Mental Health and Life Success2023-08-07

This is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never―in nothing, great or small, large or petty―never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.

Winston Churchill

A large proportion of the population has mental health challenges at one time or another. That is true for more successful and less successful people alike. What is the difference?

More successful people expect life to be hard, and view trauma (stress, pain) as ultimately making them stronger. They have fears along the way (anxiety, panic attacks) but overcome them, believe they can win in the end. Some of them even suffer from depression, but even when they cannot work hard, they have good habits or support system that pull them through, and use their limited energy to achieve the one big goal that matters at that moment.

A prime example of that, that I use with my patients when I counsel them, is Winston Churchill, who lived till age 90, despite having likely bipolar disorder (he mostly talked about his depressive episodes, as the “black dog” haunting him). Churchill had a challenging life, and he expected life to be hard, but also expected hardships to make him stronger. He overcame his fears to achieve great things. Despite his bouts of depression and low energy, he had good habits for writing, thinking, resting and regenerating, that led to a tremendous output throughout his life (he wrote forty-three books that filled seventy-two volumes, and got a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953). And obviously he marshaled his energy for the one big thing that mattered most in his life, saving Britain during the Second World War against very long odds.

As such, it is very important that we support people going through mental health challenges, as well as teach future generations, that perseverance, beliefs, and focus can make a great difference in their lives. It starts with developing a mission statement, reviewing the positives daily as a form of self-therapy, and tabulating the challenges and learnings as a form of self-improvement. Keeping track of your mental health, what life activities affect it, and seeking help and support, are important as well. Journaling, writing, and self-reflection help, as they did Churchill. My group at MindX Sciences has built such features into an easy to use app, Life x Mind.

Live. Happier. Longer.