Psychology of Body Image: Don’t Believe Everything You Think

Perception versus Reality

I was motivated to write this post and film an accompanying video after witnessing so many students overwrought by thoughts of inadequacy about how they looked.

In reality, there was no doubt that they were healthy and whole, but in their minds, they believed the opposite.

A phenomenon heightened by imaginary audience and social anxiety, which reaches its peak in adolescence.

Imaginary Audience Video: Click Here 
Body Image Video: Click Here  

Psychology Research

What are the underlying mechanisms?

These articles provide insight into why body dissatisfaction continues to be an issue, despite countless campaigns to turn the tide.

Article 1

The Image in the Mirror and the Number on the Scale

Link https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3610322

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Article 2

The Effects of Social Media on Body Image and Mental Health

Link http://lifesciencesjournal.org/2020/02/the-effects-of-social-media-on-body-image-and-mental-health

Article 3

Body Weight and Self-Perception are Associated with Depression

Link Results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES)

Psychology Homework

The First Step Towards Change is Awareness

1. Reality Testing

The 15 questions below challenge cognitive distortions and perceptions using reality itself.

This inquiry is not limited to body image and weight and thus can be applied to areas of life where you find yourself overthinking and ruminating.

Reality Testing Homework

Source: Challenging Cognitive Distortions

  1. What evidence do I have to support this thought or belief?
  2. Am I assuming the worst?
  3. Am I overgeneralizing?
  4. What would I say to a friend in this situation?
  5. How can I test my assumptions/beliefs to find out if they’re accurate?
  6. Do I have a trusted friend whom I can check out these thoughts with?
  7. Is this thought helpful?
  8. Am I making assumptions?
  9. How can I test the accuracy of this thought?
  10. Are there exceptions to these absolutes (always, never)?
  11. Is it really in my control?
  12. Can I look for “shades of gray”?
  13. Am I making this personal when it isn’t?
  14. Am I holding myself to an unreasonable standard?
  15. Are there other ways that I can think about this or myself?
Related: The Stories We Tell Ourselves

2. Community Discussion

In addition to spending time in self reflection and reality testing, it is important to open up the conversation to the community at large.

In doing so we move into collective problem-solving, empowering solutions, and public health education.

Podcast Interview

Be Yourself: Happy. Healthy. Hopeful.

Turning Self-Criticism into Self-Compassion 

In this episode, Stephani and Dr. Dinardo speak about what positive psychology is, turning your perceived flaws into strengths by moving from self-criticism to self-compassion, posttraumatic growth and how adversity can be beneficial to us, boundaries around social media use, the magic of prevention work and maintaining hope”. Bulimia Anorexia Nervosa Association (BANA)

Listen to Interview: Click Here
Watch Video of Post: Click Here

Acceptance: Your Peace Depends on It

peace

Shift your focus.

Change your life.

Acceptance and peace go hand in hand.

When we accept the things we cannot change, we save our energy for the things we can.

Today’s Challenge

Consciously accept the good and the bad that exists in your life.

The rain and the sunlight.

The shadow and the light.

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Keeping in Mind

Accepting what is does not lower the bar.

Quite the opposite.

Acceptance shines a spotlight on your inner strengths and endurance – independent of outer circumstances.

Strengths that were fostered in the eye of the storm. ☔️

Courage. Creativity. Wisdom. Perseverance. Faith.

This very moment in time.

And it’s that good feeling that motivates you to strive for more of what’s right for you. Instead of fighting against what’s wrong for you.

HOW DO I MAKE THE SHIFT?

Begin by accepting what is.

Moment by precious moment.

Your wellness depends on it.

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Applying this Post in Everyday Life

The 3 to 1 positivity to negativity ratio is one way of applying this post in your everyday life.

Specifically, each time you criticize an area of your life (or something about yourself personally), write down three positive aspects about the very thing you condemned. Hence, the 3 to 1 positivity ratio.

Journal Reflections DrAndreaDinardo.com

For example, each time you get down on yourself for not working during the COVID-19 pandemic, write down three benefits of sheltering in place. (E.g., more time for fitness, the space to try out new hobbies, meaningful conversations with family members). This daily practice helps to dampen the adverse impact of negativity bias, a type of cognitive distortion, common to all of us.

FOMO JOMO DrAndreaDinardo.com

Likewise, stop comparing your lowlights to other people’s highlights. You never know what’s happening behind the scenes in another person’s life. Good or bad. FOMO is “a story” fabricated in the mind based on snippets of observable behaviour (video below).

Reflection Questions

  1. How has COVID-19 eased (or increased) the pressure you put on yourself and the people around you?
  2. What does acceptance “feel” like physically in your body versus fighting “what is”?
  3. What have you surrendered lately? Let go?

You Can’t Add More to Your Life Without First Letting Go

Focus on what’s within your control in life & leadership.

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When things go wrong, what do you focus on first?

The world outside you

or

the world within you?

The following is a video and activity overview from Part 2 of the 2020 SRC Leadership Development Workshop. Click Here for Part 1.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVEjYGl9c0k

Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t.

Be The Change

I believe that (self) control is the foundation of effective leadership because in order to lead others, you must first learn to lead yourself.

  • This concept is based on the Internal versus External Locus of Control developed by psychologist Dr. Julian Rotter.
  • CONTROL is also the second “C” in the Thriving Under Pressure Model discussed in my TEDx Talk.

Leadership Skills Development 

CONTROL – Part 1

In the initial control exercise, participants met in groups to reflect and share their answers to the following questions:

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CONTROL – Part 2

Next, participants applied the C-P-R Model of Sustainable Mental Health Habits to their own experiences as both students and student leaders.

  • This activity helped them focus on the areas of their life, including mental health habits and stress management practices, that is within versus outside their sphere of control.
  • Click Here for the original CPR Blog Post and Video

C. P. R.

CATCH.   PAUSE.   REPAIR.

in action

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1. Student leaders first identified their triggers. Including emotional, cognitive, situational, and physical stressors. CATCH

2. Then they practiced taking a time-out (long deep breath) during high pressure moments. PAUSE

3. Finally, they shared both self-care (fitness, sleep, nutrition) and professional resources (counselling) that help them replenish unmet psychological and physical needs (as outlined on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs). REPAIR

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 Control Video ⇒ Click Here
TEDx Talk ⇒ Click Here

How will you lead your life today?

Strength Based Leadership: ReThink Challenges

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On January 11, 2020, I had the opportunity to work with the student leadership team at St. Clair College in Windsor Ontario.

MISSION AND VISION

The goal was to strengthen the bonds between team members and harness the power of their mission for the 12,500 students on campus.

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Student Representative Council (SRC) Leadership Team

We talked about the many ways challenges can be transformed into opportunities.

And how pressure can be used in a positive way to motivate us to the next level of our lives.

CHALLENGE is the first “C” in the “Stress to Strength” model from my Thriving Under Pressure TEDx Talk. Photo below.

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Psychology of Leadership 

In the video from the leadership workshop I give an overview of the ABC Model of Cognitive Psychology and the Flow Model of Optimal Performance.

We also discussed why resilience is not so much about what happened, but our thoughts about what happened.

Listen in for more:

“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

More videos and learning moments from the leadership event to come. Stay Tuned! Dr. D 📚❤️

Special thanks to UWSA VP of Advocacy Arop Plaek Deng for being the photographer and videographer at the SRC Leadership Event 📸 
Challenge Video ⇒ Click Here
TEDx Talk ⇒ Click Here

Delaying Gratification Doubles The Reward

Is it worth the wait?

Reflection Questions

1. Do you consider yourself a patient person, an impatient person, or an impulsive person? Give situational examples for each.

For example: You may be more patient at work, but not at home. You may be able to control your impulses when it comes to food, but not when it comes to yelling at your spouse or children.

delay now later

2. Identify a time in your life where delayed gratification led to a superior outcome over immediate gratification.

For example: Saving money for a house versus buying impulse purchases on Cyber Monday. Working 2 jobs to pay for college tuition versus going out with friends every weekend night. Working out to strengthen your mental and physical health versus watching tv all day.

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3. Which factors determine your ability to be patient in challenging situations?

For example: faith, trust, comfort, financial security, long-term vision, full stomach, good night’s sleep.

patience

Inspiration for this Post

The Stanford marshmallow experiment was a study on delayed gratification in 1972 led by psychologist Walter Mischel, a professor at Stanford University.[1]

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In this study, a child was offered a choice between one small but immediate reward, or two small rewards if they waited for period of time. During this time, the researcher left the room for about 15 minutes and then returned.

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The reward was either a marshmallow or pretzel stick, depending on the child’s preference. In follow-up studies, the researchers found that children who were able to wait longer for the preferred rewards tended to have better life outcomes, as measured by SAT scores,[2] educational attainment,[3] body mass index (BMI),[4] and other life measures.

Original Source: Click Here

Don’t forget to share your insights & reflections in the comments below!

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Video of Blog Post → Click Here

5 Ways to Focus Better

Why Can’t I Remember Anything?

One of the most frequent questions I was asked as a practicing psychologist and more recently as a psychology professor is why can’t I remember anything.

The problem is most likely a focusing issue — not a memory issue.

An important distinction between memory and attention that I share in the focus video below.

In the video in particular, I describe how the Atkinson–Shiffrin memory model (see model below) differentiates between sensory, short-term, and long-term memory.

Dr. Andrea Dinardo - Focus Article.6

And the important implications this model has for one’s ability to focus and remember information long term.

You can’t do big things if you’re distracted by small things.


Link to Fall Focus Article

5 Ways to Focus Better

Issue 124. The Drive Magazine.
Psychology Article: thedrivemagazine.com/posts/5-ways-to-focus-better
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Video of Post: Click Here

My philosophy of teaching.

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I have one intention in mind when I walk into a classroom:

 How can I warm up the room? 🔥

“Enthusiasm is contagious.”

In this short video I share the thoughts that go through my mind as I walk into a classroom and meet my psychology students for the first time. I also discuss the specifics of how I connect with and encourage students each new day.

What goes through your mind when you walk into a room?

Visit my YouTube Channel for more fun and uplifting videos.

Optimism Bootcamp: 3 Steps to Empowerment

Nathalie Begin author of the Gutsy Feeling Blog invited me to give a positive psychology workshop called Optimism Bootcamp at a Symposium for Crohn’s & Colitis Canada.

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The audience was filled a very special group of people. Individuals that have been battling the chronic condition of Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) their whole lives.

Optimism and Health Empowerment

What’s IBD?

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) describes a group of conditions, the two main forms of which are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. IBD also includes indeterminate colitis.

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are diseases that inflame the lining of the GI (gastrointestinal) tract and disrupt your body’s ability to digest food, absorb nutrition, and eliminate waste in a healthy manner.

Source: Chrohn’s and Colitis Canada

Health Warriors

Individuals with chronic health problems such as IBD often feel a sense of helplessness and disempowerment over their bodies.

Which is why teaching concrete strategies for focusing on what’s within one’s control (beliefs and attitudes; deep breathing; present moment awareness) and letting go of what’s not (waiting times; IBD diagnosis; doctor availability) is so important.

Believing you can is half the battle.

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Optimism Research

Research in health psychology shows that optimism and having hope in one’s future has a significant impact on whether patients follow through on medical advice.

Optimism has also been found to improve overall quality of life, well-being, and happiness of cancer patients.

Click Here for Research on Health, Hope, and Optimism

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Good News!

Optimism Can Be Learned

The good news is that optimism is a skill that can be learned.

  1. Optimism / pessimism are not fixed personality traits that someone is lucky (or unlucky) enough to be born with.
  2.  Optimism / pessimism are states (not traits) that are malleable and open to change.
  3. Optimism / pessimism are attributional styles that can be taught and reinforced over time.

Additional insight on how our minds work

Excerpt from Optimism Article:

Using Attribution Theory, I can tell a lot about someone by the way they interpret the events that happen in their lives, particularly the explanatory style they use in analyzing setbacks versus successes.

attribution theory table

The pessimist perceives failures as personal, permanent, and pervasive, and thus has difficulty moving beyond setbacks. They often get lost in a recurrent loop of negativity.

In contrast, optimists see setbacks as universal. to everyone, temporary in time, and limited to one or two areas of their lives.

Source:  Dr. Andrea Dinardo, The Drive Magazine

Optimism in Our Community

Hope changes everything. It transforms pessimism into optimism. It changes winter into summer, darkness into dawn, descent into ascent, barrenness into creativity, agony into joy.

Daisaku Ikeda
Read Optimism Bootcamp Article: Click Here

Thriving Teams. Thriving Leaders.

THRIVING TEAMS Dr. Andrea Dinardo

LESSONS LEARNED

In this post, I share the lessons learned at a thriving teams thriving leaders board retreat.

It was a true team effort!  

With the team-building and leadership exercises equally led by the student leaders and myself.

ThrivingTeamsLearnTogether

Please join in and explore the reflection questions, interactive activities, and workshop videos with the teams in your life.

Together Everyone Achieves More!

WHAT HELPS TEAMS FLOURISH & THRIVE?

1. Compassion and Empathy

“It takes both sides to build a bridge.”

Perspective taking exercise.

Discussion Questions:
1. Identify a problem you have faced as a student leader.
2. Determine what’s “below the surface” that could potentially be the source of the problem.
3. Explore the problem from the perspective of the student.
4. Describe the problem and potential solution using both the leader’s and the student’s perspectives.
5. Summarize the lessons and potential opportunities of the original problem. Eg. What did you learn about yourself? What did you learn about the student?

“Together We Rise.”

UWSA Student Leaders BOD

2. Conscious Goal Setting

“Goals with Soul.”

Personal and Team goal setting exercise.

Discussion Questions:
1. What are your goals as student leader for the school year?
2. What are your goals as team member for the school year?
3. What are your greatest assets for the team?
4. What areas do you need assistance from the team?

“Teamwork makes the dream work.”

UWSA Student Leaders Executive

3. Shared Vision

“Your life is your message to the world.”

“What’s Your North Star?” team building exercise.

Discussion Questions:
1. What’s Your Purpose?
2. What Lights Your Way?
3. What Bonds and Unites Your Team?

“What’s Your Why?”

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Everyday Leadership

  • I encourage you to try our Thriving Teams Thriving Leaders Exercises in your own life.
  • Whether it be your family team, your friendship team, your neighbourhood team, your church team, or your sports team.
  •  Teams are everywhere!

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Assistance from UWSA Team

The videos in this post were filmed with the generous help of student leaders during my THRIVING TEAMS presentation at the University of Windsor Students’ Alliance (UWSA) Summer Board Retreat.

What an incredible group of leaders they are!

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Helpful Resources

  1. TEDx Talk: Thriving Under Pressure
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=czXG8odb7pY
  2.  University of Windsor Students’ Alliance (UWSA) website
    http://www.uwsa.ca

“Teamwork divides the task and multiplies the success.”

Thriving Under Pressure — Leadership Training and Development

Fitness is more than physical.

Recently, I was invited to do a Leadership Training and Development Workshop at a local kickboxing club.

kickbox

The ultimate stress release.

This is where I go to cool my jets and find my joy. So, I was more than excited to take the leadership team’s mental fitness up to the next level!

From surviving to thriving.

During the mental fitness training session, I discussed how the 3 C’s of Thriving Under Pressure from my TEDx Talk could enhance the performance and well-being of the Kersey Kickbox Team.

Commitment – Challenge – Control

Using personality assessment, team mapping, and real-life examples, I harnessed the team’s many strengths to benefit both the club’s membership and the trainers themselves.

Hope you enjoy the video too.

Shifting from anxiety to excitement.

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They say we only use 5-10% of our brain’s full potential.

A statement I tend to agree with.

Know thyself.

Understanding ourselves better, including our brains, is always the first step in tapping into what’s possible, within, and all around us.

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Hacking the brain.

Did you know that fear and excitement share the same set of neurotransmitters, including dopamine, glutamate, and acetylcholine.

  • Opposite emotions. Identical neurotransmitters.
  • Same neural activity. Different cognitive appraisal.

And the best way to shift from performance anxiety to excitement is to say one sentence on repeat.

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Journal of Experimental Psychology. 2014, Volume 143

Watch my latest YouTube video “Shifting from anxiety to excitement” to discover the simple phrase for shifting out of nervousness during high anxiety situations.

And learn why telling someone to “calm down” when they’re anxious rarely works.

Related Post: Are you left brain or right brained?

One small change.. 🧠

Changes everything.

The unexpected benefits of stress.

Most people wince every time they hear the word “stress”.

It’s as if the whole world has been conditioned to respond to stress the same way, by word alone. A habitual thought response that is often more dangerous than the stressor itself.

What you believe matters.

The latest research in psychology examines stress in an entirely new way.

Rather than viewing stress as unequivocally bad for one’s health, health psychologists pinpoint belief systems as the moderating variable between stress and biology.

Stress perception ↔ Health benefits

Embracing meaning is more important than reducing discomfort according to Stanford psychologist Kelly McGonigal. Stress can make us stronger, smarter and happier — if we learn how to open our minds to it.” Source: Stanford News

Which is one of many reasons why I love Dr. McGonigal’s TED Talk. She encourages us to think about stress in a whole new empowering way. With an emphasis on growth, purpose, and meaning over needless suffering.

Mindset is everything.

Using health psychology research, Dr. McGonigal reveals how perceiving stress as either positive or negative can have a “live or die” impact on individual stress response.

Change your thoughts. Change your stress response.

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  1. Believe that stress is good for you (eg., stress heightens awareness) and you live longer.
  2. Alternatively, believe that stress is bad for you (eg., stress causes heart attacks) and you die sooner.

But don’t take my word for it.

You need to experience your own “Aha Moment” firsthand.

How to make stress your friend.

In the video below, Dr. McGonigal illustrates the many upsides of stress, including help seeking behaviour, increased energy, and robust health. She also backs up her stress positive claims with census records and comprehensive health research.

Hope you enjoy these fresh, new ideas about stress as much as I do!

“Stress. It makes your heart pound, your breathing quicken and your forehead sweat.  But while stress has been made into a public health enemy, new research suggests that stress may only be bad for you if you believe that to be the case. Psychologist Kelly McGonigal urges us to see stress as a positive.” Source: TED Talks

Helpful resources for adopting a resilience mindset:

  1. How to Turn Stress into an Asset by Amy Gallow
  2. Cognitive Reframing and Stress Management by Liz Scott
  3. Six Ways to Do Cognitive Restructuring by Dr. Alice Boyes
  4. Reducing Stress by Changing Your Thinking by Mind Tools
  5. Change Your Thoughts – Change Your Life by Dr. Wayne Dyer
  6. The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good by Kelly McGonigal
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Related Post: Stress resilience at school.

Enthusiasm is contagious

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Photo from keynote at a College Student Alliance (CSA) student leadership conference.

I believe in the power of education. Deep down in my soul. And it’s this core belief that translates into a high level of enthusiasm and excitement for student success in my classroom.

Video of Post: https://youtu.be/4J4oL093oU0

I believe so strongly in the impact of enthusiasm on motivating students, capturing their attention, and enhancing their learning that I wrote my doctoral dissertation on the topic.

Education + Enthusiasm = Student Success

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What core beliefs guide your work?

The upside of stress.

Most people wince every time they hear the word “stress”.

It’s as if the whole world has been conditioned to respond to stress the same way, by the word alone. A habitual thought response that is often more dangerous than the stressor itself.

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Mindset is everything.

Which is one of many reasons why I love Kelly McGonigal’s TED Talk. It encourages us to think about stress in a whole new way.

Change your thoughts. Change your response.

Using health psychology research, Dr. McGonigal reveals how perceiving stress as either positive or negative can have this “live or die” impact on your stress response.

Stress can be good (or bad) for you.

Believe that stress is good for you and you live (longer). Alternatively, believe that stress is bad for you and you die (sooner).

Powerful words. Solid research to back her statements up.

Hope you enjoy the video!

Stress. It makes your heart pound, your breathing quicken and your forehead sweat.  But while stress has been made into a public health enemy, new research suggests that stress may only be bad for you if you believe that to be the case. Psychologist Kelly McGonigal urges us to see stress as a positive.” Source: TED Talks

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Rethinking Stress – Helpful Resources

  1. How to Turn Stress into an Asset by Amy Gallow
  2. Cognitive Reframing and Stress Management by Liz Scott
  3. Six Ways to Do Cognitive Restructuring by Dr. Alice Boyes
  4. Reducing Stress by Changing Your Thinking by Mind Tools
  5. Change Your Thoughts – Change Your Life by Dr. Wayne Dyer
  6. The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good by Kelly McGonigal
Related Post: What's your stress threshold?