As I spent some time this weekend engaged in two very different activities – following news coverage of the presidential candidates in the days leading up to the New Hampshire primaries . . . and watching the Super Bowl – I thought about how these two activities illustrate the importance of variety and balance in our lives. One activity (presidential races) tapped into intellectual and emotional aspects, while the other (Super Bowl) was more physical and emotional in nature. The presidential primary process gives us an opportunity to discuss and debate issues from multiple perspectives, while the Super Bowl provided an opportunity to watch two excellent and very different quarterbacks – one who is still early in his professional career and the other who is ending his career. Even though I am registered with one political party, I enjoy watching both party debates. While I was definitely rooting for one team to win the Super Bowl, I could appreciate the great plays made by both teams. Variety and balance.
The World Health Organization defines health (and mental health) as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being.” While “complete” well-being is an ambitious goal, the idea that we are healthy when our physical, mental, and social aspects are in sync is worth considering. Ensuring that we balance our intellectual and academic pursuits with fresh air and exercise, being curious and open to new ideas and experiences, developing meaningful relationships with a wide range of people, laughing and having fun, balancing work and play, and recognizing and expressing our emotions can lead to positive mental and physical health. Positive mental health allows us to cope with the challenges, disappointments, and stressful situations that you face in college and after graduation.
I encourage you to take advantage of the university environment to seek out a variety of experiences, ideas, and people. Try to create a healthy life by balancing study and fun, social time with alone time, and seriousness with silliness and laughter. Only one candidate will become president and only one quarterback won the Super Bowl. However, the candidates and quarterbacks with variety and balance in their lives will be the ones that bounce back successfully from their losses and continue to live meaningful and fulfilling lives that do not depend upon achieving one thing only.
Shelly Kerr, Ph.D.,
Director of the Counseling Center