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Maisie Allum

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I’m sure I can speak for us all when I say my screen time has significantly gone up throughout the pandemic. As much as I don’t like to admit it, it’s the result of mindlessly scrolling on Instagram. However, research suggests that the app may contribute to adverse psychological outcomes and poor appearance-related self-perception or as some call it ‘influencer envy’.

The rise of technology has meant the ability to manipulate the way we look has become effortless. Subsequently, new generations are exposed to much more than just airbrushed photoshoots in magazines. A few scrolls down our feed and most of us will see Instagram models, influencers and even peers who perpetuate an unattainable standard of beauty whether it’s “knowing your angles”, a face filter or smoothing out your skin. Apps such as Facetune allow physical features to be manipulated entirely with the click of a few buttons, removing imperfections to whiten teeth, slim waists and reduce sizes to be accepted as beauty ideals.

Comparison Culture

Social Comparison Theory’ suggests individuals drive to evaluate their progress and in the absence of objective standards, people compare themselves to others to know where they stand. However, on Instagram, we can compare ourselves to these edited pictures or individuals with cosmetic surgery (without realising). You may think you easily spot editing; however, only 60%- 65% of the time people recognise edited photos.

A debate has arisen about whether it should be compulsory for manipulated faces and bodies to be labelled as edited on Instagram. This has been proven somewhat controversial- what is your take? On the one hand, it creates a warped sense of beauty, especially for vulnerable women with lower self-esteem. However, is it right to police people’s bodies, especially when it may make the poster feel more confident? Researchers found that viewing an idealised image from social media had a negative influence on women’s body image, no matter if it came with a disclaimer or not. Although, disclaimers lead viewers to form a less favourable impression of the poster. This suggests it may do more harm than good as the posters emotional wellbeing may lower with no effect on the viewer.

A rise in cosmetic surgery 

Evidence suggests social media pushes us to take part in life-threatening beauty trends in the interest of acceptance and social compliance in society, affecting emotional wellbeing. WomensHealth found that those in their 20s desired the fox eye effect of having eyes stretched upwards and back (as if pulled in a secure high ponytail) more than any other age group. This leads to surgery involving implanting dissolvable threads under their skin to hoist it up or Botox to raise their eyebrows. This was most likely the result of repeated exposure to this popular beauty trend and wanting to look more like models such as Bella Hadid. It seems women persist in internalising these beauty ideals as a model for their own comparisons. Consequently, steps need to be taken to help those affected by idealised images on Instagram.

With that Being Said Positive Psychology Can Help…

Positive emotions broaden momentary ‘thought-action repertoire’ (so, like how joy sparks the urge to play), which widens an individual’s mindset. Having an open mind while scrolling down the gram means you are more receptive to different information types. Putting you in an excellent position to judge whether the image is altered and whether or not you should engage in social comparison. These actions then become internalised and lead to feelings of acceptance.

In a 2020 study, women either observed ‘Instagram vs reality’, ‘ideal’ or ‘real’ images. Viewing the ‘Instagram vs reality’ and ‘real’ images whilst identifying the ‘ideal’ images as fake, disrupted the ‘social comparison process’ and reduced body dissatisfaction. This research suggests Instagram can enhance self-esteem with the photos associated with hashtag trends such as #instagramvsreality and #nomakeup as they promote self-acceptance. 

“If positive psychology teaches us anything, it is that all of us are a mixture of strengths and weaknesses. No one has it all. No one lacks it all.”

– Christopher Peterson

Therefore, follow some ‘real’ accounts representative of yourself to minimise the risk of engaging in unhealthy social comparison. 

Here are my recommendations for excellent reality-checking and body positivity accounts: 

1.  @danaemercer

“Reminding you you’re special.”

2. @planetprudence  

“Helping you see that your thoughts aren’t alone.”

3. @celebface

“WELCOME TO REALITY.”

4. @stephanieyeboah

“Self Love Advocate”

5. @hi.ur.beautiful 

“Here to remind you that there is no bad way to have a body.”

So what’s stopping you from using Instagram as a tool to foster an appreciation for the full spectrum of beauty!

Sweet dreams? What’s that? Despite us all knowing how important it is to get our 8 hours every night, most of us do not get enough sleep. According to the sleep council, 40% of people suffer from sleep issues, so you’re not alone. However, as we head into the winter months alongside Lockdown 2 anxiety the more sleep we get, the better our mental and physical health. As we all know, pyjamas come in different styles and materials but how much do they really impact our sleep patterns? 

Pyjamas or no pyjamas? 

To wear them, or not to wear them. What you wear to bed affects how hot or cold you are and maintaining the optimal temperature for sleeping (around 20C) is essential for a good nights rest (Guardian).

survey of 1,200 adults revealed that 37% wear PJs, 23% prefer just underwear and 19% go for shorts and T-shirts. As well as a third saying they liked to sleep naked. However, less common options were also revealed: 1.3% sleep in a tracksuit, 0.8% wear a hoodie, and 2.5% opt for an onesie. I don’t know about you but, those sound a little too hot for me even with the temperature dropping. 

Getting your shut-eye naked may keep you cool but for winter, wearing pyjamas seems the better option. Perhaps compromise for a looser fitting set that moves freely with you.

What material is best? 

Research suggests that fabric is the key to achieving optimal temperatures to help you get a good sleep.  One study found that wool is an efficient insulator that can influence skin warming and promote sleep onset and sleep quality at lower temperatures (Shin- Chow et al, 2016). 

Also, the type of material you wear to bed may be crucial in the amount of time it takes you to nod off. One study explained that wearing wool pyjamas instead of cotton gives up to 15 minutes’ extra sleep (Telegraph). Australian researchers found that students in their 20s fell asleep four minutes faster on average when wearing pyjamas made from merino wool rather than cotton. Similarly, those aged 65 to 70 fell asleep after 12 minutes when wearing wool compared with 22 and 27 minutes for those wearing polyester or cotton. Therefore, it seems best to consider natural fibre wool as the material to go for this winter. 

‘Smart’ Pyjamas 

The worlds of fashion and science have collided once again with Trisha L. Andrew, PhD leading a team at the University of Massachusetts designing the “Phyjama,” as (American Chemical Society). These smart pyjamas use self-powered sensors to monitor heartbeat, breathing and sleep posture, all contributing factors that impact sleep. In the future, these Phyjamas could be used to give us tips for a better sleep based on our own bodies behaviour. 

So, although you can’t get your hands on any “Phyjama’s” yet, invest in a good set for the winter months to come. Luckily the Fashion is Psychology Team is on hand to provide you with top pyjama recommendations according to science.

Top 5 Pyjamas to buy now for the best sleep

RRP: Starting at £68.99

“A luxurious blend of merino wool and nature’s high tech fibre Tencel from eucalyptus provides you with featherlight, breathable warmth.”

RRP: £49.50 

“They’re made from cosy flannel cotton and have a drawstring waistband for a personalised fit.”

RRP: £40

Almond green knitted pyjamas, the perfect stylish set.

RRP: £49.99 

“This soft nightdress is made of high-quality organic merino wool. The itchy hairs of the wool fibres have been removed using a 16-hour enzyme treatment, making the dress feels nice and soft against your skin. The wool regulates your body temperature, keeping you comfortable so you can wear this nightdress all-year-round and get a good nights sleep.”

RRP: £15

“Get super-comfy this winter in this fleece pyjama set, complete with a seasonal penguin print.”