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Mental Health

The Benefits of Social Media

Using social media and apps like MindShift CBT as resources to monitor mental health

Rishika Selvakumar

Reprinted from the Recovery: Living Your Bestish Life issue of Visions Journal, 2022, 17 (4), pp. 25-27

Stock photo of a young woman holding a cell phone in her hand

Being a teen and going through high school is a very difficult time when a lot of our thoughts and behaviours can be shaped by peers. At that age, family and teachers always dissuaded me from using social media like Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat, suggesting that social media creates space for unrealistic comparisons and can negatively impact mental health.

They weren’t completely wrong. I have had to take time away from social media—even after high school. Social media often made me put pressure on myself by placing too much importance on others’ thoughts and expectations. With the way likes, comments, others’ profiles and influencers all work, it became a difficult environment for me. I also know a lot of other people who find healthy breaks important for taking care of themselves. Breaks feel validated when others describe how toxic social media can be in setting trends and idealized standards.

Now in university, I make my own decisions about how I use online content. I have a better feel for what’s important to me—and for my mental health. With that, I have recently seen the positives of social media and apps: they can be used to support personal mental health. Let me share some of the resources I have discovered.

Following mental health pages

I used social media to follow academic-based accounts and my friends’ pages when I first got to university. This did not really help my own personal growth and introspection into how to manage my mental health. One of the most important changes I made was to start following different content I was interested in, especially mental health pages.

Mental health pages are a great way to learn more about resources, participate in an environment that supports de-stigmatization and awareness and find a community space where you can engage with others. I started following pages on Facebook and Instagram, like Anxiety Canada, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA)1 and my campus mental health groups. That’s also how I got further involved in volunteering in the mental health field. Learning more about organizations through their website and feeds deepened my interest.

Meditation apps

One of my favourite mental health apps is MindShift CBT, a free anxiety-relief app created by Anxiety Canada.2 MindShift CBT uses scientifically proven strategies based on cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) to help users find relief from anxiety and develop more effective ways of thinking. It is a great tool that has helped me develop fundamental skills, learn about my own self-care and take charge of anxiety.

I mainly use MindShift for daily self check-ins and to review my progress over days or weeks. This has been helpful in considering whether there are certain days or times that are more stressful than others. The app helps me work towards more responsive practices and habits for managing stress and mental health.

Online discussions

Mental health is definitely a sensitive topic. It can be difficult to talk about, so it is extremely important to take some time to consider what is most comfortable for each individual. I really wanted to speak to people about my mental health experiences and have a support system. I relied on my friends and family, but it is always helpful to speak anonymously and find individuals with similar stories. I have found MindShift CBT’s Community Forum to be very beneficial for this.

In this forum, people come together to talk, learn from each other and just find empathy and support for one another in these difficult conversations. Sometimes, that is the best way to take care of your mental health.

Goal-setting tools

Having a plan in life for me is important because a lot of my personal stress comes from the unknown and feeling a lack of control. Facing mental health challenges can be daunting, and having step-by-step manuals is always useful for me. The goal-setting tool in MindShift CBT has inspired me to pursue my mental health goals and prioritize my own well-being, even when I’m juggling other things like school, friendships or work.

Social media, like Instagram posts, can also be a great place to get inspiration for setting goals or engaging in steps towards better mental health. The downside of posting on social media is that it can result in a lot of pressure. However, chatting with others can be helpful when you’re sharing goals with your own circle or working with a group of people who care about similar aims. It is also quite useful to have a timeline for your goals. I find apps really helpful in guiding my goal-making process and setting up reminders and benchmarks.

Growing up in a society where social media shapes expectations and can add pressure into already stressful lives, it is useful to decide for yourself how to utilize these media and various apps. Going online with a different perspective can open up new opportunities to monitor your mental health, make progress in your self-care journey and use resources to take care of your mental health. I realize now that the ties between mental health and social media can be what you make of them!

About the author

Rishika is in her final year of a bachelor of science degree at UBC. Passionate about mental health advocacy and de-stigmatization, she volunteers with organizations like Anxiety Canada and the Canadian Mental Health Association BC Division. In her spare time Rishika enjoys reading and hiking

Footnotes:
  1. On Instagram, follow the Canadian Mental Health Association BC Division at: instagram.com/cmha_bc/?hl=en.
  2. The MindShift CBT app is available for free through the Apple App Store or Google Play. Learn more at: anxietycanada.com/resources/mindshift-cbt.

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