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Rethinking What Success Means Can Transform Your Mental Health

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Welcome to Soft Launch, a column by Elyse Fox on mental health and wellbeing in a world that often feels anything but soft and cushy. In this installment, Elyse explores how gratitude and reframing success can transform our mental health.

Gratitude is powerful y’all. Let me be clear: I know this isn’t the first time you’ve been encouraged to explore the word with a promise that gratitude will enhance your life, but sometimes when we hear something so often, it can seem passé. In a world where we’re constantly looking for what’s next, gratitude journals and practices might seem so 2020. But, we know that practicing gratitude can have positive mental health benefits.

Practicing gratitude can definitely mean daily affirmations, journaling, or taking time to reflect on the good stuff when times get dark. But one of my favorite ways to apply gratitude — and a view on it that might refresh your dedication to it — involves my life mantra, “Always lift as you climb, within your means.” To my core, this mantra has always subconsciously been the North Star to how I approach every relationship, especially in business. Lifting as you climb means bringing others up with you as you succeed, which might not be obviously tied to gratitude on its surface. But, this mantra and its connection with gratitude might change how you think about success.

In my experience, lifting as you climb means you must believe that there’s enough opportunity for everyone’s dreams to be realized, that everyone is worthy of support, and that a win you help a colleague achieve is also a win for you. In thinking this way, we’re realizing that success doesn’t mean stepping on others to get to the top, it means working in community to achieve together. It also means that we can be grateful for what we each have, without feeling jealous of others.

Recently, I’ve been inspired by 21-year-old UC Berkeley student, Sanai Graden, who went viral on TikTok for listening to someone in need while vlogging on an errand run. She ended up raising money to help the man experiencing houselessness.

“I just treat people how I want to be treated. I just always, you know, try to put myself in other people's shoes,” Graden says. “I make decisions based on how this would affect not only me but others around me.”

That’s a core part of lifting as you climb, and something Graden says she centers in her career. “I don't want to just be the type of person where I have my business and I make money and I'm living life. I want to be the person that is making boss moves, making connections, while also helping others along through the way. I'm taking others with me, I'm not just winning, but I'm taking people with me to win as well.”

Before I began practicing gratitude regularly, my perception of it was to be content with what you have and don’t complain. At its core, that’s somewhat true. But now I think that gratitude also encompasses how we approach every part of our life, and how we use it can help us grow in all ways. Here are a few prompts to help you explore your definition of gratitude:

  1. What do you appreciate about who you are?

  2. Who is someone I can help this week/How can I help someone this week?

  3. During bedtime, list 20 things that brought you joy or simply, made you smile

  4. Write down reflections about something you accomplished this week

  5. No matter what happens tomorrow, what great things would you be known for?


Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue