Lots of people plan different things for the new year and if you’re is how to boost mental health then you should find this episode very useful. As in this positive psychology episode, you get to hear about the positives and negatives of boosting mental health from the research.
This episode has been sponsored by Social Psychology: A Guide To Social and Cultural Psychology. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it.
How To Boost Mental Health?
This is the area that people always start with as they investigate how to boost mental health. Since people who are happy do experience a lot of positive emotions and this does help to boost their well-being.
However, there is a major drawback here. As I talk about in 5 Myths About Happiness, if people constantly stride for happiness then this can backfire. As noted by Gruber, Mauss and Tamir (2011) of an influential paper when they acknowledged that whilst some activities that are designed to increase happiness, do actually work. For example, taking time out of your day to reflect on what you’re grateful for.
Some do not work.
As well as whatever the activity is, if you expect it to work only to find out it doesn’t. Then this could leave you feeling worse than before.
Another example of the slippery slope was found by Kim and Maglio where they found that if people take too much time out of their day in the purse of happiness. They’ll find the amount of time to actually get stuff done decreases. Resulting in more unhappiness because they haven’t done anything.
Overall, when it comes to boosting mental health in terms of happiness, please don’t start out with high expectations that by doing these activities will be a million times happier. As if you do that you are sadly setting yourself up for disappointment and sadness. As well as please don’t feel like you need to spend tons of time searching and becoming happier.
I know this isn’t what a lot of people want to here but you might want to look beyond happiness to boost mental health.
Lots of different pieces of research over the years has shown the importance of meaning in life, having a purpose and feeling like you’re reaching your potential.
However, meaning isn’t everything as Steptoe and Fancourt (2019) showed that there are downsides to meaning. Since university students who were found to have perceived education and relationships as more meaningful also reported greater levels of fear of failure.
Additionally, the authors of the paper suggested the meaning in life wasn’t only associated with happiness, but the fear and worry of losing the meaningful experience as well.
On the whole, definitely pursue meaningful experiences. I cannot stress that enough because we all need meaning in our lives and we need to experience different things to get out of the constant grind of everyday life. But prepare yourself for the possible anxiety this new experience could cause you, yet even then that anxiety might not be a bad thing.
You might want to check out Make Anxiety Your Friend for more information.
What Is A Good Life?
We haven’t covered positive psychology a lot on the podcast because it isn’t an area I’m particularly interested in. However, this area of psychology generally looks at what makes a good life and it focuses on the positive side of human behaviour, focusing on the role of meaning and happiness.
Nevertheless, the need for psychological richness is often a major criticism of positive psychology as this subfield doesn’t focus too much on this need. With psychological richness being described as plentiful of interesting and perspective-changing experiences.
Of course not all of these will be positive experiences. We all know of times when we’ve hated experiences where people have hostilely or even gently challenged our most fundamental principles.
In addition, Lane and Mathes (2018) showed regardless of the culture there was always a good minority of people who preferred a psychologically rich life compared to a perfectly happy and meaningful one.
Personally I really do understand this point because I want to live a happy and meaningful life. But I also want to live a rich life filled with interesting opportunities and I want to be challenged. This is why I always want to learn more about psychology and other areas of my life. I want to be proved wrong sometimes so I can change, develop and grow as a person.
Therefore, if you want to boost your mental health maybe think about making your life more psychologically rich. (Listen to this podcast and read my books might be one way to start!)
If This Goes Wrong
This section is more of a pre-emptive section in case you don’t achieve your goals. For example, you don’t achieve the high levels of happiness, meaning or psychological richness that you desire.
I want to mention first of all, just because you started and made a little progress. It probably means you have done a lot more than you realise and you still started. You still did something and that is an amazing start.
In addition, I know I’ve recommended this all on the podcast before but this is a sort of failure.
Therefore, here are some top ways to deal with this failure in case you need it:
· Don’t worry too much that you were apparently over-confident and wrong.
· Try not to take evidence of failure too personally
· Resist perfectionism
· Be kind to yourself
And it’s that last one that is so important. Be kind to yourself and be pleased that you set yourself these goals and actually did something. That’s amazing all by itself.
Overall, I know this was an eye-opening episode that probably challenged you in some ways. I know it challenged me but I hope this post helped all of our new years to start with a bit more psychological richness in our lives.
Whatever you plan to do this new year, I wish you the best of luck and a very happy new year!
If you want to support the podcast, please check out:
Social Psychology: A Guide To Social and Cultural Psychology. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it.
Positive Psychology and Clinical Psychology References:
Lane, D. J., & Mathes, E. W. (2018). The pros and cons of having a meaningful life. Personality and Individual Differences, 120, 13-16.
Kim, A., & Maglio, S. J. (2018). Vanishing time in the pursuit of happiness. Psychonomic bulletin & review, 25(4), 1337-1342.
Steptoe, A., & Fancourt, D. (2019). Leading a meaningful life at older ages and its relationship with social engagement, prosperity, health, biology, and time use. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(4), 1207-1212.
Gruber, J., Mauss, I. B., & Tamir, M. (2011). A Dark Side of Happiness? How, When, and Why Happiness Is Not Always Good. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 6(3), 222–233. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691611406927
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