6 Ways to Optimize Your Instagram for Better Mental Health


Instagram is a helpful tool when you develop a good relationship with it. But for many, opening the Instagram app soon leads to feelings of anxiety or worse.

If you continue mindlessly using the platform and not thinking about the consequences, your mental health could take a nosedive.

Creating a positive relationship with Instagram is challenging. However, it’s by no means impossible. So, in this article, we explain how to set up your Instagram in a way that it will improve your mental health rather than harm it.

1. Only Follow Accounts That Make You Feel Good

When you scroll through your Instagram feed, pay attention to how you feel after interacting with certain people’s posts. Do you feel happy and inspired? Or are you sad, jealous, or even resentful?

While it’s wise to remember that Instagram is effectively a highlights reel of other people’s lives, you should treat your relationships on the platform like you treat your relationships in real life.

Just as you shouldn’t keep toxic people around you offline, it’s smart to unfollow accounts whose content regularly makes you feel bad. This is especially true when it relates to issues like body image and eating habits.

Related: Practical Ways to Clean Up Your Instagram

To unfollow someone on Instagram:

  1. Open the Instagram app.
  2. Go to their profile. You can do this by either clicking on their name in your home feed or manually typing it into the search bar.
  3. Tap the Following button.
  4. From the list of options, choose Unfollow.
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If you’re friends with the person in real life and don’t want to burn bridges, muting their posts might be a better option.

To mute someone on Instagram, follow the same steps as above—but choose Mute instead of Unfollow. On the next section, select either Mute Posts and Stories, Mute Posts, or Mute Stories (depending on which one you want to do).

2. Mute People’s Instagram Stories

In some cases, the Stories feature on Instagram is great for keeping up with friends and family. You can see what your loved ones are up to and feel like you’re a part of the event, even if you can’t be physically present.

But at the same time, mindlessly watching other people’s stories can cause numerous negative effects.

Sometimes, it looks like everyone other than you is having a good time. Watching videos from parties you weren’t invited to, or holidays that you wish you were on, can lead to feelings of inadequacy. Fear of missing out (FOMO) might also settle in.

Even if you like someone’s posts, most people you follow will publish stories that are irrelevant to you. Therefore, muting these is a smart option.

Related: How to Mute or Block Someone on Instagram

To mute people’s stories on Instagram:

  1. Open the app.
  2. Hold down on the person’s profile picture at the top of your screen.
  3. From the list of options, choose Mute > Mute Stories.
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3. Turn Off Instagram Notifications

Having notifications on your phone might seem like a good idea. But it’s essential to be careful; having your phone constantly buzz with something new can be overwhelming.

Turning on your notifications can also impact your mental health negatively after posting something. If you were expecting your content to perform well but instead see nothing, you might feel like you’ve done something wrong.

Fortunately, turning off your phone’s notifications is easy.

To turn off notifications for Instagram:

  1. Go to your profile in the Instagram app. You can do this by clicking on your profile picture in the bottom right of your screen.
  2. Tap on the three lines in the top right corner and click Settings.
  3. Go to Notifications.
  4. Go into each category and turn your notifications off.
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4. Take Regular Breaks From Instagram

In the hyper-connected modern world, multiple things fight for our attention. And for many people, Instagram gets a large chunk of their time.

Constantly being connected can cause a lot of problems. Your brain needs time to switch off and process information, and it cannot do this if you’re spending two hours every day on the platform.

Taking regular breaks is one solution to the above problem. If you feel like you can’t control yourself from checking Instagram, temporarily deactivating your account is a good idea.

Related: How to Do a Social Media Detox

To deactivate your account, you’ll need to sign in on your computer. Once you’ve done this, follow these steps:

  1. Go to Profile > Edit Profile.
  2. Scroll down to the bottom of the screen.
  3. Select Temporarily Disable Account.
  4. Pick a reason for deactivating your account.
  5. Enter your password and confirm that you want to deactivate your account.

screenshot for deactivating your account

When you deactivate your account, you don’t need to worry about your profile being deleted after 30 days. Your profile will only go permanently if you choose to do this.

5. Have a Clear Purpose for Using Instagram

To better-optimize your account, you need to define your purpose(s) for using Instagram.

Below are some reasons that you might want to be present on the platform:

  • Keeping in touch with family and friends while living in another city or country.
  • Using Instagram as a portfolio for your creative work (photography, graphic design, music, etc.)
  • Growing a business.

Once you’ve defined why you want to use Instagram, optimize your feed accordingly. If you’re trying to grow a business, for example, you might want to think twice about following your personal friends.

Having a purpose for using Instagram will reduce mindless scrolling and allow you to enjoy a more fulfilling experience on the platform.

6. Set Time Limits on Your Instagram Use

No matter how hard you try, you might find that Instagram continues to steal more of your attention than you want. The platform was designed to be addictive, after all.

Luckily, you can use other apps to control how long you spend on the app. If you own an iPhone, Screen Time is a particularly powerful tool for this.

Besides seeing how long you spend on your phone, you can also set limits to each app on your phone. If you put a control on for Instagram, you’ll automatically be locked out once you’ve maxed out that time.

To set a time limit on Instagram for your iPhone:

  1. Go to Settings > Screen Time.
  2. Go to App Limits and turn them on.
  3. At the bottom of the screen, click on Add Time Limit.
  4. Expand the Social option and select Instagram.
  5. Choose how long you want to limit yourself to while using the app each day.
  6. Confirm your choices and close the app.
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Only Use Instagram for Positive Reasons

Instagram is an excellent tool for staying in touch with others, but it’s easy to let the platform impact your mental health. As such, taking steps to limit these risks is essential.

Rather than using Instagram because it feels like the trendy thing to do, have a clear purpose for using the platform. It’s also wise to only follow accounts that add positive value to your life.

Consider turning off your notifications and setting daily time limits, as well as taking regular breaks. By incorporating these simple rules of engagement, you’ll enjoy a better relationship with Instagram and the people you encounter on the app.

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