Saturday, October 10, 2009

Staying mentally well

In the western world it is easy to relate happiness to material possessions. The more we have, supposedly the happier we are. A new car is meant to be better than an old car. Earning more money allows you to buy more and go on more holidays, buy a bigger house, a flashy boat. On it goes.

However, research repeatedly shows this is not the case. In fact happiness is an illusion if you strive for it constantly. Particularly if you believe having more means you will be happier. That would then indicate wealthy people are happier than those with less. This is certainly not the case. Mental illness does not discriminate against those with wealth and those who do not have as much. We also know a lot of mental illness, particularly depression, can be triggered by our life style and life events. Taking that into account, if more wealth makes you happier you would expect levels of depression in the wealthy to be less than those who are less wealthy. This is not the case.

So what can contribute to our happiness? It really is engaging in very simple activities. Fixing the lawnmower. Going for a bike ride. Doing a bit of gardening. Doing someone a favour. Helping others. Spending time with your family. Catching up with a friend. Engaging in a hobby. Trying something new. Taking a risk. What would it be that you would like to do that you haven't done for a while or something you've always wanted to do but haven't got around to it yet? Why not give it a go?

In fact there is a great deal of evidence to show that helping others is beneficial to our health. Volunteering to help others in some way, even something like giving someone a lift to the shops who might not otherwise be able to manage it on their own, releases the 'happy' hormones that help us be happier.

So what can you do today that does not involve spending money or striving for more in the material world? Give it a go! It might make you happy!

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