Mental health seems to be the primary challenge for modern-day office workers. And rightfully so. Amid a flurry of meetings, focused work sessions, and constant adjustments to an uncomfortable office chair, office life is far from a fairy tale. Feeling increasingly trapped in an office routine, I’ve often asked myself: what does it mean to maintain good mental health?
Many people suggest that good mental health is associated with a “balanced lifestyle”. But what does such balance mean?
Everything we do can be categorized into four states:
- Resting/Meditative State (sleep, meditation, relaxation, breathing exercises, …)
- Outward Reactive State (socializing, exercising, playing, physical work, …)
- Inward Reactive State (watching TV, playing video games, scrolling through social media, …)
- Deep Thought (writing, reading, solving puzzles, programming, …)
These states are arranged in ascending order of mental intensity.
States (1) and (2) encapsulate what it means to “be human”. As humans, we’re naturally inclined to interact with the world around us and take time to rejuvenate. However, in our modern world, states (3) and (4) have become increasingly dominant and appear to be significant contributors to mental health issues.
This is not to say that states (3) and (4) are inherently detrimental. But to ensure they don’t negatively impact our mental health, we need an outlet in states (1) and (2). This is where I’ve noticed many people falter. During their eight-hour workday they predominantly operate in state (4), and upon returning home they shift into state (3). This pattern is far from natural and is one we have not evolved to adopt.
In summary, these four states shed light on why mental health is such a challenge for office workers. Our modern society often compels us to retreat inwardly while our evolution has primed us for outward action. The key to overcoming poor mental health lies in restoring this balance: by dedicating more time to outward activities such as socializing, exercising, and playing.