Stories of research, nutrition, and nature

In closing

It’s officially time to put this blog to rest, methinks. I haven’t been around that many gorges lately (except the local Kanjoni) and nowadays I mostly just eat food rather than study it. The way I see it, eating right is easy if eating is a response to physical hunger instead of an emotional one (and given that one can afford the food, of course). Food is fuel that our bodies need, simply put.

Before turning off the lights on this blog, I thought to write a bit about emotional hunger. It comes in many different colours. One that I’ve known intimately stems from loneliness – the need to belong, to hold someone close, to love and be loved, to be able to show insecurities and painful memories without being judged. The hunger for acceptance. It took me many years to learn that to be accepted by others, we must first learn to accept ourselves. Maybe it’s hard to understand for you who have never felt alone and isolated, wrapped tight in your own self-loathing and feeling that something is fundamentally wrong with you. Feeling you don’t have anything valuable to give to the world, although you fervently wish you could be strong and brave and noble.

That kind of emotional hunger didn’t really lead me into overeating, I escaped into fictional worlds instead. I could be brave and strong in stories even if I couldn’t do it in real life. My younger self was avoiding social situations, and every occasion that I skipped made going into the next one more difficult. Fearing that I’d say something stupid (or worse: nothing at all) and that I’d start trembling or blushing or sweating. To give some perspective on the timeframe, I think this started on the sixth grade and lasted at least ten years, although the strength of the symptoms varied over the years.

It’s somewhat difficult to pinpoint exactly when things started to change. I guess the need to belong was persistent enough that I slowly started exposing myself to situations where I would meet more people. I was also fortunate enough to have a younger sister who I could always rely on, although I shut away the most painful experiences even from her. Studying psychology helped me to finally realize some basic stuff: I didn’t need to blame myself for everything (they call this “attributional style”) and I wasn’t the only one in the world with these symptoms. I finally forgave myself and let go of my past mistakes. I also met a person who saw straight into my soul, embraced what he saw and wanted no pretence in any aspects of life.

Why am I writing about this now and why should anyone care, you may ask? One of the reasons is that I think – no, I know – that many of us are somehow wounded inside. We try not to show our insecurities and fears to others, and develop different sorts of coping strategies to plod through our daily existence. I’ve wasted a lot of time wallowing in my own anxiety, trying to hide from the world instead of welcoming what it has to offer. So I’m writing this in hopes that others wouldn’t need to struggle as much (and yes, I know that my struggles have been quite tiny in comparison to real problems). Traditionally, we Finns are quiet and restrained people, only opening up while intoxicated. I want to help to change that. If I’ve learned, anyone can.

So. The current hypothesis is that we can reach a lot of people through web and mobile who otherwise can’t find help early enough. For those who speak Finnish and are interested in mental wellbeing, we recently released an app for that. It’s called Oiva (http://oivamieli.fi/) and it’s a neat package of brief exercises based on acceptance and commitment therapy. I wish I would have had something like this ten or fifteen years ago, but better late than never.

Bye-bye, blog. It was a good time with good people, but it’s time to move on. And for you who had the stamina to read this far, thanks. Hoping to stay in touch.

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