The 365 Ways Blog

Michael Norton is author of "365 Ways to Change the World", which provides an issue for each day of the year, interesting facts, inspiring case studies of people doing things to address the issue and ideas for action. Originally published in the UK, versions with local content have been published in Australia, Canada, India, South Africa and the USA. To find out more visit our website:

15 March 2010

Are you mentally ill?

Mental illness seems to be increasing… at least according to the American Psychiatric Association which keeps finding new conditions which it compiles in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disease.

The first edition of this manual in 1952 extended to 130 pages and listed 106 disorders.
The second edition of this manual in 1968 extended to 134 pages and listed 182 disorders.
The third edition of this manual in 1980 extended to 494 pages and listed 265 disorders.
The fourth edition of this manual in 1987 extended to 562 pages and listed 290 disorders.
The fifth edition of this manual in 1994 extended to 886 pages and listed 297 disorders.
This was updated in 2000 and the next edition is planned for 2013.

Noteworthy is the fact that the earliest editions had homosexuality as a disorder, and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder was only recognised as a disorder in the 1994 edition.

Read more at:

So is mental illness really on the increase? Or are we now no longer able to cope, such that conditions that we would have managed in the past are now classed as disorders. Are we becoming too sensitive to what we encounter in the world around us? Or is society really getting so complex that people are finding it harder and harder to cope? Or are psychiatrists just becoming too clever at seeking out and identifying new disorders?

Whatever the cause of the escalation of mental disorders, we should be attending to our wellbeing.

Research has shown that there is lots you can do to improve your mental health. The WellBeing Project in St Helens, Lancashire promotes the following twelve steps to enhancing your wellbeing:
• Explore your spiritual side. What do you value in life?
• Talk about your feelings. Talk to friends, family members, or visit your GP.
• Value yourself and others. Attend assertiveness classes, try team sports.
• Keep in touch with friends and loved ones. Send a letter or card. Meet for lunch.
• Ask for help. Talk to friends, family members, or visit your GP.
• Relax - take a break. Go walking, listen to music.
• Keep physically active. Gardening, walking, dancing.
• Eat well. Eat together. Eat five fruit and vegetables every day.
• Drink alcohol in moderation. Know your limits.
• Learn new skills. Learn basic skills, computer skills, learn a new language.
• Do something creative. Try cooking, painting, DIY.
• Get involved and make a contribution. Try volunteering, or join a local sports team.

Go to sleep

A survey, carried out for the BBC suggests that many children are not getting enough sleep. of 1,083 children aged between 9 and 11 across the UK who answered a questionnaire, 314 said that they went to bed by 9.30pm, 
and 272 stated that their bedtime was 10.00pm or later. Half stated that they were not getting enough sleep and wanted more. Half said that they were staying up to play on computer games or their mobile phones or to watch television, and more than half had a TV in their bedroom.

A human's need for sleep can decline by up to 11 hours a day during the course of a lifetime - from a maximum of 18 hours for a newborn baby to seven hours as an adult. For children aged 10, experts recommend at least 10 hours of sleep a night.

Sleep is a stronger basic need than food and water. Without sleep the body and mind are unable to function efficiently. Lack of sleep amongst young people has been linked to problems with concentration, behaviour and school work. Sleep deprivation is used in war and terrorism as a form of torture to force victims to disclose information.

Be more effective when you are awake. Make sure that you get enough sleep… at night.

Food for Thought from Insomniacs (UK): Anxiety is one of the main causes of insomnia. Worrying over what you eat will not help you sleep. Weight loss and body image dominate the media affecting how we feel about ourselves and making us preoccupied with what we eat. Worrying over food will keep you awake and add to all the other stresses that affect sleep. Finding a balance and cutting down on the 'sleep stoppers' such as caffeine makes sense. Worrying over every mouthful will only make it harder to sleep. Try to cut out the alcohol and restrict the coffee for a few nights each week and see how well you sleep - it might become a lifetime habit!

Divide up your day…
how long do you spend changing the world? In 19th Century Europe, working conditions were unregulated. The health, welfare and morale of working people suffered, and child labour was common. The working day could range from 10 hours up to 16 hours for six days a week. Religious sentiment ensured a day off for the Sabbath.

Robert Owen, a socialist pioneer, demanded a ten-hour day in 1810, which he instituted in his model industrial community of New Lanark. In 1817, he demanded an eight-hour day using the slogan: “Eight hours labour, Eight hours recreation, Eight hours rest.”

Although there were initial successes in achieving an eight-hour day for skilled workers in Australia in the 1840s and 1850s, most employed people in the industrialised world had to wait until the 20th century for the eight-hour day to be widely achieved. In Europe today, the working week for many people is just 35 hours, with up to 6 weeks of annual holiday, and the Working Time Directive seeks to limit the maximum number of hours worked per week to 48. In developing countries, workers are not so lucky, where child labour, a long working day and sweatshop conditions are often the norm.

The Great Leap Forward in China (1958-1961): Mao Zedong demanded that the people work at fever pitch. They had to run carrying heavy loads, whether it was freezing cold or blazing hot. They had to carry water up winding paths to irrigate the terraced fields. They had to keep the backyard steel furnaces going night and day. They literally had to move mountains. Work was good, and Mao hoped it would transform China. Mao set this out as the daily norm for Chinese workers and peasants:
8 hours sleeping
4 hours eating and breaks
2 hours studying (which meant reading and discussing good Communist thought)
10 hours working
Under this 8-4-2-10 regime, workers were allowed two days off a month (five for women). Mao called this way of working ‘Communist Spirit’.

How do you spend your time? There are 84,400 seconds in each day. Keep a diary of what you do. How much time are you spending on what, on average, for each day of the week…
Eating and breaks
Travel to work
Study, reading and hobbies
Sport and fitness
Housework, cooking and child minding
Going out: to friends, to the cinema, to the pub, to a football match, etc.
Idling, including sitting in front of the TV, doing the crossword or SuDoKu
Doing things for others and the community: volunteering and community action
Is your life in balance? How much time are you wasting? Could you be doing more for the community and for a better world?