This blog post is written by our ambassador, Xavier Eales.
Life is a marvellous balancing act – the paradox of human advancement. Our emotions are the product of a collision between life’s inevitable hardships and blissful joys. This is not a new concept. The Chinese labelled it ‘yin and yang’. Western thinking advocates for a life lived ‘in balance’. To ‘work hard, play hard’.
The challenge embedded in this chaotic experience is two-fold. We must shift our attitudes: hardship should be an ‘opportunity’ rather than a ‘struggle’, and joy ought to form a central part of our being rather than be considered a ‘temporary distraction’.
This is what I was referring to in my depression speech when I said “There’s a beauty simply in existing that we too often forget, and it’s humorous to think that we ever cared about much more”.
Our passions embody what it is to experience life in this healthy equilibrium. They are tools by which we may appreciate that true happiness exists in the journey of an experience rather than its end result. Pursuing what we love in life is one of the most effective tools for improving our state of mind.
The process of achieving this can be reduced to three simple steps.
Step 1: Identify your passions
Ask yourself what it is that makes you truly happy. In my own quest to live with a healthy mind, I have endeavoured to find out what my own passions are. After much trial and error, I have realised that they include discovering good music, travelling, learning languages and creating healthy relationships.
Step 2: Pursue your passions
My health was always at its peak when these passions were maximised in my life amongst all the other things over which I had no control. I tried to organise them strategically so that they propelled me through my most difficult challenges. For example, I always made sure to organise seeing a music performance or catching up with friends the day after a particularly challenging exam.
Explore your passions without feeling the need for others to validate their legitimacy. Go to a movie or concert on your own. Challenge yourself to value solitude rather than fear it. As I type this advice I am sitting on a bus in Xuzhou, China. As far as I know, I’m the only Australian in this small city. Becoming comfortable and confident in my own company is a monstrous challenge, but it is incredibly rewarding.
Our own intuition and commitment to change is our most powerful weapon against mental illness. Of course, in the case that you fall short, it’s important to remember that you always have others to fall back on.
Step 3: Reflect on your passions
In a society which grooms people to become almost exclusively future-oriented, it’s important to learn to look back on the past. I still struggle with this. Viewing critically which pastimes succeeded in making us happy and which didn’t is important for adjusting our approach in the future.
Ultimately, if we can master this, we will all live happier and healthier lives.