Parenting With Positive Discipline

Parenting With Positive Discipline

The Importance of Connection Before Correction

 

The words punishment and discipline seem to have become synonyms these days, but it wasn’t always this way. The word discipline comes from the Latin word disciplina which means to teach or instruct. However, nowadays, most people associate punishment or consequences with the word discipline. Let’s take a minute to differentiate discipline from punishment.

 

punishment & discipline

 

When your child misbehaves, what do you want to accomplish? Are consequences your ultimate goal? Is your objective to punish? Of course not. But, as parents, we’re still human! When we’re frustrated or angry, we may feel like we want to punish our child. When we are stressed, overwhelmed, frustrated or feeling at our wits end, we can feel like punishing. It’s totally understandable – even common.

Let’s face it, it’s what our parents likely would have done, so it’s what we know. But once we’ve calmed down, we know that punishing doesn’t feel good for either of us (parent or child) nor is it our ultimate goal. What we really want is for the behaviour that got us into this situation to stop.

Our children need to learn skills like inhibiting impulses, managing big feelings and considering the impact of their behaviour on others. Learning these essentials of life and relationships helps them, helps us, and helps their larger community. We know these are the basis for emotional intelligence and the foundation for being happy and successful adults. What a gift! But how do we teach our children these life skills without punishment?

Positive Discipline helps us teach our children how to control themselves, respect others, participate in deep relationships, and live moral and ethical lives. It teaches important social and life skills in a manner that is deeply respectful and encouraging for both children and adults.

connection before correction

Connection Before Correction is one of my all-time favourite Parenting with Positive Discipline mantras. I believe that these are words to live by both in the moment of dissatisfying behaviour and in the long run as a foundation for any relationship.

Brain science tells us that when we are emotionally overwhelmed we cannot access the parts of our brains that allow us to think logistically or learn. So, there is really no point in trying to teach a lesson or talk through a problem when a child (or adult) is in a state of being emotionally overwhelmed.

Emotional overwhelm often triggers unacceptable behaviour. We do and say things that we wouldn’t normally because the parts of our brain in charge of impulse control, reasoning, problem solving and language are off-line.

 

Connecting is one of the fastest ways to reduce emotional overwhelm and to get those off-line parts of the brain back online.

 

Connection before correction also helps us parents stay calm and not say or do things that don’t align with our parenting goals. We get emotionally overwhelmed too! The most common parenting techniques used during parental emotional overwhelm are yelling, threats, punishment and spanking. When we move into emotional overwhelm we often forget our kind and firm tools, utilizing anything we can to make those feelings stop.

Research has clearly shown that physical punishment and shaming are detrimental to relationships, mental health and self-concept. Recent research has suggested that the ability to experience shame develops as early as the age of 3. Children develop an image of self by using evaluative feedback from others, especially authority figures and those they love. Particularly important are findings that high levels of shame were related to the onset of depression. Research has suggested that humiliation is especially damaging when inflicted by an attachment figure, such as a parent or primary caregiver.

By connecting before correcting we have a chance to build stronger relationships, focus on solving the problem, and correcting behaviour all while building resilience, self-reflection and strengthening self-image and mental health.

Along with my colleagues at Alongside You, I truly believe learning the principles of Positive Discipline can radically change our interactions with our kids and our relationships, and achieve the outcomes we’re looking for. If you’re looking for ways to connect with your kids, help them manage their emotions and behaviour, and set them up for success in their relationships with their friends and family, and their lives at school and beyond, I hope you’ll join us at our training in May! Click here for more information.

 

Click here to register for our Parenting With Positive Discipline workshops!

How Can I Support Someone Who Is Grieving?

How Can I Support Someone Who Is Grieving?

It can be difficult to know what to say or do when someone has experienced a loss. It is a delicate subject to approach since we do not want to say the wrong thing or come off as intruding or prying towards someone who is grieving. We don’t want to add to anyone’s pain, so sometimes we go back and forth between being present and supportive, to taking a step back and giving a person their space to cope. Both of these can be beneficial for the other person, but our uncertainty about how to respond can make us feel unhelpful or that we are adding to their pain. When it comes to offering support, however, being present and available to help or spending time with them can be healing.

What else can we do to be supportive during this difficult time? Here are a few practical ideas of how to help a friend or family member who is grieving:

 

  1. Know what “normal” grief is and how to respond check out my last article for a primer
    • Know that there is no one right way to grieve, every response and emotion is valid; people who are grieving may feel relief, guilt, anger, emptiness, sadness, etc. These emotions may be intense or extreme or they may be more mild. Be prepared for any reaction, and know that the reaction isn’t about you, it’s a response to pain.
    • There is no timeline or linear process to grief; each grief process is unique. People will cope in whatever way feels right for them and will take as long as they need.

 

  1. Expressing support
    • Be empathetic by acknowledging the bereaved individual’s feelings (e.g. I can’t imagine how difficult this must be for you). Showing acceptance and support of their emotions, whether it’s anger, sadness, or otherwise, can provide a safe space for the person to experience their emotions openly.
    • Give them space to tell their story. The person may want to discuss the details of their loss repeatedly or in detail as a way to come to terms with what has happened.
    • Reach out to the person who is grieving whether it be through a phone call or an in-person visit. Remember them as time goes on and check in. Many times, people respond immediately and then support fades quickly.
    • Avoid saying things like: “Everything happens for a reason”, “They’re in a better place”, “At least…”, “It’s time to move on”, “I know how you feel”, “You can always have another child/get another job/get remarried”, “Time heals all wounds.” Avoid finding a silver lining to the loss or trying to fix what’s happened.
    • Instead, say things like: “I’m here for you.”, “I don’t know what to say, but I care.”, “I’ll call you/visit in a few days.”, “What can I do?”, “I can’t imagine what you must be going through.”
    • Saying nothing and just listen. It’s okay to listen or just be present with the other person. Sometimes there’s nothing at all that we can And certainly, whatever we say is unlikely to make the situation better.

 

  1. Providing practical support can be very helpful, such as offering to:
    • Help with arrangements related to the loss, such as funeral arrangements, packing, finding a new place to live, etc.
    • Complete household chores or run errands
    • Cook or drop off meals in non-reusable containers so they don’t have to worry about washing your dishes and getting them back to you
    • Watch their children or pets if needed, giving them time for themselves
    • Help with insurance or other paperwork
    • Answer or make phones calls or for them
    • Take them out for a meal or a movie

 

  1. Watch for signs of depressed feelings or complicated grief
    • We’ll take as long as we need to cope with our loss, but we do need to eventually come to terms with what has happened. Over time, we’ll adjust to a new normal and be able to move forward. However, sometimes we don’t move on and get stuck, which is called complicated grief which involves:
      • Being unable to move on from the loss
      • Being unable to carry out daily routines
      • Isolating ourselves
      • Having feelings of intense loneliness, numbness, or sorrow
      • Wishing to be dead with the loved one who has passed

 

Depression can also occur and is often a part of complicated grief. The challenge with depression and complicated grief is they can be hard to tease apart, and often co-exist. Both can come in waves, or be constant companions.

If you’re noticing a complexity in the grief of a loved one, or signs of depression, then it’s best to encourage your loved one to seek out mental health support such as counselling. This can provide a space for emotions and thoughts related to the loss to be processed and allow for healing to occur. It can also provide an invaluable resource for depression and trauma screening by experienced professionals who can direct care most appropriately.

A loss isn’t something that can be fixed or repaired; it is something that has to be lived with. The pain cannot be taken away, so instead, we can help others by sitting with them in their pain. It is okay not to know what to say or how to help; if we can show up, listen, and be present, then that’s enough, and is valuable!

 

 

 

References

Complications of Grief. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/aa129291

Grief and Loss Resources. (2017). Retrieved from https://livingthroughloss.ca/

Helping Someone Who’s Grieving. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/grief/helping-someone-who-is-grieving.htm

How Can I Help My Relationship Last?

How Can I Help My Relationship Last?


Reflections on 15 years of marriage…

 

Today is the anniversary of the best decision I’ve ever made. This sounds cheesy, perhaps, but it also happens to be true. Fifteen years ago, I married Meg, and it’s been a wild ride ever since. Depending on how you recount history, our story either started in grade 5 or when I was 16. I went to school with her twin sister when I was in grade 5, and I remember when she came into our class for the first time to deliver a message to her sister. Now, you have to understand, I was in no way, shape, or form smooth at that age (many would argue that never changed). But, I distinctly remember turning to my friend and saying, “Wow, she could come back more often.”

Fast forward to when I was sixteen and started working at a summer camp. I walked along the boardwalk and low and behold, there was a beautiful girl that I recognized. I walked up to her and asked her, “Do I know you from somewhere?” She, thinking I was feeding her a line, literally got up and ran away. Now, I’m not using the word “literally” in the new-school hipster way, I actually mean she literally got up, moved her feet at a rapid pace, and in the opposite direction. Great start to a relationship.

Needless to say, it took a few years of work to get her to stop running away and to actually consider that I might be marriageable material. But, when I was 20 and she was 21, I asked her to marry me and, as they say, the rest is history.

As I was trying to fall asleep last night, my mind kept circling the question, over and over, “How is it that our relationship has lasted, and gotten infinitely better over time?” See, it hasn’t been easy. We got married young, and in our first year of marriage we went kamikaze with school, work, and other activities and didn’t see each other a whole lot (I definitely do not recommend this approach…). We are quite different people in many ways, and we often don’t see things the same way. And now, we’re business partners full time. Our recipe for success isn’t so simple! I also realize that we’re still in our infancy in our relationship at 15 years in – my parents will be celebrating 48 years of marriage this year, something I aspire to. So, this article isn’t definitive, because we have a long way to go!

I can’t write nearly as much as I wish I could hear, so I’ll save some for a later article. Here are three things that have been helpful to me in our marriage, and I hope will be helpful to you in your relationships.

 

  1. If you know you’re wrong, admit it. If you know you’re right, shut up.

A very close family friend wrote this on the wedding card he gave us on our wedding day. I didn’t realize that this was a quote from Ogden Nash at the time, but it’s always stuck with me. Anyone who knows me knows that I love a good argument, and I’m pretty opinionated. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, but if we’re arguing, I’m going to try to win the argument.

This is not a recipe for success in marriage. If it’s simply an intellectual argument it might be ok. If the argument is about something you’ve done wrong, arguing that you were right is not going to help things. Similarly, if you know you’re right it may not be your best course of action to beat this over the head of your partner. Chances are they know you’re right (even if they don’t want to admit it), and forcing the issue will just breed resentment.

 

  1. Accept influence from your partner.

This one does not come naturally to me, at all. I’m not even sure why because I often say, and I sincerely believe, that I married up. It would only make perfect sense for me to accept Meg’s influence as a matter of course, but for some reason, it’s still challenging for me. There’s still a little birdie on my shoulder that, when I’m under stress, tells me that accepting influence is admitting defeat. Let me assure you, it’s not.

Accepting influence from your partner means that we shift from a focus on me and instead, focus on we in the relationship. John and Julie Gottman refer to this as the we-ness of the relationship and it’s something they measure in their research i. If you’re a research geek like me, feel free to have a read of this article that highlights how John Gottman has shown that relationships are far more successful when men accept the influence of their partner. It’s important for women to do this too, but the research seems to show that most women are already pretty good at it.

 

  1. 69% of conflict in relationships is due to perpetual problems.

This fact can either be encouraging or be discouraging depending on how you look at it. This statistic comes from John Gottman’s research and it’s been replicated. Perpetual problems are the issues that come up in the relationship over and over again. These problems are due to fundamental personality differences or lifestyle needs and are not going to be solved. These problems simply need to be managed. The conflict stems from the idea that we can change these things, rather than accepting them and managing them.

Part of me finds this frustrating. My brain and my passion drive me toward creating positive change and my superhero complex leads me to believe I can solve all of life’s problems if given enough time. When I’m stuck in this mode, I get frustrated and wonder why, after 15 years, we stumble through the same issues and I haven’t figured out how to solve them yet.

My more reasonable, rational self-finds this encouraging. I find it encouraging that after 15 years of struggling with the same issues, we still have a great marriage. We haven’t given up. We haven’t grown resentful. Somehow, even though we can’t change it, we find a way through it together. Over, and over, and over again.

 

We’re not perfect, even after 15 years of working at it

 

I didn’t want this article to come across as Andrew’s guide to having the perfect marriage that he has with his wife, and I hope it doesn’t come across that way. We’re not perfect, and we regularly screw it up. But when we do, we work hard at it.

Relationships are difficult. My marriage is by far the most difficult thing I’ve had to work on, and I can say without reservation, that I’ve had more work to do on myself than my partner has. She’s better at this than I am, she’s more of a natural, and Gottman’s research seems to support this.

What their research also shows, however, is that if I continue to work on this, and continue to accept Meg’s influence, my doing so is one of the most powerful forces to effect positive change in our relationship – and that’s what I’m going to work on for the next 50 years, God willing.

 

I love you Meg. Thank you for working on this with me and teaching me every day.

 

[i] It’s ok to laugh at this. Every time I go to one of their training and they use this word, I laugh. Part of maturity is accepting that we laugh at immature things. Or something like that.

 

If you’re looking for some summer reading that will improve your relationships, check out this book by John Gottman. It’s a great primer for some of the principles that make relationships last!

What Should I Know About Counselling Online?

What Should I Know About Counselling Online?

The Benefits of Online Counselling

 

The age of technology brings with it many benefits – one of them is counselling online. It has many real positives for clients, and this is why we were one of the first adopters of online counselling platforms, even prior to the start of Alongside You. I have used online platforms to provide counselling for many years, and it’s a wonderful, highly effective tool to use.

What are the benefits of online counselling? Here are a few reasons online counselling is a great tool for the profession, and for clients alike.

 

Location, Location, Location

 

Over the years I’ve worked with clients all across BC, Canada, and in the USA using an online platform. One of the things that I’ve become aware of is that in remote areas, finding a counsellor with the expertise in specific issues can be a real challenge. As you might imagine, a small town up in northern BC often does not have the same resources that we have here in Greater Vancouver. Online counselling can provide access to expertise that doesn’t exist in outlying areas.

 

Time is money

 

It can be a real challenge for clients to see a counsellor during work hours. We make sure we have our services available in the evenings and on weekends, but as you might imagine, those times are very popular and fill up fast.

Online counselling can help with this – instead of needing to take time off for travel, and the time of the appointment out of the workday, clients can see a counsellor on their lunch hour, or before or after work much more freely. What may have otherwise taken 3 hours out of a day, can take an hour. It can also happen in the comfort of your own home or your office without the needed travel time.

 

Did I Mention Location?

 

One challenge that many of my clients have had over the years is that they travel for work. If you have a job that requires a lot of travel, it can be very difficult to schedule appointments with the consistency needed for counselling. This is where online counselling can be very helpful; I’ve worked with many clients who use our online platform when they’re out of town so that we can keep up with our appointments even when we’re not in the same location.

 

Some Things To Know About Counselling Online

 

As with any form of treatment, there are certain things clients should be aware of and think about prior to engaging in this service. In the case of online counselling, here are a few things to be aware of and think about before you decide if it is right for you.

 

Security is important

 

Any time you’re dealing with health information, security is important. Not only are there legislative mandates and laws counsellors need to be following, there is also your personal comfort with how your information is transmitted. Unfortunately, many times I see counsellors using technology that is not secure for online counselling. The most common examples are Skype, Google Hangouts and Facetime. None of these platforms are secure, and in my opinion, should not be used for counselling purposes. The reality is that the counsellor cannot guarantee the security of your video call and information on these platforms.

True security is found on platforms that use end-to-end encryption. What this means, in simple terms, is that a lock is put on the data on your end (the client) and it can only be unlocked at the other end by the professional, and vice versa. Skype, Google Hangouts and Facetime do not offer this protection. They have some encryption protection, but it does not end to end so there is a possibility that someone in the middle could see or read the data.

The other issue is data storage. To comply with health privacy laws in BC, and in Canada, the technology must store all data on servers on Canadian soil. Again, Skype, Google Hangouts and Facetime do not do this. They store data on servers all over the world, including the USA where your data may be subject to the Patriot Act and read at any time by the US Government.

We use a HIPAA/PIPEDA compliant version of Zoom, which is set up so that it does not store any data, at any time and offers end-to-end encryption. Previously, we’ve used Medeo which is used by many doctors in BC because it also offers a platform that complies with the legislation and privacy laws.

The difficulty for many professionals is that these platforms cost a fair bit of money. My position, however, is that it’s not ethical to provide online counselling without the proper security in place and this is why we choose to spend this money in order to offer this service to clients. With online counselling at Alongside You, you can be assured that your data is secure and complies with all of the proper legislation.

 

How comfortable are you in an online environment?

 

Some people love video chats and calls and do it regularly with friends and family. Some people prefer in-person connections. Others enjoy of mix of both. Counselling is an intimate, sometimes intense process and it’s important to think about whether you’d feel comfortable with this in an online environment.

Another consideration along this vein is do you have a safe, private space to make the call in? One of the benefits of coming to a counselling office is that it is a private, safe space. If you’re doing the counselling online, you’ll need a space of your own that can provide this for you. Your sense of safety is of utmost importance.

 

How comfortable is the counsellor with online counselling?

 

Counselling online is different for counsellors as well! It’s important to know, and ask, whether the counsellor you’re seeing enjoys online counselling and feels that it’s an effective method for them professionally. Do they have a lot of experience doing online counselling, and is it a method they enjoy? Their comfort is also important and it’s okay to ask them these questions!

At Alongside You, we don’t ask any counsellors to provide online counselling if they don’t have the experience, or if they don’t enjoy the platform. The counsellors here provide online counselling because they enjoy it and find it to be effective for them, and for their clients.

 

Is it appropriate for me to do counselling online for the issues I’m dealing with?

 

For most issues, counselling online is perfectly appropriate. There are a few situations where you may want to think about whether it’s a good idea. First, if you are dealing with severe suicidal thoughts and other self-harm or risky behaviour, online counselling may not be for you. Your safety is key and online counselling may not provide the necessary safety and environment for this type of work. This is a good thing to discuss with your counsellor prior to engaging in online counselling, and throughout the process to make sure it’s a good fit.

Second, sometimes couples counselling can be difficult online. So much of the counselling with couples depends on the emotional and relational dynamics that it’s hard to do if everyone is not in the same room. Again, it truly depends on the comfort of the client, and the comfort of the therapist as to whether it’s appropriate in these cases.

Finally, if your therapy involves live experiences (such as exposure therapy) this may not be the best format for you. There are safety concerns, and also practicalities that may make exposure therapy and other in-vivo approaches challenging.

 

Internet Speed

 

This probably goes without saying, but I’ll mention it anyways. Online counselling requires a reasonable internet connection. It’s surprising how little speed it actually requires, but if you’re in an area that does not have decent internet service, online counselling may be a difficult thing. That being said, I’ve done it with clients in very remote areas, so even if you think it won’t work because of internet speed, it’s worth a try to find out!

 

Still have questions about counselling online?

 

Online counselling may be a brand new idea to you. I hope this article gives you a brief introduction to online counselling and things to think about. If you have any questions, or if you’d like to try it out to see if it’s a good fit for you please feel free to give us a call anytime, we’d love to hear from you!

What To Do When Reaching Out Doesn’t Work

What To Do When Reaching Out Doesn’t Work

The deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, both by apparent suicide has the world reeling again. There have been numerous articles in response to this, calling for more mental health support, offering advice on how to reach out to loved ones, and more. One of my first thoughts was of how devastating substance abuse can be. I don’t know directly how much alcohol or drugs factored into the deaths of these two celebrities, but both had struggled with substances throughout their lives and it seems as though it likely influenced these most recent tragedies.

When we experience the death of a celebrity, a work colleague, a friend, or family member, one of the common struggles is wondering what could have been done? What if we’d just reached out more? What if we’d asked them how they were doing more? What if we’d encouraged them to get help more? The reality is that simply checking in on someone, or offering platitudes like, “Make sure you ask for help when you need it,” simply don’t work very often.

One of our staff pointed me to this article in which a group of friends held an intervention of sorts for a friend struggling with grief. What I appreciated about the article, from the perspective of the friend being intervened upon, was the comment that this approach could have easily backfired. This is very much true – it worked in her case, but on a different day, at a different time, or for any other number of reason the approach could have backfired. Still, she was grateful that they had intervened. So, here are some ways I’m going to suggest we can succeed in supporting friends when the stereotypical “reaching out” isn’t working.

 

Show Up

Most people struggling with mental health will tell you that it’s incredibly isolating. Isolation intensifies and worsens negative emotions and symptoms of mental health difficulties. It removes motivation, removes hope, and so much more. So, what this means is that when we ask, “Hey, how are you doing today? Have you gone outside for a walk? Is there anything I can do,” we are likely to hear, “I’m fine, it’s ok,” because giving any other answer requires motivation and hope, and effort, just like any other action on their part.

This is where we can show up. We know what our friends, family members, and loved ones need in general because it’s good for anyone: healthy food, going for walks, help with practical things in life. If we ask if we can do something for someone struggling, they’ll likely say no. If we show up and help, however, we are more likely to succeed, and more often than not, they will be grateful that we showed up and helped them.

 

Know Our People Well

In order to show up and be effective, we need to know what our friends, family members, or loved ones like, need, and long for. This requires us to know them well. It requires intimacy and vulnerability on both our parts, and we need to be working on this when times are good. If we rely on building this when things are bad, it will be incredibly difficult. There’s a tool I use when working with couples in therapy as we focus on building a foundation for their relationship and I think it can be helpful here. The Gottman Institute card decks are designed for couples, but they could easily be used for building interpersonal knowledge and intimacy in any relationship. The Love Maps and Open-Ended Questions card decks are particularly helpful for this – know that the language is geared for couples, but I’d love to see more of us using these in our other relationships. The more we know each other on a deeper level, the more we’ll be prepared to respond when someone is having a difficult time with mental health. We’ll know their wants, needs, desires, hopes, without even having to ask.

 

Be Willing To Take The Risk

Sometimes what we do as we try to help someone might backfire. If we show up unannounced to take someone for a walk because they can’t get out; if we show up with food and conversation when they can’t bring themselves to cook or to talk to anyone; if we show up and clean their house for them, these all may backfire. We might make them mad, we might embarrass them, we may even get the door slammed in our face.

We also might, just maybe, make the difference needed to help them move the next step forward, and they didn’t have to do it alone.

I often get asked the question, “What if I make things worse?” The reality is, it’s hardly possible to make things worse by showing empathy and love. For the sake of argument, even if we do, what then? Are they more depressed or more anxious? That’s a risk we need to be willing to take, and I can tell you that from my experience, it simply does not happen that way.

 

Get Help Yourself

Finally, if you try everything, you show up, you do for someone what they can’t do for themselves, and it’s not working, this is where a professional’s help can be a great asset. Trying to care for someone is difficult, especially when we don’t see results. It wears on us, it causes us distress, and we are now at greater risk for mental health difficulties ourselves. Sometimes we also just need an outside perspective from someone with experience with these issues. This is where a Registered Clinical Counsellor can be helpful in supporting you and providing outside insight into how you might help someone. RCC’s can also be helpful in connecting you or the person you’re concerned about with appropriate resources that may be helpful.

 

Don’t Give Up

Caring for someone who is struggling is hard. Don’t give up on them – try some of the strategies above, get some help for yourself if they won’t let you help them, and in case you missed it the first few times, don’t give up.

Feel free to contact us for help or counselling related matters. Our doors are always open.

Technology: the new social drug?

Technology: the new social drug?

Note from Andrew

Hi everyone, I want to take a minute to introduce you to Laura. She’s a local South Delta resident who is going to be volunteering with us. She is a graduate student, currently enrolled at Trinity Western University, working toward becoming a counsellor. Her program works to provide counselling knowledge in different areas of mental health, multiculturalism, family domestic violence, career and vocational counselling, psychotherapy, sexual abuse, addictions, child protection and family and child therapy. Laura sees herself as a sounding board for people to become empowered finding solutions and to be a source of support during times of change or reevaluation. During her undergrad, she volunteered at a suicide crisis hotline and also worked at an afterschool program for at-risk youth where she discovered her passion for counselling. We’re excited to have her on board, and you’ll be hearing more from her in the coming months!

 

Technology: the new social drug?

The world of technology has given people new ways to connect, share, and keep up to date with friends and loved ones. In just about 20 years we have gone from not having an email to being able to watch the live stream of our friends’ daily activities. We have the ability to show the world what we want of ourselves whenever we want to. There has been a recent wave of new types of social networking sites (SNS) as well as a flood of concern for the young people of this generation who are growing up in a technological age.
The purpose of this article is not to deter anyone from using social media websites (or else you wouldn’t be reading this). The hope is that by the end of this article you will have gained some awareness of how SNS’s, particularly Instagram, can affect our mental well-being as well as behaviours. Having an honest conversation with ourselves about our purpose for sharing and posting particular content could be helpful for identifying a particular need that has not been met in our personal lives.

Instagram is sometimes called the new Facebook. When a user scrolls through the home page of Instagram they will see only pictures with captions underneath that have a limit of 2200 characters but rarely exceed 20 characters. The captions are very small and the photos people share take up the entire screen of the smartphone.

Studies involving college-age students have identified that larger amounts of time spent on SNS’s are correlated with a greater body dissatisfaction. Women are more likely to have greater body dissatisfaction than men because they tend to compare themselves to members of the same sex more frequently. Comparing oneself to one’s peers on an SNS has also been shown to lead to emotional eating for girls.

Research is also highlighting that the more followers someone accumulates on Instagram the more selfies that person will post, almost as if they feel they are in demand. Students who take more selfies to show off their appearance are more likely to believe they are perfect but also believe that no one else sees them that way. This form of narcissism can be referred to as vulnerable narcissism. This is in contrast to grandiose narcissists who believe they are perfect and insist that everyone around them agrees. Murray’s research also shows that young adults and adults who take selfies to show off their appearance report characteristics of fragile self–esteem and a tendency not to reveal their weaknesses. This could show that people who are vulnerable narcissists use their physical appearance selfies to declare a sense of confidence through social media, where it feels safe. In short, people are using social media because it makes them feel better in the moment but has the opposite effect long-term. It may be important for us to keep this in mind next time we scroll through our Instagram feed and find a gorgeous peer who seems to have it all. It may be wise to give it a second thought – appearances are not necessarily what they seem.

All of this information brings up the question of what people are trying to do on social media. Many people seem to be after a sense of connection – but this usually isn’t the result. Research is showing that people who post a high amount of self-pictures on Instagram are much lonelier than either passive browsers or users who use it to message people. In other words, on social media, the harder we try, the lonelier we become!

Fortunately, if you identified with any of the people groups, it doesn’t have to stay like that. Social media can be a great distraction from loneliness or insecurities. However, distractions do not fix the problems just like comparing yourself to others and getting likes and comments from strangers won’t make you like yourself more or feel happier in the long run. Admitting that we are not perfect can be scary and difficult but it can be empowering if we are willing to put down our quick fixes and honestly evaluate things we may like or may try to ignore about ourselves. Perhaps the first step might be putting down our phones and getting off social media for a bit and meeting a friend in-person at a coffee shop?