I came across the concept of a Mental Health Table while listening to a podcast called “Economic Update”. Sounds like a real snore-fast, doesn’t it? In fact, it’s soothing, gripping and depressing all at once, but more about that another time.
A regular guest, Dr Fraad, was talking about the types of support that humans need to maintain good mental health. It stemmed from a question about why do Americans kill each other more than Europeans, but it was connected to what mental support we need and how best to provide it.
In order to not become so hopeless that we murder people, or resort to substance abuse, or become motivated to hurt anyone (including ourselves), we need all four legs on our mental health “table”.
It might sound odd at first, but let’s look into it – one leg at a time.
What is your mental health table
A good thing about this analogy is that it’s a table with four legs. We can all imagine one of those. I’m typing at one right now. We know what they are for; they support the items we put on top of them, from an elaborate dinner to that pile of clean washing that I need to hang out. If a single leg is missing, perhaps everything will stay in place, but it will be a little wobbly. We will have to be cautious placing items on top of our table. If two legs are missing, depending on which two, it could teeter, or it would crash straight to the floor.
On any day, we will have things on our mind. Responsibilities, tasks, goals, and even random thoughts that are all taking up space on our table. If our table has all four legs, and the burdens aren’t too heavy, we can balance everything in our minds. So if you feel as though you aren’t able to balance everything, it might be a good time to check your legs!
We need a personal connection with someone. Unconditional love that you can depend on. Whether this is from your partner, children or bestie, doesn’t matter. It’s about having the confidence that you have at least one connection in your life that will remain with you forever.
You need friends and acquaintances that help you keep moving. They might be friends you hang out with all the time, or it might be colleagues you only see at the office. These are people that help you thrive, motivating you and generally making you feel good. It can also be someone who you appoint with specifically for this purpose, such as a coach or a personal trainer. It’s about having people that you engage with regularly who give you that drive to push yourself or try new experiences.
This is the group of people who share your beliefs or interests. Traditionally, this was often a religious group you would meet regularly, but it could be a charity you volunteer with or even a special interest website where you chat with peers over a shared hobby. You may not be friends with anyone there, but you feel connected by your shared cause.
You need to feel part of humanity as a whole. You need to not just be aware of this from a logical perspective, but really feel that you are more than just another blob wandering about this planet. You mean something. If you’re not sure what this is for you, I would love to link you to an amazing quiz that has the answer, but there isn’t a perfect one and you know what? That’s okay. Your purpose might change over time, but you will know when something fits. Have a look at what goals you set for yourself and why. You could also start taking notes whenever you feel like you felt connection to the world. What were you doing? Were you out in nature, or in a group, or creating art? If you keep a record of those feelings and where they came from, you will begin to paint a picture of your purpose.
Do you have all your legs?
There are many different ways to review the level of balance in your life, and thinking of your mental health as a table sounds a little unusual, but it can be a quick way to assess yourself. If you’re feeling low on energy, or missing a level of vibe in your life, are you missing a leg? Mental health is not about being “happy” all the time, but it is about feeling energised, content and resilient. If you feel like one of these feelings is missing, perhaps it’s a table leg that’s missing!
Are you missing any of the legs on your mental health table? If so, what can you do to get it back?