I’ve found that my daily mental well-being is boosted by a combination of two things:
The first is keeping myself in perspective—remembering that I have no more, and no less, intrinsic value than anyone else. And the second is building strong connections with the people around me.
Here are five tips to help us be our best in both areas, and survive the year (and our life) with a smile:
1. Try to find work, and at least one person, that you love. Not many of us can be happy just being at the centre of our own world; we need to find a sense of meaning and purpose, of usefulness and connection.
One of the best places to find it is in a healthy and mutually supportive relationship. But it’s also good to dedicate at least a part of your life to a cause or project that you believe in and that is outside of, and therefore bigger than, yourself. And remember that who you are is much more important than what you do—it’s how and why you take action that counts.
2. Go easy on yourself when things don’t go to plan. We all mess up, so when you do, own up and do your best to repair it. Forgive yourself and others for any hurt or harm that’s been caused, intentionally or otherwise. None of us is perfect, and we’re all learning as we go.
You’re not “bad” if you got things wrong, you just didn’t know enough yet to get it right. Try to let go of any fear of failing; things rarely go to plan, and if you see every error as an opportunity for learning, it takes away any guilt or shame that would get in the way of seeing what happened and making changes. This is the wonderful thing about self-esteem—accepting ourselves gives us a bigger capacity to love and accept others.
3. Do what you can to make the world a better place, without expecting any gratitude or reward. It’s natural to want to contribute, but if you’re looking for outside reassurance that you’re a worthwhile human being, you’ll be like a boat at sea following the changing winds of other people’s opinions, and much less likely to reach your intended destination.
If you’re clear about your direction, you can choose to follow it and you’ll have the satisfaction of getting closer to where you want to be. You’re also likely to find a bunch of similarly minded people heading the same way.
4. Be modest, but also have some self-respect. Don’t take any sh*t, but don’t give any either. Excessive modesty or humility is just another way of feeling “special,” and while being a doormat might offer temporary gratification, if we feel a need to punish ourselves, or if we let others disrespect us, sooner or later we’ll start to resent them and maybe try to find some way of getting revenge.
So dig in to see if you can find any past wounds or traumas that explain where any distorted or low feelings of self-worth may be coming from, and then do whatever work is needed to heal them.
5. Look after your dependents, and anyone else who needs your support, in a way that empowers them. Being responsible for others is an essential part of being a grown-up, but there’s a big difference between care-giving and care-taking. The latter is usually more about a way for us to feel good about ourselves than actually helping others.
Let others tell you what they need before you start offering what you think is best for them. Then be generous with your support, without expecting anything back in return. What goes around comes around, as they say; and whatever kindness and generosity you show to others is likely to show up in your own life at some point (and maybe it already has).
Go well in this life—we all deserve to be happy. And I wish you all the best for 2024!