Flourishing Pearls

Are you flourishing or floundering?

On January 1st I had several captive hours at an airport. I watched a lone duck swimming in circles in a courtyard pond. Was this duck flourishing in the sunlit zone or floundering somehow? Later the duck swam sideways, ditched repetitive circling, shook its feathers, and settled into cozy napping in the shade.

Mental Wellness Month is celebrated every year from January 1st to 31st with an intent to highlight the importance of mental health. Instead of a typical focus on New Year resolutions that revolve around one’s physical wellbeing — such as weight loss or renewed exercise affirmations — this mental wellness focus is a flourishing recognition for every person, but it is particularly important for those challenged with mental health issues.

January can be a letdown. A Happy New Year may seem dubious. Loneliness is on the rise in the U.S., and it can lead to a host of bodymind (both physical and emotional) challenges. According to psychology research, the cause of loneliness is not being alone, but being without some definite needed relationship or set of relations. Loneliness is a main determinant of one’s social wellness.

The Global Wellness Institute (GWI) defines mental wellness as “an internal resource that helps us think, feel, connect, and function: it is an active process that helps us to build resilience, grow, and flourish.” The Institute’s goal is to empower wellness worldwide. This forward-thinking vision for systemic public health includes mobilizing government policymakers, public servants, and businesses to endorse everyday wellness. 

Here are GWI policy questions that cry out for answers:

  • “When we are spending trillions of dollars on wellness, why do the rates of chronic disease and related health expenditures also continue to rise unsustainably?”
  • “Why does wellness feel so white and rich and exclusive?”
  • “What about those who don’t have the money or time to spend on wellness?”

On a community level, there are simple ways to celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month and support bodymind wellness. Local businesses can help employees to focus on wellbeing by providing “wellness gifts.” Examples are reusable water bottles, gift cards to health stores, stress balls, relaxation tools like a heated neck pillow, self-help books and gratitude journals.

I can attest to the flourishing momentum of maintaining a wellness gratitude journal, even while floundering. I kept a gratitude journal every day for a whole year on 3 different challenging years of my life (the year after my husband’s sudden death, the year after my father’s prolonged death, and a year while my mother was dying).

Every night before sleep I wrote 3 simple gratitudes in my journal for that day. During each day I would prompt myself to think of small turning points. At nighttime I not only had something to write about, but I put myself into a positive space for sleep without repetitive circling thoughts.    

Pearls of Peace (PoP) Quiz

153. What is your definition of flourishing?

154. How do you make peace with floundering times?                    

By Janis Johnston

Janis Clark Johnston, Ed.D., has a doctorate in counseling psychology from Boston University. She has worked with children, families, and groups (ages 3-83) with presenting issues of anxiety, depression, trauma, loss, and relationship concerns. She initially worked as a school psychologist in public schools and was awarded School Psychology Practitioner of the Year for Region 1 in Illinois for her innovative work. She was a supervising psychologist at a mental health center, an employee-assistance therapist and a trainer for agencies prior to having a family therapy private practice. Recipient of the 2011 Founder’s Award for her dedication to the parenting education of Parenthesis Family Center (now called New Moms), and the 2002 Community Spirit Award from Sarah’s Inn, a domestic violence shelter and education center, Johnston is an active participant in numerous volunteer activities supporting children and families in her community. A frequent presenter at national psychology and educational conferences, Johnston has published journal articles, book chapters, and two books -- It Takes a Child to Raise a Parent: Stories of Evolving Child and Parent Development (2013, hardback; 2019, paperback) and Midlife Maze: A Map to Recovery and Rediscovery after Loss (2017, hardback; 2019, paperback). In addition to augmenting and supporting personal growth in families, Johnston is a Master Gardener and loves nurturing growth in the plants in her yard.

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