Studies in Singapore and the city of New York reveal how the frequency of mental health conditions is on the rise today. The statistics show that every one in 10 people suffer from some form of impediment with their emotional satisfaction.  Applying the link between urbanization, a fast paced lifestyle and the likelihood of facing stress to contexts such as Mumbai and other Indian urban centers, it becomes apparent that mental health is a much needed domain of concern. In a country where mental health is stigmatized to quite a large degree, a fresh wave of millennial thinking seems to be rubbing off on old-timers to help them realize the importance of being aware of our own thoughts and beliefs.

S OR T

Image: World Mental health Foundation

We often think that events around us affect us directly to make us feel a certain way. However, it is the way we evaluate these events that trigger our emotions. When we realize that our beliefs often guide the way we experience our lived experience, we can begin to identify how to make certain ‘upgrades’ to our cognitive machinery by looking inward. The basis of well-grounded therapy systems such as Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy is rooted in beliefs, and looking into an individual to access these beliefs that may be distorted. But what if, in cases of mild cognitive impairments that we face, we could skillfully identify what we are thinking that drives us to the edge sometimes.

We often think that therapy can only be applied in intense, controlled settings, where clients sit on lounge chairs and undergo cathartic experiences. However, this is not the case. Techniques such as Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy involve the identification of thoughts and beliefs through conversations that are as simple as farming views about one’s daily routine. When we are able to jot down our thoughts in a coherent manner, it often becomes easier to understand when we are displaying certain behaviors that we think might be maladaptive in the long run.

Image: American Psychological Association

Image: American Psychological Association

All that you have to do is have a journal handy. When you have a little archive of your thoughts that stand out to you, it becomes apparent to you that there are certain patterns that exist over time. When these are figured out, and assessed to look at what arises out of them, it can be quite rewarding. For example, if one is going through a rough time with their grades at college, noting down the degree of motivation they feel or the thoughts racing through their minds in class, or while doing assignments would reveal a lot about how they are erring in their process. These notions of understanding ourselves through introspection can be applied to most of the environments within an immediate radius of our daily routines, such as the workplace. At the workplace, we often catastrophize things even when they don’t seem that bad. We may think that a little hitch in a key presentation could cause the loss of a promotion, or that praise from other people might be fake. The point is, we need to assess the validity of these statements we make not only with a professional, nut also with ourselves!

Maybe sitting down at the end of a long day, and jotting down how one feels about the events that pan out can do much for identifying the ways in which we are built to think. When we realize how to look inward, we become more mindful of our actions, as well as more aware and empathetic to those around us. Understanding one’s own cognitive machinery is something we often forfeit in exchange for a life filled with social interactions. But, sometimes, having some ‘me-time’ to sort things out within your own head can help.

This World Mental Health Day, try and put yourself on a path of heightened self-awareness. Maybe you’ll discover new things that have birthed in you that you never knew of.

An undergraduate in Psychology, Shantanu is an aspiring Educational Psychologist who will be pursuing his Master’s in 2018 at the Ohio State University. He is adept with psychometric and statistical research, and has honed his grasp over psychology through a 4 year undergraduate course in Liberal Education at FLAME University, Pune.