The World Health Organisation estimated in 2018 that the number of people suffering from depressive illness has risen by almost 20% in the last 15 years. Clearly, something about our modern way of living is responsible for, on the one hand vastly better comfort and convenience levels, whilst on the other hand, the severe deterioration in our mental wellbeing. In the 21st century, it unfortunately seems like all of us are engaged in a fast-paced, perpetual ‘rat-race’: the fiercely competitive struggle we engage in for wealth or power, to the point at which they become our primary goal. Our culture places an ever-increasing amount of emphasis on achievement and success, quantified by materialistic gains and physical desires. The stress and anxiety this mentality leads to, however, are the predominant causes of our unhappiness. Our present mindsets are almost defined by wanting to win the rat-race, or otherwise risk being left behind; sadly, in such a cut-throat environment, our mental and spiritual health is neglected, no matter how ‘successful’ we are. Today, our obsession with climbing the ladder has led to significant sacrifices in the amount of time we spend with our families or in nature. These are thought-provoking topics, pertinent to the world we live in, and it seems like our society is failing to address this issue.
In general, we are all aware of basic guidelines to be followed, in order to take care of our physical health; for example, regular exercise and good nutrition. But very few are aware of steps that can be taken to nurture and care for the mind. There also exists extreme stigma towards mental illness. We have rigid stereotypes in our minds of what a person with mental illness will behave like, and this is compounded by the fact that we cannot ‘see’ a mental illness. Going back to the WHO report – statistically speaking, everyone personally knows at least one other person who suffers from a mental illness. Yet, the reality is, most of us think we don’t. This reflects our lack of understanding of what mental illness is and our reluctance to admit it, but ultimately exposes the millennia-old stigmatisation of mental ill-health.
Mindfulness, the process of purposefully bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment, and meditation, are key strategies to achieve mental wellbeing. Moreover, being calm from within and grateful for what one has, is vital to avoid feeling overwhelmed. All too often we worry about the future or ponder about the past, without noticing all the good times going past us, before our eyes. We are a restless generation, unappreciative and unaware of spiritual harmony. With practice and determination, we can change this habit, which will ultimately lead to better wellbeing.