I really hope that doomscrolling somehow brought you to this blog because I can help you stop doing that right now! You’ve already taken the first step by reading this blog, which is definitely good news not bad news, so great work! Doomscrolling is an obsession or drive to read or watch bad news, and while this has happened for as long as the internet has existed, this past year doomscrolling seems to have taken over our lives. The negative consequences of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, social justice struggles, environmental and economic concerns, and other issues seem never ending, and an obsession with reading apocalyptic-sounding news reports or finding upsetting videos or images to look at online is just one more problem we’re all dealing with. In this blog, I’ll talk you through a simple CBT exercise that can help you stop doomscrolling and get back to living your life.
How Does Doomscrolling Affect Us?
If you’re doomscrolling, you are likely thinking about a lot of negative things. This can lead you to feeling anxious, angry, sad, or having other emotional responses to the constant stream of bad news. As a result, you may find yourself less likely to go out to visit friends. Maybe you’re getting angry with your family members, or you just don’t even want to get out of your bed. You can see how closely our thinking, feeling, and acting are related to each other, so doomscrolling is impacting much more than the amount of time we waste online. It’s making people feel isolated, have increased anxiety and depression, and otherwise feel less safe, stable, and content.
How Do I Stop?
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is all about increasing self-awareness and understanding of how our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors are all intertwined, which allows you to take action to change those habits of thinking, feeling, and doing that are having a negative impact on your life. Below is a simple three step CBT exercise that will help you break your doomscrolling habit:
- STEP 1 – Be conscious of your behavior. When you find yourself reading or watching some bad news online, take note of it. If you click on another bad news article or video, ask yourself if you really need to be engaging with more bad news. Notice how long you’ve been reading bad news. To increase your self-awareness, you can literally make a note of every time you catch yourself doomscrolling in a day or a week. This gives you a physical reminder of how much time and attention you’re giving to bad news.
- STEP 2 – Make doomscrolling difficult. The internet brought us the ability to doomscroll, but the good news is that the internet also gives us apps and plugins that limit our ability to doomscroll. If you’re a parent, you’re probably familiar with productivity apps and plugins or parental controls that limit your child’s ability to view specific content or controls the amount of time they’re able to use apps like Facebook. If you’re not a parent, these apps and plugins are just a Google search away. Find one that works for you and use it. Whether you download a productivity plugin that only lets you access work sites during certain hours of the day or you actually block your worst offender doomscrolling sites, these apps and plugins help to break the bad behavior by making it more difficult. When you’re out in the real world, putting your phone or tablet out of reach, so you have to make an effort to grab it in order to start doomscrolling can be effective and help you to focus on the people you’re with. It’s a win-win.
- STEP 3 – If you’ve noticed your behavior and made it more difficult but you’re still doing it, it’s time to do something else. Put your phone down and spend five minutes doodling, reading a few pages of a book, going for a short walk, or otherwise distracting yourself from the doomscrolling. Whenever you find yourself doomscrolling, do this replacement activity instead. In time, you should notice that you’re just as likely to engage in this new behavior as you are to engage in doomscrolling.
Need Some Help with Doomscrolling or Other Problematic Behaviors?
Many people tell us they didn’t seek therapy sooner because they thought they didn’t need it badly enough or they didn’t have a specific diagnosis. Whether it’s doomscrolling, struggles in relationships, or a specific mental health diagnosis that’s making your life more difficult, therapy may be right for you. You can learn a little more by contacting The Center for CBT in New York City. We offer a wide range of therapy options to support individuals and couples in achieving their goals. We’re here when you’re ready to talk.