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.
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.

Advice and tips, My Experiences

Vitamin N – The benefit of nature on mental health

This is the view as I write this post. I’m currently sitting outside enjoying a rare British summer bank holiday weekend where it isn’t raining. As I sit here I feel strangely peaceful, at one with nature (although I am aware of the fact that currently I’m typing on a laptop). The summer breeze, the sound of the birds, the whole sensation of just being outside in the open and just existing is so calming. This got me wondering why this is the case, why does nature appear to ease humans worries and make us feel so calm? I did a bit of research and found out the following (quite interesting) information regarding the links between nature and mental health.

It can decrease stress

Spending time outdoors can help to relieve tension and anxiety. One study [1] found that students that spent two days in the forest were less stressed when compared to students that had spent the same amount of time in a city environment . This study found being outside to lead to lower levels of  cortisol, which is a hormone often associated with stress. Researchers suggest that  spending as little as 20 minutes exposed to nature a day can significantly reduce cortisol levels in an individual [2].

It may help ease depression and anxiety

A previous study [3] has found that spending time outdoors can lead to decreased anxiety and depression for some individuals. Another study [4] suggests that individuals who spend time in nature show less neural activity in the part of the brain associated with depression when compared to those who spent time in a city environment. Because of this previous work, some researchers [5] even actively recommend spending time walking outdoors as a supplement to other treatments for major depressive disorder.

It can boost your mood

Some studies have found spending time outside to lead to positive effects on individuals moods, making them feel happier [1][2]. This is attributed to the exposure to natural light that you get from being outside, which fills your mind with a feeling of well-being [6]. 

It can reduce mental fatigue

So much of our lives nowadays are spent looking at screens or interacting with technology which can lead to stress. Stress can be caused by a number of factors, for example you may receive a tough work email or you could be on social media observing how perfect everyone’s lives appear to be when compared to your own (definitely never done this whilst eating a tub of ice cream on a Friday night…)

Being outside allows you to step away from the screen, which can give your brain a rest, allowing your mind to rejuvenate. Previous studies [7] have found a positive link between spending time outdoors and reducing mental fatigue. They found that being outside in a natural environment required less directed attention. In contrast, urban environments are filled with stimulation that captures attention dramatically, often requiring directed attention, for example you are actively always avoiding walking into people or being hit by a car.

Further to the information above I also found out that some countries have incorporated the act of spending time outdoors into their culture. In Japan, spending time walking around forests is a very popular form of preventative health care, known as forest bathing or shinrin-yoku.

In Scandinavian countries such as Norway, Sweden, and Finland, the value of spending time outdoors is known as friluftsliv, which translates to “open air life.” Friluftsliv encourages a connection with nature and encourage children to play outdoors and explore the world around them. Finnish schools allow plenty of time for their students to play outdoors during the day. This system of blending work and outdoor play has resulted in students achieving more academically when compared to other countries on a global scale.

I’ve made this post a relatively short one, as I’m going to close my laptop down now and just sit outside for a while. If you can, I advise most of you to give yourself a break and to try and do the same, if only for a couple of minutes. Breathe deeply and open your senses to the environment around you. Make the most of the nice weather while it’s here as I’m sure we will all have our thermals and wooly coats on in a couple of days time if typical British weather is anything to go by. 

So, in a technology driven world, be a rebel and put the phone down for a minute or two. Why not reintroduce yourself to mother nature, have a cup of tea (there are other great beverages available) and have a bit of a catch-up together. 

References

  1. Li, Q. (2010). Effect of forest bathing trips on human immune function. Environmental health and preventive medicine, 15(1), 9.
  2. Park, B. J., Tsunetsugu, Y., Kasetani, T., Kagawa, T., & Miyazaki, Y. (2010). The physiological effects of Shinrin-yoku (taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing): evidence from field experiments in 24 forests across Japan. Environmental health and preventive medicine, 15(1), 18.
  3. Barton, J., & Pretty, J. (2010). What is the best dose of nature and green exercise for improving mental health? A multi-study analysis. Environmental science & technology, 44(10), 3947-3955.
  4. University, S. (2019). Stanford researchers find mental health prescription: Nature. Retrieved 27 August 2019, from https://news.stanford.edu/2015/06/30/hiking-mental-health-063015/
  5. Friedman, L., & Loria, K. (2019). 11 scientific reasons you should be spending more time outside. Retrieved 27 August 2019, from https://www.businessinsider.com/scientific-benefits-of-nature-outdoors-2016-4?r=US&IR=T
  6. Park, A. (2019) Why sunlight is so good for you Retrieved 27 August 2019, from https://time.com/4888327/why-sunlight-is-so-good-for-you/ 
  7. Berman, M. G., Jonides, J., & Kaplan, S. (2008). The cognitive benefits of interacting with nature. Psychological science, 19(12), 1207-1212.


My Experiences, research

Fear of the peers

As some of you may know, I’m currently undergoing my PhD studies. As part of my research, I have to submit pieces of my work to journals in the hope that they will get published. As part of the journal submission process, there is a blind peer review. This involves a total stranger reading my work and judging whether it is worthy of publication. This is an aspect of research that has always terrified me, as I fear being judged harshly and rejected.

For as long as I can remember I have feared the judgement of others. I envy those people who can say that they ‘don’t care what others think’, but I also question the authenticity of their statement. We all want to feel loved and accepted, no matter what we say. For as long as there’s been people on this earth, they have judged each other. It happens all of the time, often subconsciously. We judge people by how they look, sound and even the type of music they listen to (I still get some strange looks when I admit I’m impartial to some Westlife from time to time).

I recently had my first journal accepted and published, it wasn’t easy and I had some negative reviewers the first time round (one of them took a particular disliking to me using the word ‘plethora’ and from then on I’ve made it my personal goal to use this word at least once a day). Despite this negativity I got there in the end and this has got me reflecting upon the feelings of judgement I felt. I thought I would share a little bit of information from studies that I’ve recently found on the fear of being judged by others that I found interesting .

Firstly I found that we are aware of how we are judged by others before we can even talk. A recent study (Link here) found that toddlers were very aware that other people may be evaluating them. Further to this, toddlers will alter their behaviour to get a positive response from others. This study highlights how judgement is a natural instinct, there’s no avoiding it.

Another interesting study I found regards the origins of the fear of judgement (known in some cases as social anxiety). The study suggest that social anxiety is contagious and parents or carers may even pass it onto their children. But it is not something that is passed on genetically, but rather through a child’s environment. Children who witness their parents acting anxiously are more liable to start to feel the same sense of anxiety in certain situations (Full study link here).

But why do we fear the judgement of others in the first place? I found a really useful article that I felt offered a reasonable explanation to this. This article explains how the fear of being judged is often a reflection of our own insecurities. The fear arrises because of the following two assumptions you make in your own mind:

  • You assume you’ve done something that is going to make others judge you harshly. This is usually just a reflection of your own fears.
  • You assume the other person feels the same way and will also judge you harshly. This is often a projection of your own thoughts onto someone else.

So in my case, I was so anxious because I thought the work I did was complete rubbish, which was just my own opinion and not a matter of fact. I also thought all reviewers were critical and harsh, another assumption I made based on others stories about the feedback they had received. In reality most of the feedback I received was positive and constructive in nature, so my assumption was proven to be wrong. I encourage you to think about a situation in which you have feared judgement and try to obtain whether your thoughts are rational. I did this and I’ve found it a useful exercise going forward in life.

Another thing to take away from this post is that some people are going to judge you no matter what (it’s natural instinct and as Taylor swift sings ‘haters gonna hate’), the only thing you can change is how you react to it. Take some time for yourself and try to take the focus off others, this is definitely something that I will try to do in the future. I’ve also always believed that judging someone does not define who they are; it defines who you are, so lets be a little kinder to each other.

So there you have it, a bit about judgement. I hope you have found reading this plethora of knowledge as interesting as I did researching it. Feel free to judge this piece and add your own judgmental experiences below.

The featured image is by Callum Goddard, check out their Instagram for more 🙂