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8 Ways to Build a Positive and Healthy Body Image

Body image is a term that has gained significant importance in recent years, thanks to the recognition of its importance and role in an individual’s well-being. Body image refers to how a person views his/her physical appearance; it is a mental representation of how a person looks on the outside and how a person thinks or feels about this physical appearance. This perception is based partly on a person’s observation of self and partly on the reactions of others. In other words, our body image is formed not only by how we see ourselves on the outside, but it is also formed by how others react to our physical appearance. A lot of social factors such as media, culture, community, internet, etc. play a critical role in shaping our body image.  This body image can be positive or negative. A negative body has, however, been linked with low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia, and poor overall well-being. A person with negative body image has often been found to resort to unhealthy measures or extreme steps to attain a more positive body image like, crash dieting, plastic surgery, etc.

At the same time, a person who has positive or high self-esteem has been empirically found to have a positive body image as well. As far as gender is considered, more women have been found to suffer from poor body image as compared to men. However, this trend is changing fast, as more men are becoming concerned about how they look.

Overall, following factors have been found to influence a person’s body image:

a. How he/she views his/her physical appearance. This perception can, however, be incorrect.

b. How he/she feels about this perception, referred to as the affective aspect of body image. Whether he/she is satisfied or not with his/her physical appearance.

c. The behavioral aspect of body image which involves the behavior that one engages in as result of his/her body image.

d. And lastly, the cognitive aspect of body image which includes how one thinks about his/her body image. This may involve preoccupation with one’s physical appearance or one aspect of it.

Having negative body image can be a cause of major distress to a person and can greatly affect his or her overall well-being. In present times of social media, we are frequently and sometimes indirectly, bombarded with images of beauty standards which constantly and continuously shape our notion of ideal beauty, and unfortunately, give rise to insecurities. However, the suggestions given in this post can help you keep all the insecurities at bay and build a positive and healthy body image.

1. Positive self-esteem: As mentioned earlier, people with negative body image suffer from low self-esteem. At the same time, it has been found that, people who have positive or high self-esteem tend to have positive body image. So if you feel dissatisfied with your body image, you probably need to boost your self-esteem. This works in two ways. Low self-esteem can lead to negative body image and negative body image can lower your self-esteem. So in either situation, building a positive self-esteem can help you build a positive body image. When you value yourself highly, you are less likely to view your physical appearance in a negative light.

2. Find healthy role models: We are greatly influenced by the public appearance of stars or celebrities. We follow them on their instagram or facebook. We often find them perfect and flawless and start comparing ourselves with them. In doing so, we forget that what we are looking at is perhaps the result of long hours of makeup session, photoshop, and lighting, etc.

Alas we have been taught throughout history that “fair is beautiful.” And we often tend to feel inadequate or less worthy if we are not fair or have dark complexion. This has a detrimental effect on the body image. If you too feel that way, it is time to find such role models who can give a boost to your self-esteem. Celebrity tennis player Serena Williams is a good example of an achiever whose body color could not stop her from attaining great success.

3. Stop comparing: You are you and that is your power. In order to build positive body image, you need to stop comparing yourself with others. Accept yourself. Unreasonable comparison leads to disappointment. You need to understand that each of us is different, and this difference is what makes us unique. Start appreciating yourself.

4. Appreciate yourself: Remember, your body is your first home. Appreciate how your body helps you achieve your goals and dreams. Your body is doing a lot to help you move forward. If you feel you are overweight and you need to lose weight, then go ahead. But don’t do it just to impress others or you hate your body fat. Instead do it for yourself and for your body because it is healthy.

5. Accept yourself: When it comes to our body we need to understand that there are some things we cannot change while there are other things that we can surely work on to improve. For example, you cannot change your height, complexion, whereas if you are underweight or overweight, you can definitely do something about it. Attempting to change things that cannot be changed will only lead to disappointment and frustration, and will further deteriorate your body image. Accept yourself just the way you are.

6. Realistic expectations: It is important to set realistic expectation from ourselves, especially, for young children, who are blinded by popular figures in the entertainment industry. As mentioned earlier, there are certain things about our body over which we have no control and which we cannot change. So for a young teenager who wants to become a supermodel like his or her role model but is unfortunately not tall enough, having such an expectation can be unrealistic. And this can lead to poor body image.

7. Focus on your strengths: We all may not possess attributes of supermodels or movie stars like great figure, height, or flawless complexion, but we should never forget that we all have strengths of our own. And if we start focusing on our strengths instead of focusing on our weaknesses and the things we don’t possess, we all can become the best version of ourselves.

8. Take care of yourself: Eat healthy, get quality sleep, and love yourself. If you need to lose weight do it in a healthy way. Get at least 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Isn’t it ironic that you tell every important person in your life how much you love him/her, and how much you care, but you seldom tell this to yourself? Next time when you see yourself in the mirror, don’t forget to say “I love you.” Once you start taking care of yourself and loving yourself, you can never feel or think bad about your own self.

Also read 8 Powerful Ways to Boost Your Self-Esteem

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Living Alone May Increase Mental Health Risk, Study

A new study has revealed that living alone is linked to common mental disorders (CMDs) such as mood disorders, anxiety, and substance use disorders. As per some studies, almost one-third of people will experience a CMD in their lifetime. As CMDs impact not just the individual but the society as well due to their high prevalence, scientists want to comprehend all the risk factors for mental illness.

Over the past few years, researchers have been exploring whether living alone might be one such risk factor. A new study published in the journal PLOS One concludes that there is a link between living alone and CMDs. The findings also reveal that it affects all age groups and genders, and that loneliness is the predominant driver. The authors of the new study aimed to fill in the gaps in the previous studies sought links between living alone and CMDs in general, rather than focusing on just one mental condition like depression, etc. and they examined which factors seemed to be influencing the relationship.

For the study, the scientists from the University of Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines in France analyzed data comprising 20,503 adults, ages 16 – 74, living in England. The three National Psychiatric Morbidity Surveys conducted in 1993, 2000, and 2007 provided the data on a range of variables, including height and weight, level of education, employment status, alcohol and drug use, social support, and feelings of loneliness, for the study. The study participants were asked to complete Clinical Interview Schedule-Revised questionnaires, to assess if they had experienced any neurotic symptoms during the previous week.

Not only did the authors find the number of people living alone having steadily grown with 8.8% in1993, 9.8% in 2000, and 10.7% in 2007, their analysis also demonstrated that across all age groups and genders, there was a substantial correlation between living alone and having a CMD. The size of this relationship was fairly alike across all three surveys. CMDs were more common in those living alone than those not living alone—in 1993 it was 19.9% in those living alone vs. 13.6% in those not living alone; in 2000, 23.2% vs. 15.5%; and in 2007, 24.7% vs. 15.4%.

When the scientists probed deeper into the association between CMDs and living alone, they found that loneliness explained 84% of it. As mental health problems are a growing concern, the understanding of the risk factors associated with CMDs might help reverse the trend. Unlike those who live alone but don’t feel lonely, the ones who do, may seek interventions such as talking therapies, social care provisions, and animal-based interventions, to deal with loneliness.

The authors acknowledge that the study has certain limitations. For instance, it was a cross-sectional study, that is, it looked at a glimpse of people at one point in time. Therefore, longitudinal studies are required to establish how this relationship might play out over time. Further, the study could not assess the cause-and-effect relation between the two variables.

Therefore, it was not possible to find out through this study whether a person developed a CMD ‘because’ he or she lived alone, or whether he or she developed a CMD and ‘then’ decided to live alone. Also, probably, an individual with a predisposition for CMDs is more likely to want living alone. Apparently, more studies need to be conducted to fill in these gaps.

While earlier studies showed loneliness to be linked with depression and anxiety and therefore, back up the results of this study, the new findings go a few steps further in showing that the relationship between mental health and living alone is stable across time, that the link is not restricted to older adults, and that loneliness plays a key role.

 

8 Ways to Help Your Child Overcome Bullying

Being bullied has unfortunately become very common these days. But the effects of bullying on a young mind can be quite devastating including poor school performance, anxiety, feelings of loneliness, loss of self-esteem, or even depression. Earlier it was believed that bullying happens only at middle high school, but only recently it has been found that it has become fairly common at primary school levels as well. Name calling, teasing, hitting, isolating the child from the rest of class, use of abusive language, spreading rumours are some of the examples of bullying, and in this new age of social media bullying has taken a new dimension called cyber bullying.

If you suspect that your child is being bullied at school or has become target of cyber bullying it’s vital that you help your child cope or deal with bullying, especially if the child is young and does not have the skills to deal with the bully. First and foremost is to identify whether your child is being bullied or is going through some transitional phase. It becomes even more difficult if the child doesn’t come to you on his or her own to share with you that he or she is being bullied.

1. Look for the signs and talk: If you notice any sudden change in your child’s behavior like skipping school or unwillingness to go to school; if your child becomes recluse all of a sudden and no longer enjoys activities that he or she used to enjoy before, poor performance at school; any visible signs of bruises or injury that the child is not able to explain, these could be signs that something is not right and it’s time to talk to your child. All of these could be signs of your child being bullied. Create a safe space with your child so that he or she feels comfortable and safe in sharing what has been going on. For this you need to become a good listener. Be supportive and stay calm while listening. If your child is indeed being bullied, be very cautious not to blame the child. Make the child understand that there’s nothing wrong with him or her; he or she is not responsible for being bullied; and it’s not his or her fault. Try to boost your child’s confidence as the child might be having doubts about his or her own abilities to handle the situation or defend himself or herself from the bully. Reassure the child that things will be sorted out.

2. Advise the child correctly: No matter how angry you may feel but refrain from advising your child to fight back with bully by bullying. Otherwise, this can often escalate the situation to more violent outbursts. Instead, advise the child to avoid the situations or places where bullying occurs; advise him or her to avoid places where there is no adult supervision; interact with other kids at school; and most importantly, to tell teachers or other adults at the school. You can encourage the child to engage in buddy system, where the child can be accompanied by another child to visit places where bullying is most likely to occur like, hallways, washrooms, locker areas, etc. In the same way, you can encourage your child to do the same for another child who is being bullied.

3. Reassure the child: Sometimes kids think that if they tell someone at home or at school like teacher, bullying will get worse. Give assurance to the child that sharing with parents or teachers at school or some other authority, will not result in more bullying, rather, adults can help the kid deal with the bully or curb bullying. But this does not mean that you, as a parent, should take this lightly, when the child tells that bullying will get worse. You also need to find a way to handle the situation in a way that does not escalate the bullying. Like instead of approaching the bully directly or approaching his or her parents, it is better to inform the authorities at school. Most schools these days have anti-bullying programs.

4. Teach skills to deal with the bully: Most bullies thrive on the reactions of their targets. So teach your child to hold his or her reactions in front of the bully. It is better not to show any reaction to bullying. Hold your anger, tears, and fears as these give the bully power. In many cases, when the target doesn’t show any reaction to bullying, the bully stops on his or her own. Teach your child anger controlling skills (counting to ten, deep breathing, etc.).

5. Assertiveness skills: Help your child learn assertiveness skills. Help him or her practice skills where the child firmly tells the bully to “stop.” You can use role playing techniques where your play the role of the bully and your child practices assertiveness skills and learns to say “No” or “Stop” to the bully and walks away from the bully.

6. Emotional support: The child might be having a lot of emotional difficulties during this time. Try to support your child emotionally by encouraging him or her to share all the emotions that he or she is experiencing. Encourage your child to give outlet to the emotions like anger, fear, frustrations, guilt, or apprehensions, etc. If the child feels like crying, let him or her cry in front of you. Assure him or her that crying is not a sign of being weak; rather it’s a good way to give outlet to all the emotions inside.

7. Believe in your child: This is a time when the child might be experiencing a lot of self-doubts and loss of self-esteem. It is very important to show your faith in the child. Highlight your child’s potentials and positive aspects of his or her personality. Your confidence in your child’s abilities will surely build his or her self-esteem. You can teach your child to focus on the positive aspects of the situation. Teach him or her to take a positive outlook of the situation and take it as a challenge rather than a problem. Assure your child that you are with him/her, no matter what, and that together both of you will definitely win this challenge.

8. Share with the authorities: Last but not the least, encourage your child to inform someone at school, like a teacher or counselor, or you can share the whole situation with school authorities yourself on your child’s behalf. But do ensure that things don’t get worse, like you can visit school when there is least chance of encountering the bully. Also, assure the child that adults have ways to tackle the situation.

Sleeping Problems and, Anxiety and Stress—A Two-way Street

Sleep plays a vital role in an individual’s physical and mental well-being. It acts as a reset button that triggers body’s restorative processes and gives mind the time to process emotions in order to recognize and react appropriately. Regular good quality sleep is essential for proper brain functioning, repair of heart and blood vessels, and overall physical and emotional healing.

Sleep provides the nerve cells an opportunity to shut down and repair themselves meanwhile, without which they might get exhausted and start malfunctioning. In today’s fast paced world however, we often neglect our sleep just to meet the worldly demands and get things done. According to a 2014 survey, less than 50% of survey participants across the world claimed to be sleeping well at night.

Most healthy adults require seven to nine hours of sleep for healthy functioning, though the sleep requirement may vary from person to person slightly. Absence of adequate sleep often leads to impaired judgment, slower reaction times, and brain fog.

During the past few decades neuroscience has advanced a great deal but unfortunately sleep still continues to remain largely a riddle. However, what’s a known fact is that sleep like air, water, and food is indispensible for us. Sleep deprivation creates a sleep debt that our body is going to demand to have squared up with at some point.

Sleep Deprivation, Anxiety, Stress: Causes and Interrelation

Sleep deprivation may be caused due to various medical (painful ailments), environmental (light, noise, or extreme temperatures), or psychiatric (depression and anxiety disorders) conditions. The causes may be different, but sleep deprivation, indiscriminately, results in disruption of body’s natural slumber cycle in all cases.

Life stresses like job loss or change, passing away of a kith or kin, a temporary illness, or environmental factors usually trigger acute or short-term insomnia or sleeplessness. On the other hand, factors such as chronic stress, anxiety disorders (GAD, PTSD, etc.), depression, and chronic pain or discomfort at night, usually result in chronic or long-term insomnia that occurs at least three nights a week and continues for a month or longer. Ruminating in bed on daily basis about pending works, unresolved issues, and emotionally devastating long-term life-changes, or excessive worrying about future uncertainties are some of the common reasons leading to chronic insomnia.

Most people who experience persistent stress and anxiety or panic attacks on a daily basis report that they have trouble sleeping. While stress and anxiety interfere with sleep, sometimes it becomes difficult to tell whether one is having trouble sleeping because of anxiety, or one is anxious because one can’t sleep. Actually, it may be both. Whereas stress and anxiety can cause sleeping issues, or worsen existing ones, lack of sleep can also cause an anxiety disorder.

It has been demonstrated that sleep debt can have severe ramifications on one’s anxiety levels. A study has shown that grave sleep deprivation leads to an increase in one’s state of anxiety, depression, and general distress in comparison with individuals who had a normal night of sleep. According to another study, individuals who were sleep deprived reported a greater spike in anxiety during tasks and rated the likelihood of potential disasters as higher when sleep deprived, as compared to when rested.

The amount of sleep an individual gets each night also governs how well he or she can deal with anxiety and stress. When an individual is severely sleep-deprived, the deprivation acts as a chronic stressor that hinders brain functions and leads to an overload on the body’s systems, which in turn, contributes to brain fog, confusion, memory loss, and depression, making it harder for the individual to deal with stress. Also, sleep deprivation leads to an imbalance in the hormone levels that increases anxiety levels. Anxiety issues are also worsened because of

Effects of Sleep Deprivation

Chronic sleep deprivation can result in a range of health problems such as cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, excessive daytime sleepiness, memory problems, weight gain, and increased levels of stress hormones.

Also read:

Five Tips for Better Sleep
Self-Help Techniques to Manage Anxiety
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
Risk of Alzheimer’s May Rise Due to Stress

PTSD: Brain Biomarkers May Explain Variance in Symptom Severity

Researchers at Yale University and the Icahn School of Medicine have identified biomarkers, using sophisticated computational tools, which may explain why some people have more severe posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms than others.

The findings published in Nature Neuroscience may help evaluate who would be at greater risk of PTSD symptoms.

The study of combat veterans who had been exposed to extreme incidents, demonstrated that those veterans who had severe PTSD symptoms had distinct patterns of neurological and physiological responses affecting associative learning—the ability to discern harmful stimuli from safe ones in the environment.

Ilan Harpaz-Rotem, associate professor of psychiatry at Yale and co-corresponding author of the paper said, “We are shedding new light on how people learn fear and unlearn it.”

The researchers wanted to unravel why some people suffer greatly when experience a traumatic event while others exhibit few or limited side effects.

Retired soldiers who had undergone intense circumstances during combat deployment were examined for physiological responses while being presented with pictures of two different faces. In classic fear-conditioning tests, the subjects were given slight electric shocks after viewing one of the faces, but not the other. Later, the faces that were combined with shock were switched in an attempt to have the subjects “unlearn” original fear conditioning and test their ability to learn that something new in the environment is hazardous.

The findings deduced using computational modeling revealed that in people with severe PTSD symptoms, the amygdala and striatum were less able to track changes in threat level, which may serve as biomarkers for PTSD symptom severity.

According to Harpaz-Rotem, “There were pronounced variances in the ‘learning rates’ of those with severe symptoms and those without symptoms.” Highly symptomatic individuals tended to overreact to a mismatch between their expectations and what they actually experienced. In a war zone, a garbage can might contain an explosive device, he explained, but those with severe PTSD symptoms have a harder time unlearning the fear in civilian life in comparison to those with less severe symptoms.

The study’s co-author and associate professor of comparative medicine and neuroscience at Yale, Ifat Levy said, “The study has offered novel understanding of the neurobiology of PTSD and a better understanding of learning processes among people with this disorder which might pave the way for refining potential PTSD treatment in future.

PTSD is a common anxiety disorder that develops after exposure to a harrowing event or ordeal. It can occur at any age between childhood and adulthood. Those suffering from PTSD may experience startling thoughts and memories of the event. Sleeplessness, depression, or other anxiety disorders frequently co-occur with PTSD.

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doi:10.1038/s41593-018-0315-x