Somewhere around the end-point of the year I take an interest in those annual reviews of the year that you commonly come across in the media. Google's review of top search terms offers an especially good insight into what the world took an interest in each year. Despite 2021 being a year of challenges, there's a lot of heart-warming stuff to discover in Google's summary of 2021. I was pleased to discover that Google's summary shows an increased global focus on kindness, positivity, mutual support, conservation and wellbeing.
I took a particular interest in discovering that the search term "how to maintain mental health?" spiked this year. This question was searched globally more than ever before in 2021.
This is a big deal for me and it may well be for you too. Wellbeing is arguably the single-most important thing we possess and we live in a world that either challenges or supports the way we feel. Given what the past couple of years have thrown in our direction, no wonder that the answer to the question of "how to maintain mental health?" has been so sought after in 2021. I carry a deep hope that 2022 provides answers to those embarking on this particular search.
If you want a tip from a guy who has been on this journey and who coaches others on theirs; let me share this with you:
Your wellbeing isn't just about the way your mind works, it's about your environment too - your workplace, your home and your social environment. In the right environment for you, you can do well. It's in more challenging environments that your wellbeing might be affected. I believe that everyone is entitled to be themselves and to be valued for who they are; and this, in part, involves having an environment that you feel comfortable in.
Looking at wellbeing this way – being as much about your environment as it is about the mind – opens up a world of possibilities. That's because when we see wellbeing as being solely or mainly about the mind, we feel stuck and solutions feel like they can only come from specialists and medical practitioners. But when we see wellbeing as also being about the environment we live, work and socialise in, we are more empowered.
You can own your environment. You can take control of it. You can change it. Not always, and not completely, but you have considerable ability to create an environment around you that supports your wellbeing.
So if you want to find your holy grail and discover your answer to that BIG question of "how to maintain mental health", my tip is to look at the environment around you. Be mindful of your workplace environment, your home environment, your social environment. By being mindful, work out the situations that help you stay resilient and try and increase these in your life. These are likely to be the sort of situations in which you feel you can be yourself. If you like, just assess each situation as it comes along and ask yourself "how comfortable do I feel?"
Then work out the situations that you find challenging and try to develop techniques to help you stay resilient in these challenging situations. These are likely to be the sort of situations where you have to work hard to try and 'fit in'. The bigger the effort you put in to make sure you 'fit in' to an environment that you feel uncomfortable in, the more your wellbeing is likely to be impacted.
In short: as best you can, create an environment where you can most naturally just be yourself and take care of how much effort you spend feeling obliged to 'fit in' to an environment that you don't feel comfortable in.
And if you manage or lead other people, have a think about whether you really know or understand the people you support. Think about whether you are giving them an environment that they feel comfortable in or are you asking them to 'fit in' to your view of how they should be. Try to understand the working environment that they feel most comfortable in; encourage them to be themselves; let them feel purposeful and successful doing what they do best; and value them for who they are.
As managers and leaders, when we get this right we create a culture which not only drives positive wellbeing, but also creates a sense of inclusion for all, as people bring their whole selves to work and they feel valued for who they are.
This isn't necessarily the right answer and it certainly isn't the only answer to that BIG question of "how to maintain mental health"; but at the very least it's food for thought and I hope it helps you set yourself up for 2022.
All the v best for 2022