‘Doomscrolling’ might be the reason you feel so flat

A new phenomenon in the coronavirus-era, doomscrolling is something you probably do without even realising it. We spoke to a psychologist and a wellness coach to find out exactly why we doomscroll and how we can get control back. 

It might be the first thing you look at when you wake up in the morning, it’s probably the last thing you see before going to sleep. If you’re finding it difficult to pry your hands and eyes away from your phone these days, you’re certainly not alone, and you may be completely unaware you’re doing it.

While the pandemic continues to dictate our lives and movements, screen time has skyrocketed, and with the constant barrage of bad news—a public health crisis, schools closed, unemployment rates on the rise—it can become difficult to snap yourself out of the negative spiral many minutes, even hours later.

Maybe you’re trying to find some good news amid the bad? Or maybe you’re trying to stay as up-to-date as possible to give you back some feeling of control. In any case, this relatively new phenomenon is so common in the coronavirus era there’s a dictionary-defined name for it: Doomscrolling.

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“The tendency to continue to surf or scroll through bad news, even though that news is saddening, disheartening, or depressing. Many people are finding themselves reading continuously bad news about COVID-19 without the ability to stop or step back.” Sound familiar?

Wellness coach Katie Lowndes says you’re probably doing it without even realising.

“Have you found yourself picking up the phone to check it even though you checked one minute ago?” she asks.

“We’re all just looking for that hit of endorphins, a message from a friend, a comment on a social post. Something interesting!”

Psychologist Nancy Sokarno says it has a lot to do with feeling like the world is in chaos and this is our attempt to take some of our power back.

“Typically, in times of uncertainty we try to seek things we can control, while also seeking an understanding and connection,” she says.

“Doomscrolling represents elements of this, we’re trying to be in control of all of the information, plus are staying connected via our use of social media or by keeping on top of the news.”

Ironically, the very nature of doomscrolling means it’s incredibly difficult to keep a lid on it. Your initial satisfaction can easily and quickly turn destructive, leading to things like poor sleep, stress, anxiety, and depression.

“It can also make us have a warped view of the world. Yes, there are a lot of bad things happening right now, however focusing on them can lead to catastrophising the situation, which can lead to anxiety or panic attacks,” says Sokarno.

So what can you do about it?

As with most addictions, recognising when you’re doing it is a significant first step. The next time you pick up your phone, acknowledge it, and ask yourself what purpose you had for unlocking your phone.

The next is to give yourself strict boundaries. Both Apple and Android phones now have timers you can set on apps and web pages through Screen Time and Digital Wellness settings, respectively. But something as simple as putting your device in another room/part of the house can also be beneficial. Out of sight, out of mind, as they say.

“And certainly, try not to scroll first thing in the morning or right before you go to bed,” says Sokarno.

“Both of these times will affect your mindset and it’s better to start and end the day focusing on things that might make you happy.”

Lowdnes agrees.

“Try to do your morning routine whether that’s eating breakfast, having a walk and shower. Whatever it might be, do it first before checking the feeds,” she says.

“These two are key to getting a good sleep and also setting your mood up the right way to start your day.”

Importantly, try to find something else to replace the activity of being on your phone constantly, like listening to an upbeat podcast, practicing some meditation, or doing gratitude exercises.