A more generous view of others

1 Aug

A protracted sparky conversation with a friend left me feeling exhausted. Besides having a ‘bumper car’ kind of effect, this ‘should have been tete a tete’ prompted me to mull over all the times she behaved unreasonably and upset me with her sharp tongue. For the nth time I decided to stay away from her.

A long walk and some introspection  led me to keep aside my smog stained glasses of labeling and egged me on to focusing on the good in her . Sure she had virtues- energy , patience and kindness. Yet in moments like this when I am all upset I fine tune my attention towards her shortcomings.

Gradually my anger began to diminish as my mind moved away from her imperfections and focused on the goodness in her . It isn’t an easy thing to do but it’s freeing.

So this uniquely flawed me has now begun to look beyond the apparent and turn my heart and mind towards the goodness in the people I interact with everyday.

Have you noticed how easy it is to take our closest relationships for granted. Some of us cannot release our grip on the grudges we bear or the wounds we nurse for years thus leading unhappy and disturbed lives.

If we only take time to bring to mind what we value and appreciate about the other person ; look out for what’s right rather than what’s wrong we would attract happiness into our lives and perhaps bring about more circumstances that allow us to enjoy these positive attributes.

In finding the light in others…. I began to brighten the light within myself.

This new found wisdom connects me to people and the words of William ward then ring true. ‘When we seek to discover the best in others , we somehow bring out the best in ourselves’

Advertisements

This too shall Pass.

19 Sep

Not very long ago I went through the most   distressing period of my life. Everything I understood as being a part of a stable predictable existence came crashing down in front of me. People came, empathized, consoled, offered sound advice but nothing taught me how to deal with those moments of pain.

It was at this time that a friend said to me…’This too shall pass’.

I didn’t give her words much thought then, but today whenever I sit by myself reflecting on the transient nature of life, the timeless wisdom of these words echo in my head.

Nothing is here to stay forever. Both good times and bad times are fleeting. If anything is a constant – it is change.

Each time I am reminded of this impermanent nature of the world around us I realize how important the present moment is. Immersing myself into the moment I savor every bit of the present.

I am not sure if the moment will replicate itself again and so I live a little more spontaneously, steady my monkey mind as it loops in with unpleasant thoughts of the past or catapults wildly into the future.

Each time I see a beautiful sight I don’t wonder when I’ll be there again; nor do I bother to take ‘selfies’, instead I take a deep breath, soak up the beauty and relish every moment that I get

‘This too will pass’ has been a comforting mantra during tough times too. Just knowing that the pain associated with tough times will lessen gives me hope and motivates me to stay afloat when the going gets rough.

Sitting by the beach I watch the waves lash against the rocks. Each wave comes in fiercely with all its strength as if to weather the rocks with just one blow; but no sooner it breaks against the shore that it curls over and dissolves into foam. No trace left of the gigantic wave that charged in threateningly.

Such is life – even the most menacing of times will lose its intensity over time. Nothing remains the same.

So if you are in a happy state as you read this, be sure to savor it.

If you are going through a difficult time, remind yourself that it wont last forever.

Whatever the moment- beautiful or difficult; its Temporary.

Enjoy it or hang in there and endure it coz ……’This too shall pass’

The Lingering Effects of Sprinkling Goodness

2 Sep

Sometimes people say the nicest of things that puts you at ease in an instant.

I remember the time I was in the grocery line, paying the cashier who demanded the exact change.  This involved rummaging through my bag for all the coins, then counting them, handing them over and collecting the notes, putting them back in the purse, stuffing my purse into the bag.

All through this process I could hear impatient sighs from the people in the queue, some of them muttering about how I should not be there at the rush hour and how I should hurry up.

In the midst of all this, a kind voice behind me said ‘Its ok, take your time’. I stopped turned around and heaved a sigh of relief.

This lady had washed away the stress from every nerve of mine. I felt completely different in an instant. My frantic movements turned to calm and confident.

As I rolled out my trolley I turned back to thank her for changing my demeanour in less than 3 seconds.

The other day a young lady rushed into the bus looking decidedly embarrassed at the way her four children delayed the bus. Mumbling an apology, she got her children and their bags to settle into vacant seats and herself sat beside me.

Turning to look at her I smiled and said…. ‘Must be tough getting them all ready on time’. Something strange flickered through her eyes as she smiled back and let out a sigh. I am certain I saw her eyes well up as she smiled.

All of us have this need to feel a sense of belonging, to be accepted for who we are, loved inspite of our inadequacies. The moment we find this space, we feel relaxed and confident.

At times a tiny encounter that lends this calm can mean a lot to someone going through a chaotic moment.

To some of us, reaching out to ease somebody’s day comes naturally, while for some others it needs a bit of practice. All the same, it can be like a stream in an oasis, when in the midst of our anxieties, a fellow human lends us support and empathy.

A few ways to practice being someone around whom others feel comfortable and at ease are –

Smile. A genuine smile lights up your face and instantly puts people around you at ease.

Be nice and gracious to people around you.

Empathize. People live through varied circumstances, some of which we may never know

Be generous and genuine with your compliments which  immediately makes people around you feel relaxed

Sharing a joke can sometimes be a great way to defuse a tense moment

I write this coz I’m completely convinced of the power of human interaction, of the ease we can lend a fellow traveler who feels like a mess and finds life’s circumstances overwhelming.

I think its more than just important, in fact ide say it is our responsibility to look outside of ourselves and, reaching into that space, make life a tad easier for every person whose path we cross.

So lets make a choice to be mindful of the people around us and whenever necessary reach out and make someone feel at ease, offer gentleness that is far reaching, has a ripple like effect and makes this world a better place to live in.

 

On Letting Children Be

14 Aug

Today, childhood is more competitive than carefree. In the quest to provide children a head start in life, many parents believe that it’s never too early to get your child to master grammar or music or swimming or tennis …… the list is exhausting.

 

Educational toys and videos are major money spinners as parents surround their children with these, in the hope of learning tables or scientific facts… among others. Every activity is about learning and keeping the child ‘busy’.

 

Two decades ago private tutoring was only for those struggling to keep up with their academics but today the number of students availing private coaching have risen as these classes are believed to be the magic wand that will get their child to the top of the class.

 

As I watch the children troop to school every morning after an evening filled with fast track learning I begin to understand why so many of our children are bored, disinterested and uninspired to learn.

 

Far from churning out ‘Little Einsteins’, this new-age learning has given rise to a general lack of enthusiasm, decline in reading habits and various behavioural challenges that we see in our children.

 

Children feel pressured to keep bettering their grades, lest they disappoint their parents while parents wonder if they are doing enough to ensure that their children survive in this competitive world.

 

A Catch 22 situation this is, with nothing productive coming out of it, instead both sides feeling guilty for not having done enough.

Overscheduling and pressure to achieve is a silent epidemic, that is slowly taking away from our children the joy that childhood is supposed to bring. Hard-nosed focus only on performance may help some children excel academically but more often it crushes the self esteem of many children and gives rise to various mental health issues. I sometimes wonder if it is this ‘busyness’ and achievement obsessed system that make our children less compassionate and caring towards others.

 

It is time we salvage that buoyant childhood for our children and begin to savor our time with them. Raising healthy, happy and socially-responsible youngsters with the required self confidence to pursue their dreams requires us to take the ‘middle path’ between having high expectations for our children and prioritizing their wellbeing There isn’t one standard recipe for getting to this ‘balance’ with every child. The only common thread is the knowledge that achievement and well-being are two sides of the same coin.

 

  • Warm and trusting relationships – Where the child feels loved and wanted
  • Slowing down to talk and listen to your child
  • Plenty of ‘doing nothing’ times so the child gets to explore and learn about the world around him
  • Scaling down on structured adult directed activities that fill up our child’s day …..

All these will help move the needle from Competitive back to Carefree on the childhood experience scale.

Is Suicide Really a Choice.

27 Jul

The one question every friend, sibling, family ask when someone close has committed suicide is — ‘Why did they choose to take their own life?’

The more I think about it, the more I ask myself. Is suicide really a choice one makes?

What does one do when one feels hopeless and helpless; When one finds oneself in an orbit of despair — A dark and dismal bubble from where there seems no escape.

How does one operate when the mechanics of going through day to day life appear unbearable?

When all the thoughts that swirl around in ones’ head convince him that he is drowning and there is no hope left?

Is death then a choice one makes?

Not to the person who decides to end his life.

To him, death is the only relief he sees, that will save him from his misery.

Its not death he chooses but a way to end the misery of living through pain.

Each person struggles with his own kind of misery — This misery grows inside him leaving him feeling alone and many a time he sees himself as a burden on others.

A long term serious health condition which has no complete cure, Struggles with addiction; Depression and anxiety; Stressful life events like- A job loss, relationship issues, financial problems, School dilemmas can all be reasons why ones thinking gets warped and makes one desperately look for an outlet to end the pain.

So if Suicide is a choice …. then it’s a choice made by a very agitated mind.

Its your distorted thoughts that compels you to get away from the extreme emotional turmoil you feel.

People who take their own lives aren’t exercising ‘choice’; Instead they are victims of an irrational thought pattern either because of an illness or unmanageable life events.

Then what is the choice they have — In my mind the only choice they have is to reach out to people. To ask for help and support, to believe that everyone deserves to feel valued and to know that there are people out there who will hand hold when the going is rough.

The recent spate of suicides makes our responsibility towards our fellow earthlings far more. Increasing protective factors and resilience in the community need active participation from all of us.

Despite the challenges in identifying those at risk for suicidal behavior there are preventive strategies that provide effective measures against suicidal thoughts and ideation.

· Destigmatize mental illness. As a society, we need to talk about Suicide as we talk of Cancer or a Tumor –After all isn’t it an impairment of the brain; of rational thought patterns. The stigma that surrounds Suicide or talks about contemplating such an act hinders treatment from reaching those that need it.

· Have empathy for those who struggle with difficult life circumstances or mental health issues. The angst of having to function in a helpless, unfair or hopeless situation is overwhelming and makes one believe that life is not worth living.

· Share your experiences about your struggles and leave with them numbers of suicide helplines or counsellors in your area.

· Adolescents typically share their feelings on social networking sites. Supporting research and technology that help create more apps which can be freely accessed by our youth will help them get timely assistance and make our outreach more effective.

· Educating the media on responsible coverage of a suicide is essential so that the message going out is that the person who committed suicide is actually ill. The news should emphasize more on mental illness, the health care providers who can help.; the warning signs that friends and family should know about so that they can identify and respond quickly to the person in need.

· Be an active listener, Understand warning signs and Be proactive in offering assistance to those around us who struggle through this emotional crisis. Suicide is many a time an impulsive decision. Many Suicidal people are struggling with the decision to live or end their life. Reaching out and connecting with a part of them that wants to live can save lives

The Benefits of a Daily Dose of Laughter.

27 Jul

‘The most wasted of all days is one without Laughter.’…..E E Cummings

A good laugh is humanity’s weapon against almost anything.

A restorative that helps you deal with whatever comes your way, Laughter repairs and restores not just a broken heart but also a myriad of physical ailments.

A hearty laugh promotes social interaction, strengthens relationships and gets a cold environment to change to warm and friendly.

Laugh and live longer, didn’t come out of nowhere. Research has found that a good laugh lowers your blood pressure, improves sleep patterns, boosts your immune system and gives you a sense of wellbeing

Travelling in public transport, I’ve noticed that the best way to connect with a stranger is by sharing a laugh. Watching another laugh can put us in a good mood. Some of the strongest friendships I’ve had are with those whom I’ve shared a good laugh. Laughter makes people feel more connected and comfortable with each other.

Hugh Sidey says ‘Joy in ones heart and some laughter on ones lips is a sign that the person down deep has a pretty good grasp of life’.

So when did you last have a good belly laugh?

Life can be stressful and you may not have opportunities to laugh daily — Reason good enough to make a resolve to inject yourself daily with a good dose of side-splitters.

A few tips on how you can get started

· Read a joke everyday, preferably in the morning.

Invest in a joke book or read the ‘funnies’ section in the newspaper. Breakfast and a Joke — is the best way to begin the day.

· Spend 15 minutes watching your favourite funny sitcom.

Not that I advocate TV watching, but to maintain optimum mental health, there is nothing better than 15 minutes of rib-tickling laughter. For me it’s the Big Bang Theory that keeps me in an upbeat mood. Figure out your favourite comedy show and trade your stresses for the merriment provided by those fictional characters.

· Pets represent a Panacea for laughter and joie de vivre.

Like balm on a burn, our four legged companions give us incredible amounts of health, happiness and laughter. If you can’t have a pet for various reasons-visit an animal shelter or befriend the neighborhood doggy or look at pictures of animals doing their antics, all of which will definitely induce a smile and boost your positive emotions

· Have a ‘Fun Stuff’ bank

Put together funny videos, short clips of stand up comics and funny sayings in your mailbox. Pull them out on days you feel like you need an extra laugh or send them to friends who could do with a smile.

· Have a playful frame of mind.

Life is fragile and there are enough things floating around to suck the joy out of life. To stay healthy would mean to see the funny side of life. Look for the funny happenings in everyday life. When things go wrong or the unexpected happens ……Reframe what you say to yourself and induce humour in everyday situations so that tension is out, and your mood perks up instantly.

· Spend time with people in whose company you laugh more.

A happy good natured attitude to life is an antidote for despair, fear and ill health. Find those who know how to create their own happiness. Being around them will energize you and uplift your spirits too.

So yes, Laughter is indeed a good Medicine, enhancing the lives of those that give and receive it. There is nothing more irresistible or contagious than a good laugh.

Is it any wonder then that ‘Hilarious’ is the new Wow!

Ageing Beautifully

27 Jul

We live in a society that emphasizes appearance and equates beauty with youth.

Is it then any wonder that so many of us spend precious time and money trying to deny the effects of ageing.

The appearance of the first wrinkle or gray strands can get some of us to begin viewing getting older as more of a handicap than a privilege.

Keeping with the societal pressure to look young and beautiful can be exhausting. Looking into the mirror wondering, ‘If only I could fix this…. I would look like I did before’, can have us reaching out for the hope that sells in jars and bottles.

Dealing with this anxiety about ageing requires a realignment of ones definitions and beliefs about beauty; Something that can be done with bit of self exploration and self acceptance.

I’ve been asking myself, How can I keep my fears aside and embrace the ageing process gracefully?  How can I be comfortable with my age and ward away society’s persuasive nudges to melt away the years?

Why allow billboards to tell me that beautiful is always young?

Why spend money and time in erasing the amazing time I’ve had on this earth?

Instead why not look at ageing as a time to sit back and enjoy life without the angst and uncertainty of youth.

Ageing is inevitable, and ignoring what you see, hear and feel is difficult, but here’s how you can make sure that you’ll be beautiful at any age

 

Reflect on your idea of beauty

Close your eyes and go back to the times when you’ve had a lovely time with someone you care about. As you celebrated in that moment of joy, surely you didn’t notice the saggy arms or age spots. What mattered was only the feeling you got when you were in their company. Then why do we obsess about our lines and spots when they matter so little to those who hold us close. Why should beauty be about trying to fight ageing?

Why not free ourselves from the pressure that the old definition of beauty puts us through?What if we believe that whether we are 15 or 51, Beauty is about looking healthy and feeling our best?  We need to throw away our conventional, media defined parameters of beauty and redefine our ideas on beauty.

 

Pay attention to that inner voice.

What is your inner dialogue telling you – the story you tell yourself daily? Is the process of ageing seen as a gift or is it one to be dreaded, where you feel you would end up being invisible? Does the word ‘Retired’ mean that your self worth has vanished? If the purpose of life is to give and enjoy happiness, then don’t let your age define what you can or can’t do. Try out new hobbies, new experiences – activities that bring you fulfillment.  Look at each new year as a year of renewed opportunities. Another year doesn’t mean decline or despair. We need to watch what we tell ourselves. We create our own reality through the dialogues we have with ourselves. So make sure they are empowering

Redefine what makes your identity

Is your identity only about the way you look, or have you included in it your accomplishments, your relationships? You have so much more to offer the world – your laughter, your creativity, your kindness, your smiles and your compassion. All these are also a part of what defines your unique beauty. Basing your identity on just your outward appearance is absurd.

All said, its only normal to love going to the salon, buying new clothes, enjoy wearing make up oe dyeing your hair. Invest in whatever makes you feel beautiful both in body and in mind. Whatever you do, do it with panache. Its that self- confidence that shines out of our faces that make us beautiful with every passing year.

Personally I have felt and looked most beautiful when I have been fully engaged in the moment, connecting with the people around me and doing what brings me satisfaction and joy. My beauty is all about my confidence and my attitude.

So, go ahead, deconstruct the Beauty myth, and redefine what beauty and ageing mean to you.

 

 

Tips to Erase Negative Self-Talk in Children

10 Jun

Children carry inside their heads numerous beliefs about themselves and their abilities, some of which are self defeating, unhelpful and ugly.

‘I don’t think I can ever do math’; ‘I’ll never get selected to the team’ ; ‘I’m so dumb’- Are some of the things they say aloud .On hearing these statements parents swoop in to convince the child that these negative remarks are untrue but, its an almost impossible task to get the child to see his parents perspective.

Over time these unhelpful beliefs get large, like a greedy giant monster sticking its head out at every given opportunity. This monster doesn’t sit still; It grows quickly on a steady diet of unsupportive words or unjust criticism and each time our children think of trying out something new or challenging, this monster is right there throwing its weight around, creating dread and visions of scary outcomes.

For eg — Just before the day of the elocution competition, this monster is back in action convincing your child that its no use taking part —’ You are bound to forget the lines, the audience will definitely laugh’… It even gets fear to step in and set up butterflies in the childs stomach or prompts the child to scamper away to the nurse for a sick note.

Another time: Before the Math exam this monster is once again up to its no good ways, convincing your child that he is a complete loser and Math is just not his cup of tea. This time he gets fear to throw in a panic attack which only convinces your child that he can never do math.

The presence of this monster make children feel worthless and sets them on a spiral of negative self talk which over time gets automatic and permeates into every area of their lives.

So how do we teach our kids to shrink this monster? To be able to face the day to day challenges of life with an open mind.

Few tips coming to my mind would be- Teach your child to

· Accept the feeling coming through the negative talk and name it.

Instead of ‘I’m no good at Math’ , teach your child to say aloud or to himself — ‘I feel nervous about…. or I feel frustrated that I …. and the issue at hand. This way he will know that feelings are transient and they don’t define him

If required, play back what they are saying like — Are you saying that you are feeling worried about the math exam? Then without offering solutions help your child to generate options like — Maybe I could learn a few topics thoroughly or I’ll master the easy problems.

Recognizing that being nervous or worried or frustrated is natural, help children learn not to give in to the barrage of negative thoughts that cloud their thinking.

· Use Humor. Give this monster a name and ask it to stop hassling you. After all, this isn’t how you would talk to someone you love and surely you need to treat yourself with love. So let’s say we call this critical monster George. Now every time you feel that buzz of negative talk in your head- notice that George is trying to dial in. Remember you have the choice. You can choose to let George jeopardize your moving ahead or politely ask George to step aside. Initially may be you need to yell at George, after all he is quite used to succeeding in running you down. Each time you succeed to push George out of the way, he will begin to shrink and your self confidence will begin to grow.

· Talk about your monster and its chatter with caring adults. Look for support from people who care about you and will help you navigate through your negative self talk.

· Wear your armour on days that your monster wont keep shut. Remind yourself of things you have done well in the past Strengthen yourself with visions and reminders of things that went well thus challenging your inner bully.

· Value the process. Focus on the little steps done well rather than just the end result. Phrases like ‘That took a lot of hard work’, helps in learning to value the process.

· Familiarize your child with various calming and coping skills. Affirmations like ‘I am feeling uncomfortable. Many others also feel uncomfortable in these situations. I can handle this issue’, spoken aloud helps calm the child and quietens his negative self talk.

· Parents, check how you talk to your children, and about your children. What are the messages you consistently implant in their heads? Watch how do you handle your own negative self talk. As parents we are their role models and our kids are watching us and many a time imitating what they see.

Some amount of negative self talk many of us indulge in but when its seen on a regular basis, then its time for concern.

It may be due to the presence of a low self esteem, anxiety, learning disability or even depression.

The good news is that children can learn to weaken this internal dialogue. With consistent effort and patience, children will be able to recognise and chase away this monster, thus erasing negative self-talk.