Henry and Elaine Brzycki deeply know both the science and humanity necessary to truly make a difference in mental health and well-being. The couple are veterans of the industry (40 years working for others’ happiness is quite an admirable timeline indeed!) and also are already accomplished authors, having written three prior books on the subject. They have also contributed their expertise to many programs and institutions in an effort to improve the lives of everyone, from wide-eyed children to world-weary adults.

Their latest offering, Purpose and Possibilities: How to Transform Your Life is beautifully timely. As we aim to create a kinder world, mental health is at the heart of the mission and is the backbone supporting every other potential advancement and enhancement. The book is poignant and speaks to our emotions, naturally, but it’s firmly rooted in practicality. It’s not just some motivational poetry to read once then leave on your coffee table untouched; it’s a manual for real resilience and lasting transformation. Read our review of Purpose and Possibilities here. 

Q: What is the definition of “mental health”?

A: Mental health and well-being are the core of a happy, healthy and flourishing life. Mental health is not simply the absence of mental illness; they are very different. Mental health is a state of well-being in which you see and achieve your own unique potential in life. You realize your abilities, cope with life’s normal stresses, work productively and make a contribution to others.

Mental health and well-being can be viewed as a scale from -5 to 0 to +5. People usually focus on the scale’s negative side, only noticing serious problems and trying to heal back up to a 0. However, mental health is assessed on the positive side, developing from 0 up to a +5 level. As we describe in our new book, the number one factor to proactively build mental health is to have a sense of purpose in life, and the best way to develop purpose is to dive deeper into self-knowledge.

Q: How do you think the past year has impacted people’s mental health?

A: Our research tells us that 80% of adolescents, young adults and adults struggle with their mental health and well-being. The pandemic further heightened these ongoing struggles, and people are looking for pathways forward to renew their mental health and well-being.

Public figures such as Michelle Obama, Kristen Bell and Meghan Markle, and athletes such as Simone Biles and Michael Phelps have openly discussed their mental health challenges. With the #metoo and racial equality movements, we are seeing a rising demand that everyone, not just some people, has a right to a flourishing life. Our book provides 15 reflections that help people achieve increased levels of mental health and well-being. 

Q: How have things changed with mental health in the 40 years you have been doing this work?

A: We have provided leadership to transform the consciousness of society to prioritize mental health and well-being. Also, the development of the positive psychology movement has raised interest in flourishing, and not just tolerating, ongoing mental illness symptoms due to stigma.

People have become more aware of the toll that everyday life can take on emotional, psychological and physical well-being. They are more open about their disconnection with experiences of happiness and love and the lost meaning in their personal and professional lives. 

People are asking for an essential guidebook for contemporary life, and we have provided current research and evidence-based proven methods from positive psychology, educational psychology and developmental psychology. Affirming the central role of mental health and well-being in everyone’s life, our work teaches ways to develop resilience to help prevent mental health issues in the future.

Q: How can parents help their children when they are young so that they don’t need to do this work later as adults?

A: Our work makes mental health and well-being available to everyone through K-12 public schooling and colleges and universities. Parents can make certain that they find social-emotional learning (SEL) programs in their local schools. And they can help their child attend a college that offers a comprehensive mental health and well-being program. 

Parents can take all of the 15 reflections in our book and make them an integral part of their family culture to build a family that prioritizes mental health and well-being for every member.  Parents can learn self-knowledge along with their children and make the home completely safe to express feelings about difficult things. When you love your children unconditionally, they learn how to assert their own ideas and values even if they are different from your own.

Q: Can you tell us about some of your past work in this field?

A: As positive psychology experts we helped launch the new movement to include learning about the self and well-being in the schools at all levels of education. 

Our work was integral to including mental health and well-being in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) which empowers public schools to offer these services for the first time in history. In K-12 schools our work enhances social-emotional learning, and we teach these skills in our books The Self in Schooling: How to Create Happy, Healthy, Flourishing Children in the 21st Century and the Mental Health for All Toolkit.

 We provided leadership to higher education and created a body of knowledge and best practices to impact student mental health and well-being through campus programming, which we share in our book Student Success in Higher Education: Developing the Whole Person through High Impact Practices. We’ve written our most recent book to bring this work into everyday life for people of all ages and backgrounds.

Q: When did you find your own life’s purpose?

A: Our guiding purposes brought us together in love; a truly spiritual connection. When we met as young adults, we found that we had both experienced upbringings in which our families really did not know how to prioritize mental health and well-being. Ever since, we’ve been working on creating our own well-being and then helping to bring well-being into other people’s everyday experiences and lives.

People really do know what works best for them, so our book is built around the reader’s own experiences and life. We provide approaches and encouragement for you to make your own choices about mental health and well-being and to create your own life purpose.

Buy this book!

Elaine J. Brzycki, Ed.M., and Henry G. Brzycki, Ph.D., have generated a body of work to impact the human condition and make the world a better place. Exploring their life purpose for 40 years, they have helped people create happy, healthy, and flourishing lives. They have authored three bestselling books, numerous articles, and personal and professional development workshops. Utilized in over 50 countries, their work has led to a new worldwide consciousness about the importance of self-understanding and placing mental health and well-being at the center of a good and successful life.