How Social Media Breaks Can Reset Your Mental Space
Social media is a great avenue for communication, connection, and entertainment. But it also has its downsides, especially when you spend too much time on it.
In this episode, John explains why it’s important to start the habit of limiting your social media use and setting some boundaries with it. Too much information online will overwhelm you and will take up your mental space.
Your health depends on your habits.
While social media and digital technology offer feel-good content, it’s also best to be reminded that too much of anything good becomes bad.
Discipline comes from you. Living a healthy lifestyle that nurtures your mental health starts by balancing all your essential aspects in life.
3:00 Spending too much time on your phone will change your social life.
4:30 Our minds are full of many different things.
6:10 We are in control of our habits.
11:28 Social media also has negative effects.
13:00 Putting boundaries on social media and digital use depends on you.
14:40 What is a social media diet?
18:35 Focus on the positive aspects of your life.
20:40 There is a difference between being against social media and setting boundaries.
23:30 Give yourself a chance to reset your mental space.
28:20 Reach out to John!
Listen to the Neuroscience of Self-Care Episode of The Mental Health Today Show
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Disclaimer: The Mental Health Today Show is for educational purposes only and should not be interpreted as therapy. If you are seeking therapy, please contact a licensed therapist for help.
We've all been there, right? We've been on our phone way, way too long for too many times. I know I can relate. I know the apple inventors can relate because you know, those little apps that you get that kind of monitors, how long, and how many hours you spend on social media and it pops up automatically to remind you, Hey, you've been on your phone way too long.
[00:00:26] Well, we're gonna be talking about how social media breaks can reset your mental space and why you need to do this on a regular basis. It's good for you. And we'll talk about that coming right up.
[00:00:47] Welcome to the mental health today show my name is John Cordray and I am a licensed therapist and the host of the show. And I'm very glad that you're here. Very excited that you're here. And I, this, this is gonna be [00:01:00] an episode that really hits home for me. So I, I debated do I do an episode and do I reveal in my, my shortcomings too, my blind spots, but this is definitely a topic that I need to be listening.
[00:01:17] As I am speaking and, and that's I find myself thinking that a lot when I'm in a session with a client and I, I can hear myself talking and, and giving some psychosocial psychoeducational information. It's like, oh yeah, I need to do this too. Or maybe I'll admit it in, in the session, and say, you know what?
[00:01:42] I don't have it all together. This is true. And yet it's something I need to work on. So I might say that in our session, cuz I'm not perfect. I'm a therapist been a therapist since well, a long time since 2007 and yet I'm a human being first. [00:02:00] Right. And I have a lot of the things I like to do and interest just like you, and I'm a therapist after I'm a human.
[00:02:08] And so this is, this is one of those human topics that most of us if now all of us face, I remember when my kids were younger and they wanted an. And, it was a battle. My wife and I are like, well, when do we, when do we let our kids have an iPhone or, or actually before iPhones, cell phone. And then, then the iPhones came and I guess I'm dating myself here.
[00:02:40] Then the iPhones came and then wow. It opens up a whole new world. Doesn't. And you have all these apps and you can go on Facebook. You can go on LinkedIn, you can go on Twitter. You can go on all of these different social media apps and watch YouTube right. For your phone. And that is, can be a really good thing.
[00:02:59] It could be [00:03:00] an awesome thing, but it could also be too much of a good thing. You know what I mean? Right. You spend all your time on your phone and then you don't spend enough time with the people around you. Or even you might even be in the same room, but you are on your phone. Your spouse is on their phone.
[00:03:18] Your kids are on their phone and they're doing their thing, playing the game or messaging and texting, or, and you're watching the news or something on your phone. And our phones are tied to our hips, literally. right. We don't go anywhere without 'em. And I know I find myself if I run to the grocery store and I forget my phone's like, oh my word.
[00:03:42] I feel like I left part of me back at home. because it's so much a part of my life. Our cell phones are so much a part of our life and apple and Android are, they're very happy about that. And so I wanted to [00:04:00] talk about how social media breaks. Can actually reset your mental space. And I call it space because our mind is so full of so many different things.
[00:04:17] We have just regular stresses of life. We have work-related stress. We have stress involving our relationships. We have a lot of exciting things going on. So we have a lot of things in our head, in our head space. And so I wanted to talk about how so often we look at social media and we're on it constantly.
[00:04:41] Aren't. Be honest when you get that little popup, I don't know if Android has this, but iPhone has it, the little popup. It monitors how much time you're spending on social media. And let's be honest. How many hours does it show you? Probably a lot [00:05:00] and be honest. How many of you have had a spouse or a friend talk to you about how often you're on yours.
[00:05:10] Probably a lot. I'm raising my hand so I, I, I get it. I relate to you. And I've had clients that really struggle with this and they become addicted to their phone because they always have to check something. Whether it's stocks, they have to check it, whether it's the the housing market, you gotta check it.
[00:05:35] Instant news, instant gratification. We wanna know, we wanna keep up with our friends instantly. As soon as we see a post, we want to comment on it. We wanna like it. We wanna do something. We want things instantly. We're an instant generation and the iPhones are not evil. We can go on social media on our computers.
[00:05:55] So it's not the device, it's us. [00:06:00] right. It's us. We have to be the ones to be able to, to what I call, have an internal boundary with ourselves and, and had clients that really had a hard time with that internal boundary and could not resist and one part particular client in general. He was really wanting to cut back on.
[00:06:22] How much time he spends on social media. So he bought one of those little lock boxes. You know what I mean? Right. The, little box where you open it up and it has a lock on it and you set a time and, and it's locked, it stays locked until the designated time that you set. Then an unlocks. A lot of times people use this for eating.
[00:06:42] Maybe they don't want to binge eat and maybe the cookies is their weakness. And so they lock up the, the cookies in this little lockbox and unlock at a certain time. Well, he got one of those for his phone and he locks his phone up for hours at a time. And he's very much more [00:07:00] productive at work. And he really loves it.
[00:07:04] And then the problem is when it, when it comes, when he UN unlocks it in the evening, now he's making up for lost time. and, and so he's spending a lot more time on it in the, in the evenings. So, I mean, a lockbox can, can help, but really, if you are, what's all of your thinking about is when that lockbox is gonna be unlocked.
[00:07:27] It's not really. Doing any good because it's still taking up mental space in your mind. And social media can be a really really mind filler. It could cause distraction. It could cause our brains to develop an addiction and it releases all the different feel-good hormones. When that happens, we feel good.
[00:07:57] So let's say we go on [00:08:00] Facebook for all you older generation and you're on Facebook and, and you see VI funny videos of dogs or cats who jump when they see a cucumber on the floor. Right. Have you seen those? And they're funny. We can gain so much of the feel, good hormones released by watching social media.
[00:08:24] And that's not a bad thing, but if that's what you rely on, if that's something that you can't do without, then it becomes a problem. And then social media fills your mental space and it crowds out everything else. And what I've seen is that the device itself is really not. It's a, it's a, it's a vessel, right?
[00:08:53] To relay the information for the younger kids for little kids. It's, they're always on a device, right?
[00:09:00] And I'm not here to blame parents at all, but they're always on a device and it, it captures their attention. And you know, how little attention spans that little kids have and an iPad for instance or an iPhone with a game on it can capture a little child's attention.
[00:09:20] Like nothing, no other, I mean, you can give them a phone and they're playing a game and then you can bake some fresh chocolate chip cookies and they wouldn't even bat an. Although I would definitely put the phone down for freshly baked chocolate to chip cookies, for kids they're zeroed in on the game and we're really not much different than kids.
[00:09:45] We're just big kids. And maybe it's not a game. Maybe it's, a video, maybe it's sports, maybe it's Instagram, maybe it's. Twitch or [00:10:00] Twitter or LinkedIn or Facebook or Snapchat. Did I leave anything out? YouTube? And now we can watch TV on our phones. I mean, literally, we can do anything on our phones. and a lot of people, hide behind a mask when they get online.
[00:10:21] And then when that happens, there's a reason, a lot of times, and, and maybe they become trolls. You'd know what a troll is right online. It's someone who comments and they're just jerks online. and then what happens is people who see that, and, and maybe they put up a post, a post of a picture of themselves, maybe a selfie, and a troll would get on there, maybe on Instagram and say something really cruel.
[00:10:52] Like you have terrible eyes or your hair is, looks, looks bad, or, you know, really mean things. [00:11:00] And that can really do a number on someone's mental health. I've talked to many clients that that very thing has happened and they have to either delete the social media app or just take a lot, a long break.
[00:11:21] Because it was affecting their mental health and that's what can happen when you're spending so much time, whether it's a troll or someone just being mean, or maybe it's news. Here's, here's a, a little confession from me. Do you remember back when we first heard about the war in Ukraine? Boy, I was glued to mine.
[00:11:46] It was every day I had to get an update. I wanted to see what was going on. I wanted to see if there were some new pictures or even on Twitter. And I would look to see if there would be either soldiers or civilians posting [00:12:00] and sure enough, they were. And, it captured my attention for a long time, too long.
[00:12:06] And every day I kept looking and throughout the day I kept looking and it filled my mental space. And when our mental space is filled, we don't fill it with other things that are healthy. And so we have to learn to take breaks. You have to put a boundary, you have to tell yourself enough is enough. You have to be your own parent.
[00:12:28] I mean, when our kids were on their phones, when we finally decided that they were old enough to have their own phone, we had to put boundaries on it. And then we had to follow through on those boundaries. It was hard. , it's hard to put boundaries on someone who doesn't want boundaries. right. And it's hard when it's the boundary, it's you with the boundary.
[00:12:50] You're trying to place the boundary on yourself because it's so easy just to say, oh, oh, well, I, I, you know what, I just, another 10 minutes. [00:13:00] And that another 10 minutes turns into a half an hour and a half an hour turns into an hour, and then we can start to justify and rationalize why we're on the phone for so long.
[00:13:12] You gotta set a time and you need someone to keep you accountable. Now, if you're married, you have a built-in accountability partner. You can go to your spouse and say, you know what? I know I am watching way too much on my phone. Even when, when you're sitting down and watching TV. Do you get on your phone?
[00:13:31] I do so now we have two different devices going on at the same time. And that's, that's not good because we're filling our brains, our minds with things that are not necessarily relevant and not necessarily healthy for our mind. We have to take a break. We have to fill our, minds and our mental space with things that are healthy.
[00:13:57] And I'm not saying all social media is
[00:14:00] bad and I'm not saying all devices are bad, not at all, but we have to develop a certain social media diet if you will. Just like you're eating food. I cannot, I want to, but I can't sit down and eat an entire bucket of chocolate chip cookies. Now I, I went to Minnesota a few weeks ago and we were visiting my daughter and, and son-in-law and my granddaughter.
[00:14:27] And we went to Minnesota. Stay fair. It was awesome. It was so many people. It was great. It was fun, and energized. It was excellent. And we come to this little store that's outside and, and this is something that my son-in-law said, we've gotta try the cookies. And he said that they sell cookies by bucket.
[00:14:51] And I said, what? So that was where we went. We went there and we got a bucket. Fresh [00:15:00] chocolate chip cookies and you guys, they were warm. Wow. And we're not, we're just, we're talking. If I, if I can find the picture, I'll put it on the show notes and we're talking about a little bucket. Right. And I think it was four dozen cookies or something like that.
[00:15:18] And it was overflowing. It was not, we couldn't put the lid on because there were so many cookies in it. It was awesome. Loved it. So, I don't know why I get on that tangent, but every time I talk about chocolate chip cookies, that's where my mind goes. so so anyway, we, we, we have so many things that we can do.
[00:15:41] That's more healthy for our mind and not fill it full of oh yeah. The diet. And I may want to eat chocolate chip cookies all the time. Cuz I love them. It's not good for me. And I know that. And so I have a boundary that I have to place on myself [00:16:00] to not eat chocolate chip cookies every day. And some of you may be on your phone.
[00:16:09] And, the phone is a big weakness. Like chocolate chip cookies are to me. And you might have to say no and set hard boundaries on when you're on your phone and when you're on social media. So you can take a break and take a break and do something that's productive in your mind for your mind. And maybe it's going for a walk going outside.
[00:16:32] Maybe it's playing music. Maybe it's an instrument or listening to music and maybe it. Coloring or drawing or doing some kind of artwork. Maybe it's taking photographs. Maybe it's wanting to start a hobby and you haven't done a hobby in a long time, but you might spend hours on your phone. What if you put your phone down for a while and start a new hobby?
[00:16:55] That's amazing, starting new things and developing those [00:17:00] those different things in your brain, then, feel-good chemicals in your brain, and it creates new neuro pathways in your brain. It makes you feel better. But when you're constantly on social media and you hear all the bad news, when I was watching the news about Ukraine, it was all negative, nothing.
[00:17:18] There was very, very little positive. It was mostly negative. and that really, I notice it really affecting my mood and that can happen if you're on. And, and, and you're a news junkie and you're watching the news and maybe you go with several different news sites. It could really get you down because of most of the news that's out there.
[00:17:41] It's negative. I guess. That's what brings in the ratings. It's there's a lot more positive news going around in your life. All you gotta do is look around and some of you need to put your phone down right [00:18:00] now or not right now because you're listening to this probably on your phone, but after this, and maybe you need to make a plan and maybe you need to write it down and maybe you need to make a personal mission statement.
[00:18:12] And on your personal mission statement is yours. Mission to reduce the amount of social media that you consume every day. And then you tell somebody whether it's your spouse or a friend, somebody to help hold you accountable and what happens. Not only if that these being on social media all the time can distract you and, and could eat away at the hours that you spend each day.
[00:18:43] It could actually have a negative effect on your brain. And when you are having that negative effect on your brain constantly all the time, then you, your just your interest goes down, your mood levels go [00:19:00] down. You might be more irritable. It does affect us. What we consume affects us, whether it's bad food, like chocolate chip cookies, or if it's alcohol or drugs, what we consume is BA can be bad for us.
[00:19:17] It could really cause a lot of problems. It could cause problems in our brains. And so social media that we consume can cause a lot of bad things for our brains as. Now, remember I'm not against social media, I'm not against phones. I love them. I love it all. I'm using social media right now, technically because I have a podcast, I use social media and I've been using social media to promote mental health, and I love it, but I also know there's a negative side to it.
[00:19:54] And so I'm not anti-social media at all or anti. Phones. [00:20:00] It's just the opposite. I just wanna make sure we all, including me, can develop some healthy boundaries around that so we can have a life outside of social media. we can actually have a life outside of being online. And I don't know about you, but I'm online a lot now because I am a hundred percent remote.
[00:20:22] And so my job is. And I do a lot online. And so there's gotta be a time where I go offline. And my goal is to have more of life offline than I do online. And so I really value my weekends. I value my evenings and as much as I can, I'm go out and, and doing something. I talked about a different episode on self-care the neuroscience of self-care.
[00:20:52] And one of the things that my wife and I do on a regular basis now is go on a bike ride. Love it. It's a great way to get [00:21:00] away from being on social media and just going outside and enjoying the great outdoors. So if, if you struggle or maybe you have a loved one that struggles, or maybe a child that struggles about being on social media, just too long, you've gotta come up with breaks and boundaries.
[00:21:21] And if you're the one that's gonna set it for yourself, then you've gotta follow through on that. And I get it. Having willpower can be hard with something that you really love. If you were to set a bucket of chocolate chip cookies in front of me, it would be hard for me to resist that. And yet, that would be one of the most healthy things that I could do.
[00:21:49] And so I get it. I know how hard it can be to take breaks, but I want you to realize that it's for your good it's for your health, and what [00:22:00] you want to see, the instant news or the instant, whatever it's on social media, it could wait. It could wait, and if it can't wait, then it doesn't deserve your time.
[00:22:12] And so it really comes down to what you value. Do you value really value your time or do you want to waste your time? Again, I'm not against social media, but if you're on it for hours at a time, that might be an issue. You could be doing something else. And so I'm wanting, to encourage you to take breaks from social media to give yourself a chance to reset your mental space.
[00:22:46] And when you're not consuming social media, then you can consume something else. That's more healthy. When was the last time you actually sat down and wrote a hand letter, handwritten [00:23:00] letter to somebody, maybe a thank you card and your hand written wrote it and said, thank you. And you wrote some sentences and, and then you mailed it.
[00:23:10] When was the last time you did that? Well, then maybe that's something that you can start doing again, maybe it's time that there are some things that we go back to the basics. Technology is great. I love technology. In fact, I would consider myself a technology nerd, but sometimes just going back to the basics and handwriting a letter or doing something simple, that's not digitized.
[00:23:39] That could be a really, really healthy thing for our brains and gives us something to look forward to. It creates new pathways in our brains. To just help us feel better and all those feel-good chemicals in our brain, the hormones can be [00:24:00] all put to use all of 'em at the same time when we do things like that when we're not just soaking in the social media passively, but when we are actively doing something, all of our feel-good hormones can be activated.
[00:24:15] And when that happens, Ooh, it feels good. Right. Your, overall mood rises. And that's what I want you to work on. I want you to be thinking about that. So if you spend a little too long on social media, I want you to, I want you to make a personal mission statement, whether you write it down or you just well, I would write you write it down.
[00:24:39] Actually. I was gonna say, just remember it, memorize it, but. Sometimes we forget it. Maybe we even put it on your, on your phone and maybe put it on as a reminder to get your, to, to get off the phone. But that's something that you're gonna have to be thinking [00:25:00] through. And, if you're a parent and you're wanting your child or children to not spend as much time maybe you need to tell them, okay, here are the boundaries.
[00:25:10] And if you cross the boundaries, then we're gonna collect the phones until tomorrow. And then we'll start over again. Or maybe part of the boundaries is that you collect their phones at bedtime, so they cannot take them into the bedroom. And in fact, I would recommend that if they're young, teenagers are younger to collect their phones overnight, they're your kids have no business being online at night.
[00:25:39] And there's a whole host of reasons why that. And so I think that's a great practice to instill. They're not gonna like it when you set a boundary, they're not gonna like it, but it's, you know, as a parent, that's what they need and follow through with that. Don't give in and follow through with the boundaries that [00:26:00] you place with yourself.
[00:26:02] Turn, your phone completely off. Turn it over. Maybe some of you might have to get a lock box and put it in and lock it up, but do something to take the breaks from social media. So you can reset your mental space. And I want you to do that. And I want you to do that. For 30 days you might be thinking what 30 days.
[00:26:28] That's a long time. It is a long time, but I want you to develop healthy habits. With your social media use and 30 days is a good amount of time consistently over and over again, repetition every day for 30 days, you set yourself a break where you set the phone down, you shut the computer. You're not going online to look on social media and there's a time period throughout the day and evening that you're not.[00:27:00]
[00:27:00] And not only are you not online, but you're also doing something completely different offline. And I want you to develop that habit for 30 days and when 30 days come and you really see a difference, not 30 days, I want you to reach out to me and I want you to say, and you can all right. Here's the ironic thing you can reach out to me on Twitter.
[00:27:24] Or on social media, isn't that funny? But when you're not taking a break, right maybe you're, it's on a healthy time and you gave your budget your time. I want you to reach out to me and tell me, Hey John, I did the 30-day challenge and I ha set boundaries and I didn't go on social media as much.
[00:27:41] And now I have a new habit. I want you to tell me that I would love to know that. Because this is something that really affects all of us, doesn't it? And it's definitely something that affects me. And so so the, so going back to the chocolate chip cookies and at the Minnesota state fair, it [00:28:00] was wonderful, there were too many of them.
[00:28:01] I ate too much too many cookies. But it took us several days, but by the time my wife and I flew back, To St. Louis, we got, we ate all the cookies. now to be fair, they were small. But I had my fair share of them, for sure. So I want you to be thinking about what is it that you are and what's your weakness.
[00:28:22] If it's not chocolate chip cookies maybe it's social media. And if it's so social media, you gotta set those boundaries. So you can develop a healthy space, a healthy mental space. Well, I'm gonna let you go. I've been talking a lot about this. It is a passion of mine. I, as I said, I do love social media, but there's also there's a time when it's too much.
[00:28:44] And when it's too much or a couple overflows with the wrong things. And so we've gotta look at our life. We have to reset and reevaluate and do more of what is good for us and do less of [00:29:00] what is bad for us. It's kind of that simple, but it's not easy to actually follow through on that. Well, I hope you're encouraged.
[00:29:09] I want you to continue to work on your mental health and as always the mental health today show has been championing your mental health since 2015. Take care. Bye bye.