Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Happiness and mental wellbeing

Wellbeing has been in the news a lot lately, what with last Monday 17th Jan being identified as the gloomiest day of the year, and today, Tuesday 25th rumoured to contain the most stress (and a happy Burns Nicht to you too, Mr. Compiler of happy facts). And yesterday the BBC weighed in with an initiative to get us to measure our happiness.

But what does it all mean? What is happiness? And what is mental wellbeing? After all, it's so subjective. Your idea of a great night out at the footie is my idea of torture.

The key thing to remember is that the one does not equal the other. We have the sense that good mental wellbeing is crucial to being happy. But we cannot be happy all the time and forever. We can have moments of happiness but we cannot live life on a permanent upward trajectory. But we can still look after ourselves and love ourselves. Contentment might be the key.

Viktor Frankl said that happiness is what gives our life meaning. And for many of us, it's what we do and how we live emotionally that gives our life meaning. For example, doing kind things for others can make us feel good about ourselves, give us a warm glow. And it doesn't have to cost a bean. Living in central London as I do, I encounter people all the time who are lost: tourists, people down for an interview, people applying for a passport, or simply travellers hoping to get from the train to the coach station. They are standing in front of a map, turning it this way and that, and wearing that look on their face which says: I don't want to get stressed, but this ongoing helplessness is beginning to wind me up. So I ask them if they need help and - knowing my 'hood as well as I do - I can usually set them on their way.

It's a teeny, tiny thing, it costs me nothing at all apart from maybe a minute out of my day, and off such people go, feeling a bit less stressed. A random act of kindness. Maybe not leading on either side to full-blown I've just got engaged/won the lottery/scaled Kilimanjaro type elation, but something to improve mental wellbeing.

What random act of kindness will you make today?

1 comment:

  1. my perspective is from the workplace - I read Frankle as part of my own search for answers to what makes people happy at or in their work? My opinion is there is a tri-vectored thing around a sense of "worth" that includes
    1) sense of vital mission - involved in something important or useful
    2) sense of equity - am I getting a fair trade, what I get out vs what I put in?
    3) community - do I feel respect for and respected by those above, below and around me?

    Where these things are present, I find "happiness" as a general state; and more importantly to my perspective, these 3 things are something as a leader that I can impact.