Social Media, Mental Health and Living Your Best Life

Social Media isn’t reality, did you know that?

It feels like recently there has been a lot of acknowledgement that people tend to post a ‘best of’ of their lives of Instagram and Facebook- nights out, impressive meals, pretty hotels etc. and that can sometimes make us feel bad about our own lives; that we are perhaps not exciting enough, successful enough, interesting enough.

More people now, possibly in response to this, post more mundane / normal things on Social Media (if you want to know what I’ve eaten at any given time check my Instagram stories and there will be a not very attractive meal that may or may not have some nutritional value to it but to be honest is likely to involve cake, because I’m a fitness instructor and like to fuel my body with foods that provide it with value but I also really really like cake).  That’s good right- fewer perfect lives and more normality will make people feel less disheartened?

But actually does it?  Is my account any different from someone living their best life?  I would say my social media is reasonably warts and all, I post the days I eat the food I planned but I equally post the unplanned cake and chocolate.  I post pictures on nights or days out but my Twitter account, which is basically a tool for complaining to Northern Rail about their ever worsening service, demonstrates that my daily commute is far from glamorous and my days are simply long most of the time.  Yet even I unwittingly self ‘airbrush’ my own life.  In what ways?  Well, obviously not everything I do or eat gets posted, so I might not specifically hold back certain things and post others, but what I do post can’t totally reflect my day or who I’ve seen / spoken to or how I feel (I’m a historian by degree and we will tell you that all historical accounts are subjective so this isn’t something new with the advent of Facebook).  If I’m feeling a bit anxious or down for whatever reason I’m a lot less likely to post anything, so it’s not that I always feel OK and sarcastic as my accounts may suggest, just that my response to not feeling on top form is to withdraw a little rather than tell the world.  So even if you follow people who are pretty open and honest you still don’t see everything.

This make me sound like I’m not keen on Social Media but that isn’t the case at all.  I use many forms frequently and find the positives outweigh the negatives for me personally most days.  But nothing is cut and dry.

Social Media allows fitness professionals to talk to people openly beyond the clients in their gym and there are many excellent fitness professionals, both well known on Social Media and those only known more locally, who provide great insights to people for free.  This can potentially then encourage someone to go and seek out more advice and make huge strides in their fitness journey.  Equally, advice and posts could be misunderstood or someone could take advice that was meant for a different demographic to them and not get the results they want.  So positives yes, but we also need to be careful about what we say and promote.

Social Media can connect people who would otherwise not have met and provide opportunities to get advice and mentorship from such people and allows businesses to connect with clients on a more human level.  Equally it can cause debates and misunderstandings as people don’t know each other to understand why they have those opinions or view points because their situations are different. It often appears easier to argue with someone you never have to see and that can create an environment where people feel more able to say things they wouldn’t in person.

Social Media has opened up conversations around mental health.  Now I’m still a little dubious about this.  I like how people feel more comfortable talking about it.  I am less keen on how sometimes when people do post things about their own mental health they can be met with well meaning but not necessarily helpful reactions.  It’s tough to know whats really going on behind even the most honest of status.  I think being aware of the emotions of the people we talk to daily is a better way to show support to others.  Watching out for the signs that suggest that someone is maybe a bit stressed or anxious is possibly going to be more helpful on a realistic level.  However well meaning, we aren’t doctors or health care professionals and whilst listening to people express their feelings on Social Media can help both break down barriers and make the person in question feel heard / better understood, it also encourages us to offer advice – which might end up being helpful but equally could not be. Our feedback could end up being harmful to the person posting. Nonetheless the reduction in stigma surrounding mental health issues is a positive thing.

Social Media can help keep you motivated.  I know of many social media accounts which responsibly promote building a healthy mindset and teach hacks and systems which allow you to approach life’s challenges and which don’t try and fix whether you are ‘happy’ or not (if you are interested I can direct you to some people). Equally however there are well meaning posts that show a happy picture and a quote about only wanting to deal with positive vibes.  Those posts are probably normally quite personal to that individual and reflect what they are feeling at that moment and are not a dig at others.  Yet I sometimes feel they could have a negative effect on people who maybe at that point do not feel positive.  Because let’s acknowledge that depression means you don’t always feel positive but that this doesn’t mean you are a ‘negative’ person.  In reality we all have days when we don’t feel 100% positive and that doesn’t make us negative people.  Sometimes we don’t need to be told to be more positive we just need to be able to vent or have a rant and clear out our mind / work though our thoughts. When we post on social media we don’t always think how our words could be interpreted by others, nor can we be held responsible for how someone else takes our words of course – this is just another one of the double edged swords of the medium.

Like real life, Social Media isn’t all great and isn’t all bad – it’s messy and can be viewed differently day by day.  So in reality how we respond to anything whether it be something showing someone’s ‘best life’ or someone posting something real and honest is going to depend on how we feel ourselves that day and on any given day the same post could be viewed as inspirational and motivational or equally something which makes you feel a bit shit. That’s our internal reflection of what we see more than what is actually posted.

So yes, sometimes accounts may only show the best bits, but I think all accounts however honest and real can affect people in different ways regardless iof intention.

How do we deal with that, because for a lot of us, Social Media is a part of life and just dropping out isn’t necessarily an option we want?

Well in part I think just acknowledging that Social Media is always a life through a filter or a censored opinion – even when we think it’s totally real- it’s just not possible to be 100% real via a computer / phone or photo, even when you try. I go back to history as my example, as a historian all sources are tainted by subjectiveness – be they propaganda materials or diaries and personal testimony.  

Some people are more honest and open in how they use Social Media though so you could look to pick people to follow who match with your values and make you feel better / empowered rather than crap – people who will talk to you, respond to questions with honest answers.  If there are people on your feed on any site who make you feel rubbish you can remove them or mute them (because you may not be able to remove your mums neighbour three doors down without causing awkwardness in the supermarket).

If we choose to use Social Media for positive it can be a great addition to our life, it just needs to be something that we are aware of how it affects us and react accordingly to that. That means breaks when needed and setting boundaries that work for us (because everyone’s limit will be different).

Beyond that, I believe working on our own emotions and head space is a really important thing. How we train, eat, feel can be impacted by Social Media only so much when we are in the best place we can be at the time. How often does a post trigger you into a mood on a bad day but on a good day you’d find the same thing funny? That is why when I don’t feel so great I spend less time talking on Social Media. It is also why I haven’t just invested time and money into my physical well being but I also work with a trainer on my mindset as well – our wellness is a much more rounded package than just our bodies.

For me systems and creating habits in the real world, which help me respond differently to triggers than I used to is the key to then feeling healthy towards what I see on Social Media (and beyond).

This blog started as one thing and then sort of meandered elsewhere so apologies for the random nature of what has essentially been a mind dump on how I feel about Social Media and mental health, but as I said I have systems in place that help me process my own thoughts and sometimes this blog ends up being one of them … so here it is a very public social media style way of considering social media.

Also – sometimes we just do nice things and want to post them for people to see. So as reflective as I have been sometimes we really just had a nice holiday and want to share!

Would love to hear your thoughts – whether you agree of disagree!

Twenty Things You’ll Know if your a Les Mills Instructor

 

  1. You can make reference to Dan, Rachel, Glen, Lisa and Diana to any fellow instructor confident they will know exactly who you are talking about- we have no need for surnames here.
  2. Except for Kylie Gates- for some reason, you will always full name Kylie Gates.
  3. You have at least one friend on Facebook you know only through the LM Facebook page.
  4. You probably like spamming Facebook posts with pictures of cats…
  5. You can actually hold a debate about the use of dumbbells for at least an hour, even though you don’t really care because essentially a 5kg dumbbell weighs the same as a 5kg plate and is just easier to hold than most plates.
  6. Reading the comments section is often more entertaining than [insert programme you find entertaining here]
  7. People who put an F in the comment section haven’t yet realised that you can follow a post by turning on notifications.
  8. You are keeping an eye out for a No Time For Average vest on the Vintage Emporium page.
  9. You probably have an opinion on the best trainers to wear for Body Attack.
  10. Body Jammers have to sign a secret agreement that they will wear a checked shirt around their waist at all times on Initial Module Training.
  11. All Combaters secretly wish they’d bring gloves back because gloves make you feel badass.
  12. You will either download the little recommended launch schedule at the start of the year or you will ask for it on Facebook every quarter – even though it’s saved in the File Section.
  13. At some point you will have mimed out choreography in a bar. And your non Les Mills friends thought it was H.I.L.A.R.I.O.U.S. … Honest…
  14. This is where fellow instructor friends come into their own – because they WILL think it’s hilarious – and join in.
  15. Turning up to events in the same outfit as others is less of a fashion faux pas in Les Mills land compared to the rest of the world – in fact it’s expected.
  16. You will always find us in Nandos pre or post events.
  17. You can practice an entire release of Pump choreography with your little finger.
  18. You must be able to whoop and clap in tandem in order to pass Body Attack.
  19. Body Combat instructors would be great to have around in the event of a fight as long as that fight was carried out to a eight-count beat with modified martial arts moves.
  20. Can someone cover my Body Step class. TIA? I’m not going to say when or where the class is because that would be too easy…

International Men’s Day

Apparently today is International Men’s Day,

Think back to International Women’s Days when from Facebook and Instagram you KNEW it was International Women’s Day because EVERYONE had something to post.

I wrote a blog post that day about needing a day to acknowledge women specifically because as a gender we are still marginalised in many ways in society.  Essentially you could argue the other 364 days of the year are International Men’s Day.

But I think the article below articulates well, why celebrating men is also important in removing gender stereo types and bias.

Sometimes it’s good when you read something to consider your own opinions and their validity and this article made me do just that.

Click here for the link

Twenty Things All Les Mills Instructors Will Know – Updated and 100% new content (take that 80% new content Advanced Training)

  1. The words Recommended and Required mean different things.
  2. Les Mills have Live Chat- when did that happen!?
  3. You won’t need to do 2 touchpoints a year if you fall out of a tree and break your leg whilst rescuing your cat in December.
  4. Yes, that appears to be the only example of special circumstances anyone of Facebook can imagine.
  5. Other than that you do.
  6. Except maybe you don’t.
  7. It’s complicated.
  8. But Tribal Gatherings do still count as a Touchpoint for all your programmes.
  9. Yes even if you don’t do that programme on the day.
  10. Maybe check on Facebook though just in case?
  11. Talking of Tribal Gatherings – Combat and Step will apparently always clash.
  12. Body Balance will always be on at the crack of dawn.
  13. This is just the law now. Like wearing Reebok is #thankyoureebok
  14. Future instructors will one day know of Aim 1 and Aim 2 in the same way I know of actual physical copies of releases – a mythical thing people more experienced that me reminisce about! I mean imagine waiting for the postman to deliver your DVDs!
  15. We will now do Advanced Training.
  16. Advanced Training is quite pricey though so Black Friday probably definitely needs to happen!
  17. Advanced, Elite – does anyone now know how the hierarchy works?
  18. Nobody knows how Tribe Coaches will be made now – can we cope with this much change in one go?
  19. But the portal seems able to cope with quarterly bookings this time round – what will we talk about on Facebook?
  20. Ahhh Virtual- we will talk about Virtual.

*Note this is intended as a tounge in cheek look at recent developments in the world of the Tribe and not intended to be taken too seriously!

We all have mental health

10th October is World Mental Health Day.

I have suffered from (do still) depression and anxiety.  It’s an important topic and I’d be happy to talk to anyone – whether they need someone to talk to or want to just gain a greater understanding.

BUT

Mental health isn’t just depression or anxiety or any one singular condition. Mental Health is something we all have – it’s how we deal with life, how we feel.  You might feel great that’s still mental health.  We all need to be aware of how we take care of ourselves, to keep ourselves well mentally and much as physically.  Self care isn’t only for people with illnesses – it’s soemthing everyone needs to practice.

Every year there is a specific focus of World Mental Health Day–This year being “young people and mental health in a changing world”.

According to WHO “Half of all mental illness begins by the age of 14, but most cases go undetected and untreated. Our focus is on building mental resilience among young people, to help them cope with the challenges of today’s world.”

One challenge highlighted is the impact of technology in people’s lives.  This topic can go beyond young people however, there will be few people of any age who do not find themselves increasingly relying on various forms of technology in all aspects of their lives (if you’ve lost your phone recently you will probably have realised just how much this is the case).

Social media is probably one of the most obvious ways in which technology has changed the world in a matter of years. The expanding use of social media undoubtedly brings many benefits to our lives – we can develop social contacts and business relationships regardless of location.  However, the same technology can also bring additional pressures into our lives, as connectivity to virtual networks at any (ALL) time of the day and night grows and becomes the norm.  Being ever connected and seeing more aspects of other people’s lives in a way we previously would not have can have a profound effect on our own mental health and how we view our own situations.

Only this morning I was having a conversation with a member at a gym I teach at who recently removed themselves from Facebook for this very reason.

They have been away studying at university and seeing pictures of friends from home together every week, having fun together as a group, whilst this person was miles away and couldn’t be with them produced negative emotions. Despite speaking to them and knowing that these Facebook posts were not the full picture (during the week these friends barely get a chance to speak and it’s not all constant socialising) the emotions the Facebook posts created wasn’t positive and since removing themselves from Facebook they feel happier.

We all know social media posts create a version of our lives whether we mean to put a filter on things or not it’s inevitable that it happens.  Whether we present something as glossy and amazing or terrible – we have decided how it is presented to the world.  The world then views it from their own prism and puts their own spin on what we’ve said.

All this sounds like I’m anti social media but I’m not.  I use Facebook, Instagram (occasionally Twitter, never really got the hang of Snapchat) and obviously I blog.  I have got work from and made business connections through the advances in social media.  It has so many benefits and can add value to your life as long as you are aware that it can also add new types of pressure.

So here are a few ideas of things you can do to protect your own mental health and help create a healthy relationship with technology:

  • Keep social media buttons organised together in a folder on your phone and keep it away from your home screen so you don’t feel like a slave to the sometimes endless notifications popping up.
  • Decide when you will look at messages and emails (maybe once or twice a day) and ignore all incoming things in between these times – if it’s urgent people can call you!
  • Try not to look at your phone for the first hour after you wake up. Getting some fresh air and thinking about your day without seeing what others have posted can change your outlook on the day completely.
  • Try not to look at your phone for an hour before you go to bed. This allows you time to unwind and relax before you go to sleep which will probably help you get to sleep quicker.
  • If you use a sleep app which tracks your REM cycles they often mute all social media notifications once turned on which helps if you struggle with self control on reducing message checking.
  • Just like parents do with their kids – give yourself maximum daily screen times. Don’t let yourself mindlessly scroll through social media platforms.  Give yourself a limit each day and once it’s been exceeded stop mindlessly scrolling through your feeds.
  • Call people sometimes. Having a chat can be great for your mental health and takes away the anxiety that can be created via the misinterpreting of a text message.
  • Actually arrange to meet up with people too when you can!
  • Remember that what people post isn’t always 100% what you think it is- those pictures of smiling people don’t show the argument they had 10 minutes beforehand because someone forgot to put the bins out.
  • If you find yourself getting annoyed by someone’s posts there are a variety of ways of muting them whilst remaining their friends
  • If you enjoy using an app – use it. If you start to feel it adds stress – stop.  I use Facebook and Instagram and enjoy interacting with people on it.  Snapchat just stressed me out so when I got a new phone I just didn’t install the app.

As much as technology may cause some increased stresses to our mental health it also allows people to talk about it more openly about the topic of wellness and to a much wider audience so there are lots of positives to our changing world.

Talking about and being aware of the potential issues arising from change can help us work though them and stay well.  We all need to be aware of our mental health and develop systems to help us maintain a happy healthy life as our surroundings change.  That’s not easy- believe me I know – but days like today and discussions like the ones created by days like this can all play a part in helping work towards better mental health.

Twenty MORE things that you will know if you are a Les Mills Instructor…

  1. At some point you will have mimed out choreography in a bar. And your non Les Mills friends thought it was H.I.L.A.R.I.O.U.S. … Honest…
  2. This is where fellow instructor friends come into their own – because they will think it’s hilarious – and join in.
  3. Turning up to events in the same outfit as others is less of a fashion faux pas in Les Mills land compared to the rest of the world – in fact it’s expected.
  4. You will always find us in Nandos pre or post events.
  5. The shame of turning up at Quarterlies in Nike.
  6. You can practice an entire release of Pump choreography with your little finger.
  7. If you want to build the biggest back catalogue possible you should probably buy the oldest release on the portal first. But don’t take my word for it – if you ask Facebook at least twenty people will confirm this – the rest will tell you that release 12 was amazing despite the fact you can only buy as far back as release 72 on the portal thus rendering their advice pointless.
  8. Song lyrics are more controversial than you would think.
  9. The number for the office is 020 7264 0200
  10. Training biceps makes a lot of people suddenly need a wee (weirdly if you’re doing a 45-minute class clean and presses have the same effect).
  11. Body Balance is NOT a nice little stretching class. It hurts your legs… and abs… The people who tell you to go for a nice stretch are sadistic and probably the type of people who can do a headstand in yoga.
  12. A sprawl is a sneaky way of making people do burpees.
  13. You must be able to whoop and clap in tandem in order to pass Body Attack.
  14. You have to be slightly sadistic to actually enjoy GRIT.
  15. Body Combat instructors would be great to have around in the event of a fight as long as that fight was carried out to a eight-count beat with modified martial arts moves.
  16. You probably don’t want to be back late from lunch on a module unless you like push-ups or burpees.
  17. Can someone cover my Body Step class. TIA? I’m not going to say when or where the class is because that would be too easy…
  18. If you’re me you possibly though TIA was some kind of weird greeting like Kia Ora – took me about 6 months to realise….
  19. Same with FOMO…
  20. Touching noses with strangers is a thing.

The Art of Doing Nothing

On Saturday, I took a friend for a spa afternoon (hi Jane!).  We swam (well she swam I paddled), had a steam, chilled in the Jacuzzi and then had a Mud Chamber experience.

This involved using exfoliating salts and then coating ourselves in mud before chilling in a little chamber for 45 minutes as the temperature and steam increased.  There were no clocks – the whole thing was automatically timed for the showers to come on after 45 minutes of heat (they didn’t as it happens but that’s not the point of the story).

So, we were pretty chilled out after a lie in, leisurely breakfast and an hour by the pool and as we hadn’t seen each other since Christmas we had plenty to catch up on as we sat in the chamber.

But, you know what, 45 minutes (which eventually due to a malfunction turned into 75 minutes) is a really long time to just sit.  As time went on we both found ourselves remarking how strange it felt to be so cut off – we were chatting away but quite simply neither of us were used to just sitting still and doing nothing for an hour.

Of course both of us can sit on the sofa for an hour doing not very much of anything productive with the best of them.

But, we are almost always on our phones mindlessly scrolling, chatting online or maybe making a to do list or watching TV as we sit.

Put simply neither of us every really just sit, with just our thoughts, or even without our thoughts.  We constantly feel the need to fill time or occupy our mind.

I think it’ got a lot to do with Social Media- having a constant stream of information available.  Even if I’m doing something else I’m often multi tasking.  I fill my journeys, runs, time cleaning the flat with listening to podcasts, talks I’ve saved and want to hear, music that I need to learn choreography to for classes.

Whilst that might make me productive it also makes me very bad at switching off and stopping my brain from overloading – no wonder I frequently stress myself out.

Taking some time out when possible to sit and relax- be that via meditating or going for a walk and focusing on your surroundings or going for a massage and just focusing on the feeling etc. is actually a skill which I need to learn to be better at, because being able to take time out will ultimately be better for both my metal and physical health.