The link between work and mental health is a strong one. With the abundance of research on employee engagement and work life balance, there’s no reason organizations shouldn’t be discussing this topic. Unfortunately, there aren’t many that truly value the mental health of their employees and realize that job performance and productivity suffer heavily when working conditions are poor. Businesses run like this end up failing, and management always wonders why.
Sometimes, we have to choose between a job that makes us unhappy and unemployment, which can also impact mental health. The work environment and organization’s culture can have a significant impact on the well-being of workers. Good working conditions can have many benefits such as productivity and innovation while negative working conditions end up exacerbating existing issues. Also, the capacity to perform well is reduced when employees aren’t in the right headspace. They won’t work as safely and will injure themselves, and the company will see high turnover because employees aren’t happy. Imagine how our economy would turn out if all companies were run this way.
The good news is that it isn’t difficult to foster real change within an organization. Mainly, the company culture can bring about awareness for work life balance and stress management. Wellness programs can also be implemented so that each employee has the resources they need. Mental health treatment isn’t usually covered by health insurance, so it’s important that management teams include wellness programs and mental health training whenever they can. Real change starts from the top because when leaders start a conversation around mental health, they’re reducing the stigma surrounding the topic.
On the employee side, the ways in which we can protect our mental health are simple. It starts with ourselves. We need to first be kind to ourselves. When you’re late for a deadline and feeling burnt out, yelling at yourself won’t benefit you - it can actually hurt your productivity. When you pressure yourself less, you actually get more done. Next, we need to take care of ourselves. Try to get a good night’s sleep whenever you can and try making eating a priority. Because when our bodies are at 100%, our brains are too. And lastly, exercise can help relieve stress and body tension, especially if you work a desk job for eight or more hours a day. I’ve tried all of these methods and they’ve all worked for me. I feel more focused and clear in my ideas, and found that meditation helps as well. It helps when I’m feeling stressed or anxious because I can identify the root of these feelings. I am able to work through these emotions in a way that I’ve never done before. These are all very easy changes you can make that can only benefit you.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). Mental health in the workplace. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/workplacehealthpromotion/tools-resources/workplace-health/mental-health/index.html
Throughout our childhood, we’re taught to always smile and put our best foot forward. And this is good in times of adversity, but it’s unrealistic to expect everyone, especially children, to be happy all the time. This would mean suppressing our other emotions and only focusing on the positive, which can lead to toxic positivity. I’m glad that movies like Inside Out are bringing awareness to the issue of toxic positivity and educating the younger generation on important mental health topics. It does a great job at portraying how personality is shaped and how we are impacted by our emotions.
The movie starts out with Joy appearing as the first emotion. Soon, the rest of the emotions - Sadness, Anger, Disgust, and Fear - come along, representing a simplified view of the range of emotions we feel on a day-to-day basis. Joy, being the only positive emotion, dictates most of Riley’s behaviors and memories throughout the movie. She strives to only make happy memories while pushing out the other emotions. This is a good example of what toxic positivity looks like. When her mom encourages her to stay positive and to keep smiling, Riley tries, but ends up bottling up her emotions. She later isn’t able to handle these emotions because she has only tried to focus on the positive. The meaning behind this message is that we shouldn’t focus only on the positive because then we wouldn’t know how to deal with anything negative.
Another pivotal scene that spoke volumes was when Bing Bong realized he couldn’t be with Riley and fly her to the moon. As he’s crying, Joy tries to cheer him up by making funny faces and suggesting games to play. When that doesn’t work, Sadness talks to him and ends up cheering him up by letting him open up about how he’s feeling. This symbolizes the importance of talking through your thoughts and feelings rather than trying to bury them with false positivity. It’s important to accept the emotions you’re feeling whether they be positive or negative.
As the movie ends, Riley and Joy start to realize the importance of Sadness and the other emotions. Sadness is what causes Riley to get off the bus at the last minute after running away to go back home to her family. It’s what makes us miss our family when we don’t see them and helps bring us together. We know that it can because people often bond over tragedy and hardship. We grow after these experiences and are able to appreciate the sun after the storm. The main message of balance and harmony in the movie is expressed beautifully in the imagery and animation. At the end, we see Riley having a more complex personality because she is able to finally embrace her emotions to have more genuine interactions. This is true for everyone because if we only express one type of emotion, we are cutting ourselves off from a wide array of experiences and opportunities. Next time you feel sad or angry, rather than trying to dismiss these feelings, try embracing them and asking yourself why you feel this way.
You can read more about this topic from our previous post.
Everyday, we make decisions based on our mindset. Research has shown that our decisions are impacted by the beliefs we have and the state of mind we’re in. Mindset is important because it can have a significant impact on our lives. Having a healthy mindset means being able to make clear and confident decisions that align with our values. Fortunately, these ideal decisions end up benefiting us mentally, spiritually and physically. On the other hand, having a negative and fixed mindset can be harmful to one’s health and interpersonal relationships. The views we adopt for ourselves profoundly affect the way we lead our lives.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is to always have a growth mindset. I learned this from Dr. Carol Dweck who, after decades of research, discovered the power of mindset. She found that whatever we do can be dramatically influenced by how we think about our talents and abilities. So in school, work, sports, and the arts, those with a fixed mindset - those who believe that abilities are fixed - are less likely to thrive than those with a growth mindset. This mindset is based on the idea that abilities can be developed and that nothing is set in stone. They believe that with hard work and practice, anything can be achieved. And this is a common yet easily forgotten idea that we are told as kids. We were urged to remember that we could do anything we wanted as long as we put our mind to it. It seems that adults need to be reminded of this.
A healthy mindset reaches not only the mind, but the soul. Thich Nhat Hanh, a famous Buddhist monk, states that anger, despair, jealousy and delusion are the barriers to our happiness. Anger in particular can be dangerous because it can lead to violent actions. The main way we can cool our anger is by practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness means to be present and in the moment - it can be achieved by meditating, mindful breathing and mindful walking. He found that people who practice mindfulness end up losing their anger completely and spreading their happiness to others. What mindfulness does is that it helps you empathize with the other person. Whether you’re in a conflict or argument, those who practice mindfulness don’t get emotional and actually try to understand the situation. They realize the other person’s suffering, and that compassion overrides any anger they may have.
Lastly, mindset can also determine our physical health. The way we perceive ourselves and fitness in general is found to have impacts on our health risks. In one study, mortality risk was 71% higher for those who perceived themselves as less active than their peers. Researchers found three possible causes for this: stress, motivation and mindset. We feel stressed when we’re not active enough and have no outlet to vent out stress. For motivation, those who believed they were less fit were less motivated and less likely to do any exercises. For those who were fit, having a negative mindset resulted in a nocebo effect - the opposite of a placebo effect. This is where if you have negative expectations, the physiological effect of a treatment is reduced. One example of this is when hotel housekeepers and their exercise habits were studied. For those who didn’t count their work of cleaning rooms and pushing heavy carts as exercise, their health was average. For those who were told their work was exercise and believed it, they had lost weight and had lower blood pressure. This view had caused more of a physical impact on them, and may have resulted in a placebo effect.
We now know the benefits of having a healthy mindset. There are many activities you can practice to bring about positivity:
Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.
Hammond, C. (2018). How your mindset determines your health. BBC Future. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20180410-how-your-mindset-determines-your-health
Hanh, T. N. (2001). Anger: Wisdom for cooling the flames. New York, NY: Riverhead Books.