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 expertat spotting favoritism.
If his cookie was evenslightly 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 valuethe body than we do the mind.
I spent nine years at universityearning my doctorate in psychology, and I can't tell you how many peoplelook at my business card and say, “Oh — a psychologist.
So, not a real doctor, ” as if it should say that on my card.
Guy Winch, Just a Psychologist(Not a Real Doctor)] (Laughter) This favoritism we show the bodyover the mind — I see it everywhere.
I recently was at a friend's house, and their five-year-oldwas getting ready for bed.
He was standing on a stoolby the sink, brushing his teeth, when he slipped and scratched his legon the stool when he fell.
He cried for a minute, but then he got back up, got back on the stool, and reached outfor a box of Band-Aids to put one on his cut.
Now, this kid could barelytie his shoelaces, but he knew you have to cover a cutso it doesn't become infected, and you have to care for your teethby brushing twice a day.
We all know how to maintainour physical health and how to practice dental hygiene, right? We've known it sincewe were five years old.
But what do we know about maintainingour psychological health? Well, nothing.
What do we teach our childrenabout emotional hygiene? Nothing.
How is it that we spend more timetaking care of our teeth than we do our minds? Why is it that our physical healthis so much more important to us than our psychological health? We sustain psychological injurieseven more often than we do physical ones, injuries like failureor rejection or loneliness.
And they can also get worseif we ignore them, and they can impact our livesin dramatic ways.
And yet, even though there arescientifically proven techniques we could use to treat thesekinds of psychological injuries, we don't.
It doesn't even occur to usthat we should.
“Oh, you're feeling depressed?Just shake it off; it's all in your head.
” Can you imagine saying thatto somebody with a broken leg: “Oh, just walk it off;it's all in your leg.
” (Laughter) It is time we closed the gap between our physicaland 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 thingI've ever done in my life is move across the Atlanticto New York City to get my doctorate in psychology.
We were apart thenfor the first time in our lives, and the separation was brutalfor both of us.
But while he remainedamong family and friends, I was alone in a new country.
We missed each other terribly, but international phone callswere really expensive then, and we could only afford to speakfor five minutes a week.
When our birthday rolled around, it was the firstwe wouldn't be spending together.
We decided to splurge, and that week, we would talk for 10 minutes.
(Laughter) I spent the morning pacing around my room, waiting for him to call — and waiting .
But the phone didn't ring.
Given the time difference, I assumed, “OK, he's out with friends, he'll call later.
” There were no cell phones then.
But he didn't.
And I began to realizethat after being away for over 10 months, he no longer missed methe way I missed him.
I knew he would call in the morning, but that night was one of the saddestand longest nights of my life.
I woke up the next morning.
I glanced down at the phone, and I realizedI 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 longestnight of his life as well.
Now, I tried to explainwhat happened, but he said, “I don't understand.
If you saw I wasn't calling you, why didn't you just pick upthe 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 deeppsychological wound, one that distorts our perceptionsand scrambles our thinking.
It makes us believe that those around uscare much less than they actually do.
It make us really afraid to reach out, because why set yourself upfor rejection and heartache when your heart is already achingmore than you can stand? I was in the gripsof real loneliness back then, but I was surrounded by people all day, so it never occurred to me.
But loneliness is definedpurely subjectively.
It depends solely on whether you feelemotionally 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 increasesyour likelihood of an early death by 14 percent.
Fourteen percent! Loneliness causes high blood pressure, high cholesterol.
It even suppress the functioningof your immune system, making you vulnerable to all kindsof illnesses and diseases.
In fact, scientists have concludedthat taken together, chronic lonelinessposes as significant a risk for your long-term health and longevity as cigarette smoking.
Now, cigarette packs come with warningssaying, “This could kill you.
” But loneliness doesn't.
And that's why it's so important that we prioritizeour psychological health, that we practice emotional hygiene.
Because you can't treata psychological wound if you don't even know you're injured.
Loneliness isn't the onlypsychological wound that distorts our perceptionsand misleads us.
Failure does that as well.
I once visited a day care center, where I saw three toddlersplay with identical plastic toys.
You had to slide the red button, and a cute doggie would pop out.
One little girl tried pullingthe purple button, then pushing it, and then she just sat backand looked at the box with her lower lip trembling.
The little boy next to herwatched this happen, then turned to his box and burstinto tears without even touching it.
Meanwhile, another little girltried everything she could think of until she slid the red button, the cute doggie popped out, and she squealed with delight.
So: three toddlerswith identical plastic toys, but with very differentreactions to failure.
The first two toddlers were perfectlycapable of sliding a red button.
The only thing that preventedthem from succeeding was that their mind tricked theminto believing they could not.
Now, adults get tricked this wayas well, all the time.
In fact, we all have a default setof feelings and beliefs that gets triggered wheneverwe encounter frustrations and setbacks.
Are you aware of howyour mind reacts to failure? You need to be.
Because if your mind tries to convince youyou'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 moreconvinced you can't succeed.
You see, that's why so many peoplefunction below their actual potential.
Because somewhere along the way, sometimes a single failure convinced them that they couldn'tsucceed, and they believed it.
Once we become convinced of something, it's very difficult to change our mind.
I learned that lesson the hard waywhen I was a teenager with my brother.
We were driving with friendsdown a dark road at night, when a police car stopped us.
There had been a robbery in the areaand they were looking for suspects.
The officer approached the car, and 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 verifiedI didn't have a police record, could I show himI had a twin in the front seat.
But even as we were driving away, you could see by the lookon his face he was convinced that I was getting away with something.
(Laughter) Our mind is hard to changeonce we become convinced.
So it might be very naturalto feel demoralized and defeated after you fail.
But you cannot allow yourselfto become convinced you can't succeed.
You have to fightfeelings of helplessness.
You have to gain controlover the situation.
And you have to breakthis kind of negative cycle before it begins.
[Stop Emotional Bleeding] Our minds and our feelings — they're not the trustworthy friendswe 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 womanwho, after 20 years marriage and an extremely ugly divorce, was finally ready for her first date.
She had met this guy online, and he seemed niceand 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 upscaleNew 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 is extremely painful.
The woman was so hurt she couldn't move.
All she could do was call a friend.
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 friendcould be so cruel? But it would be much less shocking if I told you it wasn'tthe 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 faultsand 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.
And it's interesting that we do, because our self-esteemis already hurting.
Why would we want to goand damage it even further? We wouldn't make a physical injuryworse on purpose.
You wouldn't get a cut on your armand decide, “Oh! I know — I'm going to take a knife and seehow much deeper I can make it.
” But we do that with psychologicalinjuries all the time.
Why? Because of poor emotional hygiene.
Because we don't prioritizeour psychological health.
We know from dozens of studiesthat when your self-esteem is lower, you are more vulnerableto 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 Cluband beat it into a pulp.
When you're 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 unhealthypsychological habits and change them.
And one of unhealthiest and most commonis called rumination.
To ruminate means to chew over.
It's when your boss yells at you or your professormakes you feel stupid in class, or you have big fight with a friend and you just can't stop replayingthe scene in your head for days, sometimes for weeks on end.
Now, ruminating about upsetting eventsin this way can easily become a habit, and it's a very costly one, because by spending so much time focusedon upsetting and negative thoughts, you are actually putting yourselfat significant risk for developing clinical depression, alcoholism, eating disorders, and even cardiovascular disease.
The problem is, the urge to ruminate can feelreally 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 diagnosedwith stage 3 non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
His cancer was extremely aggressive.
He had visible tumors all over his body.
And he had to start a harsh courseof chemotherapy.
And I couldn't stop thinkingabout what he was going through.
I couldn't stop thinkingabout 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-minutedistraction is sufficient to break the urge to ruminatein that moment.
And so each time I had a worrying, upsetting, negative thought, I forced myself to concentrateon 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 sidewhen he got the results.
All the tumors were gone.
He still had three more roundsof 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 healyour psychological wounds, you will build emotional resilience, you will thrive.
A hundred years ago, people beganpracticing personal hygiene, and life expectancy ratesrose by over 50 percent in just a matter of decades.
I believe our quality of lifecould rise just as dramatically if we all began practicingemotional hygiene.
Can you imaginewhat the world would be like if everyone was psychologically healthier? If there were less lonelinessand less depression? If people knew how to overcome failure? If they felt better about themselvesand more empowered? If they were happier and more fulfilled? I can, because that's the worldI want to live in.
And that's the worldmy brother wants to live in as well.
And if you just become informedand change a few simple habits, well — that's the world we can all live in.
Thank you very much.