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These Are the Health Benefits of a Social Media Hiatus

 To me, it seems like this modern period is divided into two: before social media platforms and after their appearance. It seems that if you're not there you don't really exist. This may sound like a radical thing to say, but try conducting yourself through life without a Facebook account. I've tried for a year, and I faced obstacles daily. Some businesses don't even have a dedicated website these days- only a Facebook page, which you can't interact with if you don't have an account. Difficult, but not impossible!
But I would like to suggest something a little less radical: taking a periodical hiatus from social media platforms. And I mean all platforms because if you try deleting just one, you'll find that you spend more time on others. While deleting your apps may sound radical nonetheless, let me offer this perspective: why try to set time boundaries and struggle with your willpower, instead of just putting the apps away for a week? You'll only be deleting your app, not the account itself. This will be restored once you re-install your app. Instead of spending precious mental energy on resisting the urge, practice the good old "out of sight, out of mind" mindset, and score some much-needed mental and physical health benefits. Let's take a look together. 
 

Efficiency in Daily Tasks

social media
First off, let's ask ourselves why we want to quit social media. Each individual may have their own reasons. It may be that social media is time-consuming, it is addictive, it portrays a very narrow, one-sided picture of the world, it leads to stress and it can cause other health issues related to spending prolonged periods on your phone. 
The first benefit you're likely to notice is how efficient you feel when you don't juggle between your daily tasks and the short peaks into social media. As said before by so many, social media is time-consuming and the sound of notifications has even been linked to stress. Trying to slip in a couple of minutes of scrolling through Facebook during your daily tasks may feel like a light break, but the minutes add up. If you're truly looking for a break, tear away from the screen for a few minutes. The tomato-time Strict Workflow chrome extension will help with that. It is a timer of intervals of 25 minutes of work and 5 minutes for a break. When you're on your 25 minutes of work, access to certain websites will be blocked. 

Creativity

Remember that new hobby you picked up during quarantine? You'll be surprised at how better you get when you have free time and a calm mind to practice it now. Boredom does bring out creativity. Do you think we would all be enjoying the genius of Leonardo da Vinci today if he had an iPad to scroll through all day? He was fascinated with exploring the world around him and within him. You may pick up an old hobby you neglected long ago. You may find you enjoy painting without the stress of having to present a beautiful Instagram-able result at the end. Who knows? But how exciting would it be to find out, don't you think?

Anxiousness

woman sitting calmly in a field
We are not here to sugarcoat reality. At first, you will feel detached and if you really were addicted you may even feel anxious. This is a symptom of withdrawal and recovery from FOMO-the fear of missing out. Trust us, you are not missing out on anything. One of the reasons social media is so addictive is because it artificially taps into the dopamine mechanisms in your brain. This is a happy hormone our brain secretes to make us feel rewarded. When your brain has higher dopamine levels than usual, a dopamine detox isn't easy but any discomfort should resolve in about 3 days. This video will help explain if you feel overwhelmed by this information:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Serenity

Another reason social media is so addictive is that it both stresses you and calms your down interchangeably. When you're anxious to know what going on, or you hear the sound of a notification, cortisol (the stress hormone) levels in your blood rise a little. And then, you're instantly relieved with new distractive content and perhaps some notifications, that impact your dopamine levels.
High levels of cortisol in the blood over long periods will affect your memory and increase your chances for depression. When you're not available 24/7, and the news doesn't show up on your phone uninvited, your levels of cortisol come down again. Take control again and set your own boundaries for social app use and notifications. 

Newfound Energy

social media
If scrolling through social media is what lulls you into sleep, try this little experiment: avoid using your phone during the hour before you go to bed and after you've woken up. This will be hard, from my experience. Take any measure you need for this experiment to go successfully for at least 4 days. You can even leave your phone outside of your room or ask a partner to help you. After four days time, do you feel like your mornings are better? much easier to get out of bed? Do you sleep much better? 
Usually, we don't even consciously make the decision to scroll until falling asleep. We just check in quickly on the feed for our last dose of dopamine for the day, and without even noticing it we're sucked down the rabbit hole, falling asleep with our phone in our hand. 
If you need help unwinding, try reading a book or listening to one, to lull you into falling asleep. At first, this will be challenging and your thoughts might run wild, but after a few times you try it you're likely to find that you take much less time to fall asleep.
Social media eases a worried mind, we'll give you that. It does so by distracting you. In fact, your stream of thoughts may even stop completely when you're scrolling, helping your wary mind at the end of a long day. But that also means you don't pay attention to your body and posture. Before you know it you've been sitting uncomfortably for 40 minutes and now you're sore. 

Confidence
social media

By now you know very well that social media users, including your closest family and yourself, usually only share what's happy or appealing to the eye. This is what we mean when we say that social media only portrays a one-sided image of life. Your brain automatically compares yourself to the people in your surroundings in a social ancestral mechanism. This is a phenomenon called upward social comparison. You unconsciously make a social ranking to know where you belong and act accordingly, with a tendency to rank ourselves lower than we deserve.

Seeking to understand the social construct around you is good and healthy, don't get us wrong. The problem starts when you spend too much time on social media. Your brain doesn't differentiate between virtual and real-life in that matter, and when everyone around you is that successful, you obviously can't measure. This kills our confidence. In daily life, we all are pretty equal, aren't we? Tapping back into reality will restore your confidence. 

 

Positivity

People not only share their photogenic life on social media. They also love to rant and share their opinion. Imagine having to listen to random people's opinions throughout the day on social and political matters. If that happened face to face, that would be tedious and probably even overwhelming, but the effect is much more subtle when it happens virtually.
When you feel grumpy without knowing why, consider putting down the phone for the day. You may say that you also follow the news on social platforms. That's great. You can easily log on to the websites you like through your internet browser. When you do it with intention, instead of being bombarded with uncontrolled notifications, you'll also have control over what and when you see it.

 

Better Relationships

two women taking a picture sitting on a bench
When I go on my periodical social media hiatus, nurturing my real-life relationships is my usual main reason. Social media, ironically, tends to make us feel detached from our friends, and not before long do we ask ourselves why didn't we get invited to the get-together we see on our feed. Try using social media to strengthen your long-distance relationship, and investing more of your newfound energy in your close friendships. These are much healthier, much more rewarding opportunities to get that dopamine your brain needs so much. For other ways to access dopamine, check this post about natural ways to boost happy hormones in the brain. 
Share your journey with your friends and send us your experiences!
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