Advertisements & Mental Health

Even as a young child, watching TV in my living room, I couldn’t stand commercials. Most of my life, I assumed that was just the obvious reaction to people trying to sell you shit you don’t want. I thought everyone saw them as annoying, if not infuriating. My anger towards advertisements has only grow as I’ve gotten older. Only recently have I begun to realize that not everyone views these ads the way I do.

A friend of mine always seems confused or surprised when I start ranting and raving about advertisements. I’m usually the one to get overly animated about topics that anger me, so I figured she was just put off by my fiery passion. But since then, one of my new coworkers has repeatedly shown me ads on his phone that he found funny. That really threw me. Why would anyone purposefully show me that? Why would anyone watch an ad intentionally? This bizarre interaction is what led me to realize that some people actually don’t mind ads at all, some even enjoy them, or at the very least, accept them as a necessary evil of a capitalist society. I guess I should have realized this sooner given that so many people inexplicably love to watch the ads during the Super Bowl.

Today I would like to address those people out there that have been fooled. Advertisements are not cute, or funny, or interesting. The advertisers are not your friends. Advertisements are not “necessary.” I’ll start there. I can still remember asking my mom why the radio was free as a little girl. I’ll never forget what she told me: The radio is free, because the advertisers pay to broadcast their messages. From there, it didn’t take me long to make the obvious connection to television. I simply couldn’t understand why we pay for cable AND have to watch advertisements. Shouldn’t it be one or the other? The answer is yes, and it used to be that way. Now despite the laughably high cable rates, the commercial breaks continue to get longer and longer.

I haven’t paid for cable since I’ve lived on my own and never plan too. Yet, I see this exploitative business model playing out in Hulu and other streaming platforms now. I was newly enraged while reading the message displayed on Hulu because of my ad blocker. “We are unable to show a message from our sponsors.” Excuse me? Fuck you, Hulu. I am your sponsor. When do I get to broadcast a message? Luckily I just get to sit in silence while my ad blocker does it’s job.

Some of you might be wondering why I wouldn’t just watch the ad, given that I have to wait the allotted amount of time anyway. I have a very good answer for that. I refuse to be brainwashed and manipulated. Advertisements aren’t just annoying, they are an assault to the senses. There are countless studies showing the negative mental health effects of advertisements, particularly on children. Children subjected to advertisements are more likely to eat unhealthy foods, be materialistic, and have body image issues. And that isn’t a side-effect, that’s the goal. That’s how marketing works.

The unspoken goal of all advertising is to make you feel like you don’t have enough, aren’t happy enough, aren’t liked enough, that you simply aren’t enough. The promise is that if you purchase their products, then you’ll be happy, popular, and fulfilled. Not only does that messaging deteriorate your mental health and wellbeing, it is also contributing to the climate crisis. When everyone continuously feels unsatisfied and feels they need more and more stuff to be happy, it takes a toll on the Earth’s resources. Sadly even if you are aware of all this, it doesn’t make the negative mental health effects of consuming this content any less damaging. It’s a mild form of brainwashing in my opinion. Especially when it comes to the impressionable minds of children. To make matters worse, with most of the content children are exposed to coming from the internet, there are even less protections in place to combat this, like there are on cable television.

To me, advertising is no different than the government allowing companies to pollute the air and water (which of course they do allow.) The reoccurring theme of capitalism rears its ugly head once again. Companies are encouraged to make money at the expense of the consumer’s health. Those companies aren’t my friends. They are my enemies. And I refuse to listen to their propaganda. So if you’re someone that doesn’t get mad about advertisements, maybe it’s time that you start.

Lucky Strike cigarettes advertisement from 1930 - ABC News (Australian  Broadcasting Corporation)

Free Self-Care Apps

For the last few days I’ve been exploring the App Store in an attempt to find some free mindfulness, meditation, and journaling apps. I expected that a lot would be limited and offer a more robust, premium option. At first I was thrilled at all the options there were. Then I realized that most of them were disgustingly dishonest. They appeared to be free, at least partially, only to reveal upon download that you had to sign up for a monthly membership to access literally any of the features. After downloading over a dozen different apps only to be disappointed, I decided to share the two I did manage to find.

One – Breathwork: Breathing Exercises

Breathwrk | Breathing Exercises

After seeing the other options out there, I am even more impressed than I initially was by this incredible, completely free, app. This app has a smooth, pleasant, minimalist design. It’s very easy to navigate. There are so many options available for anyone interested in pranayama, whether they be an experienced yogi or a total beginner. I think this app would be great for kids as well! There are short breathing exercises available to help you get into whatever kind of headspace you’d like. There are targeted practices for energy, relaxation, sleep, focus, etc. Each exercise also comes with calming background music and a guided visualization to help you focus on your inhale and exhale and make sure you are extending or holding for the suggested amount of time. It also contains breathwork courses, progress trackers, and reminders. There is a premium version, but it is not pushed on you, nor is it really necessary to experience all the wonderful benefits.

Two – Instar Affirmation Writer

Instar Affirmation Writer App Ranking and Store Data | App Annie

This app is another super helpful tool to have if you are trying to work on becoming more mindful, intentional person. Not only does this app give you a handful of free affirmations and the ability to save them to a catalogue that you can break up into categories, it also teaches you how to craft your own personalized affirmations. As you type out the words, the app will give you general prompts such as, “first person”, and highlight the positive areas of what you’ve written in green and the less beneficial words in red. These might be words we often use without thinking such as: have to, should, must, etc. You are given the option to add a photo and record an audio file of you speaking the affirmation as well. Not only does this assist you in making affirmations that resonate with you and your personal goals, it also helps us recognize our self sabotaging language and be more mindful of the way we speak to ourselves and others. This app allows you to take an active role in reframing your mind.


Given how much time and effort I had to put in just to find these two free apps, I appreciate them all the more. There is nothing more irritating than trying to find support and tools for self-improvement and finding sickening marketing tactics and thinly veiled manipulation instead. I highly recommend you download these two, honest, helpful apps if you are interested in using technology to help you incorporate more mindfulness into your day. Support developers like these that are actually offering a worthwhile service to people that need it, instead of using their vulnerability as an opportunity to take advantage of someone and make a quick buck.

The Social Dilemma

Photo by Vlada Karpovich on Pexels.com

The Social Dilemma is a new documentary on Netflix that everyone needs to see. It is a harrowing look at what social media and the internet in general are doing to us as individuals and society as a whole. I’ve long suspected that this new age of technology was having a deleterious effect on our brains, but never could I have imagined how serious it actually is.

We have been trapped under the wheels of a machine that we created and set into motion but now have no power to stop. The tropes about robots taking over and destroying humanity didn’t manifest in exactly the way we pictured it, but I would argue the age of AI overlords has already begun. We have become the victims of our own advancements. Our biology and slow rate of evolutionary change simply cannot keep up with and stay on top of the rapid growth of technology.

Our psychology is being used against us for the sole benefit of corporations and advertisers. This documentary points out that we are no longer the consumers. We are the products being sold. More specifically our attention is being sold. And it seems for the most part we are helpless to overcome the addictive nature of this new market. Not only that, while we feed into this system, society as a whole is becoming more and more anxious, depressed, and isolated from one another. This isn’t necessarily a purposeful outcome, yet it is an insignificant side effect for the people and algorithms running the show.

If you’d like some first hand evidence, try logging off of Facebook for a few weeks. I have been avoiding that site for over a year now. You wouldn’t believe the lengths the site has gone to try to reel me back in. I found it funny at first, seeing notifications for less and less relevant things when I did open the app. How desperate Facebook is to somehow regain my attention! But now I think it’s actually quite scary.

I will say I have felt much better mentally since I stopping using Facebook. I don’t spend nearly as much time on my phone for one thing. I am not weighed down by constant updates and online drama. I don’t waste time thinking up a status update or obsessively checking to see how many people liked it. It is freeing. I feel lighter now.

However, despite my success at overcoming the algorithm in that regard, I am still not completely free of the strong psychological drive to seek dopamine “rewards” online. For instance, I now post on here everyday. I do greatly look forward to seeing how many people like what I’ve written. Although I limit myself to checking my notifications once a day. I also still scroll my feed and post drawings on Tumblr. Not to mention I am perpetually watching either YouTube or Netflix all day long.

While I am able to remember, and think back fondly, on a time before the internet and social media, newer generations will not have this luxury. This new form of society is all they have ever known. Soon humanity will not even be able to conceive of a world without these detrimental influences.

I desperately long for the simplicity of my childhood spent away from screens, enjoying the real world. But even more than that, I pity the children of today. They have become victims without even realizing it. And what choice do they truly have? While disconnecting from our devices is liberating and beneficial in many ways, it is also extremely isolating in others. It is choosing to be apart from the rest of society in a major way. Even though it is better for your own mental health, it is also lonely, a virtual exile.

Ultimately I don’t know what the solution could be to this problem we’ve unwittingly created. Humans are forever hopeful. The executives that once had a hand in creating this new world seem to believe we can overcome it somehow. But I don’t know if I agree. I see it as just another sign of our rapidly advancing inevitable demise as a society and as a species. Although I sincerely hope I am wrong.

Photo by Taryn Elliott on Pexels.com

Bullet Journaling: October

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I am happy to say that 2017 has been a very productive and transformative year for me. I finally feel like I am steering my life towards the things I’ve always wanted. I attribute this change in character and consistency to a new phenomenon I stumbled upon called bullet journaling.

This is a type of journaling that allows you to have freedom of form, flexibility, and creativity while still maintaining a semblance of structure. Bullet journals (bujos) most importantly allow you to keep a sense of cohesion in your life. No more rewriting the same goals and ideas over and over again intermittently in different notebooks only to close the cover and blindly step back into the same routines that have been failing you thus far.

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I began my bujo last April, and at this point, I can honestly say that I plan to keep it up for as long as I am able. Keeping a journal in this form has allowed me to keep track of and keep up with my long-term goals. As I mentioned, I used to write down the same few abstract goals dozens of times only to come back to them months later not knowing if I had made any progress at all or even what that progress would look like. It has been incredibly fulfilling and self-affirming for me to be able to quantify my small successes each day. If you suffer from low self-esteem like I do, a bujo can definitely help you notice how much you actually are accomplishing. This, in turn, can give you the confidence to break out of a cycle of self-doubt and achieve more of your goals.

Now, if you’re like me, you’re probably already fretting about the possibility that you may see that you are not making progress on a particular goal and how that will affect your frame of mind. However, I have found that even in this instance a bujo can be helpful. Instead of seeing this lack of progression as a failure, it can stimulate you to make some changes. Is this goal really important to you? Should you drop this goal in order to focus more energy on more meaningful projects? And if this goal really is something you want to work towards, can you break it into smaller, more easily attainable goals? Don’t let this type of realization discourage you. Let it inspire you to try something new.

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In addition to tracking goals, bujos can include a myriad of other aspects such as: scheduling, habit tracking, studying, grocery lists, doodling, and anything else you want to keep track of all in one convenient location. As you can see from the photos I took of my October spread, I generally use mine to track daily habits and mood, set monthly goals, record my finances, plan my weekly meals, and record what I eat and do each day. But one of the best parts about bullet journaling is that you can change the layout and setup any time you want. Each weekly spread can look different depending on how busy you are or how your feeling that week. After evaluating how your spread worked for one month you can easily revamp it to better suit your needs for the next.

Bullet journaling can also have the added bonus of allowing you to begin to notice patterns in your moods and behaviors. If you see that you were feeling particularly down a few days or one particular week in the month you can look at what else was happening and be better prepared in the future to avoid situations or habits that produce negative emotions. You may, however, start to notice yourself becoming more happier in general. According to Sonja Lyubomirsky in her book The How of Happiness, planning and making goals for the future actually increases feelings of happiness and contributes to a positive sense of well-being.

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There are endless amounts of videos online demonstrating how to set up your very own bujo along with inspiration and ideas to add your own special flare that keeps you coming back each day. I hope that this format of journaling benefits your life as much as it has benefited mine.

Happy Journaling ♥

Do Not Buy These Products!

govegched

I am not certain how other grocery stores around the country (or world) are set up, but the ones in my area seem to be purposefully misleading. The stores that I frequent generally contain all of the strictly vegan food products that I buy in a designated area. It is sometimes labeled the organic section. This is very convenient, but can also be quite frustrating.

Frequently, I still find myself scanning over many items among the selection that are not vegan or not even vegetarian. These items such as “organic eggs” or “grass-fed beef” are set among vegan products as just another “healthful alternative” to more commonplace foods. However, as we vegans know, this is not the case. Despite packaging labels like “free-range” we know that these foods are still contributing to the abuse and subjugation of our animal friends and that meat and dairy, no matter how it is raised or processed, is still unhealthy for the human body.

The brand Go Veggie!, shown above, is one example of this misleading situation. For the first few years of exploring the vegan and vegetarian lifestyle, I saw this green packaging, suggestive brand name, and lactose free label and bought this product countless times under the impression that it must be a vegan cheese alternative. However, after finally reading the ingredients on the back of the package, I saw that these “cheddar flavor slices” did contain a small amount of dairy!

I was alarmed and outraged. It seems like brands such as this one are purposefully trying to obtain more customers by deceiving them. Not only that, this cheese tastes awful! It is not nearly as close to the taste of cheese as are true vegan alternatives such as Daiya. Upon further investigation of the Go Veggie! brand, I found that they do produce actual dairy free cheese products, so I am not entirely sure why they are even making this alternate, non-vegan, merely lactose-free option. This company just does not sit well with me.

The point is, never let yourself assume that a product is vegan just based on its packaging or placement in the grocery store. As much as we’d all like to stop obsessing over endless lists of ingredients, unless it specifically says it is vegan, there is a good chance that it is not. Don’t let these bullies push their products on us unknowingly. Make sure your money is supporting true vegan brands.

Stay vigilant, my friends. ❤