What constitutes health? – “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Mental health is as important as physical health. Mind that is healthy, mind that thinks positive, does not overthink or draw endless conclusions. Mental illness doesn’t have an age, it is just a certain point in life where you lack peace and need to find solace. When there is physical injury, you can see the hurt with blood, sores, bruises but a mental illness symptoms or hurt are unseen and hard to express.
Let me share with you one stage of my life that I have faced. It was my usual morning plan where I told myself – “I am going to wake up early, do short exercises, I am going to have a good day tomorrow. It’s okay today was not my best, I made mistakes, was not in the right mindset, but maybe tomorrow can be my day”.
Next day, I woke up late, I had no motives or aims for a good healthy body or mind. I spent my time browsing Instagram and news for the day and then got ready to get to office as usual. Most of us are good at acting and playing roles. I always draw a veil between my personal and professional life but my words still sent signals to people that things were not right with me. I smiled when people spoke to me, I got busy with work, ate my meals late because I was in no mood to eat. When I spoke to my friends, they saw my eyes were sore like I would’ve cried last night and my words that come out of my mouth were more like – “I am not in the right mindset”, “Not today, maybe tomorrow”. “I don’t feel good”. “I am struggling”. “I want the best but it’s not happening”, “I want to run away”.
I felt low when I was in the crowd, when I browsed through social media I began to compare myself with the ‘happy’ world that my friends projected they were in and I told myself how my life was not worth it. When I was alone at home or commuting to office, the person in me wanted to scream out and share the pain but in my head , the voice said – “People will judge you. They will not react positively. You will be ignored”. I did not want to lose my loved ones. I kept questioning myself, “Why am I facing this? Why is it that I am going through all this? I feel like a failure. I am not worth anything good in life”. I kept getting defensive with people when they tried to lighten up my mood or make fun of me which should have been taken lightly but I felt bad about the jokes they cracked. I took them seriously, I overreacted, I cried over them in cab, I texted them that I felt bad and they were sweet enough to apologise and make me feel better. In this process, I also met a close friend of mine who was in India for a vacation and when we met up, she tells me – “There is something wrong. Is there something you want to share?”
If you are facing this yourself or if I am projecting any of your loved one who is going through this, please remember – This is depression. People in depression are negative, they begin to link one failure to another, they begin to see negativity in all incidents that happen in their life, they feel dejected and have no motives in life, they can get extreme in hurting themselves or the most extreme being suicidal (not just in thoughts but they could attempt one too). I have been through depression too, quite number of times – due to family issues, heartbreaks and failures. I have felt suicidal quite sometimes but this was just a phase of me and this definitely does not define the real person I am – energetic and vibrant, being the ‘energy house’ I am (as my friends call me).
Depression ranges from low to high but it is not a disease, it is just a phase of life where a person does not feel good and it is important to hear them out. Anyone can undergo depression, your 7 year old child who feels dejected about getting low marks and being compared to her peers to a 28 year woman who has had a broken relationship or a broken marriage or your parents who have OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) – yes OCD is a mental disorder. Disorder or disease is where you are out of the right phase or ease – ‘dis-order and dis-ease’ but that does not mean you are out of life forever.
The week (October 6 to October 12, 2019) is the Mental Illness Awareness week. It is important not just to create awareness but also lend a helping hand to all those who are facing this. There are different types of mental illnesses – mood disorders like depression or bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, psychotic disorders (such as schizophrenia), eating disorders, trauma-related disorders (such as post-traumatic stress disorder), substance abuse disorders. Like I shared the story of my depression, let me share with you about another disorder – OCD (Obsessive compulsive disorder).
Obsessive compulsive disorder – a very common disorder that we see among people but the effects can get extreme. People who have OCD see dirt everywhere, they feel disgusted and have the willful attitude of either cleaning it or just keeping distance with it. Cleanliness is good but when it becomes a chore that when undone deprives of your peace of mind and sleep, then it becomes a disorder. If you notice most of our mothers have it. My mother has extreme OCD – she is at a stage where her household chores are almost like her other child. She wakes up as early as 4-5 AM , does her household chores, cleans the house (some places twice-thrice and other places are untouched – this is selective cleaning) and if you tend to touch on anything that is dusty in the house, she gets really angry, her blood pressure shoots up, and it’s just a sign of a bad mood to sync in.
I am not sure if there is a cure to it, but when you confront such people to stop doing so much cleaning – they tend to get defensive about it. She has been doing this for more than 4 decades and it has become a habit where, when she does not do it she is not at peace. We even consulted a counselor for this, who gave her anti-depressant pills and even spoke to her to shift her focus to something she loves like sewing, embroidery etc but my mother only got more defensive with her justification on her cleanliness and her work. OCD leads to depression. My mother has given so much importance to her work that her meal timings are getting delayed every day and if we, as her kids do things that make her feel good like getting dinner or going out for one, she thinks we are doing it for a purpose. She tends to bring out the purpose in everything people do to her and this overthinking only creates an unhappy mind. When people meet her, they comment on her health because she has become very skinny. People’s constant comments and the way they look at her, makes her think more negative and she feels more dejected. Being her own child and seeing all this that she faces, does not give me mental peace either.
According to World Health Organisation, Mental Health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community. WHO has also released a video on Youtube called – “I had a black dog, his name was depression”. A must see video on how depression takes over a life of one person, how you carry it with you everyday, how it overpowers you completely that one day people even quit on life easily because they cannot overcome it. How can we overcome depression ? Read on as I share with you the simple things that can help create happy and healthy mindset and some of them that I also followed –
1. Hear them out – The society today runs like a machine. Time is running so fast that we all have no time for our friends and closed ones to hear them out or even check on them. We spend time on movies, dine outs and drinks, but have we ever made time to sit down and talk to our loved ones on life or anything that was bothering you? – No.
These days technology has overtaken the real world and we have lost physical touch. The emotions are just stocked up within or take forms of the yellow emoticons on our smartphones or laptops that have now become the only source of sharing our emotions what we are facing. We have lost touch with our loved ones that people have become more lonely, sad, depressed and suicidal in thinking. Text a friend whom you have not heard from, for a very long time. Meet them up, catch up on coffee or a park for a jog or walk. People complain they don’t have time but make time for them, you never know what they must be going through. People in depression love to be heard but they fear being judged, which is why the voices go silent. Anything that is negative can affect them immensely. Listen to them with all your heart, show them you care not just by words but by actions. A little act of kindness goes a long way. In my case, I have lost touch with most of my friends and it gets difficult for me to make time for them is because my mother needs my time. She is depressed herself, weekends I tend to be more at home because I am trying to make time for her, enjoy meals with her, watch TV or any movies or comedy shows, laugh with her, share with her my week how difficult it was with work etc as weekdays we are all rushing with our work, business etc. It is important to strike that conversation and hear people out. I tend to spend time on my phone conversing with my friends, with the mindset that if I can wish them on their birthdays, compliment on their posts or pictures it could make them happy. The more people share with you and confide in you, the better they feel. Don’t advice them like a saint who has lived their life in the best manner , instead listen to them whole heartedly, ask them what they want to do and make them feel confident and built trust that whatever good they would think of doing, you are with them.
2. Gratitude and Appreciation – Two very rare gifts given to people and these days we have lost the importance of appreciation. People work hard, spend their hours on jobs or even doing something special for others but we fail to appreciate such efforts. Learn to appreciate the little things in life. A small ‘thank you’ , ‘sorry’ goes a long way. Gratitude is very important, be thankful for a new day, for your parents, for the meals you have everyday, for the healthy body. There are less fortunate ones who struggle everyday to get a meal or are even handicapped. But I have noticed that even handicapped people, know how to play on their shortcomings as strengths and smile through every day. Learn from them and be less complaining on missing out on life. Life is lived as it comes and also can be created by you with a healthy mindset.
3. Turning a negative state to a positive state – There are 4 important components of your body that defines your state – Posture, breathing, facial expressions and inner voice.
When you see someone with dropped shoulders, spine down, gloomy face, shallow breathing and tiredness – such people are in unresourceful (negative) state. How do you turn this state to a resourceful (positive) one ? – begin to keep your head up, shoulders broad, spine straight, walk confidently, take deep breaths, have a smile and more importantly have a strong positive inner voice within yourself that helps you be strong at all times – this brings out your resourceful (positive state). Also remember, negative state affects your memory power and positive state helps you build good memory power. At any moment you feel fear or anxiety, change your breath. Take deep breaths to get rid of the anxiety before it begins to sync in. what goes in your mind, shows up on your face as your mind is directly connected to your face, so remember to feed your mind positively to reflect the glow on your face and lastly, your inner voice, this has to be your key strength.
Anthony Robbins, the famous author, life coach and philanthropist outlines these in his book – The Unlimited Power. He conducts sessions in United States and around the world on how you can tap your unlimited mind power and his sessions are very energetic and full of life. He banks on these 4 components and conducts successful sessions that have changed millions of lives throughout the world.
4. The Bubble effect – This is an exercise I learnt when I did my course on Neuro Linguistic programming. This exercise helps create a good positive mindset – to get good results with this exercise, you need to close your eyes, take deep breaths and imagine like you are living in a bubble. The bubble is big and made out of your favourite color. It has all the things that make you happy. Imagine sitting inside and looking at the world out there. Imagine how happy you are in this space of your own with all that is around you inside the bubble. Now imagine, the people who always bring out negativity in you or shout at you all the time etc are standing out of the bubble. You see them screaming and shouting, pointing fingers at you but you can’t hear any noises from outside as the bubble blocks all the noise. You cannot hear them at all. This is how you need to live life at times, being happy in your own space, blocking out the negativity. At times, when my mother scolds me for touching the dusty stuffs at home, it does turn my mood off but I tend to create this happy bubble around me to keep myself up and not lose my temper or mood because of her work. Try this out and feel the happy in your bubble, this is important.
5. Journal writing – Since childhood, I have loved writing. I have around 10 diaries of 10 years of my life, I have separate journals that I write and maintain and in addition – a notebook where I had letters to myself written during those times when I faced hardships, be it scoring low in a subject or personal issues that bothered me a lot. I used to write to myself like I was the other happy self – stronger , confident and bolder. The letters were more on how my better self was explaining the reality of things to me, on how important it was to learn from failures and letting go off them, prepping up for exams in the best way, reducing the tension and anxiety, to help me focus on the happy side of things etc. I still have those letters with me and when I read them I do find them silly now but at one point, I realized I was being my own strength, my own best friend with whom I shared everything and she was there for me without judging me or drawing conclusions. It is important to play on your key strengths, to be your own best friend because at some point of time, people will become memories and all you will be left with is you.
Nowadays I write my diary digitally (owing to less time to sit and write my feelings) – I have downloaded an app on my phone called – Journey, this app is very handy – it helps you write your day (at any point of time, edit, add photos for memories and also has throwbacks that remind you what you wrote a month ago). I jot down all the small joys through my day, from making a good meal to appreciating my colleague that made her happy to the sunsets I saw to the moments of happiness I created for others. Trust me, it gives you a great feeling to share with yourself on your day. My love for social media was very minimal. I used to share events on my social media accounts but now no more as I have learnt to live in my own happy bubble creating memories for myself.
6. The Art of Giving – Ever realized the immense joy you get when you share your meal with someone or you give alms to the poor or buy flowers from a little kid at the traffic signal? – There is immense happiness in giving and this principle is definitely outlined in all the religious scriptures and it holds true in all ways – you are blessed with all the wonderful gifts of life but there are still many who are less fortunate. Try going to an orphanage and meet the kids, spend sometime with them, see their happy faces on seeing you enter. They are excited to welcome you, sing and dance with you, pray with you and even bid you bye with a smile. My friend and I were associated with a trust in our town, run by a lady who takes care of around 30 kids from different backgrounds. They live together, study together, play together and live at her home with her biological children and parents. I am in awe of the service she is doing so selflessly. There is a lot of effort that goes in to handle the kids, right from their meals to school to their homework , clothes etc. The number of children have only been increasing every year.
Another friend of mine, spends his time playing his guitar and singing with the little kids at an orphanage or a government school or at old age homes – his pictures speak a lot – there are children who sit close to him smiling, admiring him like he is a God from a different world. It is important to touch lives with small attempts and create happiness, sharing what you have and feel happy to have gifted smiles. This will definitely lighten up your mood and teach you on how giving can change your life positively.
To all the people who feel low , always remember you have someone out there to listen to you – your close friends to outsiders like counselors that you can visit and speak your mind freely. They are trained not to judge you but hear you out and help you in all ways you need. There is always help when you need, reach out.
I read a book recently by Lilly Singh where she mentions on how bad it is to see yourself sad. You definitely wouldn’t want to see yourself sad. Make efforts to keep yourself happy, go out of your way just the way you do for other’s happiness. Someone has rightly said, to be happy, it takes a lot of effort but to be sad it takes a moment. Strive for that happiness, for yourself , for the people who love you and stand by you. Do workouts and yoga, or just go for a walk with music on, it definitely helps you change your thought process and come out of negativity and troubled times. Remember, mental health is precious and rare and you have to come out like a warrior fighting these battles that you have within which no one knows. Hakuna Matata, it’s the best funda for life 🙂