Depression is very common, with one in seven Australians experiencing it in their lifetime. Its severity can range from being mild to extremely debilitating, such that the World Health Organisation estimates that depression will be the number one health concern in both developed and developing nations by 2030. The positive aspects of this rise in depression are that effective treatments are continuing to be improved all the time, and that the stigma of mental illness has reduced dramatically. There are now ways to manage or overcome depression, and you don’t need to struggle alone without support.
Ever since hunter-gatherer days, social connectedness has played an important role in helping people cope with life’s challenges. The findings of an 80-year long Harvard study indicate that the quality of our relationships is the single most important determinant of wellbeing. So it is fair to say that tending to our relationships (friendships, romantic, or family) is a form of self-care, as is taking care of our body or our minds.
So how do we build fulfilling relationships? Try some or all of the following suggestions:
We’ve turned the calendar to a brand new decade, all shiny and full of promise. Yet now that we’re in February, disappointingly 80% of us will have already given up on our new year’s resolutions. Why is it that with such good intentions, improving ourselves seems so elusive? Part of the problem is that we tend to launch ourselves into resolutions without any preparation.
It’s unfortunate (but true) that all change involves temporary emotional or physical discomfort. It’s hard to choose to endure discomfort, and it requires self-discipline. The trouble is, we’re not born with self-discipline; we need to build it like a muscle. So before you sign up for a gym membership, spend a month building this muscle, and you’ll be better positioned to stick to your resolution.
So what is this thing called mindfulness? If you’ve read any self-help books or lifestyle articles over the last couple of years, chances are you’ve come across this word. Even my son in Year 4 has done a mindfulness exercise at school!
Mindfulness is not a new concept; it has been practiced for over 2500 years to help alleviate human suffering. In recent decades, its benefits have been proven by a multitude of research trials and it is now a component of many psychological therapies.
How many of us truly feel good about ourselves? It is often the case that in order to feel worthy we need to feel special and above average, or at the very least, “good enough”. This is problematic when it is (by definition) not possible for everyone to be above average! In part for this reason, psychology has moved away from the concept of high self-esteem as being desirable, and has moved towards researching the wellbeing benefits of self-compassion.
What is self-compassion?
One way to understand the meaning of a concept is to consider its opposite. The opposite of self-compassion is being self-critical, which is unfortunately much more familiar to most people. Nonetheless, nearly everyone is familiar with feeling compassion for another living being, whether that be someone we love, or an impoverished community, or animals.
This month is Mental Health Month in NSW, with October 10 designated as World Mental Health Day. This initiative aims to improve public awareness and interest in mental health and wellbeing.
Why does mental health matter?
One answer to this question could be, “How could it not matter?” As humans, we experience the world around us not only by means of our physical body, but also through our beliefs, perceptions, emotions, spirituality, social connectedness, and more. If we are physically healthy yet all the other components are struggling, our day to day experience of life will not be optimal. Furthermore, decades of research tells us that our physical health and mental health are not independent from one another; they have a bi-directional relationship.