Emotional Ice Cream
As a child, I remember thinking why don’t we eat ice cream at every meal? It’s delicious, cheap and abundant. What more could you want?
But, despite my arguments, my parents always insisted that ice cream was only for weekends. They also stood firm on the rule that it was only to be consumed after my sisters and I had eaten all of our veggies.
As an adult, I finally understand their reasoning. Obviously, eating ice cream at every meal isn’t healthy. It may taste great, but our waistlines would balloon, and we’d put ourselves at risk of a raft of health issues (diabetes, heart disease, cancer etc).
So, what does this have to do with emotions?
Well, when it comes to our emotional health and wellness, many of us are drowning in ice cream without even realising it.
“Every time we interact with social media, we pop open a tub of double choc mint and take a big scoop.”
When someone likes, shares, comments, follows, re-tweets or favourites one of our posts, we release Dopamine (a happy hormone). This makes us feel super good, but it doesn’t hang around for very long (only about 2-5 mins). This is actually quite similar to what happens when we eat ice cream. The potent combination of sugar and fat floods us with Dopamine, which is why practically all of the most delicious foods are basically just different combinations of sugar and fat (donuts, chocolate, pancakes, Nutella etc).
We all get that eating ice cream isn’t good for us, that it won’t satisfy our hunger, and that we shouldn’t make it a staple in our diet. But what about social media? It’s prone to many of the same issues as ice cream.
Firstly, it’s extremely addictive.
A 2012 study by O’Keeffe found that teenagers who spend large amounts of time on social media are prone to what researchers dubbed ‘Facebook Depression’. Basically, there was a direct correlation between excessive social media use and ‘classic symptoms of depression’.
Another thing to consider is – if we were to eat ice cream at every meal, it wouldn’t be as fun or delicious. If ice cream were a staple in our diets, our taste buds would start to adapt, much like the way avid coffee drinkers develop a tolerance for caffeine. We’d soon find ourselves needing crazier, more intense flavours – with sprinkles, and chocolate chunks, and caramel, and nougat, and crunchy bits, and peanut butter, and fudge swirls… mmmm, fudge swirls.
“At first, getting 20 likes was a thrill. Then, after a while I felt disappointed unless I got at least 50. Now, unless I get 100 likes and 10 comments in the first hour, I delete the post.”
Now, before you point out the irony of me posting this article to social media, let me be clear – I love eating ice cream and I obviously use social media.
The thing is, I always try to eat my veggies first, just like I always try to invest in my real-life relationships first.
Social media can be a great tool to enhance relationships, provided that’s how you use it. But, like ice cream, as soon as it becomes a staple, rather than a ‘treat’, your (emotional) health suffers.
That brings us to veggies.
In an emotional sense, veggies are the things we should be focussing on – quality relationships, self-compassion, mindfulness and personal growth.
Working on these areas may not give us the instant sugar rush of a well crafted post, but they gradually and progressively improve our mental health and the overall quality of our lives.
These emotional veggies provide the stable, lasting energy needed to help us through stressful periods. They regulate our hormones, strengthen our relationships, help us manage our weight (emotional baggage) and even protect us from certain diseases (like depression).
Now, provided that we have eaten our daily veggies, social media can be a delightful treat that actually adds to our social lives. This is backed up by Psychologist Dan Gilbert, whose 2004 TED talk describes the difference between pleasure (the experience of positive emotions) and happiness (overall, long-term life satisfaction). To paraphrase –
People with high levels of life satisfaction (veggie eaters) do experience a meaningful boost from individual moments of pleasure (ice cream). But, for people with low life satisfaction (veggie dodgers), individual moments of pleasure (a ‘successful’ social media post) provide no meaningful increase in life satisfaction (happiness).
So, while it may be tempting to eat emotional ice cream for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner, remember the importance of getting enough veggies.
Log off social media for a few hours – call a friend, meet for coffee, learn to meditate, practice self-compassion, invest in your relationships. Once you’re feeling full (present) again, go ahead, tuck into a bowl of crunchy, chocolaty insta-snap-book goodness. Just don’t eat too much 😉
Simply Psyched teaches practical life skills (like fitting emotional veggies into a busy life) in Motivational Conference Keynotes and Offsite Workshops. To enquire about having Simply Psyched present at your next conference, use the contact form below.