Sam Smith has some mental health advice for his Twitter followers, and it's simpler than you might think. The Grammy Award-winning singer tweeted about "all the mess in my head" over the last six months. And after a year and a half of therapy, Smith's mental health journey has taught him that "the only words that really matter" are these: "You are enough."
After Smith cancelled some live performances at the beginning of 2019 to take care of his "recovery and health," he is now communicating with fans about how he's doing. In the past, he said, he's tried to compartmentalize his problems by locking them away so they can't hurt him. But, he's realized, this can only work for so long before the pain breaks through to the surface. "Constantly trying to change and seek perfection and a life of no pain," Smith wrote, "only causes more pain I am realising [sic]."
In his tweets, Smith cited research professor Brené Brown, who gave the TED Talks "The Power of Vulnerability" and "Listening to Shame" in 2014. He wrote that he has been "slowly starting to realise [sic]" the massive impact it can have to tell yourself that you are enough, as Brown discusses in her work.
Through a year and a half of therapy and practicing telling himself that he's enough, Smith wrote that he is starting to emerge from "the most challenging time" of his life. And you can emerge with him from your own most challenging times, Smith invited, by cultivating your own practice of telling yourself that you are enough.
But for those of you who know that telling yourself that you are enough can seem simple while feeling impossible, Sam Smith isn't the only one who's got your back. A 2018 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine concluded that cultivating mantra repetition and other self-affirming mindfulness practices significantly improve the mental wellness of military veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
And another 2018 study, this one published in the Journal of Religion and Health, concluded that mantras don't just improve the mental health of people who have experienced extreme trauma. Looking at the mental well-being of U.S.-based students from high-pressure, top-ranking colleges, the study gave students agency over which mantra they would listen to for the purposes throughout the study period. The study concluded that the "ancient Indian spiritual science of sound vibrations," roughly taken into western culture as mantra repetition, improves "general cheerfulness and clarity of mind."
This kind of clarity of mind is perhaps especially important when, as Smith tweeted, "we are all dealing with some really heavy sh*t at times." And acknowledging the power of feeling recognized and represented, even by someone you don't know, Smith went on to say that he finds that strangers' words can be comforting to him, "So hopefully sometimes I can be that stranger to you guys."
This hope makes sense, given that a 2019 study published in the journal Rural Mental Health concluded that a significant factor in non-binary mental wellness is the formation of new, gender-affirming social communities, often through social media. Smith, who is non-binary and uses he/him pronouns, was working to create a mental wellness community feeling through his tweets.
"Now every morning and every night before you go to bed," he invited fans and followers. "Say these words [I am enough] to yourself in the mirror. I’m gonna do it too. We are in this together." And that sense of togetherness is a huge part of believing that you are enough. Because even if you can't quite believe that you are enough yet, don't worry: Sam Smith sure believes you are.
If you or someone you know is seeking help for mental health concerns, visit the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) website, or call 1-800-950-NAMI(6264). For confidential treatment referrals, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website, or call the National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357). In an emergency, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or call 911.