My Experiences

Meet Rosie – How getting a dog helped my mental health

Hey everyone, I hope you are all doing well and having a lovely week.

I thought for this post I could introduce you to my best four-legged friend called Rosie. Here she is:

Rosie’s a cockapoo and she loves nothing more than eating, chasing squirrels and having a nap. My family decided to get her a couple of years ago and she’s a rescue dog. At this point in my life my mental health was really suffering, I was generally very anxious and would experience panic attacks on a regular basis. I didn’t know it at this point, but having a dog in my life was to change my mental wellbeing for the better. I feel so lucky to have met Rosie and I thought in this post I could discuss some of the reasons why I think getting a dog had a benefit on my mental wellbeing.

Her love is unconditional

Rosie shows me love and affection, no matter what I look like. She loves me as much first thing in the morning as when I am fully dressed up. I’m someone who has a lot of personal hang ups and anxieties about my appearance, so I find this so comforting. It’s definitely helped me to accept how I look without my make-up on and I even feel more confident in showing others my bare face now too.

She provides a distraction

When I start to feel anxious, I make some time to spend time with her. Just playing with or walking her is a great distraction for me and helps me to remove my focus from whats making me anxious. She is very good at bringing me back to the present moment. I can enjoy my time with her, which stops me worrying about the future and the anxiety that surrounds this.

She unintentionally makes me smile everyday

When I’m struggling with my mental health, it can feel really desperate at times and it feels like nothing will make me feel happy ever again. Since getting Rosie, I’ve noticed that I smile more often and that these are genuine smiles of joy. Everyday she never fails to bring a little bit of happiness to my life, whether that be from her funny ‘wobbling’ walk or her determination to carry as many of her toys as possible in her mouth all at once.

She’s a great companion

As they say, a dog is a mans best friend. I work from home a lot and this comes with its own sense of loneliness. I’m okay with the concept of solitude, but my anxiety is not. When I’m alone I find my mind can go into overdrive and I’m more likely to start thinking irrationally. Rosie spends most days at home with me and I find her company relaxing. She has a laid-back approach to life and spends a lot of the day asleep, but just knowing that she’s here with me is so reassuring.

She’s one tough cookie

Rosie hasn’t had the best start in life, but she’s still here and loving life. Seeing her thirst for life and all that it brings is such an inspiration to me. It might sound a bit silly to say I’m inspired by a dog, but it’s the way she attacks her fears and faces them head on. Granted that a lot of the time she doesn’t have a choice in what she does (for example, each month she goes to the groomers, a situation of which causes her great anxiety), the fact is that she gets through these experiences. This has encouraged me to face a few more situations that would normally cause my anxiety to kick in. I just try to think of all the experiences and situations that Rosie has overcome in her life and this gives me a strong feeling of strength to carry on.

Overall, I’m so grateful to have met Rosie and I hope that I bring as much joy into her life as she does into mine.

Do any of you have pets? and if so what effect have they had on your wellbeing? I’d love to know.

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research

Mental Illness Awareness Week – What exactly is mental health stigma?

So this week (6th – 12th October) is Mental Illness Awareness Week. I thought in this post I could talk about one of the biggest issues for people living with mental health problems – the stigma surrounding it. I’ll be honest, I’ve never fully understood what the word ‘stigma’ actually means. I’ve assumed it is something to do with negative associations, but I’m curious to find out more. I thought I could add to the discussions this week by raising awareness of mental health stigma, what it is and the effect it has on the individuals whom it is directed towards. Hopefully others will find the information I uncover as insightful as I do.

The actual word stigma is derived from the greek word ‘stizein’. A stizein was known as a distinguishing mark that was branded into the flesh of slaves or criminals so that others would know who they were and that they were less-valued members of society (1). Because of the markings, these individuals were often avoided by others in public spaces (2).

A common definition provided by Erving Goffman in 1963 describes stigma as ‘an attribute that is deeply discrediting’ and reduces an individual ‘from a whole and usual person to a tainted, discounted one’ (2). Other researchers have built upon this initial work to define stigma as ‘stereotypes or negative views attributed to a person or groups of people when their characteristics or behaviours are viewed as different from or inferior to societal norms.’ (3).

Types of stigma

I found out that there are many different types of stigma when it comes to mental health. The main three being discussed were public stigma, self-stigma and label avoidance, although there are others.

Public stigma involves some individuals within the general population endorsing the stereotypes of mental illness they are presented with in their environment (this could be stereotypes presented from the media or from their peers). These individuals then act in a discriminatory manner towards the stigmatised, so an example would be an individual refusing to work with a person with mental illness because they think they might be dangerous.

Self-stigma is when an individual with mental illness discriminates against themselves. An individual can become aware of the stereotypes that others have attached to others with mental illnesses. They then start to agree with the stereotype and apply it to themselves. This type of stigma can lead to devastating effects on an individual’s self-esteem and self-efficacy, making them believe they aren’t good enough or worthy of what other people have (4).

Label avoidance refers to a type of stigma that results from an individual being publicly labeled through association. In the context of mental health an example would be if an individual was seen leaving a psychiatrist’s office, others may think she’s crazy. This type of stigma can have a negative impact on those suffering from mental health issues, as it may deter them from seeking the help that they need.

Effects of stigma for those with mental health issues

There are a number of ways that stigma can have an effect on individuals experiencing mental illness. Here are just a few I found:

Those with mental health issues may fall victim to prejudice, as others may make preconceived opinions on them that have no factual back-up. A study carried out found the top three misconceptions about mental health patients to be that they are dangerous and violent; that they have a low IQ or are developmentally handicapped and that they cannot function or hold a job (5). The strange thing is, studies have shown evidence to dispel these claims of violence and handicap, but people still have misconceptions.

As a result of these misconceptions, those with mental health conditions can fall victim to social distancing. This is where people are unwilling to associate with a person with mental illness. For example, others may turn down offers to meet up for a coffee with someone they believe to have a mental illness (6).

As a result of prejudice and social distancing, those with mental health issues may feel isolated from society. Sadly, the Queensland Alliance for Mental Health observed that people with mental health problems are “frequently the object of ridicule within the media” which does nothing to help the feelings of rejections individuals may feel from society (7). 

Stigma can also lead to internalised discrimination, where an individual suffering with their mental health starts to believe in the stereotypes and misconceptions placed upon them. This leads them to assume they are rejects socially and this has a massively negative impact on their perceived self-worth (8).

Although work is taking place to get rid of mental health stigma, there is still a long way to go. Unfortunately, we still live in a world where some people see having a mental illness as a sign of weakness. Personally, I think some of the strongest people I know are those who are able to live their day to day lives despite their mental health issues. Also, having a mental health issue does not make anyone less worthy or capable.

Have you ever experienced any mental health stigma during your life? Also what do you think can be done to help remove the current stigma?

References

  1. Arboleda-Flórez, J. (2003). Considerations on the stigma of mental illness.
  2. Goffman, E. (2009). Stigma: Notes on the management of spoiled identity. Simon and Schuster.
  3. Dudley, J. R. (2000). Confronting stigma within the services system. Social Work, 45(5), 449.
  4. Corrigan, P.W., Rafacz, J., Rüsch, N., (2011). Examining a progressive model of self-stigma and its impact on people with serious mental illness. Psychiatry Research 189, 339–343.
  5. Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario Division. (1994) Final report. Mental health anti-stigma campaign public education strategy. 
  6. Corrigan P et al (2001) Prejudice, social distance, and familiarity with mental illness. Schizophrenia Bulletin; 27: 219-226.
  7. Queensland Alliance for Mental Health (2010) From Discrimination to Social Inclusion. A Review of the Literature on Anti Stigma Initiatives in Mental Health.
  8. Livingston JD, Boyd J (2010) Correlates and consequences of internalized stigma for people living with mental illness: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Social Science and Medicine; 7: 2150-2161.

My Experiences

A story for those experiencing rejection – is it fate?

Rejection hurts, there’s no two ways about it. Whether it be career, love or family related, rejection can have a detrimental impact on our mental health. Rejection can make us feel sad and lower our own perceived self-worth. It can even effect our behaviours, as we may even avoid putting ourselves in situations where we feel vulnerable and exposed to it. I have been through my fair share of rejections throughout my life and to be honest, I always find it tough to pick myself back up and carry on. But I am a believer that there is always a reason for rejection, we just don’t see it.

I’m aware that some people won’t believe in fate or concepts like that and I’m not even sure I believe in it fully. I thought I would share my own personal story that changed my views on the world and in particular the way I viewed rejection. I was 18 and full of the joys of life. I was in sixth form and in my spare time I enjoyed playing with my band and practising riffs on my Fender (I used to be too cool). It was that stage of life where I felt I would like to get a part time job; I wanted a bit of extra money (the pocket money just wasn’t cutting it anymore) and I thought it would look good on the old curriculum vitae. There was a music shop by where I lived that was advertising for a part time sales assistant to help out at weekends. I dropped off my CV and I received a call later that day from the store owner asking if I would be available to come to the store and have a chat.

So the next day I visited the store, my dad dropped me off and waited outside. As I entered I was mesmerised by all of the different guitars the shop had (it felt like the nearest thing to heaven to me at the time). I met the owner, a youngish guy (I’d say early twenties) who showed me around the store and then asked me a variety of the standard job interview questions (‘why would you like the job’, ‘what can you offer’ and so on). I left feeling optimistic and already spending the money I was yet to earn on fancy guitar cables and some fluffy purple socks I had seen earlier that day.

A week or so later, I arrived home from school and my parents told me that the music shop had called. Sadly they had offered the job to someone else. I was upset at the time, I think I just went up to my room after dinner and listened to some music all night on my Sony walkman. A couple of weeks later I found a job working for a popular fast food restaurant, so it all worked out in the end and I was able to get those fluffy socks!

It’s a couple of years later now, I’m at university and visiting my parents for the weekend. I turn on the TV and the local news is on. They are talking about a young woman who was kidnapped and kept in an underground dungeon for a week until she was eventually found. Apparently she was kept tied up in a coffin with no light or food, it was really uneasy to watch. They showed a picture of where the girl was held hostage and my heart stopped. It was the music shop that I had visited. They showed a picture of the captor and it was the store owner that I had met, at this point I felt physically sick.

I was so overwhelmed at the time I wasn’t able to take it all in, so I looked for a local news article online about it. Apparently the woman was working part time at the shop when she was kidnapped and held hostage. She had applied at the same time that I had and she had got the job I applied for, I felt a chill run down my spine. She was bound, handcuffed and held prisoner for a number of days, I can’t imagine the pain that she was going through at the time. The shop owner eventually was sent to prison indefinitely for what he did.

I felt like I had a lucky escape, the owner seemed so nice when I met them, but I guess you can never truly know a person. I’ve never known what to make of this event in my life, I feel like it’s the closest to fate that I’ve experienced. It just makes me feel so shaken even now thinking back to it, that could’ve easily been me but thankfully it wasn’t. At the time that rejection hit me so hard, but it’s only years later that I realised that it was a blessing in disguise.

Ever since then, I’ve viewed rejection differently. Sure it hurts at the time and it’s upsetting, but maybe it just wasn’t meant to be. There may be reasons for the rejection that we don’t understand or that won’t come to light for a while but we have to carry on with our lives the best we can.

I guess you just have to trust in yourself that everything will work itself out in the end.

Have you had any experiences with rejection and fate? I would love to start a discussion below 🙂

My Experiences, research

When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping – The effect of retail therapy on mental health.

This week I’ve been intrigued by the concept of ‘Retail Therapy’. I’m sure we’ve all been there, you’ve had a slightly rubbish week and you decide to go out and treat yourself to a new toothbrush, rug or whatever your heart desires at the time. To get scientific for a minute, previous researchers have defined Retail therapy as ‘The use of shopping and buying as a way to repair or alleviate negative feelings’ [1]. Others consider retail therapy to be the consumption of goods to compensate for feeling such as low self-esteem or perceived loss of power [2]. 

Looking further into previous research, studies have highlighted the benefits of retail therapy on an individuals mental health. For example, a study conducted in 2011 [1] found the act of shopping to have a positive effect for those experiencing a low or upset mood. Further to this, afterwards they found that the individuals did not regret spending money on these ‘self-treats’. 

But why exactly does the act of shopping have such a benefit on our mental health? Previous researchers have suggested the following reasons why:

It gives you a sense of control – Sadness can be associated with a perceived deficiency in personal control over one’s environment [3]. When we feel that our lives are out of our control, shopping can help restore a sense of personal control which can reduce sadness and negative feelings. When we shop, we are faced with making choices; researchers have stressed this as a good way of increasing an individual’s sense of personal control [4].

It’s a social activity – Like the old saying goes, misery sure does love company. When individuals are feeling sad, research has shown their desire for social connectedness to be higher than normal [5]. For some, going outside and physically shopping will provide them with social interactions which may help improve their mood [6]. 

It provides a distraction – Visiting a store is an experience, with plenty of smells, sounds and sights to be seen. All of this sensual stimulation can lead to shopping being perceived as a source of positive distraction [7]. While we are shopping, we can forget about our worries and anxieties for a little while.

It can be exciting – People get joy from how unpredictable some elements of shopping can be. Sometimes you don’t know what you are going to buy and this can lead to excitement and anticipation [8]. In addition to this, the process of shopping releases dopamine, a neurochemical which makes us feel happy and is responsible for the ‘high’ individuals may experience.

But not all previous research paints retail therapy in a positive light. Some researchers have questioned the appropriateness of shopping as a coping method, labelling it as ineffective and wasteful [9]. They argue that it can’t be the best coping mechanism, as most individuals do not have an endless supply of money.

For some individuals, the ‘buzz’ that they feel from buying things can become an addiction. Shopping addiction (also known as oniomania) is described as an addiction where an individual invests excessive time and resources to shop. People with oniomania are always chasing the next ‘high’, that sensation they feel from buying something new. Like any addiction, oniomania  really can have desperate consequences for individuals. It can lead to them losing their financial security or a losing their own feelings of self control. It can even have a detrimental impact on their relationships as they are likely to neglect these in place of craving their next shopping session.

Personally, I’ve always understood how shopping can be an addictive activity, especially now with the creation of online shopping which doesn’t help those with an unhealthy urge to shop. Reflecting on the research that I’ve found surrounding retail therapy and shopping addiction, I’ve decided to set myself a personal challenge. In the UK during October some people decide to give drinking up for the month, it’s known as ‘going sober for October’. I thought I’d put my own twist on this (bear with me) and decide to give up shopping for material and unneeded objects for a whole month, so I’m going sober in my own kind of way…

I know this is going to be tough and I don’t know how I’m going to reward myself for completing this (buying myself something to celebrate feels slightly inappropriate). I’ll keep you updated on my progress throughout the month.

So, what are your own shopping habits and what links do you think they have to your own mental health? I’d be interested to know. 

References:

  1. Atalay, A. S., & Meloy, M. G. (2011). Retail therapy: A strategic effort to improve mood. Psychology & Marketing, 28(6), 638-659.
  2. Woodruffe-Burton, H., & Elliott, R. (2005). Compensatory consumption and narrative identity theory. ACR North American Advances.
  3. Smith, C. A., & Ellsworth, P. C. (1985). Patterns of cognitive appraisal in emotion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 48(4), 813–838
  4. Inesi, M. E., Botti, S., Dubois, D., Rucker, D. D., & Galinsky, A. D. (2011). Power and choice: Their dynamic interplay in quenching the thirst for personal control. Psychological Science, 22(8), 1042–1048.
  5. Gray, H. M., Ishii, K., & Ambady, N. (2011). Misery loves company: When sadness increases the desire for social connectedness. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37(11), 1438-1448.
  6. O’Guinn, T. C., & Faber, R. J. (1989). Compulsive buying: A phenomenological exploration. Journal of Consumer Research, 16, 147–157.
  7. Kang, M., & Johnson, K. K. (2010). Let’s shop! Exploring the experiences of therapy shoppers. Journal of Global Fashion Marketing, 1(2), 71-79.
  8. Falk, P. & Campbell, C. (1993). The Shopping Experience. Sage Publications, London.
  9. Kasser, T., & Sheldon, K. M. (2000). Of wealth and death: Materialism, mortality salience, and consumption behavior. Psychological Science, 11(4), 348–351.
research

‘Makeup’ your mind – The relationship between cosmetics and mental health

Last week it was reported that the boss of L’Oreal, Jean-Paul Agon claimed Instagram is good for business, as it makes young women buy more make-up in an attempt to look like the filtered selfies they post. In an interview, Mr. Agon said the following:

“The more you make yourself look really great online, the more you have to work on yourself when you go out, because if, when people meet you, they discover that you are completely different from what they thought, then you have a problem.”

This quote has upset some individuals and I totally understand why. To me it suggests that young women need to be striving to look like instagram filters, which is not a beneficial mentality to have. The careless comments like the one made by Mr. Agon only add to the pressure that individuals already feel to live up to their digital appearance. This pressure is something which may be having a negative effect on their mental health.

Personally, I think the comments made were highly inappropriate and unprofessional, but it got me wondering about the relationship between makeup and mental health. As an individual who suffers from body dysmorphic disorder (I wrote a post explaining what this is in more detail here), I feel that makeup definitely has an effect on how I feel and my overall well being. Whilst researching I found out the following effects makeup can have on an individuals mental health:

It may increase confidence (and even cognitive ability?)

There is a psychological phenomenon known as the ‘lipstick effect’, which states that wearing makeup can lead to women feeling more confident. One study (1) found that women think of themselves as being more confident when they are wearing their makeup as opposed to going bare-faced. In addition to this, researchers from Harvard Medical School conducted a study (2) and found that women who applied makeup before completing a test experienced a greater boost to their positive feelings when compared to women who weren’t wearing makeup. On top of this, the women wearing makeup were actually found to perform significantly better on the test than their non makeup wearing counterparts. These results regarding cognitive ability really are astounding, but I wonder if there’s more at play here than simply wearing makeup or not.

The benefit of the ritual itself

According to research, the average woman spends 11 minutes a day putting on makeup (3). For some, this process can help to calm down any anxiety that the individual may be feeling. This is because the ritual of putting makeup on tends to be structured and routine. Anxiety feeds on uncertainty, so experiencing an event that has a degree of predictability helps to calm down any negative or unhealthy thoughts that may arise (5).

In addition to this, some individuals may even consider putting on their makeup as a form of ‘art therapy’. Art therapy is defined as ‘the belief that self-expression through artistic creation has therapeutic value for those who are healing or seeking deeper understanding of themselves’ (6). The make-up applying process provides individuals with a fun and creative outlet, allowing them to be expressive which may result in mental wellbeing benefits.

We perceive ourselves differently

Some women have been found to perceive themselves differently after applying makeup. Previous work describes a ‘camouflage’ effect that makeup can provide for individuals, which may lead them to perceiving themselves as more desirable. One study (9) found frequency of makeup usage to be positively correlated with self-perceived attractiveness. This suggests those who use makeup more often perceive themselves to be more attractive. 

Another study found similar results (10). In this study, 24 individuals levels of perceived attractiveness and desirability were measured before and after the application of foundation. When considering before and after the foundation application, significant differences were found in participants’ scores on scales measuring perceived attractiveness. Results of this study found individuals to report higher levels of perceived attractiveness, and desirability after the application of makeup. 

It can improve social interactions

In some cases, researchers have found the wearing of makeup to improve the social interactions that an individual has. Previous work has suggested that makeup allows women to better control their social impressions and self-image (7). As a result of this, an individual’s social confidence may be increased, and they may be more open to face-to-face conversation. In one study, results found that women would feel anxious if they would have to go outside without their makeup on and would try to avoid social interactions (8). Sadly, I find these results incredibly relatable.

It may help you to get a better night’s sleep 

Wearing makeup has also been linked to better sleep patterns. One study (4) looked at the effects of makeup usage on the sleeping habits of female Japanese students. Results found that individuals who wore makeup two or more days per week experienced higher quality sleep than others who wore makeup only one day a week or less. The researchers suggested that this could be down to a number of factors including the chemical compounds in makeup or the psychological stimuli of the application process.

But the relationship between cosmetics and mental health isn’t positive for everyone. Previous researchers (11) have suggested that the extended use of makeup in culture today has led to unrealistic images of beauty. These images can result in women feeling anxious, low levels of self-esteem and lower levels of confidence.

Reflecting on the research above, I feel that if you are using makeup you should be sure that its for the right reasons. Be sure to check in with your mental health and assess whether makeup is actually making you feel better mentally, or if you are chasing unrealistic ideas of beauty. Instagram filters may be great news for cosmetics businesses, but maybe not for your own mental health.

What are your experiences regarding makeup and your mental health? Or maybe you have an opinion on the research outlined above?

References

  1. Cash, T. F., & Cash, D. W. (1982). Women’s use of cosmetics: Psychosocial correlates and consequences. International Journal of Cosmetic Science, 4(1), 1-14.
  2. Palumbo, R., Fairfield, B., Mammarella, N., & Di Domenico, A. (2017). Does make-up make you feel smarter? The “lipstick effect” extended to academic achievement. Cogent Psychology, 4(1), 1327635.
  3. Bayless, K. (2019). 7 Reasons Why Wearing Makeup Can Make You a Stronger Woman. Retrieved 24 September 2019, from https://oureverydaylife.com/7-reasons-why-wearing-makeup-can-make-you-a-stronger-woman-10852571.html
  4. Nishihara, R., Wada, K., Akimitsu, O., Krejci, M., Noji, T., Nakade, M., & Harada, T. (2013). Effects of Makeup, Perfume and Skincare Product Usage and Hair Care Regimen on Circadian Typology, Sleep Habits and Mental Health in Female Japanese students Aged 18-30. Psychology, 4(03), 183.
  5. Prinzivalli, L. (2019). Can makeup ease anxiety? This beauty blogger (and her fans) think so. Retrieved 24 September 2019, from
  6. Slayton SC, D’Archer J, Kaplan F. Outcome studies on the efficacy of art therapy: a review of findings. Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association. 22 April 2011; 27(3): 108-118.
  7. Cash, T., Dawson, K., Davis, P., Bowen, M., & Galumbeck, C. (1989). Effects of cosmetics use on the physical attractiveness and body image of american college women. The Journal of Social Psychology. 
  8. Fabricant, S. M., & Gould, S. J. (1993). Women’s Makeup Careers: An Interpretive Study of Color Cosmetic Use and “Face Value.” Psychology & Marketing, 10(6), 531–548.
  9. Guimarães, A. L. C. D. C. (2016). Can we feel prettier?: makeup usage among Portuguese women and Its potential extracted benefits: self-esteem, physical attractiveness, social confidence, social interactions, and satisfaction with life(Doctoral dissertation).
  10. Menezes, M. Facial Makeup and Self-Perception: The Effect of Cosmetics on Self-Esteem and Perceived Attractiveness/Desirability.
  11. Britton, A. M. (2012). The beauty industry’s influence on women in society.


review

Book Review – My Sh*t Therapist: & Other Mental Health Stories by Michelle Thomas

‘Mental illness feels to me like a loss of the self. If everything you care about, everything you love and value, no longer feels meaningful to you, what is life for?’

A few weeks ago I was walking through Euston train station and my attention was drawn to the bright yellow cover and the words ‘Sh*t Therapist’ displayed on this book. It engaged my inner curiosity immediately, as I’ve had bad experiences with therapists in the past (but thankfully I’ve also had some good ones). I had to purchase this book and it’s been sitting on my Kindle ever since but I finally got around to reading it last week. It was the book that I never knew I needed to read right now, but I’m so grateful that I did.

My Sh*t Therapist: & Other Mental Health Stories is the first book publication by Michelle Thomas. In 2015 she made headlines with her blog when she published a post describing an incident where she was being body-shamed after a first date (It’s a really great post, read it here). In this book, Michelle describes her own experiences with mental illness, dating back to her first depressive episode in 2013. She discusses multiple aspects of her life relating to her mental health in ten separate chapters, from her initial diagnosis to her current home life. I found this book strangely refreshing, she presents information in a light hearted way and tackles some pretty dark subjects using her humour beautifully. I found her voice throughout the book both engaging and reassuring. But alongside the laughs, there was some really good advice and guidance of where to get support which I think will be of a huge help to some readers.

I personally found this book so dearly relatable. I’ve read a couple of mental health books but have struggled to engage with what the author talks about. With this book, I had personally gone through so much of what Michelle describes, including her experiences of reconnecting with old friends and how this isn’t always the best thing to do for your mental health. The book discusses the struggle faced by many individuals in their twenties, where there is a pressure to do it all and to do it all now. Me being 29 myself, I connected with this section of the book so much and it made me feel a little more at ease that I didn’t have my life all sorted out yet.

As well as Michelle’s story, there are stories of experiences written by members of Michelles online community. At the end of each chapter, Michelle asks her community a question such as how their mental health has changed over the period of their lives. Reading the communities answers was so enlightening and really made this book feel like it was a part of something bigger, like we were all in this together. It was comforting and inspirational to read the experiences and advice of others.

Overall, I’m so glad that I read this book at this point in my life. It really helped me to rationalise my own thinking and to accept that the way I personally feel sometimes does not make me a weirdo. There’s nothing wrong with taking medication if thats what works for you, and everyone needs to indulge in self-care on a regular basis. Anyone can experience struggles with their mental health and this book helps combat the stigma around discussing these struggles with others. If only more people had the same mentality as Michelle, the world might be a little easier for those struggling with their mental health and wellbeing. I highly recommend this book for those who may be feeling a little alone with their own thoughts and would benefit from the support and reassurance that this book offers.

My Experiences

Why ditching Facebook was the best thing I ever did for my mental health

This post is a bit of a personal one. Throughout my mental health journey, I have made changes to my lifestyle in an attempt to improve my state of mind and generally make me a little bit happier. One of the changes I made was deciding to deactivate my Facebook. I last logged onto my Facebook page on March 20th 2018. Before I deactivated,  I couldn’t imagine what my life would be like without my daily habitual hour of aimless scrolling. I initially set out to go without Facebook for a month. Then this month turned into six months, then a year. I thought for this post I could explain some of the personal benefits I’ve felt to my mental health from making this decision. 

I have more time to conduct other activities

Since quitting Facebook, I have spent time doing other activities to fill my spare time. Instead of scrolling every night, I’ve taken a keen interest in reading novels. I’m finding this new hobby to be of great benefit to my mental health, as I find reading a great escape from the stresses of daily life. Having no social media also encourages me to spend more time away from the computer screen, which can only be a good thing in my opinion.

I can focus more on myself

Reading the statement above may make me appear a tad narcissistic, but I think everyone should spend more time on themselves. I used to spend most of my time on Facebook feeling sad, because my life didn’t appear as glamorous and exciting as the lives of my peers. In reality, it really doesn’t matter if you’re married, have kids or go on exotic holidays, as long as you are happy in yourself. By removing Facebook, I couldn’t make social comparisons, which lead me to focus more on my own life and how I could live it in a way which made me happiest. I think the biggest lesson I learnt was that It’s not selfish to show an interest in your own life instead of the lives of other people.

I could address my obsession with likes

When I was a regular user of Facebook, I would post a status or photo and then sit there waiting for people to like it. Reflecting back on this behaviour, I realise how unhealthy doing this was for my own mental health. If a photo didn’t get many likes, I would take this personally and it would create anxiety. But I’m now living my life to get ‘likes’ from myself. It’s so liberating to let go of the feeling that I need to live my life  in a way that gets approval from others. This has allowed me to enjoy the process of actually doing things, instead of anticipating the number of likes I will get from announcing I’ve done it on Facebook.

It changed my views on birthday messages

Another thing I got obsessed with was the number of birthday wishes I received on my Facebook wall each year. I would actively compare year upon year and it would have an impact on my overall mental wellbeing. I would get worried if I was receiving less messages and it would make me feel like something was going wrong in my life. Reflecting upon this made me realise that my feelings were completely unreal, but they felt so reasonable to me at the time.

Since quitting Facebook, I have not missed receiving all those extra birthday wishes on my birthday. There’s something lovely about receiving a good old fashioned card or even a text, it just feels a bit more genuine to me. I was definitely a lot less anxious on my birthday last year, which allowed me to enjoy and live in the actual day.

The thought of disconnecting from social media can be enough to start a panic attack for some people. I’m not telling you all to quit your social media accounts right now, as for some this may not be feasible or beneficial, but I’m so glad that I did. I truly believe that setting limits on the amount of social media you expose yourself to can only lead to positive effects on your mental well being.

So how often do you spend on social media? and do you actively gain anything positive and beneficial by spending time scrolling through each day? If the answer to the latter question is no, then maybe a lifestyle change could be just what you needed.