It appears that, historically, unfortunately and rather sadly, mental health issues have somehow not got the required attention they deserved with any serious discussion being carried out in hushed tones and such issues being viewed with a somewhat negative and pejorative undertone. However, in a welcome recalibration , issues relating to mental health and emotional well-being, which have got rapidly exacerbated in recent times owing to societal changes and other accentuating factors happily now seem to have come out of the closet with attempts being made, a rather welcome trend at that, of such issues issues being discussed openly and treated at par with other biological and physical diseases, disorders and ailments. This change also reflects a radical departure from the erstwhile approach, which was to put it mildly, extremely amateurish.

The attempts in this direction have gathered steam from the efforts of celebrities, achievers and personalities across all walks of life and people who can play a decisive role in moulding thinking processes, who have made conscious efforts of laying bare their mental and psychological struggles and how they dealt with them more transparently and openly. The endeavour has been to discuss such issues openly and focus on the underlying power and redoubtable force of positive thinking.

In this context, a recent interview in the “Times of India” with the Indian cricketer Shikhar Dhawan, famous, apart from his cricketing accomplishments, for his moustache twirling and swashbuckling Kabaddi style thigh slapping celebrations, caught immediate attention and deserves more than a passing reference. During the course of an interaction with a journalist during the ongoing India Premier League (IPL — 13) he very thoughtfully remarks:-

“Insan sabse zyada apne aap se baat karta hai

(Human beings talk the most to themselves)

So if you think and talk negatively to yourself that energy won’t take you anywhere, you have to be your best friend, not your best victim.

The interview unraveled, rather pleasantly at that, the intense intricate and even profound though processes of the otherwise seemingly free-flowing and carefree cricketer. While it also brought to fore the intense mental pressure that sportsmen are repeatedly prone to — understandable given the intense and continuous media glare, the turbo- charged atmosphere in which they perform, constant threat of injury, relatively short productive lives, cut-throat competition and of course the need to incessantly not only maintain but also improve and continuously hone skills, it also brought out a deceptively simple fact of how you yourself can be either your best friend or the worst enemy depending on how you choose to chart your thought processes.

The role of personal habits, daily lifestyles in our physical well being is well documented, openly discussed and comprehensively re-searched. However, the role of our personal thought processes is something that has remained confined historically to text books and academic discussion or theorized by religious philosophers and preached by religious heads and the so-called spiritual gurus (some, definitely not all, of the dubious variety with despicable agendas).

In this context, the interview with Shikhar Dhawan viewed in the context of his career struggles made him come out in the interviewers’ own words as an “ amateur psychologist”. While the interviewer may dub him as an “amateur”, the depth of his analysis and clarity of thought, interspersed with a successful sporting career — a field where the fear of failure hangs perpetually on your neck like the proverbial hangman’s noose, would put even a more seasoned and accomplished mental healthcare professional to shame.

The fact that a person spends the most amount of time not only with himself physically but also talking to himself, while certainly a fact , is something which all of us are either not aware of or choose to conveniently, but rather sadly, ignore. The constant buzz in the head, in the face of the most intricate and complicated machinery that is the brain and complex chemical reactions constantly taking place therein have the most perceptible effect on one’s mental well-being with a domino effect on your physical state. The direction in which we take our thought processes and the nature of conversations with the self are only and only our own doing and only you will bear and suffer the results thereof.

To take an example, the vagaries of weather — extreme heat or cold could be and may be definitely uncomfortable — the option could be to burden your mind with continuously whining and fretting about it or reacting positively to it — by appreciating the skyline and natural beauty for instance, focus attention on the positives or dream about what the changing colours of the season foretell for the future and shift your mental mindset from negativity to a path towards positivity. Simply put, but actually equally difficult to practice, and as an example, instead of complaining about the oppressive heat in summer, you could direct your thought processes towards thinking of the impending monsoons and all that it portends and the accompanying greenery and all-around freshness, among other bright things, that it is a harbinger of.

While negative conversations with the self can and will lead to related mental stress with potential for some dangerous and debilitating physical effects, a positive frame of mind and a meaningful conversation is likely to and in fact will lead a dramatically reverse outcome. Again while tomes have been written about conversing with God, interacting with nature, adoption of behavioral changes, life style modifications and the like ( of course with no desire in the least to belittle such effects which have undeniably and proven benefits), the need to engage and converse with the self in a positive manner and train your mind to engage in meaningful interaction with yourself is something (to my limited knowledge) not got the attention it required.

Akin to social interaction which decidedly has physical, mental, emotional benefits and sentimental value (not the least of it being an anti-dote to loneliness and isolation), the importance of how you talk to yourself can in no way be under-mined. Mind you — conversations with the self are the most important interactions that you have — the opportunity for self-reflection, introspection, and analysis that these conversations provide lay the foundation for your mental state and as a corollary your physical state. It is upto you, how to direct your inner conversations to chart the path that your thought processes will take to determine the extent of self -esteem or respect with which you hold yourself.

The importance of the conversations with your inner-being may have been researched analyzed and intensely deliberated upon by researchers, medical professionals, academia and the like, I may confess, it is only the Shikhar Dhawan’s interview which I read a couple of days back that drew my attention to its inalienable and symbiotic relationship with the self. It is in this context that the simple words of my almost unread mother (of course balanced by loads of earthly wisdom) which she repeatedly and regularly sought to instill into all her children’s got resurrected from the recesses of my mind most impactfully:-

Achha Sochoge to Achha hi Hoga”

(Think good and only good things will happen to you)

The power of conversations with the self (“Aachi soch” — good and positive thoughts) expressed in the most understated, simple and effective manner. Of course, as most children are prone to (I definitely was) I never gave much credence to it and it is only now several decades after she went away that its power and true meaning have dawned on me.

It is also by a sheer coincidence that I recently came across the following quote by Swami Vivekananda, the Monk and spiritual leader of commanding intellect and an infinite ability to inspire which not only under-lines but undeniably reinforces the power that your mental discourse and underlying thought processes have on you overall personality quotient:-

“All power is within you;

You can do anything and everything;

Believe in that;

do not believe that you are weak……………….;

All power is there;

Stand up and express the divinity within you.

As he also says in another quote:-

What I want is muscles of iron and nerves of steel;

Inside which dwells a mind of the same material as

that of which the thunderbolt is made;

Strength, manhood, Kshatra-Virya plus Brahma — Teja.

The above quote by Swami Vivekanand encapsulates the meaning of real personality emphasizing the need to ensure all round development of the physical, mental, intellectual and spiritual facilities which we all need to ceaselessly strive and aspire for of which, undeniably, productive and well directed conversations with the self are an integral part.



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