Studies show that being engaged in meaningful work helps us to fight off depression, isolation, and poor health. But that’s not all – work can also be a place to have a laugh with your mates, to be engaged in enjoyable activities, to feel connected to others, to do something that is bigger than ourselves and be a place where we can experience a sense of accomplishment and achievement.
According to researchers, all these experiences are fundamental to our mental wellbeing, not to mention the benefits a pay cheque brings! It is fair to say that work plays a big role in making you a happier and healthier person in all areas of life.
This mental health month, we explore the 7 ways work is great for your mental wellbeing – according to science!
1. Work gives your day structure and direction
We, humans, are creatures of habit who need some level of routine to function at our best. Experts have found lack of structure can lead to increased stress, anxiety and even depression. Therefore, daily routines including work are encouraged for all people, and not just those experiencing a decline in their mental health.
Three basic steps you can take to give your day some structure, whether you are employed or not, might be:
a. Wake up at the same time. b. Eat meals at regular times. c. Set aside a time for exercise.
2. Work equals money, which you can turn into joy and happiness or – savings
Money may not equal happiness, though it can pay for the experiences and things that bring you joy, and has an impact on your quality of life, and therefore – your mental wellbeing.
Studies have found two interesting facts when it comes to the link between money and wellbeing. Firstly; more money doesn’t necessarily make you a happier person, and secondly; saving – rather than spending money – gives some people (84 per cent) a boost and feeling of greater wellbeing more than; eating healthy, having an enjoyable job or getting regular exercise.
3. Work and being needed by someone give you a sense of purpose
Experts say one of the humans’ most basic needs is the need to be needed by someone. It makes you feel like you are part of a community; something bigger and greater, beyond yourself. Having this central purpose (which for most people revolves either around work or family, can provide a sense of direction and avoid feelings of despair.
To find or create your sense of purpose ask yourself:
a. Who does my work serve? b. How can I make my work more meaningful for me and the people I serve? c. Why and who do I work for?
4. Work lets you feel you have accomplished something you can feel proud of
Work doesn’t just put bread on the table, it’s a place where you go to be challenged and get a job done; to accomplish something, make or fix something or be of use to someone. A train driver isn’t just a train driver, they are the one person that hundreds of other people depend on to get to work, university or school every morning.
Looking at the bigger picture creates a sense of pride that boosts your confidence and activates the release of dopamine – a ‘feel-good’ chemical, that not only helps you cope with stress and increases your energy levels, but also improves your immunity.
5. Work is where you might come across life-long friends
Did you know, 40 per cent of Australians say friends are their greatest source of happiness? Humans are social creatures who spend the majority of their adult lives working, so chances are, many will make friends at work. The bonds you build with people at work through the conversations you have each day actually play a big role in maintaining your physical and mental health.
6. Work engages your mind and body keeping both in good form
The human mind and body are like a machine. If you put it to work, it has the potential to create, fix, solve and make a limitless number of things in a day. But, if you leave it lying around, chances are it will get rusty. The fact is any kind of work is better for your wellbeing than no work at all. A recent study found 30 per cent of people saw a reduction in mental health problems after moving from unemployment to paid work of just eight hours per week.
7. Work is better for your health than too much time off
You know the saying, ‘too much of a good thing?’ Well, it turns out to be true even when it comes to rest. Taking some days or weeks off work can benefit both your mental and physical health, but taking too much time off, can lead to a decline in your psychological health. A recent study found that while short-term unemployment had benefits for both physical and mental health, unemployment of six or more months resulted in a decline in the mental health of participants.
- Humans are creatures of habit who need some level of routine to function at their best.
- Money earned from work pays for things that bring you joy which greatly impacts your quality of life, and therefore – your mental wellbeing.
- One of our most basic needs as humans’ is the need to be needed by someone. Not having this central purpose can make you lose a sense of direction, leading to feelings of despair.
- Working gives you a sense of accomplishment, triggering a feeling of pride which then releases dopamine – a ‘feel-good’ chemical that helps you cope with stress and increases energy levels.
- Work provides a place for you to engage your mind and body in useful and challenging tasks and meet life-long friends – both of which benefit your mental wellbeing.
If you are open to new opportunities, contact a recruitment agency like Trojan Recruitment Group and receive advice from the experts in labour-hire, permanent and contract staff.
Need mental wellbeing support?
If this article has triggered mental health concerns for you or someone you know, there are many online support services available. Contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or talk to your GP or health professional.