Everyone’s Role in Promoting Mental Health
By Joe Ryan
As we go about our busy lives, we are usually in the proximity or company of other people. Nonetheless, we can still feel isolated. Pressing business and personal obligations, a daunting workload, and the immediacy and impersonal nature of digital communication rob us of the warmth and pleasure of human interaction in our daily existence. The pandemic has had a debilitating effect on the emotional state of people of all ages. Children have been significantly impacted. Their social development was halted when they had to stay home, separated from friends, extended family, and teachers.
The scope of our health, of course, includes mind and body. It should never be taken for granted. We know we should strive to get adequate rest, follow a healthy diet, and exercise. Moreover, our image of others, the world, and our default self-image affect our mental well-being.
By nature, we humans are social creatures. Our well-being and survival depend on our interactions with others. As I alluded to, some of us are so consumed by our affairs that we have forgotten what it means to live in a society as actual social beings. Ironically, we depend on one another for all types of mutual support, communication, transactions, goods, and services.
So, you ask, what can I do to encourage my optimal mental health and that of others? It isn’t as difficult as it may sound. However, it will require some of us to step out of our comfort zone to tweak how we think and behave.
Numerous studies have discussed the many benefits of helping others. Acts of help and charity enhance the giver’s happiness! Those blessed with an abundance mentality are far more apt to help others because they live with a positive state of mind and can easily recognize possibilities instead of barriers. Even modest acts of kindness help sweeten the pot of humanity primarily because they, in turn, influence others to be kind and thoughtful. Kindness that is given and received helps everyone be a better person.
Here is an incomplete list of ways to enhance our happiness (a.k.a. self-help) and the mental well-being of others.
- Remember to acknowledge others with a smile, nod, or a simple greeting. Saying good morning or hello, communicates your recognition of them. This simple gesture might be enough to brighten someone’s dark mood or nudge them to have a more productive day or a needed sense of hope during a time of despair.
- Make a point of reaching out to others just to see how they are doing. Sadly, staying in touch is a forgotten practice. Create a reminder in your calendar to do this regularly. This is especially important if you have lost touch with someone. Your thoughtfulness will be appreciated more than you could know.
- If a neighbor, colleague, friend, or family member seems to be acting differently, bring it to their attention. You might say, “Bill, maybe it’s just me, but you haven’t been yourself lately. Is everything all right?” That simple question could be enough to encourage them to seek the help they need.
- If a stranger appears troubled, be a Good Samaritan and ask if they need help. If they do need help, do your best to help them. Don’t wait for them to ask you.
- Follow your gut instincts. Just because someone claims they are well does not make it so. Listen between the lines. Does their facial expression, posture, and overall demeanor betray their words? Express whatever concerns you may have and offer help.
- If you haven’t already done so, introduce yourself to everyone in your extended work department or group. This can feel uncomfortable for the more introverted among us, but nothing beneficial comes from remaining in one’s comfort zone.
- When a colleague, friend, family member, or acquaintance reaches you by text, email, or voice mail, respond as soon as possible. No one likes to feel ignored.
- Hold the door for the person behind you. Add a smile and a hello for a personal touch.
- Smile more often.
- Stop for pedestrians (even in Boston) and give the right of way to other motorists when it’s safe.
- Be conscious of your own biases. Everyone has them! Do you always treat everyone with the same amount of respect and consideration? People sometimes get ranked, even unconsciously, by another person’s perception of where they place on a scale of importance and utility. Those deemed important and useful earn the better version of us, while those considered less valuable may be treated with less consideration. Respect is a universal value and quality without an on/off switch. Treat everyone, regardless of their actual or perceived status, with respect. To earn respect, it must be given.
- Assumptions (especially about people) are just assumptions.
- Judge actions, not people.
- As with respect, etiquette is a quality and value without an on/off switch. Always remember to recognize and acknowledge others. Manners are still relevant.
- Be kind and considerate.
- Be patient with others. They, in turn, will be patient with you.
- “Thank you” is a powerful yet frequently forgotten expression. Express your appreciation and gratitude freely. Better yet, live in a state of gratitude. Consider all the many people and aspects of your life for which you feel grateful.
- Consider creating a gratitude journal. At the end of each day, record the events that made you feel grateful.
- Cherish those things that make you and others unique and different.
- Everyone makes mistakes. Sometimes, those mistakes can be whoppers! Remember to cut others some slack when they make mistakes.
- Mistakes help us grow.
- Holding a grudge is toxic! Forgive others and move forward. Remember to forgive yourself!
I regard humanity as a massive pot of swirling and contradictory energy and emotion.
By striving to be the best version of ourselves, we emit positive energy (a vibe) that
influences and benefits those around us. Have you ever noticed how things seem easier
and people are more approachable when we choose to live in a state of abundance? It
is not a coincidence!
Joe is a member of the DMHA. He and his wife, Kathy live in Dover. Joe is a adjunct college instructor, leadership coach, and a retired HR professional.