognize that the food we eat affects our bodies in different ways. We may feel nourished, energized, overfull, depleted, etc. based on what we choose to eat, what our body needs, and how it is metabolized. For many of our clients (and ourselves), the same theory applies when it comes to intake and interactions with news, media, social media, and folks with whom we engage. Simply put, our mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health is affected not just by what we eat, but also by what we read, scroll through, and observe. It seems that we are even more sensitive to the input during the perinatal period from conception through the first year. The question is, what do we decide to let into our bubble?
Consider this: How do you feel before, during, and after engaging with social media and/or the news? In what ways does social media/media and phone use affect you and your energy specifically? Interested in experimenting with the behavior?
We notice that our clients fall into one or both of these related camps:
(1) They recognize that after they read or participate on social media, with news and media sites, they feel discouraged, less at ease, and less at peace with their body/family/social network. More than not, they notice they feel “kind of down”.
(2) Many folks we work with defer to their phone or tablet in the short moments of downtime peppered throughout their days. When they engage with their phones during these times — while feeding/nursing, during a brief work break, before bed, or while the toddler plays Legos, they often – habitually – scroll through their social media or news feeds.
When we are untangling what impacts mood, health, and outlook and we explore this topic, our clients get curious about how they feel after these “breaks”… they consider whether they notice feeling refreshed, nourished, depleted, encouraged, informed, or inspired.
As part of our therapeutic work, we help clients determine and identify strategies for self-regulation and self-care. Each individual has their own “menu”. There are the, perhaps obvious, universal things that support our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health such as Food, Water, Sleep, Exercise, and Support. And there are the unique items specific to each person, such as: playing music, taking slow deep breaths, walking in nature, petting a loved dog/cat, creating art, engaging in alone time, taking a long shower or bath, drinking a cup of tea, creating a to-do list, cleaning, baking, journaling, talking to a dear friend, knitting, or working in the garden. What else would you include on your list?
Rarely do clients say “I feel the most regulated” or “I am able to come back to a sense of calm” by scrolling through social media or catching up on the news of the day. Nope – it just doesn’t happen! More likely a client may recognize that they reach for their phone as an escape from reality, but return less restored.
So, can scrolling be on your self-regulation menu? Sure, maybe. The question becomes, how do you stay connected to friends/family and aware of the goings on of the world while still staying regulated and without feeling oversaturated with social media? If the goal is to self-regulate while staying aware of what contributes to a healthy mind and body, we get to explore what we need.
Let’s look at it this way… If your daily life of family, work, and home are metaphorically the balanced three daily meals, what is the right amount of spice or good dark chocolate needed to feel nourished, but not overstuffed, or not overwhelmed by it being too sweet or too spicy? In many cases, we are trying to feed ourselves and digest too much of those foods that don’t serve our systems, yet we indulge out of habit.
So, if the scrolling, the social media, and the constant or intermittent news is affecting you, how do you stay connected to the world yet adjust the behavior? Here is the experiment:
Adjust the amount of daily scrolling and social media/media time you spend, and notice how you feel.
- Decide on the length of your experiment (3 days, one week, two weeks etc.).
- Find a realistic docking station for your phone or tablet at home and at work that is just out of view.
- Remove the Social Media/Media/News Apps from your phone (you can still get to them, but it will take a bit more effort).
- Possibly add an app that feels more nourishing and neutral such as sudoku, paint by number, trivia, crosswords, meditation/body scan.
- Set yourself up for successful behavior change by prepping activities for the “down time” of your day where you typically scroll on your phone. Gather up your journal, download a brief meditation or body scan that you love, fill up your water bottle with water infused by fruit or herbs, read a short magazine article or book chapter, grab your knitting…
- Regather these items each evening or morning of the experiment.
- Notice how you feel following the new activities that you are engaging in instead of scrolling.
If/When you are ready or interested in adding social media back:
- Decide how much social media/media that you “need” a day or a week to feel connected and aware. Experiment with that amount of time.
- Be intentional and plan the time of day/week when you engage.
As you dive into the month, consider how you feel before and after you engage in social media, with the media and with the news. And playfully experiment with how you feel when you limit these activities and engage in your alternative “menu” items.
Then, take out a sticky note and jot down:
“Not too Spicy, not too Sweet – Just Right FOR ME!”
Stick it on your phone as you dive into the experiment of taking a break from scrolling and come back home to yourself.