How to have a healthy relationship with social media

Statistics show that on average, we spend two hours and 27 minutes a day on social media. That’s 17 and half hours a week – 70 hours a month! And, whilst social media offers a space for connection and community, if we use it mindlessly or compulsively it can have a harmful impact on our wellbeing. 

The fitness space on social media can be supportive, inspiring and empowering. When we see other people’s fitness journeys, it can provide us with motivation and belief to pursue the health and wellbeing goals that matter to us. 

But the fitness space on social media can also trigger comparison and body shame. By cultivating self-awareness and setting healthy boundaries with ourselves around our social media use, it can become a place of education, inspiration and connection rather than jealousy and insecurity. 

We spoke to Nicola Jane Hobbs, Stress & Rest Researcher and Reflex Ambassador about a few warning signs that you might have an unhealthy relationship with social media as well as a few tips on how to put boundaries in place.

Warning signs that you might have an unhealthy relationship with social media:

  • When you use social media you lose track of time.
  • You feel ashamed of how much time you spend on social media.
  • You try to hide how much time you spend on social media from others.
  • You’ve tried to reduce your social media use but find it hard to do so.
  • You turn to social media when you feel stressed, anxious, sad or lonely.
  • You experience strong urges to look at social media.
  • Your social media use can get in the way of work and other responsibilities.
  • Your social media use has impacted your relationships and gets in the way of your ability to be fully present with the people you love.
  • You feel empty when you haven’t been on social media for a while.
  • You’ve given up on hobbies and turned down social opportunities to spend time on your phone.
  • You find yourself mindlessly passing time on social media.
  • You spend more time with virtual connections than meeting friends in-person.
  • You take your phone to the toilet with you, bring it to the dinner table and sleep with it next to your bed.
  • You check social media within 30 minutes of waking up.
  • You scroll social media whilst doing other things that require your attention e.g. watching a film, speaking to your partner, listening to a podcast, eating.
  • You continue to turn to social media even though it makes you feel worse. 

If you feel you have an unhealthy relationship with social media, here are a few boundaries you might like to try setting with yourself:

  1. Create no phone zones. Ban your phone from places such as the bathroom, the bedroom and the dinner table.
  2. Create a new morning routine. If you look at your phone first thing when you wake up, do something else that brings you more joy than looking at your phone. This could be savouring a cup of coffee, doing 10 minutes of stretching or reading a chapter of a novel.
  3. Implement a one screen rule. If you’re watching Netflix, watch Netflix. If you’re on your laptop, be on your laptop. If you’re scrolling through social media, mindfully scroll through social media instead of multitasking.
  4. Do a mini-meditation. When you have the urge to check social media, take 10 deep breaths first. You might notice that the urge has passed. 
  5. Practise mindful scrolling. Be aware of how the phone feels in your hand. Notice how the brightness of the screen makes your eyes feel. Pay attention to the content of the posts. Listen to the sounds of the videos and be curious about the volume and intensity. Be aware of how your body feels as your scroll – tension, constriction, restlessness. Notice your emotions – anger, jealously, loneliness. Pay attention to any thoughts – comparisons, judgements, self-criticism, worrying.  
  6. Be aware of your triggers. What triggers you to scroll through social media? Loneliness? Boredom? Anxiety? Are there healthier ways you could work with these emotions?
  7. Set time boundaries. Only check social media at certain times of the day. 
  8. Create a phone home. Dedicate a space at home where you leave your phone to avoid the temptation of scrolling through social media mindlessly. This could be anything from a kitchen draw to a pocket in a bag.

At Reflex, we value mental health just as much as physical health. Science tells us that exercise and mental health are intertwined and we believe that making quality sports nutrition isn’t just about enhancing body condition, strength and fitness but also about helping reach goals, enhancing wellbeing and ultimately making people feel good.️

Sometimes we feel that the fitness world can forget that it’s about more than just looks. We want to bring mental health to the forefront so start conversations, break down barriers and come together as a community to support one another. We don't want anything to stop you reaching your goals and feeling your best! 

For more wellbeing reading, check out our blog, The Locker. Or for a list of resources and support services see here