Is Instagram good for my mental health?

This is a question I have often asked myself. As someone that suffers from social anxiety you would think that there are many aspects of Instagram, and social media in general, that would exacerbate my anxieties, but they don’t. In fact, I have learnt to use platforms like Instagram to help me with my anxiety & depression.

But this hasn’t always been the case. I have had a love/hate relationship with Instagram for as long as I can remember. I would go through periods of loving the interaction, posting everyday, doing lots of stories and generally embracing everything Instagram has to offer. Other days however I would feel like I was addicted to it. Constantly checking my likes and comments on new posts, wondering why a certain post didn’t get as many likes as previous posts. I would spend an eternity trying to take the ‘perfect’ photo and get frustrated when it inevitably didn’t happen. I would start to doubt whether it was worth my time & energy trying to get more followers and I’d ask myself ‘what’s the point?’. So definitely a love/hate relationship.

So what changed?  

Well, my mindset changed. My attitude towards Instagram changed. My expectations & goals changed. There were two main aspects I had to confront and change…

 

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‘Comparison is the thief of joy’

 

  1. Stop comparing myself to others. ‘Comparison is the thief of joy’ as the saying goes. And with Instagram, comparison can very quickly lead to self-doubt, anxiety & a feeling of uselessness and failure.  It’s easy to forget that Instagram is a ‘shop window’ to someones life. Most people only show what they want you to see, so in effect, you are comparing yourself to a lie. I follow many different people from many different backgrounds, and I love the fact that everyone is different! Everyone has different lives, different attitudes, different outlooks. I’ve used the word ‘different’ a few times there on purpose. Everyone’s life is different, not necessarily better, or worse, just different.
  2. Forgetting about the stats and focus on interaction. Instagram is about interaction. It’s about likes, comments, chatting, making friends, providing help & support, keeping in touch and so much more. I used to purely look at how many followers I had (or lost) and how many likes I was receiving, which is all well & good if those numbers are in a upwards trend but that’s not always going to be the case. Inevitably the numbers aren’t going to meet your expectations and that’s when the self-doubt kicks in and you start asking yourself questions. These days I focus on chatting to people, interacting on posts, building up good relationships with people. And you’ll find that if you put the effort into interacting with people, your numbers will look after themselves.

 

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Whilst stats are important, they shouldn’t be the primary focus

The above points don’t happen overnight. It took a long time to change my mindset and even now I will sometimes feel myself slipping back into how I used to feel. But through practice and experience I’ve learnt to notice the early signs and make sure they don’t continue to grow.

Now it’s all well and good trying not to compare yourself to other accounts but sometimes it’s almost impossible to do! In these cases you need to be true to yourself and unfollow accounts that make you feel this way! 512x512bbThis may mean having a cleanse of accounts that make you feel down and accounts that have no positive benefit to you. The whole idea is that you follow accounts that you enjoy looking at. Maybe you have something in common, maybe you really like the photos they post, maybe they make you laugh. Accounts that are irrelevant and have the potential to make you anxious of self conscious are no good to anyone so ditch them! This will also make your interactions a lot more meaningful!

 

Why I use Instagram

I use Instagram as a therapy tool. A way of expressing myself and my feelings. In real life I have many traits of an introvert. I find social situations exhausting and uncomfortable. I find it hard talking to people if I believe that they won’t really understand me, or empathise with me. But online, I can connect to thousands of people via a phone screen and still feel in complete control because they’re not all standing in front of me. The people that don’t understand, or don’t care, will probably ignore it but the few that do will interact with me and they are the important ones. The few that say, ‘I understand’, or ‘I feel the same’, they are the ones that make it worthwhile.

Instagram has given me a platform to talk about my mental health. Again, I feel comfortable being open & honest because I’m talking to people via a screen. Talking helps me and I have received many messages from other people thanking me for my honesty and openness, so it helps other people too. Imagine it as a therapy session of like minded people but instead of a few people sitting in a room, there are potentially thousands of people who know exactly where you’re coming from and can understand!

I love Instagram now. I know why I use it and what I get out of it. I know what makes me happy and what doesn’t. Instagram can be many things for different people so it’s important to know what it is for you.

Happy scrolling everyone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Therapy is…

Therapy is…what? I did a feature on instagram recently, spurred on by a post about spending 10 minutes looking at the seaview at my local beach. I just stood there, listening to the sound of the waves, feeling the cool breeze on my face & smelling the salty sea air. It was a moment of pure calmness. It was therapeutic. All around me just faded away into insignificance. It was wonderful. So I did a feature for my followers called ‘Therapy is…’.

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Therapy is ‘treatment intended to relieve or heal a disorder’. I think we’ll all agree with that. Obviously, the treatment is usually talking to a professional, in a room, on a chair or couch.

But therapy can mean so many different things for different people in their day to day lives and I wanted to find out more about that from my followers.

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Therapy is…simple pleasures like playing on the beach.

Here are a few comments I received:

  • ‘I’m happy with a stream or river, surrounded by trees, grasses and a bit of wildlife’
  • ‘Therapy for me is any moment I can shut off and be in my head for a little while’
  • ‘Running is my therapy’
  • ‘The sea is calming and my kind of therapy’
  • ‘Exercise, either at the gym or walking’
  • ‘Therapy is either the water or the mountains!’
  • ‘For me it can be as simple as cuddles with my child on the sofa’
  • ‘Indulging in my favourite treat, some me time and a good ol’ cuddle of your loved ones’

Is amazing how many people say that being outdoors is their kind of therapy. Whether that’s by the sea, in the mountains or in a forest. I think being outdoors can put things in perspective. Most of us are consumed by our day to day lives and routines which for me is sitting in an office for 8 hours a day so getting outside, breathing in the air and taking in the view really is therapy for me.

It seems that therapy for most people is the small things, the hugs from loved ones, indulging in a favourite treat, exercising. It’s recognising the things that make us happy or make us a better person and continuing to do them.

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It’s all about the little moments in life. Like reading a book with your kids

I have had therapy, I’ve sat in a room and talked to a therapist and it has benefited me massively. Talking to a professional makes you understand why you feel the way you do or why you think the way you think. They can provide the answers to a lot of questions.  But in our everyday lives we need to take responsibility of our own therapy and we need to do what makes us happy.
I make an effort to have some ‘me time’ everyday. It could be going for a walk, sitting in a quiet room for 10 minutes, getting up 15 minutes earlier than usual so I can sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee before getting ready for work. It’s those moments that help me get through the day. Like I said, it’s the little things.

Why don’t you have a think? What is therapy to you?