Is it just me or are things looking a little brighter lately? Maybe not sunshine and rainbows just yet (is it ever?), but in general, as the sun literally shines brighter and longer in the sky it's a great time of year to take a moment, reflect on how much of a challenge the last year has been, find gratitude where it fits and ready ourselves for the next part of our journey.....which fits perfectly, since May is Mental Health Awareness Month.
With that in mind and throughout May we will be using the weekly blog to highlight some of the important information that relates to mental health, stress management, well-being and the connections to our physical health.
Abrupt change is hard....all over the world
The World Happiness Report, which is a deep dive into subjective well-being (the more scientific term for happiness) across 95 countries and going on for nearly a decade, showed a very clear trend, in 2020 negative emotions were more common across more than 40% (including the US) of the countries studied while less than 10% had fewer negative emotions.
In fact, as the USC Understanding America Study showed, mental health concerns like anxiety and depression along with stress and distress all rose significantly in the early phase of the pandemic but have since leveled off considerably.
But the news is not all bad. In terms of overall well-being, so many have shown incredible resilience and resolve, ranking their life satisfaction (using a tool called the Cantril Ladder) near the threshold of "Thriving", the highest category, which factors into an overall ranking of well-being as 14 for the US which represents progress over the course of time.
3 Practices that can help
Perhaps one of the most important aspects of well-being is that it can be cultivated.....that is, we can work on it and improve it over time.....and as we do we enter into an upward draft....getting more resilient to the stresses we face. Here are a few practices that really jump out as effective from the literature:
(1) CONNECT - building relationships that you can rely on with people you can trust is critical to our sense of security and well-being. Although this can be family, it doesn't always have to be. The most important thing seems to be the effort made and the trust gained over time. Whether it be picking up the phone to check in with someone or sending a simple text letting someone know you care, staying connected even in a distanced world is KEY.
(2) Self-care - energy management through personal health practices (MOVE-FUEL-RECOVER) are a major pillar in nearly all evidence based well-being strategies. Small steps can go a surprisingly long way. Whether that's a walk, a healthy meal or just a good night's rest, physical health stimulates mental health. Try to build a streak!
(3) Letting Go of the Unchangeable - This can be incredibly difficult.....but also amazingly effective. Working to understand the line between what is under our control and what is not consistently enhances personal well-being. Working to accept the things we cannot change is a well known tactic.....step by step....day by day.
There are of course many many more tactics. We will explore more next week......but if you want to learn more before then, check out some of the Tools2Thrive developed by Mental Health America, one of the nation's leading non-profit organizations in this area of health.
Until then, have a great weekend,