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How We Are Reflected in Our Social Experiences

How We Are Reflected in Our Social Experiences

Human beings are, in many ways, meant to be social. Yes, many of us love our alone time. But we are a social species, and as such, our relationships often define for us who we are and where our life is. There is a reason that we, as a species, live longer and maintain our cognitive health when we have strong social connections.

But what if these social connections are not what we were seeking?

Sometimes, the social connections we create and develop are a reflection of how we feel internally and what we project onto the world. People that are drawn to us are sometimes drawn to us because of how we feel about ourselves, and people that we push away may be pushed away because our internal thoughts and emotions are telling them a story that they do not want to hear.

It’s Hard to Hide How We Feel

There are many situations where an emotion that we’re feeling or an issue we’re struggling with comes out, no matter how much we try to hide it. It doesn’t just come out in obvious ways, either. For example, if you find you’re struggling with anger, that doesn’t mean that your anger only comes out as shouting or yelling. In some ways, it can come out as a feeling people get when they’re around you, with subtle clues that they pick up on.

This can create situations where you’re pushing people away that may otherwise fill an important role in your life. For example, people that feel needy, or uncomfortable with others, or unhappy with themselves may present that to others in both apparent and subtle ways. They may be sharing that information with mannerisms or language choice or expressions that others pick up on and respond to accordingly.

If that happens:

  • The people that you desire a friendship with, and the ones that would be a good influence in your life, may find that they’re being unintentionally pushed away by these negative emotions and challenges. They may not feel like they can connect with you the way that you would normally be able to connect with them.
  • The people that you *do* attract may not be those that would be a good influence on your life. If you’re struggling with low self-esteem, for example, a person that you attract as a result may be someone that could take advantage of that – someone that finds low self-esteem to be an attractive personality trait.

You often hear friends and family recommend that you learn to love yourself before you focus on loving others. There may be some truth to that, as we want to make sure that the best possible emotions and personality traits are being reflected in the world.

This is not to say that you are only going to attract unwelcome people if you’re struggling, or that you are going to always push away those that may benefit your life simply because you have mental health challenges. But it is still likely to be beneficial to continue to work on your health, so that you can reflect the best possible version of yourself to others. If you would like help for your mental health, please contact Flourish Psychology, today.

What is the Concept of “Fat Positivity?”

What is the Concept of “Fat Positivity?”

As specialists in disordered eating and eating disorders, one issue that drives many poor eating habits is the idea of avoiding being “fat” – a term, often used as a slur, that is designed to shame someone about the size of their body. We know from health science that bodies of all sizes can be healthy bodies and that the concept of “fat” as unhealthy or unattractive is not factual. It is time to reclaim the word fat, and restore it’s proper meaning.

It’s why we emphasize what we call fat positivity – the concept that all bodies, and particularly larger bodies, are inherently worthy and that size itself is not a determinant of health status or physical attractiveness.

What “All Sizes Fit” Really Means

As Rebecca Appleman, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with offices in NY, CT and FL and owner of Appleman Nutrition explains, “it is a pervasive view in both diet and wellness culture that “fat” is bad;  That it is bad to eat fat and bad to be fat. This view is profoundly misguided.” High quality fat, is a vital nutrient and is important to consume in order to decrease inflammation in the body and protect the heart, brain and bones. Rebecca further reflects that “fat bodies have unfortunately been culturally deemed unhealthy, unworthy,  and unattractive. Appleman Nutrition wholly rejects the idea that only one body type is worthy and that only thin bodies can be healthy and strong. Every body has value, and every body deserves to be well nourished and well cared for.” 

Fat positivity is about embracing your body as it is and not allowing unscientific standards dictate your body image.

At Flourish Psychology, we call this the concept of “all sizes fit.” It is the idea that:

  • Whatever size you are is the right fit for you.
  • Whatever shape you have is an ideal shape to be.
  • Whatever view you have about beauty standards, you fit into that view.

Through this concept, we work with patients that struggle with disordered eating, teaching them how to be in touch with their body and its signals, knowing how to listen to it and give it what it needs to thrive. We teach you how to accept your body and what it does for you, focusing less on its appearance and instead on how incredible it is that it allows you to enjoy and appreciate so much goodness in life.

We also focus on acceptance, and learning to accept all the great things you already have instead of desiring what you do not. These skills help not only with poor body image, but also with changing your overall mindset about how to live an enjoyable, incredible life of any size at any time.

Health at Every Size

In the mental health world, the concept of “Health at Every Size” (often shortened to HAES) is supported by research. Teaching people to love themselves, address their mental health needs, and respond to their body showed better overall health outcomes, no matter their weight on the scale.

The idea behind fat positivity is based on this principle. It is to show people that loving yourself matters more for your health than other approaches, and that your size or weight matters less for your mental AND physical wellbeing than the way you feel about it.

Learning to Love Yourself and Your Body

Food is designed to nourish our bodies so that we can enjoy all the other activities that we wish to enjoy. When food becomes a distraction, or how we feel about our body interrupts our ability to enjoy all of life’s many pleasures, then that’s when we need to take a step back and gain a better understanding of why we feel that way and what we can do to feel more positive about ourselves and our bodies.

If you or someone you love is struggling with disordered eating or body image issues, please reach out to Flourish Psychology today. Our therapists often work with patients that have eating disorders on ways to improve their relationship with food and to feel more positive with themselves and their bodies.

The Benefits of Penciling in Your Life Goals

The Benefits of Penciling in Your Life Goals

One of the ways that we find contentment in today’s world is to set goals for ourselves and, ideally, achieve them. We try to make some specific amount of money, or visit a specific country, or read a specific number of books. Goal setting may even be part of therapy, as we work together to find and create goals that make sense for your core values.

Goal setting is both admirable and important, and giving up on goals or failing to complete them can be a source of unhappiness. But one issue that can arise is believing that the goals we create now are critical for our happiness in the future. Goals are important, yet what is also important is adaptability to the changes in where we are in life, who we are in life, and what we really need to be happy.

Our Goals and Our Lives Change with the Seasons

When you were a child, you wanted to grow up and be an astronaut or a fireman or the President of the United States. At the time, even without realizing it, you set a goal. Then you grew up. Life taught you more about who you are and what you wanted to achieve based on your life experience.

We look back on our childhood and we know that times change. The dreams we had as kids are (probably) not within our reach, and we are not the same person that we were in our youth. But, as we become adults, many of us start to think that the goals we have now should be treated as some type of necessity. Now that we’re adults, we start to convince ourselves that this is who we are, and our goals now are the only goals we’ll have that will make us happy.

The truth is that we are always changing. For example, in our college years, we may have been focused on finding a job that made us more money. Then we got a job and our goals could have changed to something like having children or spending more time with our families. Our life changes all the time. Our goals need to be able to change with it.

Seeing and Assessing Our Personal Goals

Our life goals are not meant to be static. They change regularly, even if you do not achieve the goals that you originally set. We are always growing and changing, and while we may still hold on to some of the goals and dreams we had in the past, we also need to be willing to reflect on who we are and what we really need to be happy. If we hold onto our past dreams, and do not look at what will make us happy in the now, then we’re going to miss out on opportunities to make ourselves happier that are more in line with who we are in the moment.

So while we should have goals, and we should work hard towards those goals, it is also very important to remember that our goals can change as our circumstances do. There is nothing wrong with seeing our goals as temporary – writing them with a pencil, and not a pen – and reviewing where we are now and what we really want to achieve. If you need help with achieving your goals, contact Flourish Psychology, today.

Can the Life Goals we Set for Ourselves Ultimately Hold Us Back?

Can the Life Goals we Set for Ourselves Ultimately Hold Us Back?

It’s healthy to have goals in life. Being able to set an expectation and then achieve it can not only be beneficial to our financial status or social status, but can also be invaluable to our personal mental health and sense of accomplishment. Unfortunately, by measuring our success in goals rather than ongoing progress, it can be all too easy to lose sight of what matters and beat ourselves up over not accomplishing those arbitrary goals that we’ve set for ourselves.

For example, if we want to put a certain amount of money into our savings but fail, we ignore the amount that we were able to save at all. Or if by the time we are a certain age we want to purchase a home and are not quite ready for a mortgage by then, we can fail to see the fact that we are in a financially stable situation and almost ready to become a homeowner.

It can be a real danger to set life goals as our baseline, because this only allows for success or failure, and ignores the wide variety of accomplishments that exist in between. When a specific goal or need is focused on by one of our clients to an unhealthy amount, it can be difficult to remind them that many life goals are arbitrary, and that that is okay.

What Makes a Life Goal Arbitrary?

We find people set guidelines like the purchase of a home, and then often say that they will only view that accomplishment as successful if they reach that life goal by a specific age. Age is a very understandable standard for a life goal. “I want to buy a home by 35,” has a very clear success or failure factor to it. With this type of goal, if you own a home before 35, you have succeeded, and if you do not, you have failed. It feels easy to plan for and easy to digest.

But if you were to purchase a home by the time you turned 36, that would not be any less of an accomplishment. Becoming a homeowner is no easy task by any means, especially not when an age restriction has been placed upon it.  

This is the core issue with forgetting that life goals are arbitrary. Using them for direction can be a fantastic motivator, but life goals lose a lot of their value when we forget that the “life” part is more important than the “goal” part. Life happens, and being able to adapt and still succeed is just as much, if not more, of an accomplishment than any “buy a home by age X” restriction.

Can Life Goals Still be Important?

Another issue with life goals is whether not they’ll actually make us happy at all. So often these goals are based upon external concepts of what success means, and we have not taken the time or introspection to know if they will actually make us happy. Sticking with the homeowner concept: “Will buying a home actually make you happy?” is an important question we asked many of our clients.

Will you live a happier life spending 10 years as a comfortable renter, or will spending 5 years saving every penny so that you can become a homeowner earlier bring you joy? What if you decide that instead of owning a home, you want to travel instead? What if you want to move? What if finding a new job out of state will make you happy? If that’s the case, then not only would homeownership “by 35” not be possible, but it would also be a mistake – it would take you away from what would really make you happy.

Let Life Get in The Way

Even when we are able to take time and decide what we truly need to be happy, it is important that we don’t put too much of a fixed concept on those life goals. Adapting to our experiences or surroundings and then altering our expectations is an essential part of finding happiness in life. Allowing our goals to shift and change with our own personal growth is a fantastic way to create accomplishments that mean something to us.

Rather than viewing life goals as predetermined requirements for happiness, we can view them as the simple goals that they are. And goals change. By taking what makes us happy and combining it with life goals that give us a sense of accomplishment, we are able to adapt to life, rather than letting it “get in the way”.

5 Self Care Tips Backed by Science

5 Self Care Tips Backed by Science

As a society, we are starting to at least acknowledge and recognize the importance of self-care. Each of us needs to learn to take time out of our day to care for ourselves. Not only does self-care make us happier, but it also makes us better parents, better lovers, and better friends. Self-care, in that sense, isn’t just about the self. The more we care for our own mental health, the more we can give others our whole self.

Still, for better or worse, self-care is an industry. Many companies try to offer products and services with the claim that they’ll help you feel better about yourself. In a sense, they’re not wrong. Anything you do for yourself can help you regenerate your energy levels and protect yourself from being overwhelmed. But what does the science say about self-care?

Self-Care That is Supported by Science

Anything that refreshes you and gives you back a sense of health and wellness is worth considering. But there are absolutely some activities that are supported by science. These include:

  • Sleep – More than anything, if you can find time to sleep restfully, you are going to instantly feel more energized and emotionally/psychologically healthy. The chemicals in your brain that affect mood and wellbeing are all directly impacted by sleep. Sleep longer and better, and you’ll feel much more refreshed.
  • Exercise – Physical activity also can be directly linked to sleep. There are countless reasons for this. Exercise affects our production of “Good mood” hormones. It “burns off” extra energy to tired your body (which ultimately tires your mind) and improves cognitive functioning, among many other benefits.
  • Healthy Eating – You’ll notice that many of these are about having a healthier mind and body, and that’s because there is a direct link between how your body feels and how your mental health feels. Healthy eating is another example. Filling your body with vitamins and minerals while avoiding things that make your body feel worse (like fried foods) helps to nourish your brain in ways that improve psychological health and emotional wellness.
  • Moments of Silence – Life can often feel very overwhelming. One way to address this is to take a few moments of silence – with NO technology – to sit and allow your mind to tire out and refresh. Sometimes, all you need for self-care is to literally do nothing in silence so that you can process everything around you and let it melt away.
  • Journaling – The diaries that many of us kept when we were younger are actually backed by science. Journaling is very healthy form of self-expression that evidence shows reduces cognitive burden, enhances cognitive ability, and helps us process life’s events.

Other forms of self-care may not be backed by science, but are still beneficial. For example, doing your nails and hair, dressing nicely, and performing other activities that you enjoy can be amazing forms of self-care. They may not be highly researched, but self-care is a very individual experience. Just be sure to assess how you feel when it’s over to know if these are activities that work for you.

How Our Friends Affect Our Positive Thinking

How Our Friends Affect Our Positive Thinking

You are who you surround yourself with. That’s a core belief that is passed down from parent to child – that you have to be with the “Right Crowd” in order to be happy and healthy, and that there is a “wrong crowd” that can make you negative or cause trouble.

The idea of a right or wrong crowd is, unfortunately, an often coded term used to denigrate a group of people that someone doesn’t find acceptable to their family. But the idea that you can surround yourself with people that hurt your mental health is absolutely backed by science.

Negative Friends Cause Negative Feelings

If you are someone that struggles with negative thinking, one of the first things to do is examine who you surround yourself with. That is because studies have shown that we are, in many ways, a product of our immediate environment. The people we choose to have close to us in our lives can affect our emotional reactions and our way of seeing the world in many ways:

  • Emotions Are Contagious – Studies have shown that people that find themselves in the presence of negative people are more likely to feel negatively. There are many studies that show that both positive and negative emotions are contagious, and so negative friends can influence our moods in a negative way.
  • Self-Perception Changes – Who we surround ourselves with also affects our self-perception – that is, it affect the way we see how we and our friends compare to others. If we are in a group of negative people, we might view others as more positive and accept the identity of negativity.
  • Poor Social Support – Negative people do not often offer the same level of social support as positive people. This can create an environment where a person doesn’t have the support they need to turn around negative thinking and address their own naturally occurring thoughts.
  • Reinforced Negative Thinking – Our friends are also responsible for reinforcing the validity of our thoughts. If we thinking negatively about someone or something, and our friends tell us that the negative thinking is valid, then we have the validation we need to continue to think negatively in the future.

Sometimes, the issue is simply relationship satisfaction. If you are with people that think and speak negatively, you may simply just not be very happy. That, in turn, creates an environment where you feel negative more often.

Addressing Mental Health Through Lifestyle Changes

If you have anxiety, depression, or another mental health condition, it is unlikely that “new friends” is going to make a big change. But if you’re looking to make your life better, identifying the behaviors of the people you surround yourself with and acknowledging the effect they may have on you can be a big help.

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