WHILE the 21st century has its benefits, from access to life-saving drugs to education, travel opportunities and communication technology, many of us are paying a high price in terms of the pressured, driven lives we live, according to psychologist Steve Taylor.
“There’s a massive negative side to modern life,” says Taylor, a lecturer at Leeds Metropolitan University.
“The way we live is driving us slightly mad. Many of us, in fact, are suffering from a psychological disorder that I call ‘humania’. It’s caused by our drive to accumulate more and more wealth, status and success, even though those things don’t necessarily bring contentment.”
In his new book, Back to Sanity: Healing the Madness of Our Minds, Taylor suggests that the disorder creates restlessness, making us feel uneasy and anxious when our attention isn’t occupied by external things.
“It creates an underlying sense of dissatisfaction which constantly impels us to look for happiness outside ourselves, from possessions, to success and power,” he says.
Instead, we should aim for what psychologists refer to as the ‘state of flow’, in which our minds are completely focused on the task at hand, and we live ‘in the moment’ and thereby feel alert and full of energy.
“Our modern lifestyles don’t leave room for the benefits of quietness, which can help heal the discord in our minds and recharge us just as rest helps to heal the body when we’re ill,” Taylor says.
“When we fill our lives with hustle and bustle, the discord in our minds intensifies, and we lose ourselves.”
Encouragingly he points out that there is a cure – a new approach to life and small, simple steps to get us on the path to harmony and peace.
“All is not lost. Our madness is a condition which can be healed,” he says.
Find out if you’re suffering from the symptoms of humania and check out key ways to restore your wellbeing with these steps.
As soon as you get home the first thing you do is switch on the television because you feel uncomfortable with the quiet of your home. Studies show that the average person watches 28 hours of television a week.
Technology ensures we’re never free from entertainment and information and viewing it can become compulsive.
Many of us are beset by thoughts buzzing in our minds from the moment we wake up to the time we go to bed.
Sometimes this is habitual and forms a negative script constantly repeating messages such as “I can’t do this – it will soon go wrong”, or “She’s so much better than me – I wish I was like her”, or “I don’t deserve any of this – I won’t ever be happy”.
Many of us spend our lives seeking status, money and possessions which we believe will bring happiness.
Wishing your life away
To escape the present, we can spend our lives looking forward to events, endlessly setting goals, or hankering for a new, often imaginary, golden era.
How to get back to sanity
Make contact with Nature – the natural world has a calming effect on us. Its stillness and beauty quieten the mind, and makes us feel connected. Go for a walk in the park or countryside as often as possible and allow yourself to notice small details and seasonal changes.
Make space for quiet time – turn off the TV, radio and computer and spend some time quietly. Practice feeling comfortable in your own mental space. It may be hard at first to wean yourself off distractions, so gradually reduce the amount of time you spend watching television, on the computer or checking your mobile phone.
This is the most effective way of healing the normal restlessness of our minds, it slows down our thoughts and helps prevent us being overwhelmed with negative feelings.
Help other people
One of our problems is a sense of separateness, the feeling that we’re “in here” inside our own mental space, while the rest of the world is “out there”. This can make us feel isolated and incomplete, but helping other people makes us feel connected to the world. Volunteering gives a different perspective on life. Apart from making us happier, altruism makes us feel part of something bigger.
Back to Sanity: Healing the Madness of Our Minds by Steve Taylor is published by Hay House, £10.99.