- 6 Every Day Tools to Live a Feel Good Life
- 1. Harness your mind before you begin your day.
- 2. Let energy guide your actions.
- 3. Find breath in nature.
- 4. Step off the path most traveled.
- 5. Be the company you keep.
- 6. End your day with gratitude.
- The Mental Toolkit You Need To Live A Good Life
- What’s the premise behind the book?
- That’s a big knife…
- How long does it take to use these tools to change your mindset?
- You are inspired by ancient philosophers, but also modern figures Warren Buffett, who features in the book regularly?
- One tool I d in the book was the “five-second no”. Can you explain it?
- Is there another tool from the book that you think is especially useful?
- Building Better Mental Health – HelpGuide.org
- People who are mentally healthy have
- How to boost your mental health (yes, it’s possible!)
- Make social connection a priority—especially face-to-face
- Why is face-to-face connection so important?
- Staying active is as good for the brain as it is for the body
- But what if I hate to exercise?
- Tips for starting an exercise routine
- Learn how to keep your stress levels in check
- Eat a brain-healthy diet to support strong mental health
- Foods that adversely affect mood
- Foods that boost mood
- Don’t skimp on sleep—it matters more than you think
- Find purpose and meaning in life
- What gives you meaning and purpose?
- When to seek professional help
- Live Your Life Well
- How Stress Hurts
- The Evidence
- About the Live Your Life Well Campaign
- You can find the tools on this website
- We at Mental Health America believe..
- What Does It Take to Live a Happy Life If You Stay Single?
- Undergeneralizing: Are These Tools for Single People or for All People?
- Overgeneralizing: Does Everyone Need All These Tools?
6 Every Day Tools to Live a Feel Good Life
Someone once told me that life is 10% what happens and 90% how we react. We can’t change the things outside of our control—how people treat us, or the curve balls life throws—but we can change our reactions. Your attitude is your choice and the choice you make can dictate your happiness.
Last year, an elementary school acquaintance was diagnosed with leukemia. He could have given up. He could have been angry at the world. He could have let the negativity of the situation control the rest of his life.
But he didn’t. Instead, he chose to stay strong and positive. He and his wife fight every day against his disease, sharing daily updates and photos where they are never without a smile and a thumbs-up. In his posts, he says that others are worse off and he is the lucky one. He is currently in remission.
Their story is just one example of this simple fact: if you change your perspective, you change your life. The steps below will help guide you towards a more positive, feeling kooshoo, life.
1. Harness your mind before you begin your day.
A positive day starts with a positive mindset, so before you get bed in the morning put out into the world the seeds you would to grow. For Rachel, co-founder of KOOSHOO, this means believing in the power of positive affirmations.
Each morning, she says a mantra taught by her teacher, Gurmukh. She begins by saying “I love my life” out loud 11 times. Then, she says, “Life loves me” out loud 11 times.
This mantra allows her to harness positive energy and let it flow throughout her day.
Your affirmation is yours to choose and can be whatever you need in your life right now. Each day when you wake up, use these words to center yourself before entering into the world. Take a moment, even if it’s just 10 minutes, and go for a run, do yoga, meditate—whatever works for you to ground your mind and body as one—and repeat your affirmation as you do it.
WHY I LOVE THIS MEDITATION: My whole energy field expands and I experience and taste the sweetness and greatness of life.
When you envision what you want from life and project that into your everyday, the world will deliver. If interested in a meditation practice, these lovely and accessible meditation videos are a wonderful place to start.
For aspiring and practicing yogis, a favorite online teacher of ours is Adriene from Yoga With Adriene.
Her classes cater to every mood and ability while her lovable personality gets you smiling even in those moments you'd rather not.
2. Let energy guide your actions.
“When there is an opportunity in front of you, think about it: does it give you energy? Or does it take energy away? If it takes it away, don't do it. But if you're feeling that draw, then maybe take the leap. Let yourself do a little more, to give a little more to something that you really are energized by.
” ― DeLisa Alexander
Don’t get stuck in the details of life. Overthinking is the death of creativity. Instead, let energy—whether positive or negative—guide your decisions. Find what gets your blood pumping and go for it. Acknowledge what drains you and let it fade away.
If you can learn to see the forest for the trees, the pieces of your life will fall naturally into place as one.
3. Find breath in nature.
Connect with nature every single day. Nature has the power to remind us of our place in the universe, of our small role in the bigger picture, so it’s important to keep that connection alive.
A KOOSHOO customer photo, feeling nature's energy on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro .
Go for a hike or a run if you can. Take a walk on the beach. At the very least, step outside and take a breath. If you can’t access nature directly, close your eyes and harness it. Go to your favorite place. Channel it and breathe it.
And breathe deep. Deep breathing grounds us, just as nature does. It activates our ‘rest and digest’ (as opposed to ‘fight or flight’) reflexes, calming the nervous system and clearing our minds.
To maintain that clarity, we must also stay hydrated because hydration keeps us in the flow. Think of a plant—for it to grow and thrive, it must be watered and nurtured. Without water, it starts to shrivel and lose its energy. We are no different. When we’re hydrated, energy is flowing and moving, creating a prosperous landscape of your body and mind.
4. Step off the path most traveled.
“If you're not living a fulfilled, happy, holistic, healthy lifestyle, then what are you willing to do about it today, going forward, to make a difference for yourself? Because you have to help yourself before you can go out and help anyone else.
” – Gail Warrior
Have the courage to let go of control and trust in the destiny of your life. Your idea of control is nothing more than ego. So relinquish power and surrender to something much greater—the more you do so, the more you’ll find Yourself.
Enjoy the new found freedom, peace and harmony that will flow through your life.
Happiness comes from within and is our birthright! In order to activate it we must listen to what our heart tells us.
Is there a nagging desire (something that makes your heart smile) that keeps coming up that you find excuses not to pursue? Maybe it’s moving to a new country. Maybe it’s taking a pottery class.
Whatever it is, no matter how big or small, the sooner you stop trying to fight it, the happier and more fulfilled you’ll be.
One of The Feel Good Daily's most read blogs just happens to be about having the courage to step off the beaten path in life. It's definitely worth a read.
5. Be the company you keep.
Surround yourself with those you aspire towards, our charity friends, Karma Teachers.
It is said that you are the reflection of the five people you spend the most time with. Take stock of your closest social circle and ask yourself:
Do you what you see?
Are these people you aspire to be ?
Do they lift you up to your fullest self?
Or do they hold you back?
Toxic relationships can be as hazardous to your health as poor diet or smoking. These harms can include increased risk of heart problems, greater risk of stress and depression, adrenal fatigue, and more.
On the other end of the spectrum, positive and supportive relationships boost our mental and physical well being, which encourages us to live our most complete lives.
We sometimes keep certain people in our lives for the wrong reasons— a childhood friend or even a relative—even though they are no longer aligned with our values or mindset.
It’s not easy, but try to make conscious decisions to surround yourself with those you aspire towards, and distance yourself from those who bring you down. And then share, connect, uplift and care for those around you, just as they will do for you.
In need of some inspiration to start making changes today? These 5 regrets of the dying will help you appreciate why every moment on this earth is an absolute gift not to be taken for granted.
6. End your day with gratitude.
At the end of each day, make a list of what you’re grateful for. Grateful people are proven to be happier, healthier, and more fulfilled. So celebrate your day and yourself by capturing—in a journal or just out loud—all that you’re grateful for from the day that’s been. This helps to highlight and amplify the good things growing in your life. Where you focus energy, things will thrive.
When you live and breathe with a positive mind, you rewire your brain to more readily fire those positive connections, which helps bring that optimism into your every day. You’re creating a feedback loop where a positive mind feeds a positive life.
Gratitude can change your life in profound and fascinating ways – click on the image below to learn how:
The Mental Toolkit You Need To Live A Good Life
Some people will tell you that with the right mindset, you can overcome just about anything life throws at you.
But how do you get the right mindset? Are people born with an innate ability to handle stress and surmount negative emotions, or is it something that you can learn with a little practice? Hopefully, it’s the latter, or most of us are drifting paddleless along a very suspicious-smelling creek.
In his new book, The Art Of The Good Life, Rolf Dobelli provides 52 short and snappy intellectual lessons that, taken together, form a mental toolkit fit to face down all of life’s troubles. We spoke to Dobelli about the book and a couple of our favourite tools from it.
What’s the premise behind the book?
“The question of what makes a good life is a question I can’t imagine going through life without asking.
“There’s a plethora of answers of how one should lead a life and they fit on a single strand. At one extreme you have maximising pleasure and minimising pain, and on the other is virtues – as long as you stick to certain principles and values it’s great, and maximising pleasure can even detract from a good life.
“I found a middle road which I think is a perfect way to navigate through the 21st century and that is Stoicism. It’s a philosophy that’s very applicable, but it’s not on one extreme or the other. They d good stuff, but they didn’t have to have luxury to lead a good life.
“I also compared Stoic philosophy with the science of psychology that we know from the past 20 or 30 years and there’s a lot of overlap.
“I realised there wasn’t one button to press and you have a good life. We need a bunch of tools that help you lead a good life. Even then it’s not guaranteed, but you increase the chances.
“So I put together the toolbox of 52 mental tools that help you to lead a better life, or you can say a Swiss Army knife with 52 tools on it.”
That’s a big knife…
“Yes! Coming from Switzerland I to use the metaphor of a Swiss Army knife. A Swiss Army knife doesn’t solve all the problems in the world, but it helps with a whole range of problems. And in every situation you don’t need all the tools, you just need one or two.”
How long does it take to use these tools to change your mindset?
“Sometimes it just clicks, and sometimes it takes practice, a lot of practice. I think getting toxic emotions your life – envy for example – might take half a year, a year, or ten years. It’s a matter of practising.
“Take a screwdriver. The first time you used a screwdriver as a little kid you were not used to doing it, but eventually it becomes natural. It’s the same with these tools. The more you use them, the better you get at it.”
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You are inspired by ancient philosophers, but also modern figures Warren Buffett, who features in the book regularly?
“Yes, Warren Buffett and especially Charlie Munger, his right-hand man. These are guys who are actually modern Stoics. A lot of what they say fits nicely into Stoic philosophy and modern psychology.”
One tool I d in the book was the “five-second no”. Can you explain it?
“That’s a beautiful one. It’s the simplest one. It’s not my idea, it’s Charlie Munger’s idea – if you say no to 99% of things you’re not missing much.
“People ask you for a small favour – think about how you react. How often do you say yes without thinking twice? How often do you say no? Then looking back how often do you kick yourself for having agreed to it and how often have you regretted saying no? For me, I kick myself way more for saying yes than regretting saying no.
“The problem is you overcommit yourself. Then you’re not only fooling yourself but you’re also fooling the other person because you can’t really deliver. You have to make up excuses, you have to lie and it’s not good.
“It’s better to spend five seconds contemplating something – but not more than five seconds – and then answer. Don’t let people hang. And the standard answer is no, unless it’s really special. That’s how I do it and my life has gotten much better. It’s much calmer, I’m not overcommitting and I think I’ve been much more honest with other people.
“I always thought that yes was a good word and no was a bad word, because I wanted to be d and loved, but I realised that no is the good word, and yes is the bad word.”
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Is there another tool from the book that you think is especially useful?
“A lot of people struggle with anxiety. But they carry these worries subconsciously, which I call worrying in an unprofessional way. I started to worry professionally.
You take ten minutes your week and write down all your worries. You will realise the list is not that long, maybe 12 points, 20 points – it’s not infinite. Once you’ve written it down, your brain becomes calm.
You can go on with your life because you know it’s somewhere.
“You do this a couple of times and it starts to get boring, because you realise it’s always the same worries. Eventually you look at your list and you ask what can I do about it? In most cases there’s nothing you can do.
Worrying if your favourite football team is going to win or if there will be a stock market crash next week – these are things we cannot know or influence, so you don’t have to worry about them.
It’s the most stupid thing to worry about things you can’t influence – you have to accept them.
“Then with the other stuff where you can have an influence, you try to get the problems the way and your worries will decrease. They will crop up again, so you do this exercise again every once in a while. People worry all the time, but once you dissect it, it goes away, at least for a time.”
The Art Of The Good Life: Clear Thinking For Business And A Better Life is out now, RRP £12.99 (Sceptre), check price and buy on amazon.co.uk
Building Better Mental Health – HelpGuide.org
Your mental health influences how you think, feel, and behave in daily life. It also affects your ability to cope with stress, overcome challenges, build relationships, and recover from life’s setbacks and hardships.
Strong mental health isn’t just the absence of mental health problems. Being mentally or emotionally healthy is much more than being free of depression, anxiety, or other psychological issues. Rather than the absence of mental illness, mental health refers to the presence of positive characteristics.
People who are mentally healthy have
- A sense of contentment
- A zest for living and the ability to laugh and have fun.
- The ability to deal with stress and bounce back from adversity.
- A sense of meaning and purpose, in both their activities and their relationships.
- The flexibility to learn new skills and adapt to change.
- A balance between work and play, rest and activity, etc.
- The ability to build and maintain fulfilling relationships.
- Self-confidence and high self-esteem.
Having solid mental health doesn’t mean that you never go through bad times or experience emotional problems.
We all go through disappointments, loss, and change. And while these are normal parts of life, they can still cause sadness, anxiety, and stress.
But just as physically healthy people are better able to bounce back from illness or injury, people with strong mental health are better able to bounce back from adversity, trauma, and stress. This ability is called resilience.
People who are emotionally and mentally resilient have the tools for coping with difficult situations and maintaining a positive outlook. They remain focused, flexible, and productive, in bad times as well as good.
Their resilience also makes them less afraid of new experiences or an uncertain future. Even when they don’t immediately know how a problem will get resolved, they are hopeful that a solution will eventually be found.
Whether you’re looking to cope with a specific mental health problem, handle your emotions better, or simply to feel more positive and energetic, there are plenty of ways to take control of your mental health—starting today.
How to boost your mental health (yes, it’s possible!)
Anyone can suffer from mental or emotional health problems—and over a lifetime most of us will. This year alone, about one in five of us will suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder. Yet, despite how common mental health problems are, many of us make no effort to improve our situation.
We ignore the emotional messages that tell us something is wrong and try toughing it out by distracting ourselves or self-medicating with alcohol, drugs, or self-destructive behaviors. We bottle up our problems in the hope that others won’t notice. We hope that our situation will eventually improve on its own. Or we simply give up—telling ourselves this is “just the way we are.”
The good news is: you don’t have to feel bad. There are practices you can adopt to elevate your mood, become more resilient, and enjoy life more.
But just as it requires effort to build and maintain physical health, so it is with mental health.
We have to work harder these days to ensure strong mental health, simply because there are so many ways that life takes a toll on our emotional well-being.
Make social connection a priority—especially face-to-face
No matter how much time you devote to improving your mental and emotional health, you will still need the company of others to feel and function at your best.
Humans are social creatures with emotional needs for relationships and positive connections to others. We’re not meant to survive, let alone thrive, in isolation.
Our social brains crave companionship—even when experience has made us shy and distrustful of others.
Why is face-to-face connection so important?
Phone calls and social networks have their place, but nothing can beat the stress-busting, mood-boosting power of quality face-to-face time with other people.
The key is to interact with someone who is a “good listener”—someone you can regularly talk to in person, who will listen to you without their own conceptions of how you should think or feel. A good listener will listen to the feelings behind your words, and won’t interrupt, judge, or criticize you.
Reaching out is not a sign of weakness and it won’t make you a burden to others. Most people are flattered if you trust them enough to confide in them. If you don’t feel that you have anyone to turn to, there are good ways to build new friendships and improve your support network.
In the meantime, there is still a great benefit to interacting face-to-face with acquaintances or people you encounter during the day, such as neighbors, people in the checkout line or on the bus, or the person serving you your morning coffee.
Make eye contact and exchange a smile, a friendly greeting, or small talk.
Staying active is as good for the brain as it is for the body
The mind and the body are intrinsically linked. When you improve your physical health, you’ll automatically experience greater mental and emotional well-being.
Physical activity also releases endorphins, powerful chemicals that lift your mood and provide added energy.
Regular exercise or activity can have a major impact on mental and emotional health problems, relieve stress, improve memory, and help you to sleep better.
But what if I hate to exercise?
Well, you’re not alone. Pounding weights in a gym or jogging on a treadmill isn’t everyone’s idea of a great time. But you don’t have to be a fitness fanatic to reap the benefits of being more active.
Take a walk at lunchtime through a park, walk laps in an air-conditioned mall while window shopping, throw a Frisbee with a dog, dance to your favorite music, play activity-based video games with your kids, cycle or walk to an appointment rather than drive.
You don’t have to exercise until you’re soaked in sweat or every muscle aches. Even modest amounts of physical activity can make a big difference to your mental and emotional health—and it’s something you can engage in right now to boost your energy and outlook and help you regain a sense of control.
Tips for starting an exercise routine
- Aim for 30 minutes of activity on most days. If it’s easier, three 10-minute sessions can be just as effective. Start now by taking a walk or dancing to a favorite song.
- Try rhythmic exercise that engages both your arms and legs, such as walking, running, swimming, weight training, martial arts, or dancing.
- Add a mindfulness element to your workouts. Instead of focusing on your thoughts, focus on how your body feels as you move—how your feet hit the ground, for example, the rhythm of your breathing, or the feeling of wind on your skin.
Learn how to keep your stress levels in check
Stress takes a heavy toll on mental and emotional health, so it’s important to keep it under control. While not all stressors can be avoided, stress management strategies can help you brings things back into balance.
Talk to a friendly face. Face-to-face social interaction with someone who cares about you is the most effective way to calm your nervous system and relieve stress.
Interacting with another person can quickly put the brakes on damaging stress responses “fight-or-flight.
” It also releases stress-busting hormones, so you’ll feel better even if you’re unable to alter the stressful situation itself.
Appeal to your senses.
Does listening to an uplifting song make you feel calm? Or smelling ground coffee or a favorite scent? Or maybe squeezing a stress ball works quickly to make you feel centered? Everyone responds to sensory input a little differently, so start experimenting now to find what works best for you. Once you discover how your nervous system responds to sensory input, you’ll be able to quickly calm yourself no matter where or when stress hits.
Make leisure time a priority. Partake in your favorite activities for no reason other than that they make you feel good. Go to a funny movie, take a walk on the beach, listen to music, read a good book, or talk to a friend. Doing things just because they are fun is no indulgence. Play is an emotional and mental health necessity.
Make time for contemplation and appreciation. Think about the things you’re grateful for. Mediate, pray, enjoy the sunset, or simply take a moment to pay attention to what is good, positive, and beautiful as you go about your day.
Take up a relaxation practice.
While sensory input can relieve stress in the moment, relaxation techniques can help reduce your overall levels of stress—although they’re ly to take more time to learn effectively.
Yoga, mindfulness meditation, deep breathing, or progressive muscle relaxation can put the brakes on stress and bring your mind and body back into a state of balance.
Understanding and accepting your emotions—especially those unpleasant ones many of us try to ignore—can make a huge difference in your ability to manage stress and balance your moods. HelpGuide’s free Emotional Intelligence Toolkit can show you how.
Eat a brain-healthy diet to support strong mental health
Unless you’ve tried to change your diet in the past, you may not be aware how much of what you eat—and don’t eat—affects the way you think and feel.
An unhealthy diet can take a toll on your brain and mood, disrupt your sleep, sap your energy, and weaken your immune system.
Conversely, switching to a wholesome diet, low in sugar and rich in healthy fats, can give you more energy, improve your sleep and mood, and help you to look and feel your best.
People respond slightly differently to certain foods, depending on genetics and other health factors, so experiment with how the food you include in—or cut from—your diet changes the way you feel. The best place to start is by cutting out the “bad fats” that can damage your mood and outlook, and replace them with “good fats” that support brain-health.
Foods that adversely affect mood
- Trans fats or anything with “partially hydrogenated” oil
- Foods with high levels of chemical preservatives or hormones
- Sugary snacks
- Refined carbs (such as white rice or white flour)
- Fried food
Foods that boost mood
- Fatty fish rich in Omega-3s such as salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, tuna
- Nuts such as walnuts, almonds, cashews, peanuts
- Leafy greens such as spinach, kale, Brussel’s sprouts
- Fresh fruit such as blueberries
Don’t skimp on sleep—it matters more than you think
If you lead a busy life, cutting back on sleep may seem a smart move. But when it comes to your mental health, getting enough sleep is a necessity, not a luxury. Skipping even a few hours here and there can take a toll on your mood, energy, mental sharpness, and ability to handle stress. And over the long-term, chronic sleep loss can wreak havoc on your health and outlook.
While adults should aim for seven to nine hours of quality sleep each night, it’s often unrealistic to expect sleep to come the moment you lay down and close your eyes.
Your brain needs time to unwind at the end of the day.
That means taking a break from the stimulation of screens—TV, phone, tablet, computer—in the two hours before bedtime, putting aside work, and postponing arguments, worrying, or brainstorming until the next day.
Find purpose and meaning in life
Everyone derives meaning and purpose in different ways that involve benefitting others, as well as yourself. You may think of it as a way to feel needed, feel good about yourself, a purpose that drives you on, or simply a reason to get bed in the morning.
In biological terms, finding meaning and purpose is essential to brain health as it can help generate new cells and create new neural pathways in the brain. It can also strengthen your immune system, alleviate pain, relieve stress, and keep you motivated to pursue the other steps to improve mental and emotional health.
However you derive meaning and purpose in life, it’s important to do it every day.
What gives you meaning and purpose?
Engaging work that provides meaning to yourself and others. Partake in activities that challenge your creativity and make you feel productive, whether or not you get paid for them. Some ideas are gardening, drawing, writing, playing an instrument, or building something in your workshop.
Relationships. Spending quality time where you give of yourself to people who matter to you, whether they’re friends, grandkids, or elderly relatives, can support both your health and theirs, while also providing a sense of purpose.
Caring for a pet. Yes, pets are a responsibility, but caring for one makes you feel needed and loved. There’s no love quite as unconditional as the love a pet can give. Animals can also get you the house for exercise and expose you to new people and places.
Volunteering. Just as we’re hard-wired to be social, we’re also hard-wired to give to others.
The meaning and purpose derived from helping others or the community can enrich and expand your life—and make you happier. There’s no limit to the individual and group volunteer opportunities you can explore.
Schools, churches, nonprofits, and charitable organizations of all sorts depend on volunteers for their survival.
Caregiving. Taking care of an aging parent, a handicapped spouse, or a child with a physical or mental illness is an act of kindness, love, and loyalty—and can be as rewarding and meaningful as it is challenging.
When to seek professional help
If you’ve made consistent efforts to improve your mental and emotional health and still aren’t functioning optimally at home, work, or in your relationships, it may be time to seek professional help. Following these self-help steps will still benefit you, though. In fact, input from a caring professional can often help motivate us to take better care of ourselves.
Authors: Melinda Smith, M.A., Robert Segal, M.A., Lawrence Robinson, and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. Last updated: June 2019.
Live Your Life Well
Some people think that only people with mental illnesses have to pay attention to their mental health.
But the truth is that your emotions, thoughts and attitudes affect your energy, productivity and overall health. Good mental health strengthens your ability to cope with everyday hassles and more serious crises and challenges. Good mental health is essential to creating the life you want.
Just as you brush your teeth or get a flu shot, you can take steps to promote your mental health. A great way to start is by learning to deal with stress.
How Stress Hurts
Stress can eat away at your well-being acid eating away at your stomach. Actually, stress can contribute to stomach pains and lots of other problems, :
- back pain
- high blood pressure
- vulnerability to infection
Stress also can lead to serious mental health problems, depression and anxiety disorders. If you think you have such a problem, you can get help.
Of course you can't magically zap all sources of stress. But you can learn to deal with them in a way that promotes the well-being you want–and deserve.
Learn more about how stress really hurts.
The concrete steps we're suggesting are not guesses, fads or advice from grandma (though she probably got a lot right). They represent hundreds of research studies with thousands of participants, often conducted over decades and backed by major universities or government agencies.
This research shows that how good you feel is to a fairly large extent up to you. No matter how stressful your situation, you can take steps to promote your well-being.
We're not talking about huge changes to your lifestyle, either. We're talking about reasonable steps that if used consistently can increase your comfort and boost your ability to build a rewarding life.
About the Live Your Life Well Campaign
Mental Health America is the country's leading non-profit dedicated to promoting mental health. We have worked with communities, families, schools and individuals across the nation to ensure that all people have a chance to thrive.
Founded 100 years ago to improve conditions for people with mental illnesses, we have worked tirelessly since then to promote understanding of anxiety disorders, depression and other mental health issues.
Our more than 200 affiliate offices help veterans returning from war, victims of natural disasters, children at risk of substance abuse and millions of other people across the country.
Now we are launching the Live Your Life Well campaign to provide tools to people you who are stressed by the many demands of modern life.
- We want you to know that you can thrive even in the face of stress. We want you to know that you can build more of the life you want.
- We also want you to know that your mental health is one of your greatest assets. It helps you focus at work, overcome obstacles, get along with the people around you and even fight off illness. And there are simple, effective tools you can use to support this vital asset.
You can find the tools on this website
You also can get more information from your local Mental Health America affiliate.
We at Mental Health America believe..
You can feel better–more vibrant, alert and gratified.
You can feel stronger–more comfortable, confident and productive.
You can Live Your Life Well.
What Does It Take to Live a Happy Life If You Stay Single?
Many people still think of single life as a way station, a place where you mark time until you get married. Increasingly, though, that is changing. People are committing to living single, not just for the moment, but for life.
One such person is the feminist writer from India, Sharanya Gopinathan. She contributed one of the 13 essays in the book Single by Choice: Happily Unmarried Women. When she decided to stay single, she found little advice and few role models. So she set out to generate a “toolkit for the single woman: the skills, knowledge, and beliefs I would need in order to lead a happily single life.”
Here are Sharanya Gopinathan’s five tools for a happy single life:
1. Self-love. Commit to being kind to yourself and forgiving too.
2. The ability to sort out your emotions. You need to learn to deal with your feelings on your own.
3. Confidence. Especially important in societies designed for couples (are there any that aren’t?), in which single people are stigmatized and asked inappropriate questions.
4. Friends. Gopinathan thinks that friends become even more important (though harder to find) as you grow older.
5. Financial skills. You can’t count on a spouse to cover this.
I shared these five tools with the Community of Single People and asked them for any additions. They had some. Even more significantly, they raised some profoundly important questions about how to think about this.
Here are some of their suggested additions to the toolkit for a happy single life. I’ll credit the members by name if they gave me permission to do so. In no particular order:
6. Resourcefulness. (Peggy Duszynski)
7. The ability to make major life decisions on your own and take responsibility for those choices. (Kristin Noreen)
8. The ability to be alone for long periods of time. Understand the difference between being alone and being lonely. Be comfortable with your own company. (Kendra and others)
9. Curiosity and an open mind.
10. Effective communication skills to successfully obtain the things you need, to the extent that you aren’t completely self-sufficient. (DC)
11. Plans to ensure your safety and security. (DC and others)
12. One’s people. they could be digital tribes, for instance.
13. Things you enjoy doing for fun.
15. Ways to meet your sexual needs if you have them.
16. A health care advocate or other ways of ensuring appropriate treatment and protection in the health care system.
17. The money to pay people for the help you need. (Peggy Duszynski)
19. A sense of meaning or purpose.
Undergeneralizing: Are These Tools for Single People or for All People?
I think the members of the Community enjoyed generating suggestions for the single person’s toolkit. Lots of people participated. But the first three people to respond (Michelle Bloom and two others) all made the same very important point—hey, aren’t these tools that everyone needs, not just single people?
For many of the tools, I think they may be right. Who wouldn’t be better off with emotional skills, for example?
Maybe a better question is, what kinds of tools are especially important to people who stay single? One way to think about this: If you are single and live alone, you can’t split up different tasks the way some married couples do who live together. You need to either learn how to cover everything yourself or be able to persuade or pay others to help you.
Another angle: There are well-documented ways in which single people are treated less fairly than people who are not single—for example, in the American health care system. Single people need special tools for dealing with singlism; married people do not.
A few people advanced the discussion in even more significant ways, asking, for example, whether it may be married people who need some of these tools even more: “Often married people lack these psychological tools much more than single people. It’s much harder to sort out your emotions when you have blurred boundaries with a partner… When someone depends on a partner for self-love or self-confidence, it’s on very shaky grounds.”
In our discussion of safety concerns, DC said, “When many of my friends were single, we would go through a plan if we were sick or injured. How would we call the ambulance? Who knew our emergency contacts? Who knew our living will?”
I thought that was a very important discussion. And yet, pushed to think more deeply, I ended up uneasy about the implication that single people who live alone may be singularly vulnerable.
In some consequential and scary ways, it is people with intimate partners, perhaps especially those who live with them, who are at the greatest risk.
The statistics on violence and abuse, for instance, are stunning.
And let’s talk about sex. It is easy to trot out concerns about whether single people are getting any. But being married is no guarantee of getting the exact amount and kind of sex you want when you want it. Or avoiding it when or if you don’t want it.
Overgeneralizing: Does Everyone Need All These Tools?
I have been writing about the importance of friendship for years. DC really made me think when she said, “I strongly disagree with needing friends.”
She’s right. Lots of people want friends. They are miserable without them. But other people do not have friends, don’t care that they don’t have friends, and are doing just fine.
How many fit that description? We just don’t know. Quoting DC again: “There could be many people who feel this way, but are afraid to say so because society tells them they are wrong.”
Truisms such as “we are a social species” have some truth to them. Infants would not fare very well on their own. And yet, those nuggets of conventional wisdom can also be used as cudgels to beat up on people who are not very social and totally contented with their life.
This cautionary tale about overgeneralizing applies to many of the tools that were suggested. I’ll address just one more: sex.
Michelle first suggested, for fun, that maybe vibrators should be added to the single person’s toolkit. Then she quickly added that there are other routes to sexual gratification, such as humans. And, importantly, no other people at all, for asexual people—they just aren’t interested in sex with other people.
How should we think about people who just aren’t interested in sex? One woman in our group said, “I never had sex in my whole life… Do I need to be fixed? Only if I suffer.” That’s the conclusion that got incorporated into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in 2013.
A lifelong lack of desire is not a disorder for people who are asexual. They don’t suffer distress from not having sex. The pain, if they experience any, comes from other people’s judgments about them. (Questions about asexuality? You can learn more here.)