BY CHAN TUCK WAI (DR)
After COVID-19 lockdowns, the world will enter and exit the lockdown of economic recessions, unemployment, poverty, economic and mental depression. The sense of crisis in this pandemic will remain until a proven cure (or an effective vaccine) is discovered. People are worried and stressed about the future, and justifiably so. This will cause more social and emotional occurrence through divorce, suicide, domestic violence, death and breaking down of relationships. At the same time, we’re facing fear, grief, financial hardship, loneliness, and other challenges. Uncertainty and anxiety, fear of infection, paranoias, anger, hatred, losing a sense of meaning and purpose in life will all be amplified during and after the COVID crisis.
The need to change and the new normal
We need to change and adapt to seize the opportunities to remain healthy as we need to learn new essential skills and mental capabilities to remain resilient. Changing is important to adapt in any new environment. For example, we may need to change our career path when our job become redundant. Most importantly however, we need to change our mindset in order to improve our mental health in this new normal.
Gratitude and compassion
Compassion can be thought of as a mental state or an orientation towards suffering (your own or others). Compassion is not the same as sympathy, pity, empathy or altruism, though the concepts may be related.
Compassion is the feeling that arises when you are confronted with another’s suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering. Compassion brings happiness. By helping others, we find a sense of self-worth and gratitude.
Scientific research has shown that when we feel compassion, our heart rate slows down, we secrete the “bonding hormone” oxytocin, and regions of the brain linked to empathy, caregiving, and feelings of pleasure light up, which often results in our wanting to approach and care for other people.
We can demonstrate compassion by helping others - Giving to those who genuinely need help. We can also grow compassion in the following ways:
Let’s start with the adoption of gratitude practice. We should be grateful that we are alive, our family members are well and healthy and our friends are still with us. The benefits of gratitude are well documented. Scientific studies support the intuitive conclusion that gratitude has a powerful effect on happiness and well-being. TIP: Repeat and practise using the following words: “I am thankful that…”
It is not at all easy to be content with what we have. In fact, this requires active effort, to cultivate the habit of contentment.
TIP: Repeat to yourself: “I accept my life, my situation, my belongings and place in the world, as it is.”
- Understanding that "I have enough"
To have the sense that one has enough is distinct from contentment. This is the mindset of feeling a lack or absence of things, wanting to possess more and more things, and never being satisfied.
TIP: Say out loud: “I have enough in my life.”
- Building mental wealth
Our brain and mental states must function within the parameters of “normalcy” that allow us to conduct a daily productive life. When the brain is unable to function in this healthy zone we come across disturbances such as addiction, spectrum disorders, all the diagnoses: paranoia, bi-polar, schizophrenia and countless more, and the most pernicious: depression.
Good mental health is the ability to balance. Understanding the concept of our actions, reaction and overreaction to any external event and happening. The practice of seeing an event or thing “AS IT IS”, not as we want it to be or question why it is happening or regretting.
The practice of “AS IT IS“ - is wanting without the feeling of lacking and enjoying the moment without analysing…maybe it is called being present and appreciating NOW.
Some people build their mental health through spirituality (not to be confused by being religious). Having faith - Accepting without trying to find a concrete answer; knowing that every human belongs to the whole and are interdependent; we are a continuation of everything and are individually important. Religion and doctrine may help us on our spiritual journey, but ultimately it is up to us to enjoy our very own personal spiritual journey of discovery.
And last but not least affecting mental health, is the ability to quiet the inner voice or noise in our own mind. The constant noise in our brain that tries to distract, judge, over-expose, under appreciate situations in our daily life. It brings us unhappiness, makes us unfocused and perpetually tinges life with unrealistic views.
By quieting the mind, whether through yoga, exercise, mindfulness or meditation as one of the key components of our life, we can take a moment and take inventory of our mental health.
If you think this life is precious and want to live to the fullest, try this:
Keep only happy thoughts.
Stay away from negativity.
Gratitude breeds gratitude.
Do what you are good at as often as you can.
Spend as much time as possible with people you like.
Money is good. Many other things are better.
Give more and expect less.
Take time to really enjoy the good things.
Be optimistic, even to the border of delusion.
Take a nap - maintain your routine.
Lots of little good things is the path to happiness.
Avoid life’s most common regrets.
Dr. Robin Chan Tuck Wai
Head, Enabling Services
Deputy Director, Office of Risk Management and Compliance