The conversation around mental health continues apace, and for me it’s a real voyage of discovery. There is so much to learn, not just from conventional science, but from discussions with individual employees and corporate clients. So I’ve pulled together my thoughts on best practice for mental wellbeing for everyone: it’s been labelled Wolfgang’s Manifesto, which seems as good a name as any!
We need to recognise first that mental health, like happiness, is a consequence of many factors, rather than something you can directly influence. And those factors take numerous forms.
Good mental health is grounded in things that give you meaning in the various parts of your life. For instance, the sense of purpose and achievement you get from work. Is what you’re doing now in line with your earlier expectations? Perhaps it’s time to redesign your working life, as many people have in the aftermath of the pandemic.
Mental health can also be improved by being more in touch with your own emotions, and more vocal about them – which may sound simple but can be quite a challenge for many men in particular. I’ve said it before, and I’ll no doubt say it again: a healthy body helps nurture a healthy mind. Exercise directly improves your mental as well as physical wellbeing by burning off the excess stress hormones that may be preventing you from sleeping or making you feel anxious.
Make time for activities that are fun. Happiness and good mental health are about the journey, not an abstract destination.
Spending time connecting with the natural world can also be an extraordinary stress reliever. Plant some bulbs; head to a local nature reserve; or set yourself the challenge of walking a long-distance footpath.
Make work a better place by taking steps to tackle discrimination. Check your DEI and ESG policies are more than adequate, and then embrace them in everyday working life. Arguably the best way to combat loneliness - the theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week - is to be proactive by helping others or being kind. Kindness fosters a kind of upward spiral of compassion: you feel better both for doing something good or useful and for building a social connection.
Finally, continuous learning is a must for us all. Learn from minority groups, which means careful listening and not imposing your perspective; learn from your own body, because the body keeps the score of your stress levels; learn through collaboration with others.
There are so many steps we can take – but we need mental health awareness for everyone, as there’s no change unless we all change!
Partner, Leader of Workplace Health Consulting UK and Europe, Mercer Marsh Benefits
Wolfgang is a doctor of medicine and leads Mercer’s Workplace Health Solutions. He advises companies on health and wellbeing strategies, integrated models of healthcare and proactive interventions.
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