Living by Your Values - A Guide to Better Mental Health Feb 2019

Over the last few months I have come across a number of clients who seem to struggle to identify their personal values.  When a client presents to me with an issue I always ask about their values.  I have found from experience that when people are feeling anxious, stressed or depressed, it is often because they are in conflict with their values, or they have lost touch with them.  

Values help guide our behaviour in everyday life.  They can keep us from losing touch with what is real and meaningful and can help to show us the way when unpleasant or painful experiences occur in our lives.  When we stop to ask ourselves what is important to us, what type of person we aspire to be and how we want to live our lives, we begin to build a set of values which can sustain us in our relationships and in our daily activities.  Values provide direction and can motivate us to make important and necessary changes.

When we engage in behaviour which goes against what we truly believe in or value, we cause ourselves unnecessary suffering.  Each time we fail to stand up for what we believe or defend ourselves against wrongful acts by others, or act in a way which is hurtful to those we care about, we are compromising our values and not being true to ourselves.  Our mental health suffers when we are lacking or lose sight of a set of values which guide us in important decisions in life and can lead us to engage in self destructive behaviours such as over eating, reliance on alcohol or drugs, engaging in destructive relationships or excessive work habits.  These all detract from satisfaction in our lives and leave us feeling empty and unfulfilled.

Are you living your life according to your values?  In his bestselling book "The Happiness Trap", Dr Russ Harris identifies 10 areas of values - Family;  Intimate Relationships;  Friendships;  Employment;  Education and Personal Development;  Recreation and Leisure;  Spirituality;   Community Life;   Environment and Nature and Health and Body.  By thinking about your values in each of these domains and identifying how you can take action to put these into practice, you can increase your satisfaction in your personal and work life and free yourself from much of the distress and lack of fulfilment which so many people experience in our society.

In the workplace, it is well known that many people are unhappy in their jobs.  Sometimes this is because there is a mismatch between their skills and the requirements of the job, or they see the organisation is not acting in accordance with its espoused values.  Many organisations have Mission Statements which set out goals and aspirations about the way they operate and treat their customers and employees.  Unfortunately, few adhere to these in practice and some operate in ways which are contrary to these stated values.  Their employees quickly notice the gap between what is espoused and the daily reality.   This leads to dissatisfaction and a lack of trust in the company.

However, it is still possible to survive in this difficult environment if you stay true to your own values.  Some of the ways you can do this are to focus on being an effective team player, developing co-operative working relationships, taking pride in your work, applying your skills to the best of your ability, reminding yourself about your contribution in the job and appreciating the fact that you are employed even if the job is not all you wish.  If this is not enough to sustain you, then you may need to think about finding yourself a job which is more aligned to your values.

If you would like some assistance in identifying and putting your values into practice, I would be happy to help.  Just give me a call on 0438 855328 or visit my website at



© Dawn Vincent