It can be hard to remember that there was a time before screens were a prominent part of our lives. But think of this: the very first movie ever made dates back to 1888. And this was no modern multi-hour epic. In fact, Louis Le Prince’s Roundhay Garden Scene is only two seconds long.
As astonishing as that first motion picture must have been, two seconds was hardly going to glue people to screens. Soon enough, however, motion pictures became quite popular. Still and all, you had to leave the house to take in a picture on an enormous screen. Lots of people went to the movies frequently, but it was arguably the television that set us on a path toward significantly more screen time per day.
In the late 1940s, a few thousand homes in America had a television. By the early 1950s, that number had increased to 12 million—and by 1955, half of all American households had a television set. The numbers, of course, grew from there. With the arrival of cable television and the increasing availability of personal computers, the amount of time Americans spent in front of a screen continued to increase.
The next big jump in the use of screens arguably came with the introduction of the iPhone in January 2007. Touchscreen phones (and somewhat larger tablets) with internet access meant we could take our screens most anywhere and engage with most any kind of content. And that is exactly what we started doing—and continue to do right up to the present moment.
But all this innovation has introduced some new problems as well—several of which can have a negative impact on your overall mental health. Let’s take a look at three ways extended screen time can exacerbate mental health disorders.
Screen Time Before Bed Can Disrupt Your Sleep
Getting enough restful sleep is essential to maintaining your mental health. Screen time in the hours right before bedtime has been shown to have a negative impact on the quality of your sleep. As a result, it is a good idea to get in the habit of powering down your personal devices a couple of hours before you go to bed.
If you have been staring at your screen until just before you close your eyes each night, it might take some time to build up a healthier habit. But persevering until you develop a screen-free evening routine is one of the best things you can do to ensure you get the sleep you need.
Doomscrolling Does More Harm Than Good
Our devices give us immediate and uninterrupted access to news, gossip, and so much more. Sometimes, it can be easy to get caught up in one story after another, following link after link down various rabbit holes. Each bit of news can seem more distressing than the last, and yet it can seem impossible to stop scrolling.
This phenomenon is often called “doomscrolling,” because it seems like we are just chasing a feeling of doom inspired by all the bad news we scan while we scroll. Setting limits around your news consumption—maybe 15 minutes of reading the latest headlines over breakfast and then again at lunchtime—can be a good way to avoid incessant doomscrolling. Fewer feelings of impending doom can (it perhaps goes without saying) be good for your mental well-being.
Think of Social Media as a Highlight Reel—Not Reality
When you engage with social media, it can feel as though most everyone you know is doing better than you are. Their jobs are going great. Their kids are amazing. Their latest vacation was amazing. It can seem like each and everyone of your social media “friends” is making the most of their life while you are struggling to get by most of the time. You might find yourself feeling more symptoms of depression or anxiety as a result of perusing this ongoing highlight reel.
It is important to remember that a highlight reel is not the whole story of any person’s life. Reminding yourself that everyone struggles to one degree or another can help you engage with social media content in healthier ways—ways that allow you to celebrate the good news people share without feeling the need to compare yourself to what you see online. Setting limits for yourself when it comes to spending time scrolling through your socials is also a good idea for supporting your mental health.
Get the Help You Need to Improve Your Mental Health
At Peak View Behavioral Health in Colorado Springs, we are committed to help you navigate the difficulties that are caused by depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders. Via personalized treatment plans grounded in evidence and our expertise, we help individuals improve their mental health and maintain those improvements over time. When you are ready to pursue better mental health, we are ready to help.