mental health

Why Watching YouTube Videos Don’t Work for Your Mental Health, but THIS Will.

I watch my fair share of YouTube videos on personal development and self-help. I’ve recently been watching a few Gary Vaynerchuk vids on achieving success and how we need to take ownership of our shit. His messages are essentially the same as many of the other personal development experts about discovering self-love, self-worth and not caring what other people think about you, except he throws in some F-bombs and delivers his messages assertively and with a certain panache. I know I blogged about this recently, but there’s so many other personal development experts online to choose from depending on which flavor you prefer each day. I think it’s empowering to have someone out there light a spark in our brains to make us think more deeply about ourselves and to understand why we feel stuck sometimes, whether it’s from stress in life or dealing with mental health challenges such as depression and anxiety.

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I recently read this popular quote online with thousands of “likes” the other day by Dr Bessel vander Kolk, a Boston psychiatrist who specializes in trauma:mental health

Like the thousands of others, I clicked the tiny heart-shaped icon on the bottom left of the photo.

If there should ever be a quote that truly defines how I felt during my struggling years with anxiety and stress during my past relationships, this sums it up. Any feedback to me was seen as a personal attack that I was not good enough while loud noises such as music glaring in the car or at home clouded my mind and triggered the shouting and screaming that took place at home growing up. It’s an amazing quote that hits the nail on the head precisely for myself as a survivor of childhood abuse and as an adult who lives with depression and anxiety.

But then, something struck me after I digested the quote. It also made me think back to all the videos I’ve watched on personal development. All of them carry a voice of empathy. They understand the challenges and pain for people who struggle with their mental health and personal development. But something was missing I felt in almost all the messages…what was missing?

I re-read Dr vander Kolk’s last sentence in the quote: “And so what we have learned is that what makes you resilient to traumas is to own yourself fully.” 

Similar messages are in almost all the YouTube videos…“own yourself fully.”

I snickered a bit because myself and millions of others read, re-read, re-post, preach, like and and remind each other on social media everyday to own yourself fully.

But is it enough to just tell someone to own yourself fully?

The answer is no.

What’s missing in most of the messages whether on YouTube or quotes such as these is the action steps on how you can take ownership of yourself. And no, the answer isn’t by watching more YouTube videos and reading more quotes.

The answer is by practicing your developmental skills over and over again.

No, it’s not pretty, sexy, inspiring or trendy to say that. I get it. No one likes to be told what to do, but the truth is, we’re never going to learn squat just by watching, reading and liking the wonderful and fluffy words that gets all the attention.

I read a quote just before writing this which said,

Nothing works unless you do. – Maya Angelou

Ain’t that the truth!

Here’s my summary on why ONLY watching videos doesn’t quite cut it for me:

  1. Desire alone isn’t enough to change.
  2. Talk is cheap.
  3. Watching and reading isn’t going to change how your brain shifts and manages your mental health and development.

mental health youtube

Here’s what I feel needs to happen for change to occur:

  1. Actively practice coping skills you learn repeatedly. Any of these will begin to help you rewire your brain:
    1. Breathing.
    2. Mindfulness.
    3. Meditation.
    4. Self-awareness and body recognition skills.
    5. Understanding your past and processing those thoughts with a professional counsellor.
    6. Writing.
    7. Self-care.
    8. Tools such as tapping and challenging your unhealthy thoughts.
    9. Understanding your triggers and recognition of them.
    10. Plus any other tools you learn by reading, watching YouTube vidoes, online courses or learn from counsellors.
  2. Monitor your progress in life and compare and contrast over time. Change doesn’t occur overnight and not when we say we want to change. Change that’s sustainable can take years or even a lifetime (something those videos don’t tell you, because it ain’t sexy to hear that!)
  3. Stay consistent and like any other skill you learn (bike riding, cooking, learning a new job) all takes time and constantly doing this over and over again to get good at it.

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So the next time you sit in front of a screen and watch another Gary Vee vid on changing your life, remember the change isn’t going to happen by watching a guy pump inspirational ideas into you. It can spark the idea of change, but the real change begins to happen when you actually do the work.

It’s not the most popular point of view, but if we don’t practice what we learn, we’re just listening to some guy talk on and on about the same thing.

That being said, instead of just reading and clicking like on my blog, why not actively make the change happen for yourself right now?

Jason

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Jason Lee, Author of Living with the Dragon. Photo by Kristi MacFarlane Photography.

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