There are three main things that affect our emotions:
Environment is a big one, since our moods directly correspond with where we are at and our basic sensory concepts.
Events obviously have a lot to do with our mental states, as they typically reflect how we react and interact with the circumstances of our lives.
Well, I want to talk about people. How do people fit into what we’re feeling either positively or (gasp) negatively?
Depression is the topic at hand here, and I believe the onset of negative emotions in relation to people is typically chalked up to very basic suspects. Things like failed relationships and a troubled family life are usually discussed.
I want to go deeper, though! I want to address something I think a lot of new professionals like me go through once college is over and the next chapter of life takes hold. I don’t think I need to underscore how intense of a transition that can be, after all, so just bear with me.
I was a bit of an extracurricular nerd back when I was a sophomore in college. I remember being in a psychology lecture held late at night for no extra credit. It was just a special speaker talking about developmental psychology, and I’ll never forget her key anecdote that addressed the first time she went through depression.
The basic story is that a shift in her environment, moving away after college with her husband, caused her to experience a gradual rise in depression without her even realizing it. It was almost a year before she even recognized she was depressed.
Now, this example involves environment (in this case, a new one), an event (moving), and people (losing close relationships). These factors and more led to her becoming, well unhappy with her life. She talked about how she couldn’t even describe what was bothering her, but it negatively affected many aspects of her life. She couldn’t sleep well, eat right, or even find work rewarding.
I say all this because I’ve noticed to a degree that this is very common, not only because it has in fact happened to me, but also because I see it in the lives of friends I know all over the country. Obviously, the severity is varied, but this problem seems to resonate with a lot of postgrad millennials (I would love to do a study on this by the way).
We can analyze all day about why millennials are going through this. Some great theories have to do with how collective mentality is far more prominent within our demographic compared to more individualistic generations before us. That would explain why social pressures and expectations may impact us more than they probably should.
Of course, my boss would say it’s because the concept of actually working and facing tangible problems is something our generation wasn’t prepared well enough for. Few can argue with me that millennials are lazy. While we may have fantastic, creative minds, a lot of us have more trouble actually executing the work.
I certainly don’t have any concrete answers, but I do have my own experiences to call on, and I am quickly becoming more aware of what societal mood changer affects me the most. People.
One of my mentors left me with this notion many years ago: “Show me who your friends are, and I’ll either tell you who you are are or who you are going to be.”
I’ll never admit it to him, but I’ve shaped almost every friendship according to this credence ever since he first said this to me. And it rings true. The people we surround ourselves with have a lot more to do with our emotions and mental states than we sometimes realize.
This has definitely been a beneficial concept to live by in the sense that I’ve surrounded myself with good people with fantastic ambitions and morals, but my emotional state has also been greatly impacted by these people over this past year since becoming a new professional.
I’m not saying my friends make me depressed or anything like that (not all of them at least), but I have found incredible data relating to my most productive, positive phases in life.
Surprisingly, the best times I’ve had this past year where I was the most driven, focused, and mentally healthy were times when I was investing my emotional energy into close relationships, especially family.
Of course, my most lethargic and scattered phases have been times when my life has basically been an episode of Dawson’s Creek.
Without getting too personal here, I’ll conclude what seems to work for me when wrestling with these problems. If you’re not sharing your life with people and allowing others to affect your mental being positively, then you’re only letting yourself take in the negative.
It’s not the deepest statement in the world, but let’s hope that at least got you thinking.
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