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A New Study Says People Spend 8 Hours a Week On Social Media—Time You Could Spend Riding

The research also confirms ditching all that scrolling can have serious benefits for your mental health.

social media and mental health
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  • New research published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking found taking a one-week break from social media can improve well-being, depression, and anxiety.
    • Decreasing your time on social media can help improve your overall mental health even if you don’t completely reduce your screen time.

      If you’ve ever considered taking a break from endlessly scrolling Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok, recent research confirms it’s a smart choice. And it can be especially beneficial for athletes. But exactly how much time is enough to experience the mental health advantages of putting a pause on social media?

      Researchers of a recent study published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, found participants improved their well-being (defined as their level of positive affect, life satisfaction, and sense of purpose) and decreased levels of depression and anxiety after taking a week-long break. Here’s what makes the pay-offs even easier to obtain: Participants weren’t given orders to cease all social media usage.

      “We wanted to learn whether or not people would stick to the one-week break and whether this would also predict changes in mental health,” Jeffrey Lambert, Ph.D., professor of health and exercise psychology at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom and lead researcher tells Bicycling.

      To find out, Lambert says he and his colleagues analyzed the social media usage of 154 adults. At baseline, each participant was asked to fill out a questionnaire to assess their mental health and social media usage. They found, on average, participants were spending about eight hours a week on social media. (Imagine how your cycling would improve if you swapped those hours for time spent in the saddle!)

      After filling out the baseline survey, participants were divided into two groups—intervention and controlled. The intervention group was asked to stop using social media for one week, though they weren’t checked on during this time. Instead, they were given tips on how to unplug, such as downloading an app blocker, disabling social media notifications, and deleting social media apps.

      Meanwhile, people in the control group were simply asked to remain using social media as normal.

      After a week, everyone completed a follow-up survey to assess their mental health and submitted their screen time analysis to researchers.

      In the end, researchers found not only did people in the intervention group drastically decrease their social media usage—dropping it down to just 28 minutes per week, as compared to that eight-hour average—but they also experienced improvements in well-being and reported lower levels of depression and anxiety.

      Lambert says reflecting on your social media usage and possibly taking a break from social media sites—TikTok, Facebook, even Strava—can be a relatively easy way to help manage your mental health.

      Jarrod Spencer, Psy.D., sports psychologist, and author of Mind of the Athlete: Clearer Mind, Better Performance, agrees: “The nature of social media is that it’s designed to give you dopamine [a chemical substance that plays a role in how we feel pleasure] and the problem is that we’re meant to get dopamine from doing something hard.”

      Spencer says taking a break from social media will allow you to stop overthinking and get dopamine from other activities, including exercise. That means time spent cycling can boost your mood and mental well-being even more than it already does. And without spending all that time on social, you have even more free time to hit the road.

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