This month, I’ve tried to write my thoughts (at least whatever came to me then) on mental health. We saw Blog 101: Read this when you’re feeling low!, Blog 102: 4 Essentials Tools for mental health recovery, and Blog 103: Protecting our Mental Health & Mindset. In this blog, let’s dive into how can we build the best environment for mental health.
- Building a Non-comparative environment: Major changes can come about by just dealing with one aspect – comparison. But there are a lot of changes we need to bring in order to eliminate or at least reduce this comparative environment. Here are some:
- Educated to become unique individuals. Rather than trying to load the same set of irrelevant data on all the students and expecting them all to turn out great within the same metric, the education system should be transformed in a way that supports the development of uniqueness within each student. One of the foremost intents of such an education system will be to make students into competent learners, not just of any knowledge, but mainly the knowledge of the self. Once they learn to learn, about themselves and the world, students can easily figure out what it is that brings them fulfillment. Simply said, not everyone needs to become a doctor, engineer, lawyer, CA, or journalist. What an individual becomes should be a more deliberate choice than a choice that is highly and complexly influenced by the norms of society. We may not be able to change the laws of the nation, but we as individuals can choose to stay out of the system, and parents can choose to homeschool their children and stop comparing their kids and their test scores with other kids. Or even the value of salary package of the other with their own child’s. We can encourage our friends and acquaintances to find their uniqueness and work on it instead of struggling in a system they don’t fit in.
- LIFE Aligned. Once we are educated as stated above, we’ll automatically move towards what actually fulfills us. Instead of focusing on money and fame, we’ll focus on the stillness within, health, wisdom, love, freedom, and self-mastery overall. When there are social gatherings, the topics of conversations will be such things as – Did you meditate today? How long? What is the latest book you read? Do you think there is a connection between us and the universe? Instead of gossip like “That girl has an x lakh package, she’s doing good”, or “That guy is the best, he has 10.3 million followers on Instagram”.
- Deliberate Choices. When you work on LIFE alignment, you tend to move towards LIFE by deliberate choice, not by compulsion. And that can be a major paradigm shift in one’s life. It’s by living mindlessly and compulsively that we’ve made our world a battleground of comparativeness. If each individual thinks with his educated mind as mentioned above, he or she will rise to his/her best self.
- Being mindful of Social media’s effects. As mentioned in the last blog, social media is contributing to the game of comparison more than anything. I don’t have the Instagram app installed on my phone, and I’ve set a 5 minutes timer on YouTube on my phone. If I have to watch more YouTube, I watch on other devices, like TV or my PC. The timer helps you remind yourself and be mindful of what you’re consuming. I’m not saying you should also do the same. However, when I ask or sometimes see the screen time of my friends and my family members, in most cases, social media consumes most of one’s screen time. On average, people are hooked to social media for at least 3hrs, extending up to 6 or 7 hours. Ideally, the Instagram or Facebook, etc app itself must provide an auto-timer that shuts off itself after a certain time period of usage (10-15mins). But that won’t happen, because all that those private companies desire is financial growth year by year. They need you hooked for even longer durations. So what can we do? If uninstalling the app is not an option, then we can set our own timers and be mindful of our social media usage. We can choose to mute stories/statuses of selected people or all people so that we are exposed to fewer situations where we start comparing our materialistic state with others. We can choose to hide the social media apps on our phones so that we add extra steps, hence extra hard to get to those apps.
- Compare to Get Better: If we can become enough self-aware, we can mindfully choose to utilize our instinct to compare to yield “good”. And this can happen only if you’re focusing on a person’s values, virtues/qualities, or skills and not on the result itself. For example, a person might be rich because of his ability to envision and execute, we can try to adopt those qualities in ourselves to get better at those areas. Sure, you might argue that you have seen a lot of rich and famous people who don’t deserve it as they don’t have any such quality of becoming so. What we can do then is, observe what else is in them, what good values, virtues/qualities, or skills you find in them that you’d like to have. Work towards that, if it is necessary for your ideal self, contemplating the big picture. In short, train yourself to see the good in others and try to implement that good. Do not compare is good advice if and when one is taking it subjectively and feeling low about oneself. But comparing can definitely be a great tool to learn and grow if one can see objectively and execute on the learnings.
- It is not funny: You might feel great pulling down the other, but imagine someone doing the same to you. Your joke may not apply or hurt you, but do you think you have no aspect that can be joked about? Are you that perfect? One might argue that comedy is art, laughter is medicine, etc. All of it is true, but it is not at all comedy in the first place if any aspect of another person is used as the subject and the other person is hurt intentionally or otherwise. Teasing or bullying or whatever you call it that uses another person as a subject of comedy in a conversation, is clearly not ‘comedy’. Professional comedians know or at least must know that it is comedy only when there is only laughter and no one is hurt after the joke.
- Awareness: Obviously, there isn’t a problem in the world that I don’t think can be solved through awareness. We need to ensure there is enough prominence given to self-awareness in every individual so that even when people talk ill, it doesn’t bother them as much because they know themselves better. And we must also be aware that a human is a dynamic being. We are the amalgamation of so many things, so we must be mindful while generalizing or talking with a single scope of view. A student can also be an artist. An artist can also be a teacher. A teacher will be an achiever. A person may be all of these. And most important of all, every person is a spiritual being. Everyone is on the same journey as you. Having this awareness, we can be better at handling bad words and behaviors by others and our own. And through it, nurture a mentally healthy environment.
- Art vs Content: Even this is another adverse effect of social media. But through awareness, can be dealt with better. As mentioned in the last blog, we must remind ourselves and be mindful of what we consume. And the continuation of that step would be to encourage art, of all forms throughout the world. So what is art vs content? Simply said, all art can be content, but not all content is art. Essentially, whatever content that’s not art is noise. If we need to make a mentally healthier environment, we need to reduce the noise and increase the art people can consume. So what is art? That is probably a discussion for another day.
These are just some ways we can do it. Let me know what else we can do collectively to nurture such an environment.
Sanath Kumar Naibhi