Minding Your Mind: How to avoid doomscrolling

Two people on their phones looking concerned

Covid, climate, war in Ukraine. An unholy trio of pain and distress and fear for the future. How can we set ourselves to think about these things, to gather information and yet to stay in a place of calm, rather than sinking into a black hole of hopelessness and dread? One answer is to stop ‘doomscrolling’.


Such a strong word to describe the way that social media sucks us in and keeps us clicking from one source of bad news to another, triggering more and more adrenaline as we go. We need to remember that our brilliant brains (and they are brilliant) are set up to be hyperaware of safety. Newsfeeds, apps and social media are deliberately designed to generate our fear and anxiety, to stimulate the evolutionary dimension that is always checking, looking for reassurance but rarely finding it.  And all to make sure that we keep clicking, keep showing up, keep generating revenue for the advertisers and tech behemoths.

Triggering our adrenaline all day long, and well into the night. Turning us all into doomscrollers. Unless we don’t allow it. Unless we choose carefully where to place our attention, becoming knowingly aware of the purposeful seduction of negative news feeds and setting strong limits on how often and when we check in with our apps and sites.

Deliberate dopamine

We think best in the absence of adrenaline and in the presence of the brain chemistry that encourages connection between our brain cells: dopamine, serotonin, even the big mama that is oxytocin.

We can deliberately promote these by choosing to do simple things like focusing on what’s going well, reading over professional testimonials and kind words from friends, keeping happy photos close by, walking in nature and really noticing growth and beauty, listening to music with our full attention, cooking new foods, painting, drawing… There is a long list of activities that we can choose deliberately that help us to balance our brains and physiology, to generate calm rather than confusion.

We have to actively resist the siren call of this stuff and know that it is designed specifically to keep pulling us back. We can set our own limits and save our time, as well as anxiety. We can choose. And then we can act, get involved and make clear decisions about the agency we really do have, being useful, purposeful and helpful in the face of all that is happening.

Or, as Karen Walrond says in this podcast with Brene Brown, if we lose our way to joy and connection the bad guys win.

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