“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same.”
–If by Rudyard Kipling
As human beings, most of us are easily swayed by the events and people in our lives. The emotions of those around us, the success and failures in life, the noise around us, and much more affect us. Amidst this chaos, it is really difficult to strive for the seemingly ideal concept of –staying positive. There are times when we literally give up in life and lose our fighting spirit. Then there are also times when we cannot believe that our dreams have finally come true! However, asking a person to remain the same at both these moments is quite a challenging task. Doing so also deprives the individual of a wholesome experience of life.
Balance is when an individual is able to equalize the pros and cons, positivity and negativity – in short, follow the middle path. It does not mean denying self the opportunity of feeling upset or rejoicing. The art of being balanced lies in the ability of the person to come back to the state of equilibrium after experiencing these ups and downs in life. It is only when an individual is either stuck in the depths of sorrow or heights of joy for a longer than the normal duration that it is an issue of concern.
In my previous article ‘The Power of your Mind’, we discussed why positive thinking is not necessarily the best way always. We also discussed that sometimes ‘It is okay, to not be okay”. In this article, we will focus on the solution- or what we can do. We will outline evidence-based steps inspired by suggestions of the American Psychological Association (APA) that can be taken to keep your body and mind in a state of balance. Always remember, choose those strategies that suit you the best-it is never one-size-fits-all.
Mindfulness refers to the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something. Most of us do experience this state of mind when we are involved in doing something we love-reading, knitting, playing a game, drawing- anything that catches our complete and undivided attention. When you are doing something that keeps us focused on the task at hand without our mind wandering off –you are practicing mindfulness!
Kallapiran, Koo, Kirubakaran and Hancock (2015) reviewed studies to examine the effectiveness of mindfulness in improving mental health symptoms of children and adolescents. After reviewing 11 studies, they concluded that mindfulness-based interventions can be effective in children and adolescents with mental health symptoms, however there are always limitations in a study, thereby the results should be interpreted with caution.
Eisenberger defined social support as having or perceiving to have close others who can provide help or care, particularly during times of stress. It includes various components of support such as-structural, functional, emotional, instrumental and informational.
A study done by Southwick, Sippel, Krystal, Charney, Mayes and Pietrzak ( 2016) investigated why some individuals are more resilient than others- to understand the role of social support. They found that positive social support moderated the genetic risk for depression in maltreated children and it was associated with resilience to psychopathology. Further, threats to social connectedness were found to have similar reactions in the brain as physical threats and fear. Weak social support was also associated with indicators of compromised physical and mental health.
Physical movement can include a range of activities such as exercise, yoga, tai chi, dance, martial arts, jogging, walking, cycling and anything that gets your body up and about. There are even psychological therapies such as dance movement therapy that channelize the effectiveness of these strategies into a therapeutic setup.
A meta-analysis done by Wu, Lee and Huang (2017) investigated the effect of physical activity on patients with depression and Parkinson’s disease. Their systematic review identified 17 kinds of physical activity programs offered to such patients. Out of these programs, aerobic training exercise, qigong and balanced-training programs improved specific aspects of their mental health. This study thereby concluded that physical activity can be used as an effective strategy to reduce degeneration of motor skills and depression as well as improve the quality of life among patients with Parkinson’s disease.
Interaction with nature
Being in close contact with nature while strolling in the park, looking at green fields while travelling, going on treks or visiting places that are in close connection to nature is a wonderful experience- rejuvenating even -for most of us. Human beings are evolutionarily said to have an affinity towards nature and the effect of human-nature interactions is explored in environmental psychology. Some of the studies on human-nature interactions have found a positive effect on reducing stress, building attention, promote physical health and alleviates social isolation.
The term ‘relaxation’ was derived from the Latin words re and laxare, thereby it literally means ‘to loosen again’. Each individual has their own way of relaxation-listening to music, pursuing their hobbies, spending time with loved ones etc. Health-care professionals are also taught numerous relaxation techniques to be used based on the requirement of their clients. Some of the simple relaxation techniques we use in our daily life include-focusing on our breath, meditation, yoga and repetitive prayer.
Stress and anxiety have a reciprocal relationship to infertility, as a high level of stress decreased the chance of fertility. The effectiveness of relaxation training on depression, anxiety and stress in infertile women was investigated by Jahangir, Zahra and Bita (2018). The results of their study indicated that the relaxation training did have a significant impact on all the three variables, and was most effective for anxiety.
Now that we know the importance of having a balanced mind as well as are well-equipped with the techniques to develop and maintain such a state of mind. Let us start right away, right now! To further emphasise the need to practice these techniques, keep in mind-
“The mind is the friend of one who has conquered it. But for the one who hasn’t done so, the mind is his foe.”
–Bhagavad Gita, 6.6