What are your Instagram ideas?
“My house should look like that and since it doesn’t I am clearly a loser.”
“How in the name of all that is good and holy can they afford that? And why can’t I?”
“I don’t look like that in a swimsuit. I AM NEVER WEARING A SWIMSUIT AGAIN.”
I’m sure you’ve seen a million studies that say social media negatively affects our self-esteem. Instagram is charged with this more often than Twitter or Facebook – and I get it! It’s not hard to filter and crop our way to a perfect-looking life. It’s easy to forget that social media is a highlight reel.
There are certainly arguments for using our phones and social media less. But I’d like to make the controversial argument that – when used with intention – Instagram in particular can actually make us happier.
6 Instagram Ideas That Will Make Your Life Happier + Better
1. Use Instagram as an accountability tool
If you’ve ever watched my Instagram Stories, you’ve probably seen me documenting my morning walks or how I spent my fun budget on during a Spending Diet.
When you see those stories, you might wonder why I think you’re interested in the three dollars I spent on a matinee, but the truth is: those photos are for me. I need accountability when I’m changing my habits and I view my 7,000+ Instagram followers as my accountability buddies.
It does me, my body, and my brain good to believe that thousands of people are holding me accountable to the goals I set for myself! Intellectually, I realize that it’s unlikely that all of my Instagram followers are waiting with baited breath for me to share a photo of my morning walk, but knowing that some people might notice if I drop off keeps me going.
You can use Instagram to hold yourself accountable for just about any change you’re making in your life! Take part in Project 333 or Mins Game or do a Whole 30. Each of these challenges have huge, super active Instagram communities that will support you.
2. Use IG to nudge you towards a more intentional life
I rarely “do it for the ‘gram.” I don’t make my life choices based on what will look good on the internet. When I’m knee-deep in a meaningful conversation with a friend, it’s unlikely that I’ll interrupt them to take a photo of the sunset.
If I’m cooking dinner and I could spend three more seconds plating my meal nicely so I can put it on Instagram, I will. If I’m walking through my neighborhood and spot a flowering tree that looks particularly beautiful against a bright blue sky, I’ll take a photo. If I’m wearing a cute outfit and the whole she-bang would be IG-worthy if I slicked on some lipstick, I will. And then I’ll take a selfie and share it.
And the truth is, I feel happier when I eat lovely meals and document moments of beauty in nature and look my cutest. In a perfect world, I would be 100% motivated to do those things on my own. In reality, I’m 90% motivated to do them because I know they make me happy, 10% motivated to do them because I know they photograph well. AND I AM OKAY WITH THAT.
This is a screenshot of my Discovery page and I’m so proud of the algorithm I’ve curated!
3. Fill your feed with things that actually make you happy
Fun fact! You are not required to fill your feed with extremely fit humans who only drink protein shakes. You also don’t have to follow interior designers who work with seven-figure budgets or people who are living lives that are currently unavailable to you.
There is certainly something to be said for using Instagram as space for inspiration. If you’re building your running habit, it is, in fact, a good idea to follow a bunch of runners. If you’re trying to eat more salads, it might be a good idea to follow some salad-centric food bloggers.
You don’t have to curate a ‘cool’ feed filled with things you don’t really care about! Follow accounts that actually make you happy: a dog that looks like Mr. Burns, weirdly satisfying nail art videos, your favorite celebrities, and your friend from college who lives in the UAE.
4. Fill your feed with people whose bodies, homes, incomes, and lives bear a passing resemblance to yours
I’m a 39-year-old woman who lives in the Midwest and wears a size 8/10. I earn a comfortable-but-not-millionaire amount of money. I live in a very-cute-to-me 1,300 square foot bungalow.
I am very happy about these things! I live in this house and wear this size on purpose!
But when I follow 21-year-olds with sixpacks, it’s much easier to think unkind thoughts about my not-sixpack. When I follow people living in six-bedroom beach homes, I find myself being less enthused about our very cute three-bedroom.
We all have triggers like this. If you’re struggling to get pregnant or adopt, perhaps mommy blogger accounts are not the best ones to follow. If you’re unhappily single, maybe the accounts filled with grinning couples are not for you right now.
Representation is just as, if not more, important than inspiration. It feels good to see people who are our size, our income, our age reflected back at us. (Because lord knows we probably won’t see that in traditional media.) Click To Tweet
Of course, it’s also important to fill our eyes and minds with diversity. So if you’re making an effort to follow ‘straight sized’ and plus-size style accounts, make sure there’s some variety in there in terms of race and gender.
5. Catalog content you love so you can reference it later
Have you found some accounts you lovelovelove? Ones that make you feel happy, satisfied, and closer to the person you want to be? Save those photos and posts for later.
You can create and organize collections for all the content that delights you: outfits, recipes, wisdom, funny animal photos. Create a collection that’s just people your age and weight in swimsuits or bite-sized pieces of wisdom or budget-friendly renovation ideas.
Whenever you find something you know you’ll want to come back to, tuck it away for safekeeping!
6. Tune into how you feel + behave after interacting with certain accounts and unfollow as needed
Many of us don’t realize how following anxiety-making accounts can affect us. We don’t connect that shopping spree with the fact that we just spent an hour looking at Instagram accounts created by people who earn three times what we do.
We don’t associate the spiral of body hate with looking at ‘thin-spiration’ accounts. We don’t realize we’re spite-eating pizza rolls after looking at 55 images of virtuous salad accompanied by long captions about super foods.
Let’s fill our lives and feeds with things that makes us feel and do good. If you feel inspired to volunteer or organize your closet or roast some veggies after scrolling through someone’s feed – awesome. If you feel like your life isn’t measuring up and you need to buy a bunch of stuff – less awesome.
Not sure how to weed out accounts or images that pop up and make you feel bad? On your Discovery page, click the three grey dots in the upper right corner and then click ‘see fewer posts like this.’
Ultimately, Instagram is just photos and words that live inside our phones. But with a tiny bit of tweaking and intention we can turn our Instagram feeds into safe, supportive, affirming spaces that will help us love who we are right now and nudge us towards the person we want to be.
I want to hear from you! How does Instagram affect the way you feel about yourself and your life? What accounts do you love? Leave to link to your favorites in the comments so we can follow them, too!
P.S. If Instagram makes you buy things you don’t need, this will help! And it’s free!
Point 3 is so important! There was a time when I just grammed stuff “for aesthetics”, and it burnt me out. I stopped enjoying Instagram. Now I keep a balance between “nice” pictures and actual stuff I want to photograph, which is the key to using Instagram and enjoying it! 🙂
Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
This blog post hitting my in-box today couldn’t have come at a better time. After my marriage ended, I’ve spent the past three years living with my parents and sorting my finances out. Last month, after a lot of hard work, I bought a house. And already, I’m going down the wormhole of IG, looking at huge, impossibly perfect houses and feeling like a failure because I ‘only’ have this little house with a million things wrong with it. This has just made me catch myself – I bought a HOUSE – which is AMAZING, not ‘not-good-enough’ because it doesn’t have a bloody swimming pool and matching everything. Urgh. What my little, messy and in-needs-of-work house does have is that thing where you ‘feel’ right in it. That little gut instinct that this is right for me. And I’ve been ignoring that in my immediate chasing of perfect, because of what I see on IG. So – I shall create a better online space for myself because of your words, Sarah. Thank you. x
Yes! So common for alllll of us to feel this way, after we’ve worked really hard for something!
Sarah how wonderfully refreshing to read something about Instagram that isn’t all “Oh it’s so terrible, I hate the algorithm, I never see my favourite accounts anymore…” blah blah BLAH. It’s true that on occasion I get a bit negative over Insta but I just step away for a while (I’ve had at least 3 or 4 breaks from it for anything up to 6 weeks this year already). It IS what you make of it!!
There’s no point moaning about the algorithm as they’re never going to change it back to chronological, so we have to work with it. I unfollowed all those types of accounts that you described… now I just get lots of animals, friends, affordable style inspo, beautiful landscapes and my favourite mid-century modern interiors. I actually enjoy it after years of scrolling and seeing stuff I didn’t want to see.
I love your accountability thing for Stories, that’s SUCH a good idea. I’m going to start that – thank you as always for a great read and for talking sense!!
I forgot to say: your positive attitude reminds me of the lovely Emily of @fashionfoiegras… she uses IG as a positive tool as well and encourages her followers to do the same 😀
Oh, you’re so kind to say so! And I just followed Emily – she seems delightful!
These are all REALLY good tips, Sarah! I’m not as active as other people on IG, so I’ve managed to only follow accounts that make me feel good about looking at IG the few times a week that I do so. But #6 is SO important for me–and once I realized that some of my social media was definitely causing me to feel badly about myself, I unfollowed/defriended/hid/etc. as appropriate.
And I DO enjoy looking at nail polish pictures and posts from KC Stauffer (Hello, Mila videos!!). 😉
Yes! Why are nail videos so soothing?!
These are great suggestions, but how do you do #5? I tried on instagram but don’t see an option for anything like that. Although I am a very light user so it’s possible it is obvious and I am overlooking it.
Below every photo on Instagram, you should see a little pennant on the right hand side. Click that and then you can start cataloging things!
Wow! This is so eye-opening! Some of it seems to obvious (and easy!) now that you say it. But I needed you to say it (I guess in this case, write it?). This is a perfect example of something I’m going to “catalog” and reference again later 🙂
Oh, thanks so much Amanda!
What a lovely post, that I just found thanks to Catherine, Not Dressed As Lamb – SO well said! I’m fairly new to IG, so this is a really good time for me to read this.