The theme of this year’s mental health awareness week is kindness. How can we be kinder to ourselves, our failures, and those of others? In keeping with this year’s mental health awareness week’s overall message, I call on us to remind ourselves of these 5 things, all of which pertain to the virtues of patience and radical acceptance.
- The Emergence of Negative Thinking is Normal: Human’s brains are wired to pick up on threats to our wellbeing and survival. There is no need to resist all onsets of negative thought patterns and describe it as some pathological deviation. When negative thought patterns do occur, it can be hugely beneficial to simply notice and name the types of thoughts arising before falling into what psychologists call ‘spiralling’. Simply observe it. I am often internally saying to myself: “Hey, I see you… name the thought here: memory, worry, imagination, planning, mind-reading … I accept that this is what I am experiencing, but I do not need to participate in this thought (play with the fire, so to speak).”
- Our vulnerability to the contingencies of life is unavoidable: We need not resist the so-called “facts of life” (change, disruption, pressure, uncertainty). To interpret the onset of these facts of life as a problem to resist burdens us with two problems: the first problem being the immediate reality of the world placing demands on our time and labour, the second problem resides in us feeling averse to the demands of reality as a ‘problem’ to escape. Change is a given, there will always be a few limitations placed on our happiness throughout life, let us accept that, and accept the emotional ramifications that arise alongside them.
- Appreciate our interdependence: There is no need to go it alone (no matter how strong your sense of independence is). Our personal success and development, despite popular faith in the individual’s initiative, are largely down to the assistance of other people: pursuing academic attainment is near-impossible without the learning resources provided by teachers, tutors, and online content creators, our psychological development is built on the caregiving of parents and friends, our physiological health is contingent on health services, our protection into later life requires social care. Once we accept the ‘dependent’ nature of ‘Rational Animals’ (Macintyre, 2008), the fear of asking for help, for voicing vulnerability, for reaching out to friends and checking in on each other’s mental health becomes less awkward.
- Wellbeing works on a spectrum/ X-axis: Seeking wellbeing support is not merely a reactive measure but also a preventative one. Engaging in wellbeing workshops, webinars, and opening up to someone trained in supporting young people’s mental health is not the sole reserve for students at crisis point. The objective of University mental health services to minimise the number of people reaching crisis point. So, all those self-help blogs and mental health tips you scroll past because “I am not mentally ill”, do in fact apply because every day your wellbeing is shifting across the spectrum of faring well and faring badly.
- Speak your Mind: MIND ‘for better mental health’ are promoting the #SpeakYourMind this week. Whether that is ‘Voicing Vulnerabilities’, counting the day’s simple blessings, sharing your tips on sustaining motivation, or tips for tackling writer’s block – communicating with your peers cuts the challenges of life in half. Cheers to collaborative strength.
In accordance with these 5 reminders, here is a poem to help you all through…
‘Everything Is Going to Be All Right’ By Derek Mahon
How should I not be glad to contemplate
the clouds clearing beyond the dormer window
and a high tide reflected on the ceiling?
There will be dying, there will be dying,
but there is no need to go into that.
The poems flow from the hand unbidden
and the hidden source is the watchful heart.
The sun rises in spite of everything
and the far cities are beautiful and bright.
I lie here in a riot of sunlight
watching the day break and the clouds flying.
Everything is going to be all right.
Owen Barlow BILT Student Fellow 19/20 – working on the project ‘Wellbeing and the Curriculum’.
MacIntyre, A. Dependent Rational Animals : Why Human Beings Need the Virtues. Chicago, Ill.: Open Court, 2008.