Mental Health: What Is 'Doing The Work'?

'Physical health has improved and drastically improved our life expectancy. However, mental health has not improved.'
gustavofrazao/ Getty Images

The most important work we can ever do is on ourselves. That's why this is called the work.

Here is what I learnt in therapy and from "doing the work".

People often say we must "do the work", but what is "the work"? I hope this post will give you an answer to this question and also help you heal and restore your mental health.

The work is seeking help for our mental health. However, let me start from the very beginning, with a history lesson about health and what I mean about "mental health".

When humans discovered how to heal our bodies, mortality rates fell. According to Dr Guy Winch (YouTube him, he is great!), when we discovered physical and dental hygiene 100 years ago, our life expectancy increased. In fact, it almost doubled. He therefore advocates that we develop our own emotional first aid.

What our great-grandparents meant by mid-life is different from what we mean by this. They meant our 30s, we mean our late 40s. When our great-grandparents started to work (around the age of 10) is different from when we start working (around 16 years old). Such has been the impact of an improvement in physical health, among many things.

Why is that? Why is this important? It's because of the discovery (around 300 years ago) and acceptance of the Germ Theory in science (around 150 years ago). This meant that human beings, for the first time in history, were taught about physical and dental hygiene — to the point that physical and dental hygiene is almost second nature to us.

'Doing the work' is investing time and effort to achieve a task (the definition of work). In this case, the task is gaining mental health.

So physical health has improved and drastically improved our life expectancy. However, mental health has not improved. Overwhelming evidence shows that lately it is worsening, in a world that is getting more unequal.

Doing the work is restoring your mental health, i.e. healing it and practising mental hygiene. It is going to a therapist and confronting those things that hurt your feelings and make you feel angry, sad, less productive, anxious or depressed but have nothing to do with your physical health. It is seeking and taking medication if need be.

It is learning about self-love, self-compassion, self-acceptance, self-kindness, self-motivation, self-discipline, self-care, self-understanding, self-confidence, self-worth etc. — and how to get them.

Do an online search for self-love and how to practise it; there are many good articles. Wikipedia is a good place to start, as it familiarises you with the concept. Then do the same with the other concepts. This is what "doing the work" is.

"Doing the work" is investing time and effort to achieve a task (the definition of work). In this case, the task is gaining mental health. The most important work we can ever do is on ourselves. That's why this is called the work.

So start small. Start with one concept, e.g. self-forgiveness, and spend a couple of months learning and practising it. Doing the work is a process and it will take years and even last your lifetime, much like taking showers, brushing your teeth and washing your hands.

I highly recommend that you go and see professionals like psychologists and psychiatrists, much like you would seek help from a general practitioner for expert advice if you were feeling physically sick.

Let whatever or whoever you believe in lead you in this process. Let it restore your self-belief and know that you are more than capable of healing yourself.

We are a hurt people. A world with one less hurt person is a better world. May all that is peace, light, love, hope and life guide you.

Before You Go