Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Is Facebook Reducing your Wellbeing?

Facebook lowers life Satisfaction

According to a recent study Facebook can make us feel worse about ourselves and our lives.  Facebook is widely regarding as a way of keeping in touch with our friends and family and allowing us to stay well connected.  The study conducted by The universities of Michigan and Leuven in Belgium recruited a group of young people in their late teens and early 20’s to test this out.  Participants were text messaged five times a day for 14 days with an online survey asking questions like ‘How do you feel right now?’ and ‘How much have you used Facebook since the last time we asked?’ and completed a life satisfaction survey before and after.

The researchers reported that the more the participants used Facebook, the more unhappy and dissatisfied they felt with their lives; whereas direct social contact made them feel better about themselves and had no negative effects on their life satisfaction.  It was found that Facebook was more likely to be used when the individuals felt bad which subsequently made them feel worse.  Social comparison with peers and friends was cited as one of the main reasons which lead to increased feelings of dissatisfaction and lower states of wellbeing.  

Facebook linked to Narcissism

Other studies* looking at the correlation between social media use and narcissism in those in middle age also indicates that there is a link between narcissistic traits and amount of Facebook use.  In our self obsessed ‘generation me’ culture, people are seemingly more needy for validation and approval than ever before and with social media those needs are met instantly. Self worth may lower if we feel that we aren’t achieving the same amount of ‘likes’ on our posts or aren’t having as an exciting life as our peers as we perceive it.  The studies suggest however that certain personality traits such as exhibitionism can be magnified with use of social media rather than Social media being the problem in itself. 

Facebook isn’t the core issue

Studies conclude that there is no substitute for face to face contact though should we cut ourselves off from Social Media altogether?  It can be a source of great social support for younger and older generations alike and enables us to keep in touch with people when in our busy lives we wouldn’t otherwise do.  There are certain indicators like existing low self esteem issues and loneliness that make some more vulnerable to being affected by Facebook use. Like any platform, it is how and when we use it that is key to our Psychological wellbeing and it being a positive rather than a negative addition in our lives.  

Here’s 5 tips for keeping yourself and your family sane whilst using Facebook: 

  1.  Keep Boundaries around yours and your family’s Facebook Use: With Smartphones and iPads, we are all switched onto Social Media 24-7 and it can easily eat up your spare time. Have certain times in the day when you switch it off and spend time speaking on the phone and face to face with your family and friends. 
  2. Avoid Using Facebook when you’re in a low or frustrated mood.  As research suggests, it only creates a further downer when you do, so be more conscious of doing things like going out for a run or phoning a good friend to boost your mood.   
  3. Ask yourself what is the purpose for you using Facebook and does it really add something positive to your life? If it doesn’t and the negatives outweigh the positives, consider deleting your account and encouraging your friends/family to use another social media platform like Instagram or Twitter to keep in touch.
  4. If you or a family member is using Facebook because you’re feeling lonely or isolated, consider other options.  Social media is easily accessible though it can lower confidence and self esteem if other social outlets aren’t utilised.  Consider joining a group for a hobby you enjoy or starting a night class.  If you feel you need support to overcome your barriers, you may consider speaking to a Therapist for support. 
  5.  Finally, try changing the way you use Facebook so it becomes a more positive social outlet in your life.  Rather than moaning for instance as a lot of people do (or on the other handing, showing off about how wonderful your life is!) try sharing something positive or inspiring that has happened to you or you’ve come across.  If certain ‘friends’ on Facebook become regularly annoying or negative, try deleting them from your Facebook newsfeed or deleting them altogether!  Weave a new social fabric in your life and experience your positivity grow.


Thursday, 25 July 2013

How your Eyes are the Key to Releasing your Past

“It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.”  Wayne Dyer

In the film, Eternal Sunshine of the spotless mind, lovers Joel and Clementine (Jim Carey and Kate Winslet) try and erase their memories of each other following a fight.  As you watch the film in reverse, you witness the memories through the perspective of Joel’s unconscious mind as they are erased.  A lot of us might identify with wanting that ‘quick fix’ to dissolve the pain of our past or to get over a distressing ending in our lives.  Trauma does need time to process though being able to quickly detach from past memories and emotional pain is no longer the stuff of movies. 

A new form of treatment “Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing” (EMDR) developed by Francine Shapiro in the 1980’s has been shown to effectively help sufferers of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as well as other Anxiety, phobia and Mood disorders. The effectiveness of EMDR Therapy has been well established as the result of more than 20 randomized controlled studies. The idea of this therapy is to recall the experiences in a safe, comfortable environment, and this helps the individual to realise that they are no longer under threat, which reduces their anxiety and stress.

A Typical EMDR procedure:

1.   The therapist will discuss any expectations with you and what you want to achieve through the treatment. This is often to ensure that desires are realistic and they know how it can benefit them.

2.   The therapist then explains how the procedure will be carried out, and if you give consent, they will begin.

3.   First you are taught a simple breathing exercise to help with anxiety – facing your fears can be very stressful, and it’s important that they is calm and relaxed. A typical breathing exercise here is to breathe in through nose for 7 seconds, and out through the mouth for 11 seconds – this combination is known to trigger neurons in the brain associated with peace and relaxation.

4.   They begin; the therapist moves their finger in front of your eyes, continuing to do so, and you will find that their eyes naturally follow it, and that you get into the rhythm. 

5.   The therapist will then gently ask a question, such as “What was your first experience of ___?” or “How did you react to ____?” to get to the first memory to process. Of course, if they are not comfortable enough to answer, the therapist will not persist and the EMDR will continue regardless.

6.   The therapist then begins processing the memory and asks what you notice on each set of taps or eye movements every 15-30 second intervals. You will typically experience a change in the memories and feelings as the process continues and you feel more relaxed. I describe it as being on a train where the scenery changes but not getting off at any stop. 

7.   Towards the end of the therapy, you will be asked to visualise leaving through a doorway – this symbolises the end of an experience, leaving the memories and the pain behind. 

8.   Once the EMDR is finished, you will do more calming breathing exercises, and you will discuss with the therapist how you felt. Typically, treatment needed is between 2-4 sessions depending on the issue.

There are many variations of the EMDR procedure, including simple eye movements, watching an LED light travel and flash, listening to tones and many more.

Although EMDR is a budding, young method of therapy, it has been shown as very effective and more recent research has shown it to be helpful to sufferers of many things; eating disorders, addictions, OCD, panic attacks and anxiety. It is a safe therapy with no side effects.

Alexandra Bacon is an experienced EMDR Therapist based in the East Midlands. 

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Looking out for Men's Mental Health

“If you add loneliness to depression, you really are in a world of… appalling pain.” – Stephen Fry

Men are beginning to seek more help through their GP's and visit therapists more than they were before.  A stigma still remains however around admitting to suffering from a mental health problem which creates further isolation and often a sense of hopelessness and despair. Suicide rates have shown that men are three to four times more likely to commit suicide than women.  We need to consider why that is, and what we can do to address it.

Possible reasons for higher rates of male suicide include: 

  •     Men are less likely than women to talk about their feelings – they tend to isolate themselves.
  • Men are less likely to seek professional help (e.g. counselling, therapy, medication) than women.
  • Men have higher rates of drug and alcohol misuse than women, and are much more likely to use this to mask their symptoms of depression.
  • They demonstrate their feelings externally (e.g. shouting, getting angry) and close things off internally (e.g. “I’m fine”)
And, above all:
  • Social ideals and pressures of masculinity demands that men “Stay strong” or, here’s a good one, “man up”.

It must be recognised and understood that men too are victims of domestic violence, sexual violence such as rape, and violence and abuse from other men. It is all too overlooked; as a society we often think of women as being more vulnerable to these things, especially the domestic and sexual violence, but this is not the case. It is possible that men simply do not report the incidents as often, because they are maybe embarrassed or ashamed. 

What can we do about this?
Men’s Minds Matter is an organisation that hopes to better raise awareness of male problems and mental health issues, and also to provide support for those and the families of those who are affected. They have been “working closely with other psychologists, professionals and organisations to develop ideas on how to improve the psychological wellbeing of men and boys” says the Director of Men’s Minds Matter, Dr Luke Sullivan. Through this, they have begun The Men’s Institute, which as well as being very useful is another step to recognising that men need this support, as well as women do. 

If would like more information about this matter or no someone who might benefit from it, visit http://www.mensmindsmatter.com/ or http://www.mensmindsmatter.com/the-mens-institute.html for resources and support.

Other organisations such as Mind http://www.mind.org.uk/ and Time to Change http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/ will also be useful, and also Terry Real’s book, “I don't Want to Talk About it: The Secret Legacy of Male Depression” is a very good and helpful read.

Considering visiting your GP or speaking to a Therapist might also help you to start resolving some of your underlying issues and gain more support.  For more information on our services, visit www.lotus-therapeutics.com.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

How Lying & Keeping Secrets Affects our Health

“The most common lie is that which one lies to himself; lying to others is relatively an exception” – Friedrich Nietzsche.

There are many reasons why a person might start to tell lies. It may be that they have something to gain from it, or that they are protecting someone who might be hurt by the truth- or, that they are ashamed or feel guilty about something.  They may not want to worry those around them if the truth turns out to be negative, such as finding out the results of hospital tests for example.  Alternatively, it could be a white lie, such as “I am too tired to go out tonight" to avoid conflict or please others.
According to Harvard psychologist William Pollack, Ph.D, telling lies and keeping secrets can actually be bad for your health. Of course, we all know that certain lies need to be told and certain secrets must be kept. We just have to make sure we know when to lie or when to tell the truth.
When to do which

Tell the truth if:
·      Someone asks you outright – if you lie to someone directly, chances are that if they find out you will have damaged the trust within that relationship. Your friend, relative or partner will always remember it and never be sure whether you’re telling the truth or not in the future.
·      It’s making you tense and anxious – If you’re keeping a secret or have begun to tell lies and it’s making you nervous, tense and wound up, it’s better to come clean and put yourself (and everyone around you) out of their misery.
·      The situation isn’t too bad yet – If you can see things getting worse it’s good to come clean, especially if you think there might be ways to solve the problem or solutions that can be thought of behind the reason you lied/kept a secret.
Keep the secret or continue lying if:
·      It’s not your secret – Telling someone else’s secret might lead to gossip as well as breaking that person’s trust. Also, that person might have decided they want to sort it out themselves, and so you will shame them by getting there first. If it’s not your business it’s better not to trouble with it and support their decision in whether or not to tell.
·      You intend to tell it within days – Sometimes “Now just isn’t the right time”, and that’s okay. These things are better dealt with if everyone is in a good mood and ready to talk deeply about an issue.
So How do Lies and Secrets Affect my Health?
1.    Telling lies or keeping secrets is prone to making you anxious and on edge. Having something on your mind all the time isn’t good for you, especially if it’s linked to danger, e.g. someone finding out and exposing you, or the worry of others getting hurt etc. This makes us begin a “fight or flight” response, in which adrenaline is constantly in our bodies, which can be damaging long term and cause illnesses such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
2.    Telling lies or keeping secrets distract you from your daily routine – you are more likely to make mistakes, forget things, and make physical activities seem more difficult.
3.    Sometimes the secret itself is something you should be talking about. Having a “Big secret” can be very taxing if you have no one you feel you can tell, and therefore are not getting the appropriate support from family and friends. If you need someone to talk to but feel you have nowhere to turn, you might be better off talking to a therapist, calling a helpline such as the Samaritans 08457 90 90 90,  or asking for help on an internet forum.

Try and do what’s best for yourself and the people you love. This might involve making a difficult choice or coming clean about something.  Whether you choose to lie or tell the truth, keep the secret or reveal it, think about whether or not it is justified, and if the good consequences outweigh the bad.