Why End Did You Last Check Your Social Media Accounts?

Chances are it was within the past 12 minutes, according to a 2018 Ofcom report. The average person in the UK now spends more than one day a week online and 65 per cent of under-35s reach for their smartphones within five minute of waking up. And while your daily workout may well present the perfect opportunity to switch off for an hour or so, it seems many of us are clinging to our phones while we exercise, too: 84 per cent of gym-goers confess to taking selfies, says the recent Gym Perception Study.

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It’s not all about selfies, of course. In fact, it’s little wonder our smartphones have become an essential workout accessory – with a wealth of apps and influencers jostling with one another to provide us with everything from healthy recipes to motivational fitness quotes. Don’t feel like going for a run today? There’s sure to be someone in your timeline who’s already done a brisk 10k before breakfast and is spurring you on to do the same. But what if this tsunami of information, inspiration and motivation is having the opposite effect? Being bombarded by images of ‘perfect’ bodies and healthy high-achievers – as well as conflicting or confusing advice – could well make you feel isolated, anxious and even depressed.

Why End Did You Last Check Your Social Media Accounts?

And that’s even before you to start to read the comments. ‘Social media is a fantastic place for connection and conversation, but it can easily turn into a space of comparison, anxiety and disconnection,’ says social It’s not all about selfies, of course. In fact, it’s little wonder our smartphones have become an essential workout accessory – with a wealth of apps and influencers jostling with one another to provide us with everything from healthy recipes to motivational fitness quotes. Don’t feel like going for a run today? There’s sure to be someone in your timeline who’s already done a brisk 10k before breakfast and is spurring you on to do the same. But what if this tsunami of information, inspiration and motivation is having the opposite effect? Being bombarded by images of ‘perfect’ bodies and healthy high-achievers – as well as conflicting or confusing advice – could well make you feel isolated, anxious and even depressed.

And that’s even before you to start to read the comments. ‘Social media is a fantastic place for connection and conversation, but it can easily turn into a space of comparison, anxiety and disconnection,’ says social W=Take a break If your social media habit is becoming all-consuming, an enforced break can help break the addiction. And yes, it is an addiction. ‘Social media is designed to be addictive,’ says Brockhurst. ‘We’re addicted to the dopamine hit we get when we refresh a feed – similar to the sense of anticipation when playing a slot machine in a casino. Add to this the extra hit when we get a “like” or a “comment”.

By taking a break – switching off after 6pm each day or having social media-free Sundays, for example – we can break this habit, feel more balanced and create the opportunity for any related anxiety or burnout to settle.’ W=Don’t ‘go compare’ So someone you follow has just posted a stunning gym selfie and you suddenly feel hugely inadequate? Don’t! ‘When you start to feed the “comparison complex”, this is really your ego stepping in and making itself known,’ explains Brockhurst. ‘It might help to ask yourself why this person is posting these pictures. Is she doing it to impress or impact? Either way, you need to still your mind’s chatter and remember you’re doing this for yourself. What others are doing makes no difference whatsoever.’ W=Scroll mindfully Another way to stop yourself from falling victim to the ’comparison complex’ is to actively notice how particular social media posts make you feel – even when you simply scroll past them. ‘Check in with how you’re feeling when you see each post,’ says PureGym digital content coordinator Kasumi Miyake. ‘If an account’s content isn’t helping in some way, it’s worth questioning whether you should continue to consume it. Remember, we’re all on a different journey. And if you’re posting something yourself, think about the impact it may have on others, too.’ W=Don’t obsess over followers Someone’s got more than 10m Instagram followers so they must be trustworthy, right? Not necessarily. ‘Influencers with large followings aren’t always the best qualified to provide fitness and wellbeing advice – despite sounding very confident,’ insists Niraj Shah, founder of Mind: Unlocked (mind:unlocked.co). ‘It’s really worth seeking out accounts that have more robustness, and cross- checking their advice with bona-fide experts in the real world.’ W=Don’t be a lurker ‘There seems to be a big difference in the happiness of people who actively participate in social media, compared to those who merely spectate,’ says Shah.

Try leaving a few thoughtful comments of support for your friends and the people you admire, instead of quietly scrolling through feeds. That way, social media becomes more “social” and less “media”. W=Log out every time Ever mindlessly clicked on Instagram – only to quickly realise that you’d just looked at it two minutes ago? ‘I’m a huge advocate of logging out of all social apps,’ says Shah. ‘That way, it has to be a conscious decision to check in by entering a password each time, rather than social media becoming a default mindless time-suck. Bonus marks for deciding ahead of time how long you’ll spend on it and setting a timer!’ W=Get a real-life personal trainer Never forget that online fitness advice should be an add-on, not an alternative, to face-to-face training. Even the most clued-up influencer can’t compete with a one-to-one session in the real world.

Having a personal trainer or coach who’s physically there to help motivate you and analyse your movement and technique is always going to improve your performance,’ says Harry Grosvenor, master personal trainer at Virgin Active (virginactive.co.uk). W=Reap more health benefits Finally, it’s worth noting that spending less time on social media also means you’ll be less prone to ‘tech neck’ – the insidious neck and shoulder pain that results from by hunching over your phone or tablet for hours on end. You’re also likely to see an improvement in your sleep if you spend less of your evening in front of a screen. And you’ll free up more time to hone healthier habits, too – such as catching up with friends face-to-face or going for that 10k run before breakfast.

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