How Work Benefits Our Mental Health

    29 January 2019

    Twelve Principles of Self-Reliance
    Principle 1: Self-Reliance is a principle of salvation

    Most of us don’t have a choice: we have to work to survive. But studies show that work actually helps us thrive mentally and emotionally.

    The purpose of life is to live purposefully.

    Somehow the words career and enjoyment have meshed to create unrealistic expectations. Many of us expect to absolutely love our daily work and our jobs as much as we do leisure and entertainment. And maybe we get a little disappointed when work isn’t fun.

    Fun isn’t fulfilling. It’s a necessary break from work, but it doesn’t challenge us the way work should. And work isn’t fulfilling if we are not getting better at what we do and taking pride in doing it well. We find purpose in work; we find self-worth and value. A study of working adults in the United Kingdom found that meaningful work wards off depression: “Employment is [therefore] vital for maintaining good mental health.”

    We may think that the work we do has to be noble: teaching children, working in a hospital, or running a nonprofit. But all work is noble if done for the right reasons. Through work we take care of our families. We provide “by the sweat of our brow” and grow through the effort. And “whatever causes us to be dependent on someone else for decisions or resources we could provide for ourselves weakens us spiritually and retards our growth” (Dallin H. Oaks, “Repentance and Change,Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2003, 40).

    God’s plan for us is to work out our own salvation.

    “Salvation” means our return to God. How we return to Him is up to us. How wonderful it will be to say, “I worked hard, I took care of my family, and I lived the laws of God the best I could.” This single, transcendent goal of returning home to God, having grown through life rather than just surviving, makes our work a little more joyful.

    Of course, things will happen to us that try our patience, even leave us despondent for a time. Life is not meant to be easy; it is meant to try and test us. But remember, God is kind and will give us peace in difficult times. He will help us see our way beyond the current challenge.

    God is kind and will give us peace in difficult times.

    You are not your job! Work is the opportunity to be physically self-reliant. Those whose identity depends only on their role at work are more likely to experience longer bouts of depression when they are laid off, which consequently leads to longer periods of unemployment. Being humble and recognizing that God has a plan for us that might differ from the one we laid out for ourselves allows us to see new possibilities and to approach life with a more positive attitude. It is by our own initiative that we make use of these new possibilities—being open to guidance rather than being critical of our situation. Failure will come, and with it the chance to begin again. If we see ourselves only as a banker or a bricklayer and not as children of God who have been given the opportunity to provide for ourselves and others, then we miss the joy of fulfilling that duty.

    The greatest feeling is that of lifting someone else.

    When we have reached a comfortable level of security---having savings, knowing how to manage money, being out of debt, relying on God for inspiration---we are in a position to help others achieve the same goals. As President Marion G. Romney said, “Food for the hungry cannot come from empty shelves” (“The Celestial Nature of Self-Reliance,Ensign, June 1984, 6). When we are able to help others, we are able to do the work of the Savior. “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17).

    When we are able to help others, we are able to do the work of the Savior.

    God blesses us when we help others.

    Because everything is spiritual to God, He provides us with the things we need when we keep His commandments. It is a commandment to serve others. In return He promises that He will “provide for my saints, for all things are mine” (Doctrine and Covenants 104:15).

    When we work with purpose, we improve our own lives.

    When we work with purpose, we improve our own lives, we bless the lives of our families, and we bless the lives of those who need us. This gives us a sense of mental and emotional fulfillment, and it also fills us with a spiritual light that guides us to a salvation full of hope and joy and love.