Meet the Mind Medic: How to refresh your relationship with social
Get smart with your screentime. The Mind Medic is a Nottinghamshire based psychiatrist, who shares practical notes in a world that revolves around keeping switched on.
Our relationship with social media is personal
How we feel about social media is, as with all relationships, incredibly individual. Imagine you're in bed, you've slept in and you don't want to do your morning workout – but you check your phone and you’re bombarded with images of people’s post-workout selfies. For one person those images might inspire and motivate them. They could think: “I missed my alarm but I’m going to do a quick 10-minute stretch.” In which case, social media has had a positive influence.
But if someone is in a negative headspace, the same image could be hugely triggering. It might conjure feelings of inadequacy, guilt or shame.
When we’re considering our relationship with social media it’s not necessarily the images we’re consuming that affect us but where we are in our lives, at that moment. Dr Sarah Vohra
Log your online habits
It’s helpful for us to approach our online habits without judgement and rather than just cutting down on social media we should catch ourselves in the act and reflect on our relationship with it. Firstly, consider what’s positive about the platforms you use. For me, I’m re-decorating my office at the moment so following inspiring home accounts makes me feel warm and fuzzy. However, I can still find myself pulled into these not entirely necessary things and squander half an hour on mindless consumption.
Ask yourself if it motivates, inspires, educates or makes you feel positive and, if it does none of those four, then why are you following it? Dr Sarah Vohra
There’s no blanket rule but I’d recommend filling out a log and watching where you spend your time on social media and how you feel about it. You might feel inspired by the accounts you follow but you might also feel competitive and find yourself drawing social comparisons. If that is the case, have the confidence to unfollow these accounts without fear because you’re in control of the information you consume.
As you create a new relationship with social media you can check in with yourself at the end of the day. Do you feel any different? Has not squandering minutes made you more productive or positive? And include those details in your log.
Reclaim your morning routine
Many of my patients tell me they experience a lot of negative thinking and feel really harassed and hurried throughout the day, and often that stems from the information they’re consuming first thing in the morning.
I always recommend people invest in an old-fashioned alarm clock, although this often gets a funny look because it’s such an alien concept. But it allows you to create a morning routine free from the temptations of scrolling through social media before you’ve even got out of bed. You might receive emails while you’re scrolling, which adds to the sense of urgency and this can start the day on a negative note and lead to further procrastination. Instead, try to set aside screens, wake up, get dressed, make breakfast and then invite the rest of the world in.
What this means is that we can take ownership of our mornings and set the pace for the rest of the day. That’s not to say that stressful things won’t happen but, ultimately, it’s about setting yourself up in the best way possible and giving yourself permission to do the things that will make you feel more human.
What keeps you coming back?
A common theme when people find it difficult to break social media habits is the fear of missing out. The idea that if we’re not seeing or consuming something, we’re missing out in some way. In order to break this we need to understand that, fundamentally, as soon as we make one decision, we’re making it at the expense of another. The time we spend scrolling could have been used for something else. So, in reality, we’re always missing out on something.
It’s also really helpful to consider what it is that keeps pulling you back to that behaviour. For example, you could be exacerbating feelings of low self-esteem by looking at desirable images because consuming them simply fuels the inadequacies you feel about yourself. And if you’re feeling anxious or self-conscious, social media can exaggerate those feelings because it allows us to easily draw comparisons with others.
I would recommend that anyone who feels that anxiety should reduce the time they spend online and seek help from a professional, especially if they find these comparisons are impacting their everyday life, work or relationships.
The Mind Medic by Dr Sarah Vohra (Penguin) is out now in all good bookshops.
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The views expressed on these pages are the views of the cited experts only and do not necessarily represent the views of Wellness Edit. Please always get a second opinion where specific medical advice is required.
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