ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Achieving More Personal Happiness Today

Jack Bragen
Friday November 25, 2016 - 10:48:00 AM

As persons with psychiatric disabilities, there is no expectation that we try to solve the world's problems. If we are cooperating with treatment, and if we have some kind of regular activity that engages the mind and body, that holds our interest, it should be good enough. No one expects mentally ill people to become involved in politics, social justice, or to have professional employment. If you have a severe mental illness, it is legitimate to sit in the sidelines of society. We should be focused on our own recovery and on staying well.  

When we take care of ourselves, it helps the rest of society because we aren't creating problems for others, and we aren't in need of as many resources. Not to mention, family doesn't have as much to worry about. Thus, we are helping society when we focus on recovering or remaining recovered. It helps our mental health and our level of happiness when we take care of ourselves, and this usually entails not being preoccupied with world events.  

How then, do we disconnect from disturbing world events, from the erosion of democracy in the U.S., and essentially from society falling apart before our eyes? Just tell yourself; "It's not my problem."  

It is worthwhile to seek personal happiness and to ignore world events.  

In becoming a happier person, we may need a way of getting our minds "from point A, to point B." To me, this means getting rid of problematic thoughts, and focusing on what is enjoyable in the moment.  

An exercise: Get pen and paper. Write down worries. It doesn't matter if some of the worries are rational or irrational, possibilities or nearly impossible, delusions or not. Just write down the worries, one by one. Begin with the first on that comes to mind, then write the next, and so on. Now, categorize the worries. At the bottom of each worry, notate if the worry is something you have control over, or not. Next, at the bottom of each worry, put down a percentage of emotional impact. In other words, estimate how much this particular thing is impacting on being happy at the present moment. Next: put down at the bottom of each worry; "method of dismissal." In some instances, the worry pertains to something that you need to do, such as, "clean my dwelling for inspection," or perhaps, "pick up my prescriptions," or perhaps, "pay my rent on time." In other instances, the worry pertains to something over which you have no control, such as; "Global warming." The method of dismissal for "Global warming" is different than the one for "pick up my prescriptions." In the first instance, climate change is completely out of your hands, and you ought simply dismiss the thought. Write down or say to yourself, "This thought is dismissed." If your worry pertains to a necessary action, then schedule when, where and how you intend to do the thing. Such as, "I will pick up my prescriptions at three o'clock today."  

A question you can pose to yourself: "What can I do right now to increase my enjoyment of the moment?" The answer could be something like, "I am going to have a cup of tea." Or, the answer could be, "I am going to read part of a paperback novel that is sitting on my shelf."  

This isn't rocket science. You don't control the Earth, but you have a lot of power over your own state of mind. Employ that power, and become a happier person.  

Jack Bragen is author of: “Instructions for Dealing with Schizophrenia: A Self-Help Manual.” And, “Schizophrenia: My 35-Year Battle.”