Podcasts are my one of my favourite ways to learn. Recently I listened to one about depression and addiction as I am fascinated by what seems to be an epidemic of mental (ill)health, and stress-related disorders. The impact on individuals, families, and employers is devastating. According to a study from January 2019, the annual costs to economies is a staggering $2.5 trillion globally.
The podcast whet my appetite to learn more about what is driving this epidemic. Author Johann Hari in his book ‘Lost Connections’ states that human beings have innate psychological needs just as we have basic physical needs (i.e. for food, water, shelter, clean air). We need to feel we belong, that we have meaning and purpose. We need to feel valued. We need to feel we’re good at something. We need to feel we have a secure future. Our culture isn’t meeting these psychological needs for many people and it seems that these unmet needs are the problem. While it may not manifest as depression and anxiety in most people, for some it’s a feeling of unhappiness and a life that is unfulfilled.
In the USA, between 2011 and 2012, Gallup conducted the most detailed study ever carried out of how people feel about the thing we spend most of our waking lives doing – our paid work. They found that 13% of people say they are “engaged” in their work – they find it meaningful and look forward to it. Some 63% say they are “not engaged”, which is defined as “sleepwalking through their workday”. And 24% are “actively disengaged”: they hate it. In summary, 87% don’t like their work.
In the 1970s an Australian scientist called Michael Marmot investigated the causes of stress in the workplace. He discovered that if you have no, or low, control over your work, and are unable to create meaning out of what you do, you are more likely to feel unappreciated and to become stressed and/or depressed.
The positive news, as all Winning Edge participants will appreciate, is that we can do something about this; we can control our work and create meaning out of it, if we want to; if we are prepared to put in the effort and deal with the consequences of change. First, we need to become conscious of the signals and pay attention to the dissatisfaction, the anxiety and any other toxic thoughts that are driving these feelings and keeping us stuck. This awareness will enable us to break free from the unconscious habit of “sleepwalking through the day”. Second, we need to decide what we want to be different and connect to others for support.
When we really believe that we are in control of the life we create for ourselves, when we grasp the concept that our results are determined by our thoughts, feelings and actions, we free ourselves to live a fulfilling, happy life. It requires us to do the work; the deliberate thinking and action planning. It requires us to be open to any experience and embrace the emotion – good and bad – that comes with it, to get what we want. It requires us to manage or change the environment in which we find ourselves. Ultimately, we take responsibility for our happiness, to get our psychological needs met and become the person we want to be. As I often say, the concept is simple to understand but not always easy to apply. It takes discipline but as Tony Robbins said, ‘discipline weighs ounces, regret weighs tons’.
Stress is inherently neither good nor bad. Too little and we have no impetus for growth or transformation, which can be toxic to our health. Too much and our body’s innate defence mechanisms weaken, depleting our energy and immune function, leaving us vulnerable to dis-ease.
When we adopt the Winning Edge principles, we reconnect to our needs and wants in ways that enable us to take better control of our mental and physical health. That’s good news for us, our families, our employers and the economy.
By Hazel Morley
About the Author: Hazel has worked as a Trainer, Facilitator and Coach for over 25 years, a number of which were spent as an Associate for Mancroft International. She believes in an inside-out approach to personal development and change and thrives on helping others who are ready to exercise their response-ability for being the best version of themselves. Her mantra is ‘always do what you think you might regret not doing’.
Hazel transformed her lifestyle in 2009, when she relocated to beautiful British Columbia, Canada. She gives credit to the Winning Edge principles for the nudge to move to the mountains. Since living in Canada, Hazel has expanded her portfolio of enabling others to achieve their career goals to include ways to create optimal health and live with vitality. She is fascinated by the power of the mind-body-lifestyle connection and the body’s innate ability to protect and heal us from disease.