While many of us may never experience a severe mental illness that requires medication or therapy but, all of us at times experience less than optimal mental health. It’s part of the human condition. Here are five of my favorite and easy tips to help improve your Mental Health.
- Let go of what isn’t serving you. That includes the stories you tell yourself (i.e., I’ll never accomplish anything), situations, ideals and toxic people. Holding on to these things are bad for your mental health because they hold you back, make you unhappy and don’t allow you to live the life you were meant to live. This type of detachment isn’t about giving up, it’s about moving forward. One of the biggest things I’ve found that hold people back are when they become so attached to something that even when it’s no longer beneficial to them, they won’t let it go.
- Stop waiting for the perfect time to do something, or until you feel like it. Do it today and do it wholeheartedly. Tomorrow is not promised. Appreciate what you have right now, right in front of you. People are here today and gone today. Stop waiting until you climb to the top of the cooperate ladder to finally take that vacation, or wait until you find the perfect partner before going on a cruise. Stop showing up at work and in your life, just going through the motions. Live each day with passion and you may find yourself excited to do everyday tasks that once felt like a drag.
- Push yourself beyond your comfort zone, at least a little each day. Being too comfortable can hold you back from living your best life. Being comfortable can suffocate you and lull you into stagnation for personal and financial growth. Some of the best things in life are on the other side of fear and I’m not saying you have to jump out of an airplane to have that experience, but do something that scares you at least a little, like having that tough conversation, saying no when you normally would say yes or applying for that job that kind of scares you, yet gets you excited each time you think about it.
- Don’t be afraid of failure. This links to number three. We all fail sometimes and it’s okay. As long as you learn from it, you never truly fail. Fail forward is a saying that I love because in each mistake there is something that you can take away that will make you wiser, stronger and better than you were before. Learn from your mistakes and move forward, they don’t define you unless you let them. Use your failures for motivation.
- Maintain your inner peace by staying away from toxic people and situations.The only people we can control are ourselves, but there will always be people, situations and drama that will try to steal our inner peace. If we get caught up with negative situations, we’ll find ourselves full of unnecessary stress, worry and even anger. Back to number one, that may mean letting go of certain people, not taking things so personal or even limiting the amount of news we watch on TV if it’s causing us stress.
There are countless ways to improve your mental health. I like to go to the gym, to draw or go running to clear my mind. I have a friend who loves yoga and another who uses jujitsu as his therapy. What are some of your #MyTipsForMentalHealth?
One of my favorite people when it comes to motivation and realizing true human potential is David Goggins. The other day he made a short video about doing a living autopsy on yourself. By doing a living autopsy, what Goggins means is examining your life, thoughts, feelings and actions.
Negative thoughts. Fears. Anxiety. So many of us have these unconscious things that get in our way and sabotage us, keeping us from living our lives to the fullest. For the most part, either we aren’t aware of them or we accept them without challenging their source or validity.
Many of us say, “That’s just who I am”, but is it really? Is that really who you are, or who you’ve accepted yourself to be because it’s what’s been told to you by someone or perhaps, it’s what’s easier.
In psychology, we call this introspection. It’s when you stop being controlled automatically by what you think and feel. Instead, you examine yourself to find out why you think and feel that way and how can you change it, if necessary.
The first time I ever truly experienced introspection was when I found myself attracted to a certain type of woman and I had to ask myself, why am I attracted to this type of woman? Am I really attracted to them or am I only attracted to them because this is what I have been told by society I should be attracted to?
After some deep introspection, I realized I had practically been brainwashed to be attracted to a certain type of woman when in reality, that wasn’t really my type at all. Now that’s fairly simple, but here’s another example.
Take a man who is madly in love with his girlfriend and he wants to marry her. However, he finds himself doing what he’s always done in his relationships when they got too serious… pushing her away.
He loves this woman, wants to spend the rest of his life with her, but deep down inside he knows he’s doing things to sabotage the relationship. He may eventually succeed in sabotaging the relationship and tell himself “I’m not the commitment t type, that’s just who I am”. Because of this, he may never experience that deeper connection he longs for. He can do a “living autopsy”, if you will and dig deep into his subconsciousness and go where he probably has been avoiding.
What he may find is that yes, he is afraid of commitment, but why? With introspection, he may think about the pain he felt when his parents split up and how hurt his father was that the family fell apart and how his father longed after his mother so much that he never remarried and only went through a string of meaningless relationships that always ended before he ever really got close to them, so much so that whenever his dad would bring a new girlfriend around he stopped attempting to remember their names.
During this introspection, he may realize that he is sabotaging his current relationship because he’s afraid he’ll end up heart broken like his father and that he was taught unknowingly that having short term, rather meaningless relationships was the best way to keep from getting hurt.
However, as an adult, he longs for a deeper connection, but keeps getting in his own way.
Being armed with this new knowledge that he is sabotaging a relationship with someone he loves based on what he experienced as a child may give him the insight to challenge those thoughts and fears and create a life for himself that’s more authentic and based on love and not fear.
This can go for almost any character flaw an individual may have. Let’s say that you have someone who is meek and soft spoken and this is keeping them from moving up the cooperate ladder because in their company they need to be able to stand up for and speak for themselves.
This person can hold their head down and say, “I’m shy, that’s just who I am”, or they can do a living autopsy and maybe realize that the reason they are shy is because it’s a defense mechanism that may have served them well in the past, now is standing in their way.
Maybe they grew up in a family where there was a lot of violence so they had to be small and unheard if they didn’t want to draw attention, and perhaps abuse to themselves. Now was an adult, this defense mechanism no longer works for them, but it has become so much of their character that they think it’s who they are and it will keep them from achieving and reaching their full potential if they don’t learn to challenge and overcome them, especially in situations where it’s stopping them from growing.
Why don’t people do living autopsies/introspection more often? Because it can be painful. You can lie and fool everyone else, but when you stop lying to yourself you may be afraid of what you have to face in order to stop living un-authentically.
We have to stop automatically believing the negative thoughts and emotions that fill our head and challenge what we believe about ourselves because in many cases it’s all just a lie. We have all been brainwash in someway to some extent, but the great part is that we hold the key to freeing ourselves!
This verse is from a song called, “What’s Inside Is Just A Lie” from a play called Passing Strange and it’s one of my favorite music verses of all time.”
“See I know this is going to sound a little bit crazy, but according to the Bauhaus Manifesto and I quote, What’s inside each and everyone one of us here in this room, what we mistakenly call our thoughts, our feelings, and our dreams, have actually been put there by a system. Therefore, What’s inside is just a lie! Our minds have been invaded, conquered, and occupied, hence, What’s inside is just a lie! And like a catch or a phrase, it gets locked in your head. What’s inside is just a lie! Somebody else’s desires get lodged in your brain! What’s inside is just a lie! So the only way to become your true self Whats inside (Starting to feel real) Is to create your true self. You turn your life into a work of art.”
Speaking with a young woman today, I heard a story I have heard far too many times.
This woman had been sexually abused as a child by a relative, but didn’t say anything out of fear and embarrassment. This relative went on to molest other children in the family until someone finally spoke out.
I’ve spoken to many individuals in the past who were molested by a family member and didn’t say anything not only out of fear and shame, but also because they thought that as long as the molester was perpetrating on them, he would leave their younger brothers, sisters or cousins alone.
In essence, they figured they would suffer through the abuse so that others wouldn’t have to.
The sad part is, in all of these cases, the molester went on to molest other children in the family anyway. In one case, there were three sisters all getting molested by the same uncle and neither knew about the other. All three reported that they didn’t say anything because they thought they were protecting the other sister from the abuse, not knowing that the other sisters were doing the exact same thing.
It was only when this uncle, after years of abusing these sisters, abused another member of the family that he got caught and is now serving time in prison. By then at least four family members had been abused over the period of several years.
The Threat From Within
We teach our children to be cautious of strangers. We believe that the greatest threat to our child comes from outside of our homes and inner-circles.
1 in 4 women, and 1 in 6 men report being sexually abused as a child. Over 90% of sexual abuse is perpetrated by someone the child knows, loves and trusts. Family members, family friends, teachers, religious leaders and coaches are some of the biggest offenders.
There are many families who have this type of secret, and some will even tell their children, “Stay away from uncle Bob” because they know they have a perpetrator in their family who for one reason or another is still around.
I even worked with one family who hid their family member’s pedophilic activity, partially out of embarrassment and partially out of a family’s natural response to try to protect each other. This family member went on to molest at least three children before being sent to prison.
Why Do Children Keep Abuse A Secret
As adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse will tell you, there are many reasons why children will endure sexual abuse for years, some for a lifetime, without telling soul.
For one, children aim to please. They want to make someone they love and trust happy and are often willing to do whatever the person tells them to do.
Abusers also often coach their victims not to tell anyone. Sometimes this is done with threats of violence towards them or other members in their family. Other times it is done with the threat that the child themselves will get in trouble if they tell.
Shame, embarrassment and confusion along with countless other feelings and thoughts can keep a child from telling anyone about the abuse.
Most survivors of childhood abuse I’ve spoken to waited until they were were in their late teens or adulthood before they felt ready to share what they experienced as a child. Many reported that they were afraid that no one would believe them.
How To Help Your Child Break The Silence
We have to teach children the difference between a secret and a surprise. That may sound too simple, but as a start, it is very powerful.
- Teach them that a surprise is supposed to be about something fun, such as a birthday gift or special party for a friend.
- Teach them that secrets are something kids shouldn’t keep to themselves, especially secrets that involve touches of private body parts or anything that makes the child feel uncomfortable.
- Encourage your child not to keep secrets from you.
- Tell them that touches to private body parts should never be a secret.
- Let them know that if someone tells them to keep a secret, especially someone older than them (including older/bigger kids), they should tell you or another trusted adult immediately.
- If a friend tells them a secret, let your child know they should share it with you (the other child could be asking for help).
- Let them know that it’s never their fault if someone touches a private body part and they will never get in trouble if they tell.
Abuse of all kind (i.e., physical, sexual, emotional and neglect) flourishes under the veil of silence. It’s beyond time that we break that silence.
Content warning: This post deals with eating disorders and may be triggering for some readers.
To The Bone is a new Netflix original movie about a 20-year-old woman, Ellen, who suffers from anorexia nervosa and ends up in a group recovery home for individuals with eating disorders. The official trailer is included at the very end of this post.
Just like with 13 Reasons Why, there is a ton of controversy surrounding the appropriateness of this film. Many individuals, including many mental health professionals believe that this movie is very dangerous because they believe it will glamorize eating disorders. Some are even calling for Netflix to take the movie down.
Once again, just like with 13 Reasons Why, the majority of these individuals have not even seen the movie yet. Their fears however have some legitimacy.
Research suggests that it’s triggering for those who already have an eating disorder or who are struggling with unhealthy thoughts surrounding eating, body image and weight issues to watch other people displaying eating disorder behaviors, even if it’s a story of hope and recovery.
With that said, I do not think that those individuals should watch this movie.
If you are someone or you are the parent of a child or friend of someone who is suffering from an eating disorder, I do not think this is a movie you should watch with them. Watch it yourself for sure, as I believe the movie gives some great insight into what it’s like to suffer from an eating disorder, but do not watch it with them in hopes this will be a great conversation starter between the two of you. It could possibly do more harm than good.
There are definitely some images and events in the movie that can be triggering to certain individuals, such as the main character herself who is scary thin, to the calorie counting and food avoiding behaviors displayed throughout the movie.
Banning this movie however I do not agree with because it is just that, a conversation starter. It’s a movie that needed to be made.
My Issue With The Movie
My only issue with the movie is that Ellen, played by British actress Lily Collins is scary thin. This in itself can trigger individuals who already have issues with their body weight or have an eating disorder.
The real issue is that Lily Collins herself struggled with anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa at some point in her 27 years of life and writes a chapter about it in her book, “Unfiltered: No Shame, No Regrets, Just Me.”
For the movie she had to lose a lot of weight to look the part of a very unwell young woman. Although she reports that they did it in a healthy way with the help of a dietician, I still found it alarming that anyone would subject someone who already has a history of struggling with eating disorders, to losing so much weight and then this almost skeletal person is the main character that millions of viewers, some of who will be susceptible to triggers, have to watch on-screen for two hours.
As I watched the movie, before I did my research, I couldn’t tell if she was really that thin or if it was some tricks of the camera or make-up, but upon learning that she actually had to lose such a large amount of weight to play her character, it was just a bit unsettling.
I’m not sure if this film could have been done any other way.
Anorexia Nervosa Versus Bulimia Nervosa
Unless I missed it, the one thing I don’t think the movie did a good job on was differentiating between anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. People tend to think that the only difference is that those with anorexia nervosa severely restrict their calories while those with bulimia nervosa eat and then purge (vomit) in order to control their food intake.
However, there are two types of anorexia nervosa.
One is the restrictive subtype that is more of what people are familiar with. They rarely eat, count calories religiously and may use laxatives, but usually do not purge. The second subtype is the bingeing and purging subtype. These individuals are more like those with bulimia nervosa as they will binge (over eat) and then purge their food.
The main difference between the two is that individuals with anorexia nervosa have a difficult time maintaining the minimal amount of weight considered healthy and individuals with bulimia nervosa are usually at a healthy weight or even overweight.
While anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are the two eating disorders people are most familiar with, other common eating disorders include pica, binge eating disorder, and avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder.
Most eating disorders last 6 to 8 years which is a large part of someones life.
While body image, food and weight loss are generally the focus of an eating disorder, they usually aren’t the underlying causes.
Issues that may trigger eating disorders include a history of abuse or trauma, bullying, parent relational problems, low self-esteem, personality disorders, substance abuse, difficulty dealing with conflict, genetics and feeling as if they have no control over their lives.
Millions of Americans suffer from disordered eating and they’re not all thin, young white girls. People who suffer from eating disorders come in all shapes, sizes and ethnicities from the rail thin to the morbidly obese.
I worked with a 10th grade Haitain-American girl, along with another therapist who specialized in eating disorders as well as a dietician for two years. She struggled with anorexia and it was some of the most difficult work I have ever done.
Eating disorders, just like most mental health disorders, are always hard and uncomfortable topics to discuss and many people would prefer to act like they simply do not exist or are something they never will have to deal with. That is why 13 Reasons Why faced such backlash and why To The Bone is as well. Avoiding these issues will not make them go away.
If people want to be angry with Netflix for making movies such as To The Bone then we also need to be angry with our media in general because it glamorizes weight-loss and thinness. Girls as young as elementary school have started engaging in unhealthy diets and calorie counting due to the images they see on a daily basis through our media.
Marti Noxon, the writer and director of To the Bone says that the movie is based on her experience of struggling with an eating disorder and that the film is intended as “a conversation starter about an issue that is too often clouded by secrecy and misconception”.
So with some warning I recommend this film to anyone interested in learning more about what it is like to struggle with an eating disorder, but not to anyone who is already struggling with body image issues or unhealthy issues about food and weight.
The hope is that this film increases the conversation without increasing the risk of triggering others, but honestly I don’t know if it’s possible to have these type of conversations without anyone ever being triggered. It’s the nature of the beast.
If you or anyone you know are struggling with an eating disorder, please contact The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA)at http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org