'World Mental Health Day, celebrated every year on October 10th, is a day dedicated to raising awareness of the seriousness of the consequences of mental ill-health. There are many different types of mental illness including anxiety, neurosis, depression, psychosis, bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia'
The above quote is taken from the official description of the World Mental Health Day. I wouldn't be surprised if some of you felt a sense of unease reading it. Before I started practicing and teaching mindfulness, I certainly felt a sense of taboo around the topic of mental health.
What strikes me, in this definition, is that depression and anxiety are next to neurosis and other psychiatric disorders. Whilst I am not a psychiatrist and cannot comment on these disorders, I know that depression and anxiety are quite common.
With 1 in 4 of us facing depression or anxiety at some point in our life, most of us have either been affected or know someone who's been affected. And with the world getting busier and more complex, they will unfortunately become even more common.
So what can we do to remove the stigma around mental health and make it cool? This is something that I've been working on over the last few years, teaching mindfulness and giving talks on the subject. Mental wellbeing is COOL. Without it, we have nothing. We can have all the belongings we want, the ideal job or partner, if our mind isn't well we won't be able to really appreciate or value them. I remember a time when I was sitting on a beach in Kerala, ruminating about a conversation I had had which had upset me, and was too caught up in my own mind to appreciate the beautiful sunset...
So first, I'd like to invite you to consider that we all have mental health. In the same way that we have a physical health, we have a mental health. You have a mental health.
Second, I'd like to suggest you think of mental health as mental fitness.
How does it feel now?
And finally, I'd like to invite you to reflect on what you currently do to take care of your mental fitness? What is the workout for your mind? In the same way that you exercise your body, you can exercise the mind and keep it fit - alert, flexible and relaxed.
I find that daily mind workouts, inspired from the field of mindfulness, really help me to increase concentration, be more alert, and decrease stress. But not only - reflecting on the things I've done well and the lessons learnt each day also help me to grow and expand my mind. When I've had a tough day, I find that building connections, by listening to someone else's day, or reaching out, helps me to get out of my own head and build perspective.
So what do you currently do to take care of your mental fitness? What is the 5-a-day for your mind? What is the yoga for your mind?
And what will do you to help make mental fitness a topic that is accessible and that people want to talk about?
Join me in the movement.
I'd love to hear from you, so feel free to comment!