So a study has now shown that poor mental health is contagious. I was a little shocked when I first saw it but after a bit I realized that there is no reason for any of us to be surprised by the results of that study. The phrase “you are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with,” has been something that I, along with the people I hang around, have been familiar with for several years now. Of course you could probably nitpick the study and the saying but it is hard to argue that the general idea they advertise is wrong. If you hang around grumpy and bitter people you will become grumpy and bitter. If you hang around depressed people you will become depressed. If you hang around people who seem to always be stressed you will find yourself stressed all the time as well.
The study looked at employee data from Denmark and examined the what happened when a person showing signs of a potentially work caused mental disorder (depression, anxiety, and stress related stuff) when they left one bad work environment and entered another. The thing that everyone would expect to happen as a distressed person leaves a “bad work environment” would be that the individual’s mental health would improve. It is quite plausible that they do expireince a temporary boost when they get to their new workplace, but I don’t think the data the study was working with was detailed enough to prove with. What the study did find was that when the distressed worker entered a new workplace the mental health of the individuals new coworkers would decline. The researchers compared this phenomenon to actual pandemics showing how dangerous it can be to a business.
Of course the research was business focused so it didn’t really provide us any information on what we should do about the information, and I didn’t read deep enough to see if it even gave businesses any useful advice, that simply isn’t in the nature of scientific studies these days, as one points out, “There has been more research on the negative (psychological) disease-based outcomes (such as depression and anxiety) than for the positive well-being outcomes (such as happiness or subjective well-being).” It is up to us to decide how we will adjust our lives with this new information and I do have a few suggestions.
First we should seek to mentally healthy ourselves. Plenty of people have plenty of opinions on how to do this and I’m skeptical of the mainstream advice. Drugs and therapy don’t seem like the best idea to me. What is the financial incentive for a doctor or therapist to fix your problems if you are no longer their customer once you are better? If the amount of people going to therapy in America has increased over the past twenty years why has the country’s overall mental health decreased over the same period of time? This just doesn’t make sense to me, and you should be incredibly worried if a doctor puts you on a drug or treatment without discussing a point where you can get off of it.
Mental health advice that does make sense to me is to improve your physical health by eating healthy and exercising. It is hard to be mentally healthy if our bodies feel like crap all the time, sugary foods are fun when we eat them but the effects they have on our bodies afterwards are far from desirable. Buy a turtle pie and eat the whole thing in less than 24 hours then see how you feel afterwards. I doubt you’ll ever want to do that again. Eating healthy real food does not have this effect. It satisfies more than just our taste buds but our entire body and it gives our mind the stuff it needs to function properly. Remember it is impossible to be mentally healthy if we are not getting the vitamins we need and the best way to get those vitamins is through the foods we have evolved to digest, not lab made chemicals that have been pressed into a cherry flavored pill.
Exercise is also something that our bodies were designed to do. We weren’t meant to sit in a cubicle with artificial light staring at screens all day. Our bodies were made to move, and we are happier when we move them and fulfilled when we push them to greater strengths. Due to a recent accident I am unable to exercise much for the time being and that thought drives me crazy.
Along with trying to be healthy we should also seek to do things that fulfill us. Strangely enough this includes jobs that are now rarely considered by kids growing up but incredibly necessary to society. This also includes things like growing a family and striving to live closer to God, two more things that mainstream culture is trying to push us away from.
In a world where conditions like depression and anxiety are contagious it is important for us to stay mentally healthy to avoid bringing others down. If you constantly have a bad attitude or a bad outlook on the world change, it will make your life as well as that of those around you much better.
This brings me to my next point. We should try to avoid mentally unhealthy people where we can. I was probably only thirteen when I first realized that I didn’t like being around my friends when they were sad or angry, I’m sure you’ve noticed this as well and I hope that you’ve made an effort not to let your attitude affect that of others.
I have decided that I will never go to a protest of any sort, not because I think the government or big corporations never do anything wrong, but because I don’t want to be around angry people. Why would I willingly put myself in that kind of a situation? Why would you?
The media we consume also has a huge impact on our mental health. Don’t waste too much time listening to sad and angry people on the internet, and avoid movies and music with a negative message. For a long time I exclusively listened to metal and I didn’t realize how it was impacting me until I started branching out to other music genres. A heavy music fueled careless drive nearly sent me off the road when I hit a patch of ice that caused me to loose control of my vehicle. Luckily I didn’t hit anything and I didn’t get stuck but that was a wake up call for me to consider how that music was affecting me. I stopped listening to metal for a few months and when I did I found myself much more calm and easygoing. I’ve gotten back to listening to it on occasion but I’m much more careful about how I let it affect my mood and actions as we should be with all the media around us because in this internet age the people we listen to online have a similar psycological effect on us as the people we physically spend time with do.
But of course we aren’t always in control of who we are around. There are very few of us who have the luxury of choosing our coworkers. If we find ourselves working around people who have a negative impact on our lives it probably is a good idea to seek different employment. But keep in mind the findings of this study, you don’t want to be the mental health contagion to a new workplace. Either leave your bad job before it drags you too far down or seek to make more improvements in your life than just changing jobs. Remember our mental health is our responsibility, we can’t expect it to fix itself with just a simple change in scenery.
Then of course there are the times where it is wrong for us to abandon people who may be struggling in the mental health department at a level where they could bring us down. Friends and family are never people we should abandon. We should always seek to lift them up. Now how to do that I’m not sure, you’d know better than me but remember the things that make you healthy, and even more importantly help them seek truth, wickedness never was happiness. Don’t let them fall into wickedness and don’t follow them down a bad path if they do. Lifting others up does not require us to fall down.
Anyways I’ve ranted on this long enough. Nothing I’ve said here should really be new information, hopefully I connected some dots that you haven’t before but again this shouldn’t be new info. Always seek to improve yourself and your mind and always seek to lift others up. Never become a reason for someone else to fall down.