As Benjamin Franklin reputedly remarked, “The Constitution only guarantees you the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.” Happiness is a state of mind that, though culturally shaped, is ultimately filtered by personal perspective. The well-being of societies, like the well-being of individuals, is similarly resistant to quantitative conclusions. Governments and NGOs are beginning to recognize that there is more to success (and to life) than GDP. A more comprehensive understanding of mental and physical well-being is essential when considering better policies for better lives.
Work-life balance and flexible hours programs are becoming more pedestrian subjects of conversation, particularly in high-stress professions. The American Bar Association has spotlighted the surge in depression and addiction rates that are affecting the legal profession. While everyone reacts differently to stress, the need for support groups in and out of bar associations has perhaps never been so great.
In honor of Mental Health Month, I would like to encourage you to reflect on your life’s priorities, in theory and in practice. Check out the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Better Life Index (oecdbetterlifeindex.org), where you can create your own Better Life Index and map well-being according to 11 critical topics. Make time for life-promoting activities and non-Facebook relationships. Take the #100HappyDays challenge and document, in pictorial form, the experiences that make you happy each day. Give yourself visible proof of how much there is to be thankful for. By cultivating positive and selfless thoughts, you are certain to catch your own happiness and help others catch theirs.
With warmest regards,
Jessica A. Volz, Ph.D.