Nurture and Nature and everything in between

When we talk about a child we mostly talk about and propagate things like: the intellectual capacity, the physical activity/ involvement, the nutritional aspect, the mannerisms, the personality development and hygiene. How often do we talk about the mental health of the child or the mental well being of the child?  Very rarely! The only time it comes to the surface is when we encounter someone who is going through a mental illness or we become aware of it.

Most of the times the reason to sideline Mental Health is because we are lacking awareness about it and the other times we choose to be ignorant. Even if we are so called educated people we prefer to put forth our knowledge and credentials primarily towards physical health and wellbeing. Even though we subconsciously know that mental health is critical. In fact all the diseases manifest in the mind first and then affect the body whether we like it or not. 

We assume that children can take the mental pressure as part of an exercise to attain discipline and abide by it. The mental pressure and expectation is apparently only to make children better adults of tomorrow. Well, how is that possible when they are unable to live a childhood before becoming an adult.  This sort of behaviour cum attitude we come across and observe in well to do and educated families. What about the families that belong to the lower income background then?

Where the basic means which are food, clothing and housing is a problem…how children of such households deal with their mental health. How do they become better tuned to what is going wrong and right in their lives? Such families rather the children of such families are supported by various NGOs, rehabilitation centres, special care centres in order to live up to the tough times and enrich themselves in the so called ‘normal’ times.

Now how do such children cope up with the difficult times rather the ‘new normal’ times which has hit all univocally. Consider the present COVID’19 episode how does one cope up with that as a child from a lower income background family.  What mental hygiene should a child from such a family pursue and then follow in order to cope up with the trying times.

One very important thing to do is to make your mind your friend and not your enemy. Irrespective of the situation you are subjected to time and again make your mind your friend.  Do not let anything exterior affect you.  Doing such a thing can be tricky. However, just as we have learnt that washing our hands before every meal is critical and good for our overall health as that eliminates germs and toxins which enter our system.

We have to learn to eliminate the toxins out of our mind. We have to cut the toxicity and eliminate the negative thought pattern which is the root to all the problems that we associate ourselves with. One classic way of maintaining mental health is practicing Mindfulness as a meditative practice.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness means knowing very well what is going on inside and outside of us, moment by moment.

It is very easy to stop noticing the world around us. It is also quite easy to lose in touch with the way our bodies are feeling and to end up living ‘in our heads’ – caught up in our thoughts without stopping even for a moment to notice how these thoughts tend to drive our emotions and then behaviour.

An important part of mindfulness is about reconnecting with our bodies and the sensations they may experience. This means waking up to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment.  It is about allowing ourselves to see the present moment distinctly. When we effectively start doing that, it can positively change the way we see ourselves and of course our lives.

Practicing Mindfulness even for 10 minutes a day to begin with will add wonders to your life. It will make you a better version of yourself, channelize your energies and will gauge and monitor your reaction time in these trying times.  It will not make you react to things at all in ways you do not want to. It will give you the will and the strength to survive any situation and no matter how hard the going gets.  The excessive will that you acquire through the practice makes you a good person and accountable even in the time of crisis.

It is all about washing the dirt out of your mind and well to ‘just be.’

I personally channelized my Anxiety by exploring these Four Steps, you can please try the same out too:

Open your attention to the present moment. Bringing attention to our experience in a more open manner simply holding by becoming a container for thoughts, feelings or sensations in the body that are present and seeing if we can watch them from one moment to the next.

Focus on our breath. Bring focus that is much more concentrated and centred, so narrow down our breath to one region of our body—the breath of the belly, or the chest, or even the nostrils, or anywhere that the breath makes itself known, and keep that as the more concentrated focus.

Bring our attention to our body Become fully aware of sensations in the body as a whole, sitting with the whole body, the whole breath pattern, once again we move back in to the wider and spacious container of attention for our experience.

Explore our attitude By attending to these three rhythmic movements, you can support your mindfulness practice and help it flourish with a smile on your face and a positive attitude of well-being.

 This practice will not make you anxious of the future and will not make you ruminate the past. It will make you aware of the present moment and thus allow you to take life one day at a time. You do not need to be in a super polished bungalow to work with mindfulness. This practice can be done as long as you can sit somewhere with your eyes closed whether it is on a chair or the floor with cross legged position. It will allow you to not lose anything in this crisis situation. As whether we like it or not the only thing we have to lose is our mind in such a situation! So lets us collectively calm down a bit, breathe and take it easy.

As only if our mental health is in place and only if our child’s mental health is in place can we can collectively look forward to better and brighter times.

As even Swami Vivekanda beautifully said, ‘It’s only a Calm Mind can than can overcome even a Storm.’

What Mental Health needs is more sunlight, more candor and more unashamed conversation.