In my previous blog post, I wrote about momentarily escapes, meaning moments we have time to breathe and to escape reality and daily patterns. Those moments help us to reflect and to see if we are heading on going our own direction. Anyway, one year ago, this was not the definition I gave to momentarily escapes. Well, the essence might have been the same, but the way on how to experience a momentarily escape in our daily life has changed.
One year ago, I was convinced that play was the way to step out of daily patterns. Nonetheless, now I am older, and is my perspective expanded. To show why I will take you along to conversations I had with people of the target group of the project I am working on for The Green Happiness.
During the interviews with the target group, I asked women about their mental health in their current lifestyle. Surprisingly, almost everybody mentioned feeling tired, anxious, and restless. They experience the feeling of wanting to do something, but due to negative thoughts succeeding is not possible. “People see me as a powerful and confident woman, which I might be, but what I do not feel insight,” Marina said, Or Stephanie, who says: “I continually have those thoughts like: can I do that? Isn’t that too exciting? And do I have enough energy for it?” I concluded, that when it comes to the increase in mental health problems, only play may not always be the solution. In this blog post, I will tell you why, and what in these cases may work better.
Back to the start, what is mental health?
Before I am going to tell you more about play and the other way, I will tell you something about the definition of health. In 1946 WHO (World Health Organisation) defined health as follows: ‘a complete state of mental, physical and social well-being not merely the absence of disease’. According to health, wellness, and lifestyle coach Lewis, health is defined in four categories (figure 1). He says “mental health is being able to take responsibility for your decisions to make smart health choices for today and the future” (Lewis, 2011).
Looking at both definitions and the information the respondents gave during the interview, I believe that having those negative thoughts causes mental health problems. In this figure, I would say they lack in self-supportiveness, positive thoughts, and a positive self-image. Now, I am wondering: could this be solved by playing?
What does play?
Play improves creativity, happiness, and focus since it is encouraging our prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex lies at the front of the brain and is involved by cognitive and emotional functions as social behavior, the ability to live purposefully and to cope with emotions. With playing we develop this part of our brain because play unconsciously triggers us to make connections, be creative, and to use different elements of our body and mind (Scherder, 2019). In any category of figure 1, play can be used as a way to improve health. However, looking at the negative thoughts that Marina and Stephanie experiencing, play is not enough. These thoughts stem from beliefs. Beliefs are so deeply intertwined in our soul, that they determine large parts of our behavior, feelings, and therefore our health. The effects of the beliefs, either positive or negative, are expressing themselves in the emotional health someone experiences. If one of the categories is out of balance, the other categories will be unbalanced as well.
Influence of beliefs
As I already said, beliefs, have a massive role in our behavior. Looking at Stephanie’s thought: “I constantly have those thoughts like: can I do that? Isn’t that to exciting and do I have enough energy for it?” her belief keeping her from doing it. Beliefs can originate from early childhood influences, such as parents or experiences with, for example, teachers, friends, family, or earlier relationships. All these experiences reflecting back to us as an image of ourselves, the so-called ‘self-image’. Even though this self-image is formed over the years, it might be a real or distorted view of who we really are. Nevertheless, based on this view, we develop either a positive or negative self-image (Cleveland Clinic medical professional, 2016). Looking at figure 1, the way our self-image is formed is expressed in our emotional wellness.Looking at figure 1, the way our self-image has been formed is expressed in our emotional wellness. Seeing it from the perspective of my third blogpost, circles also could play a role in this. Because, when someone has developed negative thoughts which creates a negative self-image, a pattern can arise in which one keeps criticizing himself. This way of thinking will become more and more automatic until you lose control of it at some point (Vitaal gezond, 2020). This expression and the feeling of losing control gives a constant feeling of restlessness. This affects our spiritual wellness because it brings the inner calmness out of balance.
The restless feeling and the beliefs people have, are so deep and united in someones’ soul. When I look at the statements of Marina and Stephanie by this new information, I would say it is needed to improve their inner calmness, by, for example, changing their self-image to a realistic and positive one, instead of a negative and distorted view.
Then there is still the question, why can’t this be done by play?
In my third blog post, I said it is needed to find out where a trigger to perform a bad habit comes from, in order to change it. So, counts for beliefs. Improving the inner calmness and the self-image of a person means getting aware of how beliefs influence this restless feeling.
The first step is to become aware of your beliefs. What thoughts are preventing you from seeing who you are? This awareness helps to realize which old feelings you want to let go of to break patterns (Veeger, 2019). Recently, I see more organizations are publishing self-reflection books. Such as the book ‘Vertellis’, in which you answer an inspiring and reflective question every day. For example, about what you are grateful for, what can be improved, and the book gives you space to tell just about the day. After each week, you have a weekly reflection to see what you take with you to the next week, what you want to focus on, and what you want to release. This is why playing alone is not enough, since the reflecting gives space to see, understand, and to change the beliefs.
Due to reflection, a meaning is giving to the momentarily escape, it allows someone to grow from the momentarily escape on a sustainable base. So, play still could be incorporated, but if there are thoughts, feelings, and beliefs that are deeper grounded than behavior, reflection is necessary during play to change and grow in the long term.
Cleveland Clinic medical professional. (2016, October 18). Fostering a Positive Self-Image. Opgeroepen op April 22, 2020, van Cleveland Clinic: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/12942-fostering-a-positive-self-image
Lewis, L. (2011, October 6). What is a Healthy Lifestyle? Opgeroepen op April 22, 2020, van Healthy lifestyles living: https://www.healthylifestylesliving.com/health/healthy-lifestyle/what-is-a-healthy-lifestyle/
Scherder, E. (2019, February 27). Spelen. Opgeroepen op April 22, 2020, van Het klokhuis: https://www.hetklokhuis.nl/tv-uitzending/4014/Spelen
Veeger, C. (2019, March 01). Jezelf een spiegel voorhouden. Opgeroepen op April 22, 2020, van Focus op gevoel: https://www.focusopgevoel.nl/jezelf-een-spiegel-voorhouden/
Vitaal gezond. (2020). 7 Stappen Om Een Negatief Zelfbeeld Te Overwinnen. (Vera, Producent) Opgeroepen op April 17, 2020, van Vitaal gezond: https://vitaalgezond.com/negatief-zelfbeeld/#tab-con-4