How Does Social Media Affect Women’s Body Image and Mental Health? And What Can We Do About It?
Written by: Thrishala Gunathunga
Social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and Snapchat have changed the way we live our lives, don’t you think?
They have become such an integral part of our daily routines, whether we’re connecting with friends, sharing information, or just scrolling through endless content.
But you know, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows when it comes to social media.
As much as it has revolutionised the way we connect and consume media, it has also brought about some serious problems, especially when it comes to women’s body image and mental health.
Unrealistic Beauty Standards on Social Media
One of the biggest ways social media affects women’s body image is by creating unrealistic beauty standards. It’s everywhere you look, especially on platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat. They are just flooded with carefully curated images of bodies and faces that seem absolutely flawless.
Even the majority of celebrities and influencers show an idealised version of themselves, using filters, editing tools, and various poses. These kinds of unrealistic representations can make women feel inadequate and dissatisfied with their own bodies.
And let’s not forget about all those ads and sponsored content. Instagram, in particular, seems to have lots of information about beauty products, diets, and cosmetic procedures.
Sure, it can be helpful to promote a healthy and beautiful lifestyle.
But constantly being bombarded with these messages can really mess with our heads. It’s easy to start feeling dissatisfied with our own bodies because we’re comparing ourselves to these unrealistic standards.
How Social Media Contributes to Mental Health Issues
Recently, Cataldo et al. (2021) revealed in an eye-opening review that when young people are exposed to fitspiration trends, it can actually lead to some unsafe behaviours and negative mental health outcomes.
One thing they mentioned is self-objectification, which basically means that instead of focusing on our abilities and who we are as individuals, we start to see ourselves as objects to be judged based on our appearance. Further, they stated that it can also increase the risk of developing mental health conditions like eating disorders, mood and anxiety disturbances, substance misuse, and body dysmorphic disorder (BDD).
BDD is a real mental health disorder, even though it’s often dismissed or downplayed. One of the main symptoms is the preoccupation with perceived flaws in one’s appearance, which can lead to significant distress and impair daily functioning.
It can then lead to the development of eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia. And it’s not just our mental health that takes a hit. Our overall satisfaction with life can reduce, and it can even affect our relationships and social activities.
Cataldo et al. (2021) even found that it can up the chances of something called Muscle Dysmorphia (MD). Basically, it’s when someone becomes super obsessed with getting really muscular, to the point where they spend way too much time lifting weights, become overly fixated on their diet, and might even misuse supplements.
It also revealed that young adults between 18 and 25 who consider themselves slightly overweight can end up feeling excluded like they don’t fit in, and even describe themselves as feeling hideous. It’s just heartbreaking to think that social media can make people feel this way about themselves.
The Impact of Constant Exposure to “Perfect” Lives
The impact of social media on mental health extends beyond body image concerns. One thing that comes up a lot is a phenomenon known as FOMO or the fear of missing out. It’s when we see other people having these amazing experiences online, and we start feeling inadequate, lonely, and anxious because we’re not doing the same things.
And you know what? It’s not just about experiences. Women especially can feel this pressure to show off a perfect, desirable life, even if it’s not true. This constant exposure to others’ seemingly perfect lives can also create unrealistic expectations and contribute to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
Understanding the Impact of Cyberbullying and Body Shaming
Social media platforms can also amplify body shaming and cyberbullying. Anonymous users can easily make derogatory comments about someone’s appearance, perpetuating a toxic culture of body shaming.
Women are particularly vulnerable to these negative comments, which can significantly impact their self-esteem and mental health. Constant exposure to such negativity can lead to increased stress, anxiety, and even depression.
Taking Control: How to Navigate Social Media’s Effects on Body Image and Mental Health
So how can we take control of social media? One effective strategy is to limit our screen time. Engaging in activities that promote self-care, such as exercise, practising mindfulness, and connecting with loved ones offline, can also help combat the negative impact of social media on mental health.
Studies, like the one conducted by Hrafnkelsdottir et al. (2018), have also shown that reducing screen time (below 5.3 hours a day) and increasing vigorous physical activity (more than 4 times a week) can lead to fewer symptoms of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and life dissatisfaction among adolescents.
So, by prioritising these activities, we can nurture our overall well-being because we deserve to feel good about ourselves, regardless of what those trends try to tell us.
And remember to always:
- Be kind to yourself and keep in mind that nobody is perfect.
- Follow social media accounts that celebrate body positivity, diversity, and self-acceptance.
- Set boundaries and allocate specific time slots for using social media.
And above all, know that what you see on social media often doesn’t reflect reality. You are amazing just as you are, and you deserve all the love and respect in the world.
- Cataldo, I., De Luca, I., Giorgetti, V., Cicconcelli, D., Bersani, F. S., Imperatori, C., … & Corazza, O. (2021). Fitspiration on social media: Body-image and other psychopathological risks among young adults. A narrative review. Emerging Trends in Drugs, Addictions, and Health, 1, 100010. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.etdah.2021.100010
- Hrafnkelsdottir, S. M., Brychta, R. J., Rognvaldsdottir, V., Gestsdottir, S., Chen, K. Y., Johannsson, E., Guðmundsdottir, S. L., & Arngrimsson, S. A. (2018). Less screen time and more frequent vigorous physical activity is associated with lower risk of reporting negative mental health symptoms among Icelandic adolescents. PloS one, 13(4), e0196286. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0196286
Active Listening – The Secret Ingredient to Successful Communication
Written by: Sabeeha Azmi
Do you often feel yourself nodding to a conversation but realise later that you don’t actually remember what was being said? This is because, although we utilise the skill of listening in nearly every situation, we don’t often distinguish between hearing and listening. It is quite easy to get lost during a conversation and end up losing focus and not gaining anything from it. So, how can we then improve our listening skills and through that our communication? The secret ingredient to successful communication is to use a specific skill of listening called active listening.
Listening moves beyond the simple act of hearing and encompasses an awareness of nonverbal communication, the timing and speed, context of speech, body language and tone of voice. Active listening thus involves listening through active engagement whilst simultaneously understanding and comprehending accurately the meaning of what is being heard.
This might sound hard to do but let’s see how adopting a few simple changes to the way you listen can help you become more effective in understanding and communicating in your interactions.
Active listening can be demonstrated through verbal and nonverbal behaviours. Looking at nonverbal skills, it is important to provide your full attention to the conversation and the person speaking. You can do this by focusing on being fully present in the conversation and avoiding distractions such as paying more attention to your inner dialogues, looking at your phone, or even preparing your response when listening and when the other person is still speaking. If you are unable to focus, you can simply mention to the speaker that you might not be able to provide your full attention at this moment, instead of appearing to be preoccupied which could discourage the speaker from continuing.
Other forms of nonverbal behaviours you can adopt are head nodding, forward body lean, open body language, uncrossed arms, mirroring certain body language of the speaker, maintaining appropriate distance, and most importantly eye contact as the conversation progresses.
Verbal active listening skills include paraphrasing information that you have heard from the speaker which will demonstrate to the speaker that you are in fact listening and that you have understood what is being said. Paraphrasing also provides a great opportunity for you to ensure that you have accurately understood what was conveyed, as it allows the speaker to correct or clarify any information that you might have misunderstood.
Be forthcoming and ask open-ended questions to ensure that you aren’t making assumptions about the speaker and what they are saying. These questions can be a great tool to get more information within a question and can lead to better comprehension of what is being said. Always clarify with the speaker as to whether you have actually obtained the accurate message/information from what they were trying to convey. An important aspect of active listening is to reflect the feelings that are being communicated. Paying attention and picking up on the emotions and reflecting it back can truly make the speaker feel that they are acknowledged and heard.
Displaying active listening through the highlighted behaviours illustrates to the speaker that you are attentive and present in the conversation. It also signals awareness and encourages the speaker to express their thoughts, emotions, feelings which help to direct successful communications and improve relationships. Active listening also has the power to help the listener carry out the conversation in a more meaningful manner. It cultivates empathy, growth, support, understanding and encouragement.
With the skills portrayed in this article, we together can revive and rediscover the lost art of listening and move beyond the words to deepen our connections and truly hear what people are saying.
Social Media and the Fear of Missing Out
Written by Pansiluni Hasanjana Weerawansa
In our digitally connected society, social media has seamlessly integrated itself into our daily lives, offering a multitude of benefits while carrying its fair share of drawbacks. Among these concerns, the fear of missing out (FOMO) effect emerges as a prevalent issue. FOMO encompasses the anxiety and unease individuals feel when confronted with others’ exciting experiences on social media platforms.
As social media usage continues to surge, the adverse effects of FOMO on individuals’ mental well-being have become more pronounced than ever before. Social media platforms have cleverly harnessed FOMO as a powerful tool, not only enticing users to join their platforms but also compelling them to remain incessantly engaged. This is often at the expense of their other obligations and responsibilities.
The fear of missing out stems from the relentless exposure to meticulously curated and envy-inducing posts that inundate social media platforms. As we leisurely scroll through our feeds, we are bombarded with seemingly flawless depictions of friends as well as strangers, relishing their best lives, partaking in glamorous events, or embarking on exotic adventures. This visual comparison mentally manipulates you, sparking feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, and a looming sense of exclusion.
Extensive research has shown that prolonged exposure to FOMO can inflict adverse consequences on mental health. Individuals plagued by FOMO may find themselves incessantly checking their social media feeds, fearing they might overlook something vital or significant. This insatiable craving for validation and connection can result in heightened stress levels, diminished self-esteem, and even symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Social media platforms, expertly crafted to captivate users, employ manipulative techniques that intensify the experience of FOMO. Algorithms meticulously prioritise content based on user engagement, ensuring a ceaseless stream of captivating posts that perpetuate the fear of missing out on current events or updates from friends. Moreover, influencers and brands adeptly exploit FOMO, skillfully creating an illusion of exclusivity and desirability. Limited-time offers, enticing influencer collaborations, exotic reels and sought-after event invitations fuel a sense of urgency, compelling individuals to partake or make purchases driven by the fear of missing out on extraordinary experiences or products.
The pervasive influence of FOMO on social media platforms carries profound implications for mental health. The perpetual cycle of comparison and exposure to unattainable standards portrayed across social networks can distort one’s self-perception. The pressure to present an impeccable image and maintain an unwavering online presence contributes to heightened anxiety and an insatiable need for validation. FOMO can impede genuine face-to-face social interactions. Individuals tend to get comfortable with online interactions as opposed to physical interactions, hindering their overall confidence when face-to-face interactions are a necessity. Excessive time spent scrolling through social media feeds diminishes opportunities for meaningful real-life connections, which are vital for overall well-being and mental health. This further exacerbates feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Even though self-comparison is an inherent aspect of human nature, youths tend to take this behaviour much further, leading to an incessant urge to meticulously scrutinise their appearance and lifestyle in relation to their peers. Regrettably, popular social media platforms such as Instagram actively foster an environment where users are driven to present themselves and their lives as flawlessly ideal, perpetuating the pressure to maintain a picture-perfect image.
Although social media has firmly established its presence in our lives, individuals can adopt various strategies to mitigate the detrimental effects of FOMO. It is imperative to practise mindful social media usage, setting boundaries and allocating specific time for engagement. Engaging in activities that foster personal well-being and self-care, such as pursuing hobbies or spending quality time with loved ones, can effectively alleviate the impact of FOMO.
Cultivating a healthy perspective on social media is vital. Recognizing that people often present extremely curated versions of their lives and realising that individuals choose to show the best moment in their life is key to understanding that the majority of social media is highly unrealistic. Limiting the impact social media has on us can be done through various ways such as controlling our mindset, limiting screen time, a dopamine detox from social media, working on self-esteem and self-improvement, surrounding ourselves with hobbies and managing our expectations are a few.
In our hyperconnected world, the vicious cycle of fear of missing out on social media significantly influences our mental health to a large extent hindering our overall well-being. The constant exposure to meticulously crafted posts and the manipulative tactics employed by social media platforms can contribute to anxiety, decreased self-esteem, and diminished well-being. It is essential to be aware of these effects and to develop healthy coping strategies to maintain a balanced relationship with social media.
Learn to Be at Peace with Yourself
Written by: Thrishala Gunathunga
From the relentless demands of work and relationships to the constant baggage of social media, it can feel like we are constantly being pulled in a million different directions in today’s busy world.
So how can you learn to be at peace with yourself when everything seems like a continuous struggle?
There is no easy answer for this because it won’t happen overnight, but with dedication and practice, it is certainly a possibility.
In this post, we will explore 10 ways that you can learn to be at peace with yourself, which will ultimately help you to find a sense of calm and balance in a time of chaos.
1. Live in the present
Living in the present can be incredibly rewarding because it enables you to fully appreciate the world around you without being weighed down by regrets of the past or worries about the future. It will create a greater awareness of your thoughts, emotions, and actions, allowing you to manage them more healthily.
Imagine taking a stroll in a park near your home. Instead of getting lost in the complexities of life, take a moment to focus on the sounds of nature, the vibrant colors of flowers and trees, and the gentle touch of wind on your skin.
2. Accept your authentic self
It is very important to accept yourself entirely, including your strengths, weaknesses, and any flaws that you may have. Rather than comparing yourself to others, acknowledge that each individual is unique.
Let’s say you tend to stutter when you are nervous. In that case, it’s better to accept it as part of yourself and practice speaking in front of the mirror, taking deep breaths and pauses as needed. This will improve your self-esteem and help you to be confident in your own abilities.
3. Take a moment to be grateful
Being grateful is a powerful tool that can have a transformative effect on our lives. It allows you to develop a habit of looking for the good in every situation and helps one find joy in the most challenging situations.
Taking a few moments each day to be grateful for a hot cup of coffee in the morning, a good movie, a beloved pet, or a beautiful flower can help you cultivate a greater sense of appreciation for the world around you.
4. Acknowledge mistakes as a part of your life
No one is perfect, so it is absolutely okay to make mistakes! All you have to do is learn from them and make better decisions in the future. Doing so will allow you to get rid of any guilt and be at peace with yourself.
Let’s say you missed a work deadline. Ensure you take responsibility for what happened, apologise if necessary, and move forward with a plan to improve by creating to-do lists, or doing tasks with the Pomodoro technique.
5. Do something that makes you happy
By doing something that makes you happy every day, you can cultivate a greater sense of joy, fulfilment, and happiness, and improve your mental health and well-being in the process.
Go for a walk, play with a pet, read a good book, listen to music, cook a nice meal, do yoga, or simply spend some quality time with your loved ones!
6. Let go of the negativity in life
Negativity can come in many forms like anger, self-doubt, resentment, jealousy, anxiety, and shame. It is important to let go of them if you want to be at peace with yourself, or else it will drain your energy, create tension, and give rise to conflicts in your relationships, ultimately hindering your progress in life.
Say you received some constructive criticism at work that made you feel insecure. Instead of constantly worrying about not being good enough, you can take steps to improve yourself, and remind yourself of your accomplishments and strengths.
7. Prioritise self-care
Self-care means you learn to prioritise your needs and take care of your physical, emotional, and mental well-being. It also indicates that you are worthy of love and that you don’t always need external validation, and sometimes your own validation is sufficient.
Make sure to schedule self-care activities at least twice a week. For example, you can meditate, spend time outdoors, do yoga or Zumba, eat a well-balanced diet, and engage in other activities that make you feel relaxed and content.
8. Treat yourself with kindness
One of the best ways to learn to be at peace with yourself is accepting you are only human, and treating yourself with the same kindness that you would offer for your best friend.
Imagine that you feel less motivated at work when deadlines are approaching. Instead of punishing yourself with more negative self-talk, take a step back and see why you are feeling like that. Perhaps you need ample rest or a change of scenery. Allow yourself that space and then return to work with a refreshed mind.
9. Cultivate patience
Cultivating patience in life is a valuable quality, especially when learning to be at peace with yourself. Always remember that it is not an overnight achievement, and it requires time and effort, as well as practising various strategies, to reach a sense of calm.
For example, avoid getting frustrated or giving up when progress seems slow by being patient. Instead, you can focus on the small steps and stay committed to your journey.
10. Embrace change with open arms
Change is an inevitable part of your life. Whether you like it or not, things around you will keep changing – after all, change is a natural process of life. But if you can’t embrace change with open arms, you are less likely to achieve your full potential.
Imagine being stressed because you are stuck in a job that you don’t like. But you don’t leave that job because of the fear of not finding a new one. However, if you embrace change and step out of your comfort zone, you may find new opportunities that align with your passion and bring you a sense of peace and fulfilment.
These 10 ways to be at peace with yourself offer a path to enjoying your life and experiencing the best that it has to give you! So go out and enjoy your life while channelling your inner peace.
Keep Stress at Bay!
Written by: Sabeeha Azmi
Let’s talk about stress!
Stress is a psychological and physiological reaction to a perceived or real threat. It is an automatic survival mechanism designed to protect us from danger. This means that stress activates our flight or fight or freeze response. Our body’s stress response only takes a few seconds to activate but it can take a much longer time for us to recover from such a response.
If we look into some of the positive and negative functions of stress, we can understand why a certain amount of stress can be healthy and anything beyond that could be harmful to us.
Experiencing a little stress can help us perform our daily tasks. For example, feeling a little stressed before an interview can lead us to plan and be prepared for it. Other areas where it is natural to feel stressed are during challenging situations such as school exams, conflict with friends or family, unrealistic workloads, during economic crises, disease outbreaks etc. Individuals usually see a reduction in stress overtime as the situation improves or they learn to cope with the situation.
Stress can become a problem for us when it continues for a long time or if the stress we feel is very intense. We can identify two types of stress that could cause serious effects on our lives. Acute stress which occurs within a short period of time but is very intense. This can be seen in situations such as a sudden death or natural disaster. Chronic stress on the other hand, lasts for a longer period of time or can be recurring. This can be seen in situations where individuals face a lot of pressure or if their day to day lives are difficult such as if they are a caretaker or living in poverty conditions.
Our stress symptoms can look like this:
- Having headaches
- Dry mouth
- Unable to sleep
- Decreased appetite
- Tensed muscles
- Increased heart rate
- Shallow breathing
Now let’s take a look at some of the impacts of stress on our lives. Stress has an impact on the social, physical, behavioural and mental aspects of our lives.
Physically, stress can lead us to develop chest pain, fatigue, changes in sex drive, hypertension, heart disease, ulcers, hair loss etc. These can have a serious effect on our health and lead to a damaged and unhealthy system.
Behavioural and social impacts include showing more outward anger, overeating or under-eating, social withdrawal, fewer interactions with others, more arguments with others, substance misuse, less engagement in exercise etc. These impacts could lead to drastic changes in an individual’s behaviour and could affect the quality of their relationships and daily life.
In terms of mental health impacts, stress can lead to decreased concentration, lack of motivation, feeling restless, feeling overwhelmed and irritable, experiencing sadness or anxiety etc. This shows how stress can affect our moods and lead to a negative impact on our mental health.
Understanding the effects that stress has on our well-being can show us how important it is to manage our levels of stress. Here are some tips on how you can develop healthy ways to cope with stress:
Meditation – helps us to focus on the here and now so that we won’t focus on what has already happened or what might happen. There are many forms of meditation and even a few minutes a day can greatly reduce overall stress levels.
Deep Breathing – breathing techniques can help calm the body and brain in just a few minutes. Try out box breathing:
- Close your eyes. Take a deep breath while counting to 4. Pause and hold for 4 counts and then exhale while counting to 4. Pause for 4 counts and then repeat these steps a few times.
This method allows your mind to shift focus onto your breathing, reducing unnecessary distractions, and helps reduce your body’s stress response.
Exercise – engaging in some activity such as walking, hiking, going to the gym, swimming etc. can help redirect the adrenaline released during stress into something more productive and healthy.
Eliminate stressors – understand what your stress triggers are and try to understand how you can reduce them. Knowing what is within your control and changing some of your daily habits can help you do this. Reducing the number of stressors can help you be more at peace.
Social support – when things seem difficult, reach out to family and friends. Talking it through with someone you trust can provide you emotional support which can reduce your overall stress.
Gratitude – expressing all the things you are grateful for allows you to realise all the good things in life that take you away from stress. Make being thankful a daily habit by writing down what you are grateful for every morning or night, or saying it out loud to yourself or even maintaining a gratitude journal.
Progressive muscle relaxation – often when stressed, we tend to tighten our muscles. Practising this technique can relieve tension and help you relax more. Try this:
- Take a few deep breaths. Then, starting either from your toes or your forehead, tense each group of muscles, one by one and then release.
Moving through the whole body will allow you to realise all the tension you’ve been holding onto and in turn help you relax and release your stress responses.
Quality ‘me’ time – most of our days are filled with interactions with others. This can be a stressor all on its own. Try to spend some time by yourself, enjoying the things that make you feel comfortable and happy and which help you to rest and relax.
Remember, stress is a natural response so it is okay to feel a bit of stress from time to time but we have to ensure that it is not excessive. By using the tips highlighted above we can aim to manage our stress so that we can maintain healthy lives. Don’t forget to take some deep breaths and keep stress at bay!
Make Time for Family and Friends
Written by: Sabeeha Azmi
As we navigate ourselves through today’s fast-paced world, it can be easy to get caught up with studies, work, social media and various other commitments. Often, we do not realise that our days are spent on these activities as time slips by. We go on to either lose touch with our family and friends or only spend a few minutes with them. Sometimes even the time we do spend with our family and friends are filled with distractions and preoccupations with other things we want and/or need to be doing. However, despite our busy lives, taking time to connect and engage with family and friends can have significant benefits for our emotional and mental well-being and strengthen our relationships.
So what does it then mean to make time for family and friends?
Making time for family and friends means that we prioritize and dedicate time, attention and focus to spending time with people who are close and important to us. It requires us to create some time amongst our schedules to connect, interact and catch up with our loved ones through activities, conversations, outings or even simply being completely and fully present with them.
We need to actively work towards maintaining and strengthening relationships by making efforts to be more present and focused when we spend time together.
Our family and friends are an essential source of social support. This means that they are there to help us cope with stress, maintain overall well-being and help us manage difficult situations. Family and friends provide us with practical support such as help around main crunch points such as the household and transportation. They also provide emotional support such as listening to us when we have a problem or giving us a shoulder to cry on when things might get hard.
Moreover, family and friends can also offer us a sense of belonging and social connection. This allows validation of our identity and the experiences we go through each day.
When we spend time with our family and friends it can positively impact our happiness. Even if we are introverts by nature, having that social time can really boost your happiness. Harvard happiness expert, Daniel Gilbert says that “We are happy when we have family, we are happy when we have friends and almost all the other things we think make us happy are actually just ways of getting more family and friends.” So if you’re thinking of an investment, spending time with loved ones is a great place to start!
When we spend time with our family and friends we are engaging in one of the best ways to create memorable experiences. When we look back at our lives, some of the most vivid memories we have are the ones spent with family. We have the good ones we talk over dinner, the funny ones leading us to have a good laugh every time it is brought up, the trips and the adventures, singing out of tune songs and eating out and the sad ones too, where we lent each other support and got through it together. Nothing can replace the time we spend with our family and friends.
As we all grow older and life gets faster and busier, the time we once had to spend with our friends diminishes. We don’t always notice it at first, but soon hanging out at friends’ houses, doing homework together gets replaced with trying to schedule a quick coffee date. When we get caught up with everything else in our lives, the phone calls and text conversations we used to have daily with friends slowly turn to every other week or sometimes a call every few months. Finding time for friends does get harder with time constraints and occupations but we can definitely try to prevent ourselves from completely losing touch!
Spending some time with our friends does not need to be a fully orchestrated event, instead, small efforts to find some pockets of time to spend with them can be cost effective, time efficient and rewards us greatly with pleasure, joy and care.
Now, let’s look at some of the benefits of spending time with family and friends in more detail. Aside from the positive impacts we have already looked at, here are some significant benefits to engaging in social time with family and friends:
1. It can improve heart health
When we stress, it could lead to inflammation in our arteries which can lead them to get clogged causing complications. Spending time with our loved ones helps lower blood pressure and stress which helps in turn to lower the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.
2. Can improve quality of life as we grow
The American Society of Aging states that older individuals who have strong social networks have better cognitive functioning, good episodic memory and less deficiencies with their body and brain. Making time for family and friends could contribute to these positive health effects.
3. Helps children perform better academically
Children learn vital communication skills and social skills when they spend time with friends and family. This can aid them in their education and overall social development. Spending time with children will also show them we care and can reinforce positive habits and behaviors.
4. Boost our self-confidence
Sometimes when we are feeling down and low on self-esteem, spending time with family and friends can be the perfect pick me up. Our loved ones can help us build confidence in ourselves by appreciating our talents and our abilities, by telling us we are valued and appreciated and by sometimes simply being our cheerleaders!
5. Helps us develop adaptability and resilience
How we face our challenges and changes in life can be enhanced with a strong family bond. Surrounding ourselves with support from family and friends shows us that we belong and are needed. This provides us with a sense of purpose and meaning. This purpose and meaning can motivate and encourage us to push through, grow in the face of adversity and succeed in all aspects of our life.
Knowing and understanding the benefits of spending and making time for family and friends, it then brings us to the next question: How do we spend time with family and friends? How can we make time in our already overflowing schedules? Well, here are some practical and realistic ways to increase to your social time with your loved ones:
1. Exercise together
This is a great way to spend our time productively and connect with family and friends. Find a kind of exercise or physical activity that everyone enjoys and make it an activity! It could be running together, going on walks or hikes, swimming or even playing a sport like badminton or tennis.
2. Recognize who we want to prioritise in life
We can have lots and lots of friends but identifying the individuals we want to make a priority in our lives will help us plan our time more efficiently. This isn’t selfish, even though it may seem like that. Rather, it ensures that we are putting focus and effort into nurturing truly special relationships. We can still definitely spend time with everyone when we can!
3. Sharing a part of our calendar with family and friends
Sharing calendars can help us plan better. When we can see common openings or interest in the same activities, it will help us connect and schedule time for each other better.
4. Hosting a regular event
Family and friend traditions are always fun! Get together and decide on a day every month, where everyone comes in for a special event. This can be activities like book clubs, a movie or game night, cooking together, or going for a picnic. The planned events allow people to bring their full focus and create genuine interactions.
5. Make time spent more purposeful
It doesn’t matter how much time or how big the activity is, the most important thing is to make that specific time period purposeful.
6. Leave thoughtful messages
Sometimes it really isn’t easy to find time to spend with family and friends. When we are going through a time period like that, a thoughtful and heartfelt message can make a world of difference. Check in on them, mention how you want to spend time together, and show interest in their lives. This can show that we truly value and care for our loved ones, even at times when we can’t meet up.
7. Celebrate traditions and each other
Sometimes connecting can simply be through honouring traditions and each other. Tell family stories, laugh together, eat dinner together at least once a week, embrace each other, and remind each other that you love the other person. Focus on the quality of the relationship when it comes to spending time with loved ones.
The more we make time and interact with people who are motivational, authentic, genuine, the more we feel energised and supported. Spending time with family and friends greatly improves our mental well-being, our relationships and our physical health. With our loved ones, our good times are made better, so do not miss out on your opportunity to build and maintain a strong social support!
Mental Health Awareness For Men
This article talks about the gender-specific challenges that create stigma for men when it comes to addressing mental health issues.
When talking about Men’s mental health we need to address the barriers they face when it comes to seeking support. There is a huge mismatch between the numbers of males vs females that seek out therapy and mental health support. This is directly linked to the gender stereotypes placed on both genders by society, culture etc. Most males hear phrases like “Don’t cry”, “Walk it off”, “Man up” or “Be a man” when they are growing up. These phrases can be so harmful to a young boy as it teaches him that as a male he is not “allowed” to express his emotions, unlike his female counterparts. Emotion expression is viewed as “weak” behaviour and therefore a lot of young boys learn to hide from their emotions and engage in suppression as a result. Males are nurtured in such a way that emotional expression seems taboo. Meanwhile the only emotion society seems to accept from males is anger. Anger has been inaccurately labelled the “strong” emotion and thereby appropriately fits in to this pointless stereotype that society has created for males.
“Boys grow up in a world inhabited by a narrower range of emotions”-Dr. Gruber & Dr. Borelli
The negative impacts of emotional suppression have been proven time and time again through research. It has been identified that not nurturing emotional diversity in the youth, especially avoidance of strong negative emotions with the exception of anger, can lead to academic under-performance, participating in health-risk behaviours, severe depressive symptoms in adulthood, as well as engaging in physical violence as a form of expression. Scientists have speculated that due to a lack of emotion regulation there could be links between aggressive behaviours and constrained emotions. This seems probable considering that young boys are not taught skills of emotion regulation and therefore lack the practice creating difficulty with regulating their full range of emotions. Since anger has been one emotion that was not considered taboo growing up- this becomes the default form of expression.
“Emotional diversity is not just important for young boys but continues to be so as emotionally restricted young boys mature into adult men with more rigid emotional repertoires. Experiencing the full range of emotions may not only benefit young boys’ psychological health but have far-reaching benefits for society at large.”
Men are hesitant to reach out because they find it difficult to open up about their emotions. As the message reiterated from childhood is that of emotional suppression. Therapy or counselling aims at focusing on and deconstructing emotions, feeling them without judgement and instead looking at them curiously- this message is likely to go against the message most males received from childhood, which creates a sense of discomfort as it contradicts their cultural stereotype that men must remain “strong”. Additionally, as males are unable to talk about their feelings and explore them, they might find it difficult to identify symptoms of certain mental health issues, therefore unknowing that they could benefit from support.
All these factors intertwined have brought us as a society to a point where our men are now struggling in relation to their mental health.
“Surveys from around the world show that men everywhere find it difficult to open up about mental health, though they are significantly more at risk of attempting suicide.”
– Medical News Today
A big step that we as a society can take to end this “Silent pandemic” is to focus on better mental health education. Studies have shown the importance of using education to shift how men conventionally think about mental health, depression, and suicide. It has been further highlighted that these education programs can have a positive impact on reducing the stigma surrounding these topics.
Experts have increasingly noticed that there are many factors that come into play when trying to understand the difference between the mental health experience of men and women. Some of these factors include biology such as hormonal differences, but biology does not give us the whole picture. Increasingly we are understanding that internalised gender stereotypes, coping strategies (e.g., substance abuse), clinical bias etc. plays a deeper role in who experiences mental health issues and how their symptoms formulate. Which is why education surrounding these topics need to be prioritised as a main step towards fighting stigma.
If I am struggling, where should I start?
- Speak to a close friend; Especially if you are male speaking out about emotions might feel like the last thing you want to do. But try talking to a close friend, someone you don’t feel judged by and who could also provide you with some support and guidance on how to tackle things.
- Reach out to a Psychologist/Counsellor- If you feel like opening up to those around you is tough try talking to a therapist. Maybe talking to an unbiased third party who is bound by ethics to keep your information confidential can help you create a non-judgemental space where you can share. Remember you don’t have to have a mental illness to schedule an appointment with a therapist. They help people navigate a full spectrum of troubles.
- Read and Learn- Try and consume more information surrounding mental health and in specific how gender stereotypes affect each gender. It would be helpful for you to challenge those thoughts and learn about what are the healthier ways of looking at mental health.
- Write what you feel- Journaling can be an amazing tool that you can use to learn more about yourself. Since exploring emotions is probably new to most of us, journaling helps you create a sense of self-awareness. This can help you stay in tune with your mental health and notice patterns, and if it feels like it is worsening you will be aware enough to seek out mental health support.
- Bring it up- Talking about the importance of mental health in social settings, or with your close friend circle can be beneficial as it normalises the topic among your peers. This can benefit both them and you, as it helps everyone feel less alone, when they know that mental health struggles are common to all humans.
“Mental health can be hard to think about. Identifying that you’re finding it difficult or that you might need help isn’t always easy — particularly for men. However, it’s best to speak out. Whether you open up to a friend or family member or consult your doctor, there’s help out there, and ways to help manage your mental health yourself, too.” -Healthline
Written by Sanchia Supramaniam