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A group of teenagers sit outside and use their phones.

How Social Media Impacts Our Health

In today's digital age, social media has become an integral part of our lives, shaping how we connect, communicate, and access information. These apps offer a variety of benefits and can have both positive and negative impacts on our health.

Whether you enjoy browsing content or are monitoring your family’s screen time, it’s essential to understand all the ways social media can affect us. 

Social Connection

Like its name suggests, social media allows us to communicate with family, friends, colleagues, and even strangers. Being online helps us stay up to date on major life milestones and celebrate each other’s successes. For those who live far away from loved ones, platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat help us feel closer together. This sense of community makes us happier and more engaged. 

Close up of a man's eye as he scrolls through social media.

Information on Demand

Today, breaking news is delivered instantly. Phone and computer notifications show us how the world is changing in real-time. While access to instant information helps us stay safe and informed, it can also negatively affect our mental health. “Doom scrolling,” or binging content about distressing news, can lead to increased feelings of anxiety. When troubling events unfold, seeking more information is important. Just remember to take breaks if you feel overwhelmed. 

Goals and Aspirations

Social media is a great place to discover new trends, hobbies, and ideas. We’re able to see how others live, work, and spend their free time, which can inspire us to alter our own behaviors.

However, the rise of the influencer industry means many people now showcase their lives to help sell products or services. Because of this, it’s important to remember that not everything you see is reality. Still, if feelings of jealousy arise, take breaks and remember to appreciate the positives in your own life. 

Body Image

The popularity of photo-based platforms means we’re constantly exposed to toxic or unobtainable beauty standards. For young women in particular, body dissatisfaction is a growing effect of social media use. As parents, it’s essential to have open conversations with our kids about what they’re seeing. Remind them that bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and that health and beauty go far beyond their weight, height, and other external features. 

Misinformation

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, a recurring problem was the spread of false information across social media. Lies about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, for example, dissuaded many people from protecting themselves against the virus. This led to deaths that could have been prevented.

Thankfully, misinformation can be combatted. Whenever you turn to social media for health information, always ensure the source is credible and seek additional proof. Advise your loved ones to do the same, and report content you suspect may be harmful or dishonest. 

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Self-Worth

When you post on social media, it’s natural to fixate on how many likes or comments you receive. This is all by design. When we get attention and recognition from online peers, our brains release a chemical called dopamine as a reward, making us feel happy. It’s the same process that occurs when we eat food or work out and is designed to motivate beneficial behavior. By getting these feeling of happiness through social media, we’re incentivized to spend more of our time there, rather than seeking real-world satisfaction. 

To maintain a healthy balance, try to avoid stressing about online validation. If that doesn’t work, take a break from posting altogether. Instead, prioritize hobbies or healthy habits that bring you joy.  

Your Source for Reliable Information

At AltaMed, we recognize that social media has a real and lasting effect on our health. We advocate for responsible online behavior and encourage our community members to use social media as a tool for education, support, and positive change. If you or a loved one are struggling with the negative impacts of social media use, our Behavioral Health team can help. 

Call us at (855) 425-1777 to get started.

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Cut Back on Screen Time to Boost Mental Health

We have access to more information than any generation before us. Nearly all of human knowledge is at our fingertips, twenty-four hours a day. But whether you want to find a new recipe, watch a viral video, or stay informed about current events, you need a screen.

For many people, screens have become an essential part of how we do things. We’re surrounded by them – in our pockets, our offices, our living rooms, bedrooms, and even on our wrists. We can decide, however, how much time we spend on them. Limiting screen time has been shown to improve our mood and help us engage with the people and activities that matter most.

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Ways to Manage Screen Time

We’ve made a habit at looking at our phones. Anytime we’re not having conversations, we’re gaming or scrolling through social media. Sometimes we need a little quiet time. That’s when we’re at our most creative.

Here are some tips for reducing the amount of time you spend on your device.

  • Manage news consumption — We are constantly bombarded with news. While it’s important to stay informed, we don’t need to know everything every second. It’s OK to pause the 24-hour news cycle.
  • Turn off notifications — Do you really need to know that someone posted a vacation photo or a picture of their meal? Keep track of appointments, but the social media updates can go.
  • Stay focused — If you’re looking at your phone while watching TV or worse, spending time with someone, what does that say about what you’re doing? Maybe you need to find another activity or reexamine how you conduct relationships.
  • Just eat — Mealtime should be for meals. You should savor your food. Pay attention to the conversations you’re having and notice when you’re getting full. When eating at home, make it a rule to put away your screens.
  • Set screen-free times and zones at home — It’s a good idea not to look at screens right before bed. It makes it hard to fall asleep because of the light given off by your devices. So, don’t look for at least half an hour before bedtime. See if you can make that last longer. Also designate certain parts of the house or apartment as screen-free.
  • Find screen alternatives — Go for a walk, meditate, read a book, sit outside, or find another activity that doesn’t involve looking at your device. Sitting in silence with your thoughts gives you an opportunity to process and reflect on your day.
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Benefits of Less Screen Time

Prying yourself free of your device gives you the opportunity to do different things. Here are five benefits to less screen time.

  1. Improve physical health — Putting down the phone and turning off the TV give you a chance to move. Movement can help prevent obesity and conditions related to excess weight. You’ll have more time to exercise and play. You can also get better sleep with less screen time.
  2. Discover new things — You live in Southern California where there’s always something to do. Get out and explore what’s around you. It also gives you the opportunity to try new hobbies.
  3. Connect socially — Face-to-face connections are vital to making ourselves and others feel cared for. We show our children and loved ones what’s truly important when we put our phones down and spend time with them.
  4. Boost your mood — Time spent on a screen makes it easier to withdraw and become depressed. Once you’re off the phone, you’re more inclined to engage socially with others. It can also help to eliminate feelings of anxiety and depression.
  5. Build community — With the phone out of your hand you can build stronger connections with:
  • Family
  • Friends
  • Neighbors
  • Coworkers

Mental Health Is Part of Your Health

AltaMed is here for you, and we’re committed to your mental and physical well-being. To learn more about AltaMed behavioral health services, call 855-425-1777.

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How to Spend Quality Time with Loved Ones

Now that the holidays are here, it’s a great opportunity to reconnect with your family and friends. However, with phones, computers, and TV taking up so much of our attention, it can be difficult to think of activities that don’t involve screens. This year, why not try to create moments that contribute to your well-being and nurture your relationships? Here are some screen-free, healthy activities to make this season special.

Cook a Healthy Meal Together

Cooking together is a fantastic way to bond and promote healthy eating habits. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, meals made together as a family typically lead to better nutrition, promote healthier behaviors, and can lead to smarter eating in the future. Choose a healthy recipe, shop for ingredients together, and cook a meal as a team.

Family going on a hike together.

Take a Nature Walk

Nature has a huge effect on our mental health and has been linked to improved mood and cognitive function. Gather your loved ones for a walk in a local park, forest, or nature reserve. The physical activity, coupled with the calmness of being outside, will help you feel refreshed.

Engage in Volunteer Work

The act of giving not only helps those in need but can also be incredibly fulfilling. Research shows that volunteering is associated with lower depression, increased well-being, and reduced stressed levels. This holiday, consider volunteering at a local shelter, food bank, or charity event as a family.

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Create DIY Gifts

Crafting can be a therapeutic activity that stimulates creativity and helps reduce anxiety. Organize a craft night with your loved ones where you can make gifts for each other. Not only does this provide a meaningful present, but it also creates a space for conversation and laughter.

Practice Group Meditation or Yoga

Meditation and yoga are known for their stress-relieving qualities. In fact, studies have shown yoga can lessen chronic stress patterns, relax the mind, and sharpen concentration. Invite your family to join a yoga session or meditate together to find peace and calm during the hustle of the holiday season.

Attend Community Events

Local holiday events like tree-lighting ceremonies, markets, and choirs are a wonderful way to connect with your community and spend time with loved ones. These activities can enrich your holiday experience and create lasting memories.

Family playing game together.

Play Games

Board games, card games, and physical games like tag or charades encourage face-to-face interaction and can be a lot of fun. Playing games together as a family also helps create emotional connection and positive communication.

Making The Season Merry

Incorporating these activities into your holiday plans can lead to a richer, more fulfilling season. Remember, the heart of the holiday is not about the flurry of activities, but about the warmth and love shared between family and friends. So, this year, let’s turn off our screens and turn toward each other, creating healthy, joyful memories that will last a lifetime.

Be The Example This Holiday

When it comes to good physical and mental health, lead by example. AltaMed has all manner of resources to help you eat right, move right, and take better care of yourself. Let our team of bilingual certified enrollment counselors help you explore program options that work best for you and your family. 

Call AltaMed at (888) 499-9303.

How Social Media Impacts Our Health