There is certainly a correlation between the rise in mental health issues and the rise of social media. We’re no longer subject to the communications of those around us or the papers, we now find ourselves constantly barraged by the opinions and fake news from masses of the global population.
We are no longer made up of our own stream of consciousness. Now, people type out their thoughts constantly into 280-character tweets which we soak up for hours every single day. Our brains can only cope with so much!
Is Social Media to blame?
Yet, what is the point in shifting all the blame onto social media if we don’t use these powerful platforms to help those in need? Why stop at the negative effect when we can try and make it into something else? Something positive, helpful and supportive.
If you find yourself struggling with a negative inner voice, if your internal stream of consciousness seems to have become turbulent, I hope these tips on protecting your mental health can help you.
1) Blue and Green Therapy
There is something about plastic, metal and artificial light which just cannot bring peace to a human being like nature can. Our thoughts and feelings are so natural and organic that it makes perfect sense for the natural world to calm us down. It can stop us spiralling and bring us back to ourselves.
This particular therapy refers to grass, plants and trees (green) and rivers, the sea and the ocean (blue). Although it may sound like hippy nonsense, there are many scientific studies and personal testimonials to support their benefits. Remember to put your phone away and soak in the sights and sounds of the environment around you.
This isn’t forcing you to go for a run in the woods or up a mountain. This kind of therapy can range from taking a short stroll alone or with a friend or family member to simply sitting in your back garden and soaking in the environment.
2) Three Good Things
One way to try and improve your mood throughout the week is to write down three good things at the end of the day. It really does not matter if those things are big or small.
This activity can help encourage you to make something good of the day or find gratitude for the positive aspects of a day which can seem clouded by unhelpful thinking.
What if you are having a terrible day and are struggling to get out of your room, let alone out of your house? Well, you could write down that you have struggled and taken time for self-recovery.
While you know this is not necessarily what you should do, sometimes you have to take time and do what you need to do to feel better. Don’t be so hard on yourself for taking care of your mental health. Always remember to be compassionate towards yourself.
3) Social Activities
In a similar way that connecting with nature can help you, connecting with people can too. Try to get yourself out and interacting with close ones, especially if you’re feeling down. This is a good way to get out of your own head and away from negative thoughts.
You can talk about how you feel and open up, or just have a general chat. Feeling connected and socialising can help you feel valued. Similarly, opening up about your problems can give you a new perspective. This can help you reanalyse a stressful event or another issue you may have been having.
On top of this, recent studies have found that loneliness is one of the biggest causes of mental health problems. Allow yourself time to connect with people and care for yourself.
4) Challenge unhelpful thoughts
Thoughts, feelings and behaviours are all connected. Each of these things impacts the other and it is easy to spiral once a stress has triggered a negative response. Instead of letting it get out of control, put a stick in the spokes and stop it.
Unhelpful thinking has a terrible effect on your self-esteem in the long-term which can lead to mental health issues like depression and anxiety.
If you find your inner voice has become especially critical recently, stop and think about the situation from the outside. You could do this by looking objectively at the evidence – what is there that actually proves that you’re right to be thinking like this? This has to come from facts and not your own opinion.
Similarly, you can look at your situation externally by asking, what would you say to a friend who was in this situation and thinking like this? For example, if a friend came to you with a stressful event coming up, like a job interview, but said they thought they were too stupid to succeed, would you agree? Probably not.
Why, then, do we get stuck with an inner voice which is so negative, even though no-one else would agree? Be rational and become a friend to yourself and look at your situation from the outside.
5) Get Help
If you find yourself struggling for at least 2 weeks straight, seek help. This is certainly a daunting task. You will have to finally discuss the damaging thoughts and feelings you have had building up for the past few days, weeks, months, or even years.
However, this is one scary thing which could pave the way to a happier, productive life. CBT and other talking therapies can help you start your journey to recovery. When it comes to your assessment, take your time or maybe even write a few bullet points of important things that you want to be heard. You could even take someone with you to help support you. You don’t have to be alone.
There are a few ways in which you can do this. First of all, you can go to your GP and talk to them about how things have been and that you want to know what steps you can take to get help.
If you would prefer to avoid this, or you don’t think your GP is taking you seriously, there are services in which you can self-refer. You can do this by ringing the charity Mind who can connect you through to those services.