Social Media and Staying Well: Boundaries, Comparison and Digital Detox

Social media is a part of our lives, now. Most of us use it — whether it’s for personal or business use, and whether we love sharing our stories on Facebook, or posting our photos on Instagram, or outlining our most important opinions on Twitter.

But we’re also learning more and more about the impact of social media and mental health. Studies show that frequent use of social networking sites is linked to depression and anxiety, and social media is highly addictive.

I love social media. It allows me to connect with clients and with friends; to share my passion and find out what others in my industry are up to. But I firmly believe that boundaries are vital if we want to stay healthy and protect our self-esteem.

Comparing Yourself to Others

Social media allows us to see what others are doing, what they look like, and how great their lives are all the time. Inevitably, we compare ourselves to them — we wonder why we’re less beautiful, less successful, less joyful than the people we see online.

We know that social media offers a curated, ideal version of any given person’s life. And yet…we’re still drawn in. We still compare. We still feel less than them if our lives aren’t matching up to theirs.

So, I recommend doing these two simple things to protect your wellbeing. You can make the most of the fabulous aspects of social media without being harmed by its downsides.

  1. Set Boundaries

You don’t have to keep looking at that Instagram account that makes you feel terrible. You don’t have to consume content that puts you in a bad mood. And you don’t have to scroll through social media thirty times a day.

Unfollow accounts that don’t bring genuine value or positive emotions into your life. You can do it — just click that button! If they make you feel bad, they’re not worth your time. It doesn’t mean that the owner of that account isn’t a good person; it simply means that their content isn’t right for you.

And make a decision about what time of day you’ll check social media, and how long for. Setting time limits means you’ll be more aware of how long you’re online, and less likely to scroll all day long.

  1. Schedule a Regular Digital Detox

Aim to have a day off from social media at least once a month — and ideally, make it a day off from screens altogether. Get outside, spend focused time with family and friends, and do things that make you feel healthy and alive.

Including digital detox days as part of your monthly, or even weekly routine, will help you keep on top of your relationship with your smartphone. You’ll notice when it feels uncomfortable to be away from social media; and feeling unsettled by that is a good sign that you need to give yourself a longer break, and recalibrate your perspective.

It’s not easy to set and stick to boundaries when our online lives are so important to our social and professional existence. But you can do it; and with commitment, you’ll reap the rewards. You’ll feel more present, more creative, less anxious, and more confident.

Beauty Sleep and Screen Time

OK, so you know that sleep is important. You’ve heard that good sleep improves your memory, concentration, and motivation. It makes you healthier, helps you lose weight or get fit, reduces anxiety and increases positive hormones in your body. It protects against depression and other mental illness — and it even makes your skin look younger.

You’re in. You want to sleep better and look after your health.

But did you know that one of the biggest challenges for good quality sleep in our modern lives are those things that we carry with us everywhere we go…our screens?

Your phone, tablet, laptop, and even your TV all reduce your chances of getting a good night’s sleep.

Why do screens affect sleep so much?

Research published by the American National Sleep Foundation shows that screen time before bed has a number of worrying effects:

  • it delays your internal body clock, or your circadian rhythm, so your body doesn’t know it’s time for sleep and you don’t get natural feelings of sleepiness.
  • it suppresses the release of hormones that are vital for getting sleepy and falling asleep. In particular, it reduces the release of melatonin, a vital hormone for creating physiological feelings of sleepiness.
  • the blue light emitted by screens increases your body’s alertness, making you feel awake or wired.
  • the content you’re exposed to via your screens stimulates your brain — making your mind race, and triggering anxiety in those who are susceptible to it.

So the more you look at electronic devices in the evening, the more likely that you won’t fall asleep easily, or will wake up unnecessarily during the night. This is no big deal for one night, or even a few nights in a row; but over time, the impact of regular evening screen exposure can creative chronic sleep disorders.

So, what to do?

Lots of us look for a solution to the negative effects of evening screen time that will allow us to keep on using our devices. We try fitting coloured filters on our screens, or apps that reduce blue light emission.

But the reality is that the only solution is the one that is healthiest for you: turn off your screens for at least one hour before bed, and more if possible.

Opt for reading a physical book instead, or practicing a gentle stretching routine, or simply talking face-to-face with a housemate, partner, or relative. The final hours of the day are the perfect time to ground yourself in your body and arrive calmly in the present moment. Switch of, let go of those digital demands that weigh on your life, and be right here, right now.

You’ll fall asleep quicker and sleep more deeply. And you’ll wake up feeling refreshed, energised, and ready to take on the challenges of a new day.