By Gemma O’Connell
Mental health plays a critical role in defining who we are, and shaping our thoughts, feelings, and actions. It influences how we handle stress, navigate relationships, and make choices. Despite its importance, mental health remains a largely neglected area, with millions of people around the world struggling to cope with anxiety, depression, and other conditions. The World Health Organization (WHO) and International Labour Organization (ILO) have launched new guidelines and policies aimed at addressing mental health concerns in the workplace, highlighting the urgency of the issue. In this article, we explore the concept of mental well-being, including the role of neuroplasticity in improving our mental well-being and the significance of the magic 5:1 ratio in building happy relationships. We also provide practical tips for promoting mental health and well-being, encouraging readers to prioritize self-care and actively work on their mental well-being.
How does our mental health define us?
Our mental well-being plays a crucial role in shaping our day-to-day lives, from our childhood years to our adolescent and adulthood stages. It is closely intertwined with our psychological, emotional, social, and financial health, impacting our thoughts, feelings, and actions. Our mental health determines our ability to cope with stress and bounce back from challenging situations, influences our relationships with others, and shapes our decision-making processes. Ultimately, our mental well-being is a fundamental aspect of our overall health and well-being.
WHO and the ILO addresses mental health in the workplace
Our mental health not only impacts our personal lives but also extends to the workplace. Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression result in a significant number of lost workdays and a significant cost to the global economy. In response, the WHO and ILO have recently released publications on mental health in the workplace. The WHO Guidelines on Mental Health at Work and the WHO/ILO Policy Brief emphasise the importance of taking immediate action to address mental health issues in the workplace. Given the high cost of mental health issues to the economy, it is clear that our mental well-being is not only a fundamental aspect of our overall health and well-being but also a critical factor in our ability to contribute to the economy and society as a whole.
The concept of neuroplasticity demonstrates the remarkable adaptability of the brain and its potential to enhance our mental well-being through learning and stimulating activities. Bruce Lipton’s perspective in the Biology of Belief expands on this idea, suggesting that our external signals and thoughts play a crucial role in determining our biological responses. This highlights the significance of positive thinking and the impact it can have on our mental and physical health. By promoting activities that engage our brains and promote positive thinking, we can enhance our mental well-being and overall health. Therefore, it is crucial to recognise the value of neuroplasticity and how it can positively impact our lives, including our ability to contribute to the economy and society.
Gottmans research & the magic 5:1 ratio
In today’s world, where food is abundant and our daily stressors are rarely life-threatening, our primal instinct for negative bias is no longer necessary. While this instinct once ensured our survival, it is now more likely to harm our mental well-being. Maureen Gaffney, in her insightful book Flourishing, discusses the impact of positive and negative internal dialogue in our relationships. Research by John Gottman at the University of Washington in the 1980s found that a ratio of 5 positive interactions to every negative interaction is the key to a happy relationship. Positive interactions include affection, laughter, physical touch, appreciation, and liking each other. By applying this 5:1 ratio in our relationships, both personal and professional, we can improve our mental well-being and that of those around us. It is essential to prioritize mental well-being through self-care, engaging in activities that enhance our mental, physical, and emotional well-being. By taking care of ourselves, we can have more energy and give the best of ourselves to others and the things that matter to us.
Reflecting on Your Mental Wellbeing: Questions to Ask Yourself and Ways to Hold Yourself Accountable
Consider these questions to reflect on your mental well-being:
- On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being ecstatic, how would you rate your happiness index?
- What are you doing to look after your mental well-being?
- Are you making enough time for activities that you truly enjoy?
- Do you frequently challenge your brain with activities that mentally stimulate you?
- Are you spending time with those people that genuinely have your back?
- Is your life a case of all work and no play?
- Are you living your purpose?
After considering these questions, let’s commit to actively working on our mental well-being by taking care of ourselves, engaging in activities that stimulate us, spending time in nature, exercising to get fresh air into our lungs, making healthy food choices, being kind to ourselves and others, regularly having fun and laughing, and actively working on shifting negative thoughts to positive ones using the 5:1 ratio.
Remember that this process takes time, patience, and practice, so be gentle with yourself as you work towards mastering it.
Gaffney, M. (2011). Flourishing: How to Achieve a Deeper Sense of Well-being, Meaning and Purpose Even When Facing Adversity. Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
Lipton, B. (2015). The Biology of Belief: Unleashing The Power Of Consciousness, Matter & Miracles. Hay House Inc.