What if we could make ‘life happens for us’ rather than ‘to us’

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What if we could make ‘life happens for us’ rather than ‘to us’

by | Jul 25, 2022 | News | 0 comments

By Mrs. Lina Ashar | Co-Founder, Korroboree International Online School | Founder Emeritus: Kangaroo Kids & Billabong High International Schools | Happiness Advocate | Ted X Speaker

The World Health Organization states that by 2030, depression will be the largest crisis facing mankind. I often wonder why depression and other mental health issues are on the rise when we live better lives today than ever before in the history of mankind. Statistics show that people living in extreme poverty has reduced from 35% in 1987 to 11% in 2013. We live better lives than our forefathers, and yet we are facing a mental health crisis, particularly amongst the youth. Why?

In our schooling system we keep our children so busy trying to reach specific milestones and impress other people that they lose sight of what they really enjoy doing. We ask them to keep their eye on the ball. This ball is not about their individual potential – it is about rising to the top of the class and competing with everyone else in the class, the city, the state, the country, the world if need be. This child then becomes the ambitious professional who spends a substantial amount of time thinking about strategies that will help them achieve greater levels of success. This is a tiring treadmill to be on. To constantly strive for a more impressive job title, higher compensation, and responsibility for more sizable revenues and profits. Our definitions of success are often heavily influenced by school, family, friends, and colleagues. Family, friends and colleagues have been influenced by a society of misplaced individuals who have not delved into what it is to be happy from a neuroscience perspective. Any student of neuroscience and behavioural science knows that lasting happiness comes from creating and contributing. 

This is not what we teach or learn though in schools but perhaps the pandemic came to teach us this.

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There is a way to positively shift the statistics on depression. What if we stopped selling our children a lie. Happiness does not come from having pretty things. It comes from having purpose and meaning. Various studies indicate that meaning and purpose gives a sense of direction and it motivates people to wake up every morning. It is also something that makes them feel like their existence matters and that they are contributing to society. 

There is another statistic I came across. The chances of becoming clinically depressed can go up by a whopping 40% after retirement. The reason behind this is because suddenly they have nothing to look forward to, there is free time and no purpose left to keep going through a daily routine. Hence people who retire are advised to look for something they enjoy doing in life and take it up as a hobby. It would be volunteering at an NGO or gardening or working somewhere part-time. 

Another way of affecting depression statistics is to build the habits of mind, like resilience, that helps give us coping strategies to deal with adversity and pain which is an inescapable part of being human. Resilience is a neuro-cognitive characteristic that gives us the ability to bounce back from any adversity. Right from day-to-day stress to intense stress like adversity, failure, challenges, and even trauma. It is something we need when we fall emotionally, financially, or physically and have to dust ourselves off and get up again. 

The reason behind this is because suddenly they have nothing to look forward to, there is free time and no purpose left to keep going through a daily routine. Hence people who retire are advised to look for something they enjoy doing in life and take it up as a hobby. It would be volunteering at an NGO or gardening or working somewhere part-time. 

While finding one’s purpose, and being resilient would top my list of strategies to mental health, other forms of self-care can also be incorporated into our daily lives such as: 

1. Me time: It helps to spend some time in the day doing something enjoyable or just reflecting on the day. it is rightly said if you enjoy your own company, others around you will enjoy your company. Playing a sport, watching something uplifting, reading a book or even cooking. 

2. Physical activity: a part of self-care is also to be physically active, so dance, yoga, running, cycling leads to mental peace.

3. Having a night-time routine: which does away with screen time and allows for a restful night.

4. Downtime: Being in nature is my favourite form of downtime.