Want to improve your mental health? We've got the answer

Have you been feeling blue lately? If so, you're not alone. With social distancing and virtual school in full force, it is no surprise that teens are feeling more isolated than ever. With little to no social stimulation, teens have been spending more time on social media—which has been directly linked to higher levels of depression and anxiety among young people. 

This connection is especially true for adolescent girls, as those who spend more time engaged in extracurriculars and less time on social media have better mental health, according to a study from the University of British Columbia and published by the Preventive Medicine journal.

Screen time exceeding two hours a day is not recommended for any gender, however, and combining more extracurriculars and less social media has been associated with higher levels of optimism and happiness and lower levels of anxiety and depression, the study said.

Eva Oberle, the lead author of the study, spoke about its findings during a news release.

"Our findings highlight extracurricular activities as an asset for teens' mental wellbeing," she said. "Finding safe ways for children and teens to continue to participate in these activities during current times may be a way to reduce screen time and promote mental health and wellbeing."

The study is based on self-reported data from nearly 30,000 middle school students between 2014 and 2018. The students answered questions about screen time, extracurricular activity involvement and their mental health.

Although this study was conducted prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Oberle says its findings are still just as, if not more relevant than they were at the time of the study.

"This finding confirmed our hypothesis and aligns with previous research and emphasizes that extracurriculars activities are an asset for thriving in adolescence," the study said. "While past studies have highlighted the importance of extracurricular activities for social, emotional and academic development, the present study emphasizes their importance for positive mental health outcomes."

While finding safe extracurricular activities may be harder in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to find time to spend on meaningful ventures away from your phone or computer screen.

Do you want to improve your mental health? If so, we've listed some helpful ways to get started.

Enable the iPhone screen time app:

If you have an iPhone, iPad or iPod, make sure screen time is enabled. It will give you weekly updates on the average hours you spend on your screen. You can get reports on what apps you use and how long you use them. It is *super* helpful.

Get outside:

To better your mental health, don't go on social media for an hour or two. Give your eyes and break and get outside. Since daylight savings time is in effect, it's best to enjoy the sunshine as much as you can by going on a walk or simply sitting in the sun.

Move your body:

Even if your soccer practice or dances classes have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you can still find ways to get active. Find space in your home to turn on your *fave* music and dance, or go on a run around the neighborhood. Evan 30 minutes or an hour can alleviate stress and make you happier!

When possible, in-person interaction:

We know virtual interactions aren't the same. From online school, social media and texting/FaceTiming, being on your screen is *exhausting.* Take time to be with others in peson when possible. Spend time with your family by playing games or having meaningful conversations. If you miss your frineds, plan a socially distant meet-up to see them IRL. make sure you're following your state's COVID-19 guidelines and restrictions.

Find a passion or hobby:

There are *so* many ways to make hobbies a more active part of your life. Experiment with passions like writing, reading, painting, running or cooking. Set aside time every day to put your phone away and find your creativity.


by Claire Hutto and Allie Lijewski | 11/13/2020