Re-building Connections to Improve Mental Health
A sweeping glance at some facts and figures suffices to realize the widespread extent of mental illness. It is appalling to see the epidemic rates at which mental illnesses are on the rise. As the year 2017 is marked by 50 years of celebrating Mental Health Week, it becomes important for us to spare some time in re-examining our approach, utilizing this occasion to remind ourselves to celebrate our own mental health and well-being.
The following are some of the points that can be kept in mind to help us re-establish connections and integrate ourselves in order to enhance our sense of self for a stronger social and emotional well-being:
1. Find enjoyment in nature. It is a well-known fact that nature can be a source of relief and serenity, calm and peace. It is often the little things which matter, and often we seem to get caught up in the demands and pressures of the contemporary world, losing sight of these seemingly trivial but significant factors in our environment. In fact, our urban life seems to have created a wide rift and disconnect from the beauty of nature around us. Finding enjoyment in nature could be a subjective experience for us, be it an initiative to plant a tree, adopt a pet, make your own garden, engage in any outdoor sport or activity, or occasionally take a vacation to reconnect with nature!
2. Re-connecting to our country. This does not necessary urge one to get directly involved in politics but could simply mean finding a sense of belongingness and support from the interconnectedness which is such a deep-rooted trait of our collectivistic culture in India. This could simply be reflected in your sentiments and attitude towards the country, encouraging a sense of ownership as well as belongingness.
3. Reach out to the community. One of the common advises proffered when encouraging community services is to volunteer for a cause, but remember, this doesn’t have to be a popular organization or charity, but could also be manifested in the smaller actions and choices you make. And such options could be chosen based on your available resources and capabilities in order to contribute to your own community and its people. Be it tangible in the form of a donation, or volunteering to work for a particular section of the population, to be helpful instead of a passive bystander, or to build on generativity to the next generation by encouraging transmission of values and skills.
Mentoring young ones, instilling a positive attitude, educating others, etc. could be non-tangible and valuable means of contributing to the community, while at the same time also helping you enhance your own sense of self-worth and self-concept. As a society, we need to develop an empathy towards others, and celebrate individual differences, refraining from generalizing and showing respect and concern for oneself and others.
4. Re-connect to self. How much ever we may deny it, we all deserve to have some time set out for ourselves. And no matter how busy we may feel we are, there is no excuse to neglect such a ‘me-time’, which is essential to maintain the individual’s physical as well as psychological well-being. Mental and physical health are directly interconnected. Therefore, you must include regular physical exercise, a balanced diet, avoid alcohol or nicotine, and regular hours of sleep to ensure that you can maintain the strength and stamina needed by you to meet the daily challenges.
While it is easy to get trapped in the vicious cycle of work and home, with mountains of pending to-dos, it is more important to remember to enjoy yourself. Look for opportunities to laugh at, and humour is a great way to lighten the mood and relieve your stress levels. You should learn to integrate your work and play, enjoying and living each moment to the fullest.