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Is an instant world bad for your mental health?

Is an instant world bad for your mental health? This is an incredibly important question for all of us in today’s world. If I need some clothes, groceries, a book, a piece of furniture, pretty much anything in fact, I can buy it, if necessary, with a credit card and it will be at my house the following day and sometimes that day. If I have a question about a subject or a person, I can literally find the answer in seconds through my phone. If I’m watching TV and I want to watch a whole series of a programme I can, I don’t need to wait for the next one to be released. If i want to send someone money, I open my phone go on online banking and send it right there and then.

Whereas in the past waiting for items I had purchased to be delivered was the norm, or indeed, I would need to go to the shops, browse the aisles and then make my purchase. If I needed to find out information I might have to go to a library or buy a newspaper. In the past you would wait week by week for the next episode of your favourite programme, and if you wanted to send someone money you would write a cheque and mail it.

These everyday processes that are instant now, would take time, we all accepted this, and we were patient. I feel very conflicted about our instant world today, I really value the convenience of online banking, next day delivery and being able to binge watch a series on Netflix, these things enhance my life in many ways. I love going through a drive through Starbucks and the convenience and speed of a takeaway. On the other hand, I often feel an intense anxiety that if I am not taking part in the instant world then I am failing in some way. I feel a pressure to respond immediately to emails, phone calls and texts, particularly if they are work related. If someone doesn’t reply to me straight away, I am concerned that there is something wrong. I find it hard to switch off at the end of the day and will let work run into my off time.

24 hour rolling news and social media is another aspect of this instant world where we get instant entertainment and instant feedback from millions of videos, pictures, and posts, we can connect instantly with people. On the one hand I love Instagram for the dog videos on the other hand I can spend aimless, endless amounts of time scrolling ingesting content, passing time. I wonder what I would do with my time if I stopped doing this. I can end up wasting hours reading the comments section as people argue and bicker.

Where does this leave my mental health? I’m anxious, stressed, worried, feeling as though I am always behind and failing, I have a feeling of missing out on life. It is clear to me that living in an instant world has clear positives and negatives and that it is important to be mindful of getting swept away in a current of instant gratification and anxiety.

Instant World

So, what can I and we do about it? The quick and easy answer is to put in boundaries with ourselves.

  • When we want to buy something that is not essential make ourselves wait, if we don’t have the cash, save up for it, from the point of wanting something to buying it, give ourselves a cooling off period.
  • When we are watching Netflix, put in a time limit for what you will watch, only one programme a day or whatever your boundary would be.
  • If someone sends you an email, message, or text, unless it absolutely needs an immediate response or you really want to give an immediate response, wait, give yourself time to think. I have particularly practiced this idea and found it incredibly hard, when I receive a message, I feel I must reply straight away, I must deal with it and get it off my plate, I found though that this attitude simply causes more anxiety and a sense of emergency and urgency where there isn’t one. When I slow down and just respond to things in a timely manner I feel calmer and less pressured and stressed.
  • One of the biggest ways that we can disengage from instant culture is by putting boundaries around our social media use and our scrolling through news. As an experiment perhaps delete these apps from your phone for a week and see how you feel, does your anxiety go down, do you feel calmer and less enslaved to what is happening on your phone?

Below are some online resources and interesting websites that explore the subject of living in an instant world, how it affects our health and what we can do about it.

Living in an instant world – Alastair Hazell

Simon Sinek on Millennials in the Workplace

What is Instant Gratification? A Definition + 16 Examples and Quotes

The Problem With Instant Gratification & How It Affects Our Society

Managing Social Media – Anna Freud Centre

From this Website

Mental Health and Social Media

It may be that you need to talk to a professional about your issues, perhaps with someone like Paul. For more informaion about Paul please take a look at the About Paul PageFrequently Asked Questions Page and The Counselling Services Page. If you would like to make an appointment with Paul for Counselling, Psychotherapy or Supervision, please call Paul on 07843 813 537 or fill in the form on the Contact Page, if he doesn’t answer he is probably in a session, please leave him a message and he will call you back as soon as he can.

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Counselling Support no matter your locationRemote counselling sessions delivered online or over the phone

Because of the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak, my face to face counselling services are closed until further notice.

However, I am able to offer counselling sessions via telephone or online video calling. There are many advantages to this, such as keeping yourself and others safe, but you may find it's more convenient to have your sessions from the comfort of your own home as well as saving time and money.

My services are no longer restricted to a location and you are welcome to contact me if you need support regardless of where you live. Call now on 07843 813 537 to book your first session or if you would just like a friendly chat about your issues and how I can help.

- Paul Carter