It doesn’t have to be this way (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Have you ever caught yourself scrolling almost helplessly though reams and reams of bleak news stories and bad hot takes on your social media feed?
Then you’re familiar with doomscrolling.
In a pandemic, and in lockdown especially, it’s easy to fall into the trap of doomscrolling since we’ve got so much time on our hands and a shortage of good news to enjoy.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, wallowing in bad news online isn’t great for our mental health, and now Dr Katherine Hertlein, lead therapist at sex therapy app Bluehart, says doomscrolling can have a negative impact on your sex life.
Why? Put simply, it’s because of stress.
Dr Hertlein explains: ‘Like many negative habits, doomscrolling often involves giving in to an impulse, which afterwards, can make us feel guilty or unhappy. It wastes time and fails to contribute to our wellbeing.
‘Scrolling through bad news for hours on end can leave you feeling deflated, unhappy and worried. This is supported in a 2014 study that monitored 4,675 Americans and their media consumption habits. The study found that those who regularly consumed media around traumatic events had higher levels of acute stress than those that didn’t.
‘With this in mind, doomscrolling isn’t the ideal simply because of the negative mindset that it can induce. Many of us think that sex starts with the body, but in fact, it starts with the mind.
‘Good sex requires us to feel comfortable, content and relaxed, and doomscrolling can result in us feeling overwhelmed by tragedy.’
She added that, in addition to putting us in a negative mindset, doomscrolling is simply time-consuming
‘That’s time that could otherwise be spent with your partner’, she said.
‘Lack of quality time can lead you to feel distant, and can sometimes lead to a breakdown of communication within your relationship.
‘In order to spend more quality time with your partner, it’s important to be able to break the doomscrolling habit and reassess your relationship with your smartphone in general.’
So if doomscrolling is makes us so unhappy, why do we do it?
Time to set some boundaries? (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Dr Hertlein said: ‘You might find yourself doomscrolling more often – especially since the pandemic began – because in uncertain times many of us crave some kind of control over our lives.
‘When you’re scrolling through news stories, it’s almost like you’re gaining information so that you can prepare for this dangerous situation you’re in.
‘As a result, doomscrolling might help you to feel like you have some kind of control of the direction that life is going. Ultimately, this habit is less about becoming addicted to bad news, and more of an attempt to take control over an unpredictable situation.’
If, for whatever reason, you want to kick that doomscrolling habit, Dr Hertlein has five tips for you.
‘Like any habit,’ she said, ‘there are certain steps you have to take in order to break the pattern of behaviour.
- ‘Firstly, find out what triggers your doomscrolling habit. Is it when you feel anxious, when you want to escape negative feelings, or when you’re just routinely checking the news? By identifying the motivations, you can make a conscious effort to avoid your phone when you know a certain feeling is triggering the action.
‘When you’re triggered to doomscroll, turn to a practical activity that you can do with your partner. Doing activities together can help you both feel more connected with each other and feel closer; which is also going to benefit your sex life. Even something as simple as exercising together counts as bonding time.
- ‘Set boundaries with your phone. Identify specific times when you feel as though you need to check your phone, this could be once in the afternoon and once in the evening. For the remainder of the time, put your phone in another room, so you’re not tempted to look at it. If this isn’t possible, put your phone in the same room but away from your reach, so you can hear calls but aren’t tempted to mindlessly reach out and start scrolling.
‘Less screen time has also been associated with increased sexual satisfaction between couples. Keeping your screen time low will not help you to kick your doomscrolling habit, it will also benefit your relationship, too.
- ‘Don’t take your phone into the bedroom. This can be difficult if your phone is used as your alarm but leaving your phone in a different room can help you to avoid doomscrolling in the morning, and improve your sleep and sex life. One reason for this is that our phone encourages us to be in an ‘always-on’ mode. As soon as we hear a notification or call, we feel that we have to answer it straight away. Leaving your phone outside the bedroom can negate any disruptions you receive and reduce your impulse to immediately pick up your phone (whether during sex or whilst asleep) and generally help to lower your anxiety.
- ‘Set a time limit. It’s helpful for us to read the news, so we know what’s going on in the world and how we’ll be affected, so if you’re an avid news checker, set a time limit for how long you spend checking it. Ideally, this should be around five minutes. Just enough to keep you updated. This is also handy if you find that you easily lose yourself in other apps such as Instagram, Facebook, or TikTok.
- ‘Be mindful. Being more mindful has been proven to boost wellbeing. The act of being mindful is being truly aware of what’s going on inside your head and what’s going on in the outside world. We might not notice, but we’re constantly thinking about what just happened or what will happen, or what’s on our to-do list. Being mindful forces you to take a step back and acknowledge the present. By forcing us to acknowledge what’s going on in the now, mindfulness is a great tool for breaking bad habits.
‘Notice when you feel the urge to reach out to your phone and as soon as you do, avoid touching it or make a conscious effort to put it back down. Being more mindful takes practice, but once mastered it can help you in your everyday life. Being more mindful can benefit your sex life too. Focusing on the sensations you feel and paying attention to touch, taste, sound, temperature, pressure helps you to be more mindful during sex, and can help you to maximise pleasure.’
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