Gratitude + Positive Attitude = Happiness

Since we are in a month of gratitude with Thanksgiving (in the United States) and the holiday spirit soon upon on us, I wanted to build on this important theme. I know I am not alone when it comes to facing adversity and looking for ways to overcome obstacles, but I do think there there is a lot to be thankful for, especially those of us who do find positive coping strategies. I would like to put this in perspective so readers can make positive changes and derive their own benefits.

“Helping professionals,” namely teachers, doctors, nurses, coaches, educators, therapists, religious leaders etc. have all played a critical role in my life and ongoing recovery. Through their kind words and deeds, I was able to receive the care I needed at the right time and place. As I’ve alluded to in an earlier blog post, we are all on journeys through time and space which only we as individuals experience to fully comprehend our life on earth. Sometimes, our individual and collective journeys can lead to painful emotions, sometimes it can lead to dullness and sometimes it can lead to awakenings, among other ways of being.

2013 Gift from Khelshala Service Trip Photo credit: T. Mohammed, 2019.

I have come to learn through experience gained over the last decade, that if one practices gratitude with a positive attitude this can lead to happiness. Practicing gratitude is a habit that can be formed through both small and big acts of kindness. These are usually learned at home from family and friends and then through socialization at clubs, schools, universities, faith-based organizations, businesses or even at times, government agencies. A retired educator once noted that there are no limits as to how many times you can say thank you. To operationalize this concept, I would add that if one exercises the “gratitude muscle” through random acts of kindness with a positive attitude this will result in greater happiness. Thank you and may you find happiness!

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Movement + Music = Mental Wellness

As mentioned in earlier blog posts, I’m big fan of music of many different varieties. One recipe for mental wellness is combining music and human movement. This can be done in the name of economic or social development to give potential mental wellness seekers greater impetus to take action. As such, my musical adventures of attending and listening to street performances, concerts, and festivals was self-documented from early 2017 to 2019 in the Youtube video below.

What I learned from this personal mini-experiment was (a) music enables healing (b) music is a convener of people of diverse backgrounds and (c) music is a vehicle for social change. These lessons might not be new for some folks, but they were brought home to me when I listened to a live performance of the Me2 Orchestra in Boston, Massachusetts.

In the words of Me2 Orchestra’s newsletter it is “the only classical music organization in the world created by and for people living with mental illness and those who support them. The orchestra’s mission is to erase the stigmatization of people living with mental illness through the creation of beautiful music, community, compassion and understanding… one concert at a time. Most important, it is changing the lives of the musicians and audiences in powerful and surprising ways.”

The events highlighted in my video above were both “pay to play” such as Cold Play, UB40 and Karsh Kale to name a few as well as several free concerts such as the 2019 Cambridge Jazz Festival, the 2019 Boston Art & Music Soul Festival and the Shake Away the Blues Winter Festival. Sport was not an explicit theme in any of these events, but there was an economic and social development perspective for each event given the individual artists’ backgrounds, influences and interests. Activism and social justice dialogue were interspaced with the music for audiences to reflect upon and take action.

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Hope and Inspiration

During this week, I attended my third The Child is Innocent (TCII) fundraiser in Boston courtesy of one its co-founders – Kevin Schwartz, MD of Massachusetts General Hospital. I was introduced to this non-governmental organization by Stefano Rossi of the Centro per la Cooperazione Internazionale in Trento, Italy and have found it a good way to stay connected to the people and well-wishers of Uganda. Kevin and his team at TCII are planning to build a new school campus called Hope Academy in Gulu, Northern Uganda in three phases. The detailed architectural plans were on display at the event to encourage others to donate and get involved.

Hope Academy: Vision and Master Plan, The Child is Innocent Photo credit: T. Mohammed, 2019.

What impressed me about this organization was its core group of volunteers and dedicated supporters. They are committed to the TCII mission and travel frequently to Northern Uganda to meet with local staff to be proactive with decision-making and fundraising. Perhaps one area they could improve upon relative to other NGOs I have worked with is on the concept of “radical transparency.” Attending a fundraiser in Boston with little knowledge of the issues on the ground in Northern Uganda, I can understand how some observers might feel skeptical as to how funding might be mismanaged. This is not a criticism of TCII but of many charities around the world. Therefore making budgets, financial statements and fundraising transparent and available to everyone via the Internet might garner even more support and goodwill for TCII and other similar charities.

Hope Academy Architecture, The Child is Innocent Fundraiser, Photo credit: T.Mohammed, 2019.

In the spirit of transparency and collaboration, the front cover of both the printed and online version of this blog are of a group of African HIV orphans who I had the privilege of coaching and refereeing more than fifteen years ago in a suburb of Kampala, Uganda. Though not part of my official United Nations Volunteer terms of reference (TOR), it was a very signifiant experience in my personal growth and development. Hence, I would like to acknowledge Stefano Rossi of the Centro per la Cooperazione Internazionale in Trento, Italy, who along with several Italian and Irish volunteers in Uganda invited me to the orphanage in Uganda on a weekly basis. This coaching experience became one of my many inspirations in the field of sport for development and peace.

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Lifelong Learning for Mental and Physical Wellness

I would like to express my gratitude on the 20th anniversary of my first psychotic episode in New York City in 1999 to everyone who has helped me get this far by committing to continue my journey of lifelong learning for mental and physical wellness. I was able to make a strong recovery thanks to my parents Vimala and Pervez Mohammed as well as Rukhsana and Tawheed Hazarika (my aunt and uncle in Andover, Massachusetts) for giving me the time, space and support I needed in the weeks and months soon after my first and second episodes. After my first psychotic episode, I was told it would be like managing diabetes since I would have to take medication for the rest of my life to stabilize the “chemical imbalance.”

Tariq with his parents, Vimala and Pervez on 21st birthday in Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1997. Photo credit: M. Mohammed.

As an amateur athlete I did not take well to the side effects of the medication, in particular the weight gain and lethargy. Therefore I fought against taking medication and eventually persuaded my psychiatrist that I was well enough not to need to take medication anymore which led to my second psychotic episode in 2005. After my second episode I realized the seriousness of my illness and worked hard to regain my mental wellness. It was a painful and challenging process, to say the least and I would never wish such an illness on my worst enemy. However, with the the appropriate medication, psychotherapy and family support, recovery is possible and can be sustained with time and effort.

Recovery is a continuous  journey and therefore, even though I am currently feeling relatively stable and can perform rational thinking and do complex tasks, I have enrolled in recovery education classes at Boston University Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation. It is my belief that I can always learn something new about myself while striving for humility. Even though the episodes happened when I was in my twenties and now I’m in my forties, the courses I have enrolled in will hopefully make me feel even better, stronger and more resilient to take on the next 25 years of my working life. Learning and unlearning new and more effective ways of living, working and playing will help me become a better version of myself.

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Quality Family Time at the International Tennis Hall of Fame

My introduction to racquet sports as a kid in Abu Dhabi, UAE was thanks to my father so it was fitting that both of us visited the International Tennis Hall of Fame together in Rhode Island. Unlike my solo journey to Ancient Olympia in Greece, this was not just another pilgrimage or site visit but a special summer escape for father and son to represent extended family members in India and the United States who are amateur tennis players and supporters of the sport in their respective countries. We are not considered racquet sports royalty or celebrities of any sort but we do hold tennis in high regard and want to see others in the sport succeed.

Visit to the International Tennis Hall of Fame, USA, 2019. (Photo credit: P. Mohammed)

Pervez Mohammed, my father was an amateur tennis player who grew up playing the sport in Assam, India and played through his mid-life in Saudi Arabia while working at Unilever. On my Kerala side of the family, there are other amateur tennis players such as Michael Kallivayalil, my 94-year old grandfather who has won several amateur veteran tennis tournaments and Geetha Varghese, my aunt who has enjoyed many league matches and tennis round-robins in the United States. Also Jacob Kallivayalil, my mother’s cousin, is a former President of the Kerala Tennis Association. Therefore our visit to the tennis shrine was a family affair.

Rolex Clock at International Tennis Hall of Fame, 2019 (Photo credit: T. Mohammed)

Whether you find yourself on a tennis or squash court, timing is important just as in life. Both tennis and squash have been enjoyable pastimes for our family as lifelong fans. There can be ups and downs and wins and losses, but I think Rolex has got it right in their commercials of “perpetual excellence” from outstanding sport professionals. While watching from home with my father, the incredible and historic 2019 Men’s Singles Wimbledon Championships bared a strong resemblance of our visit to the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Thank you Papa for introducing me to tennis as well as being part of my journey in sport and life.

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Cherishing Human Freedom: Healthy Living for a Long Life

As part of my rehabilitation and ongoing recovery I have strived to practice greater self-care to ensure my own health and wellbeing. While every individual is unique and may have their own limitations (medical or not) the importance of health and wellness takes on a greater role as we age if we seek longevity. Healthcare providers, employers, caregivers and well-wishers all play a role in managing recovery (as depicted in the graphic below). The reason why I am sharing this illustration is to provide guidance for others to learn from and develop coping strategies.

Recovery Enhancing Environment, 2015 (Source: Boston University Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation).

One of my coping strategies has been to travel which I have shared with various Youtube videos on this blog. I have been traveling internationally since I was an infant and find that it is still something I enjoy. Traveling internationally can become expensive overtime so staycations are also another good option especially if on a budget or have time constraints. While there are many memorable travel moments, the video below captures some of the highlights of my staycations in the New England area of the United States.

In the video one can notice images of the Sun and Moon at various stages. Native Americans believe the Sun and Moon represent life for all. We know that the Sun is an essential element for human existence and the Moon for dreams, high spirits and the assurance of a long and prosperous life. What is not visible in this video, but is another important coping strategy is managing Sleep, Time management, Relaxation, Exercises, Smiles and Self-Talk (STRESS). Through self-regulation, planning and implementation I continue to strive for a balanced, healthy life and long life while cherishing one’s freedom. Happy Independence Day to all Americans!

 

 

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Acceleration of Growth in SDP sector Through ICTs

The sport for development (SDP) sector comprises of for-profit, not-for-profit and hybrid business models that at the end of the day require revenues or donations in order to sustain themselves to perform mission-critical functions. All SDP organizations need funding to ensure sustainability for their stakeholders. This is why I have ventured into a new role with RK Global, an international growth marketing agency headquartered in Los Angeles as a Business Development Consultant.

My three-month hiatus from blogging was to assess new ways of monetizing and sustaining activities for a “win-win” situation to enable SDP organizations, the readers of this blog and myself. The acceleration of growth in the SDP sector through information and communication technologies (ICTs)  – such as the Internet, cell phones, artificial intelligence, 3-D imaging, virtual and augmented reality – create many ways for growth-oriented SDP organizations to reach more customers and people in need, regardless of whether they are in high-income or low-income countries. Ultimately, ICTs are not a panacea for all the world’s problems but can promote systems-wide action if used for good.

The bottom line is that SDP organizations do not operate in a vacuum and are influenced by political, economic, social and environmental forces. This means in order to avoid organizational shutdowns and failures, sufficient political, economic and social capital is needed. The twenty four innovative technological tools and multiple marketing strategies offered by RK Global are potential solutions for the sustainability of the SDP sector. This blog as a subsection of the Internet will not end, as long as I am able to do so. Therefore, I look forward to writing more blog posts in the future.

 

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