It’s been over a year since New York first shut down and all aspects of my life — both work and play—have moved entirely to the digital realm. Even as the world slowly opens back up and faster vaccine rollout makes “normalcy” feel less like a distant dream, I’ve now been starting to feel the effects of too much tech more than ever. The world is still in hypothetical flames, and it seems that I find myself spending every waking moment scrolling through my news feed to read up on the latest tragic event — otherwise known as doomscrolling — and the anxiety that comes with it has been bleeding into other aspects of my life, resulting in bad sleep and constant exhaustion.
However, the constant barrage of bad news being shared isn’t the only culprit; I’ve also been using tech as a way to dissociate from my anxiety. Even after spending countless hours working on my laptop each week, I was starting and ending my days glued to my phone, eyes glazed, watching hours of TikTok cooking videos and wondering why everyone else seems to be doing just fine despite the state of the world (or so it looked via their Instagram feeds).
When I was finally ready to admit that I had a screen dependency — something that finally clicked after spending an entire evening watching every single video ever posted by a TikTok mortician (morbid, I know) — I knew it was time to take action, even if I wasn’t quite ready for a full social media break. Instead, I decided to look inward and help break these habits with a mindful approach: hypnosis.
Hypnosis To Stop Doomscrolling: How Does It Work?
Contrary to popular belief, hypnosis — or hypnotherapy — is nothing like how it’s portrayed in the movies. A practice dating back to 2000 BC, it was approved by the American Medical Association as a safe form of therapy in the 1950s.
As founder of Remix Acupuncture and Integrative Health Giselle Wasfie puts it, hypnosis is “the ultimate form of self-control, where the client experiences a calm and deep state of relaxation to access the unconscious mind.” During hypnotherapy, you’re brought into a trance state where you’re fully aware of your surroundings (so, no, you can’t be tricked into thinking you’re a chicken).
Wasfie explains that the unconscious mind is where a person’s belief system, shadow self, and traumas are stored and where their patterns and “inner child” live, influencing up to 90% of day-to-day actions. By tapping into it through deep relaxation in the theta brain wave state, a person is open and accessible to suggestions and reprogramming. It can be used to address everything from phobias and addictions to behavior patterns, self-limited thinking, manifestation, and more.
What I was surprised to learn was that doomscrolling is considered a form of hypnosis itself. “Social media and scrolling is a state of trance or hypnosis, but it’s unconscious and designed to be addictive, activating the reward deprivations of dopamine and serotonin and an over sensory experience,” says Shauna Cummins, professional hypnotist and author of WishCraft: A Guide to Manifesting a Positive Future. According to her, using hypnosis to “de-hypnotize” yourself from these habits is one of the most effective ways to break them.
Needless to say, I was excited to dive in.
I set up my session with Wasfie (which, ironically, was over FaceTime) for a weekday after work in hopes that I would spend the rest of my day fully present. After we talked through my current habits, she walked me through exactly how the session would go — referring to it as “an app upgrade” for my brain. Fitting!
She slowly guided me into deep relaxation, talking me through breathing and releasing stress and tension in each part of my body. Once I was in the theta brain wave state, blissfully sinking into my couch, she spoke directly to my unconscious mind about what my new routine would look like: rather than beginning my day scrolling through the terrifying news cycle, I would instead start with something active, like going for a jog or practicing yoga. After I finished working, I would fill my evening with activities that didn’t involve a screen, like *gasp* picking up a physical book, meditating, or taking a bath to decompress.
Once she brought me out of this state, I felt renewed, similar to how I’ve felt after an acupuncture or reiki session. Floaty, almost, and as if all of my anxiety had melted away. I spent the rest of my day cooking and taking a long stroll around my neighborhood, no screens in sight.
It’s been a little over a week since my session, and I’ve already seen improvements. I now consciously keep my phone away from me as much as possible, and I’m suddenly looking forward to my morning runs and taking advantage of my bathtub. I can’t say I’m completely free of my phone addiction — I still check my notifications right before bed — but this was the push I needed to find healthier outlets for separating myself from depressing news and everyone else’s seemingly perfect life updates. Plus, both Wasfie and Cummins note that while one session can be effective, it’s cumulative, you see more improvements the more you do it.
How To Use Self-Hypnosis To Stop Screen Scrolling
Looking to take a break from endless scrolling yourself? While working with a professional is best, you can jump right into your own self-practice. “It’s an easy and natural tool to help befriend our mind and help it to work for us instead of against us,” says Cummins. Below, she outlines a basic screen detox self-hypnosis practice:
- Take inventory by downloading a screen time tracker or note your time spent on a scrolling session.
- Write down five ways wasting your time scrolling on social media is draining you, five wishes you have for yourself, and five ways you can use that time spent scrolling to make those wishes come true instead.
- Create boundaries that set yourself up for success: set an amount of time to not use your phone and find a box where you can store it during those hours. During that time, increase your self-awareness around your habit and do things that nourish you in healthy, supportive ways.
- Imagine how you’ll feel and what you can get done after a few months of adhering to these boundaries, picturing yourself having overcome your scrolling addiction with a better relationship with yourself and your media intake. See your future self in your mind’s eye, really stepping into your body. Engage your senses, smell the air, hear the sounds, and feel it in your body. Write down a description of your future self and choose three to five power words that embody your strength.
- Finally, breathe into your body and feel the place where your future self’s strength lives—you might see it as a color or an image. Use your breath as an anchor into this state. Repeat the previous power words like a mantra before you sleep, when you wake up, and when you feel triggered.
Overall, Cummins stresses that using hypnosis to address any habit is actually an “outside” job: “You need to implant and reinforce positive, resourceful anchors that pull you out of the habit and reinforce how you want to feel using your imagination, desire, and emotions. Set yourself up for success by scheduling time and physical boundaries and creating concrete goals and accountability.”
Whether tech-related or not, this is a practice everyone can benefit from, especially during uncertain times like these.