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How Mental Health Is Like Pulling Weeds []


Yard work is one of the banes of my existence, and this was especially true when I was young. I hated yard work so much that I would rather have had dental work done in a back alley van than work in the yard.

One of the activities I detested the most was pulling weeds. My parents told me that I had to go around and pull the weeds out of the ground by hand — I had to bend down and play tug-of-war with them until the entire weed finally gave in a let go of the earth. Then I discovered another way: I could run them over with the lawn mower. It was a genius plan! No bending, grabbing, or pulling!

I had really saved myself some time and effort; except there was one tiny problem. I didn’t know the reason my parents wanted me to yank out the weeds by hand (I assumed they were just torturing me).

You all probably know this, but it was a revelation to me. If you don’t get the root out of the earth, the weed will grow back. In fact, you can actually spread seeds and create more weeds by just cutting the top. Just like that, my life-changing yard plan backfired big time. What I had thought would save me time and energy was actually costing me more of both — I wasn’t getting the root.

So what does this have to do with your mental health? Whatever problems you may be having — in your life, marriage, job, etc. — dig a little deeper. Most people are fairly adept at identifying their issues, and you may have the self-awareness to acknowledge the potential causes of your problems, but most of us don’t dig deep enough. We spend so much time and energy mowing the stuff we can see that we miss the root, and, without addressing the root, the problem will come back — it might even spread!

[For more of this story, written by Thomas Winterman, go to]

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