‘A stitch in time saves nine’. It has taken some decades for people to let this wisdom sink as far as their health is concerned. Till 1960s and 70s, fitness was not a popular and common term. Having a healthy weight, a functioning life with no ailment was a matter of chance. A Dharmendra or a Dara Singh were perceived to be naturally gifted with stamina, health, and strength. Putting on oodles of weight and being constricted by sickness were considered as natural occurrences with aging. They were thought of as norms than exceptions. ‘Sab teek he na?’ or ‘Ameer log honge! Khana hazam nahin hota, tho daudne lagthen hein!’ – Such reactions were given with eye-brows raised to a person found jogging or exercising.
Fast forward to 20 to 30 years later. People from various walks of life, young, middle-aged to senior citizens, and with normal functioning lives have a fitness routine planned in their day. They don't begin this journey when any problem arises, due to deterioration of health or because of a doctor’s advice. Building stamina, vitality, energy, keeping a certain weight and several other reasons that promote health has motivated people to throng in large numbers to gyms, zumba classes, aerobics, yoga, parks, and the likes. Schools make it a point to give children, the practice of physical activities. Some workplaces have sports clubs to foster physical health among their employees. Not leaving physical health to the mercy of lucky chance and taking control of it by consciously working on it is the shift we have witnessed.
But the irony is we are not even close in according the same status to mental health. Even when the well-being of a person is impacted to a point of making him dysfunctional, and is evident in the way he thinks, displays emotions, and behaves, approaching a Specialist is thought of as taboo. Barring few educational Institutions, most do not have in place activities to cultivate resilience, focus, adaptability, decision-making, self-control, anger management, dealing with failure, with self-criticism and criticism of others, and regulating emotions. Such skills don't find a place as imperative and foundational components of the education and at best offered as add-ons, where they are taught.
Our brain is a vital component of the body but unique because it is at the core of our learning, cognition, and functioning in ways that serve us. It does go through wear and tear. Our perception, thoughts, feelings, and behavior are impacted in pleasant and unpleasant ways with age, unprecedented situations, and the demands of career, relationships, social support, and finance. This calls for a system and a routine of nurturing it. Just like the impetus on a system and routine of building physical health. Developing our psychological health and emotional health are not add-ons if we need a well-rounded person who is equipped to take care of his well-being in the midst of the highs and lows of life.
Does it eliminate all the possibilities of mental health issues! Not really. Just like being physically fit does not guarantee that there won’t be any ailment in the future. But cultivating mental fitness certainly makes one less prone to problems. A small hole in a garment requires only a few stitches. If it grows bigger, more stitches will be needed to mend it. Better still, if the garment is stitched strong enough, it is more likely to see itself through without having a hole, for as long as it lasts.
With you and us engaging more and more in these conversations, there is definitely hope that we stitch in time and save several nines.