Mind Matters – Try strolling instead of scrolling

Tucked in amongst all the latest terrible news streams this week was a reference to something called ‘Doomscrolling’. I assumed that this was something newly created by an eager journalist to attract the attention of an exhausted audience of stressed readers already wondering about the state of their mental health. However a Google search showed that I was late to this phenomenon and that since it’s creation other people had come forward with the potential antidote of ‘Joyscrolling’.

Doomscrolling is a term referring to the activity of scrolling through bad news and seems to have originated during the pandemic. Lockdowns and the need for information of course meant that there was a huge increase in time spent online and exposure to bad news. Research studies showed an impact on people’s wellbeing with an increased incidence of depression and anxiety.

Some Doomscrollers also reported a benefit from being online, sharing their experiences of how they were able to connect with others. Other research suggested that Doomscrolling might even reduce anxiety because there is the potential for some relief reading about terrible things happening elsewhere if you are in a safe environment yourself.

Joyscrolling is about scrolling through good news and looking online for things that can lift your mood. Of course these terms are loved by marketing departments and Visit Iceland, claiming that we scroll online through 22.7 metres of information each day and producing its own 22.7 metre Joyscroll.

I tried the Joyscroll and whilst it made me smile, being absorbed in images and sounds of nature, animals, music, art and smiling relaxed people I noticed that in my happiness there was also sadness. My experience of Joyscrolling was different to Doomscrolling but I was left wondering whether it was really a better thing to do with my time?

In therapy we are always looking to deepen understanding of how life is experienced and as we do so a complex mix of often contradictory sensations, feelings and thoughts are revealed that leads us to revisit previously held assumptions around things, people, places that we had considered as either good or bad. We are so prone to getting stuck in our thinking so that over time our thoughts become more of a hindrance than a help.

It is our language and the way we use it that tends to require us to divide things in life between good and bad with the things themselves rather than the experience of them apparently being given most weight.

For example, it is usual to hear people say something like ‘Jay at number five is a miserable so and so’ but much less likely to hear ‘I’ve met Jay at number 5 twice and on both occasions I looked at him but he did not meet my eyes. Feeling disappointed and dejected I came away thinking that he is a miserable person’.

The importance of this being that when we look at things in this way it is easy to spot that Jay being a ‘miserable so and so’ is one of many possibilities.

With these thoughts I was reminded that there was a much more valuable question I could be asking; what do I want to experience? When I asked myself this the thought of going out for a walk came to mind. Instead of sitting indoors trying to decide what to look at online I realised that what I really wanted was to get out for a walk.

Being from a smallish country town, I associate walking with fresh air, nature, wildlife and moments of joy and satisfaction coming from the occasional exchanging smiles with people I know and those I don’t. Walking around Chiswick can at times feel to me like that small country town, because sometimes I am able to exchange a smile, to have small fleeting moments of what I think of as communion.

An experience where being in the world together brings a brief but powerful feeling of connection, warmth, care and of a desire for things to be ok. Therefore meaning that everything is really ok.

Of course our context is so important to acknowledge. We have been through a period of time when other people were potential carriers of illness and now we are witnessing war and it can naturally feel safest to stay away and stay home. We are now so used to the technology that it is at least dependable. But an experience of ‘communion?’ it is not. So if you catch yourself scrolling ask yourself ‘what do I really want to be experiencing right now?’ and maybe your equivalent to my strolling will reveal itself to you too?

Nicholas Rose
Psychotherapist, Counsellor, Couples Counsellor and Coach

UKCP registrant, MBACP (accred), UKRCP
PGDip, MA, Adv Dip Ex Psych

Nicholas Rose & Associates
Counselling, psychotherapy and coaching for children, adults, couples and families.

nicholas-rose.co.uk

Read more blogs by Nicholas Rose

Read the next in the series – Finding friendship in Chiswick

Read the previous one – Venturing out in storm Eunice

See all Nicholas’s Mind Matters blogs here

Read a profile of Nicholas here

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