When the phrase ‘mental health’ is used we immediately picture a person with a problem and what’s worse a problem we can’t see.
But mental health is like physical health and conditions, like fitness, can come and go depending on what you are proactively doing to encourage it.
From a workplace perspective 30 years of managing a large number of people has given me some clear pointers as to what can be done to engender and promote positive mental health. Here are 10 very unscientific maxims we use at ComXo.
1 Master of my own destiny
If during my day I am in control of any part of my work no matter how small it might be I will feel personally valued and responsible. Responsibility builds self worth and self worth promotes positive mental health.
2 Personal responsibility to deliver excellence
Being part of a team that aspires to be excellent and having an attitude that excellence is one’s own responsibility gives individuals a sense that their work has a higher purpose. Being encouraged to have personally high standards that are difficult to attain and maintain rather than low standards that anybody can achieve builds esteem. Esteem promotes positive mental health.
3 Somebody loves me
We all need to know that the tribe we are in (workforce) know who we are and value and respect us for who we are. The freedom to be the personality we are with all our human frailties means we do not have to keep up an instagram like facade of what we might think others would like us to be. Permission to be yourself builds personal respect and that promotes positive mental health.
4 Tell it as it is…don’t wrap me up in cotton wool.
I challenge you to ask anyone this question: “I can tell it like it is or I can wrap you up in cotton wool, which one would you like?” My experience is people will always ask to be spoken to honestly with no kid gloves. In a caring workplace honesty and tough love builds respect, resilience and firm foundations that someone will tell me when I am not delivering value. Knowing you deliver value promotes positive mental health.
5 Independence not dependence please
Everytime we mollycoddle someone we create dependency. Dependancy might make the giver feel worthy and caring but it makes the taker feel small, weak and worthless. The taker might take for a number of reasons but often they are not given the choice by the giver. ” Let me do that for you as I can see you are struggling” , “you are not coping I will take over”. If you are not allowed to struggle you can never win your battles and if you dont have any battles you will have no grit and determination. Grit and determination promote positive mental health.
6 Failure is not failure its learning
We dont tell a toddler when they stumble “right that’s it you are never walking again” everyone stumbles as they learn…that is how you learn! A workplace culture that encourages experimentation and failure will be dynamic, fun and creative. An atmosphere that is free from blame builds personal confidence and confidence promotes positive mental health.
7 The best skier is not the one who has never fallen over.
If you are not failing you are not trying hard enough. Freedom to push yourself to the limits and have no fear of falling gives you freedom to try. Freedom promotes positive mental health.
8 The power of routine
Feeling that you are in charge of your life begins with routine that you are in control of. This may be simply the time you get up, it may be a daily walk, it may be a daily exercise or a daily meal choice or a daily refusal of something that you know is not good for you. You may say “I dont have the time” but even the busiest person can get up half an hour earlier. Routine requires discipline and personal discipline promotes positive mental health.
9 Morale scores
A workplace communication structure that regularly asks “how do you feel? how is your morale?” enables any group of people to look out for someone who is having a hard time and to offer tough love support. Tough love support never takes the problem away or assumes it knows the answer it simply asks the question “what can we do to help you”. Knowing there are people around you who care gives you mental strength to get through hard times. Mental strength promotes positive mental health.
10 Happiness is about smiles
Laughter is the best medicine. So my father used to say. If your day is interspersed with banter, a shared joke or story we can relax and laugh together. Laughter can get us through the most adverse moments of our lives it helps us take life for what it is and remind us not to take ourselves too seriously. Creating a workplace where relaxed banter and people congregating is encouraged will create smiles . And smiling promotes mental health.