Improving Our Mental Health in the Workplace and Beyond

Posted by Julie Wolpow from Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide — North America on October 23, 2018

 

On October 10th, World Mental Health Day, a few of us women from OCHWW attended an event, “Finding Her Balance,” hosted by the Berlin Cameron agency in collaboration with other WPP agencies. The purpose of the event was to bring women together to discuss and raise awareness about women’s mental wellness in the workplace, a topic that is often perceived as taboo in the corporate world.

 

While I took away a lot of meaningful pieces of advice from the day, perhaps the best and most uplifting part was the willingness of all of the women in the room to be vulnerable with one another despite still being in a corporate atmosphere. The event was pervasive with head nods, raised hands, smiles, laughter, and some tears, and although there was no doubt that each woman in the room had her own story, there was a mutual feeling in the space that we were all united by the emotions that these stories had conjured up in us. I believe that “Finding Her Balance” can be a microcosm for the type of culture that we have the potential to create in our work environments, one where we are encouraged to speak about, share, and live through the feelings and experiences that make us humans, not just employees.

 

Rather than explaining everything that I learned throughout the event, I am going to use this blog post to share 3 key takeaways from the day that I found to be refreshing, insightful, and inspiring and that can hopefully help us lead happier lives in the workplace and beyond.

 

1. Negativity bias

Have you ever wondered why we tend to dwell over anything negative that happens in our life and ignore the positive? For example, when we get 10 pieces of positive feedback, why do we only focus on the 1 negative comment that we receive? Stella Grizont explained that this tendency, known as negativity bias, comes from the primal days of our ancestors, where staying alert to negative signs in our environment was actually a method of survival. However, we are no longer cavemen, so we don’t need to submit to this behavior; indeed, it holds us back rather than helps us.

 

2. Tunnel vision

Stella also taught us that studies prove that people who are in a worse mood see less of what is in front of them. While those in a positive mood look from the outside in, when we are feeling down or anxious, we look directly to the center. As we work in a creative environment, I find this fact to be particularly important. Negativity will physically prevent us from thinking big, and as a result, we will not reach our best potential in our work.

 

3. Thankfulness as a means to happiness

So now that we have some insight into why we often defer to negativity and what the effects of such behavior can have on us, how do we train our brains to get out of these habits? One of the ways to do so that was discussed at the event is actively practicing gratitude. Recognizing what we are thankful for on a day-to-day basis triggers endorphins in the brain and, in turn, makes us happier. Whether we say them aloud, write them down, or think them to ourselves, pointing out 3 to 5 “things” that we appreciate every day is a simple practice that can significantly improve our mental health. I will do mine right now:
 

• The English muffin with peanut butter and blackberry jam and a side of egg whites with goat cheese that I had for breakfast this morning
 

• The song “Only Love” by Ben Howard that I am currently listening to
 

• The fact that there was a make-your-own Chopt salad bar at work today
 

• My mom having read receipts on her texts
 

• Mindy’s fast feedback

 

As a company committed to creating behavioral change, we can use these lessons of improving mental health to help patients embrace a more positive outlook on their worlds. However, we should also look internally, at our own culture within the walls at OCHWW, and find how we as a community can implement certain mental practices to brighten our mind-sets and our work.