This is a guest post by Claire from Claire Hillsmith.
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When we talk about health, it is easy to assume that we are talking about our physical health. How much weight we’ve lost from the latest workout routine we found on Pinterest or how we’d like to cut out that McDonald’s cheeseburger addiction. Whatever it is, and despite it being 2019, many people are still not including their mental health as part of their health.

I’ve noticed that in the last two years there’s been a huge increase in social media posts about mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, bipolar and many others. There are more hashtags on Twitter and Instagram than ever before about #selflove and #mentalhealth and whilst these can be extremely helpful for those feeling isolated and alone, there are other hashtags such as #selfharm and #selfhate with images that can harm our state of mind and also trigger those in vulnerable states. 

On Instagram, the number of #selfhate photos is 1.6 million, whereas the number of #selflove photos is only 219,000 and that’s a staggering 7 times higher amount of negative images on how people see themselves. Wouldn’t it be amazing if it was the other way around? Can you imagine if everyone loved themselves so much more than they do right now?

Are we becoming a world of mental health disorders, sadness and negativity? What can we do to protect our mental health these days, especially when we’re using social media?

Top Three Tips for Protecting Our Mental Health Online

1.  Limit your time on social media.

What? Are you serious Claire? Yes, I am. You must have heard this suggestion before and although a huge number of young people are on social media, there are many who aren’t. Social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter and Facebook can have a negative impact on us in many ways. Mainly sleep, because we spend too much time staring at the screen late into the night, but also by comparing our lives to others’. Why didn’t we get an invite to that party on Friday? Why does her skin look so much nicer than mine? Why can’t I lose weight with protein shakes? That’s just the start of a million other questions.

My suggestion is to start by deleting one of your social media apps. I always find Facebook the easiest to get rid of and I definitely feel better for it. 

After weeks of contemplating it, I deleted Instagram for an entire week. It felt absolutely amazing. I wasn’t on my phone every minute of the day. I wasn’t looking at other peoples’ lives or problems. I was just doing my own thing. I used Pinterest for inspirational quotes and outfit ideas, but Facebook and Instagram were gone.

I use both of them for work, so after a week off I started to feel guilty about letting my boss down, and reinstalled them. I quickly noticed how much time I’m spending on them again and it’s hard to cut down my time, even though I know how much better I feel without them.

2. Follow positive people, unfollow the negatives.

It’s your social media. You are not obliged to follow anyone who posts things that upset you or stress you out. Whether it’s Facebook or Instagram, Pinterest or blogs, you do not have to follow them. 

In the past I have unfollowed many friends and even family members because I feel that they are either too negative or they show off too much – neither posts make me feel good. 

Instagram and Facebook have recently made it easier to stop seeing people’s’ posts without them knowing that you’ve done so. Facebook have an ‘unfollow’ and Instagram have ‘mute’, so if you don’t want to upset anyone, you can use these options. 

There are hundreds, even thousands, of amazing people online that you wouldn’t connect with in ‘real life’, so take advantage of the social media connections. I have made friends via Instagram, blogs and Twitter and so can you! These friends of mine have similar interests in teaching, football, blogging and also in the more problematic aspects in my life such as depression and endometriosis. 

Social media can provide you with a huge support network that you may never have had the chance to create offline. This works by searching for account names or hashtags relating to your interests. 

I’d like to recommend two people that everyone should be following, in my opinion.

Pauline Narvas. Blog | Website | Instagram

A wonderful young lady who changed her life around through health and fitness, and is now ‘levelling up’ week by week in both her personal and professional life. Check out her pages, you won’t regret it.

Zara Khalique (Keep It Bright). Website | Instagram

Zara has created a positivity movement through her Instagram and her brand Keep It Bright, which is a collection of tshirts, badges, bags and so much more. Loved by celebrities like Miley Cyrus, and by everyday people like me, she inspires people to see the good in life and helps us deal with the bad.

3. Find yourself a purpose online

This may sound a little pretentious or even stupid, but I think it helps.

I realised last week that I could probably live without Facebook and Instagram entirely, but my second job is as a Social Media Assistant and I post daily updates for a company. Deleting the apps would mean losing income and stopping something I love. 

My purpose online is to help people, or at least to try. I run a social media account for a company and I truly believe that I’m doing something beneficial for them. I also keep a blog about my teaching, travel and mental health experiences because I want to show people that it’s okay to talk, to be vulnerable and to share their experiences too. 

It’s easy to spend an hour scrolling through Instagram or Pinterest, but if you spend the majority of your time online with a purpose there’s a good chance that you’ll feel more rewarded than disappointed. 

Maybe you want to start a food blog, or a fashion Instagram, or create a Pinterest for house decor. Whatever your style or niche is, own it! Make your time online fun, interesting and use it to connect with positive, supportive people. 

Do you have any tips you’d like to add? How do you protect your mental health when you’re online? Leave us a comment! x

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