Did you know that mental health problems are one of the main causes of the overall disease burden worldwide?
Mental health affects everyone in one way or another. It is how we think, how we feel and how we act. It is being pushed into the limelight more and more, and as a society, it is becoming increasingly more important that we continue to challenge the stigmas that still surrounds many mental health issues today.
One of the biggest issues, which is the Mental Health Foundation’s focus for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week (May 13th – May 19th) is Body Image. Thoughts on our own body image starts within our own mind, and can have such a massive impact on our sense of self-worth and being. Having a healthy mental view of our self is just as important as maintaining good physical health.
One area that can have a detrimental effect on our body image is social media. Social media is a very powerful tool, and when used correctly has a positive effect, especially for businesses to build brands, networks, and ultimately influence. But, on a personal level, the wider accessibility to social media platforms opens us up to a completely different, and on times, negative environment. It builds a culture of popularity and self-comparison - crafting that ‘perfect’ selfie and getting those likes and follows. We compare ourselves to the more ‘successful’ accounts, or how another person looks or lives. But we know that this social popularity can be fleeting.
Here are our top 4 tips on how to manage the impact of social media on your body image:
1. Use apps to monitor your social media usage
Most apps, such as Instagram and Facebook, now monitor your social media usage and generate reports to show your use of social media over the week. This can be a real eye opener for those heavy social media users! The unconscious action of scrolling through social media, or posting pictures of yourself, are so closely linked to those negative thoughts you may start to feel about your own body. Instagram in particular, was ranked the ‘worst for mental health’ in a teen survey.
2. Schedule breaks away from social media
If you feel that social media is starting to dictate how you feel about your body, have the confidence to step away from it. It is important to take time out and create ‘me’ time.
Jasmine Fardouly, a postdoctoral researcher at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia said via BBC,
“People are comparing their appearance to people in Instagram images, or whatever platform they're on, and they often judge themselves to be worse off”
3. Don’t follow negative people
Some people use social media to target certain people. They target their vulnerabilities, and destroy their self-confidence by broadcasting negative comments. If you are following such people - unfollow them. Also, be wary of following those that post ‘athletically inspirational’ posts – these may not be negative in that they are intentionally attacking your self-worth, but can still be detrimental to your mental health in the form of self-comparison.
4. Mix-it up
Social media is inherently a place for comparison, whether it be based on likes, comments, followers or image. Mix it up a bit by going out and experiencing the real world. Take part in activities that aren’t based around appearance – it will cleanse your mental health and may even be life changing!
Finally, it is helpful to remember that even if you view yourself negatively, most people don’t. Do you remember the brilliant ‘Dove Self-Esteem project’? A sketch artist asked people how they viewed themselves, and then drew their picture based on their description. The artist then drew the same person based on what they actually looked like. The difference in the two pictures was astounding, truly showing how different your view of yourself can be to others. Check out the video here.
The simple truth is - we are all perfect the way we are.
If you’re struggling with your mental health in relation to your own body image, or any other worries, there is always someone to talk to. Whether it be a friend, a family member, your gp or a supporting mental health charity - remember that you matter.
Samaritans: 116 123
Mind: 0300 123 3393
Rethink Mental Illness: 0300 5000 927