Good mental health is not rocket science – or is it?

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This summer my husband and I decided to spend our summer vacation in Scotland. After a week in Scotland, I wanted to resign my job and rent a cottage in the mountains where I would be able to detach myself from the world for a while, reading books, drinking tea and write postings for my blog. I felt so relaxed, happy and stress-free.

It took a few days for my body to settle into vacation mode. The first day, we got up at 7 in the morning – we were the first guests for breakfast at the hotel and the first people at the tourist information in Inverness. We had many plans as to what we wanted to see and explore and we planned days ahead and made plans for the entire week of our vacation. We did explore many exciting touristy things in and around Inverness but the last few days of our vacation I could feel that my body was tired of constantly being on the go. I had pains in my legs and feet from all the walking and I was tired of planning what the next attraction should be on our trip.

I found out that I was “managing” my vacation like I manage my job. I plan every single minute of my day and the next – and that is very stressful and not a lot of fun. The last days of our stay in Scotland my husband and I spent playing cards in the garden of the hotel – drinking G&T’s and whisky – and me and my body loved those hours. Chilling, napping, spending time together with my husband doing nothing really. The last day of our holiday I started looking for cottages to rent in the area – I was ready to debug my mind and body of any lingering stress and just find my inner stress-free peace of mind. A week was not enough to do that. But I reckoned that three months in a cottage in a rural area of Scotland would do the trick.

I envy the people who dare to let go and rent that cottage without thinking about the “consequences”.

So, on the plane back to Denmark I started thinking about why so many of us in this part of the world prioritize our job over our minds. What if we managed our mental health the same way as we plan and manage our job? What if we were just as determined about our mental health as we are with the job assignments we get at work? These questions are not unique and are being asked more frequently – but what are we doing about it?

What if our mental health had the same status and priority as our job?

Good mental health is not rocket science. But with more and more people collapsing under extreme work pressure and the constant utopia of rules of perfection we seem to create for ourselves, perhaps good mental health should be viewed as rocket science.

It’s like we are waiting for times to change for the better. We are waiting for the governments to find treatments for the rising percentage of people who get depression and anxiety. The thing is, that most governments want us to work more and longer hours so that we can keep up the world economy (I know this is very naively put – but bear with me). We are being cheered on when we work like animals to ensure prosperity and growth but regarded as a nuisance and an expense for societywhen we collapse under the pressure and need help to get back on our feet again.

Well, let me tell you a little secret. Nothing is going to change if we don’t start making the changes ourselves. Surprise!! I’m sure you know this already but I just wanted to emphasize this for you anyway.

Good mental health starts with you and your boundaries and your self-worth. If you like working 70 hours a week and love the rush of stress hormones in your body and if you believe that your job and job accomplishments define who you are – I respect that because that is your prerogative.  Me on the other hand, I’m on team “cottage-in-the-Scottish-countryside”.  I believe that we need to go back to basics to find the core reasons for happiness. We need to reestablish the respect for each other as human beings and prioritize our mental health.

In the UK, a group called The Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group (MAPPG) is introducing and encouraging mindfulness for employees in organisations. Jamie Bristow, Director of The Mindfulness Initiative writes in his foreword:

“We spend more of our time working than doing anything else, and researchers have found that these hours are on average the least happy of our lives. Endemic stress in knowledge-based
industries accounts for a large proportion of workplace absence and represents a huge loss of national productivity. Meanwhile, success in most organisations relies on the very things
that unhappiness and stress erode – collaboration, creativity, cognitive flexibility and effective decision-making. New perspectives from psychology and neuroscience, and publications like the UK Government’s 2008 Foresight report ‘Mental Capital and Wellbeing’, are increasingly helping leaders to see that the cognitive and emotional resources of their colleagues determine the health, resilience and future performance of their businesses and institutions.”
 
You can read more about the group and their work here

What a great initiative – what a great awareness. I know the group has the primary interest of UK business organisations and their productivity and the initiative might not solve all issues of stress and mental health for the individual employee – but it’s a start. It’s a recognition that we need to change the way we work and live. I hope more countries will follow this example.

I’m hoping for a mental health revolution. And I would be happy to start my revolution in a cottage in Scotland – a silent revolution for myself. If the entire world started to prioritize and respect the fact that without a strong and peaceful mind of each human being on this planet the future of this world looks very bleak.

We have the awareness and consciousness to prioritize mental health – so let’s do that. It’s not rocket science.

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