I don’t have a Mental Illness, but am I Mentally Well?
Following a personal transformation, I found my way back to happiness. True happiness, not the surface happiness that many of us tolerate because we don’t know how to feel better.
Most people assume that I got my mojo back because I left my Senior Leadership role to follow my passion, but that wasn’t it. I started to sparkle 2 years before anything in my outer world changed.
I learned that happiness and appreciation are mental habits, and if they’re not practiced in the present they are never experienced in the future. 
Many of us sit in the waiting room of life assuming ‘I’ll be happy when…’
I’ve always been outwardly happy, calm and optimistic, taking pride in the ease with which I dealt with demanding roles. I don’t recall how or when happiness turned to numbness, and wellness to dis-ease, but I can tell you the exact moment when this truth hit me square in the face!
It was December in NYC, with colleagues in the lobby of the Hilton Hotel. We were about to head into the cold to walk the couple of blocks to our end of year leadership meeting. A colleague asked how I was. Rather than the expected and usual exchange of pleasantries she actually wanted to know.
How was I coping with 2 young children? Did I have support at home? Was I taking care of myself?
I told her all was well and turned away.
What was this water in my eyes?
It’s just the sadness of leaving home the day after my daughter’s birthday, I rationalised. It doesn’t help that I feel unwell with this sinus infections (my third of the year).
I sat in the bathroom of the Hotel and, in a flash, I knew what burnout was. Me! Burn out?
The tightening prodded at my chest!
Hello! I’ve been here for a while. How much longer do you intend to ignore me?
Lorna, you’ve been running on adrenaline for so long, your body thinks there’s a Saber-Toothed Tiger permanently about to attack!
You’ve been `numbing out’ every weekend binge drinking and binge watching.
The only thing keeping you sane is your daily workout.
This was true. I’d used exercise to reset, prepare my mind and body, boost my energy and positively charge my days. For most of my career, this had served me well. That cold December morning in NYC was the moment I realised I was headed in the wrong direction and I needed to take action.
My positive outlook had mutated into a stubborn avoidance of any negative emotion. I didn’t realise that in shutting out negative emotions, I was shutting out all emotions. How can we instruct our mind not to feel negative emotion, yet still expect the good stuff? When we instruct our mind and body not to feel, it goes both ways.
- I couldn’t find pleasure in anything
- I didn’t look forward to anything
- Pain in my chest
- Continuous colds
- Frequent sinus infections
My grand declaration that something had to change, sparked a sequence of events, beginning with a 6-month personal growth process.
From the moment I took the first step everything changed.
It was 2 years before I left my leadership career to create my own business, but my joy, wellbeing and confidence started to skyrocket way before then. Today, I do what I love every day and it never feels like work. I’d do even if I didn’t get paid, but that’s not the reason I feel joyful.
As I’ve been putting together the pieces of this puzzle, I am able to explain what changed. I started proactively taking care of my Mental Wellness.
Eureka! Get this girl on Oprah’s couch!
Yes, it’s very simple and obvious. So is the idea that exercise improves our fitness, but are we all out walking, running, swimming or rollerblading 5 times a week? I started taking care of my Mental Wellness 7 days a week! Stacking wellbeing and mindset habits that made me feel amazing. I continue to get fitter and more jubilant with every passing day.
What is Mental Wellness?
The Global Wellness Institute says that Mental Wellness is more than just the absence of Mental Illness (the presence or absence of diagnosable mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, personality disorders, etc.). Mental Wellness is the extent to which we feel happy, satisfied, have strong relationships and personal growth.
Declining Mental Wellness can look and feel like stress, worry, loneliness, or sadness. It can make us more vulnerable to Mental Illness.  A study of Americans aged 25-74 found that people with moderate to languishing Mental Wellness were 86% more likely to develop a Mental Illness. 
About 15% of the world’s population suffers from a diagnosed mental or substance use disorder, but that does not mean that the other 85% of the population is “mentally well” or leading healthy, happy, productive, and satisfied lives. Many people who do not have a mental illness still do not feel healthy or function well.
A Mental Illness requires professional diagnosis and clinical treatment, but Mental Wellness is an active process of moving from languishing, to resilience, to flourishing. Mental Wellness is a lifelong process and a proactive strategy to strengthen our resources. Each of us can be proactive in increasing our level of Mental Wellness. The suggestion is not that Mental Wellness can solve or cure Mental Illness, but that practices that support and improve our Mental Wellness are increasingly recognised as positive factors for our Mental Health.
As we seek to recover from the impacts of the Global Pandemic, this is an important and empowering idea.
The GWI highlights good sleep, good nutrition, exercise, meaningful relationships, reducing stress and meditation as important factors that support Mental Wellness. I enrich my life in these areas and I have implemented a number of additional game changing strategies.
Lost your spark?
Here are some of the things you can do to start thriving and shining your light more brightly:
- Meditate – You can be a Buddha and a Badass.
- Practice Gratitude – Appreciate what you have now, and unashamedly go for more. Phone someone and tell them you’re thankful. (It’s impossible to feel grateful and pi**ed off at the same time).
- Journaling – Writing s**t down gets it out of your head and onto paper, where it can be looked upon objectively. Write about your intentions for the day, the week, the year…. Write about the type of person you are becoming.
- Do something you love every day. Paint, read, play the guitar, do some gardening, stare at the wall…
- Move every morning. Ideally exercise. Ideally outside. Ideally get some sunlight.
- Study – Read something uplifting and empowering every morning.
- Get Sociable – Phone your best friend, join a community to engage with new people, email a stranger you admire and strike up a conversation, say good morning to everyone you pass.
All of these things will have a powerful impact on the way you feel every day. You will start to attract people towards you who think and feel this way too. You will make faster progress towards your goals than ever before.
No matter how much I tell you about the benefits, you will not put these processes into your life consistently until:
- You have a big reason for doing it.
- You make a committed decision.
- You stay with it long enough to feel the benefits for yourself.
Don’t try to do all of these at once. Pick one that resonates. Do it every day for 30 days. Then add another.
I developed a 6 week system that goes deep into these powerful practices (and more) and shows you how to implement them so they stick. The results experienced by everyone who has taken part surpassed my expectations (and theirs)!
The thing that excites me so much is that a thriving and fulfilling life is within each of us, and there are things we can do to let it out. It has nothing to do with how much money you earn or what you do for a living, yet ironically, when you start to live this way your results and circumstances start to improve; often dramatically.
Somehow, when you play at this level, success finds you.
I didn’t get my dream job, because I was unhappy with my old one.
I got my dream job, because I was happy! Not happy “because of.”
 Psycho-cybernetics, Maxwell Maltz
 Defining The Mental Wellness Economy Report, November 2020. The Global Wellness Institute
 LenaGWI, Defining Mental Wellness, February 2021. Global Wellness Institute
 The Buddha and The Badass. Vishen Lakhiani.