Oped

Being free

  • Improving mental and physical health will help us achieve true freedom
- Illa Mainali

Aug 6, 2017-

For centuries the word freedom has been a topic of debate, and for good reason. There are many different views of what freedom truly means, and its influence on our daily lives. From a political standpoint, one might argue that freedom is closely intertwined with economics and that economic freedom is also an indispensable means toward the achievement of political freedom. This idea has to do with a citizen’s right to choose their own job, and to spend the wages earned on anything they please. Freedom in terms of a country represents the levels of political rights and civil liberties in each state and territory. From a woman’s standpoint, freedom may be related to independence from the control of her father or husband; to be able to decide her own personal life by herself. 

Who doesn’t like to be free? People have different perspectives on the definition of freedom. A free society could be valued by whether there is an equal distribution of legal rights, and whether every participant has legal control of his or her own body and mind.

It is also necessary to know the difference between freedom and liberty, although they are often used as synonyms. Freedom is a state of being capable of making decisions without external control, whereas liberty is freedom which has been granted by an external control. It is important to understand this subtle difference in order to celebrate the freedom we enjoy. There are two important types of freedom.

Freedom from the mind

From fear to excitement, sadness to boredom, the human mind is running on a clutter of thoughts every day. An excessive amount of stress in daily life is the primary reason many people get sad and depressed. Psychologist Barry Schwartz found that freedom of choice can have a negative effect when it comes to mental health. Although increased choice may provide better results, it can also lead to greater anxiety, indecision, paralysis and dissatisfaction. 

The term ‘human being’ can be analysed as having two parts—the ‘human’ body and the ‘being’ that’s inside it. When the being is a prisoner to the mind, we are not free and our reality will reflect a sense of imprisonment. Freedom from the mind is about the ‘being’ becoming fearless of the mind’s machinations. Only from this state of freedom can the true potential of a human body be fully expressed.

We may choose to control what thoughts come to our mind: ignore the negative thoughts, focus on the positive and necessary ones, clarify our priorities in life, and meditate. Only an uncluttered mind can experience true freedom.

Freedom from drugs

Humans have always battled with addiction. While the discovery of medicine that cures diseases and relieves pain has been a true boon to humans, people’s overreliance on drugs makes me wonder that perhaps even medicine has turned out to be a bane.

It is probably easier for us to pop a pill as opposed to changing our lifestyle, exercising and losing weight. When we have a headache, do we drink some fluids and rest? Or do we reach for painkillers? For most of us, the latter is probably the first option. With our increasingly busy lifestyles, we tend to opt for a quick fix to our ailments. With technological advancement breeding new and varied medication, there is an increase in their misuse. Over use of antibiotics has been a major threat to human beings. When antibiotics are needed to prevent or treat disease, they should always be used. But research has shown that as much as 50 percent of the time, antibiotics are prescribed when they are not needed. Similarly, drug abuse and addiction is a serious and growing problem everywhere in the world.

In the United Nations, decisions are made by member states every year concerning freedom of religion, freedom of media, freedom for women and girls, etc. Similarly, many nations are also free countries; governments should have rules and laws that allow people to live freely.

Freedom of this kind is necessary, but what can we do to increase our likelihood of securing the type of freedom mentioned in this article? Taking care of our mental, physical and emotional health; rejecting bad habits and overreliance on drugs; and developing a positive attitude are all steps towards the right direction.

Mainali is First Secretary, Permanent Mission of Nepal to the United Nations, New York

Published: 06-08-2017 09:01

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