Category Archives: relationships

Is it a toxic friendship/relationship?

Many of us have friendships/relationships that are unhealthy for us and may not even be aware. I will list 5 ways that will help you know whether you are in a toxic friendship/relationship.

  1. Lack of trust. One of the most important feelings to have in a relationship is trust. If you feel like you can’t trust the other individual, then this is probably not the best relationship for you to be in. Trust gives you peace of mind when it comes to relationships. Take the trust away, and it is an unhealthy and emotionally draining relationship to be in.
  2. You are always the hero. Saving the other person in a particular situation is great if it happens only sometimes. I am not saying that being supportive is a negative thing, but being supportive at the cost of your own well being might not be the best of situations. If you consistently have to save the person, whether it be emotionally or financially, then you will likely not have enough time for yourself and it is likely not a relationship of mutual caregiving. We all have our ups and downs, so when you hit a low point in your life, it is important to guarantee that you have the ability and the time to nurture and take care of yourself.
  3. Being constantly judged and criticized. If the other person constantly criticizes you and points out your weaknesses, then that is a sign that you are being put down rather than uplifted in that relationship. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, but if your weaknesses are constantly being pointed out and your strengths are being ignored, then that person might not be fully accepting of who you are.
  4. Not being accepted. If you constantly find yourself in a position where you need to defend your opinion or change your opinion in order to be accepted, then you might be in an unhealthy relationship. Feelings of acceptance and belonging are vital for healthy human functioning, and we all have a right to feel accepted without the need to constantly explain ourselves.
  5. Communication issues. Do you constantly feel like you are talking to the other person and they are not listening to you or not remembering what you said? If the answer to that question is yes, then it may be difficult to reach a mutual agreement in many aspects of the relationship or friendship. Furthermore, this could indicate that the other person is occupied with another aspect of their life and are not ready to be an equal partner in your relationship. This type of relationship could easily turn into an “all take and no give” relationship that is unhealthy, and even toxic, for you.

By: Ghinwa El-Ariss

Ghinwa El-Ariss holds an Honors Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology and Environmental Studies from the University of Toronto. She will be pursuing her Master of Science degree in Psychology at Trent University starting September 2017. She is passionate about Psychology and the Environment. She hopes that her blog posts help you learn a bit about her and her take on certain things. Most importantly, she hopes that you enjoyed what you read!

The Mental Impact of ‘Grey Divorce’


‘Grey divorce’ (divorce in those aged over 50) is fast becoming known as ‘the new norm’, with Statistics Canada stating that divorce rates have been consistently rising in this age group, and percentages predicted to rise over the next few years as people continue to age. Researchers attribute rising grey divorce rates to many factors, including rising lifespans and seniors’ refusal to settle for an unhappy or unsatisfying marriage. Many see their winter years as an opportunity for newfound independence and freedom. Others wish to meet a partner they can truly feel connected to. Still others are battling mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression as a result of being in an unhappy marriage for so many years.

Depression as a Source of Stress

Chronic stress is related to a host of physical and mental conditions, including cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, anxiety, and depression. Depression in any age is considered the second most stressful life event, as per the Holmes-Rahe Stress Scale. From a financial perspective, spouses may find that they no longer have the comfortable ‘nest egg’ or pension they were looking forward to enjoying in their senior years. The average cost of a divorce in Canada stands at around $13,000 for a contested divorce, and around $1,400 for an uncontested one.

Grey Divorce is More Economically Stressful

Economists Angela Hung and David Knapp recently compared the financial impact of divorce among couples aged in their 30s and 50s, respectively, finding that those who split up in their 50s are much worse off economically. “if you get divorced in your 30s you still have time to re-enter the workforce if you need to or change your career path. You also have 30 to 40 years to accumulate assets [for retirement]. If you split up in your 50s, you have a much shorter time horizon,” they told Global News Canada. Reduced earnings and the cost of divorce can hit one’s finances at an extremely vulnerable time of life. Evidently, the level of financial stress depends upon issues such as whether or not alimony is due, the extent to which property or assets owned before marriage become mingled into family property, and the amount of family debt owed. Those with young children can also contest financial arrangements regarding their children’s schooling.

The Effect of Grey Divorce of Overall Health

Research has pointed out that the lower one’s socio-economic status, the harder grey divorce can be. Those who have less means are more likely to battle issues such as depression, anxiety, and loneliness. Getting a divorce can result in couples suddenly having a vastly reduced social network and lower quality of relationships.

Looking for the Silver Lining

Divorce can also affect one’s mental health positively. For instance, those who have been battling depression and stress because they have been putting up with a marriage that makes them unhappy, can delight at their newfound independence. Many seniors also look forward to the chance of meeting someone else. In fact, online dating among seniors is the fastest growing demographic in this industry.

Seniors are living longer, which in itself is a key reason to pursue happiness – even if this means taking the big, bold step that divorce entails. Seniors should be aware of the stress that their decision can entail, taking proactive steps to reduce stress. Yoga, meditation, and spirituality are just a few proven methods to lower levels of stress hormones, which if left unchecked can lower quality of life and provoke physical and mental illness.

By: Jennifer Dawson 

Summer Date Ideas in Toronto


Every couple goes through their share of thinking that they have exhausted all possible date night options. However, with summer creeping just around the corner, there’s no shortage of things to do in Toronto. From activities that allow you to escape the heat to enjoying the beautiful natural resources of the city, we have you covered with having an unforgettable summer with your significant other.

Hit up one of Toronto’s many Food Festivals

Toronto has wide selection of food festivals that happen every summer! From Taste of Asia to Toronto’s Ribfest, there is bound to be a festival that satisfies your tastes.

Cool off at one of Toronto’s ice cream parlours

Summertime in Toronto means it’s time to cool off with some of the city’s best frozen treats. Satisfy your sweet tooth for extravagant cones, scoops, and ice cream sandwiches, by trying out all the unique ice cream and gelato shops in the city. Some suggestions include; Sweet Jesus, Eva’s Original Chimney’s, Arctic Bites, and La Paloma.

Spend a day at Kensington Market

Take a stroll in one of Toronto’s most unique and lively neighbourhoods – the one and only Kensington Market. This neighbourhood is full of local businesses, including art shops, bars, vintage stores, and cafes. It’s nearly impossible to become bored in Kensington Market, despite its small size. Sundays are perfect for this date idea, as it is labelled “Pedestrian Sundays in Kensington” since they close down the streets and Toronto’s local artists, musicians, and performers come out.

Toronto Islands

Although closed until the beginning of August, visiting Toronto Islands is a must during the summer months. With bike trails and canoeing, music festivals of all genres, beaches to tan on, and a miniature theme park with an outdoor maze to become a little kid again, the Islands is enjoyable for all.

Ripley’s Aquarium

Spend the day cooling off by visiting this gigantic aquarium boasting 35,000 square feet of sea and freshwater creatures. With sharks, stingrays that you can pet, and daily shows, the Aquarium makes a perfect date. Bonus points, the Aquarium is located right by the CN Tower and the Rogers Centre, which makes for a scenic walk and lots of things to do on a date.

Toronto Zoo

If you’re wild about your significant other and animals, definitely head over to Toronto Zoo during the summer! This enormous zoo will take up the entire day to explore, as it comprises of seven unique regions, including a Tundra Trek and a Canadian wildlife section.

Patio restaurants

Whether it’s private, elegant, casual, sprawling, or shaded, a patio date can be one of the loveliest ways to enjoy an evening with your significant other. Toronto’s plethora of restaurants, cafes, and bars will have you covered with finding a perfect patio for you and your date. Here are just a few of my suggestions: Amsterdam Brewhouse, The Wallflower, Bandit Brewery, Gusto 101, El Catrin, The Dime, and Queen Mother Café.

Picnic

With summer in full swing and gorgeous weather peeking in, a picnic is the perfect date to enjoy food, nature, and especially your loved one’s presence. Here’s a small list of Toronto’s most beautiful parks so that you can escape the urban jungle and enjoy the city’s greenery: Bluffers Park, High Park, Riverdale Park, Dufferin Grove, and Edwards Gardens.

Movie under the stars/outdoor screening

Free outdoor movies appear often throughout the summer amongst various venues and parks in Toronto. Catch a flick with your loved one in the city or go for a short cruise to a drive-in theater along the GTA. My picks include the 5 Drive-in located in Oakville, Landing Park’s City Place, Regent Park’s Weekly Under the Stars movie night, and Toronto Harbourfront’s Free Flicks.

Day trip in Niagara Falls

Take the GO transit, Greyhound, or your own vehicle, and enjoy a weekend getaway at Niagara Falls. Spend the day as tourists and check out the gorgeous Falls by taking the Maid of the Mist or by simply walking along the beautiful path. Also, if you are a shopping enthusiast, there are plenty of outlet stores and malls nearby, as well as the obvious option of crossing over to the States! Finally, enjoy Clifton Hill and its many touristy attractions including, haunted houses, funhouses, and wax museums.

Berry picking

Support a local farm while experiencing a fruitful and tasty experience by picking berries in the GTA. Some farms include Whittamore’s Berry Farm in Markham, the Applewood Farm Winery in Stouffville, Downey’s Farm Market in Brampton, and Walch Family Strawberries in Stratford.

By: Maryam Sorkhou

Maryam Sorkhou is a second year student specializing in psychology at the University of Toronto. Her research interests comprise of mood and personality disorders. She hopes to pursue a career in clinical and counselling psychology, in which she can reduce the stigmas that are often associated with mental illness.

How to Fight with a Loved one


One of the things that distinguish us from one another is individuality. While this characteristic brings wonderful things like creativity, when it comes to interpersonal interactions, it is also this individuality that brings unexpected friction. Fights occur when two people’s personalities (inclinations, preferences, temperaments, etc.) clash. When this happens, we tend to use our own frame of reference to understand the other person’s behavior. The result, more often than not, is an exaggeration of the original conflict, which still persists despite all the verbal exchange.

Our values are so important to us that we spend a lot of time trying to preserve them. When fights occur, we tend to invalidate the other person’s values in favor of our own because we have a bias towards ourselves. Therefore, the first thing you might want to do is just listen to the person you’re arguing with. It sounds simple, but in the heat of an argument, taking the time to listen to the other person’s perspective can be quite difficult. The good news is that we can train ourselves to be better at listening by starting with daily conversations. One useful standard for judging the accuracy of your understanding of others is to articulate their thoughts as you think you understand it. Ask the person for feedback on your interpretation, so that you can begin to understand other people’s perspective when you’re not in an argumentative situation.

Only after achieving this understanding, can we have a real argument—a fight that actually means something and can produce something. After making sure you understand the other person’s perspective accurately, you should focus on the influence of what that person said to you. That is, how did that person’s thoughts make you feel, or what part of it did you not understand, etc. Ask questions based on these feelings or thoughts that appear in your head as you achieve an understanding of the other party. Don’t furnish it too much, be genuine and authentic—otherwise by the end of it you won’t resolve the real problem, but a furnished, decorated one. At this point, you will should be able to sort out the components of the conflict—what, exactly, was the cause of the fight. With this advance, at least now you both can strive to make the situation better. Remember, this is not about which of you is “right” or whose idea is “better.” This is about building a new house that fits both of you so that neither gets squished out or crushed down.

Fights are inevitable in genuine relationships. For the relationship to survive and evolve, we need to learn how to properly have a fight. And the secret to it is to listen and reproduce the other’s minds before you state your own.

By: Ruihong Yuan

Ruihong is a graduate from University of Toronto with a major in Psychology and Physics. He is currently looking to gain either clinical or research experiences in psychology. His goal is to become a clinical psychologist with his own practice and research in order to help people improve their lives and explore the mysterious human mind.

How to Have a Hard Conversation


One complaint that I often hear people making is “How do I speak to that individual?” As humans, we have a tendency to avoid tough conversations because we fear a negative outcome. These hard conversations can create a lot of anxiety, especially when the outcome can affect your work life, education, and/or involve family/friends. Within a professional context, there are all kinds of situations where initiating and engaging in conversation is absolutely necessary. I will list several factors that I believe are necessary for having a successful hard conversation.

1. Manage your expectations. It is important to know that not everyone will always agree with what you have to say. Be open to being wrong and compromising, as the person may perceive the situation in a different manner.

2. Manage your nerves. It is important to know how to soothe yourself in a situation that may be distressing to you. Our minds will often imagine the worst-case scenario when engaging in something this is anxiety provoking. We need to know how to calm our nerves before engaging in the conversation. An approach that I find very helpful is to listen to relaxing music before the conversation.

3. Have an open mind. Enter the conversation with the attitude “I want to learn and get the best out of this conversation.” When you focus on the ultimate goal of the conversation, which is usually to learn about a particular subject, your nerves will subside.

4. Use attentive gestures. I believe that smiling and nodding from time to time during the conversation will signal to the other person that you are carefully and respectfully listening to what they have to say. This will show them that you are paying attention and will also ease the flow of the conversation.

5. Take notes. By taking notes on what the other person is saying, your mind will automatically generate more questions that you probably hadn’t previously thought about. As a result, you will be able to get as much information as possible out of the hard conversation.

6. Believe in yourself. Always know that you have given it your best and that you are a capable person. Even if you think of better ways to reply after the conversation is over, that’s okay! That is a signal that you have learned a new way of thinking about the topic of the conversation. Just by believing in yourself, you are already half the way through the hard conversation!

By: Ghinwa El-Ariss

Ghinwa El-Ariss holds an Honors Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology and Environmental Studies from the University of Toronto. She will be pursuing her Master of Science degree in Psychology at Trent University starting September 2017. She is passionate about Psychology and the Environment. She hopes that her blog posts help you learn a bit about her and her take on certain things. Most importantly, she hopes that you enjoyed what you read!

Down the Rabbit Hole

As Alice, from the classic novel and film Alice in Wonderland, follows the well-dressed rabbit down the rabbit hole, one is left to wonder – why? Most advice would say to stay away from the uncertainty of the rabbit hole. However, the rabbit hole can be symbolic for one’s mind and how we sometimes let ourselves go down the rabbit hole of our thoughts, whether we intend to or not. For example, when your friend doesn’t answer their phone, you might begin to wonder why they didn’t answer, even though the first logical thought is to assume they are just busy. Your thoughts may wander to thinking that they are ignoring you, that they are hanging out with new friends and didn’t invite you, or that they don’t care about you to the same extent that you care about them. If you find yourself going down the rabbit hole here are some suggestions to stop your mind from wandering to these unwanted thoughts.

1. Remember that even though it may feel personal, it probably isn’t. We tend to have a bias towards the negative, which can often make us feel like others are criticizing us, ignoring us, or have some sort of complex plan to mistreat us. But more often than not, what may feel like a personal attack is just someone being preoccupied with themselves.

2. Acknowledge you have gone into the rabbit hole. When you start making assumptions based on insufficient information, take a step back and tell yourself not to worry until you have a chance to talk to the person. If you can’t detect that you have gone down the rabbit hole, you won’t be able to stop it.

3. Focus on yourself to identify the trigger. Notice how you are feeling right before you go down the rabbit hole? Often people go down the rabbit hole when they are feeling overly tired, anxious, stressed, or annoyed. Once the trigger is identified, try finding a way to calm down and distract yourself. I recommend writing a list of things that you can do when your feeling overwhelmed. For example, watching Netflix, breathing exercises, stretching, listening to music, or going for a walk. These can help center you in these moments.

4. Remind yourself of the facts and bring some context into the scenario. Referring to the phone example – what time of day is it? Does this person usually answer their phone? Is it possible they don’t enjoy speaking on the phone? Is there a productive way you can raise your concern about the lack of telephone response with the person? Do you always answer your phone when people call?

5.What can you do in this moment to be productive? This may be thinking about the situation more deeply, or it may be moving on to another task. You can almost always come back to a situation later, let time give you some perspective.

6. Forgive yourself and move on! Sometimes it’s okay to go down the rabbit hole, as it can be beneficial and sometimes even fun to consider multiple scenarios and let your mind wander. You shouldn’t feel guilty when your mind leads you to negative thoughts. Just accept that this will happen from time to time and know that it will pass. Be kind to yourself!

By: Sara Pishdadian

Sara Pishdadian is a graduate student studying Clinical Psychology at York University. You can follow her on twitter to hear more about her research interests https://twitter.com/sarapishdadian.