Learning from crisis

How to rethink your priorities and recalibrate your moodometer.

Written by Graeme Cowan

On July 24 2004 I attempted suicide. It followed a five-year episode of depression that my psychiatrist described as the worst he had ever treated. I didn’t know it then, but that crisis was the starting point of a re-evaluation of priorities that has led to a fulfilling life I am very grateful for.

These are four things I learnt that were important for mastering my moodometer and thriving.

1. whYcode™

Your whYcode™ is the confluence of your strengths and passions. It is your purpose, your spirit, your life force. A life congruent with your whYcode™ is essential for negotiating the peaks and valleys of life’s journey. It makes our daily decisions so much easier when we know ourselves. There is a wonderful Indian proverb that says “Relaxation is who I am, tension is who I think I should be”. Much of our angst comes from trying to be like somebody else. In Bronnie Ware’s book The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying, those close to death wished they had lived a life true to themselves.

2. Vitality

A brisk walk for 30 minutes improves our mood after two, four, eight, and 12 hours compared to not exercising. Exercise boosts energy, confidence and sexual desirability. It’s hard to argue with really.

In this 24/7 world we need to understand the benefits of resting well. For example, a NASA study of 4000 employees showed that those who had a 30 minute nap or meditation after lunch, increased productivity by 35% and decision making by 50%. A rested field yields a bountiful crop.

Drinking water is perhaps the best source of physical energy renewal. Those that drink five glasses of water per day are significantly less likely to die of a heart attack than those that drink two.

3. Intimacy

Chose a happy partner, happy friends, and happy workmates, and you’re more likely to be happy. A 2008 Harvard study covering 30+ years and involving 12,000 people showed that your odds of being happy increased by 15% if you have one happy friend. In a Gallup study of 140,000 people, the people with the lowest stress to wellbeing ratio spent six hours per day with people they liked – this includes time at work, home, phone, and social media. People with three or four close friendships are healthier, have higher wellbeing, and are more engaged in their jobs.

4. Prosperity

Using your innate talents promotes career wellbeing and prolongs your life. In a study of hundreds of elderly men, those that lived to 95 years had an average retirement age of 80 years. People who use their strengths at work are six times more likely to be engaged and energised by it, and three times more likely to report an excellent quality of life. According to a Harvard study, spending money on oneself does not improve wellbeing whereas spending money on others does. Purchases of experiences such as dining out or holidays have a much greater impact on wellbeing than material goods. Community volunteers feel more energetic and are more motivated after helping others in even the smallest way. There is a direct link between altruistic behaviour and longevity.

Plan each week

Schedule activities each week that enhance your whYcode™, vitality, intimacy, and prosperity to ensure a balanced week that leaves you more energetic, resilient and robust. Learn to say no to the trivial few so that you can say yes to the vital few. We can’t care for others unless we care for ourselves.

For more information visit graemecowan.com.au

Written by Graeme Cowan

Graeme Cowan is a resilience and mental health speaker, awarded author and consultant.

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