Before the main part of the post, I am delighted to say that I have signed up to the Mental Health Media Charter, which sets out guidelines around the language and wording used around mental health. I am proud to support this brilliant movement to help address stigma through ensuring that wherever mental health is talked or written about, it is done so in a consistent and non-discriminatory manner. I wrote about some of the things the Charter is addressing in this post from August. The Charter is across all media, from small blogs like this to mainstream media. This is the logo denoting support to the charter – look out for it within the media.
So it’s the start of a new year, when the tradition of setting resolutions kicks in. It seems that humans have been doing this for quite a while. For example, Romans made promises to their god Janus, from whom we derive the month of January. It doesn’t take long on Google to find loads of other examples. (One that made me laugh was that knights in the Middle Ages made an affirmation of their vows of chivalry at the end of the year called the ‘peacock vow’. )
It’s claimed that the number of people making resolutions each year is increasing in modern times. Some statistics based on an American survey revealed:
- 41% of people usually make a resolution
- 9% felt they were successful in achieving their resolution
- 42% never succeed and fail on their resolution each year
The top two resolutions of 2017 are reported to be “Lose weight/Healthier eating” (21%) and “Life/Self Improvements” (12%). This latter one includes commitments and actions around looking after mental health.
Now I have never been fond of resolutions. They feel false, driven from a review of past mistakes and failures. Which of course aren’t mistakes or failings. There is often too much rumination attached , not reflection. Not much celebration in them either. It all seems centred around a calendar date, which is a pretty arbitrary thing. None of which is helpful for good mental health.
In fact the very act of the resolution seems based on a foundation of self-criticism. That may be just be me though.
I wasn’t surprised by the top two resolutions. Modern society and culture often portrays the need for us to be fit and happy, often using advertising with smiling, laughing athletic young people. Even mindfulness magazines fall foul of this – recently three magazines all had similar covers of a smiling, white blonde lady , sitting serenely cross legged. All of this feeds into how we feel…or perhaps encouraged to feel about ourselves.
Now consider how someone with mental ill health responds during this period of resolution focus? The person with depression who does not need much encouragement to find faults in themselves. The person with an eating disorder seeing all the diet advice. The person with anxiety who see’s the “Go out and own 2018!” messages.
My point is that resolutions are too often driven by external factors, things you think you should do or what is expected you to want to do. They become too generic or big to even attempt. Which is why they don’t last. They don’t mean anything to you. They are seemingly driven by the need to be better, as opposed to just being. I have nothing against development or learning, in fact the opposite. It’s just that the reasons that give you the incentive to do so would be better to come from ‘want to’ not ‘should do’.
Which brings me onto the topic of a future post (or possibly posts) – values. I have mentioned that word many times now and like compassion, it deserves looking at in much more detail. Taking time to review, understand and then align your activities around your values can bring a big benefit to looking after your mental well-being. It’s something that can be done throughout the year, not because of a date driven event and be much more enduring than a New Year resolution. If you do want to make resolutions then have a read of this blog by Jim Lucas , really good advice on how to make it a useful and positive exercise.
So for New Year Eve 2017 though I decided to do something, but not a resolution. I did a wish, which some people will have already seen on social media. And I was slightly taken aback by the kind response to it.
So I am going to repeat my New Year Eve wish here, a wish for anyone who reads it. Actually, it’s a wish for every and any day, that you:
- ride on the reflection train, not the rumination one
- be kind to yourself
- be at peace
- dance when you can
- go ahead & cry if you need to
- take duvet days when required
- feel connected
- seek help if you need to
- be you
I will also share a couple of things that I would like to do this year:
- talking about depression (have taken one step towards this by becoming a Time to Change Champion)
- continuing to write the weekly blog posts
- supporting #365daysofcompassion via daily Twitter Moments, a new Facebook public group and the daily e-newspaper. Feel free to join in.