Will using less of my phone help my mental health?
On Safer Internet Day, Beth considers using her phone less to look after her mental health more.
My Phone And I
I’m a millennial, and despite trying to resist all the stereotypes that are popular about millennials (we’re all lazy, we only eat avocado on toast, we moan all the time…), there is one that sadly I am unable to cut out:
I am glued to my smartphone.
However, as it is Safer Internet Day on 6th February, it is a good time to think seriously about how my smartphone, and the instant access to the world that it gives me, may not be benefiting my mental health.
I’ve always compared myself to others, ever since I was young. Despite others telling me that they aspire to look like me, wear my clothes or do what I do, I still don’t have particularly high self-worth. I spend a lot of my time idolising others and aspiring to have their long, straight hair, their perfect, blemish-free skin or their entire designer wardrobe. The biggest problem? My smartphone.
Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Snapchat – they are only a few of the social media networks that prompt me to compare myself to others and allow me to quickly and easily do so at any time of the day – or night. I am often up late into the night, scrolling through feeds of celebrities who appear to lead perfect lives. When I finally put down my phone and try and sleep, it is not surprising that I don’t feel confident, beautiful or proud of myself.
On the other hand, smartphones are fantastic devices that allow so many positive things. I’ve met lots of young people online who have helped me in my own mental health journey. I’ve read lots of blogs and watch videos that have helped me understand that I am not alone. However, recent statistics estimate that teenagers spend nine hours a day on their phones, one whole hour more than they sleep. That shocked me and prompted me to rethink how much time I spend on my phone.
I’ve downloaded a great app called Forest, which is designed to boost productivity. You set it to run for a set amount of time, while it plants a virtual tree. If you use your phone during that time, the tree dies. If not, your fully-grown tree is exchanged for coins and once you have a number of coins, you can use them to plant a real tree in the developing world. What a fantastic idea that allows us to save the world while also not looking at our phones as much!
I’ve also rediscovered my love of books, and now try to spend the final hour before bed reading an old-fashioned book made of paper and ink, rather than articles or blogs on the internet. It is much easier to sleep afterwards, and leads me to spend less time unrealistically comparing myself to others.
When we think about safer internet usage, don’t forget to consider your own mental health and how safe and protected it is. We need to make sure that the amazing new technologies that are constantly springing up do not cause our mental health to suffer. Perhaps you could start by spending one hour less per day on your smartphone?