How to Prevent Social Media From Dictating Your Happiness

Scrolling through your Instagram feed may have more of an effect on your overall mood than you think.

Studies have shown that receiving "likes" on social media can cause your brain to release dopamine, a chemical that induces feelings of happiness. But not getting as many likes as you were hoping for on a post or comparing yourself to other people's online lives can lead to feelings of inadequacy or sadness.

We chatted with curvy model, wellness expert and Healthy Is The New Skinny founder Katie Willcox about how to not let Instagram get you down. Below are her best tips:

1. Only Post What's True to Yourself

"Think about things you love to do," says Willcox. "Post things that are all-inclusive of who you are, because that will attract other people who love the same things you love. Choose what makes you feel good over what you think makes you look good."

If other people don't "like" your posts, it's okay—because you like your posts.

"If you don't have strangers liking a picture of your lunch, just think, did you like your lunch?" she says. "It doesn't really matter that 500 strangers didn't like your pasta."

Teen girls at a cafe looking at their phones

(via Shutterstock)


2. Take a Day Off Social Media Whenever You Feel Overwhelmed by It

If you count how many times a day you reach for your phone to check social media, you may be shocked by how addicted to these apps you actually are.

"Challenge yourself to spend one day offline and just enjoy being without photographing something and having other people 'like' it," says Willcox. "The next day think about how you felt, and how you can bring more of that into your life."


3. Don't Get Caught Up in the Unrealistic Body Ideals Portrayed on Instagram

"Right now the ideal is the 'slim thick' body—a super small waist with a big butt, toned arms, long hair and perfect teeth—but we don't see people in real life looking like that," says Willcox, who explains the bodies we see on our feeds are often the result of Photoshop, plastic surgery and filters.

Trying to achieve a body type that's not attainable naturally can come at a serious cost.

"[When we try to achieve that body ideal], we may spend a lot of money, over-exercise, under-eat, or obsess about the way we look," says Willcox. "If it's causing us depression or anxiety or making us feel bad about ourselves because we can't actually obtain this look, is it worth it? It's not worth it to risk our health and happiness and well-being for something that can't even be actually obtained."

Katie Willcox

(Katie Willcox via Bradford Willcox)


4. Focus on Loving Yourself and Finding Those Who Love You (in Real Life)—Not "Likes"

"Always be authentic and be honest with yourself," says Willcox. "We all try to fit into a box of this one image of who we think we need to be, but there are 31 flavors for a reason. Even the weird, funky flavor in the back has a scoop out of it because that's somebody's jam. You are somebody's favorite no matter how weird or different you think you are."


Want even more ways to up your happiness? Check out THESE tips on how to give yourself a week of true self-care.