Staying Mindful on Social Media: 5 Best Practices for Protecting Your Mental Health Online

In today’s digital age, it’s no secret that excessive social media use has been linked to increased mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and poor body image, especially among children and teens. But for many of us, social media isn’t simply a vice or a bad habit. It can also be a vital tool for keeping up with family, staying in touch with far-away friends, expressing ourselves, and exploring our interests and passions. 

While there are potential risks, researchers agree that social media isn’t inherently harmful. When used mindfully, we can balance the benefits and downsides of platforms like TikTok and Instagram. Here are 5 ways to stay connected to what matters—without sacrificing your mental health. 

Limit Your Time Online. 

Many social media apps, including TikTok and Instagram, have built-in features that allow you to set daily usage limits. Take advantage of these tools to prevent excessive screen time and create space for offline activities.  

Manage your time even more effectively by setting up Screen Time if you use an iPhone or Digital Wellbeing for Androids. These settings allow you to track how much time you spend on each app and schedule daily downtime away from your screen. 

Curate Your Feed. 

Decide how you want to use social media. Do you want to follow specific interests or influencers, or do you only want to connect with people you know in real life? Be intentional about what you see on your feed. If certain accounts consistently make you feel bad or upset, it’s okay to unfollow them. Instead, choose to follow users who share content that inspires you, teaches you something new, or makes you smile. 

Set Boundaries. 

Setting boundaries is important both online and offline. Decide when you want to take breaks from social media, like during dinner, when spending time with friends, or when you’re not at home, and stick to your plan. 

Online, limit interactions with accounts that fuel anxiety or conflict. You don’t have to keep your profile open to people who want to argue with you or cause trouble. Remember, the block button is your friend! 

You can also disable push notifications for apps like Instagram to avoid distractions that pull you back online. 

Avoid Use Before Bedtime. 

Scrolling before bed is a major roadblock to healthy sleep routines. Side effects like delayed REM sleep, insomnia, restlessness, and a messed up circadian rhythm can leave you feeling fatigued and exhausted the next day. Set a time in the evening when you stop using social media to help you get better sleep. If you’re up for a challenge, try implementing a “no phones in bed” rule. 

Expand your horizons beyond social media. 

While social media is undoubtedly a valuable tool, it shouldn’t replace real-world interactions. Treat it as a supplement, not a substitute, for genuine human connections. Spend time nurturing interests and relationships beyond the virtual world and strive for a healthy balance between your online and offline engagements. 

Bottom Line: Use Social Media With Care 

The important thing is to use social media thoughtfully, not to stop using it completely. Be aware of how different platforms make you feel and how they fit into your life. Your mental well-being matters more than how many likes or views you get. By using social media with intention, finding a balance, and setting boundaries, you can enjoy its benefits while also taking care of your health and happiness.