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What does it mean to be in ‘goblin mode’ — and are you guilty?

Goblin mode is described as a way of life that gives people permission to ditch societal norms and embrace their basic instincts.
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The past two years have been hard on all of us, and everyone has found a different way to cope. Maybe you started a different workout routine or explored a new hobby to distract yourself. Or perhaps, like many of us, you've been so exhausted by the pandemic that you've slowly entered something called "goblin mode."

What is goblin mode?

In case you've never heard of the term (it was new to us, too), it's a trend that “embraces the comforts of depravity,” according to The Guardian, who recently reported on the phenomenon.

Goblin mode is described as a way of life that gives people permission to ditch societal norms and embrace their basic instincts. There’s no one-size-fits-all recipe for goblin mode, but it doesn't put a focus on healthy eating or appearance.

And for many social media users, letting their inner goblin out has been a freeing experience.

TODAY spoke to two psychologists and one nutritionist to get their input on the trend, and they weren't surprised to hear that many people have been embracing their inner goblin as a means of escapism.

"In goblin mode, an individual will do anything not to feel. Instead, they will escape by binge-watching Bravo or Netflix in bed all day while mindlessly scrolling on social media eating snacks rather than actual food to allow them to lose track of reality altogether," licensed psychotherapist and founder of Westside Counseling Center in Los Angeles Susan Zinn said.

Haylie Pomroy, a nutritionist and author of "The Fast Metabolism Diet," said it's only natural that people have turned to coping mechanisms in their diet to help them deal with the harsh realities we've all been living through.

"We adapt to our environment and until we are ready to transform under stress or until we have enough support to transform under stress, this is a defense mechanism that was shared by many during the pandemic," she explained. 

Is goblin mode really problematic?

We’ve all just been trying to get through the past two years. So is there really anything wrong with a so-called goblin mode? NYC neuropsychologist and director of Comprehend the Mind Sanam Hafeez said that extremes are never healthy.

“I don’t like to see my patients obsessed with every aspect of their physical appearance to the point where they are constantly feeling the need to alter it via aesthetic surgery. On the other hand, it’s a sign of depression if someone remains in a constant goblin mode and cares nothing about their appearance. There must be a happy medium," Hafeez told TODAY.

Most of us use goblin mode to escape reality, but Zinn said it can have the opposite effect on us in the long run.

"Goblin mode is a quick fix to escape their reality rather than choosing a healthier way to regulate their nervous system. Sadly, like all addictions and forms of escapism, participating in goblin mode behaviors will only reinforce feelings of anxiety," she explained.

How do we transition out of the goblin mode phase?

As COVID-19 restrictions ease and we begin to reenter society and live our "new normal," many of us might feel compelled to give our inner goblin a break, and the experts we spoke with said that's a healthy move. The key is to take things slow and try to take one step at a time as you revisit your old routines.

“It has been a long two years of isolation and quarantine, so take it slow and be mindful of how you feel with every new experience you are adding back into your life in this new liminal space of the “in between,” Zinn said. 

As for your diet, Pomroy said baby steps help but added that sometimes you need to be more strategic to nix bad habits and consider seeking out a nutritional program to help jumpstart healthy eating.

Are there any aspects of goblin mode we should consider keeping?

Believe it or not, there are several positive aspects of goblin mode that you might be tempted to retain as you reenter society, like caring less about what everyone thinks or feeling pressure to socialize and "be on" all the time.

“I suggest that people assess what is important to them. Perhaps material things and labels no longer mean as much. Maybe a woman who once highlighted her gray hair blonde feels confident letting it be natural. Those are healthy choices. Think about the authentic you that you wish to present to the world, not an idealized Instagram version," Hafeez said.

As for your diet, you don't need to ditch junk food for good. After all, what fun is that? Pomroy simply suggests being more mindful of what you're eating to power your body.

“Our bodies are fueled by nutrients, not by deprivation. You can put power on your plate and re-fall in love with food for all that it does for your body," she said.

Most importantly, don't be afraid to ask for help or talk things out with a friend.

"Talking to others can help normalizes your feelings and give hope for the future," Zinn said.

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