On January first we were so forthcoming with wishes of “Happy New Year,” but just a dozen days later, we don't hear that so much anymore.
Does this indicate that the happiness of 2015 only lasted that one day? Or does it mean that we are individually on our own to sustain that happiness as the days go by?.
It's Happy New YEAR, people, not Happy New DAY. So the expectation is that we are obliged to remain happy for the remainder of 2015. Right? Probably not so much. After all, this is the darkest time of the year in Minnesota, and it's the coldest, and everything takes so much longer --- bundling up to go outdoors, heating bills, snow removal, walking and/or driving on slippery surfaces. Winter is a challenge for us!
Let me reflect back on an article in the Star Tribune on January 7, 2015, entitled “Misery,” written by Jeff Strickler. While it is not hard statistical data, Google tracks the topics for which people have searched the internet, correlating those human interests with mood in general. The result of tabulating searches regarding subjects of pain, stress, anxiety, fatigue, and depression were the most frequently noted in 2014 on April 23rd! This observation is further called the “Misery Index.” It is not news to most of us that one's mood will affect our energy level, our feelings of wellbeing, our resiliency, our hopeful attitude. When we consider this in January, it's hard to believe that anyone could feel miserable on April 23rd in Minnesota, as spring is about to bloom, grass has the intention of becoming green, and most of us feel hopeful in anticipation of improving weather of the spring season.
While this writer has tried to present and introduce the topic of misery in a light-hearted way, we cannot deny the pervasive stress and anxiety that is part of our world, our community, our culture. Hopefulness vs. hopelessness is a struggle as we hear of war, violence, mass tragedies, random killings, accidents, and all that would threaten our wellbeing and sense of security. There are opportunities to learn different ways of responding to such events, to help oneself and others respond differently to the 'Misery Index.' If you have an interest in receiving Mental Health First Aid training, that may help oneself and others, let me provide the details.
Mental Health First Aid is an in-person training that teaches how to help people in crisis or significant anxiety or depression. This one-day interactive course is given by certified instructors, using national standards and curriculum. The course teaches the signs of addictions and mental illness; risk factors and warning signs of mental health concerns; impact of mental and substance use disorders; a 5-step action plan to assess a situation; and where to turn for help, how to connect someone with local resources.
This course is offered FREE OF CHARGE by Fairview Community Health, but registration is required. Each class is limited to 25 participants. The scheduled day of training is from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. on either Friday February 13th or Friday April 3rd at Fairview Southdale Hospital. Parking in the ramp will be validated. To register, contact Tiffany Utke at 612-706-4566, or online at firstname.lastname@example.org;
The Misery Index developed by Google will not solve or treat mental illness, but it does create an awareness of times and symptoms of high stress. Perhaps during those times, we can recognize in ourselves the need to 'cut some slack' to ourselves or others, to manage our time more effectively in order to reduce the stress of deadlines and requirements.
Pay attention to those positive things that show us helpful ways to make connections with habits and skills that reduce anxiety. Practice patience with self and others. Make sure that you get enough sleep. Unplug from the electronic world from time to time. Start, and regularly make entries into, a journal of gratitude and thankfulness. And most importantly, reach out for help when you need to do so.
“As the old year retires and a new one is born, we commit into the hands of our Creator the happenings of the past year and ask for direction and guidance in the new one. May He grant us His grace, His tranquility and His wisdom!”
― Peggy Toney Horton, Does God Want Us to Be Happy