Body Image and The Psychological Effects from social media

 

Article by Melina Tomasiello, MA, PHD student and intern at Open Space Clinic.

Social media has evolved to become an essential part of most people’s days. Among an array of uses, social media facilitates communication, circulates essential information, allows us to stay connected with our family or friends, and serves as a platform for a variety of businesses. However, as social media continues to gain traction and new platforms emerge, we may find ourselves spending more and more time on our various social media pages, mindlessly scrolling. Although we may be trying to keep up with our friends or the latest trends, we are also simultaneously being increasingly flooded with images of celebrities and influencers in bikini photos or workout selfies. And, sometimes, without consciously knowing it, the stream of perfectly airbrushed images, flawless skin and toned bodies may wreak havoc on our sense of self and body image. 

It’s no secret that social media has increased our exposure to unrealistic and idealized beauty standards. From a psychological standpoint, this has the potential to be harmful. As humans, we engage in social comparisons because it allows us to identify our own progress and standing in various areas of life. However, if we’re constantly comparing ourselves to the perfectionistic messages we receive from social media, it’s a recipe for internalizing our own unrealistic expectations. These expectations or beliefs may trigger negative automatic thoughts about our bodies. We may think that we need to change, modify, or alter our bodies to conform to what we see on social media or to be deemed socially acceptable. As such, these thoughts may prompt maladaptive behaviours including restrictive dieting or overexercising and may further cause us to feel inadequate, sad, or even depressed.

This isn’t a new discovery - and the potential for media to uphold unrealistic beauty ideals was born way before the emergence of social media. However, what sets Instagram or Facebook apart from traditional media outlets is the continuous interaction we have with influencers and peers. In addition, emerging research suggests that when we compare ourselves to people we know or relate to, these comparisons tend to be more harmful. 

While social media has propelled an era of unrealistic beauty standards, it’s unlikely to change or fade any time soon. Given that social media is a tool for communication, connectedness, and entrepreneurship, it’s important that we learn how to interact with our platforms in healthier and more adaptive ways. 

Tips

  1. Set limits. It may seem simple but, by limiting your time on social media, you’ll naturally decrease your exposure to content that can become psychologically harmful. That’s not to say that all content is toxic – however, capping your time spent on social media will help prevent increased exposure.
  2. Intentionality. Be intentional in your social media use. Ask yourself why are you on social media? What’s your intention? What do you want to see? Representing the standard of use in your mind before you hop on social media will help decrease mindless scrolling.
  3. Be mindful of who you follow. Try being selective in the people you follow. Acknowledging that some people’s content may inadvertently make you feel self-conscious may reduce the potential for the harmful psychological effects of social media consumption. There is no shame in putting your mental health before following someone else’s account. Alternatively, follow people who inspire you or make you feel good!
  4. The “best-self” paradigm. Remind yourself that people’s social media content is based on what and how they choose to show it to you. All too often photos are altered, enhanced, or modified and may not be an accurate representation of the original format.

Monitor your emotions. Try to monitor your emotions after scrolling through your social media pages. Do you feel sad or inadequate? This may be a sign that you’re consuming or interacting with pages that may be making you feel this way. If this is the case, try using one of the tips above to help. 


Early childhood development

EARLY CHILDHOOD DEVELOPMENT - Tamara Malinoff Ps.Ed. 

Babies are born with immature brains; they do not have the neurological or cognitive ability to reason and think as an adult mature brain can. 

Did you know that 90% of brain maturation happens by around 6 years old? This is why managing their emotions in early childhood is so hard! 

Young children are dependent on their parents, family members, teachers and caregivers to develop the necessary skills to become independent and live a healthy, successful life 

While they are learning, for no apparent reason, they will tantrum which is a form of communication. They may roll around kicking and screaming so loud – without any care of concern for the neighbors or shoppers and you know what? It is ok! 

During early childhood, they are learning so much. When we understand that it is part of expressing their needs and desires, we can then:

  • Teach them how to manage their emotions
  • Be there, offer comfort when they cry 
  • Allow them the opportunity to experience making better choices using positive discipline strategies that teach, punishments do not 
  • When young children are overwhelmed by big emotions, it is our responsibility to model calm and not join in the chaos.
  • Remember they are growing and learning. Behind every behavior is a need that is expressed 

Dealing with a lack of control

Lack of control over certain social aspects and how to deal with that / how to manage what we can control

 

Article by Maria Nikolakakou, MSc.A.

March 2020 – the beginning of the pandemic. We recently completed one year from the beginning of the pandemic. It’s been a tough ride, to say the least. 

I have been living in Canada since 2015. The reason was to pursue my master’s degree studies in Human Nutrition and Dietetics. I am originally from Greece, where most of my family resides. When I heard the news of this “new deadly virus” and started witnessing the reactions of the government and people in my area and around the world, I started panicking and feeling unsafe. In the beginning it wasn’t easy. Everyone was in survival mode, trying to make sure to stock up with the necessities -and toilet paper apparently! 

I was also worried for my family back home. I had heard that the measures in Greece were really strict and were creating a sense of restriction for the people there. In Canada, the covid measures were more reasonable, yet there was still a disturbance in our normalcy. It was also the same time when my brother had first arrived in Canada. What a time to move to a new country! He seemed to be less affected by the whole situation than I was. There is something stoic about some people’s personalities that I always admired – they are able to not get too caught up in their emotions and remain calm no matter what is going on around them.

Because of the prolonged nature of the pandemic, both my mental and physical health started declining during the winter of 2021. It was definitely a combination of the harsh Canadian winter, the measures, social distancing and the overall feeling of fear and uncertainty that was in the air. What was making it worse was the fact that I was a new entrepreneur and trying to make ends meet. As I was trying to bring myself “back to my center”, I thought “Wait, what if I am not meant to fight this situation? What if I am supposed to let go of control and surrender to this uncertainty and chaos?”

This was a simple thought, yet, it brought so much clarity!

We have been living through a period that its main characteristic has been the utter loss of control of our everyday life. It is definitely a hard concept to grasp, since we are so used to -try to- control most things in our lives. The pandemic was a blow to the structure that many of us had created for ourselves and our everyday life. The result? Feelings of uncertainty, stress and panic.
It made me think; what makes a person so uneasy about loss of control during the pandemic?

  • Firstly, we have lost our routine. Routine is powerful, as our brain is accustomed to habits. If a disruption occurs in a habit, the brain can become frazzled.
  • Secondly, the social aspect was restricted. We no longer have the freedom to meet our family or friends at any given moment or visit them at home. We can no longer go to bars or clubs and we cannot attend concerts.
  • Thirdly, there was a fear of the unknown. I believe this fear is ingrained in all of us. It is instinctual. In the face of uncertainty, we can feel powerless. Like we are not in control of our present and future.

This feeling of stress, panic and uncertainty has manifested in addictions, such as alcohol and drug abuse, overeating and others.

How can we overcome this?

I believe that we haven’t realized the illusion of control. We can only control the way we think, feel and react. We have no control over anything that exists outside of us. Only when we understand that we think we are in control, we will truly become free.

What can we control? The short answer is “our inner dialogue”. We have a choice between thinking positive or negative thoughts. We have a choice between catastrophizing and seeing the lessons in a hard situation. What we attract in our lives – people, situations, feelings- is related to the quality of our thoughts. 

Living in fear of what might happen decreases our well-being. Fear is the opposite of love. Fear places us in an energetic frequency that will only attract fear in our lives. Fear focuses around lack. Love, however, is an elevated emotion and will attract love in our lives. Raising our energy and vibration to feelings like love, gratitude, joy and peace will eventually start shifting our energy and mindset. The above are all related to the way that the universal law of attraction works. What you give out, you receive. You would have to make an action based on love, like volunteering to help the elderly, in order to start attracting into your life more love.

Something that has helped me has been keeping a gratitude journal, using affirmations on a frequent basis, meditating, moving my body in ways that make me feel good, talking with people that I know have the capacity to listen to me, eating nutritious foods and working on my thoughts and limiting beliefs. Belief work is the most crucial one, in my opinion. 

If you feel like you cannot do it alone, I highly recommend that you look for professional help. There is a lot of support out there, I encourage you to seek it!