ICYMI! It’s true- we had never hosted an IG Live before this past week, and now we’ve hosted two in the span of a few days! At the time of writing, we’ve just finished an inspiring and incredibly informative conversation with Kayla Barnes, a Certified Brain Health Coach, about the effects that social media has on mental health on Zenzy’s IG Live.
I think it’s fair to say that we’ve all experienced the potentially harmful effects that social media can have on our mental well-being. We wake up in the morning feeling positive and ready to take on the day- but before we even get out of bed, we decide to take a quick scroll through Instagram. Next thing you know, you’re headed in a downward spiral as you see a post from an influencer in Bali looking incredible in a bikini and you’re wondering why your abs don’t look like that? Why you can’t just skip school and travel around the world?
The immediate effects of the “Comparison Game” are easily recognizable- your self-worth might decrease, your thoughts become increasingly negative, and this is accompanied by an altogether shift to what might be considered a “down” mood. The consequences of this extend far past your emotionally-loaded glance in the mirror, however, to how you perceive your body, your self-esteem, and even your relationship and interaction with others.
As social media becomes an increasingly large part of our lives, it becomes increasingly important that we learn how to create a healthy relationship with these platforms, and use them for positive inspiration and feedback. Aleksija spoke with Kayla to learn just what happens we we play the Comparison Game, and how to implement healthy social media practices in our lives. Read on for our full IG Live interview!
Aleksija: I wanted to start off by asking you about yourself, and if you could talk about what a Brain Certified Health Coach does, and how it is different from a mental health coach.
Kayla: As a brain health coach, we work to help clients that have issues with brain fog, depression, anxiety, ADHD. Your brain is included in everything you do on a daily basis such as your social interactions, your mood and happiness. We approach brain health from a holistic view, so we look at what are you eating, how you are sleeping, and we couple that with science. There is a modality called a SPECT scan that can show how your body is firing and wiring, and we take a holistic approach to help our clients achieve optimal brain health, productivity and optimization.
Right now we’re learning so much about the gut-brain connection, and the important of the food that we’re putting in our bodies. I always say that food is so much more than calories, it’s information that we’re giving to bodies and brains. So if you’re putting low-quality foods into your body and you’re wondering why you’re feeling bad, we have to look at your diet, or how you’re sleeping, etc. It’s really a full-body ecosystem that we’re looking at, and it’s great that we’re now understanding how it now correlates with mental health, productivity, and overall happiness.
A: Well that relates perfectly back to what we’re talking about here, as social media is becoming an increasingly large part of our lives. We interact with these platforms on a daily basis, and as such it is having an increasingly large effect on our mental health. That brings me to my first question which is, what is the typical experience that we girls have in our relationships to social media, and how might it be affecting our mental health?
K: All of us are affected by social media and constantly scrolling. I think we’re going to touch on the comparison game a little later, but I would love to touch on it briefly now. For example, when you wake up in the morning and you’re in a great mood, but then you pick up your phone and your feed is full of photos of people whom you wish you looked like or whose lives you wish you had, or you might think someone looks great when you don’t think you look so great today, it can have an immediate and a long-term effect on our mental health. Immediately, your mood goes from being positive and feeling great about yourself, then a little jealousy creeps in, a little envy, and then immediately your mood begins to decline and this can occur over hours, days or weeks. When we’re scrolling it’s perpetually increasing the negative neurons in our mind, essentially.
A: Yes, so could you elaborate on that a little more, actually? What is the general neurological effect that social media is having on our brains and bodies, and how we’re responding to that information?
K: I would love to talk a little more about Dopamine and Serotonin- those are two chemicals in the brain. Dopamine is the primary chemical related to happiness. When you have a great bite of food or a great interaction with a friend, our Dopamine levels spike, and it’s the same with social media. When you post a photo and you get a ton of likes and engagement, your Dopamine levels spike and all of a sudden you’re super happy. But it can also work against you in a negative fashion. When you post something and it doesn’t get a lot of likes or you see something on your feed that makes you feel bad, that negative mindset sticks with you.
Instead, we need to find ways to achieve dopamine spikes outside of social media. It is very important to have non-social media related dopamine boosters like getting outside, having real relationship with friends, things like that. Certainly, the effects of relying only on social media to boost your dopamine is not sustainable long-term. We need outside factors to help maintain a consistent mood.
A: This is absolute true in relation to the comparison game. We scroll through social media, or we go to someone’s page, and it’s a cliché but what we’re seeing is the highlight reel, and it leaves us wondering- if they’re really thin, why aren’t I thin? Or their hair looks beautiful today, why doesn’t mine?, T he truth of the matter, and this is the most frightening aspect, is that these images often aren’t even entirely real. There is so much editing that goes on- even I can easily use any app if I want to make myself thinner, or make my hair look a little glossy, not to mention that I’m never going to post a photo when I don’t think I look great.
K: Yes, absolutely, I would say it’s a near standard on social media to use Photoshop or Facetune- when you see a blemish you immediately remove it. If you’re doing that to feel better then that is absolutely alright, but especially before the age of 25, your brain is not entirely developed and it’s very hard to realize that yes, this person is very beautiful, but they wake up in the morning with blemishes just like I do. I’ve even known wellness influencers who post the perfect meals all day and the perfect workout routines all day, but when they go home they binge on cookies and that’s not a bad thing, that’s ok, they’re human, but we didn’t get to see that part. So when you go to someone’s feed and think ‘oh my goodness they’re doing everything perfectly’, that’s not actually the case. It’s important to remember that what you see on social media is not the entire reality. Of course, some components are real, but you’re only seeing the curated feed that everyone wants you to see. My ultimate hope is that social media moves in a bit more of a genuine direction.
A: Along those same lines, in the face of this big comparison game and in the face of what social media has come to represent, how can we foster the most positive version of a relationship with social media platforms like Instagram, for example?
K: The first tip that I would suggest is to get rid of anything that doesn’t make you feel good on your social media- unfollow that page. It’s certainly difficult because we all want to see what X and Y influencer is doing, but if you’re consistently leaving their page feeling bad about yourself, it is going to have a massively positive impact just to unfollow them. Conduct a social media purge, go through all of the people you follow, and eliminate anyone from your feed that doesn’t make you feel good, whether it be a person or brand. Filling your feed with people that you can relate to and that are inspiring and motivating will be a game changer. It’s just a matter of taking two hours out of your day, and making a conscious decision to change the information you’re feeding your mind.
A: Just to that point about inspiration and motivation, I know many of us girls follow people that make us feel bad because we look at it as a form of ‘motivation’. We look at a girls account and think ‘wow, she’s so skinny’ and it motivates us to workout. However, there is such an enormous difference between negative and positive feedback loops. We should aspire to focus on the positive feedback that inspires us to do whatever it may be- such as workout or eat better, instead of making us feel guilty and then having that motivation come from a place of guilt.
K: I completely agree. It’s all about setting your mindset, which comes back to brain health. Every day when we wakeup, we make a decision about how we want to feel. Of course, there are outside influences, however I like to start my day by deciding that I’m going to be happy. Perhaps you could start your day with some gratitude journaling. I always like to say that it’s impossible to feel jealous or angry or envious while being grateful at the same time. You just can’t have these two conflicting emotions. Maybe you start your day with a meditation. I love the Breathe app- they have great positive affirmations and mantras to utilize.
Ultimately, what you believe about yourself is what you are. If you say “today I am happy”, or “today I am successful”, this is what will come to be. I love listening to Joe Dispenza if anyone wants to look him up, but the general idea is that you have to express how you want to feel and what you want to achieve in your life. However, this begins with first deciding what you want, setting that intention in the morning, and then following through with positive practices like gratitude journaling, meditation, or mindful movement and then continuing with your day.
A: Yes! I would love to talk more about manifestation as I am absolutely a believer in putting what you hope to achieve out in the universe, and i would love to hear one mantra that maybe you use to put yourself in a positive mood.
K: As you know, I am an entrepreneur, I started my first business when I was 17, so business is my sport. In the morning i love to remind myself that “I am successful”. You can have a lot of things coming at you, something might not go right that day, but if you remember that you worked very hard and that you are successful, then that will be your reality. Kindness is also very important for me. When I remind myself that I am kind and to practice kindness, you will certainly be more apt to be kind. Those are two things that I definitely do, but I would love to hear yours as well!
A: I love your approach to kindness as it’s something I’ve been actively working on. My first instinct isn’t to be openly kind, it isn’t to compliment the person on the street (not that that is the definition of kindness) but I might see a girl and think “oh I love her shirt!”, but I wouldn’t typically say it out loud. However I believe that the powerful act of saying it out loud is a method of spreading kindness and generosity and is an area I’m focusing on in terms of my personal growth.
In terms of a mantra, my morning mantra is actually about manifestation itself, as I try to remind myself that “what I put out in the universe, will come to be”. I think that sometimes it can seem like your actions can go unnoticed or unrecognized, and that your hard work might not be coming to fruition, but eventually it always will and you’ll be able to look back to understand why something happened.
A: With regards to meditation, I would love to hear a summary of how meditation can help boost your mental health, especially if it’s being negatively affected by social media.
K: Meditation in general can increase the neuroplasticity of your brain. From a very young age, our brains become hardwired to fire in a specific way. Every time a negative thought enters your mind, we are scientifically hardwired to react the same way It it up to us to take it into our hands to rewire those neurons and the way we think. Meditation is a major way to do this along with breathwork, as both can help you go inwards and give yourself a very stable ground.
People might be worried to begin meditation as it can seem very difficult, but it’s about just getting started. Perhaps you carve out a few minutes in the morning or evening, and either do a guided meditation with incredible self-affirmations, or just sit down and think of one mantra that you say every time a thought comes into your head. Even if you want to start with one minute a day, then you can work to increase. The important thing with meditation is to set a realistic goal, and then increase, because it can seem daunting to sit down and meditate for 40 minutes.
A: Just like you said, it’s so important to try to implement these practices in the morning as it really sets the tone for your entire day, and then no matter what happens, you’re able to approach it from a more relaxed and positive state of mind and handle whatever the day throws at you.
K: I always say, either you’re going to set your mind or the world is going to set your mind. If you can determine your mindset before you receive outside influences, we can attempt to remain positive. If we’re being realistic, however, we know it’s not always possible to do that, but even if you’re brought down for a second, you can rebound and make it a point to bring yourself back to a place of happiness.
A: I think that’s exactly it and this relates so strongly to social media, as when you’re scrolling through your feed and see an image, it’s almost instinctual to think “oh I want that” or “oh why don’t I look like that”, but having the ability to take control back and know that you are in charge of your emotions, and you are in charge of how you feel , and can decide not to let it affect you, is so powerful.
K: If possible, try not to go down the rabbit hole when you see something and you think “Oh, I need to dive in there.” We’re all guilty of this and it’s very normal and if you’re doing that you can’t be hard on yourself, you just have to recognize it and then do your best to reduce it or eliminate it.
On that note, if you are looking for positive, inspiring and powerful women to fill your feeds, go follow Kayla Barnes on IG right now. Plus, if you have questions on anything from brain health to nutrition, slip into Kayla’s DMs or ours!