This 2018 graduation season is difficult for me for many reasons.
There is little-known local news reporting that two high school students ending their own lives just days before graduation, following the well-known national news that two public figures committing suicide the week before. I know families that bear the same grief from losing their loved ones – different ages and walks of life, different circumstances, same result.
Then there are others that harm themselves in hope to find release from their anguish, or to cope with their situations. Sometimes they get better. Sometimes they stop at self-harm. Sometimes they don’t.
There seems to be more awareness about mental health in recent years. That is a good thing, even if the conversation about mental health seems to always take place after tragic events.
I’m glad we’re talking. I’m glad we’re recognizing mental health as an important topic for our society to address. I’m glad we have hotlines for folks to call for help. But I can’t help but to think – why do we wait until things are really bad to help them? Couldn’t we have supported others and each other earlier and sooner?
I guess it’s because we don’t always know when things slip from the normal range of ups and downs to something more sinister. For that reason, I think we should broaden the conversation to wellness and happiness, to self-care and cultivating resiliency.
To that end, I’d like to highlight two organizations devoted to those goals.
First, Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark.
You might have heard that Denmark has been ranked the happiest country year after year. It’s not a publicity stunt or a marketing slogan by their Tourism Office. It’s based on empirical science. The question everyone wants to know is: Why?
I chanced upon this organization by way of reading The Little Book of Hygge. I love that there are smart people approaching happiness and well-being scientifically, collecting and analyzing data, publishing results that are accessible in language and visualization. It’s especially encouraging to see efforts to integrate research with policy in both civic and business organizations.
If you ever went camping at a remote location without cell phone signal, or went on a social media fast and felt more at peace, compare your experience with the findings of their 2015 “The Facebook Experiment” and be affirmed of your decision and intuition.
And I can’t wait to go down their suggested book list, starting with Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness. If we understand how people make decisions, we can design the experience to help them make better decisions. This would be a huge win – parenting, work, and beyond.
Second, Greater Good Science Center at University of California at Berkeley.
Its genesis in 2001 is quite inspiriting in itself:
“Believing that ‘you can’t have peaceful institutions without peaceful people,’ (Berkeley alumni Thomas and Ruth Ann Hornaday) wanted to create an interdisciplinary research center that would promote the science of inner and interpersonal peace.”
How true is that statement!
What I appreciate the most about the Center is that it takes research-based science findings and shares it with the general public in digestible and applicable ways. They have a Podcast and a Magazine which you can subscribe, and three Major Initiatives: Expanding Gratitude, Parenting Initiative, and Purpose Challenge. The last one is close to my heart as it’s geared towards teens.
I’m especially intrigued by a course they offer called “The Science of Happiness at Work.” This seems to be super helpful not only for individuals but for any leaders who want to grow a happy, creative, effective and productive team.
I understand that mental health is complex and containing many factors, and I don’t know what the factors that contributed to the irreversible decisions in the news lately. I’m certainly not suggesting that doing any one thing will solve it all.
All I know is: Let’s not wait until our emotional and physical health is in jeopardy or crisis to start taking care ourselves and one another. I want classes based on this science to be taught in school so our children are equipped with knowledge and tools to deal with life’s challenges and have a safe space to talk through stuff. I want all of us to grow in our ability to take care of ourselves so we can live in peace and thrive instead of feeling like we’re barely surviving the relentlessness of everyday life. Then let’s become parents, friends, and leaders to encourage and nourish the practice of wellbeing.
Does this resonate with you? How so?
Leave me your thoughts in the comment below. I’d love to hear from you.