Sustainable solutions

Good mental health is useful to society

Good mental health means more than the absence of mental disorders. It includes experiencing joy and mastering through participation in society. As well as through working life, studies, in friendships and family. It also includes an experience of mastering life's tasks and challenges.

Mental illness can be described as striving to experience happiness and mastering in daily life, which is a major health and social challenge (Directorate of Health, 2014). This can be experienced as painful for each individual, while it also has major economic and occasionally violent consequences for society (Borgen and Stenhaug, 2017).

A major goal for those of us who work with ConsciousnessTraining™ is to promote good health and quality of life for all humans. Our philosophy is that when each individual has their basic needs met, and are given an opportunity to follow their dreams, we will create a society that has room for everyone. This can be done by thinking smarter and more efficiently in cooperation with others, so that we find better and more sustainable solutions for society.

Savings for society by promoting smart thinking in the population

Norway has a population of about 5 million (2013) and the total costs due to illness and accidents were estimated to amount to approximately NOK 1,860 billion in the same year (2013). Lost years of life and less of quality of life are included, among other things. Health services are estimated to cost NOK 274 billion, and production loss (loss of tax revenues) is estimated to cost NOK 186 billion (Directorate of Health, 2013). Mental disorders are the diseases that cost society the most money, and are estimated to cost 185 billion per year (Holte, 2016).

Mental disorders are also an important reason for dropouts from upper secondary education (between one of four or one of five students who do not complete secondary education), which also costs society billions. In addition, we spend billions to prevent dropouts (Falch, Johannesen and Strøm, 2009). Currently, we spend money on initiatives that give minimal impact (although we have started to see a slightly positive development now) (Government, 2017), and therefore even more money is lost. Dropping out is of major importance for health and quality of life in terms of increased risk of unemployment, crime and ill health (Falch, Joannesen and Strøm, 2009).

Such overviews are relatively stable from year to year, and will therefore provide an indication as to whether we are moving in the right direction when we work to promote good physical and mental health in society (Directorate of Health, 2013).

There is a lot we can do to save society these costs. One thing is to create good treatment options that work for those who have become ill. But as Holte (2016) refers to, the most important thing we can do is to put initiatives into action before we get sick. For that, we must put in place initiatives that promote mental capital in the population. Without mental capital, other capital is of little value. By mental capital, he means our ability to regulate emotions, use logic and creativity, coordinate our behaviour when interacting with others, and to cope with social challenges and conflicts in a good way.

Two research projects have been carried out on ConsciousnessTraining™, and they show that this brain training promotes mental capital (Velikova, Sjaaheim and Nordtug, 2017; Velikova and Nordtug, 2018). The research was done on healthy people, but included in the studies were participants who were close to developing depression. The research on Consciousness Training ™ shows that those who were close to developing depression benefited greatly from the course. After one course, then 12 weeks of home practice and a repetition of the course, the depressive symptoms were gone for all participants.

Both those with depressive symptoms and those who were healthy evaluated themselves as more satisfied with life and more effective after the courses. The research also showed that the training gives increased ability to regulate emotions, as well as use logic, intuition and creativity to solve tasks and challenges. At the same time, non-verbal reasoning increases, which is an indicator of general intelligence (ibid).

Promoting smart thinking is important in a day and age of many great tasks and challenges. Considering how many people struggle with anxiety and depression, effective preventive initiatives regarding these disorders can save society considerable costs (Holte, 2016). When we are not depressed, it is also easier to think smart. Therefore, there is much to gain both economically and intellectually by preventing depressive symptoms before they develop into depression, as is done with ConsciousnessTraining™ (Velikova and Nordtug, 2018).

We must put in place initiatives where the initiatives are effective

ConsciousnessTraining™ is what researchers call "self-guided". This means that after the course, the participants have learned techniques that can be used to cope with large and small tasks and challenges in daily life. The techniques can, among other things, be used to work towards personal goals, handle and regulate emotions from negative experiences, or improve relationships with other people. They can be used at home in one’s own living room, without a need for guidance. Velikova and Nordtug (2017) point to a familiar example of experiencing irritation over a colleague. The techniques can be used to change feelings related to irritation over a colleague, so that one goes from a state characterized by irritation and dissatisfaction to more calmness, focus and concentration. In other words, this is a promising tool for promoting an ability to change, solve problems and cooperate in society. The challenge is to put initiatives into place where they give the best effect.

A number of studies show that it is best to put initiatives in place in arenas where people normally are found (Directorate of health, 2014; Holte, 2016). It is also agreed upon that social support, experiences of mastering and of managing daily tasks and challenges promotes good mental health and quality of life (Directorate of Health, 2014). It is therefore important to make arrangements for people to experience social support and mastering in kindergartens, schools, places of study, at work and in family life.

There are many risk factors for developing mental disorders, exclusion and isolation. Some of them are difficulties at school, bullying, family relationships, cruelty, abuse, and poverty. Holte (2016) indicates that kindergartens and schools are our most important arenas for introducing initiatives before illnesses occur.

One of the reasons why kindergartens and schools are so important is because these are unique arenas for giving people what they need to develop good health: social support, mastering experiences, and strategies for coping with life's tasks and challenges. Kindergartens and schools are particularly important for those who are at risk of falling out of society in different ways. Today we know that early childhood experiences are of great importance for the direction life takes (Getz, Kirkengen and Ulvestad, 2011). Recent knowledge from a variety of disciplines and fields of expertise shows that our brain and entire nervous system are shaped by experiences, and that tough childhood experiences put the brain in survival mode. A brain in survival mode sends stress signals to the rest of the body, which in turn affects the immune system and our physical health. In addition, a brain in survival mode will have greater difficulty regulating emotions and behaviour (Nordanger and Braarud, 2014), which poses a greater risk for social exclusion (Getz et al, 2011).

There are two measures that are particularly effective to include in kindergarten and schools. One is to strengthen the interaction skills of adults, as the quality of interaction between adults and children is the single most important factor for children and young people's learning and development (Skaalvik and Federici, 2013: Drugli and Nordahl, 2014:). The second is to teach children and youth the connection between feelings, thoughts and actions, as well as provide training in coping with tasks and challenges in life (Holte, 2016).

Our focus is primarily on adults’ attitudes and behaviour when interacting with children and adolescents. Thereafter the focus is on giving children and young people "knowledge about life," and techniques for managing life's tasks and challenges. When we focus in this way, in the order mentioned, it will promote a good psychosocial environment, characterized by good relationships, cooperation and comprehensive thinking.

Good interaction skills are about being able to meet parents, colleagues, children and youth in a good way. This requires good understanding of other people's feelings and various social situations (Skaalvik and Federici, 2013). Research done on ConsciousnessTraining™ shows that this understanding is displayed after course (Velikova and Nordtug, 2018). Good interaction skills are also about knowing what must be done when no theory or methodology provides clear answers. Research done on ConsciousnessTraining™ also shows that we strengthen our intuition, creativity, alertness and empathy (Velikova and Nordtug, 2018). These are resources that make it easier for us to improvise good solutions in the unique practice situations that always occur, so that we can facilitate social support and good mastering experiences.

It is also important to mention that self-regulation is the very foundation for learning, an ability that also has a significant impact on how well one manages in life - in terms of education, economics, risk of crime and the development of health problems. But self-regulation is not something that comes of itself. Children learn self-regulation from adults who are good at it themselves (Storksen, i.d). A main conclusion in the research done on ConsciousnessTraining™ is that the training strengthens our ability to self-regulation (Velikova and Nordtug, 2018).

Being able to regulate emotions, work in an organized way and concentrate, as well as create secure social connections are identified as the most important things we can do to promote good mental health and mastering of life for children and adolescents. An intervention that meets these requirements is in demand, and research shows that ConsciousnessTraining™ does (Velikova et al., 2017: Velikova and Nordtug, 2018).

Working life
Anxiety and depression are among the most common causes for sick leave. This is painful for the individual, while having major financial consequences for society (Folkehelseinstituttet, 2012). Preventing anxiety and depression before it develops into illness and absence from work can therefore give great savings for the workplace and for society. As mentioned, research shows that ConsciousnessTraining™ is a promising tool for doing this (Velikova and Nordtug, 2018).

ConsciousnessTraining™ is significant for managing large and small tasks and challenges in daily life. For example, when we are to work towards achieving our goals, or when we feel annoyed by a colleague at work. The fact that the participants learn two techniques that can be adjusted for use in the situation at hand, without guidance, leads to ConsciousnessTraining™ being considered beneficial for enhancing cooperation and efficiency in the workplace (Jensen, 2017).

Brain health and health services
Brain health is a relatively new term in Norway. Brain health concerns the state of health related to functions, diseases, injuries and conditions in the brain. These may include Alzheimer, dementia, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, attention deficit and behavioural disorders - simply everything that goes on in the head (Health and Care Services, 2017).

A common denominator for brain diseases is that they cause loss in cognitive functions and can cause changes in personality. The health services lack competence in psychosocial and cognitive rehabilitation after illness (ibid). Regarding the latter (enhancing cognitive functions), ConsciousnessTraining™ is considered to be a promising tool in treatment of brain diseases when integrated as part of the treatment plan (Velikova and Nordtug, 2018).

A society that makes room for everyone

In a day and age with major challenges related to the environment, globalization and cooperation between people of different cultures, ethnicity and geographical affiliation, it is vital that we develop what Holte (2016) describes as mental capital. One challenge is that so many simultaneously struggle with mental disorders, as this leads to reduced capacity to think smart. Alone and in cooperation with others.

We in Unique Mind ESP are therefore committed to promoting good mental health and quality of life in society.

Our focus is:
- Integrating ConsciousnessTraining™ in kindergartens, schools and higher education. We want to cooperate with research and the field of practice for increased understanding of how we can work in a goal-oriented way with mental health and mastering of life in these areas.
- That ConsciousnessTraining™ contributes to reducing sick leaves, and that the training, integrated into workplaces, is part of the work to promote smart thinking in society.
- That ConsciousnessTraining™ is part of long-term strategies to prevent brain diseases, exclusion and isolation in society.
- To cooperate with research and field of practice to create effective treatment options within the health services (brain disorders, substance abuse and psychiatry).

Briefly summarized, we can say that when enough people use more intuition, creativity, logic and self-regulation to improve their relationships with other people, and find better solutions in cooperation with others, we will create a sustainable society that makes room for everyone.