The past year has redefined the meaning of ‘busy doing nothing’. Between lockdowns, cancelled holidays, and exercise limitations, people have flocked to social media to divert their attention away from the adversity that 2020 brought. This year is looking slightly more optimistic, bringing hope that we can return to a near-to-normal existence sometime soon. The opportunity to reinvigorate our lives and prepare for the year ahead must be taken now. Plan the year ahead and put down your mobile phone, and the benefits will flow. If you’re dragging yourself through hours of TikTok, Facebook, and Instagram every day, find out why you need to stop social media and re-join the real world in 2021.
The damage of social media
The effects of social media on our mental health is known. Our favourite apps are often fuel for anxiety, depression, and isolation. This is because the feeling of getting a notification or like can release dopamine to the brain. This drug creates a happy feeling, similar to food, drugs, or gambling. While in the short term this happy feeling may be considered positive, over the long term the need to get this dopamine fix increases. We become addicted to social media, desiring the next like or retweet. Over time, it becomes difficult to get the same satisfaction from anything else other than our phones.
The same satisfaction can be created through alternative and healthier methods, such as education, exercise, and social interactions. Although some of these aspects are limited by social restrictions and stay-at-home instructions, there are some positive virtual alternatives to social interaction. Plus, we can plan activities for when life returns to normal.
Using our time for something better
Did you know that the average Brit spends 110 minutes on social media every day? This means that every year, we spend nearly a month dedicated to our online lives. Ask yourself if you want to dedicate a full month to scrolling through Facebook. At the same time, there are a variety of better activities you could be doing.
If you’re looking forward to a holiday in 2021, you could become a ski instructor over a four-week course. Education, exercise, and adventure are key to recreating the dopamine feeling that social media demands. With the added benefit of adrenaline, this is certainly a more productive use of your time than sitting on your phone. Even more, this is an opportunity to get away when life returns to normal.
You can prepare yourself for this adventure by beginning an exercise regime. Despite gyms being closed for a portion of 2020 and at the start of this new year, alternatives such as yoga and running are vital for your mental health and will make giving up social media easier. Exercise releases chemicals called endorphins which relieve pain and reduce anxiety. They also create a happy feeling similar to morphine, making sure that your start to 2021 is as positive as possible. The long-term benefits of exercise are more than that of social media.
Staying in touch
Social media cannot replace real social interactions. Though these are presently limited, there are better ways to stay in touch with the real world. Video calls with friends, although virtual, are the best alternative to seeing your friends during the pandemic. The beauty of video calls is that it allows you to see a face, interact with your friends, and practice real verbal communication while protecting yourself, your friends, and everyone’s families.
There are also opportunities to volunteer, which can help take time away from social media antics. The Office for National Statistics has measured that Brits spend on average one hour and seven minutes a day completing unpaid work such as care or volunteering. There are opportunities across the country to help those in need, particularly during the lockdown and colder months. Shopping for elderly neighbours is one simple way to help out and makes a real difference in the world, something which is more difficult to do on social media.
While the start of 2021 hasn’t been all too exciting, we can plan for a productive year ahead. This starts by ditching social media to help your mental and physical health, your social life, and your community. Whether you want to take on an adventurous course or volunteer for a noble cause, the new year is the best time to dedicate yourself to becoming a better version of yourself.