Mental Health, Well-Being, and Responsibility

More about personal responsibility in regards to mental health and well-being…

Have you noticed how often people talk about things they do as if they were events that happened. It’s as if “stuff happened,” and they were just hapless victims of circumstances. Note, I am talking about the things people actually DO – not things that really do happen to them.

“I got to work (or class, or church, or wherever) late.” A more accurate description would be, “I decided to do (some category of activity) rather than leave on time.” Maybe it was staying in bed, maybe it was “one more chore,” but the person decided to do something and thus the lateness.

Someone complains, “I woke up with a hangover,” when, of course, the reality is, “I decided to drink to a point where I knew I would feel lousy today but last night it seemed like a really good idea.”

“The (whatever task – homework, a chore, etc.) didn’t get done.” What really happened? The person decided to do something else, or a whole bunch of something elses, rather than that pesky task.

So, one way to improve one’s well-being is to simply start taking responsibility for choices. I might decide to have a brownie ice cream sundae for breakfast, and if so, I should say I am deciding to have this instead of scrambled egg whites with cheese. The brownie sundae, in all its wonderful deliciousness, will not just happen to me by accident, without warning.

I can decide to sit and stew about something that bothers me or I can decide to try to focus on some other activity and decide that I will figure out what to do about a particular problem when I’m in a better frame of mind. I get to decide; an hour spent stewing is something I can choose, or maybe I can choose to do something else instead.

You can decide to be in a relationship with someone who is toxic and mean, or not.

You can decide whether to seek help in parenting strategies, or throw up your hands in despair, or try the consequence-of-the-week approach except for when you’re too tired to argue.

You can decide whether to join a grief support group or suffer in silence and loneliness.

The act of owning a decision gives a greater sense of control, because if you decided one thing today, you might decide something else in five minutes, or tomorrow, or next week. If stuff just happens to you, you have no control, and thus must sit around being helpless, hoping for better luck next time.

Luck is an iffy plan.

It would be better to decide.



Dr. Lori Puterbaugh

© 2016

Posts are for information and entertainment purposes only and should not be construed to be therapeutic advice. If you are in need of mental health assistance, please contact a licensed professional in your area.


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