September, Mental Health Month

August 29, 2014

September, Mental Health Month

By Perry Shumway
August 29, 2014

September, Mental Health Month

By Perry Shumway

Mental Health

“Our attitudes control our lives.  Attitudes are a secret power working twenty-four hours a day, for good or bad.  It is of paramount importance that we know how to harness and control this great force.”  By Irving Berlin, a Russian immigrant to the United States– widely considered to be one of the greatest songwriters in American history.  Some of his more well-known songs were “White Christmas”, “There’s No Business Like Show Business”, “God Bless America”, and “Always”.

From the New York Times best-seller, “The Reality-Based Rules of the Workplace: Know What Boosts Your Value, Kills Your Chances, and Will Make You Happier” by Cy Wakeman:
What does it mean to be “reality based”?
Being reality-based is all about ditching the drama, because most of the drama in our lives has nothing to do with reality.  It’s the story we make up about reality.  For instance, if my boss asks me a question, I might think, “He’s micromanaging me, checking up on me.”  The reality is that my boss asked me a question.  The rest is a story I made up.  The average person spends two hours a day in drama.  That is a ton of emotional waste.  When people let go of their drama, they are able to use those two hours a day for productivity, and they are happier because their morale is not affected by the stories they make up about their circumstances.  (Emphasis added)

How can employees become more reality-based?
Quit believing everything you think.  Step back and question it.  When you run into a problem at work, don’t assume your co-workers are incompetent or undermining you.  Ask: “What do I know for sure?”  What’s left are the facts.  Then ask, “What could I do to add value?”  Look for ways to solve the problem and contribute.  That way, you eliminate all of the energy that goes into drama.”

Many of us spend more waking hours at work than at home.  Therefore, the majority of our happiness comes from our working day.  Work cannot, by itself,  make us happy, but we can make daily choices to help us be happy at work and that happiness is critical to our overall health and well-being.

– Prepared by Toni W.



In searching the literature on Mental Health, it is difficult to find a straightforward definition of Mental Wellness.
Although many adults do not fit snugly into descriptions of depression and anxiety, depressive symptoms and behaviors that identify anxiety are seen in many people. Unfortunately, even if these adults recognize their depressive symptoms and feelings of anxiety, and even if low-cost treatment were available around the corner, the stigma of mental illness inhibits many of them from seeking help.
It is important to keep in mind that no one is perfectly mentally well and no one is completely mentally ill. Each of us is a mixture of illness and wellness. We all have different “hot buttons.” What might depress or upset one person may not affect the next person. In addition, we all have different “breaking” or “burn-out” points. The best questions we can ask ourselves are “What factors and skills lead to a healthier state of mind?” and “What are our weaknesses and strengths?”
Our baseline mental wellness is determined mostly by our biology. If we are not challenged by genetic or other brain or body abnormalities, we may have an easier time achieving a healthier mental state. However, even if we are affected by biological circumstances beyond our control, we can still develop skills and utilize psychological tools that will help us maximize our potential for enjoying life and reaching goals.
The factors that will help any of us achieve healthier states of mind are self-appreciation, resilience (optimism, perspective, meaning, humor), affiliation, negotiation, curiosity, exercise and leisure activities (reading, board games, playing musical instruments, and dancing). In fact, if we each made a list of our shortcomings in these areas and worked on them proactively, we would each “pump up our mental wellness power” significantly.
Our individual biology and the brain structure that we were born with and which develops as we age may be the only limiting factor in how far we can pump up our mental wellness, but within each of our individual structural limitations, there is room to improve our mental fitness. It is not unlike the limitations we each have for how fast we can run or walk or move in some other fashion. We all start with a different body, but we all can learn the skills for quicker movement.
The five factors that I feel are involved in the equation of mental wellness are noted below
Resiliency researchers and experts might say that resilience is the overriding characteristic which predicts how well we handle challenges to our physical or mental health. In my opinion, no single strength or weakness, on its own, predicts what may happen. For instance, a person with limited resilience may have great affiliation skills and their network of mutual support may get them through some hard times just as well as someone with greater resilience but who has less of a network of mutual support. So, the equation for mental wellness is:
Mental Wellness = self-appreciation + resilience + affiliation + negotiation + mental and physical exercise.

– Prepared by Teresa M.