UAE: Popular meditation practitioner BK Shivani on how Gen-Z can be emotionally 'fit'

With mental health issues on the rise, the world-renowned author and spiritual guide highlights that just as we care for our physical health, the same principles apply to our 'emotional' health


Somya Mehta

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With decades of experience as an internationally-acclaimed spiritual guide, BK Shivani has empowered people across the globe to take charge of their mental and emotional health
With decades of experience as an internationally-acclaimed spiritual guide, BK Shivani has empowered people across the globe to take charge of their mental and emotional health

Published: Thu 1 Feb 2024, 9:43 PM

Last updated: Sun 4 Feb 2024, 5:44 PM

Let's talk Gen-Z and mental health. Being the youngest generation cohort, which is still young enough to seek guidance from the elderly yet adult enough to understand life and its complexities, Generation Z (born roughly between 1997 and 2012) has become a natural focus of conversations around human behaviour. Recent research has also suggested that Gen-Z may face unique challenges when it comes to their mental health, different from the experiences of previous generations.

A 2022 study, carried out by a data management company specialising in health data, gathered insights from over a thousand respondents aged 18 to 24, with a focus on exploring their mental health status. What the survey revealed was that an astonishing 42 per cent of individuals belonging to Gen-Z (age-classifications vary), have received a diagnosis for a mental health condition. So, when it comes to addressing the youth’s concerns around mental health, are we still in the process of anticipating an impending crisis or are we in the midst of one?

To gain further perspective, we spoke to globally renowned motivational speaker, author and mental health advocate, Shivani Verma (popularly known as BK Shivani), on her recent visit to the city to deliver motivational talks for thousands of residents on cultivating a peaceful and stable mind.

Living in uncertain times

According to the study, a lot of the Gen-Z angst has been attributed to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, with nearly 70 per cent of the participants expressing that the pandemic took a toll on their mental health. “What happened during Covid is that billions of people created fear and anxiety simultaneously—not for just a few hours, days, or months, but for over a year,” says BK Shivani.

Visualise yourself in a room with 100 people. If these 100 people are collectively generating fear and anxiety for a year, the predominant vibration in that room will be of fear and anxiety, she explains. “Many of us are currently experiencing residual fear and anxiety post-Covid."

"Even schoolchildren are expressing and feeling extreme anxiety and fear despite having seemingly regular situations in their lives. Anyone who isn’t actively cultivating emotional resilience or uplifting themselves is naturally vulnerable to being impacted by vibrations of fear and anxiety,” says BK Shivani, who is not only a dedicated meditation practitioner but also a teacher of Raja Yoga Meditation.

Raja Yoga Meditation is a type of meditation practice that seeks to create a harmonious balance between one’s inner and outer world. Her practical and insightful approach to the meditation technique has garnered significant attention, reflected in a substantial following of over 7.4 million on social media. In 2017, the World Psychiatry Association also honoured her by appointing her as a goodwill ambassador.

Outer and inner world

The Gen-Z, in particular, find themselves stressed about various issues, including politics, the environment, violence, workplace concerns and the overall state of uncertainty in the world, which makes “the distinction between the external and internal worlds all the more crucial,” says BK Shivani.

In 2019, BK Shivani received the Nari Shakti Puraskar (Women Power Award) from the President of India
In 2019, BK Shivani received the Nari Shakti Puraskar (Women Power Award) from the President of India

There are two worlds: the outside world and the inner world, she explains. “One of the two worlds needs to have that certainty. If the external world is going through ups and downs, and my inner world is dependent on that, then my inner world will also go through the same upheaval. This is why people often describe life as a ‘roller coaster.”

However, it is not life that is a roller coaster; it is the situations that we’re faced with, which can often feel like a roller coaster, says BK Shivani. “Right now, everything is perfect in my life. Tomorrow, something may turn out to be completely contrary but my mind can remain stable. There can be certainty in that,” she explains.

Stressing the importance of taking charge she adds, “Certainty means a guarantee of how I will respond, not how the external situation will be. I should be able to give myself a personal guarantee that tomorrow, irrespective of how anyone behaves, I will remain calm and stable—a personal guarantee.”

BK Shivani in Dubai. Photo by Neeraj Murali
BK Shivani in Dubai. Photo by Neeraj Murali

What is emotional health?

Achieving stability in our inner world stems from building a strong emotional foundation in our lives. And while there’s greater understanding of mental health in modern society, an aspect that requires urgent attention is taking care of our ‘emotional health’, says the meditation practitioner.

“Many emotions, particularly the uncomfortable ones, are wrongly labelled as ‘normal’. Stress, fear, anger, worry, expectations, comparison, and competition are often normalised, but they actually signify a state of unease, a ‘dis-ease’ where the mind is not at ease. While not a mental or physical health issue, it qualifies as an emotional health issue,” she adds.

To address mental health issues, one needs to address their emotional health, BK Shivani argues. “We need to shift from the perception that stress is normal to recognising calmness and stability as normal. Similarly, instead of saying ‘anger is normal’, we need to say ‘compassion and empathy is normal’, fear is not normal, faith and confidence is normal. This shift in perception from emotional discomfort to emotional health and stability is crucial for maintaining overall mental health.”

Moving towards emotional independence

There might be a situation involving an external scene that doesn't align with our expectations. Emotional dependence implies that for us to feel perfect, the external world must align perfectly with our preferences. “This is completely unrealistic. The world operates in its own way, and people behave according to their beliefs, not necessarily conforming to my expectations,” says BK Shivani, adding that it is imperative to cultivate emotional independence from the situation.

“If a person's behaviour doesn't match my expectations and I simply react to the situation, my reaction mirrors the quality of the situation. And this is reflected in our vocabulary when we say, “I'm angry because of a situation”, or “I'm stressed because of a situation”. By expressing these emotions, we indicate a reliance on external factors for our emotional state of mind, creating emotional dependence.”

The first step to emotional independence, according to the spiritual coach, is acknowledging that situations will remain as they are but how we think, speak, and feel in response to those situations, is entirely within our control. “My response is my choice,” says BK Shivani. “It’s about developing the art of choosing my responses rather than being reactive. Shifting from emotional dependence to independence will transition us from emotional vulnerability to becoming emotionally fit.”

Diet and exercise: not the usual kind

According to the meditation practitioner, just as we care for our physical health through a good diet, a regular exercise regimen, and sufficient deep sleep, the same principles apply to emotional health.

According to the author, emotional diet refers to the content we consume on a daily basis. "What we watch, read, and listen to serves as the source of our thoughts. Whether we generate fearful, worried, or aggressive thoughts is influenced by the content we consume," she adds.

“Content consumption has significantly increased, especially within the age group we're referring to. The current generation has been exposed to content from childhood, and the upcoming generation will have encountered it since they were one or two years old. If we want to improve our emotional health, the first step is to work towards changing our content consumption," says BK Shivani.

File photo for illustrative purposes
File photo for illustrative purposes

It is only by altering our ‘content diet’ that our thoughts can begin to change, says BK Shivani. “First, restrict content consumption that involves ego, lust, greed, violence, crime, comparison. Secondly, add at least 10 to 15 minutes of healthy content daily. This is where spirituality plays a crucial role. Consuming content that encompasses compassion, empathy, power, forgiveness, and emotional independence is essential."

After diet correction, comes exercise — for the emotional fitness of our mind. “A few minutes of meditation, a few minutes of inner reflection, and a few minutes of learning to observe and gently change our thoughts towards the right way of thinking—these practices can contribute significantly to cultivating better mental health,” she adds.

“We need to keep the remote control of our state of mind in our hands,” says BK Shivani. “This can be achieved through a daily meditation practice. Meditation doesn’t mean sitting in silence, in a cross-legged posture, putting some sort of artificial pause on our thoughts. These are all misconceptions. If we truly want to benefit from it, we must first learn how to meditate.”

Raja Yoga Centre in Dubai offers meditation courses for people across all age groups, including easy meditation techniques for beginners. For more info, visit:


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