Katie Hoare

Katie Hoare from Counselling Directory and Happiful, who are supporting #ScrollFreeSeptember with their #ScrollControl campaign, details eight healthy substitutes for endless social media scrolling.

Relationships, emotional wellbeing, down time and many other areas of our lives can be negatively impacted by our inability to control our scroll, particularly when using social media. With the likes of phubbing and nomophobia, interaction with our mobile phone has changed dramatically. The evolution of technology, Pam Custers, relationship and couples counselling therapist explains, can negatively impact our lifestyle. “On average we spend three hours a day on the phone, whilst before the smartphone it was eighteen minutes! 

“It’s not the mobile phones so to speak, it’s about how we use them, and really we just haven't kept up with the technology in the terms of our wellbeing and understanding how to manage a mobile phone. It’s about understanding how the mobile phone can impact us. A huge amount of money is spent on designing apps to keep us engrossed, and we have to learn some techniques on how to deal with that.” 

With ‘scroll hole’ (mindlessly scrolling for hours) on the rise, now is the time to ask yourself if a break from your phone might be important. So here are eight alternatives to help you curb your scroll hole.

1. Journal

Pam notes that often “the first thing we look at or the last thing we see at night is not our partner’s face but our phone.” When you wake, instead of checking in on a brand on Instagram, try picking up a journal and writing one sentence. It could be: what you are grateful for that day, one thing that makes you happy or one thing you want to achieve that day. Whatever it is, keep it simple, positive and enjoyable.  

2. Occupy your hands

Smokers often comment that part of breaking their habit is keeping their hands busy when absent of a cigarette. Similar to smoking, scrolling needs your hands to operate. Try keeping your hands busy with an alternative activity such as knitting, sewing, gardening, even invest in a fidget spinner or classic rubix cube, specifically designed to keep your fussy fingers at bay. 

Pam explains that when we pick our phones up for a quick look, an hour can suddenly go by. This can be described as the Ludic loop, which mimics the feeling of addiction. “This loop is a neurological pathway that when we do something, for example scroll and keep scrolling, it makes us feel really relaxed and calm, and switches us off.  We’ve seen this exact same neurological loop when people are using slot machines.  And so if we scroll for hours, it’s really going to destabilise our lives.”

3. People watch

We often find ourselves reaching for our phones if we’re having a coffee with a friend, and they pop to the bathroom. Or when we’re waiting at the bus stop, or at the hairdressers. What’s interesting about that, is you’re looking at people and digesting content through your screen, when the real deal is right in front of you. People watching can be highly therapeutic and fascinating to watch human interaction, if anything, it can offer comfort, confirming that you are not alone in this world.

4. Try mindfulness 

Part of the worrying factor of scrolling, is that we do it mindlessly, without paying attention to what content we are absorbing and for how long we have been scrolling. Stopping for five minutes and practising mindfulness brings you into the here and now, allowing you to focus on the breath and give yourself a little headspace. Some dedicated relaxation time can be a simple activity to break a scrolling session, and the negative cycle. When or if you return your phone, you may find yourself more in tune with your scroll choices and using your phone a little more mindfully.

5. Give your hands a treat

Hold your hands, palm towards your body in front of you, and put the tips of your little fingers together. You might notice little curved indents just above the side of the knuckle. That’s where your phone sits comfortably, and may have become a little more pronounced since the rise of screen time. Instead of scrolling, give yourself a little hand massage. 

6. Print a few of your favourite photos

These days we often use our mobiles as photo albums, but rarely get the chance to go back through the thousands of photos we have taken. Switch your social media scrolling to photo scrolling and pick out five or six images from your photo album. Pop to your local Boots, or use a photo printing app to get your photos delivered straight to your door. You can enjoy picking out photo frames or simply tack the photos up around your house, so your home is filled with images of the people (and pets!) you love the most. 

7. Do it IRL (in real life)

Along your Insta scrolling travels, you will have seen some beautiful scenery and impressive buildings: so bring those to life. Once a month, whatever is realistic for you, dedicate your Sunday to getting outside and visiting those places you hit like on. Sunsets are free, and they are yours for the taking. 

8. Treat yourself to designated scroll-time

If you enjoy scrolling and can keep it at bay, use this time as a treat. Limit yourself to half an hour a day, that way you can ensure you actually use your phone in a healthy way, looking at content you enjoy and actively seek. You can set a timer on your phone, or apply restrictions via the settings of your most troublesome apps to limit mindless scrolling.

On a final note, Pam details the best way to manage your phone time and real life relationships, is by setting healthy, realistic boundaries. “Work out exactly when you are and when you’re not going to use your phone; have a phone free bedroom or a phone free room so you know when you are in there, you’re going to be communicating face to face and giving your loved one your full attention.”