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–Interview by Michael Sawatsewi–
Alumna Bharati Lachmandas studied at RIS for eleven years, starting off at the former Soi Ruamrudee campus before graduating at Minburi with the Class of 1995. She continued her studies at Thammasat University, and although she had pursued a bachelor’s degree in finance and banking, recent years have found her on a new path. Mother to a now 11-year-old daughter, Bharati noticed that while children today struggle with a myriad of issues, parents do as well. When facing her own adversities in life, Bharati initially felt she lacked the skills to bounce back. Until she discovered positive psychology, that is.
Inspired by her own journey and discoveries, Bharati furthered her education in the field of positive psychology when an opportunity presented itself. Repurposed and reinvigorated, she became Coach Bharati, a certified professional in the field of positive psychology. As a coach, Bharati works with a range of clients, from teenagers through to adults in their 40s, using appropriate intervention tools on various topics ranging from limiting negative self-talk to overcoming anxiety, frustration, and procrastination, for example. Recently, we were fortunate enough to chat with Coach Bharati about her time at RIS, today’s life challenges and, of course, the power of positivity.
What is Positive Psychology exactly?
Positive psychology incorporates concepts of strength, gratitude, and emotional intelligence, among others, into our daily lives and empowers us to be more resourceful in attaining our goals. In layman’s terms, it is the scientific study of what makes life fulfilling and worth living. While traditional psychology focuses on pathology and the disease model, positive psychology focuses on the factors that allow individuals and communities to thrive. It asks, “What factors promote human flourishing?”
How would you compare the world today to when you were in school?
Things are so different today—the environment we live in, the deteriorating economic situation across the globe, the way we connect with each other, the prevalent level of stress or pressure… All these factors lead to higher rates of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, suicides, and so forth. They have a big impact on our mental health. Today’s world is also so fast-paced with all the technological advances. Although they’ve been really beneficial, it also becomes so difficult to switch off. As a result, there’s a need for practices like cultivating mindfulness.
What challenges do children face today that perhaps they didn’t years ago?
In the big picture, numerous factors contribute to the overall mental health and well-being of those within a school community. Universities have become more difficult to get into, so students—especially at high school and IB levels—have to always be on top of their game in academics and in extracurricular activities. The anxiety, pressure, frustration, and tension can be too much to handle for some. Then there is the issue of peer pressure; some children aren’t mentally strong enough to stand their ground. Although young people today are aware of a lot more at a much younger age compared to [our generation], they don’t always have the tools to cope with the various adversities in life. The emphasis in schools has always been on academics, but times have changed. It is critical that young people are exposed to overall well-being concepts that build the foundation of their life skill set.
What emotional skills do you feel need more emphasis?
Resilience is a big one. People have a tougher time getting back on their feet. People today need to be tougher, mentally, to live in the world with all its challenges. In addition to building resilience, other concepts in positive psychology coaching, such as emotional intelligence, are skills that will help our children flourish in life. In this generation of instant gratification (and sometimes a sense of entitlement), virtues like gratitude, optimism, and hope are sometimes locked away and need to be addressed to rise to the surface.
What does a one-on-one session with Coach Bharati usually entail?
Each session is approximately an hour and usually happens on a weekly basis. We begin with a brief discussion about what’s been going on in the past week. This is the ‘Connecting’ phase. I build a rapport with the client to create a safe space for them to express their feelings. Once the client identifies the topic he/she would like to work on for the session, we dive deeper into it and explore the heart of the issue. As a coach, it is critical to look beyond the complaint—it’s not always what it seems to be on the surface. I coach around the cause of it, not necessarily the complaint itself.
Once established, we move to the ‘Clarifying’ phase where I ask questions to help the client reflect on what’s been going on. It is here that the client gains clarity, perspective, and deeper insight. The last phase, ‘Create,’ is where I ask questions to help move the client forward in setting up systems, structures, or pathways to achieve their goal. Thanks to the initial phase, the client can transition smoothly into a more resourceful frame of mind toward the end of a session.
Not all sessions are structured like this. In some, the different phases intertwine. Coaching is a flexible methodology, and the conversation drives the session. It’s also critical to note that, as a coach, I do not decide what a client should do. My role is to guide the client to make the best decision possible for his or herself, based on what they want. Empowerment comes from clarity, reflection, ‘aha!’ moments, insights, and realizations on their part.
Do you do workshops?
Yes, I do. The time frame depends on the content. A workshop-style session can run from one to three hours and can be more casual as opposed to formal training sessions. Workshop sessions are interactive, with questions raised and discussed as they come up. We engage in activities and exercises that incorporate the tools discussed.
You have given talks to parents of high school students on building resilience and mental toughness to support their children. How has the feedback been?
The response has been quite good. In my opinion, there is still a stigma attached to asking for help when it comes to mental health. This could also be because of our Asian culture. It is critical, however, that we break this stigma. We have no qualms about reaching out to a personal trainer when it comes to our physical health, so why is there such apprehension when it applies to our mental health? The world we live in is way more complicated than the world we grew up in, and we need to embrace the changes gracefully.
How has feedback from your fellow RISians been on your new path?
It’s been 25 years since I graduated from RIS. I’m still in touch with close friends from the Class of 1995 and a few others from different years. Those are bonds that will never break, and everyone has been very supportive and encouraging. From helping to spread the word about my business to recommending potential clients or organizations, they have helped me branch out and grow—not only professionally but also personally.
What do you remember best about your time at RIS?
My favorite year was my senior year as I knew it was the crossroads at which one chapter in my life—that I knew for so long—was ending and a new one was beginning. My rites of passage—the senior lounge, the field trip to Club Aldiana, student council involvement, graduation—are memories that I cherish. RIS provided a safe space for me to grow into the person that I have become today. Its nurturing environment and supportive administrators, teachers, and staff provided security and comfort and created a culture in which we students were given the opportunity to grow and discover ourselves on a personal and an academic level.
A lot of great quotes are shared on your Facebook page, Coach Bharati. Care to share any to inspire our readers?
Sure. Here are some of my favorites: “Failure is not the falling down but the staying down.” / “If you get tired, learn to rest. Not quit.” / “It’s not about the setback. It’s about the comeback!” / “You don’t have to have it all figured out to move forward. Just take the next step.” / “Gratitude turns what we have into enough.”