For Mental Health Awareness Week, we spoke to Chris Pinch, mental health first aider at Whipps Cross, about developing a growth mindset and how this can aid good mental wellbeing.
Why the way we think matters….
I first developed an interest in mental health and wellbeing early on in my career in nursing. It was a period where mental health issues and crisis where shrouded in shame and secrecy with many not seeking support and help. It sparked my interest to learn more, and to develop a greater understanding which I have applied during the course of my career. When the opportunity to become one of Bart’s Health’s Mental Health First Aiders (MHFA) arose, I seized it and I am currently part of the team supporting the mental health of staff at Whipps Cross Hospital.
Whilst activities such as eating healthy, exercising and being physically active are visible ways of maintain physical good health, activities and techniques to maintain a healthy mind are not always so obvious. Recognizing and developing strategies to maintain good mental health is as essential as recognising when you are struggling.
A mindset consists of a person’s attitudes, ways of thinking, opinions, internal dialogue and relationship with the world around them. Whilst our mindset can be seen as being developed at an early age, with some effort and reflection we are able to shift and develop this in adulthood. From this we can develop understanding into the differences between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.
How can a fixed mindset be detrimental?
It may seem obvious, but it goes deeper than a superficial resistance to adapting to external environments, change or a perception of stubbornness, with a fixed mindset impacting negatively in relation to;
- Fear of failure
- Giving up on things that seem to difficult to complete whereby worsening sense of failure or negative feelings and emotions
- Ignoring support or feedback from peers, damaging professional relationships and increased feeling of isolation and negative feelings associated with this
- Feeling threatened by success of others – spends unnecessary energy and increases negative emotional state by disengaging, looking for flaws in others feeling angry, disappointed or resentful.
What is a growth mindset and how can you make a change?
A person with a growth mindset believes that every element of their mental and cognitive abilities can be developed at any stage of their life, and their current abilities are only a starting point. With effort, learning and persistence, everything can be challenged and people start to grow within themselves. They do not believe that everyone is the same, with a willingness to appreciate what others can teach them and vice versa. There is a fundamental belief that the brain is a muscle and, similarly to other muscles in the body, can grow and get stronger with consistent training.
Making a change is never easy, and this will be easier at certain times of your life. I speak from recent experience in that moving towards a more growth and less fixed mindset, from undertaking self-reflection and actively engaging in my own personal and professional development, has helped me to feel more secure in my mental wellbeing. This has helped me to recognise areas for improvement, alongside areas where I contribute to the teams around me, increasing my sense of self value and overall health. Consider the following examples of how you could potentially reset your thinking and embrace a new challenge whatever stage in your career or life you are at:
Below are 15 ways to help you develop a growth mindset:
1. Acknowledge and embrace your weaknesses
2. View challenges as opportunities
3. Know your learning style and use learning strategies that work for you
4. Remember the brain has the ability to change throughout life
5. Prioritise learning over seeking approval
6. Focus on the process instead of the end result
7. Cultivate a sense of purpose in self
8. Choose learning well over learning fast
9. Reward effort and actions not traits
10. Learn to give and receive constructive criticism
11. Need for improvement does not mean failure
12. Mental stimulation keeps your mind active, reflect on your daily learning
13. Learn from the mistakes in others break the chain
14. Consider learning as brain training and not something you only do when you study – learning is all around us!
15. Remember it takes time to learn and change the way you approach thinking / learning