How great is the internet? It offers you funny videos, the latest news, interesting recipes, and tons of social media content. Know what else it presents? Stress — and a lot of it. Even when you’re surfing the web for fun, it’s impacting your mental health.
If you’re spending hours online, don’t worry. You’re not alone. On average, people spend about 6.5 hours every day staring at a screen. The internet affects everyone differently. There’s research, though, that shows the longer you’re online, the more stressed and depressed you can become.
Why you log on doesn’t always matter. Whether it’s education, entertainment, or work, you still need to safeguard your mental health. Try these seven strategies, and you’ll feel the internet irritation slip away.
1. Make Your Home Wi-Fi Smart
Home should be your most relaxed place. If you’re worried about everyone’s screen time, though, you’ll drive yourself to distraction. Before you become an internet hall monitor, make some simple Wi-Fi changes. A smart home Wi-Fi solution, such as Plume HomePass, takes away the stress of keeping tabs on your family.
This type of solution lets you create digital profiles for your loved ones so you can schedule digital time-outs. Set aside a few hours every night or a few nights a week to unplug. Think of it like a digital detox. Plus, you can enjoy some light-hearted IRL activities together — maybe board or card games — to recharge your mental health.
2. Consider Dedicating Your Devices
Having a bunch of digital connection points doesn’t mean you need access to them all at the same time. Getting a news notification from CNN, an email, and a video alert from YouTube simultaneously can overload your circuits. Instead, if you have multiple devices, decide how you’ll use each one.
Maybe dedicate your laptop to email and your smartphone to social media. Whatever you decide, it will keep things segmented, and you’ll get less distracted. That can be a huge mental relief because no one is truly good at multitasking. Also, try to limit yourself to two social media accounts if you can. Managing too many can start to feel like an extra job.
3. Nurture Your Creativity
The internet is endless. If you need a mental health boost, search for a space where you’ll feel inspired to let your creativity flow. Join an existing group or branch out on your own. The goal is to give yourself a positive, energizing kick.
Are you a huge “Harry Potter,” “Black Panther,” or maybe “Star Wars” fan? Something else? Give fan fiction a shot and weave your own narrative. Or start a blog with your thoughts and observations about life. If you’re good with video, launch a TikTok account and post your funniest moments. Whatever it is, make sure it’s something you enjoy that makes you happy.
4. Ditch Your Deserted Apps
Flip through your phone for a second. How many pages of apps did you scroll through? Two, three, maybe four or more? Chances are you’ve downloaded plenty of apps you rarely use — if ever. It’s all visual (and mental) clutter.
*All individuals are unique. Your results can and will vary.
Just like cleaning your room or your house, sometimes you must clean up your phone. If your apps are all over the place, you can get stressed searching for the one you want. It eats up time and makes you less productive.
Consider deleting the ones you don’t use out of the mix. If you can’t let them go, dump them all into one folder. You’ll have them if you decide you need them, but your phone will look streamlined.
5. Make Bed a No-Phone Zone
You’ve probably heard the argument about not watching your phone in bed because the light can hurt your eyes. There’s another reason. If you’re in bed, you’re likely heading to sleep soon. Scrolling through the news or social media right before getting some shuteye isn’t exactly a recipe for sweet dreams.
If you use your smartphone as your morning alarm, set it but don’t pick your phone back up. Or use an app like FamilyTime to set a bedtime for your phone so you can’t cheat and use it. You’ll be in a better mental place if you aren’t reading negative news stories or reading upsetting social media comments. Instead, wind down with music, a good book, or an episode of your favorite (relaxing) TV show.
6. Avoid Triggering Content
It’s no secret the internet is filled with thousands of things that can irk you. The good news is you don’t have to see it all. You can actively shield yourself from things that will trigger unsettling emotions.
Add a website devoted to good news into your regular news mix. Consider turning off push notifications for breaking news — it’s rarely ever good. If too much advertising overwhelms you, change your social media settings to hide targeted ads. Or you can use an app like Freedom to block distracting sites and apps so you’re not bothered.
You can also do the same thing with people who routinely post toxic content. Mute, block, or hide them. You’ll thank yourself later.
7. Schedule a Step Away
There’s so much to see online that it’s easy to simply keep scrolling. Every now and then, doing that is OK. On the regular, though, resist the temptation. Protecting your health means frequently stepping away from the screen.
Be intentional with how you spend your time on the internet. Focus on your research, finish your job task, or respond to those emails. Once your work is done, put your computer or phone down. Logging off and disconnecting can be a huge mental relief.
The internet is an enormous part of modern life. It’s integrated into almost everything you do from school to work to entertainment. So it’s important to figure out ways to use it that won’t chip away at your mental health. Next time you log on, try these tactics. Your web wanderings will be much more enjoyable.
*All individuals are unique. Your results can and will vary.
2. Lam, S., Jivraj, S., & Scholes, S. (2020). Exploring the Relationship Between Internet Use and Mental Health Among Older Adults in England: Longitudinal Observational Study. Journal of medical Internet research, 22(7), e15683. https://doi.org/10.2196/15683
3. Social media use can be positive for mental health and well-being https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/features/social-media-positive-mental-health/