One of my New Year's resolutions for 2016 is to write a weekly blog post on the subject of mental health, or as I prefer to term it, emotional wellbeing. Last week I wrote about how to battle your neuroses - or to ignore them and carry on regardless - and in either case why you should do your utmost to make the most of life.
In my opinion, the reason we are here on this planet is to be happy. I don't know how I formed this opinion - I suppose I feel it, rather than think it. Sometimes life gets hard and happiness seems elusive, but there are certain things we can do to help ourselves even in difficult circumstances.
There is a particular factor which I think is crucial to our happiness and our emotional wellbeing - at least, it's something which I have learned in life and I think might be useful to others to know. It's about the importance of holding on. That for every down there will be a corresponding up.
Life does throw us a curve ball sometimes but things always improve. How long things take to get better will depends on the nature of the event and on the individual reaction to it. When I was young, I seemed to experience vast tracts of time during which I felt lost and lonely and I do wish I had been aware at that time of how much better, fuller and more rewarding things would become in the future.
This seems to be to be one of the fundamental truths in life - if you only hold on, things will get better. I get so sad when I hear of people giving in to hard times, especially if they harm themselves in any way. I wish I could say to them - keep your body intact, look after it, because your mind will heal to match it in time.
A friend who travelled to Africa on a humanitarian mission a couple of years ago said that the people she met there were the happiest she had ever known. They were just grateful every day to be here on earth, alive, despite the extreme difficulty of their everyday living conditions compared to our own.
Which is not to say that our own problems are imagined - but we would do well to remember that we too are lucky to be here. Sometimes we over-complicate our lives by fretting over things which will not seem to matter at all a year or two hence. Certainly, we should not fret over the presence or absence of material objects in our existences - the fact that we are here is a wonderful and precious thing, and we should remember to cherish it above all else.
We need to comprehend, as my friends told me the Africans she met understood instinctively, that in being here we are blessed. You don't need to be religious at all to think this way, but it does help to believe that there is something bigger than us out there in the universe. When I was younger I didn't allow myself the comfort of faith and the world seemed a much harder place for it.
So to sum up: bad times, or low moods, don't last forever. For every down, there is a corresponding up. It might not be a long term problem at all - simply go for a long walk and you might feel better even faster than you anticipated - if not, keep exercising, sleep well, etc... Or if, as I once did, you have lost hope, remind yourself that you will find it again eventually. Definitely.
Just persevere, keep going. Take one step at a time to improve your emotional well-being: Exercise, eat well, sleep and rise at regular hours, confide your feelings to a friend or to your diary. Look after yourself and just keep on taking those small steps forward. Because one day, beyond doubt, you will look back and realise that you have risen above your circumstances and that you are properly happy again, at last.