It Was Probably A Good Thing Zayn Malik Quit One Direction

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Experts explain what effect this split will have on his mental health.
Your throat is sore from wailing. You’ve cried all the tears in your ducts. Your body is weak with sorrow. Zayn Malik left One Direction — and nothing will be the same again.

BUT — guys, did you ever think that maybe Zayn made the right decision here? I mean, he did say, “I am leaving because I want to be a normal 22-year-old who is able to relax and have some private time out of the spotlight.” I mean, that sounds pretty legit.

PLUS we talked to a cadre of experts about the whole thing and, in general, they think he’s making a pretty wise and mature decision.

Let’s break it down:

He’s simplifying his life.

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You may call Zayn leaving 1D “a bummer,” but Tim Kasser, professor of psychology at Knox College, calls it “down-shifting.”

What now? Let’s let him explain.

“The idea of down-shifting is that a person makes a choice to work less and earn less than they theoretically could,” Kasser told MTV News. “This is a guy who has been touring and recording and busy with lots and lots of different things, and he’s decided to step away from that.”

This may be, yes, a bummer to all of us, but for Zayn — well, down-shifting could pay off in the long run. Kasser even has the facts and figures to prove it. He told us about a study he did with more than 1,800 Americans where they were all asked if they voluntarily down-shifted over the last few years. 38% of those surveyed said yes, and, according to Kasser, “Those people who said yes were just as satisfied with their lives, with their leisure time, relationships and material well-being. Even though they made a choice to earn less, they were just as happy.”

PLUS: They found their lives to be less stressful AND they had more time to pursue their own goals and hang with the people they care about. “They live a less materialistic lifestyle — and they’re also physically healthier. It seems they’re pretty satisfied with the change,” he said.

“We also investigated the values that are different between these down-shifters and mainstream Americans,” he added. “We’ve distinguished between extrinsic values for things like money and image and fame — and intrinsic values, for your own personal growth, connections to other people, and for helping the community. We found that the down-shifters, compared to the mainstream Americans, were less likely to care about those extrinsic materialistic values and more likely about to care about those intrinsic values. That seems to be the nature of Zayn’s shift.”

So, basically, Zayn’s change could make him a better, happier person. That’s a thumbs-up, right?

He’s taking himself back from the masses.

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Brendan Kennedy

Being famous seems like it would be pretty awesome — what with the cheering fans and money and ample opportunities to hook up with hot people. It can also be extremely alienating, however, according to Dr. Donna Rockwell, celebrity mental health specialist and clinical psychologist.

“Once you become famous, what my research found, is that it really feels like an impact,” she told MTV News. “There’s life before fame and after fame and it’s so fundamentally changes one’s existence. You go from being able to walk down the street, being a private person, to you walk down the street and everyone’s looking at you. In my research, it’s like a sea of eyes.”

“Maybe Zayn realized that he was missing out on a lot,” she added. “There’s a great downside to fame — as much as everyone clamors for it. Isolation. Loneliness. Mistrust. Character splitting between the celebrity self and the real self. My sense of it is that, he just was tired of it.”

So, basically, Zayn will get the chance to breathe now. He’ll get the chance to be “Zayn Malik” — not Zayn Malik, member of One Direction. Maybe that Zayn Malik prefers crocheting and making his own jams. Who knows? But now he’ll have the chance to find out.

He’s being pretty mature.

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Quitting is usually something our parents tell us NOT to do — but what if quitting it better for your mental health? What if it’s a sign of being, well, a grown-up? That’s what Richard Weissbourd, Harvard University’s Faculty Director of the Human Development and Psychology Program, thinks when it comes to Zayn.

“I think he might have made a very mature and wise choice about what’s right for him,” Weissbourd told MTV News. “Fame is really tough on people. It can distort your relationships in all sorts of ways — it can give you a false sense of your worth. It can inhibit your ability to get focused on and organize yourself around other people. It’s a drug — and very powerful. It takes a lot of maturity to be able to say, ‘This is not for me and as powerful as it is, it’s leading me in a direction that’s making me very uncomfortable about who I am.’”

So… What now?

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It’s still pretty up-in-the-air what’s in store for Zayn when it comes to his future. Will he marry Perrie? Will he enter the limelight again as a rapper? Will he retreat to the mountains and live out his days like JD Salinger, a legendary loner? And, if he does shun the spotlight, what effect will that have on his psyche?

The experts are undecided. “Something smells funny to me,” Rockwell said. “Is he going to go out solo? If that’s the next release of information, than that’s what this is all about. I think it’s a little bit early to applaud his choices and his maturity level.”

Speaking of his maturity level, Weissbourd thinks that despite the upsides, there could be a bit of fallout if he leaves the music world for good — considering the fact that dude basically grew up on stage. “When you leave a band like that, you have to adjust to living life without all the recognition and finding new sources of recognition — which may or may not be hard for him,” he said.

Rockwell agreed. “There will be a great void from not having all of that attention — not being sought after,” she said. “Studies have shown that even though people have complained about fame — what it did to their relationships, their families, their sense of self — not one of the people [surveyed] said they would trade fame back.

In the end, though, it will be for Zayn to decide what direction (groan) he will go in now.

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