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Restoring Our Mental Health in 5 Minutes or Less

We hear from this librarian that “according to the Harvard Medical School Commentaries on Public Health, researchers have found an association between mental health and regularly expressing one’s gratitude.” And then he goes on to express gratitude and, hopefully, become or remain mentally healthy.

I don’t know if it’s the bubble I live in or the general culture, but everyone these days seems worried about mental health, either their own or other people’s.

We’re allegedly living in perilous times that try librarians’ souls, or whatever. Librarians are supposedly burned out and put upon and fretting themselves into a mentally unhealthy dither willy nilly.

Well, we don’t want that happening, do we? Librarians have to be mentally healthy and physically hearty to withstand the intense pressures of their relatively stress free jobs.

So let’s all practice some gratitude. It is the season of Thanksgiving, after all, or at least it was until the stores started putting out Christmas decorations after Halloween. What do we have to be grateful for?

I’m always grateful people read, both this blog and in general. More readers is good for me and good for society. People who read a lot tend to not make trouble for other people, and they also tend to be more empathetic. There are studies about that and everything.

We should also be grateful we work in libraries and not most other places, at least if you do work in a library and aren’t just looking for work in one.

Public libraries are popular with almost everyone, even the large minority or slight majority of people who never use them. Academic libraries support research and education, which have to be better for the world than trying to exploit people’s psychological insecurities to sell them worthless widgets.

Then there’s the job itself.

On most definitions of meaningful work, being a librarian would count. We help other people. We improve the world. We harm almost nobody. It’s a good life.

And unlike a lot of jobs we can often see the good work in action. The library patron goes away happy having found the thousandth novel that’s enough like the previous 999 that she won’t feel uncomfortable, but enough different to kill a couple of hours with reading bliss.

The student leaves armed with a pile of books and articles that he’ll almost certainly never read, but he’ll feel good that he’s worked hard on the research for his term paper.

The librarian can feel good that she made someone’s life just a little better.

Malcontents among us can always find something to gripe about, which according to the Harvard Medical School folks probably isn’t conducive to your mental health.

But even some of the usual complaints can be turned around.

Despite most likely being solidly middle class in America, you’re a librarian who complains that you don’t make enough money?

You should instead be grateful that you have gainful employment at all, especially since you get to work in a library instead of being a store clerk or a manual laborer, jobs that pay the same or worse but are a lot harder.

Seriously, you think the world owes you a lavish living? It doesn’t.

Live in a tiny apartment? Be grateful you don’t live in a refrigerator box. Besides, hipsters love their tiny house movement. Just pretend you’re a hipster in a tiny house and be happy. Hipsters are all happy because they’re smug, but you can just be grateful and mentally healthy.

Besides, if you had a huge house you’d just have more problems to deal with. Be grateful you don’t have those.

You have massive student loans that you took out to pay for library school? Then, hmm, that’s a tough one, but something will come to me. Well, at least you have your health.

Don’t have your health? Be grateful you’re not unhealthy and also in prison.

You’re annoyed by testy library patrons harassing you? Just be grateful that eventually all those patrons will die, possibly of painful and debilitating diseases.

No, strike that last one. Schadenfreude and gratitude are probably not a mentally healthy combination.

Now that we’ve had our exercise in gratitude for the day, I hope we’re all mentally healthy now. Being mentally healthy gives you something else to be grateful for, so that’s a benefit as well.

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Comments

  1. HA! Yeah, I have a healthy dose of schadenfreude once or twice a month.

    But seriously, if they are so intent on mental health then I hope they are seeing a counselor or psychiatrist themselves. I have personally been advocating for more acceptance for mental health issues. I have struggled with depression and anxiety and I can’t tell you how ineffective and downright insulting it is for my friends to tell me to suck it up and be happy. Stop being so sad! Well, golly, I never thought about doing that before, thanks! I’m cured!

    Sorry, sore spot. But if people understood that it’s a sickness like a cold but not as easily cured, maybe they wouldn’t be so quick to judge. And I have to admit, when I focus on the positives, start thanking people, it does make me feel better. Now the problem with that is just sticking with it.

  2. Carol Morency says:

    I live in a tiny house — it’s called a condominium. I don’t have to haul it around and my neighbors around me keep me warm. My only complaint is that I can’t have as many books as I want, which is why I work in a library.

  3. I’m too tired to figure out what this post is really saying.

  4. I love your post.

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