Category Archives: Mental health

Teenage happiness

Dear Rachel

“I’m struggling with depression and feeling happy in my day to day life.  Please give me some helpful hints on how to create a more happy life for myself.”

For my daily work supporting parents in corporates, I have spent a lot of time reading up on the psychology of happiness be that for adults or teens.

Sadly there appears to be an ‘unhappiness’ epidemic going on and depression rates are ten times higher than they were in 1960.  The age threshold of unhappiness is also getting lower. Fifty years ago the average age for the onset of depression was 29.5 years old.  Today it is almost half at 14 years old.

The first thing teens should do is try to define and understand what ‘happiness’ means to them, as it is incredibly personal. With the pressures of school work and social expectations (worrying about what others think of you and FOMO) teens often have the mistaken belief that if you work really hard, get good grades, are in the right social crowd, have the material possessions you desire, only then will you be happy.  In fact spending your life trying to achieve in all areas, often results in us feeling stressed and sad.

It actually works the other way round.  We become more successful in all areas of life when we are happier and more positive, as opposed to thinking we will be happy once we are successful.

Some top tips to nurture happiness.

  1. I have read countless studies which conclude that social interaction is the best prescription for happiness. One of the longest running psychological studies of all times is the ‘Harvard Men Study’ following Harvard students from the late 1930s through to the present day. 70 years of evidence concluded that our relationships with people matter more than anything else in the world. In a ‘Very Happy People’ study again the one characteristic amongst the happiest 10% was the strength of their social relationships.
  2. The thing to really stress here is that social interaction means being present, making eye contact and interpreting each other’s non-verbal cues.  This is entirely different to having 1000+ followers on Instagram, 185 likes for one post or keeping up 40 daily streaks on Snapchat.  The trouble is that time with family and friends may be the first thing to go. When you are unhappy, you are far more likely to withdraw and not feel like making an effort socially.  The more social support you have, the happier you will feel.
  3. Practice gratitude. Every day write in a diary or share with your family, 3 things you are grateful for.  It could be as simple as the sun was shining, there was no fish for lunch at school or you finally grasped a hard concept in maths. The more gratitude you feel and verbalise, the more you will get into the habit of noticing what there is to be grateful for and the happier you will feel.
  4. Be aware that you and only you are responsible for your own happiness. You can’t blame others for “making” you unhappy or rely on other people or things to make you happy.  Whilst you can’t obviously control everything that happens to you, you can choose what you think and feel about the things that happen.  It is your deep thoughts that drive your feelings and in turn your actions.  If a person is pessimistic when bad things happen, they feel bad and permanently negative. Optimists see negative events as only temporary and due to outside factors.
  5. How we feel is totally dependent on our mindset. Each person’s reality is based on their perception and understanding of the world. Practice positivity.
  6. Pursue things that you really enjoy, that you are good at and are meaningful to give your life purpose.  Everyone whatever age they are needs to try and find a strength or something they are passionate about and can feel truly engaged and lose track of time.  That may be a sport, playing an instrument, volunteering, reading, cooking, doing magic tricks. Anything that gives you real pleasure.
  7. Even at difficult times with lots going on, schedule something in your diary that you can really look forward to.
  8. Any form of exercise releases endorphins and helps to improve your mood.
  9. Meditation is very popular at the moment and to be honest not something I have much experience of but I know it works for others and helps to develop the pre -frontal cortex which is the part of the brain most responsible for happiness.
  10. I love this concept of a ‘Healthy mind platter’ from Dr Dan Siegel.

Balance in all these areas is key for a healthy mind.

Theresa May’s Mental Health Plan for the Workplace

Most Professionals Missed This Important Section of Theresa May’s Mental Health Plan.

In her ‘Shared Society’ speech, Theresa May unveiled her plan to tackle the mental health crisis plaguing the United Kingdom.  Much of the focus was on children and adolescents and the measures we need to take to ensure their emotional stability. This is a charge that we as a society take seriously and with reverence for the needs of our society’s most vulnerable.

However, in the middle of this plan, there was a paragraph overlooked by the mainstream media.  Yet it is equally vital for the health and wellbeing of our nation.

“Second, I want us to do more to support mental wellbeing in the workplace. So I have asked Lord Stevenson, who has campaigned on these issues for many years, and Paul Farmer, CEO of Mind and Chair of the NHS Mental Health Taskforce, to work with leading employer and mental health groups to create a new partnership with industry, and make prevention and breaking the stigma top priorities for employers. Because mental wellbeing doesn’t just improve the health of employees, it improves their motivation, reduces their absence and drives better productivity too.”

This is a powerful statement about the need for employers to attend to their employees mental wellbeing.  Most of a full time employees waking hours are spent in the workplace. It is the source of many things including: income, pride, self-worth, social groups etc.

Employers have a duty of care to ensure their employees health, safety and wellbeing.  What steps can they take to make sure the mental health of their employees is being met?

Network Groups

Most corporate environments have network groups for various populations in their workforce. They can be for parents/carers, women, LGBTQ, aging populations and a myriad of other labels that apply to their workforce. These groups provide a space that allows them to have a voice, embrace diversity and find kinship with other employees who have similar life experiences.

Expert Speakers

Bringing in experts to speak on topics that apply to the lives and needs of employees facilitates the learning needed for optimal mental health. This allows attendees to find answers to questions that cause stress and worry. Employees need for that ever elusive work/life balance is also acknowledged. The experts will give them the skills they need to get closer to finding that

Resource Lists and Access

It may seem a simple thing  but having a list of available resources can prove vital in time of crisis.  In a calm and rational state, you can easily do a web search and find therapists and mental health workers that can fit the needs of any person.  However, when a person is in a state of heightened anxiety, even this task can prove overwhelming. Human Resources need to have available resources to point employees in the right direction. Obtuse statements like “We are here to help” are superficial.  Specific help is beneficial.

Time

We’ve all heard the old adage, “Time heals all wounds.”  While we know other resources and strategies need to be put in place, having the time to heal from a crisis is critical.  This can manifest in many ways.  It can be time off  from work, slow return plans, remote working, facilitating experts for one on one counselling.

Employees are more than a means to an end.  They are a valuable resource that needs to be nurtured and cared for.  More importantly, they are people that deserve respect and understanding.  Employers who take on this responsibility with open eyes and open arms will in return have a dedicated workforce that is loyal, efficient and appreciative.

How to Have a Healthy Mind

Healthy Mind Platter

Please see vlog below for an introduction to Dan Siegel’s concept of a ‘Healthy Mind Platter’


Time in

Enabling children to reflect on their inner world. Connect with their feelings, thoughts, beliefs and dreams by being truly present.  This could be for example, through mediation or yoga.  It keeps the brain cells healthy and provides more energy.

Sleep Time

Check the recommended sleep required for your child’s age to allow optimal brain growth, memory consolidation and reduction of stress.

Focus Time

This is time without distraction and may involve homework.  It is not multi-tasking but focusing on learning one thing.  Life-Lomb learning should be a target to keep the brain growing. 

Down Time 

Time to unwind or chill with no structure or plan and nothing to accomplish.  It gives the brain a chance to recharge it’s batteries and allow imagination to wander. 

Play Time

Young children tend to get quite a lot of this but it’s necessary for all ages. Laughter and fun allows the brain to grow.  The chosen activity should not be judged or evaluated with no rigid rules.  It allows children to think outside the box. 

Physical time

Increases the heart rate and enhances neuroplasticity.  Of course exercise also has a powerful effect on mood. 

Connecting time

This may be with people and nature. It is what helps to make our life happier and more meaningful. It does not include social media but face-to-face contact with friends and family and the world outside.