Mental Health Awareness Week 2018 begins on 14th May, and this year the focus is on stress. According to the Mental Health Foundation, two thirds of us experience some form of mental health issue during our lives — and stress often plays a role.
While many users don’t know it, social media can have negative effects on mental health. According to a study from the University of Melbourne, regular social media use can possibly be linked to anxiety, stress, depression and sleeping problems.
Of course, social media does a lot of good. For a start, it’s a great way to stay in touch with friends — and you can never have enough of those. Sites like Facebook and Twitter are also useful for following the news or special interests. And the likes of Instagram and Snapchat promote creativity and fun.
But like most things in life, social media works best when it’s used in moderation. If you’re burning the midnight oil “liking” and sharing posts, videos and photos, you might benefit from more time away from your screens.
As Mental Health Awareness Week begins on 14th May, here are 14 things you can do to tear yourself away from your social media marathons.
1. Start a blog
It’s amazing how many people are used to writing their life stories in 280 characters or less. Free your mind and let your creativity run riot by starting your own blog. This takes you away from the buzz of conversation for a while — and lets you express your thoughts in a clearer, more detailed way.
2. Read more
Reading is often a good way to relax and de-stress, and it is a good way to train your mind to think creatively and critically. Try to substitute at least 30 minutes of your social media time with reading time every day.
3. Call friends and family
Too many people text or instant message friends and relatives instead of picking up the phone for a chat. The context of messages can be lost in text, and there’s a coldness about them that leaves many people feeling isolated and lonely. Make a commitment to calling one person for a general chat at least once a day.
4. Get some exercise
You don’t need to hit the gym hard to give your body the exercise it needs. Take 30 minutes of social media time every day to go walking instead. Leave your phone at home, and simply enjoy the fresh air.
5. Plan for the week ahead
Stress is often the result of the chaotic and unpredictable lives many of us lead. And when we’re tied to our social media accounts for hours every day, the problem can be compounded. Sacrifice a little of your social media time to plan your movements and jobs for the week ahead. For many people, the process itself is therapeutic — but most importantly it can reduce a lot of stress.
6. Have a coffee with someone new
Many of us now make friends online, and never actually meet some of the people we talk to on a regular basis. Make a commitment to enjoy a coffee with someone at least once or twice a week — and turn your phone off for the duration.
Cooking is a win-win activity. Not only do you drag yourself away from the online gossip for a while, you eat healthy, home-cooked food. A lot of people cook to relax, so give it a try.
According to one report, the average person spends one hour and 40 minutes a day on social media — but for younger people the figures are much higher. Take just an hour of that time, two days a week, and use it to volunteer at a local charity or community project. Helping others often helps us to feel better about ourselves, and it’s a great way of forgetting about social media for a while.
9. Take a course
Add up all the time you spend browsing your social media accounts every week, and it’s easy to become frustrated at all that wasted time. Improve your life and general wellbeing by learning a new skill during at least some of that time. You don’t need to sign up for a degree course — learning an instrument or a language can be just as rewarding.
10. Spend time with a pet
Several studies have linked interaction with pets and reduced stress. If you have a loving dog, for example, there’s a good chance that you’ll automatically spend less time on social media. You’ll want to spend more time playing your pet, which could improve your overall wellbeing.
11. Start a diary
A lot of people use their social media accounts as a type of diary. They write about how they’re feeling or what they’ve been doing, and then share it with hundreds of people. The only trouble with that is that people don’t always react positively. If you find writing therapeutic or cathartic, it might be best to keep your thoughts private in an old-fashioned paper diary.
12. Try yoga
Yoga involves building the link between mind and body. Through a combination of exercises, breathing techniques and mindfulness techniques, you should be able to live in the moment and relax your busy mind. According to the NHS, mindfulness can improve your overall wellbeing.
13. Get in the garden
A lot of people find gardening therapeutic. Not only does it get us outside, it connects us to Mother Nature, which is a great way of disconnecting from the digital world for an hour or two every day.
14. Listen to music
When was the last time you simply sat in a chair and listened to music without any distractions? Sacrifice a little of your social media time every day for a little private music time — and simply enjoy the experience.
Social media has enriched lives around the world — and it’s here to stay. But there’s often an important balance to be struck between staying connected online and living in the real world. Get that balance right, and your social media experiences will actually get better.
As it’s Mental Health Awareness Week, try substituting some of your social media time for a few of these activities — you might be surprised at how much your overall wellbeing improves.