How to stop Doomscrolling – and start acting
15 May, 2023
What is doomscrolling?
Doomscrolling and doomsurfing are “new terms referring to the tendency to continue to surf or scroll through bad news, even though that news is saddening, disheartening, or depressing”. Whether you read, watch or listen doesn’t really matter. The result is very much the same. You feel bad about the world, you feel helpless, and you still can’t stop looking at more devastating news. It really doesn’t sound like a healthy activity, and it is important to break the downward spiral you easily find yourself in. Let’s first look at what exactly makes doomscrolling so unhealthy.
Why is doomscrolling unhealthy?
Being informed about what is happening in the world is important. But as with everything, there is balance. And with news, the balance seems to be skewed towards the negative side.
First, there is negativity bias – in the news and in our minds. This means that we feel negative events more intensely than positive ones. Importantly, this affects both our ability to make decisions, and our motivation & ability to complete tasks. If you ever felt distracted or lost because of the news, negativity bias might be the cause.
And then as we react more intensely to bad news, the news also reflects that bias. This means that we are more likely to see negative news stories, skewing our perception even further towards negativity. When was the last time you saw a just plain out “this went well” article?
Second, reading those news makes us feel powerless. It puts us into the position of a passive recipient and observer – we see bad things happen, and there is nothing we can do about it.
How to stop doomscrolling?
If I tell you that the best way to stop doomscrolling is to, well, stop scrolling, you’ll likely find this really helpful. Duh. Easier said than done. So here is a more step by step guideline on how to stop doomscrolling – or at least limit/ better deal with your exposure.
1- Learn about your trigger moments: When do you start doomscrolling?
When do you usually start scrolling the news? Is it the first thing you do in the morning? Is it when you have a hard task you don’t want to get into? When you get a notification, and one thing leads to another? Before you go to sleep?
Your key strategy is to eliminate your triggers – making it much harder for you to START scrolling in the first place.
Create distance between yourself and your phone.
Something I personally find useful, and heard from a lot of people, is not having my phone next to me when I sleep. Especially as falling asleep to, or waking up to, disturbing news is the worst, and affects your whole day.
Turn off notifications.
If your phone constantly sends off beeps and vibrations for breaking news alerts, new emails and new messages, you’ll continue checking. Most of these alerts are unnecessary and distracting, and you’ll feel better without them. Do not disturb mode for focused times can also be a lifesaver.
Delete or limit apps that you spend too much time on.
If you have a particular app that brings out the doomscroller in you, maybe just delete it. As that is often hard to do, we’ll get to limits next.
2- Set time limits & create accountability
Obviously sometimes you want to see the news, scroll and enjoy some of your favorite apps. But how can you keep it healthy?
Some things you can do:
Set a timer and stop once it’s done.
This method is recommended a lot for focused work, so why not also use it to limit your scrolling time?
Use a time tracker app.
Apps that tracks your time spent on various apps & networks and block your access beyond your planned time slots can be really helpful to keep your usage in check.
Find an accountability buddy.
Apps are easy to cheat, right? Why not double down on your commitment and make it more fun at the same time? Find an (old or new) friend to improve your habits with. It helps both of you to keep you on track, help you improve, and pick you up when you temporarily fail. (Pro tip: post a request in Tiramisu if you don’t have an accountability buddy yet – you might meet a wonderful person in the process!)
Changing habits is hard, but you don’t need to do it on your own. Photo by Rémi Walle on Unsplash.
3- Be mindful of your reaction to doomscrolling
Sometimes, the news is bad, it’s hard to escape, and there is not much you can do about it, other than get distracted and feel bad. And that’s ok.
If you have been caught up in a doomscrolling session, don’t panic. Here are some great ways to get your perspective back & feel better:
Take a break.
If you can, give your overloaded brain some rest, even if it’s just for a short time.
Nothing resets your brain better than spending some time outside (that is, obviously, if outside around you actually has some fresh air).
Do something that makes you happy.
Listening to some feelgood music, talking to a friend or stranger, or doing some sports/ yoga (or just randomly dancing through your living room) are all great ways to reset your mood and get your focus back.
Stop doomscrolling (and its damage) by making your voice heard – and acting on your frustration. Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash
4- Reclaim your power: stop scrolling, start acting
Passive scrolling is the worst thing we can do for our health, but ironically it is also what we are all most likely to do.
It is the passivity that wastes your time and makes you feel so powerless. To stop feeling powerless, you need to act.
Here are a few things you can do:
Get active on social media.
Yes, you read that right. Social media can be a great tool to make your voice heard and bring awareness to issues you care about. So post something, get creative with content, reach out to others. This is much healthier than just consuming.
Just be aware that most platforms are built in a way that easily gets you into passive watching mode or steers you towards negative rabbit holes, so try to avoid those pitfalls as much as possible. Or, just use another platform – like Tiramisu 🙂
Do something meaningful.
The single best thing you can do against bad news is to join organizations and people that actively work towards change. Find an organization you align with, find a group of likeminded people to start an activity with, or just help someone else to feel better. There is no better feeling than making someone else’s day, or making the news just a little bit better for everyone. This is how you move from powerless to powerful.
Join us on Tiramisu to find likeminded people, great organizations & real conversations.
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Maike is one of Tiramisu's co-founders and really passionate about wellbeing, sustainability and creating a better and more equal future.