How to practice emotional hygiene | Guy Winch | TEDxLinnaeusUniversity

I grew up with my identical twin it 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 I wasn’t starving 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 this favoritism we show the body over the mind I see it everywhere I recently was at a friend’s 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 a 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 have to practice dental hygiene right we we know it since we were 5 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 of 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 oh just walk it off it’s all in your leg 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 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 five minutes a week when our birthday rolled around it was the first we wouldn’t be spending together we decided to splurge and that week we would talk for 10 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 okay he’s out with friends he’ll call later there were no cell phones then but he didn’t and I began to realize that after being away for over 10 months he no longer missed me the way I missed him now 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 it was he pissed it was the saddest and longest night of his life as well now I try 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 that 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 is a lot of research on loneliness and all of it is horrifying loneliness won’t just make you miserable it will kill you I’m not kidding chronic loneliness increases your likelihood of an early death by 14 percent 14 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 scientists have concluded that taken together chronic loneliness poses as significant a risk for your long-term 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’re injured loneliness isn’t the only psychological wound that distorts our perceptions and misleads us 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 books with her lower lip trembling the little boy next to her watched this happen then turned to his books 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 tripped 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 get 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’ll 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 that 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 a police car stopped us they had been a robbery in the area and 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 and I said in the front seat but that made no sense to him whatsoever so now he thought I was on drugs 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 that 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 our minds and our feelings they’re not that trustworthy friends we thought they were they’re 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 and he seemed nice and he seemed successful and most importantly he seemed really into her so she was very excited 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 are not interested and walks out rejection is extremely painful the woman was so hurt she couldn’t move all she could do was 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 can 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 rightly we wouldn’t make a physical injury worse on purpose you wouldn’t get the cut on your arm and decide oh I know I’m 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 we have to catch our unhealthy psychological habits and change them and 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 were 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 and really important so it’s a difficult habit to stop I know this for a fact because a little over a year ago I developed the habit myself you see my twin brother was diagnosed with stage 3 non-hodgkins lymphoma his cancer was extremely 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 couldn’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 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 your self-esteem by battling negative thinking you won’t just heal your psychological wounds you will build emotional resilience you will thrive you know 100 years ago people began practicing personal hygiene and life expectancy rates rose by over 50% 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 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 and 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]


  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

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