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How to practice emotional hygiene | Guy Winch | TEDxLinnaeusUniversity


Translator: Yuanqing Edberg
Reviewer: Ivana Korom I grew up with my identical twin, who was an incredibly loving brother. Now, one thing about being a twin
is it makes you an expert at spotting favoritism. If his cookie was even slightly bigger
than my cookie, I had questions. And clearly I wasn’t starving. (Laughter) When I became a psychologist, I began to notice favoritism
of a different kind. And that is how much more
we value the body than we do the mind. I spent nine years at University
earning my doctorate in Psychology, and I can’t tell you how many people
look at my business card and say, “Oh, a psychologist,
so not a real doctor.” As if it should say that on my card. (Laughter) This favoritism we show
the body over the mind, I see it everywhere. I recently was at a friends’ house, and their five-year-old
was getting ready for bed. He was standing on a stool
by the sink brushing his teeth, when he slipped, and scratched his leg
on the stool when he fell. He cried for a minute,
but then he got back up, got back on the stool
and reached out for a box of Band-Aids to put one on his cut. Now this kid could barely
tie his shoelaces, but he knew you have to cover a cut,
so it doesn’t become infected, and you have to care for your teeth
by brushing twice a day. We all know how to maintain
our physical health and how to practice dental hygiene, right? We’ve known it
since we were five years old. But what do we know about maintaining
our psychological health? Well, nothing. What do we teach our children
about emotional hygiene? Nothing. How is it we spend more time taking care our teeth
than we do our minds? Why is it our physical health
is so much more important to us than our psychological health? You know we sustain psychological injuries even more often than we do physical ones. Injuries like failure or rejection,
or loneliness, and they can also
get worse if we ignore them. And they can impact our lives
in dramatic ways. And yet, even though there are
scientifically proven techniques we could use to treat these kinds
of psychological injuries, we don’t. It doesn’t even occur to us
that we should. “Oh, you’re feeling depressed,
just shake it off, it’s all in your head.” Can you imagine saying that
to somebody with a broken leg, “Just walk it off, it’s all in your leg.” (Laughter) It is time we close the gap between
our physical and our psychological health. It’s time we made them more equal. More like twins. Speaking of which,
my brother is also a psychologist. So he’s not a real doctor, either. (Laughter) We didn’t study together, though. In fact, the hardest thing I’ve ever done
in my life is move across the Atlantic
to New York city to get my doctorate in psychology. We were apart then,
for the first time in our lives, and the separation
was brutal for both of us. But while he remained
among family and friends, I was alone in a new country. We missed each other terribly, but international phone calls
were really expensive then, and we could only afford
to speak for 5 minutes a week. When our birthday rolled around, it was the first
we wouldn’t be spending together, we decide to splurge, and that week
we would talk for ten minutes. I spent the morning pacing around my room, waiting for him to call, and waiting, and waiting, but the phone didn’t ring. Given the time difference, I assumed “OK, he’s out with friends,
he will call later.” There were no cell phones then. But he didn’t. And I began to realize,
after being away for over ten months, he no longer missed me
the way I missed him. And I knew he would call in the morning, but that night was one of the saddest
and longest nights of my life. I woke up the next morning, I glanced down at the phone, and I realized
I had kicked it off the hook when pacing the day before. I stumbled out of bed, I put the phone
back on the receiver, and it rang a second later, and it was my brother,
and, boy, was he pissed. (Laughter) It was the saddest and longest
night of his life as well. I tried to explain what happened,
but he said, “I don’t understand,
if you saw I wasn’t calling you, why didn’t you just pick up the phone
and call me?” He was right. Why didn’t I call him? I didn’t have an answer then,
but I do today, and it’s a simple one. Loneliness. Loneliness creates
a deep psychological wound. One that distorts our perceptions and scrambles our thinking, It makes us believe those around us care much less
than they actually do. It makes us really afraid to reach out, because why set yourself up
for rejection and heartache, when your heart is already aching
more than you can stand? I was in the grips of real loneliness
back then, but I was surrounded by people all day, so it never occurred to me. But loneliness, is defined purely,
subjectively. It depends solely on whether you feel emotionally or socially disconnected
from those around you. And I did. There’s a lot research on loneliness and all of it is horrifying. Loneliness won’t just make you miserable,
it will kill you. I am not kidding. Chronic loneliness increases your
likelihood of an early death by 14 percent. Fourteen percent. Loneliness causes high blood pressure,
high cholesterol, it even suppresses
the functioning of your immune system, making you vulnerable to all kinds
of illnesses and diseases. In fact, scientist have concluded
that taken together, chronic loneliness poses
a significant a risk for your longterm health and longevity
as cigarette smoking. Now, cigarette packs come with warnings
saying, “This could kill you.” But loneliness doesn’t. And that’s why it’s so important we prioritize our psychological health. That we practice emotional hygiene. Because you can’t treat
a psychological wound if you don’t even know you are injured. [Pay attention to emotional pain] Loneliness isn’t the only
psychological wound that distorts our perceptions
and misleads us. [Failure] Failure does that as well. I once visited a daycare center
where I saw three toddlers play with identical plastic toys. You had to slide the red button,
and a cute doggy would pop out. One little girl tried pulling
the purple button, then pushing it, and then she just sat back
and looked at the box with her lower lip trembling. The little boy next to her,
watched this happen, then turned to his box,
and burst into tears without even touching it. Meanwhile, another little girl
tried everything she could think of until she slid the red button, the cute doggy popped out,
and she squealed with delight. So three toddlers
with identical plastic toys but with very different
reactions to failure. The first two toddlers were perfectly
capable of sliding a red button. The only thing that prevented them
from succeeding was their mind tricked them
into believing they could not. Now, adults get tricked this way
as well all the time. In fact we all have a default set
of feelings and beliefs that gets triggered whenever
we encounter frustrations and setbacks. Are you aware of how
your mind reacts to failure? You need to be. Because if your mind tries to convince you you’re incapable of something and you believe it, then like those two toddlers,
you’ll begin to feel helpless, and you’ll stop trying too soon
or you won’t even try at all. And then you will be even more convinced
you can’t succeed. You see, that’s why so many people function below their actual potential. Because somewhere along the way,
sometimes a single failure convinced them they couldn’t succeed, and they believed it. Once we become convinced of something, it’s very difficult to change our mind. I learned that lesson the hard way. When I was a teenager with my brother. We were driving with friends
down a dark road at night, when the police car stopped us. There had been a robbery in the area,
they were looking for suspects. The officer approached the car, and he shined his flashlight
on the driver. Then on my brother in the front seat,
and then on me. And his eyes opened wide, and he said, “Where have I seen your face before?” (Laughter) And I said, “In the front seat.” (Laughter) But that made no sense to him whatsoever. So now he thought I was on drugs. (Laughter) So he drags me out of the car,
he searches me, he marches me over to the police car, and only when he verified
I don’t have a police record, could I show him I had a twin
in the front seat. But even as we were driving away,
you could see by the look on his face, he was convinced
I was getting away with something. Our mind is hard to change
once we become convinced. So it might be very natural to feel
demoralized and defeated after you fail. But you cannot allow yourself
to become convinced you can’t succeed. You have to fight
feelings of helplessness. You have to gain control
over the situation, and you have to break this kind
of negative cycle before it begins. [Stop emotional bleeding] Our minds and our feelings, they are not the trustworthy friends
we thought they were. They are more like a really moody friend, who can be totally supportive one minute,
and really unpleasant the next. I once worked with this woman who after 20 years of marriage
and an extremely ugly divorce, was finally ready for her first date. She had met this guy online,
he seemed nice and successful, and most importantly,
he seemed really into her. So she was very excited,
and she bought a new dress, and they met at an upscale
New York City bar for a drink. Ten minutes into the date,
the man stands up and says, “I’m not interested”, and walks out. [Rejection] Rejection is extremely painful. The woman was so hurt,
she could’t move. All she could do is call a friend. And here’s what the friend said,
“Well, what do you expect, you have big hips,
you have nothing interesting to say, why would a handsome,
successful man like that ever go out with a loser like you?” Shocking, right,
that a friend could be so cruel. But it would be much less shocking if I told you it wasn’t
the friend who said that. It’s what the woman said to herself. And that’s something we all do. Especially after a rejection. We all start thinking of all our faults
and all our shortcomings what we wish we were,
what we wish we weren’t, we call ourselves names. Maybe not as harshly,
but we all do it. It’s interesting that we do, because
our self-esteem is already hurting. Why would we want to go
and damage it even further? We wouldn’t make a physical injury
worse on purpose. You wouldn’t get a cut on your arm
and decide, “Oh, I know, I am going to take a knife
and see how much deeper I can make it.” But we do that with psychological injuries
all the time. Why? Because of poor emotional hygiene. Because we don’t prioritize
our psychological health. We know from dozens of studies, that when your self-esteem is lower, you are more vulnerable
to stress and to anxiety, that failures and rejections hurt more, and it takes longer to recover from them. So when you get rejected,
the first thing you should be doing is to revive your self-esteem, not join Fight Club
and beat it into a pulp. When you are in emotional pain, treat yourself with the same compassion you would expect from a truly good friend. [Protect your self-esteem] We have to catch our unhealthy
psychological habits and change them. One of the unhealthiest and most common
is called rumination. To ruminate, means to chew over. It’s when your boss yells at you, or your professor makes you
feel stupid in class, or you have a big fight with a friend, and you just can’t stop replaying
the scene in your head for days, sometimes for weeks on end. Now ruminating
about upsetting events in this way can easily become a habit,
and it’s a very costly one. Because by spending so much time focused on upsetting
and negative thoughts, you are actually putting yourself
at significant risk for developing clinical depression, alcoholism, eating disorders
and even cardiovascular disease. The problem is, the urge to ruminate can feel really strong, really important,
so it’s a difficult habit to stop. I know this for a fact. Because little over a year ago,
I developed the habit myself. You see my twin brother was diagnosed with stage III non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. His cancer was extremly aggressive, he had visible tumors all over his body. And he had to start a harsh course
of chemotherapy. And I couldn’t stop thinking
about what he was going through, I could’t stop thinking
about how much he was suffering. Even though he never complained, not once. He had this incredibly positive attitude. His psychological health was amazing. I was physically healthy,
but psychologically I was a mess. But I knew what to do. Studies tell us
that even a two minute distraction is sufficient to break the urge
to ruminate in that moment. And so each time I had a worrying,
upsetting, negative thought, I forced myself to concentrate
on something else until the urge passed. And within one week,
my whole outlook changed, and became more positive
and more hopeful. [Battle negative thinking] Nine weeks after he started chemotherapy,
my brother had a CAT scan, and I was by his side
when he got the results. All the tumors were gone. He still had three more rounds
of chemotherapy to go. But we knew he would recover. This picture was taken two weeks ago. By taking action when you’re lonely, by changing your responses to failure, by protecting yourself-esteem, by battling negative thinking, you won’t just heal
your psychological wounds, you will build emotional resilience,
you will thrive. A hundred years ago,
people began practicing personal hygiene. And life expectancy rates rose
by over fifty percent in just a matter of decades. I believe our quality of life
could rise just as dramatically if we all began practicing
emotional hygiene. Can you imagine,
what the world would be like if everyone was psychologically healthier? If there were less loneliness,
and less depression? If people knew how to overcome failure? If they felt better about themselves,
and more empowered? if they were happier, and more fulfilled? I can, because that’s the world
I want to live in, and that’s the world
my brother wants to live in as well. If you just become informed,
and change a few simple habits, well that’s the world we can all live in. Thank you very much. (Applause)

Reynold King

100 Replies to “How to practice emotional hygiene | Guy Winch | TEDxLinnaeusUniversity”

  1. Loved it. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with all. Personally, I practice 6 dimensions of health. I call them the circle of health – Physical, mental, emotional, spiritual,social and financial health. Each of these areas play a dynamic roles depending on ones needs at any given time of one's life

  2. This is the best Ted talk I've ever seen and I've seen a LOT of them. No fillers, just to the point and engaging lecture.

  3. how can there be dislikes to something like this,
    It's NOT a sarcastic statement I pose,
    but I would like to know in what possible frame of mind or thought can someone hate this.
    I would really like to know the dimension of their thinking.
    Any haters kindly respond.

  4. What you are neglecting to mention is that the cigarette becomes a poor substitute for loneliness if you have never smoked it is impossible for you to fully understand this. No I'm giving up sick of its 12 years ago or more but I do recall how it made me felt and believe me it becomes your friend delusionally.

  5. Dr. Guy Winch, thank you so much for this eloquent and to the point lecture. Now I understand so much about me from you that other mental health professionals were unable to convey. Your words rung so true that I cried. Very educational and moving. You are a blessing to the world. Again, thanks from the bottom of my heart.

  6. "It's time to close the gap between our physical and psychological health" So true. Modern culture definitely needs to close this gap.

  7. I feel really better now after a shocking incident I had gone through. I still can't stop ruminating

  8. Wow that was such an amazing story!
    I’m so happy to see the picture of them both side by side. 💕This was very informative and the way he described what loneliness does was an interesting perspective and relatable. I feel like this going to truly help many people!!

  9. I realized a year or so ago that I was truly inclined to be kinder to my biggest enemy (should he/she call me, say, in the middle of the night and ask me to help) than I ever was to myself (even on a good day). I have spent the last year practicing meditation and taking extra good care of myself so that when the mean self-talk starts, I have evidence to show "it" that I am better. This talk is frickin brilliant and one that I will watch regularly.

  10. Out of curiosity, as twins,(paternal twins?) were they subjects of psychological studies when they were children… And if so do they believe that they learned that thought process, language and culture and it contributed to their choice of profession?

  11. How beautiful this one phenomenon is? One has one expertise and he probes deep on it coz he knows how to search/research and what to search/research. Other person has different expertise thus he has sth significant findings to tell to this world. They all meet on this forum and help to make this world a better and better place to live in. I will surely change at least few people's lives positively with the knowledge I have and that I will gain in future. Long live wisdom and TED TALKS.

  12. Thank you. I love everything about this speech. It’s profound and authentic. I’m so happy your brother overcome his illness. Much love and blessings to you both.❤️

  13. “LONELIENESS: Creates a deep physiological wound, one which distorts our perceptions and scrambles our thinking. It makes us believe that those around us care much less than they actually do. It makes us really afraid to reach out; why set yourself up for rejection and heartache, when your heart is already aching more than you can stand” ….

    “LONELIENESS is defined purely subjectively; it depends solely at whether you feel emotionally or socially disconnected from those around you.”

    WOW, WOW, WOW!!!! THIS has been the missing link is my journey!!!!! Knowledge is VERY powerful!

  14. I definitely have the same problem that caused you not to call your brother while expecting him to call but it's much broader in my life though

  15. Remember men if your date expect you to treat her with a meal and she has no treat for you, have enough courage and self respect to tell her you're not interested and walk out.

  16. Watching this at 3 am really gets your mind going
    So glad I found TEDx also a good laugh when feeling down… I really needed this

  17. I also have a younger brother, we were quite twin until elementary years, the interesting point though, is he's very psychologically but his physical health was somewhat not very stable while I'm very healthy in physic (although his physic build is much stronger than me) but, especially lately, my psychological health was more or less dreadfully.
    P.S. Lately I have been cured myself by being mindful, meditation, and learning consciousness. Thanks.

  18. Emotional hygene? Sleeping? Dreaming? Have you heard of that? You earn money with this BS? and sorry loneliness doesnt kill anyone, neither depression, don't BS people!

  19. A minor wound should not be covered. Let it air and dry. Cover will give you infection. Of course, this does not change nature of this great talk. Thanks.

  20. "….. Our quality of life will raise drastically if we all began to practice emotional hygiene…if people knew how to overcome failure…that's the world we can live in……"

    Thank you!

  21. If you are amidst the wrong sort of people, it would be worse than loneliness. With loneliness the risk of early death maybe 14%but if you have for company wrong kind of people, the risk could be 28%.

  22. Dr. Winch, congratulations on your brother's health. I almost lost a brother I am very close, too and his survival was the best gift I have received in life so far.

  23. Omw, I haven't even watched this one yet but I'm already snapping my fingers to the title. Oh Lord!🙌🙌🙌

  24. This video helped me. I'm passing through all this, a few minutes ago I was so frustrated without the desire to live anymore and I saw this video in the recommendations. Just what I needed, thank you

  25. I had/have a Problem with a specific thought about living in a Simulation that made me feel extremely lonely and sad. This thesis isnt true or false, and therefore not verified. But the possibility that it is real made me think that everything is fake and I slowly began to derealize. Ruminating about this scenario and the emotions towards my Family and others which would be fake in this case, let me burst into tears a lot of times. But this video gave me so much motivation to just believe and fight for myself. I thank you so much

  26. Gold Medal! Of all the TedTalks if enjoyed (and I've enjoyed many), this is The Best!
    Critical topic, given the attention and treatment that it requires … Finally!

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