I have been reading a lot about mental well-being of late. That makes me sound like I have been on a diligent mission of self-improvement and study but the reality is it have been popping up in my social media stream and I click through.
Word on the street is that well-being (not the David Avocado Wolfe kind- that guy is a bit of a douche, isn’t he?) is a set of learned and applied skills and this make me happy. Or gives me hope. Or something.
“Well-being is fundamentally no different than learning to play the cello.” says this article here which set me thinking!
I can’t play a musical instrument.
Because I have never practised
Today is a weird day. Nothing is wrong, nothing is crazy out of control. It is too hot but that’s getting picky, isn’t it? I feeling… maudlin. I have been eating well, sleeping as well as I can, getting some exercise, trying to walk regularly, I have started mum and bubs yoga once a week and yet… there it is. I feel sad, lonely, lost. I have been chasing silly worries and anxiety back into their corner since I woke up. My children are lovely and not driving me bonkers, and yet… there it is.
I realised the other day that I could start a small garden down the side of the house which cheered me immensely. I then found three tiny volunteer tomato plants in our empty gravelled yard and transplanted them and started collecting our garden scraps and reading gardening books and this cheered me up more than fancy cars and lovely watches and sports cars and money in the bank. Genuinely. I have these things too but they don’t bring me joy. Things like that don’t. Growing things, mending and making do, thrifting, writing. This is where the sparks of joy start for me.*
When I walk with bub she looks at every single tree we pass. She will not let one go by without a thorough examination from her pram. She gets immense joy from them.
I think finding little bits of joy is very much the start of well-being, don’t you?
The other skills we need and can develop thanks to the wonder of neuroplasticity are:
1. Resilience. Luckily I have been developing this through necessity. That what does kill you etc. I am learning to become very resilient. It helps me reel my anxiety in “You are fucking kidding me? We are worrying about this insignificant crap? After all those things we have conquered and kicked the arse of in our life? Not to mention a sterling 100% survival rate? This worrying is stupid. Stop it right now. Relax, nothing is under control but you will get through it anyway”
2. Outlook. Time to Pollyanna the fuck out of things. Assuming the best of people and situations and being generally positive (remember this is about practising skills, a positive outlook is a skill you need to practice, don’t wait for it to pop up on its own!
3. Attention. Ooooh. Right. Confession time. I actually only half wrote this post. I dumped it out of my brain into my word salad document of ideas and then before I reached point number three I, well, I got distracted. That’s some sort of irony isn’t it? Or perhaps it is apt? I am not sure maybe I should Google it? I think it is apt really.
I am in no way claiming I have mastered the skills of well-being quite yet. But there. There we are.
I need some fucking focus!
4. Generosity. I don’t really like receiving presents but I like to give. But I don’t like people to know that I have given. I am very grateful that organisations like Oxfam and KIVA make it easy to give. I need to find more ways of giving that resonate with me- do you give your time or money in a way that really speaks to your soul? I am so impressed with people who do. You guys are my heroes! I think there are lots of little ways we can work some more generosity into our lives and reap the benefits for all- get creative, think small like paying for parking or a meal perhaps?
Think about it though, isn’t it amazing that our mental well-being is something we need to practice and get better at? I think a lot of us have a default attitude that well-being should just happen somehow, maybe as a result of excellent external circumstances but I am very excited (and a bit challenged) to learn it is a set of skills to be mindfully practised like learning to run well or crochet rather than just “being happy”. I know that it won’t be a cure for every mental malady (mental illnesses are of course very complicated and need a variety of approaches) but how wonderful to be that much more empowered in your own life!
* I actually took so long to write this post that I have planted some things and have some chickens now! But HURRAH for PLANTING THINGS AND CHICKENS!