As we are emerging from the intensity of the events from 2020, we are continuing to discover its many after effects on our mental health. One of these effects that has gained attention is called doomscrolling. In 2020, the Oxford English Dictionary named ‘doomscrolling’ a word of the year and added it to their dictionary. What is doom scrolling? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as “the tendency to continue to surf or scroll through bad news, even though that news is saddening, disheartening, or depressing”. Although the term is thought to have originated on Twitter in 2018, the term gained momentum due to COVID-19 pandemic and the series of events in 2020.
I think it’s safe to say that most of us consumed more negative news in 2020 than maybe ever before in our lifetime. With the ongoing negative events of our country and the world at our fingertips via news apps and social media, the perfect storm of doomscrolling emerged. As a result, there are researched links to the act of excessive consumption of negative news, anxiety and depression.
Impact of Doomscrolling and Practical Tips
Harmful mental effects
So why would we continue to seek doomsday news story after news story? Our brains are hard wired to scan our environment for harm or threat. Our brain’s way of believing we have a sense of control over negative events is to be prepared, which can bring a false sense of calm and peace. We naturally want to stay on top of information because we feel uncertain. But it only fuels the internal drive to need to know, to no end. In our modern day, we have more access than ever and there is no limit to the availability of information. But excessively consuming negative information can cause anxiety, an increased sense of uncertainty, fear, apprehension, distress, catastrophizing, and a clouded ability to recognize the positive. These feelings then trigger the desire to search for more news to upregulate our mood, only to find a continuous cycle of negative news. If you are already experiencing anxiety, low mood, lack of motivation for activities that interest you, the tendency to access media and social media platforms increases, feeding the negative mental and emotional state.
Harmful physical effects
Continual anxiety can result in the release of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, otherwise known as the “fight or flight” response. The release of these stress hormones over a long time period has been linked to high blood pressure, headaches, heart disease, weight gain and digestive problems. Other observed physical effects are difficulty getting to sleeping, poor sleep quality, loss of interest in daily activities. The addictive nature of scrolling through content on your device whenever you want and wherever you are only perpetuates these harmful physical effects.
How to Stop the Effects of Doomscrolling
Cultivate a sense of being present. In other words, get in touch with where you are right here, right now. For example, you might step outside and notice the sun is shining, a smiling face, or a pleasant breeze. Allow yourself to notice that and then be grateful for it.
And lastly (but not least!), cultivate your access to joy. As Jesus delivered negative news to his disciples as he shared with them in John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world”. Jesus, knowing that the world is full of scary events, communicated to us that He is our peace and that He has overcome all that will be throughout the end of time.