I realise that it is probably too late for most people to recommend some holiday reading but here is a book that really does warrant some attention. Following on from their 2009 book The Spirit Level , the authors, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, draw on vast amounts of international data to map how, and crucially why, inequality is linked to mental suffering.
Some of this is on a societal level which is beyond most of us to influence other than on an occasional basis through the ballot box, but it also extends to the organisations we live and work in - if we can reduce the inequality within organisations then we will, on the basis of the presented data, improve the wellbeing of everyone in that organisation - and crucially not just those at the bottom but everyone. And of course when we do that we also improve the wellbeing of the organisation, its productivity or however else we may measure its impact.
Although avowedly not a self help book it does also explain how our status anxiety feeds into so many of our less helpful, and less healthy, habits and "coping mechanisms".
There is way too much in the book for me to provide a fair or helpful summary here, other than to say read it. It will make you think, and of course learning is itself one of our ways to wellbeing!
In its invitation to an alternative future it reminds me of the wisdom to be found in The Puritan Gift by Kenneth and William Hopper which describes the legacy of the values of the founder fathers of the US and how those values founded the basis for politics and corporations until the post war period when the profit motive became all consuming, and with it a focus on what we are each individually and collectively "worth". We are of course now living through an apparent epidemic of mental illness for which the loss of those values might well provide an answer.
There is also an echo of one of the rules for living contained in 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos written by Dr Jordan Peterson (another book I would heartily recommend) which encourages us to assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t - which seems to me to be all about equality. The other rules, if you are interested, are below - but you do need to read the book to understand their meaning and import, and although I am trying to live up to them, please don't pull me up too harshly when I don't
- Stand up straight with your shoulders back
- Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping
- Make friends with people who want the best for you
- Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today
- Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them
- Set your house in perfect order before you criticise the world
- Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient)
- Tell the truth – or, at least, don’t lie
- Be precise in your speech
- Do not bother children when they are skateboarding
- Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street