You may wonder: Is your mental health dependent on your neighbor’s (and vice versa)? In some ways, yes — there is, in a way, a mental health ripple effect.
Just as when a pebble is thrown into water and causes ripples, your words, actions, and feelings affect those around you, who in turn affect those around them, and so on.
How Your Actions Affect Others
So, while there are a lot of sources that impact mental health, what you say and do can have an impact on, not just your wellbeing, but also on those around you.
On the one hand, this can be a good thing — you have the power to have a positive impact in someone’s life who is struggling with mental health problems. Many mental health issues go undiagnosed because the sufferer is unaware that what they’re experiencing constitutes a problem, but you can speak up, provide factual information, suggest your loved one speak with a mental health provider ,and support their mental health journey.
On the other hand, it shows how important it is to be cautious with your words and actions. Think about how your own mood is impacted when a sales clerk is rude to you — it leaves you frustrated and angry. If that same clerk shows you positivity and kindness, you’re left feeling inspired, happy, maybe even motivated.
In either case, a stranger’s attitude has influenced your own — and you can have a similar impact on others. When it comes to someone you know, especially closely, your emotions and actions can be even more profound.
Tips to Stay Aware of Your Impact on Others
Knowing you can have an acute impact on others’ mental health can feel overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be — here are a few quick tips to consider to keep yourself and others in a better state of mind:
Think about yourself first
In order to understand how other people’s behaviors impact you, understand how you deal with your own emotions first. After all, your emotions impact how you feel and behave, and can impact your perception. So, ask yourself: What am I feeling? Why am I feeling this way? How should I respond to this feeling? How am I projecting it to others?
Remember the impact you can have
Think of this article and how your good and bad emotions and behaviors can influence the morale of those around you. And, when possible, focus on the power of contributing positive energy. Research shows optimists experience better health, manage challenges more effectively, and are generally more confident and happier. Optimists are found to have an overall higher quality of life than pessimists.
Focus on small changes
If you decide you should change a habit or action because of the impact it’s having on your mental health and others’, focus on small changes. Habit changes can be difficult, but if you keep it simple and allow yourself to focus, you’re better set up for success.
Identify your triggers
If you’ve identified negativity in your moods or actions, find out why you’re engaging these emotions and behaviors to begin with. Once you know the root of your stress, you can better identify a plan to mitigate it.
Talk to yourself
It’s likely you already talk to yourself silently, but start being more deliberate about the conversations you have with yourself and listen to what your internal monologue has to say. Instead of focusing on the negative — I am angry, I am stressed, I am not strong, I am jealous, why is this happening — focus on the positive and how you’ll carry those conversations from inside your head toward actions in your daily life.
Nurturing Actions Mean Healthier Relationships
Overall, emotions and actions are contagious. What you do and how you act can impact someone else’s mood and their mental health. Because relationships are largely based on emotion and action, one person’s behavior can have a profound and lasting impact on another’s life.
Consider this: research has found that depression in a significant other frequently leads to depression in the partner. The same holds true for roommates, children, and parents. So, nurture those around you and yourself, and you’ll be nurturing the relationships around you and supporting everyone’s journey to a healthier life.