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What Is Doomscrolling And How To Step Away

Everything you need to know about ending the cycle of doom

By Hasina Khatib  May 21st, 2021

The more things change, the more they stay the same… or so goes the famous adage. The proverbial truth finds context in our present times—much has changed since the onset of the pandemic, with the global rollout of the vaccine offering hope for the future, but much has stayed the same as well. The country continues to find itself sieged under varying levels of lockdowns, but the tonality has undergone a paradigm shift. If the first lockdown was about acclimatising ourselves with the concept of staying indoors, the dalgona coffees have now been swapped for doomsday headlines as a historic second wave sweeps through the country. In the eye of the storm, there can be some solace derived from staying informed about what’s coming next, but the constant deluge of bad news could also play a saboteur for our mental health in the present. Here’s what the habit of doomscrolling is doing to your mental peace and how to find ways to step away from the news cycle when needed.

What Is Doomscrolling?

Counted as Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year for 2020, doomscrolling is the habit of constantly scrolling through negative news, even at the cost of one’s mental health and cognitive peace. In times of fore, the 9 o’clock bulletin offered a succinct round-up of the biggest headlines of the day. However, the ubiquity of social media means that you can find yourself confronted with devastating headlines, often worded provocatively for maximum impact by news outlets, at all points of time during the day. The vicious loop, from news articles designed to elicit fear to the comments sections rife with toxic viewpoints from online trolls, can often cause a spike in the stress hormones, leading to greater anxiety, loss of appetite and
disruption in the sleep cycle.

So, why do we find ourselves scrolling compulsively through doomsday news, even while knowing it is taking a toll on our mental health?

From an evolutionary standpoint, the mind finds comfort in familiarising itself about forthcoming dangers, so it can prepare for what’s coming next. But the vigilance comes with a cost—according to a study, the increased exposure to news media has led to a significant increase in depression symptoms and pandemic-related anxiety. It is also crucial to consider the fact that the ongoing pandemic is unique in that it mandates higher levels of self-isolation. With an endless array of news portals and social media handles only too eager to offer a ringside view of the world’s descent into crisis, being faced with a deluge of negative news when alone could lead to higher levels of depression and loneliness.

How To Break Free From The Habit Of Doomscrolling

Breaking free from the darkly gratifying habit of seeking negative news can be difficult but not impossible. Going cold turkey and cutting off entirely from the world may not be feasible, so instead, employ the principles of dieting and adopt portion control over the usage of triggering apps—such as limiting yourself to only 15 minutes of Instagram at a time. Maintaining a log of the time spent on various apps can also help you pinpoint the source of your anxiety.

Doomscrolling is also known to take its toll on your mind before going to bed, so it helps to engage in a tech-free activity before going to sleep, from light meditation to spending time with a loved one. There is also some merit to be found in hopescrolling or the act of actively seeking good news to relax the brain. Above all else, remember to listen to your body and emotions to know when it is time to slow down and take some time to rejuvenate.