New Yorkers love shortcuts. It’s a pride thing. If you grow up on Long Island and can identify every single service road shortcut along the northern state + southern state parkways and the LIE, that’s about as much respect as you can get. And yeah in tri state traffic, shortcuts are a necessity. Although of course it can be argued that the destination is the destination. 

Sometimes the shortcut is about not staying still more than it is about getting to a destination sooner. 

And this desire to not stay still is what I want to address today. 

May has been mental health awareness month. And that’s totally great. And also no. Mental health is an everyday practice. Just like being anti-racist and ending misogyny are everyday practices. Thanks for a month of spotlighting, but yeah, meaningful change happens slowly over time and requires everyday commitment. 

In fact, change requires more stillness and slowness than it does speed. 

Throughout the month I’ve read a variety of social media posts in response to mental health awareness month with hacks or top five suggestions to improve mental health. And yeah these are great. 

As I’ve said before, let's never stop talking about mental health. I love all the talk, hacks, suggestions. But the truth is, there is only one true hack to mental health. And it isn't quick and it isn't easy. 

The hack is therapy. That’s the hack. That’s it. Go to therapy. The end. 

If you are a psych enthusiast and a weekly listener to JOY then this answer probably won’t surprise you, but the reasoning might. 

And yes, there are all the therapeutic benefits to therapy. Getting to know yourself, understanding your behavior, triggers, traumas, relationships and emotional states. We love that! 

But what I want to discuss today is more of the foundation that therapy provides for everything else. 

Have you ever eaten a really gross apple? Peanut butter definitely helps, right? But it doesn’t change the fact that the apple is yuck. A mealy apple with peanut butter is better, but still kind of stinks even with all the bells and whistles. 

And we are no different. 

A solid foundation makes everything else we do stronger. Last longer and have a bigger more meaningful impact. 

Let’s take a look at this idea from two different perspectives.

The first is coaching. You might not know this, but I am a coach who only takes clients who have done introspective work. Yeah. And I use this term introspective work as a pretty big umbrella. But if you want to work with me, you need to have done some work at getting to know yourself. This can be therapy, work with a shaman, clairvoyant, energy worker, counsel from a leader in your faith, many things. But if you want to work with me you need to have made a deep commitment to yourself first. Because that is really the only life hack. I made this rule because I know that the result of my work with clients is much more useful and long lasting if you have done the internal work. 

And there are many people who choose coaching over therapy because, and  I am aware that the rumor is that coaching is therapy light. And yeah, it totally is, but I also think coaching should not be in place of therapy. Nothing should be. Coaching, yoga, movement, meditation, mindfulness, none of it. Because none of these things actually replace therapy. Do they help? Hells yeah! You are talking to someone who does all the things. But a replacement, absolutely not. And you can spend years moving through these actions and not actually get anywhere. Expect of course to avoid your fear of not slowing down and doing the hard work. Coaching without meaningful internal work will get you far but then stop working. Because coaching  is helpful but it is not integral. Same as all the others. 

To make the most of any endeavor, go to therapy. Answer the big questions. Get to know yourself. That’s your shortcut. Slowing down and doing the hard work makes everything else more effective. 

And that goes for work too. I spend quite a bit of time on Linkedin and I am often disheartened by the professional jockeying I witness proposing that one coaching or organizational strategy or mindful solution is best to solve all the organizational problems. From diversity to psychological  safety to employee retention and leadership and executive coaching. So many smart strategies. But the truth is if you want to be an effective leader, manager, teacher, here's’ the hack. Go to therapy. Encourage a culture where doing the internal work is encouraged and the expectation. Then when thoughtful strategies are implemented to help solve organizational challenges, they will actually have a long lasting impact.

And going to therapy is not simple. As I wrote in my newsletter last week there are significant barriers to entering into therapy. But resistance isn’t one of them. 

So if you are looking for a true mental health hack. The hard truth is, there is only one. Go to therapy. It takes time, is slow, but makes all the other things better. 

Kind of like peanut butter. 

Thank you for being here.


Listen to this episode here. 

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