SHIBANSHU MANNA | 27 JUNE, 2020
Mindfulness and Chirping Birds: Our Mental Health and Environment
As the leaves get greener, people around us are turning over a new leaf themselves
My psychologist will be very proud when she hears, that after months of her advice I finally practised a full session of mindfulness on my own, today. It was made possible by the newfound tranquillity and peacefulness that the lockdown has allowed some people.
As a person with mental health and anxiety issues, it is hard for anyone like me to achieve calmness and peace. The speeding world, not stopping for anyone, often made me feel demotivated and tired. This was when my psychologist suggested I practise mindfulness to calm my mind.
Mindfulness is a mental process by which we make the present our focal point, instead of dwelling over the past or looming over the future. It has its roots in ancient Hindu and Buddhist philosophies. Often, it is suggested and administered by a mental health professional to help combat a patient’s stress and anxiety.
The art of mindfulness has been shown to help with complex psychological maladies like depression, eating disorders, panic disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and many more.
If your doctor believes you do not need pharmacological care, or in addition to any medicines you may be taking, mental health professionals often suggest mindfulness along with medicines as an important form of therapy for mental well being.
Initially, in my sessions with my psychologist, she would guide me through a breathing exercise and encourage me to do it at least once a day, recommending apps for aid when I didn’t have an instructor around.
But my paranoia always struck me hard whenever I took a deep breath, for I would be reminded of the toxic pollutants ever present in the Delhi NCR. Worrying about my health getting worse instead of better, I completely abandoned the idea.
A form of therapy intended to help me gain control over my internal and external environment, became counterproductive whenever I read about the deteriorating environment around me.
Greta Thunberg famously said a year ago that, “In the year 2030 I will be 26 years old. My little sister Beata will be 23. Just like many of your own children or grandchildren. That is a great age, we have been told. When you have all of your life ahead of you. But I am not so sure it will be that great for us. I was fortunate to be born in a time and place where everyone told us to dream big; I could become whatever I wanted to. I could live wherever I wanted to. People like me had everything we needed and more. Things our grandparents could not even dream of. We had everything we could ever wish for and yet now we may have nothing. Now we probably don’t even have a future anymore.”
Her words are truer than ever. And after all the Paris Deals and environmental showboating, governments and businesses ensured no significant change was made, until the entry of Covid-19 in December.
It’s strange how a minuscule tiny organism can lead to a drop in pollution levels in a big country like China. As one by one governments imposed lockdowns restricting people’s mobility, the world reported nature coming closer to their doors.
Nowadays I wake to the sounds of birds chirping, instead of cars honking, and go to bed with the sounds of crickets ringing in my ear. Birds chirp all through the day now, and you can really smell the flowers blossoming.
“I feel there is a lack of stimulus,” says Nayanika Misra, a student in Bombay now back with her family in Vadodara, “but at the same time, I have learned the names and routines of neighbours more than in the past five years. I have revisited parts of my childhood which in these rapid times I had completely forgotten about or lost touch with.”
She remarks that “humans are social animals, and in this global pandemic we are also seeing mass-scale anxiety.”
As the leaves get greener, we see people around us turning over a new leaf themselves. Some are taking joy in deep cleaning, while others are connecting with untouched parts of their life. There are neighbours gardening and growing beautiful blossoms and veggies, and many are adventuring into their creative bents.
And for the lucky few, it is also absolutely fine to use this time to do nothing and recuperate. In his essay ‘In Praise of Idleness’ Bertrand Russell writes:
“A man who has worked long hours all his life will become bored if he becomes suddenly idle. But without a considerable amount of leisure, a man is cut off from many of the best things. There is no longer any reason why the bulk of the population should suffer this deprivation; only a foolish asceticism, usually vicarious, makes us continue to insist on work in excessive quantities now that the need no longer exists.”
Isn’t it still true that the need no longer exists?
Now is the time for kindness and generosity, to ‘love thy neighbour’ as you love the poor and needy who require our aid now more than ever.
And within our families, of all the anxious and vulnerable groups, our children are the most immediate to us. In agitated times, when the family situation tenses up, so do children, creating an unhealthy environment for them to suffer.
We have to adjust to this environment as much as the little people have, and they will have questions. When the grown-ups feel calm and clear, it will be easier to explain the difficult situation to their children. Educating and implementing healthy communication amongst everyone in the family will help the children follow suit.
Since we have to maintain a physical distance amongst ourselves, we will need to increase and strengthen our social connections. Because now is the time we need each other’s help more than ever. As we are strengthened by the current adversity and learn new behaviours to cope with the aftermath, we will learn to build new connections between our “inner” mental health and the outward environment.
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