By Nadine Hickman
In my life time, since growing up in the 80's I've seen many changes in society. My kids love to talk about my childhood as "the olden days", not quite! But when I talk about things like only two TV channels, no computers, and one telephone stuck to the wall... in their eyes, that's 'the olden days'.
It's not only technological changes that we've seen over the last four decades, to me the other big changes have been in the ever increasing rules, regulations and box ticking that's part of our daily lives.
There are some things that we can tick a box for. For example, providing a physically safe work environment. We can identify hazards, mitigate these, and check in every six months or so, to tick that box.
My fear is that mental wellbeing is becoming 'just another box to tick'. For schools and organisations who are already overwhelmed with a myriad of compliance requirements, I understand why wellbeing feels like 'another thing to do' and why some may feel eager to tick that box and move on. Burn out is a hot topic right now. Why? Because it's a real threat in a society where overwhelm is the common underlying emotion many of us carry on our journey through every day.
Mental wellbeing is not a box that can be ticked, because it's never done. Mental health can be a difficult concept to grasp because we can't see it. A person can look fine and appear to be functioning, but we have no idea of the inner turmoil that may be going on inside them, until the point where it all comes crashing down. For many it's not until that moment when we mentally unravel and completely melt down, that we address our mental wellbeing. Even then we may do something like, take a break, prop ourselves up, and then solider back on.
To understand the illusive concept of mental health, let's relate it to physical health, which is tangible. When someone is physically unwell we can see it. The symptoms are visible. Furthermore, we understand that if we don't regularly do things to look after our physical health, like eat nutritious meals, exercise and get enough sleep, over time it will deteriorate. We accept that it's ridiculous to think we could eat one nutritious meal, go for one walk, or get one good night's sleep and tick our physical health box for the next six months. What we need to understand is that it's just as ridiculous to suggest we could practice mindfulness for one day, feel grateful for one day, or apply our highest character strengths to one task, and then tick off our mental health as done for the next six months.
No sorry, we can't tick the mental wellbeing box and be done with it. The good news is, there are MANY payoffs to making building mental wellbeing a daily practice. Some of them are long term, like increasing your longevity (you'll increase your chances of living longer), and others immediate, like when you make a list of all the things you're grateful for you can experience on instant shift in perspective and lift in mood.
The research tells us that these are some of the benefits we can expect to see in individuals and society from increased levels of metal wellbeing:
Personally when I'm mentally flourishing, which means I'm psychologically functioning on all cylinders, the differences I experience in my life, compared to when I'm not at my best mentally, are nothing short of incredible. How I function in my life and show up for myself and those I care about is like chalk and cheese. When I feel good I'm confident, motivated, creative, decisive, energised. I'm more likely to make healthy choices for my physical health, ie. exercise and eat well. When I feel good my ability to handle an obstacle, challenge, or extra things suddenly added to my to-do list, is far greater, I seem to be able to take things in my stride. But probably what I find most rewarding of all, is that when I feel good I'm able to show up for those I care about, as a loving and patient mother, wife, sister, daughter, aunty, and friend.
If box ticking is your thing, fair enough. How about listing mental wellbeing as several boxes to tick each day.
Did I consciously choose to notice the good in my day? Tick.
Did I make time to socially connect? Tick.
Did I learn something new? Tick.
Did I do something physical? Tick.
Did I do my 'what went well list' before bed? Tick.
Mental wellbeing consists of many small accumulative ticks each day, you'll soon discover it's addicting and it's worth it.
Make a list of your MENTAL WELLBEING DAILY TICK BOXES and post it on the fridge. How many can you tick off today, this week....
A Pep Talk is a vigorous, emotional talk intended to lift the spirits of yourself or someone else; and arouse positive feelings of happiness, enthusiasm, confidence, and determination to succeed.... PEPTALK as an organisation empowers people by delivering evidence-based knowledge and tools that build mental wellbeing and protect against mental illness, in engaging ways that are accessible, digestible, and actionable.