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BE POSITIVE, STAY SAFE AND DON’T TEST POSITIVE

A myriad of emotions and an amalgamation of thoughts flood our minds as we step into 2021. 2020 was a challenging year. For a majority of us, it didn’t go as we planned. While some of us lost our jobs, many graduated online; many lost their near and dear ones. No doubt 2020 was a year full of struggles and hardships, but it also taught us to be more resilient and to take care of and prioritize our mental health.

But with so much uncertainty around us in 2020, how does one remain hopeful in 2021?
Wish we had a crystal ball that would tell us the future, but sadly it doesn’t exist. So we must enter this year with positivity and optimism. A positive attitude will push us forward, encourage us to do better and help us overcome any obstacle that we face. It will motivate us to work
towards our dreams and goals and achieve more than we expect. 2020 has taught us that no matter how we advance in different areas of life, we will never have full control over everything around us, and thus we must learn to adapt. One thing we can change is our attitude and approach to life. So here are a few things you can do to be optimistic and hopeful this year:

1.Start your day with a positive affirmation 

How you start your day sets a tone for the rest of your day. Saying positive affirmations such as, “today will be a good day” or “I believe in myself” will help you begin your day on a positive note.

2. Keep a gratitude journal

Journaling about things, people or situations that you’re grateful helps to reduce stress and increase optimism. It will help you focus on the positive aspects of your life.

 3. Practice positive self-talk 

Be as kind to yourself as you would be to your loved one. Replace self-judgments and criticisms with self-compassion and positive affirmations.

4. Practice Mindfulness exercises 

Practicing mindfulness routinely will help you to be mindful of your thoughts and emotions.
Research shows that mindfulness significantly correlates to positive affect, life satisfaction and overall well-being. (Sin and Lyubomirsky, 2009)

5. Practice Solitude 

One good thing that the pandemic has taught us is that we must focus on ourselves as well. No doubt humans are social beings, and many of us love to be around other people, it is crucial to take a break from everyone and spend some alone time once in a while. Have some ‘me’ time. You can do whatever you want in this time- practice yoga/meditate, draw something, read a book or even lie down in a park soaking the warm winter sun.

So bring on a positive 2021 by not only practicing the aforementioned but also committing to self-care, healthy eating habits, quality sleep, prioritizing self and, valuing and appreciating relationships. While the pandemic has been challenging for all of us, we must continue to be
positive and believe that we will get through this time. So be positive, be safe and don’t test positive.

References:
https://www.positivityblog.com/how-to-stay-positive/
https://www.positivityblog.com/

 
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EFFECT OF RISING POLLUTION ON MENTAL HEALTH

When one thinks of the adverse effects of air pollution on health, the most common effect
that comes to mind involves physical symptoms and illnesses, like damage to the lungs and
airway systems, and aggravation of breathing problems like asthma. However, exposure to
excessive levels of air pollutants result in a broad range of consequences on the functioning
of our body, including our mental health.
There is a need for further studies and meta-analysis investigating the direct association
between air pollution and mental health. However, there is growing evidence across several
studies that strongly suggests a positive correlation between rising frequency and severity
of various mental health disorders and increasing air pollution. A study conducted by Vert et
al (2017) found that the rate of depression almost doubled in areas where the level of
pollutant nitric oxide was higher in the air. In addition, a meta-analysis of studies conducted
by Braithwaite et al (2019) found that exposure to particulate matter (PM) in the air
increases the risk of psychiatric disorders like depression and anxiety.
There are a few possible explanations for the association between air pollution and mental
health. When air pollutants and particulate matter are inhaled by us, it causes inflammation
and oxidative stress in the brain, which disrupts the functioning of the central nervous
system and increases the risk of depression and other disorders like bipolar disorder. In
addition to the effect of air pollutants on these bodily functions, a number of external
factors like frequency of exposure to air pollutants and the individual’s psychiatric history
can play a role in the increased risk of developing psychiatric disorders.
Hence, while there is a clear correlation between air pollution and mental health, further
research is required into the direct causal relationship between the two. More extensive
epidemiological human studies need to be conducted to isolate and identify the causes and
treatments for the effect of air pollution on mental health. This is especially vital in our
current times, when air pollution is on the rise due to factors like global warming.

References
Ali, N. A., & Khoja, A. (2019). Growing Evidence for the Impact of Air Pollution on
Depression. The Ochsner journal, 19(1), 4. https://doi.org/10.31486/toj.19.0011
Vert, C. et al (2017) Effect of long-term exposure to air pollution on anxiety and depression
in adults: a cross-sectional study. Int J Hygiene Environment Health
Braithwaite, I. et al (2019) Air Pollution (Particulate Matter) Exposure and Associations with
Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar, Psychosis and Suicide Risk: A Systematic Review and Meta-
Analysis. Environmental Health Perspectives, vol 127, No. 12

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/integrative-mental-health-care/202001/the-
impact-air-pollution-mental-health

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IMPORTANCE OF GRATITUDE: AND ITS IMPACT ON MENTAL HEALTH

Gratitude. We all have tried adopting the attitude of gratitude at least once or twice in our lives. Though for a short period, we have felt the effects of it on our moods and mental state. But do you know how it can positively impact our overall mental health? Many studies have quoted that those who count on their blessings tend to be happier and less depressed.
A recent study by Brown and Wong, two Ph.D. graduates from Indiana University set out to answer the question of how gratitude can have an impact on our minds. They selected 300 participants from the university who wished to seek mental health counseling and reported
to be experiencing clinically low levels of mental health at the time. After assigning the students into three groups, all of them received counseling services. Apart from that, the first group was instructed to write one letter of gratitude to another person each week for three weeks, whereas the second group was asked to write about their deepest thoughts and feelings about negative experiences. The third group did not do any writing activity.
Results showed that those who wrote gratitude letters along with receiving mental health counseling reported significantly better mental health four weeks and 12 weeks after their writing exercise ended. Suggesting that “gratitude writing can be beneficial not just  for
healthy, well-adjusted individuals, but also for those who struggle with mental health concerns. It seems, practicing gratitude on top of receiving psychological counseling carries greater benefits than counseling alone, even when that gratitude practice is brief.” (Brown & Wong, 2017)
Apart from the above advantages, gratitude comes with more psychological benefits.

Gratitude and overall outlook
Gratitude helps in shifting one’s attention from negative emotions and focuses on the positives of a situation, person, or event. Making the individual change his/her perspective and look beyond the negativity one might be feeling.

Gratitude and interpersonal relationships
Other studies have looked at how gratitude can help improve relationships. For instance, a study of couples found that individuals who took time to express gratitude for their partner not only felt more positive toward the other person but also felt more comfortable expressing concerns about their relationship.

Gratitude and workplace
Gratitude has been also been shown to help with job satisfaction and burnout. Studies have confirmed its positive effect in the workplace, and also improving a manager-employee relationship. This can also help in increasing motivation to do well in the organization.

Gratitude and health
Gratitude helps in overall health. It not only impacts our mental well-being but also our physical health. Positive psychology and mental health researchers over the decades have established an overwhelming connection between gratitude and good health. Keeping a gratitude journal causes less stress, improves the quality of sleep, and builds emotional awareness (Seligman, Steen, Park and Peterson, 2005).

Gratitude and Sleep
Studies have shown that practicing gratitude activates the hypothalamus in the brain, which in turn regulates the bodily mechanisms controlled by the hypothalamus, out of which sleep is a vital one.
“Hypothalamic regulation triggered by gratitude helps us get deeper and healthier sleep naturally every day. A brain filled with gratitude and kindness is more likely to sleep better and wake up feeling refreshed and energetic every morning” (Zahn et al., 2009).

Gratitude and the brain
The Mindfulness Awareness Research Center of UCLA stated that gratitude changes the neural structures in the brain, and makes us feel happier and content. Feeling grateful as well as appreciating others when they do something good for us triggers the ‘feel-good’ hormones and regulates the effective functioning of the immune system. Scientists have suggested that by activating the reward center of the brain, gratitude exchange alters the way we see the world and ourselves. At a neurochemical level, gratitude also acts as a
catalyst to neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine -hormones that are responsible for our emotions, anxiety, and stress responses.

Now that we’ve counted the benefits of practicing thankfulness, let us see how we can cultivate this practice of gratitude.

Writing a Thank-You note.
You can write a thank you note to a friend, a parent, or your significant other expressing your appreciation and enjoyment the other person has brought to your life. One can also write a gratitude letter to an     ex-partner by thanking them for all the good and bad memories that one has shared with them. This also helps in letting go of the pain, while releasing the negative emotions one may have been repressing for a long time. This can be a wonderful way to heal from the past and, move on.

Gratitude Journaling
A gratitude journal is a personal space to pen down all the little and big things in life that you are thankful for. One can journal what they are thankful for each day in a “dear diary” format or even in an online notepad.

Meditation
Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment without any judgment. While meditating, one can give thanks to even the basic things that are a part of lives such as the sunlight, the food we eat every day, nature, etc. Many guided meditations that we can find on the internet focus on the things one can be grateful for.

Find a Gratitude Buddy.
You can also find yourself a gratitude buddy with who you can practice the art of gratitude daily. It can be your partner, a friend, your kid, or a friend at work, who you can sit down with and discuss the things you both are grateful for. This can also enhance the motivation to practice it daily.
Gratitude is an attitude that overall enhances our well-being. Practicing gratitude can take time especially the benefits it carries. We urge everyone to take out 5 minutes in your day and give this practice of thankfulness a try. It works!

References
Brown, J., Wong, J (2017) How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain. Retrieved from:
https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_gratitude_changes_you_and_your_brain

Chowdhury, M.A. (2020) The Neuroscience of Gratitude and How It Affects Anxiety & Grief.
Retrieved from: https://positivepsychology.com/neuroscience-of-gratitude/
Giving thanks can make you happier. (2011) Retrieved from:
https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier

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ALCOHOL AWARENESS AND ITS EFFECTS ON MENTAL HEALTH

Alcohol consumption has formed an integral part of our culture and social settings since
centuries. From rulers, courtesans, and kings consuming it for their pleasure to villains in movies
drinking as celebratory gestures, usually because of a shady deal or victory. The tone accorded to
alcohol consumption has kept on shifting and evolving as we progressed. Even though alcohol
still gets associated with negative tags, the general perception around its consumption has
changed. Light drinking is even encouraged in social situations like office parties, weddings, or
just a social-gathering.
Like the relationship of alcohol and its societal perception keeps undergoing changes, so does the
link with an individual’s overall well-being. The relationship between alcohol use, mental health
problems and mental well-being is a very complex one and presents a lack of understanding
through systematic research. This is because medical professionals like clinicians working with
alcohol–abusing or alcohol–dependent patients have difficulty in assessing their patient’s
psychiatric complaints; as heavy drinking associated with alcoholism can coexist with, contribute
to, or result from several different psychiatric syndromes.
While some people may drink alcohol to relax or help cope with daily stresses; however, alcohol
as a depressant drug has been found to cause anxiety and increase stress. Moreover, it negatively
affects thoughts, feelings and actions, by impacting the central nervous system, and hence,
contribute to the development of, or worsen, existing mental health issues over time.

Therefore, alcohol use can significantly influence the development and progression of mental
health conditions. This is especially true in case of people with, or who are at-risk of, a mental
health condition, are more likely to use alcohol, and may have worse symptoms after drinking.
Moreover, alcohol, even when consumed at low levels (one or two drinks a day), can have
negative implications with most of the common medications commonly prescribed for mental
health conditions, including antidepressants.
Hence, there is a need to intensify efforts to further curtail the extent of alcohol consumption and
increase awareness of the negative effects of alcohol use on human health.

 

References
Dahlin, M., Nilsson, C. Stotzer, E. & Runeson, B. (2011). Mental distress, alcohol use and help-
seeking among medical and business students: a cross sectional comparative study. BMC
Medical Education.
Bacolod, M. Cunha, J.M., Shen, Y. (2017). THE IMPACT OF ALCOHOL ON MENTAL
HEALTH, PHYSICAL FITNESS, AND JOB PERFORMANCE. NATIONAL BUREAU OF
ECONOMIC RESEARCH
Cornah, D., Cheers? Understanding the relationship between alcohol and mental health. Mental
Health Foundation.

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ACID ATTACK: A BURNING ISSUE

Trauma experienced by Survivors

Subjection of women to sexual violence, from eve-teasing to aggressive forms of sexual
violence has been on a rise. One such form of sexual violence is acid attack- “intentional act
of throwing acid on an individual with the intent of harming, torturing, disfiguring, injuring,
or killing them” (Mittal, Singh & Verma, 2020). Acid attack is a heinous crime which has a
specific gender dimension in countries like India. In India, at least one case of acid attack
occurs every day. The number of acid attack incidents reported in the year 2018 were 228,
according to National Crime Bureau (NCRB). However, the country with the most number of
acid attacks has the least number of convictions – less than 5 percent.
The possible reason may be a rejection of love or marriage proposals, refusal to pay dowry,
rejection of sexual approach, property or family disputes. The result of acid attack is
unbearable physical pain, along with psychological trauma, and socio-economic
consequences because of serval surgeries and the legal proceedings and make the life of
victims worse than death. These attacks are not only a brutal act but also a human rights
violation.
The research and experiences shared by acid attack survivors have highlighted that the
impact of this violence is multifold. Recovering from the physical wounds is one leg of the
journey, the attack leads to traumatic and deep psychological impact on survivor’s mental
and emotional well-being. Research findings have revealed that survivors showed high levels
of psychological distress including social anxiety and avoidance, anxiety, depression and
post-traumatic stress (Mannan et al., 2006). They face serious issues related to social
isolation, primarily due to the stigma associated with the assault and physical appearance of
the survivors (Qazi et al., 2019). Gilbert et al. (2004) reported that Asian women believe that
their actions can bring shame and honor to the family. Victims of acid attack also experience
hopelessness at times, particularly about their future life. Some victims felt hopeless about
finding a job, prospects of marriage or about life in general. These feelings of self-blame,
low self-esteem, helplessness and hopelessness can ultimately lead to increased suicidal
ideation among the survivors.
Most of these post-assault negative experiences are linked to the stigma, labelling, isolation,
exclusion, and discrimination meted out to the survivors by the society at large. An
individual who has encountered facial disfigurement due to acid attack faces stigmatization,
in employment and social situations, they are discriminated against and isolated from
society, and there is very little chance of marriage for them according to the society. Victims
often tend to blame themselves for their plight even though the situation was not in their
control. The stigmatization leads to poor social functioning and isolation from society and
family.
The physical and psychological aftermath of an acid attack severely affects the lives of the
survivors, and given that these attacks are not accidental, but are deliberately caused with
an intent to disfigure and harm the person, it is essential to understand how these survivors
cope with their conditions. Different social support systems can play a significant role in

helping the survivors of acid attack cope successfully. Various coping strategies are
employed at different stages of recovery process, including religious coping (turning to God
for strength, praying frequently); avoidance-based coping to deal with the ‘threatened
identity’; emotion-focused coping to deal with the extreme negative feelings and problem-
focused coping mostly when they come out of their struggles and move towards
betterment. These strategies can help survivors incorporate the disfigurement into their
overall self-concept to lead a better life and regain a sense of normalcy and a sense of
connection.
However, efforts have to be made at a larger structural level as well for providing support to
the survivors. Along with societal stigma and psychological difficulties, survivors have to face
medical, legal and financial hurdles as well. The actual statistics may indicate severe under-
reporting and a larger number of survivors having chosen to remain anonymous due to
social stigma (Siddika & Baruah, 2017). Various government and civil society interventions
have come forward. Ria Sharma’s non-governmental organisation (NGO) Make Love Not
Scars; Sahas Foundation, an NGO founded by survivor Daulat Bi Khan; and the “Stop Acid
Attacks” campaign (2013) by Chhanv Foundation, which led to the subsequent formation of
Cafe Sheroes Hangouts to provide employment to survivors. Thus the issue of acid attack
requires a holistic approach inclusive of treatment, rehabilitation, trauma and legal
counselling.

References:
Gupta, P. (2020, January 16). India Is Failing Acid Attack Survivors, Here Is The Data.
Retrieved January 04, 2021, from https://www.shethepeople.tv/top-stories/issues/india-
acid-attacks-survivors-data/
Mannan, A., Ghani, S., Clarke, A., White, P., Salmanta, S., & Butler, P. (2006). Psychosocial
outcomes derived from an acid burned population in Bangladesh, and comparison with
Western norms. Burns, 32(2), 235-241. doi:10.1016/j.burns.2005.08.027
Mittal, S., Singh, T., & Verma, S. K. (2020). Role of Psychological Makeup in Psychological
Rehabilitation of Acid Attack Victims. Journal of Interpersonal Violence,
088626052090510. doi:10.1177/0886260520905100
Qazi, R., Khan, S., Akhtar, T., & Butt, T. A. (2019). PSYCHOSOCIAL CORRELATES OF
SUICIDAL IDEATION IN ACID ATTACK SURVIVORS. Pak J Physiol, (15-4).
Ramesh, M. (2020, January 10). India World No 1 in Acid Attacks – With Least Convictions.
Retrieved January 04, 2021, from https://www.thequint.com/news/india/india-most-
acid-attacks-in-world