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media and mental wellness

The time has come, and spring is right around the corner! Two days ago, I noticed the once barren tree outside of my window beginning to sprout beautiful white flowers. As I looked out my window at the beauty of God’s gifts to us in the form of nature, I began to think about what this seasonal change will mean for me.

For some, the emergence of spring means spring cleaning.

This year, I decided spring cleaning would look a little different. I wanted to find out ways I could do some spring cleaning of the mind.

A refreshing and renewal of the mind seems like a great way to merge into the new season!

How does one “clean your mind”, you might ask?

Well, this answer will be different for everyone and can be revealed to you with some intentional solitude and introspection.

For me, I realized how much of an influence the media had on my mind and how much it was affecting my mental health. I was unintentionally consuming so much media, and at a rapid rate, all in the name of entertainment and connection.

All my downtime or “bored” moments were spent going from app to app on my smartphone. During my intentional solitude I also realized how much I longed for the stimulation of my smartphone during the time that was meant for me and my thoughts, and my thoughts alone. It dawned on me that was I was even beginning to feel a bit of anxiety! I heard about it before, but I could now say from personal experience that phone separation anxiety is real!

While I am well aware of how much of a convenience our wonderful smartphones are, I also realize there can also be some downsides.

Many of us start the day using our smartphones as alarm clocks. A common trend I’ve heard amongst my peers is that many of us also start our days with social media apps. We can find ourselves functioning on autopilot while accessing our smartphones and automatically tuning in to see what we missed while sleeping. Precious time that could be spent feeding ourselves spiritually, setting intentions for the day, connecting with others or ourselves, or simply stretching out and working out our bodies are often spent scrolling down social media timelines or keeping up with current local and world news.

While there are many days where social media can serve as a place of inspiration, motivation and connection, there are other days where it does the exact opposite.

We can find ourselves constantly comparing ourselves to others, everyone else always looks so happy right? We can also find ourselves unintentionally consuming and taking on other people’s thoughts and feelings, which then affects our moods and behaviors. As well as having to manage feelings of sadness when we missed out on some sort of social function we weren’t invited to. Studies actually show that social media usage can increase feelings of depression and loneliness.

I decided the first step to my spring cleaning on the mind would be a short break from the media. As a self-aware empath, I tend to already stay away from daily news as a form of self-care. That left me with social media as my focal point. But what about staying connected with our family and friends?

A good book I recently read pointed out to me that we may not be as connected as we think by social media. Does the “like” I leave under the photo of my cousin’s new baby I’ve never seen in person serve as a way for her and I to genuinely connect? Does the short comment I leave under a friend’s photo count as reaching out?

Here are some questions to consider when thinking of ways to start your mental spring cleaning. Does your social media help or hinder your connection with others? How much screen time are you giving to your phone versus the facetime you are giving to your loved ones? Am I comparing my real life pictures to people’s perfectly curated content or photoshopped post? Am I comparing my real life good AND bad moments to people “highlight reels” posted online?

I encourage you to take that first step in mental spring cleaning with solitude, whether it is through meditation, a short walk without your headphones, or a quiet ride in the car with no radio.

Are you suffering from feelings of loneliness or depression? If so, reach out to us at (615) 591-6262.

Written by Refuge Center Masters Level Counseling Intern Brandy Walker