Four simple habits for stronger mental health

Productivity
Takeaway: Four rules worth following, courtesy of an instructional video from 1952: don’t bottle things up inside; respect your abilities; treat others as friends; and do something about a problem as soon as it comes up.

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes, 28s.

I’ve been on a weird YouTube binge lately: watching black and white instructional videos from the last century. I’ve pored through videos on habit patternsdeveloping self-reliance, and thrift habits—some of which are surprisingly interesting and poignant, even today. 

But I had to laugh when I stumbled across a video titled “Mental Health: Keeping Mentally Fit,” from 1952, an Encyclopedia Britannica film. This is going to be so hilariously outdated, I thought. But I was surprised by what I watched. The video was actually helpful. And, unlike some other videos from the time, it’s in color! 

The video runs through four habits to develop greater mental health resilience. In a nutshell, they are: 

  1. Don’t bottle stuff up. As the video mentions, when you “work up a head of steam, put that to work in a useful way, instead of holding it up inside. When you do that, it’s bound to come out in some unpleasant way.” The video suggests you talk about your feelings with someone: “The more you talk about your problems, the easier they are to solve. […] Don’t bottle up motions like love, fear, and anger—express them naturally, with respect for others.” 
  2. Respect your own abilities. Many of us aren’t satisfied with slow, steady improvement, and expect perfection in our performance. We worry so much that we forget to enjoy things along the way. As the video puts it, “we need to take ourselves as we are, instead of expecting ourselves to be perfect.” We’re human, and that’s a good thing. 
  3. Treat and respect others as friends. We need to get along with others, have fun together, and thrive collectively. “There’s no room for bashfulness in good mental health,” the video says. Whether we believe it or not, other people want to (and even enjoy!) spending time with us. According to the video: “In any group of people, there should be a feeling of give and take; there’s an interest in the group as a whole. There’s no distrust or dislike of others just because they happen to be different.” Find a group and contribute to it. 
  4. Problem solve sooner rather than later. Don’t let problems fester—instead, do your best to resolve them as soon as they arise. “When a problem shows up, face it at once—calmly, reasonably, and honestly.” And remember: one of the best rules for good mental health is talking through your trials and tribulations with someone whose opinion you respect and trust. “Talking is one of the best tonics there is for good mental health,” explains the video. 

Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot the video doesn’t include or consider. One commenter mentioned “this all works when you have normal people around you,” but the advice falls short in tougher environments.  

Dated as it is in places, there are a bunch of valuable nuggets in this video. It’s well worth the watch. 

Written by

Chris Bailey has written hundreds of articles on the subject of productivity, and is the author of two books: Hyperfocus, and The Productivity Project. His books have been published in 20 languages. Chris writes about productivity on this site, and speaks to organizations around the globe on how they can become more productive, without hating the process.

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