Mental Health: The Real Pandemic
A 2018 study published by the World Health Organisation (WHO), showed that India is the most depressed country in the world, followed by China and the USA. From my frequent time spent in India, I have seen how often mental health is ignored or shunned away. There seems to be a stigma attached to mental health and cognitive dysfunction.
Unfortunately, this isn't just the case in India, but there seems to be a global disconnect between mental and physical health.
Physical wounds can heal quickly, mental ones can last a lifetime.
The study also added that nearly 6.5 percent of the Indian population suffers from some form of serious mental disorders like anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, or depression. It is of growing importance that we begin to pay close attention to our own mental wellbeing.
Throughout the research of my book (releasing in December 2020), some of my primary sources of research included a number of Vedic texts. In all of these, I began to notice the predominance that was given to mental health and the mind-body-soul relationship, particularly in the Bhagavad Gita. This ancient religious text forms part of a grand story known to every home in India. It narrates a conversation between Shri Vasudev Krishna and his disciple-friend Arjuna, on how to navigate one's mind through the battles of life.
I would like to share some insights from the Bhagavad Gita, as well as some thoughts from my upcoming book on mental health and the mind.
Just Be You
Krishna uses the word dharma frequently throughout the Gita. The word dharma can be understood as duty. He teaches us to live a life on our own path, to sustain the life we endeavor with a firm resolve within our mind, with complete faith in ourselves, God, and the Guru, the process becomes seamless.
Today, so many people live their lives as an imitation – to impress others or to gain validation. We put on this great act, but it actually does more harm than good. I won't delve too much into this, as a large part of my book goes into detail on the topic of our Self.
It is far better to live your own life imperfectly than to live another's perfectly.
Now I know you've probably heard this a hundred times, and it may seem cliche, but Krishna says:
Renounce every action with your heart fixed on the Supreme. Renounce attachment to the fruits of labour.
Without expectations? Without giving it our all? How do we do this?
Focus on the journey, rather than the goal.
Remain detached from the work.
Accept the outcome as it is, whether a success or failure.
I'm with you on this – it is difficult, but it is possible, and we must begin somewhere. The living example of this practice was my Guru – HH Pramukh Swami Maharaj. Numerous incidents from his lifetime of 95 years, showed time and time again how he remained stable-minded (what Krishna calls sthithpragya) amidst success or failure, fame or shame, etc.
The times when I thought this concept was unattainable, his life proved to me again and again, that in fact, it is attainable. It begins with a firm resolve (sankalpa). If we endeavour with a firm resolve within our mind, with complete faith in ourselves, God, and the Guru, the process becomes seamless.
You Are What You Eat
Consuming a balanced, sattvic diet is not only important to one's physical health, but also our mental health. Ayurveda shows how the foods that we consume, not just affect our physical wellbeing, but our minds too. A lack of the right nutrients in our diet, slowly deteriorate our bodies and our brains. People that suffer from obesity, heart disease, and other similar health-related issues, are more likely to suffer from mental health issues like depression and hypertension.
Harvard Medical School says, "sleep and mental health are closely connected. Sleep deprivation elevates levels of cortisol (the stress hormone). High levels of cortisol in the body can lead to the manifestation of mental and physical health issues like anxiety, weight gain, and problems with digestion. To get a good night's sleep ensures minimum release of cortisol when it is not needed.
Saturday 10 October marks World Mental Health Day. It is great to see so many people posting and spreading awareness about Mental Health, but I believe it should be:
World Mental Health 24/7
Every day is Mental Health Day. So many people are facing battles we are not even aware of. I am reaching out to every one of you who may be fighting a similar battle – talk. It really does help. I am here, and there are countless others who will stand by you and support you, at every step in your fight. It is also the duty of every one of us to be kind, supportive, and understanding of those around us.
You can sound confident, and have anxiety.
You can look happy but feel miserable within.
You can be good-looking and still feel ugly.
You can have everything and feel nothing.
Every person is fighting their own battle that we don't know about.
So be kind, caring and reach out, because:
In the Joy of Others, Lies our Own.
My deepest prayers for one and all.
We are in this together.