Looking after your mind – how the media we consume impacts our mental health

phone, social media, screen time

There is a lot going on in the world right now, and there’s also a lot of ways to find out about it all, not to mention a lot of viewpoints vying for your mental bandwidth. Social media is also a huge draw throughout the day, with its potent mix of friends’ news and strangers’ opinions.

It can easily become overwhelming, which is why it’s often recommended that we put a bit of thought into how much we expose ourselves to the world through media and social apps.

Screen time by the numbers

It’s so easy to take out your phone to make life’s little lulls pass faster, but the optimum amount of time per day that we should give to social media is around 30 minutes with improved mental wellbeing shown by those who cut down on their average screen time. With this in mind, it’s clear that the link between screen time and mental health is substantial.

It might sound difficult to cut down on, when social media and TV provide such a strong link to the wider world, but The Cybersmile Foundation found that 89% of social media users agreed it was actually detrimental to their health. In fact, any screen time past an initial hour (so that includes telly and pc time too) has been shown to lead to lower mood, less focus and curiosity, and poorer emotional wellbeing.

The idea has been explored by the University of Glasgow, publishing a report in Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that the health risks of watching too much TV were slashed if a screen time limit of two hours or less was imposed. In the younger generation, those who enjoyed higher amounts of screen time (7+ h/day vs. low users of 1 h/day) were more than twice as likely to have been diagnosed with a mental health, psychological, or behavioural issue.

The benefits of stepping away

There’s a lot to take in in the paragraphs above, and the irony of spending time reading it on a screen isn’t lost on us. But for every negative there’s a positive, and these are the boosts you could experience by spending less time with a screen:

  • Better sleep.
  • Less stress.
  • More energy for physical activity.
  • Improved posture.
  • Renewed focus on sociability.
  • Become less distracted.
  • Healthier, less strained eyes.

Social media can be a great way of keeping us connected to what matters most, but that doesn’t mean that it’s something we should lean on too heavily. Likewise, TV and video games are great escapes, but they’re not without drawbacks.

A healthy lifestyle is about balance, and finding the right amount of time to spend scrolling, watching and playing will help you find that. And if you’re reading this at work, why not step outside for a few moments, or make a cuppa. You’ll feel better for it.

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