Sunday, February 15, 2015

mental hygiene

ink drawing by Lohbado
Too crazy to focus because his heart was beating too fast Lohbado, like millions of northerners, suffered cabin fever. Ice cold outside, Lohbado stayed indoors. In a few weeks, it would be not so cold. Then it would be nice to go out and walk around. He reached a point where just the thought of putting on the heavy parka and boots made him need to go lie down on the sofa and take a nap. Every year winter became a little more difficult to endure. Lohbado vowed to not run away. He took no vacation. He faced cold hell head on.

This is the time of year when it helps to use every tool in the book to stay sane. Practice mental hygiene. Contact friends. Don’t wait for them to contact you. Be creative. Pick up the pen and write, or draw. Dance around. Sing. Don’t make excuses saying you’re no good or can’t do it. Just do it. If you’re alone, so much the better. There’s no audience. Nobody to criticize you, unless you choose to criticize yourself. Why not be nice? Is there any reason to put yourself down? 

Lohbado repeated these thoughts at the first onset of malaise, the sinking feeling, a sickness in the pit of the stomach, vertigo, when the thought of even taking the next breath seems too much. Ok. Stop. Don’t wallow in misery, otherwise the misery will keep going. Misery precludes happiness. Misery is no fun. Fun and happiness is more enjoyable than misery. The first step is to be committed to cheering up. Lohbado met people who seemed to choose misery. They told Lohbado he was flaky, his ideas silly. There was nothing to be done. We’re all doomed. Might as well go back to bed and pull the covers up to the chin. Life is absurd. Happiness is impossible. Everyone is selfish. I don't care about anyone other than myself... People actually said such things to Lohbado.

The first step to cheering up is to be open to the possibility of happiness. You would think that having an open mind would be common sense. But sorry to say... this is not the case. Hang out for a while with a lot of people. Listen and find out for yourself. A lot of insanity in the world is related to an unwillingness to understand, lack of compassion, intolerance, a closed mind... Fanaticism is not just religious. Fanaticism is a devotion to one’s set of mental habits or beliefs. It involves an unwillingness to reflect and refusal to tolerate questions. The fanatic’s motto could be: whatever I think is true, because my thoughts don’t lie. I don’t need to prove my statements, because my statements are based on the fact that I thought about things for a while. I don’t need evidence or logic because my thoughts tell the truth.

So, admit the possibility that one could cheer up. Then, when you're ready, there's a whole lot of mental hygiene techniques out there. The most common recommendations are to care about others, cultivate compassion, be kind, reasonable, friendly. Be creative, curious, imaginative, playful... When someone disagrees in a rational manner, welcome disagreement as an occasion to discuss matters, to perhaps deepen your understanding.

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