I have seen a lot of evidence to suggest we are causing more problems than we are fixing by creating awareness (including mental health awareness) about problems that people may not have.
When made aware of something, the mind creates images to help understand the information.
If a child is told there is a chemical in the pool that makes the water turn purple if they wee in it, they’ll imagine a scenario where they ‘leak’, seeing purple water surrounding them and them being embarrassed.
If told to be aware of certain symptoms, you will look for them and find them. Think about it! The symptoms of some terrible, killer illness are, headaches, nausea, fatigue, dizziness, sore throat, whatever… and a voice in your head whispers, ‘Oh my god, that’s me’. Let me guess, you are still alive and kicking today. There is actually a real syndrome experienced by 80% of medical students, where they fear they have the diseases they are studying as they easily associate with the signs and symptoms.
If you look hard enough you’ll find something.
I know there are many out there really suffering anxiety, depression, bullying and other things. Being aware of helping these people is great.
Creating a situation where people, especially children, are looking to make sure they don’t have it is not so great and can lead to thoughts like;
“Do I have unhappy thoughts? Maybe I am depressed? I better look hard to see if I have them because I don’t want to be depressed!”
What about the small change below?
“Do I have happy thoughts?” If I have happy thoughts, it means I am happy and if someone is happy then depression is not even on their radar.
I understand depression is a real problem for some BUT it is not a real problem for all. I see many young people who have accidentally talked themselves into a false depression or anxiety. I have seen many who think they are being bullied when they are not.
Being uneducated about thoughts and the power we have over them means many are suffering unnecessarily. Focussing on not having ‘depressive’ thoughts can drive one into a state that mimics depression or anxiety.
If you understand how the mind works and it is easy to feel better and find a way out of the mire. Of course anyone suffering clinical depression is a different story and I am not for a minute suggesting they could be treated this way (although I am not suggesting they couldn’t either)
Maybe we could increase awareness about the following;
- Thinking about something and NOT thinking about something is the same thing. Can you NOT think of a pink elephant?
- The more you try NOT to think about something the bigger it gets.
- When you focus on what you do want, you will get more of it.
- When you focus on what you don’t want, you will get more of it.
- What you look for, you will find. Look for depressive or anxious thoughts and you will find them. Look for happy and confident thoughts and you will find them.
I have a great exercise I do with my kids to help train their mind to look for the positive. I say to them as they go to school “I look forward to hearing about the best part of your day.” Automatically their unconscious sets about to find the best bits in their day. Try it out with your kids or even with yourself.
What do we really want to be more aware of in our lives? I say, lets create ‘Happiness and Wellbeing Awareness Day’ and get our kids notice where happiness and wellbeing is in their life.