Mindless scrolling is the plight of every millennial since 2012. Better yet, it is the task of every person in 2020. This pandemic has not been easy on us, our families, our relationships, or our finances. But you know what has? That beautiful rectangular device that is always smiling back at you; your smart phone. It has been there through thick and thin, through the financial uncertainty, and during those uncomfortable conversations. Your smartphone has supported you in slipping away from the present circumstance that is our world’s reality. Bless.
I did some digging as well as personal reflection and found a common thread, or perhaps a common choice when it came to my social media consumption and my food habits. Or perhaps, a common unconscious choice. Boy were my conclusions riveting. Let me explain further.
Unconscious vs Conscious Choices
Conscious choices are the ones you make when you are feeling super connected to yourself, happy, and filled with love. They are those choices you make when you stop and say, ‘hey, am I hungry? Yes I am! Let me nourish myself.’
On the other hand, unconscious choices are those choices you make when you come to realize that the crunchy white Cheetos bag is already half empty and you don’t remember how it got into your hands in the first place as you finish The Queen’s Gambit and cry from validation for women empowerment. Those Cheetos might’ve cheered you on with every crunch and march down your esophagus but they were certainly not chosen with intention.
Overconsumption of Social Media = Overconsumption of Food
It might go without saying, but if you are making unconscious choices in one area of your life, you also tend to make similar choices in other areas of your life. It’s like taking a brush and making a broad stroke across the page. Your choices can easily just blend together.
My personal reflection surfaced when I deleted Instagram off of my phone. Instagram can be inspiring, validating, connective, and encouraging. It was for me! (Until it wasn’t). It can also be the catalyst to your 2 hour post-work scrolling escapade. How on earth did I open my phone to transfer money from my checking to my savings account and end up watching videos of puppies given as Christmas gifts for 3 hours? I can neither confirm nor deny that this happened, but for the sake of the story once I came to, I realized that it was time to take a break from Instagram.
First of all, I deleted Instagram and noticed I didn’t miss it. Second of all, I did notice that I was making healthier, more conscious choices with food. When I was hungry, I ate. When I was full, I stopped. Thirdly, both of these choices around food were no longer being made while I was mindlessly scrolling. It quickly became apparent to me that when I pick up my phone to scroll often throughout the day, I make an unconscious choice to avoid the slightest discomfort or negative emotion. It’s like a snowball that is already rolling down the hill. When I make these choices, it bleeds into my food habits and I so easily eat to satiate my emotions instead of my hunger.
Steps to Making Conscious Choices
First things first; notice when you are mindlessly scrolling. Take a mental note about how you are feeling, or how you’ve been feeling. Are you just coasting with some hard conversations or have you given yourself the space to feel, understand, and process them. Awareness is the first step in understanding whether or not the choices you are making are conscious or not.
When you notice that you may be scrolling mindlessly, recognize that it is truly okay. Even getting curious is something that many people go their whole lives without trying. Acknowledge and then move forward.
Give Yourself What You Need
Give yourself what you need! Oftentimes this looks like making room for your emotions. Other times it means going for a walk or drawing a warm bath. Being willing to make conscious choices starts with the courage to be honest about what you need and willing to meet yourself where you are. That bag of crunchy white Cheetos might alleviate immediate anxiety in comfort, but it would not nourish your mental health in the long run as much as a workout, a sunset, or an encouraging conversation with a friend will.
Whether it is Instagram or Pinterest that has you mindlessly scrolling, it is so important for your mental health to recognize firstly that you might not be leaving space for yourself. Secondly, when you become aware of and acknowledge how choices you make may not be conscious, it will be easier to draw the parallels between one unconscious choice with another. For me, the correlation between mindless scrolling and emotional eating is positive, and one that feeds off of each other.