Are you a creative thinker?

Are you a creative thinker?

Creative thinking is the cognitive process of creating something new.. Creative thinking is the cognitive process of creating something new. We live in a world where every idea is tried and tested. Novelty is no longer something new. Standing out and being different are the best bets for survival. At such a time, being able to think creatively gives one an edge like no other.

Creativity is not art, alone

We often associate creativity exclusively with art. However, it is not just restricted to artists. It could be an idea that seems to appear spontaneously. This sudden appearance of new ideas is called insight.
Artists use creative thinking to develop visual or audio pieces which express and evoke emotions. But others use it constantly, generally to solve problems.
Creative ideas appear to have occurred spontaneously but there is a long subconscious process that occurs in its preparation.
This includes –
  1. Preparation – Understanding the problem
  2. Incubation – Dwelling on the solution
  3. Illumination – Spontaneous idea
  4. Evaluation – Testing the idea
  5. Revision
Thinking can also be convergent or divergent. Convergent thinking is problem focused, whereas divergent thinking is free with where the mind ends wild with multiple thoughts. A creative thinker skilfully amalgamate the two to achieve a specific but out of the box idea.
Other attributes of a creative thinker include a strong sense of motivation, flexibility, impulsivity, independence and the desire to be original.
You may not be an artist, but ask yourself again… Are you a creative thinker?

 

Calm Down!

Calm Down!

When was the last time someone asked you to calm down and you actually did? Never, would be my guess. If asking someone to calm down was enough to calm them down, half of us mental health workers would be out of work!
No human mind is devoid of thoughts. At any point. Ever. Sometimes, thoughts and ideas are deliberate, where you’re consciously thinking about something. You could be looking for a solution to a problem, you could be thinking about creating something new or you could just be thinking about things in general. But more often than not, thoughts are automatic. They run through your mind like a continuously flowing stream.

They come and go if you let them. They stay if you hold on to them or try to resist them.

Sometimes, especially if you’re anxious, restless or depressed, there will be multiple thoughts circling in your mind. Almost like a whirlpool of thoughts! This leads to extreme distress, confusion, more anxiety. It also makes it almost impossible to decide anything, create something new, prioritise, find solutions or even manage time. It can feel like your mind is being attacked by a bombardment of thoughts. What do you do when that happens?

Some things to calm your mind

Irrespective of whether you are on psychotropic medications or not, these are some of the things you could do to calm your mind when your thoughts are going out of control.
  1. Declutter and clean, anything, any space. Throw out what you don’t need.
  2. Garden. Prune those shrubs, pull out the weeds, water the flowers.
  3. Stand under a cold shower for at least 5 minutes.
  4. Cook. Make something comforting that smells great!
  5. Play with your pet. If you don’t have a pet. Get a friend who has one.
  6. Go for a swim.
  7.  Go for a run / go for a trek.
  8. Play a game that needs your complete attention.
  9. Learn something new.
  10. Look around, someone probably needs your help with something. Lend a helping hand.
  11. Dance, even if you don’t know how to
  12. Put on your earphones and sing as loud as you want!
  13. Practice yoga
  14. Practice yoga
  15. Practice yoga (yes, thrice. Because this one is the most important if you truly want to find your peace)
Most importantly, make decisions only after you’re feeling calmer. Clarity paves the road to better choices.

 

Why you won’t get addicted to your depression and anxiety medication..

Some drugs are good

I won’t beat around the bush, I’ll get straight to the point. Every time I diagnose a patient with clinical anxiety or depression, I recommend medication as the first step of treatment after which I ask them if they have any questions regarding the medication. Invariably, I get asked if they will get ‘addicted’ to the medication.
Let us first understand what addiction is.

Addiction, or as we clinically like to call it, disorders of substance abuse is characterised by a number of behavioural, physical and thought disorders along with changes in the brain circuits and neurochemistry which occur on taking specific substances.

A specific neurochemical called dopamine is present in many areas of the brain. The release of dopamine in the midbrain is responsible for that feeling of happy high. Under normal circumstances, during any pleasurable activity, dopamine is released in pulses leading to a sense of joy and bliss.

Substances of abuse, release of large amounts of dopamine at a time giving a sense of high and then a sudden drop.

This extreme high followed by the extreme low is what leads to a craving for more drug. Also, with time, the receptors of dopamine become desensitised to the large amount of dopamine, no longer giving the same sense of high. So the amount of drug required to produce the same high goes on increasing.
Behaviourally, this is seen as-

  1. Craving for more and more drug.
  2. A progressive increase in the amount of drug consumed to produce the same effect.
  3. Physical / psychological withdrawal symptoms when the drug is not consumed.
  4. Denial that there is a drug problem.
  5. Unsuccessful attempts to cut down the drug use.
  6. A large amount of time is spent on obtaining the drug.
  7. Problems at work, in social relationships and overall functioning as a result of the drug.
  8. Continued use of the drug in spite of these problems.

As against this, symptoms of depression and anxiety are generally related to a deficiency in another neurochemical, serotonin, in certain areas of the brain. Drugs of abuse do not correct dopamine deficiency but instead release large amounts of it in a way that is not required.

But imbalance in serotonin produces symptoms like anxiety, panic, persistent sadness, loss of interests, changes in sleep, changes in appetite, negative ideas, suicidal thoughts, to name a few.

Antidepressant and anxiolytic medications act by producing and normalising serotonin in the brain so that the brain gets the amount it needs to function normally.

So, to answer the question, no, you won’t get ‘addicted’ to your medication.

The Art of Communication

Communication is a skill

It is an essential cornerstone in any human relationship, be it personal or professional. Effective communication maintains love and respect in personal relationships and lays the foundation for efficiency in a professional one. Choosing the wrong words and a harsh tone can not only defeat the purpose of communication but also make matters worse. On the other hand, choosing the right words and a respectful tone can make the other person more receptive to what you have to put forth.

Your honesty should not turn into cruelty.

Being rude or blunt is not the same as being truthful. Words have multiple meanings and interpretations.
Fortunately, communication is a skill, and like any other skill, it can be learnt, practised and perfected.

 

Here are a few tips to set you on the path to effective communication:

  1. Put your point of view across as clearly as possible
  2. Avoid beating around the bush
  3. There is always a less hurtful way to say something, find the right words
  4. There is always a more effective way to express your view, find the right words
  5. Acknowledge the other person’s opinion
  6. Maintain eye contact
  7. Encourage expression
  8. Instead of calling the other person wrong, try to show them an alternate perspective
  9. Be open to seeing things in a different perspective
  10. If your opinions don’t match, respectfully agree to disagree

So go on, play with those words…

Mental Health – Why we need to talk about it..

It’s not a stigma.

Mental health and illnesses have been plagued by stigma since centuries.

Yes, there was a time in history when the mentally ill were not only labelled insane but were believed to be under the influence of dark powers. Treatments were gruesome and humiliating.

The situation started turning around in the 19th century when mental illness was recognised as a disease of the brain. The advent of psychoanalysis, psychotherapies and progressive findings in the medical aspects of mental health took place.

Pharmacological treatments became more specific and less disabling.

And yet, two decades into the 21st century, mental illness still carries the burden of stigma. A stigma that is now nearly baseless and is only harming us. The National Mental Health Survey, undertaken by the National Institute of Mental Health and Sciences revealed that 13.7% Indians live with mental illness, which in numbers is more than 7 crores.

Every organ in the human body is designated with specific functions, the brain even more so. It is important to understand that thoughts, emotions, ideas, behaviours are all a result of complex brain activity. It is only logical that any dysfunction in the brain will lead to problems in these areas and manifest as mental illness.

The trouble often is that most people associate their thoughts, emotions and behaviours with their identity and sense of self.

So any disturbances in these areas is considered a sign of personal weakness rather than illness. We don’t consider fever as a personal weakness, but mood swings or anxiety is often attributed to a lack of ‘willpower’. We don’t think to use ‘willpower’ to treat diabetes, hypertension or any other chronic illness but it seems to be the go-to remedy for many for an illness of the brain, a much more complex organ.

The result of this is a population that continues to attempt to deal with the daily stress of their fast-paced lives and fails to see it when mental illness hits them. The illness affects their day to day functioning, personal interactions and overall efficiency, so much so, that often waking up and going about a regular day feels like a burden. For an unfortunate few, it sometimes ends in suicide.

So yes, a dialogue on mental health issues is the need of the hour.

The New Normal

A very frequent question that arises in one’s mind when seeking mental health treatment is ‘Am I normal?’ or rather, ‘I am normal, why do I need to address my mental health?’. Which is why I chose the topic of normality, or in this case normal mental health to discuss.

‘Normal’ by definition is something that conforms to a standard. Something that is expected and predictable. For most parameters, anything that falls within 95% of a Gaussian Bell Curve is considered standard and normal.  Health, in simple terms, is defined as the absence of disease.

In accordance with this approach, lack of any overt psychopathology would define normal mental health. But can the same standards be applied to mental health? Is mental health the antonym of mental illness?

Can the absence of a defined psychiatric illness be considered mental health? Or should we, as human beings, hold ourselves to a standard higher than that?

An alternative perspective would be to view health as a presence of positives rather than the absence of negatives.

Health by itself is a continuum, with constant fluctuations. The human mind, even more plastic. It flows constantly; and ebbs and peaks without prior warning.

In a scenario like this, ‘Normal’ is difficult to define. But one can identify the persistence of joy and the motivation to live. It is possible to see if you are moving forward in life with energy and enthusiasm or are being pushed around by your fears. Whether you are bogged down by the troubles of daily life or are able to meet challenges with resilience. Whether you are able to experience and express love, empathy, gratitude, forgiveness and compassion. Whether you allow yourself to feel the whole gamut of human emotions, including anger, hatred and sadness. Whether the uncertainty of life brings anxiety and confusion or curiosity and zest!
In simple words, whether we live our lives with the glory it demands!

After all, isn’t this what truly matters?