Since the beginning of a global pandemic, our regular lifestyles, despite age, gender or social class had been transformed physically, emotionally and mentally.
The media has explored how the pandemic affected us as a society but did not dive deep into how young people in the UK were impacted mentally, which is covered in this video through statistics and personal experiences of a young artist Miranda Melbourne and Samaritan Charlotte Cook.
Ever since social media was introduced with the likes of Facebook, Myspace and MSN Messenger, there have been concerns about what it could be doing to our mental health.
Studies have been conducted for years focusing on the effects different platforms have on people’s wellbeing, with most concluding it can be harmful, especially among teenagers.
But a new study conducted by the University of Oxford finds this to be false, concluding that the impact social media has on wellbeing is “trivial”.
The study asked 12,000 10-15 year olds how long they spent on social media a day, and how satisfied they were in different parts of their life. Professor Andrew Przybylski explained to BBC News that “99.75% of a person’s life satisfaction has nothing to do with their use of social media”.
So why do so many believe it does?
The study investigated teenagers social media habits between 2009 and 2017: image courtesy of Unsplash
WNOL spoke to people about social media to find out if the study’s findings are reflected by the general public.
“It can be really addictive,” says one woman, who uses most platforms on a daily basis.
Another woman believes it can have an impact wellbeing, especially if someone already has an insecurity. “I think it can either bring on mental health issues, or it can escalate them and heighten them. I think any little comment can start something quite serious.”
This coincides with the study, which argued that other investigations into social media haven’t considered teenagers who might use social media more often because they already have mental health problems.
Tobias Dienlin, a media psychologist at the University of Hohenheim who was part of the research team on the study, says he predicted the results.
“If you asked me before the study I would have said, I don’t think we’ll have strong effects, it’s very unlikely. But I can understand people who are reading the news would be surprised.”
When asked if social media could be used to improve mental health, one man WNOL spoke to believed the damage had already been done. “I feel like the negative effects are more apparent than the force that’s trying to overcome that,” he explains.
“Everyone should reflect on their social media usage,” Tobias says in response to many people still believing social media harms their wellbeing, but tries to reassure users that they shouldn’t be as concerned as they are.
“We shouldn’t ring the alarm when there’s not really an alarm to be rung”.
He believes that more research needs to be conducted on the same scale as the Oxford study. “The research we are currently doing is still in its infancy, there’s still so many things we can improve”.
Whether it’s running late for work, revising for exams, or something bigger concerning family or friends, stress occurs on a daily basis for the majority of adults in the UK. But learning how to deal with it is important for mental and physical wellbeing.
One of the most common relaxation methods is visualisation, picturing a scene and focusing on the smallest of details using all of your senses.
But how do you visualise a calming atmosphere when you’re surrounded by office desks, traffic or road works?
Take this opportunity to learn, by listening to different sounds, learning about different scents, and watching different scenes, and discover how to unwind using all your senses.
A study at the University of Sussex has scientifically proven that nature sounds help us relax, and Jo, a Londoner, agrees. “Just generally being outside is relaxing” she tells WNOL. Orfeu Buxton from Pennsylvania State University explains that when we sleep, we can hear threatening and non-threatening sounds, with water being considered the latter. It tells our brains not to worry, whereas harsher sounds, like alarms and thunder, can be considered threatening, and wake us up.
Most of the people WNOL spoke to mentioned “birds singing” as a calming sound. A study led by Dr. Daniel Cox found stress, depression and anxiety levels decreased when participants were watching birds. Listen to the clip and see how the bird calls make you feel.
For many people living in cities, traffic can be a trigger for stress. But compare it to the sound of waves crashing against rocks – it’s surprisingly similar. None of the people WNOL spoke to had ever considered this, but one man did say white noise, like car engines, is soothing, along with the ocean, so this visualisation is likely to help him destress.
Many people rely on lavender to help them fall into a deep sleep (image by Alysia Georgiades)
Lavender is arguably the most popular scent for relaxation, with a range of pillow sprays being sold to improve sleep. But why does it work so well?
One suggestion from Christabel Majendie, a sleep therapist at Naturalmat, is that linalool, a part of lavender oil, acts as a sedative by affecting vital neurotransmitters that help us sleep.
Maybe it’s time to try one of those pillow sprays…
There are hundreds of species of jasmine, but they all have a sweet, calming scent (image by Alysia Georgiades)
Jasmine is another scent that has been proven to combat stress, with its subtle, sweet smell helping participants of a study fall into a deeper sleep than if they were exposed to lavender.
A couple of Londoners mentioned jasmine when asked to list calming scents, which could act as an alternative for those who are not a fan of lavender.
Pine will remind most people of Chrismas, but its scent is excellent for our mental wellbeing (image by Alysia Georgiades)
Finally, pine (aka Christmas trees) is proven to be a relaxing scent, with its essential oil being found in most health stores. A study from Kyoto University in Japan found that stressed participants who were taken for a 15 minute walk in a forest everyday, were considerably more relaxed afterwards, compared to a group who were not taken for walks. Burning the oil above a candle can fill a room with its aroma, helping you unwind after a long day.
The University of Illinois found that the more trees in a scene, the less stress a person feels. It’s arguably one of the easiest to visualise, with trees scattered all around London, 8 million to be exact, and was a popular response among Londoners, who all said they enjoy watching the branches sway in the breeze.
For many people, watching a crackling fire can help them wind down, and this no coincidence.
Dr. Christopher Lynn explained to the Telegraph that watching a fire lowered blood pressure and increased relaxation the longer people were exposed to it. When Jo was asked what she thought she explained, “as long as it’s a cold winter’s night and I have a good book it’s relaxing”, which sounds like a pretty perfect moment.
You’ve already listened to water, but watching it is also proven to lower stress and anxiety levels. Professor Michael Depledge and environmental psychologist Mat White found that showing images of landscapes containing a water feature alongside greenery resulted in positive responses in the participants that significantly lowered stress levels.
The ocean was a popular response from Londoners, who all enjoy staring at the waves moving back and forth. “I like the waves crashing against the shore” said one person, who finds the British seaside and pebbled beaches more calming than ones with sand.
So how do you feel?
After watching the videos, listening to the sounds and imagining the different scents, have you been able to visualise the perfect, peaceful environment?
If you have, try picturing it whenever you’re stressed, or need a moment to yourself, focusing on everything from what you can see and hear, to how it makes you feel. Let your muscles grow heavy and your breath soften, and leave all your worries behind.
She’s an artist: illustrator, graphic designer, painter, fashion and shoe designer. But she doesn’t work in the industry. At 26, she’s currently a supervisor in Press coffee and has worked in hospitality for three years, since she moved to London after completing her studies in Italy.
WNOL: How would you define your art?
An extension of my soul. I put my feeling on my art, even though it might not mean anything to someone else, each of my drawings and paintings is an emotion that I’ve felt with the need to fix it on a canvas.
WNOL: Who is Ylenia Molinari?
(laughs) She’s an artist… I guess. I haven’t found my way yet. I do many things: I do paintings, tattoos… I mean I do tattoos on me, I’ve never tried doing it on people because I don’t trust myself. So if I do it on myself is fine. I like things that are artistic or creative, but I don’t know what to do. I mean I can do everything, but it’s like doing nothing.
WNOL: Do you think you art sends a message? Do you want it to send a message?
Not actually. It’s more like expressing myself and my feelings. It’s why I’ve never done exhibitions. People ask me ‘why didn’t you do an exhibition’, because I don’t want to show it, it’s something that’s for myself. Even when they ask me for commissions, I just draw what’s in my mind.
WNOL: You seem to have a very strong position over nudity on Instagram, what do you think about it?
I’m very open about this. I like modeling, I do nude modeling but I don’t like to share it because I know that many people message me about it and not in an artistic way. I’m very upset that they see me just for my naked body, like a sexual object. I’ve never posted before because my friend, she posted a drawing of a girl showing her nipple and they censored it. So if they remove a drawing, I cannot post a picture obviously. I don’t understand why it is allowed for men to show their nipples. If men’s aren’t sexual then women’s shouldn’t be either.
WNOL: Your profile picture on your Instagram account says ‘ask me about my crippling anxiety’, what’s that about?
It’s weird, but this friend, she’s a photographer and she asked me to pose for her. And I connected that photoshoot with my anxiety. Usually when I do modeling I don’t look happy. Or when I take a picture of myself I’m never really happy because I’ve got anxiety and I don’t feel like smiling in my pictures, even though I’m a pretty happy person. (laughs)
I think the first time was after a mental breakdown, instead of cutting myself to do something bad to my body, I just shaved my head. I knew I wouldn’t like myself without hair but I’m now used to it and I actually like it. The second time was a month ago after another mental breakdown because I lost my best friend. He died on Christmas day. Now I’m getting over it. They first thought it was a suicide. I was super upset because he was supposed to be my best friend and he didn’t tell me anything. But after a month we found out it wasn’t a suicide, it was an accident where he fell down from a building.
WNOL: What about your tattoos?
I think I can’t count them now, definitely have more than 25. I haven’t done them all, but most of them. For example this one says ‘nothing is going to hurt you baby’, it’s from a song and I got it done on the palm of my hand. It is one of the most painful places to get a tattoo and that’s why I did it there. Most of them have meanings, probably all of them.
WNOL: Do you think there should me more conversation going on around mental health?
Yeah. In my previous workplace, I told my manager I was having a panic attack and she just told me ‘yeah, yeah, go out for a smoke’. And it’s like no, I’m having a panic attack, I don’t need a smoke. People don’t understand anxiety either. They’re all ‘just chill out’ and it’s like no, it’s not about that. Yeah I relax, I go to bed at 9 pm but don’t go to sleep until 2 am. I spend hours trying to sleep. For many people it’s hard to talk about it. I found out a few months ago that I am bipolar and it’s hard to understand. My flatmate is bipolar too and she takes medicine but I don’t want to.
WNOL: What kind of work do you see yourself doing in the future?
Something creative for sure. I’m not even looking for a creative job at the moment because I met this guy who’s an artist, he’s a painter. He was doing it as a job and he started to not enjoy it because he had to do commissions. After a while he left his job and started to work as a kitchen porter, I would never work as that but (laughs). He does that for four days a week and he’s got three days that he can actually paint and he told me he’s much happier. So maybe finding a creative job is not my way, maybe I can just do a normal job and in my free time do my art.
In a study done by ChildLine, it was found that 68% of students are anxious about their grades and exams and the effect it has on their future.
The study also said that 65% of children who had to do referrals were suicide related – this only emphasises the stress students face to get the best grades in their class, not taking into consideration their mental health.
Petsa Kaffens, a lecturer and personal tutor at the University, says that “People take on too much. They have lots of hopes and dreams and raise them too high to get work done in time. At least that’s my opinion”
For the first time, in a ChildLine study school and education problems appeared in the top ten concerns with a 200 per cent increase in counselling about exam stress. Counselling services can be found at the University of Westminster, either with personal tutors or the mental health team.
Some students like Lucy Tonge, had this to say about the de-stress week at Westminster and why it shouldn’t only be once a year.
The University of Westminster prides itself in helping the mental health and well-being of students. You can email the University for help at email@example.com, or call them at +44 (0)20 7911 5000 ext 68229 if you need professional help.
Today’s young people spend a great deal of time on social media. It’s no surprise that signs of mental illnesses like depression can often appear first on these platforms. Facebook has decided to take action. Developers have introduced a new option for post reporting that will open a menu allowing the concerned user to either send a direct message to the poster, message other friends for support or access websites that suggest ways to help. Any posts that are reported will be reviewed by a third-party operator. There is also a way to send alerts to the original poster letting them know who is worried about them as well as links to videos about depression and local support groups.