Tuesday, August 23, 2022

In Search of Wisdom

Book with open pages

References to wisdom and to the wise have been found in almost all ancient civilisations, mythologies, religions, and philosophy. Philosophy (philo-sophia) literally means the love of wisdom. It has often been referred to as the ‘father of all virtues’, suggesting that wisdom was considered to be the ideal of human development, even of divinity - attained only by a few. Many millennia later, we are yet to understand or even define wisdom. 

Wisdom is often assumed to be the sum of one’s knowledge and experience. Thinking patterns that are associated with wisdom - the ability to contemplate and think introspectively, to consider multiple perspectives and to have insight into individual and cultural differences develops only in late adulthood, as does practical knowledge of the world. However, age, by itself, does not bring wisdom – some studies have found that many of us tend to become more rigid and live more constricted lives as we grow older, while openness to learning and experience are essential to wisdom. 

Wisdom is therefore a multi-dimensional construct, comprising cognitive, emotional and personality attributes; as well as motivational factors. A look at some of the qualities in those we consider wise include:

  • Empathetic understanding of human behaviour. The ability to understand is deemed one of the most important aspects of wisdom. A Yiddish proverb says it all - “A wise man hears one word and understands two.” 
  • Tolerance for different opinions and perspectives. Essential to understanding is the ability to accept and respect differences. 
  • A rare degree of insight and judgment. The ability to consider the consequences of actions on the individual and on others, and to be able to see the bigger picture.
  • Acceptance of life’s uncertainties and the realisation that we must engage with life while knowing that the future can never be totally under our control.   
  • Humility to accept and be aware of the limits of one’s own knowledge. As the wise Socrates said “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing”.

The ability of an individual to find the right, or at least good answers to complex and important life questions; while balancing the needs of the individual, that of others and the wider society at large is the accepted definition of what we consider wisdom. 

Can wisdom be learnt? Do certain environments promote wisdom?

Certain environments can encourage the kind of thinking that characterises wisdom. A non-judgmental framework within which a child can question, voice doubts and is encouraged to respect the views of others fosters wisdom. Conversely, a dogmatic atmosphere in which things are seen as right or wrong may lead to self-centeredness and the inability to appreciate differences of opinions and values. Indeed, educationists, philosophers, and psychologists have suggested that schools should combine the pursuit of knowledge with a curriculum for teaching wisdom. Developing wisdom was indeed considered the aim of teaching and learning in many ancient cultures.

Learning comes, but wisdom lingers - Alfred Lord Tennyson



Saturday, March 19, 2022

The Importance of Routine

woman face with rows of clocks

Imagine if you have the freedom to wake up to a completely unstructured day, free from all constraints of time. To do whatever you want whenever you want all day long. This may sound like a dream; but try it for a few days and you will soon feel listless, dissatisfied and directionless. The feeling that life is passing you by and you have no control over it will overwhelm you, and you will long for the comfort of routine. 

Such is the power of routine and structure in our lives! It anchors us to our lives, gives it meaning and purpose. It is, undeniably, one of the most important aspects of our physical and mental well-being. As exciting as an unplanned day may appear, it can be very harmful for mental health and can exacerbate feelings of anxiety and distress.

Our lives involve constant interactions with our social and physical environment – at home, at work, in the neighbourhood and in the wider world around us. We have little or no control over most of these aspects of our lives and we know not when the unexpected may happen; therefore, it gives us a great sense of stability to have some things under our control. 

In a changing world, it is reassuring to realise that some things will be constant - the alarm that wakes us at a particular time, the morning cup of coffee, our daily walk, meals at particular times, getting dressed and reporting for work. This morning routine calms and prepares us for the day ahead and helps us cope during a crisis. 

The sense of normalcy that routine brings reduces stress and anxiety, which benefits us both physically and mentally, regulates the biological clock and enables better sleep; setting in a cycle of wellness and regularity.

Without structure, there is little motivation. Having a definite structure to the day also improves productivity and our sense of self-efficacy. By completing the routine tasks and chores which must be done, we get a sense of achievement, free ourselves of the nagging worry that incomplete tasks and procrastination inevitably bring and lets us focus on the more challenging tasks of the day.

How to start a routine

  • Keep it simple. 
  • Start with a sleep schedule. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. The very act of getting up and changing into fresh clothes can set us to feel refreshed and motivated. 
  • Build in the essentials – the things that must be done. This includes daily activities – such as meals, exercise, bath; and weekly chores such as buying groceries, laundry, house cleaning etc. 
  • Do daily activities at the same time every day. Choose a time that works for you. If you are rushed in the mornings, schedule your exercise and bath for the evening.
  • Always include some activities you enjoy – gardening, reading before bedtime, talking to friends or watching your favourite serial. 
  • Remember not to keep your schedule too rigid. Allow for flexibility when the situation demands.
  • Don’t be disheartened if you falter. According to one study, it took a minimum of 66 days to form a single new habit! 
  • Reward yourself when you stick to a schedule.

  1. https://adhdwellnesscenter.com/the-importance-of-structure-and-routine-for-your-mental-health/
  2. The Importance of Keeping a Routine During Stressful Times (verywellmind.com)