A few months ago a bunch of Insta-models shared polls in their Instagram stories asking if followers thought Social Media seriously harms mental health. The general consensus was a resounding YES and the research seems to back it up. A number of recent studies have been done investigating the effects of social media usage on our psychological well-being and they’ve shown that many of us tend to feel pretty crappy after an extensive stint spent on the socials. A
So why does it make us feel like crap? Well, aside from the fact that time spent on social media is time spent not doing other stuff we’re probs supposed to be doing (pls dont make me vacuum) one of the leading theories is Social Comparison theory. Basically, we see depictions of others that are a closer representation of our concept of the “Ideal” and we compare ourselves against those. It’s effect is particularly strong when it comes to making comparisons against “ideal body types” (for anglo, white women, it’s called the “thin ideal”), but can pretty much apply to any aspect of life. It’s likely that there will be people on your feeds that represent aspects of life that you would consider closer to your ideal (remember, representations can often be deceiving). The space between where you’re at and where they’re at can cause some stress and anxiety. “I wish I had that job/degree/house/family life/relationship/friendship group”, etc. Their relative social proximity to you can also increase these crappy feelings. A
How can we combat these feelings? There are two ways, either change your Social Media usage or change your concept of the “Ideal”. Sounds simple, right? A
It’s easy to get sucked into Social Media. Almost 75% of Australians actively use it (ABS, 2014), it’s on our smart phones which makes it constantly accessible, and it’s pretty much optimised by web gurus to make it as addictive as possible (it’s like internet crack). If it’s making you feel shitty, try limiting your time spent on it or deleting apps off your smartphone so you can only access it from your computer. If that’s too huge a leap, try curating your feeds a little better to stop following pages or users that make you feel angry, frustrated, jealous, resentful of or bad about yourself. A
Changing your concept of the “ideal” requires a little more of a philosophical expedition. What we consider “ideal” is wrapped up in a lifetime of experiences, exposure, and social conditioning. Often ideas of what we want don’t always come from an honest and authentic place, and might instead be ego-fuelled by the need to prove something to ourselves and others. These things might not get us any closer to living happy and fulfilling lives – but it’s super easy to think they will (more 👏🏼 money 👏🏼 pls). A
Finally, remember people’s depictions of life on Social Media can be a false representation of actual reality.
The good news is that studies have also shown the negative psychological effects of social media usage can be thwarted by being an informed and educated social media consumer. So remember, don’t always believe everything you see, and don’t believe everything you think.
Do you spend a huge amount of time waiting for motivation/inspiration? A
Whether it’s to write a song, or do an art or make a change, there is a popular notion that things of real value must be born of inspiration. One must feel some sort of deep, driving force to do something before it can be done and so it can be done organically, with authenticity. A
“Inspiration” is so in fash that it’s peddled day in day out in magazines and on insta feeds. I guess what is considered inspiring is different for all of us, and it can be great when it offers us guidance or helps spark our interest in something new. A
But, I feel like most of the time we should chuck the idea of inspiration in the bloody garbage. A
Instead of motivating and encouraging, I find that so called “inspiration” can be stifling, guilt-inducing, and lead you to focus on all the shit you don’t have/are not and wish you did/were.
Most people who claim to be peddling “inspiration” are often just “inspiring” you to spend your money with them. Nothing particularly noble or enlightening there. A
Inspiration can also be dangerous when it’s considered to be the first step in a series of important actions or changes. A
BE INSPIRED – > DO THE THING A
I can tell you that I have spent a majority of time being uninspired or rationalised feelings of inspiration so much so that I’ve considered them to not be true or authentic inspiration. So I have not done the things. I was stuck at step one. Until I realised that you actually don’t even need step one. You can erase step one altogether and instead just… A DO THE THING A No stepping into the gospel church and seeing the light and backflipping down the aisle in your tuxedo, hat and sunglasses necessary. A
Real, positive change is already difficult, without the added pressure of expecting the motivation to come to you like a magic lightening bolt shot out of the ass of a neon unicorn. We have to start challenging desire-led notions of change like “you’ve got to want to change for change to happen”. If you want to change, then change. Doesn’t have to be all at once, but if there is something you want to do, or someone you want to be – do something, anything, to get a little closer to that. Don’t waste time waiting for inspiration. You might be left waiting forever.
“No great genius has ever existed without a touch of madness” – Aristotle.
When’s the last time you heard someone say “I’m so glad that *insert tortured artist here* got clean and is mentally well adjusted. Their work is just so much better now.” A
We glorify suffering in the arts. To some degree, I think we equate it with depth. People who feel heaps of feelings must be so complex and multi-faceted and interesting. We often talk about how artists’ peak periods were fraught with misery and turmoil, and their biographies usually end with them dying or getting their shit together (which, in either case, completes the story). It’s true that studies have shown that creative people have an increased likelihood of suffering from mental illness in their lifetime. But are we helping the matter when we constantly equate ones own genius with ones own suffering? A
As an adolescent, I bought into this “tortured-artist” thing hook, line and sinker. I idolised these people, I admired their art and I thought that their psychological illness only served to enhance their creativity. It made me less prone to addressing my own psych issues – hell, it made me, in a way, kind of proud of them. I must be complex, I must be deep, I must be interesting. A
It took a while to break this illusion. Of course, the last thing an “artist” wants to be is less interesting. However, ones ability to make great art is not synonymous with living a great life. We’re constantly shocked when incredibly wealthy, successful artists, who seem to have achieved every creative and commercial accolade possible, reveal they suffer from depression or take their own lives. It’s almost like we think they’re not entitled to be sad when all the while we’ve been hyping the fact that it’s their sadness that helps makes them great. A
If you’re one who is prone to glamourising the suffering of your idols (or your own suffering), here are a few things to keep in mind; A
1. You live your life way more than you live your art. They’re not the same thing (even though it does sound wonderfully bohemian).
2. Happiness & contentment is not creative suicide. Many artists have flourished with the clarity and balance that comes with getting your shit together.
3. The longer you hold onto the idea of suffering as a beacon of complexity and productivity, the harder it will be to separate from it. There is much more that makes you and others prolific, complex and interesting besides unhappiness.
One of my favourite Americana singer/songwriters, Jason Isbell explores his journey with getting clean, starting a family and maintaining his career and creativity beyond the “tortured artist” concept. Despite walking away from his wild, reckless, outlaw lifestyle, his recent work is beautiful, nuanced and rich in complexity. Which goes to show art can thrive – beyond suffering, beyond misery, beyond madness. A
“I broke a promise to myself – to ride the throttle ’til the wheels came off (&) burn out like a molotov in the night sky. I broke a promise to myself. And made a couple to a brown-eyed girl who rode with me through the mean old world. Never say die.” Molotov, Jason Isbell.
For crisis and suicide prevention support, contact Lifeline’s 24 hour crisis line on 13 11 14. For more information and help with depression contact your doctor or Beyond Blue.
People quantify success in many ways; what job you have, what car you drive, what school you send your kids to. I used to think that, in order to be successful, there was a bunch of stuff you needed to do/have/accomplish. But a few life lessons got me reevaluating my personal concept of success and exploring the notions of happiness and self-acceptance. A
The most important lesson I think I ever learned is that everything starts from the head first – with our ability to take in and make sense of the world. We can be our own best friend or our own worst enemy (and sometimes both at the same time).
Our thinking determines everything. It determines how we feel about ourselves, how we feel about others, what we want, what we are capable of, how we feel about our past, how we feel about our future. It’s a daily struggle for lots of us, and for many, an inescapable nightmare.
But the conversations around mental health and mental wellness are often stuffy and boring. We bring it up when things are going wrong (and even then, we can still be reluctant to do so for fear of judgement). Rarely do we celebrate our moments of mental victory, or take a moment to consider how making little changes can positively enhance our lives. A
So I thought I’d start this blog. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but it is a chance to share thoughts, discoveries and observations on tackling life, love and everything else head first. Perhaps together we can learn a few things, help take the edge off and start building new, inclusive concepts of success, happiness and self-acceptance that are achievable for all of us.
Being grateful does us good. Studies have shown that we can increase our levels of happiness by cultivating a daily gratitude practice – that is, by taking time out every day to acknowledge a few things that we’re grateful for. It can help drag us out of the funk of forever focusing on the things we don’t have and be appreciative of the things we do have. But what about when we decide to take our gratitude to the mean feeds of social media? A I’ve always found loud and public gratitude kind of a weird thing. And since the emergence of apps like Facebook and Instagram, gratuitous gratitude is on constant, public display. People announcing how lucky they are for their partners, or how #blessed they are to be lounging on sunny beaches drinking cocktails. And I’m guilty of it too. Hell, I’ve posted my share of “Tough Day at Work” *posts photo at Opera Bar* and “Happy Anniversary to us! Here’s to many more”. I don’t want to get into shaming posts of gratitude, but I do sometimes wonder about my own intentions when it comes to posting this type of content. Whether I’m doing it to really acknowledge my gratitude, or whether I’m just keen for some quick and easy compliments to boost my self esteem and highlight to my Internet “friends” some of the aspects of my life that aren’t falling apart rn, and accompany them with some some stylised photography? A There’s also the issue of how insensitive some of these posts can seem at times, particularly when you acknowledge that you’re bound to have people on your feed that are going through hard times and experiencing devastating loss, grief, loneliness, isolation, stress, anxiety and depression. I can only imagine how hard it is for someone scrolling their feed on Mother’s Day after losing their mother, or going through a divorce on Valentines Day. When your cyber declaration of gratitude only compounds another person’s feeling of hopelessness, was that public post really worth it? A
Most of us have such a great deal to be grateful for, but perhaps sometimes it’s worth taking stock of how we can best express that gratitude with integrity and honesty. Maybe there’s power in #stay[ing]humble and taking a few moments before going to bed writing down or even just thinking about what makes us grateful in quiet reflection irl. Or maybe that’s so two-thousand-and-late and just post about everything on Twitter, idk. This whole social media revolution has changed the way we interact with our world and to some degree with ourselves and our own thoughts and feelings. Whether gratitude has a place here remains to be seen. And while we’re still working it out, I will be sharing photos from my upcoming holiday to Vegas. Bc #blessed (and also, I like compliments).
Do you ever notice, when you do something a little differently, maybe a new approach, or a new attitude or behaviour, a part of you says “Hey. Why are you being fake?” As if you’re being a traitor to your own “pure” nature? A
This happens to me all the time. I remember when I first started going to the gym, some voice in my head kept saying “Oi. Why are you at the gym? You’re not a gym person. Nobody likes a fake.” A
It’s a strange phenomenon. It’s almost like somewhere along the way (for me, I think it was adolescence) you decide what the real “you” is – this unfettered, undiluted, pure version of “you” – and then, when you do anything to challenge it, a part of you gets indignant and tries to talk you out of it. A
It’s funny because we hate the idea of being “fake” or trying to be something false or inauthentic.
You’re constantly told “Be Yourself”, but why?
When it’s restricting you from being who you’d prefer to be? What if parts of who I “really” am are kinda shitty? Maybe I’ve always been a bit judgy, and impatient, and a sulk? DoI accept that’s how I am? Because that’s how I’ve always been, and therefore how I’ll always be. Or can I say, “hey, I’m gonna start trying to be less of a stroppy, whingy bitch?” A
The old, primal centre of our brain isn’t a big fan of change. This was because back when we were cave dwellers, change could mean getting eaten by wolves or dying from eating poisonous clams. For some us, this caveman brain is over-active. It wants you to be the same way you always have been because it’s is safe, comfortable and predictable – even if it hasn’t served you in your life thus far particularly well. This is why when you try to shake things up and think/behave a little differently, it goes “HEY. WHAT THIS? PLS DON’T.” A
If you want to change who you are to make yourself happier, healthier or get you closer to your goals, don’t stress over being “fake” or betraying the person you think you rly are. We can adopt and develop new habits, behaviours and thought patterns all throughout our life. Parts of our brains can make change difficult but not impossible.
Your identity is not a prison, it’s a playground.
Try new things, be curious, have fun, and be what makes you happy.
We like the idea of being strong. It’s nice to not collapse while carrying your grocery bags, or put your back out moving a couch, or sob defeated in the corner of the kitchen thanks to the lid of a peanut butter jar.
We admire the physique of men and woman who are strong as we understand they didn’t get there by accident. Physical strength takes discipline. It takes commitment. It takes continuous and repeated attempts, many failures, some injuries (perhaps) and lots of bloody hard work. No one just “is strong”, strength is earned over time, and garners respect.
So why is it that we don’t treat psychological strength the same way?
Psychological strength or resilience is possibly one of the most useful assets we can develop. It’s what gives us the ability to bounce back from hardship and mentally deal with lots of life’s bullshit. And while it’s often just assumed that we’re built equipped by default, for many of us, this is just not the case. If you’ve ever struggled with depression or anxiety, self esteem issues or feelings of unworthiness, you’ll probably appreciate how much work it takes to simply try and take control of these nasty mental gremlins. A
So how do you build your brain muscles? It’s certainly possible, but like washboard abs or a sick set of Sarah Connor arms, it can take lots of training and commitment. Not made easier by the fact that the brain’s a lazy piece of shit that always prefers to do what it’s always done. So if you’ve come to think of yourself as a limp noodle who deserves to cop all of life’s misery, it’s gonna take a helluva lot more effort to shift that pattern of thinking than simply buying a Poo Emoji mug that says “Good Vibes Only”. A
Currently I’m trying out Mindfulness practices to help develop my own psychological resilience. Here’s a few that are currently in the werks… A
EXERCISE: This was the first thing that worked for me, and I was shocked to say the least (I had a “sick” day pretty much every PD/H/PE day in high school and thought people who did sport were boring.) Working out drags you kicking and screaming into the present moment, which means you cant sulk about the past, or fret about the future. You just suffer, sweaty and exhausted, in the present. And hopefully get a nice butt. A
Have tried and failed at this many times. What can I say, Im shithouse at meditation. I get bored. I think about breakfast. I think about memes. I design stylish macrame hangings. Basically everything but meditate. Have started up again, committed to 15min each morning with a guided track. This is a work in progress. A
GIVING MYSELF SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO: I love this one because it makes me justify random holidays as a self-care thing. A
CUTTING DOWN ON MULTI-TASKING: This one is pretty much the hardest atm, but am taking baby steps. Like most of us, I try to do lots of stuff all at once (read: I try do do lots of stuff while also doing the internet). It’s not particularly efficient, it’s a poor use of resources and guarantees that my mind isn’t ever completely in the task at hand. In an effort to cultivate mindfulness, I’ve given myself the challenge to complete certain tasks (such as cooking dinner or cleaning the apartment) without scrolling through Instagram or refreshing Facebook. This sounds boring, and it is, but it’s supposed to be good for you so I’m trying it.