Social media can be a positive space for your mental health if you let it, here’s how

No longer shiny new toys of the internet, social media platforms and how we interact with them are being put under the microscope. There’s a growing body of research looking at the affects of social media on our mental health and a growing number of people taking social media breaks to preserve their mental well-being. From prompting insecurities about the way we look, causing us to devalue our own accomplishments, or giving us a classic case of FOMO, the mindless scrolling we do every day can take a toll and it’s important that we pay attention to how we’re being affected.

Rachelle Strauss, health and wellness coach and co-founder of the U.K.-based Health and Wellness Grid, has been doing her worksince 1996. Ever since the introduction of social media, she says she’s noticed her clients becoming more “fragmented” with their attention scattered.

"That's what social media does, it pulls us in so many different directions and it bombards us with so much information that we're just really overwhelmed...People now are just generally more stressed or more anxious or just not coping with whatever life is throwing at them," Strauss says.

But for many of us, quitting social media entirely isn’t a realistic goal. So in order to stay online in a way that’s healthier for our overall well-being, we have to work to regain control. In a 2019 study on the effects of social media use on mental health, the findings suggest that routine use of social media channels may not be detrimental as long as we’re mindful in the way we go about it. Strauss agrees that mindfulness is key, explaining that it’s important to do things to “bring yourself back into the present” when using social media.

Set a timer

To start: Go in with a plan. Strauss suggests setting a timer when you plan to look at social media. That way it’s easier to avoid getting sucked in, suddenly realizing that you’ve been scrolling for two hours or that you’re so far deep on the house tours autoplay videos that you’ve made it to the C-list celebrities you don’t even know.

Monitor your body and feelings

No matter what your kryptonite content is, we’ve all been there, and it can be hard to return back to reality once you’ve fallen done the rabbit hole. That’s why basic mindfulness practices can be helpful to keep ourselves from putting on the blinders and disconnecting. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of paying attention to the way your mind and body are feeling.

"Just notice what's happening. Are your shoulders tight? How's your neck feeling? Are you squinting? Can you actually feel your feet on the floor? Can you feel your bottom on the chair? And how are you feeling? Are you feeling anxious? Or are you feeling relaxed 'cause you've just looked at a cute cat video or are you feeling stressed because you've just watched stuff about coronavirus or whatever it is at the moment?" Strauss says.

Counter your negative self-talk

Strauss also offered two different approaches for countering the negative self-talk that social media can sometimes evoke. There’s the cognitive behavioral therapy methods that works to change destructive patterns of thinking: “Come up with three positive things about yourself, and they don’t need to be related [to the content that’s bothering you], it could be anything like, ‘I’m really creative at cooking in the kitchen,’ ‘I’m really kind and I notice things that other people don’t notice,’ just anything like that,” Strauss says.

Then, there’s the emotional freedom technique, also referred to as “tapping:” “You tap certain points on your body and you repeat phrases,” she explains. “So you’d say, ‘Even though I feel really anxious because I’m not [this or that] I’m choosing to accept myself,’…and it starts to shift the energy, and it sounds absolutely bizarre, but it can be incredible. And within about five minutes you can just take the edge off those really harsh emotions and you can start to see things with a different and more positive perspective.”

Ultimately, practicing mindfulness and intention with your social media use also involves being more in control of the content that’s on your screen. Once you’re more in tune with the way certain content, people, or accounts are making you feel, you can work to curate your feed by getting rid of (unfollowing, blocking, muting) the stuff that causes you distress, and holding on to the stuff that empowers you.

So in the spirit of being more mindful and curating our social media feeds to have a more positive impact on our mental health, we wanted to share the social media accounts that make us smile, remind us to be kind to ourselves, inspire us to keep moving, and combat the stuff that gets us down. Below, see our editors’ favorite social media accounts to follow and find out why.

Positive social media accounts to follow:

1Alexandra Elle, @alex_elle

“I first came across the work of Alexandra Elle, an author and wellness consultant, from her podcast Hey, Girl, a show about sisterhood and storytelling that is a must-listen. Her feed is full of aesthetically pleasing ‘notes to self’ and pastel shaded mantras about being patient with your pain, honoring your self-worth, and setting your own boundaries. Every time a post of hers comes up in my feed, it’s a breath of fresh air; a reminder that self-care is not about yoga and green juices and meditation, but about recognizing the journey you’re on everyday and about cherishing your relationship with yourself before shifting your energy to others.” —Hayley Mason, Editorial Director

2Jennifer Aniston, @jenniferaniston

“If you’re not currently one of Jennifer Aniston’s 29.5 million followers, you’re seriously missing out. Her posts are a great mix of adorable childhood throwbacks, red carpet glamour shots, and selfies with famous pals, but what I love most about Jen’s page is the comments other A-listers leave on each post. From Mindy Kaling to Laura Dern, Reese Witherspoon to Selena Gomez, it feels there’s not a celeb out there who doesn’t regularly comment ‘this is gorgeous!!’ or ‘OMG you’re an icon’ on Jen’s posts. It’s proof that Jen isn’t just loved by fans, but by her fellow celebrities, and it’s incredibly sweet to see.” —Rachel Simon, Deputy Editor

3WeRateDogs, @weratedogs

“It may seem inconsequential, an account dedicated to faux rankings of dogs, but WeRateDogs is one of the only Instagram feeds that’s consistently positive, both in captions and in the comments section. If you aren’t up to speed on what the ‘h*ck’ is going on here, WeRateDogs gives user-submitted dog photos a rating, on a scale of 1 to 10—but they’re always rated above 10. Because all dogs are good dogs. The account also takes up causes of sick or rescued dogs and has helped to raise thousands of dollars for their care—often fully funding the requested amounts in less than a half an hour. It’s really just a shining light of an Instagram account.” —Caitlin White, News Editor

4The Happy Broadcast, @the_happy_broadcast

“During a time where it seems like the whole world is falling apart, this Instagram account highlights all of the positive things happening globe-wide. Instead of stressing out over politics, global warming, and the coronavirus, this IG account reminds me that there is so much good in the world, which makes me so happy. It’s a nice-place oasis in the middle of a negative news world, and it makes me smile. Plus, the illustrations are super cute. ” —Pia Velasco, Senior Fashion & Beauty Editor

5Jamie Beck, @annstreetstudio

“I’ve been following Jamie Beck for years. She’s a photographer who was originally based in NYC, but within the past couple of years has recently moved to Provence, France to fulfill her dream of living in France. Now, she has a baby named Eloise and her images of her and her baby makes my day. And it’s incredibly refreshing to hear how honest she is about motherhood and the challenges she has faced along the way. (Plus, it doesn’t hurt that each of her images are literal masterpieces.)” —Raven Ishak, Senior Lifestyle Editor

6Girl Boss, @girlboss

“So I would say the most positive account I follow on Instagram is @GirlBoss. They post a lot of inspirational memes and text images that center around driving creativity, and having self-confidence in your job. What I like most, though, is that a lot of their posts also remind you that burn out is normal, human, and something you should address. They like to preach self-care and balance, rather than glorifying the hustle, which I appreciate because it helps me to feel less like I have to ‘do it all.’ Most days I come home from work pretty exhausted, so seeing the human side of what it’s like to be a working woman reflected on Instagram is validating.” —Kristin Magaldi, Features Editor

7Professional Black Girl, @professionalblackgirl

“My favorite positive social media account is @professionalblackgirl on Instagram. The account is run by Dr. Yaba Blay who makes it her business to uplift and bring joy to Black women. Whenever I’ve had a rough day or I just feel like the world is too much, I scroll through the feed. There is always something there that brightens up my day. Seeing Black girls and women laughing, succeeding, and living unapologetically brings me joy.” —Jasmine Purdie, Photo Editor

8HelloGiggles, @hellogiggles

“I don’t know if I’m allowed to do this, but my favorite positive social media account is…the HelloGiggles Instagram. That’s not just because I run it! We post resources, guides, and stories that uplift women—but it’s the comments and messages we receive that remind me of the inherent good of women and the magic of conversation between 400K+ friends. I wish I could have witnessed it when I was a young girl being force-fed the narratives of “cat fights” and “not like other girls.” —Danielle Fox, Social Media Manager

9Kali, @myfacestory

“I’ve been following Kali’s acne journey since I was in the very thick of mine about 2 and a half years ago. She is a #skinpositivity warrior who preaches self-love and acceptance and is always raw, real, and honest about her life—the ups, downs, the challenges, and the changes. When I was feeling at my very, very worst because of acne, she made me feel less alone and she continues to shed a bright light on my often curated feed. I love her entire account for the unfiltered, pimple-smattered selfies, dancing-around-in-pajamas videos, and straight-up realness. She is a badass in more ways than one and welcomed dose of self-loving realness on a platform that celebrates the fake.” —Mackenzie Dunn, SEO Content Writer

10Reese Witherspoon, @reesewitherspoon

“Obviously, Reese Witherspoon is a super cool person. She’s talented, successful, and appears to ooze kindness everywhere she goes. Her Instagram account reflects exactly what everyone loves about Reese: Her fun-loving energy, humor, amazing work, and close family. She posts relatable memes that throw it back to her classic movies like Legally Blonde, shares a glimpse of her kids and seriously adorable dogs, shares book recommendations, and offers inspirational quotes (her own or others). A Reese Witherspoon post gets a smile out of me 99% of the time, and almost always gives me a little jolt of worthiness and ambition.” —Claire Harmeyer, Assistant Editor

11Elaine Welteroth, @elainewelteroth

“With so many bias-drenched headlines and so much dehumanized news on our phones everyday, Elaine Welteroth is a reminder that media can be radically positive and restorative. Her entire journey in the magazine world—from revolutionizing Teen Vogue to writing her best-selling book “More Than Enough”—has been so inspiring to watch. Beyond serving as major career (and outfit) inspiration, she’s also such an important role model for what it looks like to claim space while also encouraging others to do the same. I love seeing her celebrate her successes on Instagram, and at the same time she’s constantly celebrating the successes of other women, hyping them up, shining light on their work, and thanking them for their contributions.” —Morgan Noll, Editorial Assistant

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