It’s World Mental Health Day today.
No, don’t shut the screen. This is going to be interesting. In fact, I promise if you get bored at any point you can have a free trip to Dubai flying Emirates. (I’ve recently developed a habit of compulsive lying)
Mental health organisations the world over are producing posters and stickers and tips and sheets and things for today telling you how to live a better life. The dreaded word “awareness” is probably in there on some of them.
It’s an annoying word, awareness. Why don’t we have a “Hit In The Face By An Anvil Awareness Day”? Chiefly because it’s difficult not to be aware if you’ve been hit in the face by an anvil. And it wouldn’t matter what day of the year it happened, you’d still feel exactly the same. It would fucking hurt.
Mental health is much the same. We should…well, not necessarily think about it consciously everyday, but be doing things as part of our routine – unthinkingly – that make us feel good.
The Mental Health Association of New South Wales has produced a wonderfully blog-friendly “10 Tips To Stress Less”. Here’s what I think of them:
1. Share something that makes you laugh
I love comedy. Stand-up, sitcoms, humourous writing – I delight in it. The only thing better than savouring a great line or performance is sharing it with someone else and watching the humour virus spread. It’s true, laughter is the best medicine, followed by benzodiazepines.
If you can make someone else laugh when they’re feeling crap, that too is an achievement worth striving for. Us misery-gutses appreciate it. Really. Unless you’re not funny, in which case we fantasise about pushing you off a cliff atop a Segway.
Which would be quite funny.
2. Swim in the ocean
Comedian Billy Connolly is skeptical about this one. He’s said on numerous occasions that the things which live in the sea have made it abundantly clear they don’t want us there. Nips, stings, bites. Millions of years of evolution to crawl out of the water, and the first thing we do is run back in, he says. And you get sand up your arse. But the waves are kinda cool.
3. Remember we all make mistakes
Many people think that David Bowie made a mistake in 1987 when he released the ironically-titled “Never Let Me Down” album. It contains the gloriously overblown epic track “The Glass Spider”, and the creepily catchy nonsense single “Time Will Crawl”. Sample lyric:
I got a bad migraine
That lasted three long years
And the pills that I took
Made my fingers disappear
What we consider to be mistakes can often turn out to be treasures in disguise. Unless you’ve run over someone’s cat.
4. Say no when you need to
I’ve read books that have encouraged people who have difficulty saying “no” to practice doing it for an entire day, no matter what request gets asked of them. The idea is to desensitise you to disappointing others. For all the people-pleasers out there, this is a very good one.
If you still can’t get it right, get a job in the Vodafone call centre. They say no all the time.
5. Cook a meal from scratch
Or even better, get invited to a friend’s for dinner. One that loves cooking and is way better at it than you (that’s most of the people I know). People who delight in what they do will naturally rub off a bit of that wellbeing and passion on you. Live vicariously through that pleasure, drink wine while you do it and think of the pots you won’t have to scrape.
But be nice and bring over a bottle of something that doesn’t smell like petrol – it’s the least you can do.
6. Tell someone you love them
Yes, but ideally someone who both (a) means something to you and (b) who will appreciate it. People on Ecstasy tell everyone they love them, because they have a chemical in their brain that’s stuck in a permanent orgasmic cycle.
Don’t waste your love – not because it’s a finite resource, but because lack of reciprocity in love is a one-way ticket to Crapsville in the state of Mind.
7. Play your favourite song
How can you have just one favourite song?
For me, music is like food. Sometimes you just feel like something specific, and you have to put it on. Upbeat music doesn’t always make you happy. Downbeat music won’t always make you sad.
Make a playlist in iTunes comprised of songs you haven’t played in the last six months to a year. Surprise yourself with what comes up. It might even be that Crazy Frog album you downloaded while pissed.
8. Do more of what’s important to you
You first may have to spend some time working out what this is. Some of us have no idea. We think we know what’s important, when in actual fact it’s what we think is important, or what’s important to others. Before leaping into this one, spend some time to think about what really matters to you – and who.
Doing nothing can be incredibly important if it’s time spent with someone you love.
9. Be proud of who you are
Not one you can easily switch on, especially if you’re mired in self-stigma, or hate receiving compliments.
Make a list of things you’re proud of in your life. Don’t worry, no-one’s looking.
I’m not going to say you’re a miracle of nature – you aren’t. You’re the random result of a race involving a sperm that won.
But maybe that in itself is worth celebrating – 24 hours either side, and your future DNA might have been captured in a sock and tossed into a washing basket along with the Y-fronts.
10. Celebrate when things go well
The French invented a drink for this – champagne, and a whole ritual to go with it.
One of the things I love about my employer in Melbourne is the culture of celebrating when things go well. In fact, it’s even part of the daily routine: a five-minute catch-up meeting in the morning where everyone shares something they achieved the previous day that they’re happy with.
Considering that the workplace is often full of frustration and things that don’t get completed on time, sweeping that to one side at the start of the day to remember something that has moved you forward is a great way to get back some perspective.
Right now, I’m drinking a cider to celebrate that I’ve just yesterday found a place to live in Melbourne. It wasn’t even my idea – it was Nick’s, my current co-host. That’s how bad I am at celebrating!
If you do one thing today, do this. Raise a glass of your favourite beverage and celebrate something that’s gone well, even if it’s as mundane as a bus arriving on time.