December is the time of year when we are inundated with lists, trends, and reviews.
And then there is Google.
Each December, they release the Year in Search. Google captures a lot of data, and this review is a good snapshot of what people around the world were searching for and a small insight into their feelings.
Google released a video based on these search trends for 2021 in December, and the results showed that many people were concerned about their mental health.
In the worlds of Google:
“In a year in which the world continued to face a devastating pandemic among other global challenges, a theme emerged from the search data: the global pursuit of healing and finding a way forward. Whether searches were personal (like “how to recover from burnout” or “how to maintain mental health”) or related to issues like climate change (“impact of climate change,” “how to conserve”), 2021 was a year of seeking out reassessment, reflection, and growth.”
I can certainly agree with that last sentence. It has undoubtedly been a year of reassessment, reflection, and growth for me.
How can you maintain good mental health?
How to heal, how to stay strong, how to take care of your mental health, how to be resilient.
These are the terms featured in the Google video and highlight the challenging conditions that many of us faced this year. How to maintain mental health hit record search volumes, as did the term mental health. The massive rise in searches for mental health content demonstrates that it’s becoming okay to say that you’re not okay.
After a tough 2020, many of us expected 2021 to be a far better year and suffered a letdown when lockdowns and restrictions, and case numbers continued.
The good thing is people are recognizing there are resources and information that can assist with their mental health and are researching for this content. The more people search, the more governments, and organizations will invest in mental health.
Last year, doomscrolling was named the word of the year by the Macquarie Dictionary.
It is defined as “the practice of continuing to read news feeds online or on social media, despite the fact that the news is predominantly negative and often upsetting.”
It has become almost a hobby for many during the pandemic to practice doomscrolling. I’ll admit that when the Omicron variant was first announced, I spent hours each day searching for news. I was worried that my trip home to see my wife’s family for Christmas would be canceled for the third time. The constant refreshing of news feeds only exacerbated my anxiety.
It should be no surprise that doomscrolling through fear-inducing content isn’t good for your mental health.
Experts advise limiting time on social media and making sure the use of your phone is intentional, not compulsive. Another tip is to turn off news alerts.
Mari Verano, a licensed therapist, tells her clients “to look for ‘proof of the good” in order to practice gratitude and resilience. Doomscrolling is looking repeatedly at ‘proof of the bad,’ which strengthens the brain’s negative bias.”
I decided to take heed of this advice and type ‘good news Omicron’ into Google and try and find the positives in the situation.
Searching for affirmation
“I am worthy; I am loved.”
Many of those who became addicted to doomscrolling also began to look for proof of the good. And one way of doing this is through practicing affirmations. According to Google, the world searched for affirmations more than ever before.
An affirmation can be any positive phrase or statement used to challenge negative or unhelpful thoughts and has been shown to have positive benefits.
Self-affirmation has been demonstrated to lower stress and rumination and can decrease health-deteriorating stress.
If you are looking for some affirmations to repeat, then the Queen of Motivation — Oprah Winfrey, has a good list.
I hope that 2022 sees the rise of affirmations and far less doomscrolling.
Heal the world
Despite the individual struggles, citizens were still empathic to the situation of others around the world. On several occasions when there was a serious issue or crisis in a country — we, the people using Google, wanted to help.
In May, we wanted to help Palestine; in August, when Haiti experienced a magnitude 7.2 earthquake followed by Tropical Storm Grace, we wanted to help the people of Haiti. When the US troops finally left Afghanistan, people were looking at ways to help.
The United Nations requested $35 billion to meet the humanitarian assistance needs of 235 million people in 56 different countries in 2021, so it is an ongoing issue.
Since the pandemic, people have been more willing to give to local and international charities, with donations at record levels in 2020 and almost as high in 2021.
We also wanted to show our appreciation for the extraordinary effort put in by nurses over 2021 by searching on nurses week.
So while people needed to heal, they were appreciative of those who helped them heal.
The last search term the video ends on is how to be hopeful.
The message is clear that while our searches are related to mental health, there is always hope. In fact, that is evident in some of the other trends highlighted in the annual report.
Globally, body positivity was searched at record highs.
Body positivity is a “social movement focused on the acceptance of all bodies, regardless of size, shape, skin tone, gender, and physical abilities, while challenging present-day beauty standards as an undesirable social construct.”
Another term that saw a record increase in searches was soulmate. Perhaps this was people confirming they had indeed met their soulmate or for tips on finding their soulmate.
Either way, it was another sign of hope. And that globally, we are learning how to heal.
Each year I read the annual Google Trends report and watch the video through a marketing lens. I use it to obtain information on trends, ideas for new articles and understand what topics people are interested in.
2021 was different.
The theme of hope and healing resonated with me, and it showed me very clearly that so many humans are experiencing similar feelings. It goes to show the importance of mental health, of supporting each other, and of communication.
Let’s hope that now, in 2022, people resort to Google less and speak to friends, families, and support networks.