With the new age phenomenon and inherent complexities of social media, and with all it’s incredible fitspiration and foodie heaven, come more challenging elements of maintaining a healthy approach to, well… health! Constantly being faced with do’s and don’t and “expert opinion” can sometimes make us question our own inner voice – the most trusted opinion of all.
Welltodo’s Editor-in-Chief, Lauren Armes, sat own with expert London-based Psychologist, Elaine Slater, to deconstruct some of the aspects of social media that challenge us, from the comparison trap to the importance of authenticity online, and how these issues are influencing the changing wellness landscape.
ON THE PSYCHOLOGICAL SHIFT TOWARDS WELLNESS…
“There’s certainly been a huge shift lately. On every corner there’s a juice bar popping up, a new boutique fitness studio and healthy food delivery. There is a real wave of enthusiasm for healthy living at the moment, which is powering along. There are some key players pushing it and high profile advocates of this lifestyle. I hope the general public moves with that shift.
Often when new trends come along, people can get quite confused because there is so much on offer. Often one contradicts another so we don’t really know which way to go – we’re asking ourselves; is that the right way or is this the right way? It can sometimes become a bit confusing. But, if someone is choosing a path that intuitively resonates with them, then what is great is that this environment now offers so many options – and people can choose, with conscious awareness, the options that fit with that awareness. It means not necessarily following a trend – as, for example, a raw diet isn’t for everyone.
It’s important to be consciously aware of what your body needs and what you need to feel healthy and balanced. The great thing is that there are so many options and so much choice. So if someone is very awake to that choice, then the changing landscape can only be a good thing.”
ON THE IMPACTS OF SOCIAL MEDIA ON THE WELLNESS MINDSET…
“The issues around social media are very complex. It has such influence and such power – and affords individuals such an incredibly powerful voice. It’s far reaching, but then I suppose we have to wonder about the reality of what is being presented. It seems to me like the ‘highlight reel’. People want to present their best selves – whether at work, in a friendship group, or even on Instagram. With social media, you aren’t getting the 360 degree view of someone. You’re getting a one-dimensional perspective – which is essentially just the highlights.
It can have real consequences, which could be comparison to someone who looks like they have the perfect life, and the impact of this on someone with low self-confidence can create feelings that don’t really need to be there. Life is never smooth sailing and there is no such thing as perfection – so when this image of perfection is presented, for some people find this quite challenging.
Personally, I’m on the periphery of social media, so I come to this as an observer.
We know it’s the highlight reel, but we get caught up in it. There is no such thing as perfection and we’re all flawed in some way. It’s this that makes us very unique and beautiful and it’s something we need to keep in our minds. It’s not a snapshot of reality; it’s a constructed image.”
ON BUYING INTO THE ILLUSION…
We must avoid buying into the illusion and instead be able to make our own psychological interventions. This means taking a step back, and realising that actually… this isn’t reality. This really isn’t reality. If we were to see that person on the street having just walked out of the gym, that would be real and it might be a whole lot less glossy.
It does feel like everyone is airbrushing and putting up beautiful things – so it seems that most people are playing the game.
As far as being involved… It’s not necessarily about pulling back from social media. It’s about being clear about the lens they’re looking through.”
ON THE PRESSURES OF HAVING AN ENORMOUS SOCIAL MEDIA FOLLOWING…
“With any audience like this comes an expectation to be flawless and immaculate, and to live the perfect life with the perfect partner and career, and to win the Oscar, or whatever it might be. I suppose it’s almost like this machine that just keeps going. It’s ok to take a break.”
ON BECOMING MORE CONSCIOUS…
?When I talk about conscious evolution, or becoming consciously aware, I’m talking about self-awareness. Becoming self-aware means knowing who we are, having an identity, and having the confidence to make choices for our own health and wellbeing and we’re actively making really healthy choices that are in rhythm with our lives and wellbeing.
Ultimately I think that to become consciously aware, we need to go on an internal journey – looking inward and peeling back some of the layers, finding out what can hold us back, inhibit our potential, restrict us (e.g. lack of conscious, negative beliefs about ourselves). When I talk about potential, it is about being all of who you are, as some people can (because of historical experiences) limit themselves in certain areas. Once we have a clear sense of identity then we can make really positive choices for our lives and experiment with new things, and take steps that can really better ourselves.”
ON THE FUTURE OF SOCIAL MEDIA…
I do think that many of the pressures we’re talking about are getting a little out of control, and that perhaps it won’t be long until it comes crashing down. Maybe that’s a good thing, and maybe reality will prevail in the end – and there’ll be lots of compassion in there as well.
Elaine is a Psychologist in private practice at Grace Belgravia in South West London. She is a consultant therapist for the Priory Hospital and is the resident therapist for London Fashion Week.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on social media and how it both positively and negatively affects your wellbeing?