So, it's no surprise that today there is no shortage of opinions in our society today. With the constant barrage of negative rhetoric, it can be difficult to want to share your opinion. For many, fear of starting an argument or starting a war keeps people from sharing or engaging in what could be a positive experience. The interesting thing is that differing opinions can be good for your mental health. I know it’s far-fetched, seeing as how everybody is, in fact, constantly attacked for having a different opinion than somebody else. We fight over how to raise children, politics and even who somebody else should marry. The amazing thing is that God wanted his people to have their own opinion in the form of choice. I know as a kid and new reborn Christian, I was often wondering why, if God is so powerful, did something like Adam and Eve cause such an uproar. Couldn't God just make sure that they didn't eat the apple? I mean, he is all-powerful after all, but the truth of the matter is, God didn't want to create beings that strictly loved him. If you've ever thought about your significant other, do you want them to love you by force or choice? Loving someone despite all their quirks, pitfalls and differing opinions is one of the most beautiful things on our planet. The free will to think independently is a gift that no one should attempt to take away from anyone.
So, back to my original statement, differing opinions are beneficial to our Mental Health. Of course, sharing your opinion and suddenly having negative backlash can have an adverse effect on your mental health, causing you stress, anxiety, anger and depression, but that doesn't mean it has leave you beaten down. If everyone takes small steps to positive interactions, we can better ensure our own Mental Health is well, healthy.
1. Having a different opinion from somebody else can give you the chance to learn and further educate yourself. It can positively affect your mental health by allowing your brain to flourish. Dr. Daniel G. Amen, MD stated on sharecare.com that, “to stays sharp as a whip, continue to challenge your brain daily. Each time you learn something new and practice it, your brain will either change the structure of its neurons (cells) or increase the number of synapses between your neurons, allowing them to send and receive information faster”
(https://www.sharecare.com/health/brain/learnings-impact-on-the-brain). Maybe you end up finding out that your opinion has changed a little, maybe it's changed all together or maybe you become surer of where you stand. Either way, you are challenging your brain and hopefully learning something new, if anything, interpersonal conflict resolution.
2. Having a different opinion from somebody else can allow you to take proper measures to control your anger. You can become attached to your body in terms of recognizing what it is doing during a heated debate. How are you reacting physically and is it worth the stress? Truth is, we CANNOT control what others think and do. We want to, but we can’t (legally). Control what you are doing and how you’re reacting. The change really does start with you.
3. One of the things, on my platform, is having empathy towards others. Ask yourself, “why is somebody else have a different opinion than me” Put yourself in their shoes and try to think of what is going on in their world. We usually form our opinions based on the story of their life. Lord knows, our life stories can be vastly different, but that doesn't mean you can't empathize with other people.
4. Differing opinions doesn't mean that life is “not fair”, I mean we all know that life is “not fair”, that sometimes we are the waterfall and sometimes we're the rocks getting beaten below. Just because someone has a different opinion doesn't mean that you are being beaten down. Go back to number 3. It means that there is likely a reason they believe the way they do.
I'm sure somebody's reading this and probably thinking "yeah, but I live in a family where the majority do not have the same opinion as I do, or I am in a family now where the opinion is vastly different than mine. I am constantly berated for having a different opinion, so I never speak up. Now what do I do?" Breath, you are going to be okay. Examine your own thought process and even write down a few questions that you should try to answer before engaging anyone.
If you got the theme that the change starts with you, you’d be right. You must be the change. I cannot change you. As a mental health professional, I can help you examine your life and thought process. I can help you work through things on a deeper level, but ultimately, the change will be in your hands.
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