You might be familiar with a song by Stephen Stills called “Love the One You’re With.”
In the song’s chorus, Stills conjures up a couple of striking images and then follows them up with a bit of advice for the lovelorn:
Well, there’s a rose in a fisted glove
And the eagle flies with the dove
And if you can’t be with the one you love, honey
Love the one you’re with
To be honest, we don’t really know what to make of the rose in the fisted glove, and we aren’t sure that eagles and doves make good flight partners. More importantly, we’re not at all sure Mr. Stills’ advice regarding matters of the heart is all that sound. To be honest, it sounds to us like a fast track to a breakup.
Nevertheless, there is a moment in the song when the singer offers some better advice:
Don’t be angry, don’t be sad
Don’t sit cryin’ over good times you’ve had
Now, there are, of course, going to be times in your life when you feel angry and when you feel sad and when you feel the pull of nostalgia for times gone by. All of that is just part of the human experience and can’t be avoided.
Still and all, Stills is on to something when it comes to improving and protecting your mental health. Keeping anger, sadness, and rumination at bay is a good strategy for maintaining your mental well-being.
Let’s take a look at each and how it affects your mental health.
Don’t Let Anger Linger
Sometimes getting angry can lead to good things if it motivates you to right a wrong or to end a toxic relationship or to take a risk to improve a bad situation in which you find yourself.
But anger that is ongoing or excessive only serves to undermine your mental well-being. When you allow an emotion like anger to fester, it can chip away at your mental health. As a result, it is almost always preferable to find a way to let go of anger and regain your equilibrium. In some cases, that may mean forgiving someone who has wronged you so that you can release the anger. (We want to be clear here: Forgiving does not require forgetting.)
Meanwhile, anger that is unsourced—that is, when you feel angry, but you don’t know why—could actually indicate the development of a mental health disorder. It turns out that anxiety can manifest sometimes as anger, and when that happens, it can prevent a person from addressing the problem in helpful ways. If you suspect your anger is anxiety in disguise, it is important to talk it over with a physician or mental health provider.
Don’t Sink into Sadness
As we have noted, sadness is simply part of life—and a natural reaction to any number of situations we experience. Often, it is entirely appropriate to feel sad.
But if sadness is ongoing, it is important to find ways to lift your spirits so that the emotion doesn’t overwhelm you and undermine your mental wellness. Reconnecting with a good friend, engaging in a hobby or other activity you enjoy, or streaming a favorite comedy are among the options for injecting some happiness and laughter back into your day.
Meanwhile, sadness that persists and seems to rob you of joy and motivation is likely a symptom of depression. If you suspect you may be experiencing depression, it is time to talk with your doctor or therapist so that the mental health disorder can be treated effectively.
Remember Not to Ruminate
Mr. Stills reminds his listeners not to cry over good memories, but it is equally—if not more—important not to fixate on bad memories. We all have a tendency to replay moments from the past that we wish we could do over so that the end result might be more to our liking. But this kind of rumination does not support your mental health.
While it can be healthy to consider past mistakes so that you make better choices and decisions going forward, too much dwelling on the past can undermine your self-esteem, which is a key aspect of your overall mental health.
Meanwhile, if the memories that recur in your ruminations are of traumatic events, it could indicate a mental health issue like post-traumatic stress disorder. If you believe past traumas are having a negative impact on your present, it is important to seek help right away.
When You’re Down and Confused…We Can Help with Mental Health
At Johnstown Heights Behavioral Health in Colorado, we can’t help you do a deep dive into the meaning of lyrics by Stephen Stills. But we can help you improve your mental health and maintain those improvements over time. We are confident that when it comes to supporting your mental well-being, our combination of compassion and expertise beats a rose in a fisted glove every time.