Living in Algeria

I was 21 years old and had just finished my degree, I was at a period in my life to see the world, have new experiences. So, what would I do?

 

I’m from a small town in Mid Wales, in an area known as Radnorshire, who’s population is about 2000 people, with mainly “Shire folk”, as if they are little hobbits from The Lord of the Rings, with this I mean they are people who have long roots to the area.  The area I am from was pretty un-diverse, where everyone knew your name, your business and probably what you had for your dinner the night before. So, I had set my sights on going somewhere as diverse as I could imagine, where I could soak up culture.  I had seen a job for teaching English in Algeria, North Africa.  This is where I had decided to go.

 

A quick history of Algiers and Algeria

Algeria is country you don’t hear much about, however it should be ICONIC. Everyone I told tried to talk me out of it, there are terrorists or they will sell you for Camels.  My Grandmother was terrified and convinced I was going to be shot as I slept.  But, despite all this I decided to go anyway. I was completely naïve to the situation; I knew Algeria was a Muslim country but I hardly knew anything about Islam or the culture.  It was only when I set off did I start think would I get kidnapped?  Would I be spat on for being British?  Would it even be safe to walk in the streets?

 

It’s not Atlantis or a lost world, it has been there the whole time but still most people have not heard of Algeria. Even though Algeria is the largest country in Africa, (and the tenth largest country in the world) and has a beautiful setting on the Mediterranean ocean.  Over 90% of the country is covered by the Sahara Desert.  Algeria’s national languages are Arabic and French.

Algeria was colonised by France in 1830 until 1962.  Algeria’s political history is full of conflict and is really interesting.  Even the country’s flag that was adopted on independence is very specific, the colours are green, red and white. The green, believed to be the Prophet Muhammad’s (P.B.U.H) favourite colour, which represents Islam and paradise.  The red symbolises the deaths and sacrifice of all those who fought for Algeria’s independence, and for liberty. The white symbolises purity and peace. To be acceptable for the flag, the exact wavelength that each colour must absorb is specified officially, which is highly unusual for an African country’s flag.

 

In 1992, was the start of the Algerian Civil War that lasted for 10 long dark years. In 1991, a theology-driven political party called the Islamic Salvation Front (ISF) was poised to win the national election and come into power. Fearing the rise of an Islamic government, the authorities then decided to step in and cancel the election, however, this did not go down well.

The armed wing of the ISF began a bloody civil insurgency against the government, with the beautiful humans of Algeria caught up in it. The war dragged on and developed into an international crisis, with massacres of civilians with an estimated 100,000 Algerians being killed during this conflict.   Eventually, the ISF began to weaken and presidential elections resumed in 1999, resulting in the ISF disbanding in 2000.

 

There is a very powerful narrative of forgiveness and national identity, which is often misreported. The President Bouteflika’s enacted a program of radical national reconciliation, providing an avenue for ISF soldiers to re-integrate into Algerian society. So, members of the ISF who were responsible for those killings of those innocent Algerians live in the society, they work alongside the families of the people they have killed. They were able to walk into police stations hand their weapons in, walk out, and be a reformed character.

 

 

Arrival in Algiers

 

I sat on the plane next this guy who must have been 6ft 5, who was so friendly and talked all the way until we arrived at the destination.

On landing I had to go through customs, this man at the custom desks kept talking at me, I didn’t have a Scooby doo what he was saying, but a lady told me behind me he was asking for the address where I was staying, so I supplied the information that I had been given.  The next was going through security, my bags were unpacked, packed again, and unpacked they took my jewellery off me, I’m not sure why, but the man working in security said in broken English ‘fashion no’, which still tickles me.

I had arranged to meet with a member of the family I was staying with in London, then on another occasion I had met with the father of the family in Paris, so it wasn’t completely daunting going to stay with people I didn’t know.  They had arranged to pick me up from the airport, it was only then when there was so many people talking at me in a language I didn’t understand.

 

I was staying in an area of Algiers called Ouled Fayet, which was on the outskirts of the capital with a view of the coastline.

Evidence of the colonisation was still very obvious, it was apparent the French influence over the capital with the architecture and economic infrastructure.

What alarmed me was the traffic, there were cars everywhere, and people drove like maniacs.  They didn’t seem to have traffic lights or roundabouts, just a go for it attitude.

 

I was alarmed with the amount of military and road blocks, who check the papers of cars and to check the identity of Algerian citizens, as they have to carry identity cards with them. This was also my first time I had seen a gun, they were huge, and these searches I was assured were put into place for the safety of the civilians.

I was absolutely mesmerised by the country.

 

Food

I was a vegetarian which was unheard of, I soon had to adapt to carb heavy meals, such as couscous.  But, it was the best I have ever eaten, it can even be served as a dessert with cinnamon on top. It is traditionally eaten with the thumb, forefinger and middle finger of the right hand. One should never use more than three fingers or you are displaying greed. Never eat with the left hand, which is considered unclean. Leaving a little on your plate is considered a sign that your host is able to amply provide for your needs.

 

Algeria produces its own citrus fruits, and almost every Algerian person I met reminded me their oranges would be the best I would ever taste, and they were right. And the mint tea, is out of this world, just remind them to go easy on the sugar.

 

With all this going on, it was so easy to forget all the things I had heard about Algeria before I came.  In fact, they disappeared with exponential speed- every minute I was in Algeria.

 

Getting around Algiers

From the waterfront there are big green mountains for as far as you can see,

I would take daily walks in between amazing buildings from the 1800’s, past cafes which always seemed to be overflowing with men laughing and sipping on their espresso.  Algiers was literally built into a mountain, which towers overs the Mediterranean Sea, there are steep inclines everywhere, and it’s pretty normal for cross streets to have zig zag staircases.

Everyone is really friendly, and you can’t go 10 minutes walking without someone stopping you to have a conversation with and give a continental kiss. In the beginning, the Brit in me was really nervous about this, with my inner dialogue screaming you’re invading my personal boundaries, however, I soon became familiar with this and actually became fond of it.

 The Casbah in Algiers, is incredible.  Walking through this ancient neighbourhood was surreal. There were so many twists and turns and tunnels. Old crumbling buildings were propped up with boards to keep them from falling down. Doors were tiny and hand-crafted from wood with bronze hinges and knockers. Kids played ball on the few flat surfaces that existed–the lots where buildings had crumbled and been cleared away. Every corner seemed like a never ending labyrinth.  The Casbah was inhabited from the 6th century BC when a Phoenician trading post was established there, but mostly built between the 16th and 18th centuries during a period of allegiance to the Ottoman sultan.  The city’s wealth came from piracy and from its position at the trailhead of the trans-Saharan caravans.

Today nearly 50,000 people reside in The Casbah. The ancient structures still standing include traditional houses, palaces, hammams, mosques and various souks, all built on very hilly and uneven site.

 

Other crazy facts about Algiers, is the original black and white Tarzan movie was filmed there. The stunning Notre Dame d’Afrique (Our Lady of Africa) is also a must to go visit, a beautiful Roman Catholic basilica perched upon a cliff, overlooking the sea. You often can find tourists milling about and seagulls patrolling the air.

 

More about the culture- Traditionally, women were discouraged to attend school to stay home and help in the household.  However, this is changing fast, with women making up 60% of the student population and statistically women make a larger contribution to household incomes than their male counterparts.

Despite this there are still clearly defined sex roles, men take on the traditional roles of handling the family finances and women take care of the home and children.  Women enjoyed activities like going to the Hamman, which is a Turkish sauna.

 

The family I was living with, made me feel extremely welcome and it quickly became like home.  Even if I couldn’t understand much of the language we found our own ways to communicate. There were about 4 families living in the same house, and they enjoyed all sleeping together in the same room.  I soon adapted to this and enjoyed spending my time with the women of the house, I would sit for hours watching the women roll the bread, listening to them tell each other stories and roar around in laughter.

Day to day western clothing is generally worn, but if you get a chance to go to a wedding you won’t be disappointed.  The dresses are full of bright colours and bum shaking dancing.

I can honestly say out of all the countries and cities I have visited in the world, Algeria was absolutely the most beautiful, each corner has a new surprise with endless beauty and the history competes with more tourist destinations like Rome, Paris and London.

My friends now talk about their times travelling and say how their souls belong in Bali and other such majestic islands.  However, I can say Algeria is where my soul belongs.  I have the most beautiful memories and I met the most incredible humans.  The simplicity of life is calming, the people may not have much in a materialistic sense but they have love, and in the end isn’t that all that matters?

Our Love Brains

Only today I was having a conversation with my friend who was seeking advice about why the person they are romantically entailed with is behaving in such a manner that’s out of character for them.  We all had different opinions, one of us was trying to convince her, he’s definitely into you, the other was adamant he wasn’t.  We all became engrossed in how can they behave like that, or why are they acting so differently to how we usually perceive them.  This made me think about our love brains and what is happening neurologically when we fall in love.

Love may be the most captivating secret of our minds science can ever begin to understand.

Most of us have experienced love, and some of us will have experienced heartache.  If we weren’t able to experience this beautiful sensation, we couldn’t have created some of the world’s most powerful music, art or literature.    We would also be missing out on one of the most profound facets of human existence.  Most articles we read about in magazines tell us what to do in love or how to keep our love interested. Disney’s traditional films have indoctrinated us to believe that if we are lucky enough to find the one to settle down with and get married too, we will live happily ever after.

Is love this all-pervading force that can dominate our lives, providing endless happiness?  Or is just our amazing brain chemistry that’s ironically been romanticised?

No matter what we learn about love, the brain or neuroscience, love is one of the most meaningful and powerful forces that surround us, and it can make us euphorically happy or more tragically catastrophically unhappy.

“How on earth are you ever going to explain in terms of chemistry and physics so important a biological phenomenon as first love?” —Albert Einstein

I once fell in love, I was a little bit indifferent to it at the beginning, happily coasting along in my life and smack it hit me like a bus had crashed into me.  I fell in love with him more times in a day than my heart could beat, I fell in love with him the way we fall in love with the night sky.  He was all I could think of, all I could imagine. I was addicted to him, to his words to his stories. What had happened to me?

The late Avicii wrote a song called ‘addicted to you’, well he wasn’t far wrong.  Love is addictive.

Studies have revealed there is an increase in central dopamine levels when we are falling for someone in.  When we are attracted to someone, it triggers activity in the part of the brain called the ventral tegmental area (VTA), which releases the dopamine neurotransmitter (the happy hormone).  This then floods our brain’s reward centres (the caudate nucleus and nucleus accumbens) and gives the person in love a high, which is similar to the effects of narcotics, and it is incredibly addictive.  Our brain’s in love also experiences an increase in the stress hormone (norepinephrine), which increases the heart rate and blood pressure, which is similar to the rush people who use cocaine experience.  This explains why we are so happy and contented in love, as we are essentially ‘high’.  This ‘love high’ can explain why it hurts so much when our loved ones break up with us because from high up in utopia it’s a long way crashing down to planet reality.

Dopamine also regulates the anticipation of reward; this means we are continually seeking out something that rewards us.  This explains why we go to great lengths when we are in love, as the reward becomes to see our beloved or to have their kiss.  I once sat on a bus for sixteen hours to watch a football game even though I don’t follow football at all, to spend time with the guy I fancied.  Don’t blame yourself for the irrationality of your behaviour when you are in love, blame your love brain and those neurotransmitters.

As well as dopamine increasing, there is a notable increase in noradrenaline when we’re in love. Noradrenaline influences the release of adrenaline, which is the neurotransmitter that triggers the flight or fight response, hence why people in love can come across as nervous and twitchy.

Our love brain also experiences a drop in the neurotransmitter serotonin, which helps us to control our feelings, anxiety, and well-being. When it drops, our sense of control decreases and we become obsessively fixated, especially on things that give us a taste of uncertainty and we can behave irrationally.  Love is the definition of unpredictability, so when Beyoncé is strutting her stuff, singing about ‘crazy in love’, she is pretty much right.

Another neurotransmitter involved in love is oxytocin, coined the ‘love hormone’.  It’s released when we hug, cuddle and kiss.  This is what makes us feel on top of the world when we are in love.  It makes us stronger, happier and confident.

The prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for our reasoning skills, command, and control centre drops into low gear when we’re in love. At the same time, the amygdala, a vital component of the brain’s threat-response system, also revs down. Both of these in a reduced function makes us more willing to take risks, and we can appear reckless. Our love brains make us think irrationally because these areas are zig-zagging our thoughts and not directing us in a straight line.

Love can be considered as a painkiller too.   Stanford University conducted a study where they showed people who reported to be in pain a picture of a loved one and 40% said their pain had reduced.  This analgesic effect is because our loved one has distracted the brain from pain.

Our remarkable brains can also explain online love.  We have powerful cortexes that have evolved to be incredibly social.  So this sensitivity to interpersonal communications means something as a DM across Instagram can be extremely rewarding.  We can establish their attitudes, likes and dislikes, their sense of humour and other particular things that attract us.  This allows us to build an image in our brains of that someone, and if it’s something we like a great deal, well why wouldn’t we fall in love with that person from something as simple as an Instagram conversation.

Falling in love with someone is hugely rewarding, it makes us feel on top of the world and can make us utterly ridiculously happy.  This is why our brains go to extreme lengths to keep us loving that person, even when it is no longer logical.  When our brain goes into love mode, and we end up in our prolonged sense of happiness, this loving relationship becomes an integral schema of our worlds.

There we have it, a short brain-based explanation of what happens when we fall in love.  Next time you see your friend acting differently around that cute person they fancy, or you are asking yourself why are on that stinking bus, remember it’s not our fault it’s our love brains.

Friendships: the why’s

“There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends.  I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.” Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey. 

My lovely dad recently went on a trip with my mum to Amsterdam.  You’ll notice I talk a lot about my dad in my writing because he’s incredible, he was always telling us stories as children.  He would turn the littlest thing into the greatest adventure, from riding in the car to walking to school.  When we were sad, my dad would tell us to go whisper our sadness and secrets to our conker tree (which he and his nephew had planted many moons before) and the tree would turn it into a treat.  Low and behold it did, it would always magically have lollies on it.  Last year, we had to rip our beloved magic tree out, because the roots had become some unruly, which my dad blamed us for telling it too many secrets.

Anyway, Dad is now almost 70 and my mum has just had her hip replaced, but he was adamant he wanted to show my mum where he spent a lot of time in his youth (I wonder what you were doing Dad).  He had met some friends there some 50 years previously, and they had kept in contact by writing to each other over the years.  His friends had been over to Wales a few times and met mum and us, but Mum and Dad had never been there.  So my dad was insistent to take mum there, and he met with his friends and cycled the streets of Amsterdam like he had done some 50 years before.

So, this made me think about the psychology of friendships.  What makes us form friendships that surpass decades?

As a girl, I can sometimes feel friendships can be complicated, but recognising your true friends can be surprisingly simple.  To be a friend must be a two street, it must be positive and you must respect each other.  Evolutionary psychologists have studied monkeys for years in the animal world and have found even they have ‘friends’ or monkeys with whom they would rather spend time with.  Animals actively work hard to build their friendships and evidently, the aim is to survive.  Through studying animals it can be seen the animals with the strongest social network live longest and have the most successful reproductive ability.  You can hold this true to human friendships as well.

“What friendship is about at the end of the day, is creating small-scale, intensely bonded groups that act as protection [to life’s] stresses.” Professor Dunbar of Oxford University

To build friendships in the animal world they can spend up to 20% of their time grooming each other.  If you remember from my last article the benefits of a hug, well grooming is like this for monkeys.  It actually triggers the neurotransmitter, oxytocin (the love hormone), this makes the monkeys feel good and bonds them closer together.  Now I’m not sure what I’d do if my friends started trying to check my hair for ticks, but the principle is the same.  Activites like laughing, hugging, singing, dancing all trigger the love hormone and this makes us happy.

Research carried out has shown that we choose friends that support who we are, or ‘validate’ us.  It is called ‘social identity support’.  This rings true of my relationship with my best friend Jane, we have shared many similar experiences in life and she has definitely supported me through my hardest times.

Therefore, we become best friends with people who boost our self-esteem, however narcissistic that sounds.  But on the flip side of that, we choose our friends who inspire us.  Jane is amazing and every day I’m so in awe of her, she has four beautiful children, she is always on the ball and still has time to take care of me too.

On average, research shows that most of us have about five people in our lives who we count as our most intimate friends.

We all know that research shows us talking with plants can help them grow, just like our conker tree, we had told so many secrets to it so we could have a magic lolly.  It had grown and grown until it undermined the foundations of the home.  Use this as a metaphor for friendships.  Talk and share stories, connect and build.  Grow your roots together. Having people around us who get us and support us in an incredible feeling. Love and being accepted is something amazing. Only through this connectedness to others can we really know who we are, and enhance our self.  And it is only through working on our self can we begin to develop and connect deeper with others.

This is why we should never be shy to talk, learning to understand each other through life’s pitfall’s helps us to grow as individuals.  We can learn what makes other people sad but also how to empathise with them, this develops our self.  We can realise we are not the only person that life can shit on, we are not alone.

So, tell stories, discuss your interests and gain knowledge.  Help the person to grow as an individual will help you grow too.

You never know in 50 years time you could be cycling the streets with them again.

So always love more

Frankie xx

 

 

 

Our children and mental health

It’s a sad fact that mental health problems affect about 1 in 10 children and young people, this includes depression, anxiety which is often a direct response to what is happening in their lives.

 

What is even more alarming is 70% of children and young people have not had appropriate interventions.   The emotional well-being of children is just as paramount as their physical health.  Good mental health will help children build skills to develop the resilience to cope whatever life can throw at them, making them happy and healthy adults.

 

So what does this term resilience mean in psychology?

There have been various different definitions of resilience, the one I like the most is the “personal qualities that enable one to thrive in the face of adversity”.  Most definitions view resilience as a positive adaptation to adversity.

 

In essence, resilience means being able to dust ourselves off and bounce back when something difficult happens in our lives.  Our levels of resiliency will change and develop throughout our lives, and at points, we will find that we do not cope as easily as others, as well as surprising ourselves when we manage a difficult situation. Resilience is a tool we implement to help us feel normal again.

 

When I was little there were 5 of us and my dad always implemented competition between us.  We all had different skills, so he would tell me, and if I can survive disappointment nothing will defeat me, I would be unbeatable.  And it’s fair to say I adopted this somewhat arrogant metaphor throughout my life.

 

Why is resilience important?

 

When we feel in a weakened position and it seems as if things are going from bad to worse, it’s difficult to find our equilibrium.  So, imagine being a child, they don’t understand or possibly have the capabilities to verbalise how they are feeling.

 

Last week, my daughter had her standardised testing at school, she really begged not to go to school and have to complete yet another test.  But, I encouraged her to go because we all have to face situations where we don’t want to be in life.  We need to remember that the results of any test do not define our worth, and nor should they.

 

This is why resilience is important.  It enables us to build mechanisms for protection against experiences that can be overwhelming.  It helps us to find that equilibrium in that stressful event.

 

What can we do to build resilience in children and young people?

The first point is to have good physical health, having time to play indoors and outdoors, to connect with people, to encourage children to connect and build relationships with friends; if they have disagreements guide them to resolve this as communication is also key in building resilience.  Encourage them to have a sense of belonging to their family, school and community, make them believe they have some control over their lives.  Encourage a positive mindset and encourage them to believe they can achieve anything to if they work hard enough for it.  Enliven children’s spirit or grow a deeper sense of connection and compassion for self and others.  Encourage your child to be thankful and look for the beauty in each day.

Don’t wrap children and young people up in cotton wool; allowing them to experience a situation they are unsure of and once they have succeeded this will build resilience and their confidence.  Encourage that beautiful imagination, read them stories and encourage their own critical thinking skills.

 

“Do not indoctrinate your children.  Teach them how to think for themselves, how to evaluate evidence, and how to disagree with you.”  Richard Dawkins

 

Of course, we can’t prepare children to ensure they survive any adverse situation but learning to be more resilient can represent one of the best ways to deal with potential disasters that they can face.

Our brains and mental health

What happens when our brains go wrong? Frances Samah

 

Our brains are something fascinating, it can send information up to an impressive 268 miles per hour. This is faster than Formula 1 race cars which top out at 240 mph.  Our brains can generate up to 50,000 thoughts per day.  Twenty-five percent of the body’s cholesterol resides within the brain. Cholesterol is an integral part of every brain cell. Without adequate cholesterol, brain cells die, however, we do have an estimated 86 billion of them.  Our brains are 73% water. It takes only 2% dehydration to affect your attention, memory and other cognitive skills.  So, remember to always keep hydrated.

It makes us slightly irrational when emotional, and it makes up have the stuff we perceive.  When it starts to go wrong, we could end up with a neurological or a mental disorder.  Neurological disorders are due to physical problems or a disruption in the central nervous system, like damage to our hippocampus (which is essential in the process and retrieval of memory) which can cause amnesia or degradation of the sub-stantia nigra that can lead to Parkinson’s disease.  Neurological disorders often manifest themselves with physical issues, like seizures or pain.

Mental disorders are abnormalities of thinking, behaviour or feeling and don’t necessarily have a physical cause.  It’s often described using a computer analogy, so a neurological disorder is a hardware problem, whereas a mental disorder is a software problem (however, in reality, it’s nowhere near as simple as this).

 

So what is a mental disorder?

 

Our incredible brains are made up of neurons forming connections that produce functions derived from countless genetic processes and learned experiences.  But we are all different, so a mental disorder is described as patterns of thinking or behaviour that cause discomfort and suffering, or an impaired ability to function in what is deemed a ‘normal’ society.

It is believed 1 in 4 of us have a mental health disorder, examples of mental illness include depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders and addictive behaviours.

Let’s look at depression more closely.  Depression in the UK is one of the most common mental health disorders with 7.8% of people meeting the criteria for diagnosis.  It also affects our economy as depression has been estimated to cause one-fifth of days lost from work.  Most people go through periods of feeling down, but when you’re depressed, you feel persistently sad for weeks or months, rather than just a few days.

Some people think depression is trivial and not a genuine health condition. Depression isn’t a sign of weakness or something you can “snap out of” by “pulling yourself together”.  Depression affects people in different ways and can cause a wide variety of symptoms.

They range from lasting feelings of unhappiness and hopelessness to losing interest in the things you used to enjoy and feeling very tearful.

It’s really difficult to establish the underlying cause of depression.  The most common theory from a neuroscience perspective is the monoamine hypothesis.  Many neurotransmitters are types of monoamines, and people who have been diagnosed with depression have a reduced level of them.  And this is how treatment was developed, anti-depressants prescribed by the GP increase the availability of these monoamines in the brain.  Serotonin (a monoamine) is a neurotransmitter involved in processing anxiety, mood, sleep and is believed to help regulate other neurotransmitter systems, so altering its level may have a knock-on effect.  So these anti-depressants are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), and they work by stopping the removal of serotonin from synapses after its released, increasing overall levels.  Other antidepressants work similarly with other monoamines, such as dopamine or noradrenaline.

Nevertheless, this isn’t without criticisms, when taking antidepressants, they are immediately increasing the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain, but they can take weeks to have any effect.  This suggests it can’t solely be the result of low levels of neurotransmitters.  This could be down to neurogenesis and mood only improves as nerves grow and form new connections.

 

What’s the purpose of this?

 

Sadly, the truth is that many people still persist in thinking it’s easy to ignore or override dominant debilitating mood disorders that affect people to the very core of their being, sometimes even until they are unrecognisable even to themselves.

Mental health is more than a result of a chemical imbalance, factors such as genetic vulnerability, severe life stressors, substances you may take (some medications, drugs and alcohol) and medical conditions can affect the way your brain regulates your moods.

Everyone’s different, and it’s often a combination of factors that can contribute to developing depression. It’s important to remember that you can’t always identify the cause of depression or change difficult circumstances. The most important thing is to talk to someone and seek support.

Seeking approval and validation through social media- Frankie Samah

“An amazing thing happens when you stop seeking approval and validation: You find it. People are naturally drawn like magnets to those who know who they are and cannot be shaken!”- MANDY HALE, The Single Woman: Life, Love, and a Dash of Sass

With the growing presence of social media, we now can create a virtual reality on an entirely different platform to what actually resembles our real life.

But has social media taken over our lives?
Many of us use these apps as a genuine way of keeping in contact with friends and loved ones. Research has shown adults are using their phones for about 4 hours a day. It has been estimated there are currently 2.67 billion social media users, with 88% of 18 to 29-year-olds using social media, 78% among ages 30 to 49, 64% among those ages 50 to 64 and 37% of 65 and older.

What do I love about social media?
Social media can open up a window to view other parts of the world that we can’t see in our daily life. We need all kinds of people in the world to develop and educate ourselves, and this is how societies can move forward. Social media allows this to happen. For example, I have an old campervan that I love to travel around in, I use my social media to interact with people who have this same passion and can educate me in where’s the best place to go or what I can do when another rust patch has appeared.

What’s the darker side of social media?
Unfortunately, some people become over-involved in creating an alter ego to seek validation or create a perception of success. People can get so wrapped up in their social media their real lives become consumed by updating their social sites constantly or checking who’s done what today, people cannot remove themselves from this alternate reality. Some people go out of their way to create fake scenes to make their social media look incredible.
But, social media addiction can create some serious social problems, including sleep depravity, anxiety, depression, detrimental effects on academic studies and work and anger management issues.
In make-believe worlds you can be anyone you want, we can have lots of friends, we can always be happy, or having lots of adventures. But this show a one sided view of our lives. It also starts to put an emphasis on how we should look, with Snapchat filters everyone looks constantly flawless. With the ever increasing popularity of reality shows, such as The Only Way is Essex, where everyone constantly looks glamorous. We absorb this thinking this is the norm, and then we torture ourselves, why don’t we look like them. Our nose is too big for our face, my teeth are wonky or our lips aren’t pouty enough. This is when the self-doubt creeps in and our self-esteem issues arise. So we look to be validation, we post a new selfie with the hope of being validated. Looking for compliments and seeking for approval that our lives are enough.
But it’s all based on an unreal or altered representation of beauty. We may begin to feel anxious about ourselves in comparison to someone else that we are viewing in a filtered and edited world.
Don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong in looking in the beauty of all things or finding the good things out of each day, it’s when we seek approval from our life the line starts to blur.

Here are some helpful tips to help loosen the grip on social media, with help from Doctor Perry- Make it Ultra

1. Acceptance
It is important to recognise if social media is having a negative impact on your life. If you are spending the majority of time experiencing the world through your phone or computer, it is important to bring this into your awareness. Create a bucket list and make yourself proud or who you are. Remember we are all different and it’s about patting yourself on the back when you have accomplished a goal, you don’t need this from others

2. Realise Social Media is an illusion
Life should be experienced by our senses. It should be seen, smelled, tasted, touched and heard. Social media presents us with a world edited of all its flaws. Take a moment to realise what you have to be thankful for your life. We might not be where we want to be, but I am sure most of us are better off than we could be. Try to take steps to be that person you want to be. Remember the words from Albert Einstein- Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.

3. Disconnect
This step is often the most difficult one. According to current 2018 research, the percentage of social media users who say it would be difficult to give up social media has increased by 12 % compared with a survey conducted in early 2014. Currently, 41% of individuals that were surveyed say they would not be able to stop using social media.

4. Set Boundaries
Set a few hours a day where mobile phones or social media is forbidden. Set yourself clear rules to follow.

5. Find alternative forms of validation
It is quite normal to want and need validation. This validation should not come from strangers on social media. One should seek healthy forms of validation from loved ones, family, and good friends. Further, validation should not only be based on one’s appearance or possessions.

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Ghosting- The Psychological Impacts

The Psychological impacts of Ghosting- Why does it hurt so much?

Nobody likes being ignored, especially by someone they adore.

Do you remember as a child when you had misbehaved all day, and your mother had reached the end of her patience, but instead of continuing to shout she gave you the silent treatment?  She would give you a disappointed look and shake her head at you. You would feel so terribly guilty and disgusted with yourself that you would immediately go and tidy up all of your Barbies.

For those of us involved in the dating game, there is a phenomenon known as ‘ghosting’ which can evoke some of those same emotions.  Ghosting refers to an act of breaking off a relationship by disappearing without warning or justification, avoiding or ignoring and refusing to respond in any way to your former partner’s attempts to communicate.  Being ghosted can leave you feeling so desperate to please your former partner and fix the situation you that you would do anything.

My friend, Sarah recently was in a relationship, and she thought everything was great, in fact, it was so great she convinced herself he was the one! They sent their last good night messages to each other confessing their undying love for one another and couldn’t wait to speak the next day. She went to sleep in a romantic haze, humming “dreams can come true” by Gabrielle. But, as she woke, everything in her social media was gone. He had deleted every single photo of them together; he had removed his WhatsApp and his messenger. She tried calling him but no answer, she spoke with his friends who refused to tell her anything about what had happened. Sarah called me to ask was he ever real? She convinced herself that she must have done something terrible to be punished so harshly.

It’s the ultimate incarnation of the silent treatment.

The online dating site Plenty of Fish conducted a survey which found that 80% of the daters between aged between 18-33 had been ghosted.
With so much online communication these days, the effects of ghosting are heightened. If someone upsets you, it is possible to block them from contacting you in all ways; social media; chat apps; phone.  The only way I haven’t yet figured out how to block someone is by email, but I’m sure there is a way to do it.
Majority of people now communicate online with social media or chat apps, this makes it easier to forget that the person you’re in a relationship with is a real human being with feelings that can be hurt by your actions.

But why would you Ghost someone?  Here are some reasons:-

+ It could be they’re in multiple relationships but couldn’t face telling you weren’t the one, or face up to the guilt of their betrayal so decided to leave instead.
+ Perhaps they are suffering from mental health condition themselves and are finding it difficult to communicate about their feelings. Maybe they are suffering with anxiety about a situation and decided to shut the world out.
+They are fearful of confrontation and lack the communication skills to maturely get out of the situation they have found themselves in.

Many people see ghosting as an easy way out of the relationship. Why go through a difficult conversation when you can avoid it? People who ghost often try to justify their behaviour by suggesting it is less hurtful than highlighting the traits you no longer find attractive in them. In reality, it’s cowardly and immature.

So why does it feel so bad?

According to research being rejected can activate the same pathways in the brain as physical pain, therefore, rejection does actually hurt. There is a medicine that can be taken to reduce the emotional pain of rejection, such as Tylenol. But there is the psychological distress that you have to deal with it too. 
The immediate reaction is should you be worried; are they lying in a hospital bed somewhere?  Maybe they are busy and will call you any minute. You don’t know how to react to a situation when you don’t know what has happened.

Being ghosted doesn’t make you question the validity of the relationship. But it makes a person doubt themself, leaving lasting effects on the individual’s confidence. There isn’t a prompt that tells you how you should react, resulting in your self-esteem is at rock bottom, wondering what has been so wrong.  Were you not attractive enough?  Were you too fat or too thin?  Were you not intellectually stimulating enough?  Perhaps you have halitosis which no one ever told you about?

As there are so many unanswered questions; you are left with residual feelings of anxiety and confusion. You are left powerless to the situation and denied a way of gaining information on how to emotionally process the experience. Not having the closure from a relationship can leave heavy emotional scars.

So how do you move forward?

Six months later Sarah has learnt he is ok, nothing happened to him, his words to her were, “I knew you would cry and I didn’t want to deal with that, so I thought was easier just to leave”. Sarah finally got her answers, but he could have saved her six months of distress. It’s the unanswered questions that affect us the most.

Just remember they do not have the courage to deal with the discomfort of your feelings, they don’t understand the impact of their behaviour, or maybe they just don’t care.   They are unable to have a mature, healthy and loving relationship with you. Promise to not be unkind to yourself and to love yourself. Try to remember it has nothing to do with your self-worth; it’s not based on how you look or your personality. Talk to friends and family about how you are feeling, a strong support system can make a world of difference. Try to remember that you didn’t do anything wrong, that you are enough.

If you are the one who ghosted someone it is important to understand you are not responsible for other people’s response but just try to remember that you liked them enough to date them in the first place, so have a little respect and have that slightly awkward conversation with them.

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