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  • I grew up with my identical twin,

  • who was an incredibly loving brother.

  • Now, one thing about being a twin is that 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 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 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 that we spend more time taking care of our teeth

  • than we do our minds.

  • Why is it that our physical health is so much more important to us

  • than our psychological health?

  • 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."

  • (Laughter)

  • It is time we closed 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 five 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 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,

  • "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 that after being away for over 10 months,

  • he no longer missed me the way I missed him.

  • 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 off 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.

  • Now 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 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.

  • Loneliness causes high blood pressure, high cholesterol.

  • It even suppress 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 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 that 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 day care center,

  • where I saw three toddlers play with identical plastic toys.

  • You had to slide the red button, and a cute doggie 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 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 doggie 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 that 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'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.

  • There 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?"

  • (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 didn'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 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 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,

  • "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 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.

  • And 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'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're 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.

  • One of 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 big fight with a friend

  • and you just can't stop replaying the scene in your head for days,

  • sometimes for weeks on end.

  • 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 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 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 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.