Brain Featured Mental health Wellness

Why taking a break from social media can be good for your health

Woman in bed looking at smart phone.
Written by Jennifer Palisoc

How much time do you spend on social media?

Whether it’s checking your Facebook feed or scrolling through Instagram, there’s no shortage of “stuff” to look at, and it can be easy to lose track of time. Before you know it, 10 minutes of your day — or sometimes way more minutes than you care to admit —are lost forever, thanks to social media.

Breaking up with social media

If you’ve ever felt like taking a social media time out, you’re not alone.

Even social media sensations themselves need a digital detox. Toronto-native YouTube star Lilly Singh announced her decision to take a break from social media and focus on mental health. Over the years, several celebrities have also quit various social media platforms for reasons ranging from too many negative comments or being harassed, hackers or publicity stunts, or just needing a little (or a lot) more privacy.

Why a digital detox can be a good thing

“Taking a break from anything can provide needed time for critical reflection,” says Dr. Jeremy Rezmovitz, a family physician at Sunnybrook. “We can enhance our lives and learning through real world experiences, and by taking the time to think and reflect on our feelings.”

Less time on social media can also help you connect more with people face-to-face.

“Engaging with others, in person, fulfills our senses wholly; it fulfills our needs to physically feel, hear, see, touch and smell,” Dr. Rezmovitz says. “These are primal components to living life fully.”

So, how do you know it’s time to take a time-out from social media?

Dr. Rezmovitz recommends asking yourself these questions: Is social media a problem in my life? Why would I need to take a break? Do I need to turn it off completely, or just turn it down?

The benefits of taking a break from social media

Taking time off of social media, he adds, means freeing up your time for other activities that are good for both brain and body:

  1. Mindfulness: being aware of your thoughts and feelings, and being present in the moment
  2. Movement: when people are online, they’re often sitting and sedentary. It’s great to get up and move!
  3. Opportunity to experience nature
  4. More time to learn about yourself
  5. More time to sleep

Catching more ZZZs with less social media

“If an individual is experiencing stress, anxiety or strong emotions in the context of social media use, this could also impact their ability to fall asleep,” says Dr. Mark Boulos, a Sunnybrook neurologist and sleep specialist.

Ever scroll through your phone in bed when you should be going to sleep? That could mean not getting enough sleep at night, and that can have an impact on overall health.

“Poor quality sleep could lead to lead to poor energy levels and fatigue throughout the day,” Dr. Boulos explains. “Chronically poor sleep is linked with health consequences such as obesity, motor vehicle collisions, and in the worst case scenarios: stroke, heart attack, or early death.”

To help get a better night’s rest, “We generally encourage people to avoid use of electronic screens in the time leading up to bedtime as this could lead to difficulty falling asleep,” says Dr. Boulos. “Taking a break from social media could help improve sleep by reducing anxiety levels.”

Taking some time away or limiting technology can help boost a person’s mental and physical health. It’s a great way to find more time for yourself and to get more of those lost minutes back — just one of the many benefits of taking a break from social media.

About the author

Jennifer Palisoc

Jennifer Palisoc is a Communications Advisor at Sunnybrook.

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