Something has gone terribly wrong somewhere. The way we are increasingly encountering cases of mental sickness should seriously makes us ponder. No section of the society including rich and mighty is not spared from mental health problems. No doubt, the world has become a great place to live in many respects. We are progressing at lightning speed in this century.
Technology is making a huge impact on our education, health, working environment, medicine, lifestyle, entertainment and travelling. Massive wealth has been generated. We have entered into a fourth industrial revolution, in which technologies and trends are changing the way we live and work. Life has become healthier, wealthier, more comfortable and easy accessibility to entertainment and pleasurable material. Digital technology is revolutionising the world in so many ways which we never thought earlier.
With all this at our command, have we become more satisfied and contended with our lives? Unfortunately, the answer is in the negative. Many reasons are behind it.
Aggression, intolerance, anger and violence among fellow beings are increasing in most parts of the world. We are, in general, becoming more unhappy, restless and unsatisfied with our life’s conditions.
Human conflicts at various levels are rising. The gap between ‘us’ and ‘them’ is growing sharply. There are signs of spiritual crisis among masses. We have ruthlessly destroyed our Mother Nature due to our greed. All this is happening because our mind can’t keep pace with the overall progress humanity has witnessed. We haven’t been mentally evolved to the extent required. We are, as a result, paying a heavy price. The time has come to look inward and undertake journey for ‘enlightening our mind’.
The unhealthy media
As we continue to progress, our workload and emotional pressure have started rising. As a result, we have, as a whole, become as a highly stressed society. Mental stress is becoming like an endemic in the modern world. Many of our life’s situations trigger a stress response in the body, such as unfriendly to hostile working conditions, overload of work, financial difficulties, and relationship problems within one’s family or with a boss or colleagues. Social media is also causing distraction and attention deficit. More and more people, especially from younger generation are getting obsessed and even addicted with their mobiles.
As the level of mental stress rises in every section of the society, we have also started becoming more unhappy and unsatisfied with our life. With the rise of economic prosperity, we should have become happier and more contended. What’s not within our reach to enjoy? However, this hasn’t happened. The World Happiness Report is a landmark survey of the state of global happiness that ranks 156 countries by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be. The World Happiness Report 2020 for the first time ranks cities around the world by their subjective well-being and our overall happiness. India has been ranked at a dismal 144 in the report released by United Nations.
Mental stress and unhappiness are both interlinked. Both the conditions arise from our inability to manage our mind and thoughts. Since our early childhood, we have never been taught how to manage our thoughts. In fact, the parents and the education system both contribute in creating psychological stress among younger generation. They are a lways under pressure to succeed and start their career, where there is a recognition, status and prestige. We widely believe that being successful in life is far more important than becoming happy. Because with success, comes wealth, material goods, comforts and status in society.
Wealth is not health
If we have wealth, we will surely become happy and satisfied in future, this is what we think. This is a sign of materialistic society. People are busy in chasing and accumulating wealth. Expectations are increasing, while priorities have getting misplaced. The gap between the expectation and the reality is widening and that creates the feeling of un-satisfactoriness. The result is that not only mental and psychological stress is growing among a large section of society but also mental health problems are escalating sharply. More and more people are becoming restless, unsatisfied and unhappy with their living conditions.
All over the world including in India, the incidents of mental illnesses are rising remarkably and almost taking the shape of a ‘global epidemic’. Among the most common health disorders are depression and anxiety. The Lancet, a well-regarded medical Journal published from the UK, published a report in February 2020 titled, “The burden of mental disorders across the states in India: The Global Burden of Disease Study 1990-2017.” The study claims that nearly 197 million Indians were suffering from mental disorders, including 45•7 million reported to have depressive disorders, and 44•9 million were suffering with anxiety disorders. It’s believed that today nearly 264 million of the world population suffer from depression. At its most severe, depression can lead to suicide.
As per another report of World Health Organisation, 7.5 per cent of the Indian population suffers from some form of mental disorder. Mental illness constitutes one-sixth of all health-related disorders and India accounted for nearly 15% of the global mental neurological and substance abuse disorder burden. The treatment gap which is defined as the prevalence of mental illnesses and proportion of patients that get treatment, is over 70%. WHO predicts that by the end of 2020, roughly 20 per cent of India will suffer from mental illnesses!
Primarily, as we can make out from the above, all the mental health problems including mental stress and the widespread feeling of restlessness and satisfactoriness arise from our mind and we don’t know how to control our thoughts. But surprising, it’s not all that difficult to manage our mind. We need to be aware how our mind works, what are its inherent tendencies and how thoughts can be managed. There is a fast expanding and flourishing industry of wellness, and mindfulness. However, the best way to improve self-awareness and the ability to manage our thoughts is through the practice of mindfulness-based meditation and other relaxation techniques.
The healing touch
People are now realising that meditation is the best tool to train the mind. Meditation studios, brands, and apps are popping up worldwide. Along with a healthy diet and exercise, meditation is being recognised as one of the three pillars of well-being. As meditation becomes popular, research studies conducted worldwide is keeping pace.
Otherwise, this practice would not have spread so rapidly. In India, Vipassana meditation, TM, chakra meditation, Raj yoga meditation, and body scan/progressive relaxation are the popular techniques of meditation. Today there are more than 4,000 research studies, according to US National Library of Medicine on the subject. In fact, many studies of meta-analysis are coming up corroborating the results of various research projects.
Meditation can transform one’s life with far more self-awareness, focused attention and clarity. Through these attributes, we can live mindfully. With better control over our inner life, we certainly can live life on our own terms. Clarity and control are also the conditions in which a strong sense of compassion and empathy take root, which can give meaning to our life. Studies have established that through meditation, we can become more compassionate and empathetic toward others. We understand their feelings and point of view with greater clarity and understanding.
What’s required now is the mass movement to adopt the practice of meditation as a way of life. It should be assigned at par with popular physical exercise like walking. We need to introduce the subject of happiness in school itself as the Delhi government has rightly and wisely introduced this subject in government run schools. All the students must be taught this technique along with its scientific reasoning so that their mindset is tuned to the prevailing worldly environment. We need another revolution to enlighten ourselves so that we can live peacefully and in harmony with the nature and get connected with our inner self.
(The author is a retired IAS, Member UP, RERA and author. Views are personal)