Journaling – Introducing Yourself to You

18 Mar

The one activity that is hugely accessible to most of us, is writing.

The act of putting a pen to paper is a valuable outlet for our thoughts. It helps us work through conflicts and process our feelings in a non threatening manner.

No doubt talking with a friend could be better but not always do we have that someone with whom we can talk about all our inner most thoughts and feelings. That’s when our journal can become our confidante – being privy to all our struggles and fears in a non judgmental fashion.

When our thoughts are out of our head and onto paper, the confusion and internal jumble seem so much clearer.

Writing regularly has its benefits.

  • It makes you aware of your feelings and wellbeing. With time you begin to understand yourself much better, know what makes you happy and identify the situations that stress you out.
  • As you write through your anxiety, sadness and other strong emotions, you release the pain, feel calmer and begin to process the trauma you have experienced.
  • If you were to read back what you wrote over a period of time, patterns of thinking and feeling emerge which when reflected upon allow you to understand your attitudes and your internal world.
  • It enhances emotional intelligence; Helps you to understand and interpret your emotions and see the another’s perspective.
  • It helps you organize your thoughts, prioritize your goals and needs. As you read and rewrite your goals daily they get embedded into your subconscious mind and you tend to work towards them with added zest.
  • Gratitude journaling (where you record things for which you are thankful) creates a domino effect of hope and courage; something that needs to be written about in an article of its own

For me journaling has been a powerful facilitator of self discovery.

When I journal I am able to arrange my fragmented thoughts so that I better understand myself and my interactions with the world.

After I vent out onto the pages of my journal I am able to bounce back from disquieting experiences and move forward.

Journaling is a constructive skill for youngsters to develop.

Many kids struggle with talking about their feelings. They are not sure if their feelings will be ridiculed or if its ok to feel the way they do. Writing them down gives them a safe place to park their thoughts, to explore their feelings, become more self aware and work through their inner conflicts.

As adults we need to encourage them to squirrel down their thoughts, heartaches, secrets and whatever else comes in their head. Writing gives them a voice –  An assurance that they, and all that they feel, are in a safe place.

There is no one way to begin journaling. Its about what works best for you –

A crisp new notebook, a laptop. Pick the approach that suits you.

Decide on the time you will sit down to write – Early morning before you begin your day, or at the end of the day. Try to write at the same time everyday, even if all you do write is just a few lines.

Do not pay too much attention to grammar or syntax or punctuations etc …. allow your thoughts to flow freely

For those who have trouble on how to start use prompts like …’Right now I am feeling….. or ’today was the day I …..’

Share your writing if you feel like doing so; else keep it to yourself. You are the author and the choice is yours.

As you begin your journey with written words, you will notice how your written words serve as a tool for clarity, a receptacle for thoughts and observations, and an agent of self expression.

No wonder Carolyn Hamilton said – Documenting little details of your everyday life becomes a celebration of who you are.’








How Stories open up our World

5 Mar

I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than closed by belief .                             Gary Spence

I grew up in a city; away from the culture that my mum would have loved me to be a part of.

She regularly told me stories about my cousins back in our home town. All these stories were intended to familiarize me with the life back in our native place. ‘Learn the language – everyone speaks the local language’; No jeans …. there they wear long skirts…she said. Through her stories I had created a mental picture of my cousins and I wasn’t keen on meeting any of them. Finally, the day arrived when we went to our hometown. I was startled to see my cousin wave out to me and present me with a beautiful wrist band she made herself. ‘What …. she knows English and has heard of wristbands’ – I thought to myself; I realized I knew nothing about her other interests. I had only one picture of them in my mind- shy girls in long skirts. That wasn’t wrong …. but so incomplete. Over the few days that followed, all of us had a great time together, she spoke fluent English and was fun to hang out with.

My limited view of my cousin and the life she led was the reason I never looked forward to connecting with them until that eventful trip to my hometown.

Years passed by and I got married to a man who came from a very diverse background. Both our parents had misconceptions about each others families simply because they also had just one fixed story that they believed in. Their limiting perspectives took years to widen and what could have been a truly valuable relationship never really got cemented.

If we pause to think… How often do we carry with us just one story of a person or a place …… and this constricted view restricts the essence of our interaction?

How time after time we tend to restrain our unbridled enthusiasm based on the more negative stories or beliefs that we have?

How we trap ourselves within a world based on our limited stories?

What if we were to supplement our one story with many more stories – How different would our outlook towards that person or place be?

I remember trying to decide on a vacation spot for my family and realized how bound I was because of the lone record I carried within me about an otherwise interesting place. Eventually pushing my self, I took off to this place that in my mind was associated with illegal immigrants and petty crimes. It was such a happy feeling to see that the place was so much more – streets with vibrant happy people, musical concerts, art exhibits in parks et al. Nothing like what I imagined it to be. Clearly I had heard just one part of a beautiful melody

Why do we then remain within our limiting ideas? I guess its coz we all like a sense of definiteness which gives us peace of mind and keeps away stress or fear that comes with uncertainty.

But what if we were to Enrich our minds with more than one narrative of a place or person? How would that benefit us?

  • It would help understand that there are alternate ways to living well;
  • Our tolerance would increase and we wouldn’t make assumptions based on the little we know about the matter;
  • We would get rid of the stereotypes we create, that come in the way of seeing the world as it is; thus enjoying the richness that life has to offer.
  • In relationships, the moment we associate a person with more than one narrative, we are able to give successful interaction a chance and the relationship will have the potential to grow stronger.

The benefits of being open and curious, to increase the stories we carry with us, are far too many to be ignored.

The ability to zoom out our lens and capture the richness of the world around can be energizing and a beginning, where we train ourselves to see new options and possibilities.

All it takes is a deliberate pause and a reset of the mind to discover that life is so much bigger than what we ever thought it to be.


Guiding Children’s Behaviour

25 Feb

“The most important thing parents can give their children is love. The second most important thing is discipline” – T. Berry Brazelton, M.D.

Kids need guidelines and boundaries – clearly defined limitations to feel safe secure and loved.

Delivered with love and warmth, these limits give kids a safe space to grow

No doubt time and again they will throw a fit, push boundaries …..that’s what they are supposed to do as they develop their sense of self; So allow them that freedom to develop, grow but stick to the limits you’ve decided on, with love and firmness coz that’s what they want you to do.

Limits provide a framework so your child understands what is expected out of him and helps him make better decisions.

They learn patience, empathy, being responsible, understanding their own needs and respecting the needs of another.

Make sure the boundaries you set are not coming from an angry place instead they are set so your child can learn something valuable about himself or the world around.

When setting boundaries keep in mind the following –

Is it Necessary in the particular context?

Ask yourself if the boundary is age appropriate. Would it really matter if it isn’t followed? Is it worth an argument? Can I enforce it?  Are my expectations realistic?

Set Boundaries and follow through

Sometimes after a hard days work you don’t have the patience to be calm or get into any discussion; in fact you’d rather just let him have his way….. But Hang in there. Your kids need to know that when you say something, you mean it. They need to know that they can count on you to keep your word.

Have few rules.

Its more effective to have few rules that are reasonable, consistent and respected always, rather than many rules with haphazard compliance.

Acknowledge the positive

Appreciate and encourage children when they have stuck to the rules. As important as it is to be consistent with the consequences when kids overstep the boundaries; it is also important to pay attention and recognize their good choices.

Discuss Expectations

Have family meetings where expectations and consequences are discussed clearly. Vague and inconsistent limits have kids floundering; while rigid and unreasonable expectations are usually met with hostility. When limits are reasonable and developed from a place of love kids learn to operate within safe and socially accepted limits.

As kids grow boundaries could be stretched. Parents who do this in collaboration with their children so that the kids know why decisions are made find it easier to establish these limits without too much rebellion.

As boundaries are being pushed and frustrations run high, stay connected with your child emotionally; Empathize with her feelings of helplessness so the message being conveyed is – The limits I set may upset you but I care about your wellbeing and will always be here for you.

At times the arguments around the limits set become more like a power struggle – The youngster refuses to comply and parents wont budge from their stand. The entire focus   then becomes – ‘who is in charge here?’ Such situations are best avoided. At times like this its best for the parent to be an adult –  Listen to your childs request and see if you can find a middle ground.

It may be difficult to think of reasonable consequences if and when boundaries are not respected. Talk to other parents about boundaries and consequences they use or express your concerns to a counsellor.

Boundaries are all about freedom and responsibility. It gives us a framework in which we negotiate life events, which then helps us and our children with personal growth.

Boundaries simplify life.


Care for You, By You

8 Feb

Be you, Love you, All ways, Always

Alexandra Elle

The Stress of city life – The hubbub, the noise, the competition, the frustrations, balancing relationships, are all reasons enough for day to day life to be taxing.

The daily travails of dodging traffic, negotiating crowded sidewalks, dealing with the demands of family life, juggling heavy workloads, attending to the alerts on our smartphones can leave us feeling super stressed.

One way to loosen the grip that stress has on us is by practicing Self Care.

Self Care is all about refueling yourself; Paying attention to your needs.

Its like the oxygen mask that airline officials require you to wear first before helping a co-passenger.

Many equate self care with pampering oneself; an indulgence for people with time and money. They look at it as a luxury that doesn’t agree with them and so write it off.

Self Care is much larger than pampering oneself – Its about sensing our inner needs and taking action to get these needs met so that we find more joy and purpose in our lives.

Many of us are not used to paying attention to our inner states. We deliberately ignore what we are actually feeling and tune ourselves to feeling what we are ‘supposed’ to feel. Self sacrifice is revered in our culture and attending to our needs is sometimes construed as being selfish or lazy. To avoid being labelled any of these we ignore the desperate pleas from our inner core, continue to ‘manage it all’ and as a result are persistently overwhelmed.

Its time we rethink how we define self care – I would call it an active powerful choice to purposefully engage in activities that are required to maintain optimal physical and mental health

It all begins with being aware of what we do daily and how it makes us feel.

When the demands made on our time, energy and emotions are more than we can handle that’s when its vital to infuse self care into our daily lives.

A few activities you could do are

  1. Sit by the seaside or in the park and watch the waves or watch children play
  2. Make one change in your diet……Eat an extra helping of veggies/avoid sugar
  3. Listen to music you enjoy…….Create a playlist
  4. Take a warm shower.
  5. Get enough sleep
  6. Create a ‘No’ list…. [ No checking emails/Instagram between 12 and 4 pm etc]
  7. Follow up with medical care …. Do not put off check ups
  8. Spend time with loved ones. Call them if physically meeting them is not possible.
  9. Do at least one relaxing activity every day
  10. Do one thing that makes you happy
  11. Spend a few minutes oxygenating your body……take deep breathes; puff out your abdomen and slowly breath out
  12. Help someone……open the elevator door for someone, give your seat to a standing commuter.
  13. Journal- write out your feelings
  14. Laugh ……watch a funny video
  15. Light a scented candle in your room

These are a few suggestions; Over time you will figure your own rhythm, routine and understand what works for you.

What’s important to know is that Self Care is a daily practice, not a once in a while splurge.

Paying attention to your needs is a skill you need to sharpen especially since it’s the only way to refocus and come back to daily living refreshed and in a happier state of mind.




Ground Rules for a Healthy Argument

30 Jan

Even the best of relationships have their share of arguments and fights. It’s a misconception that arguments are all bad. Arguments are both healthy and necessary for two people to understand each other and create growth in their relationship

All arguments need not be stressful. Done sensitively it can be a way to work through challenges which can eventually strengthen a relationship.

What matters is not how often we argue with our partner but how we say what we say when we are upset. Does it leave one of the partners feeling resentful, bitter or misunderstood is the key question we need to ask ourselves.

Arguments begin when one partner feels his needs are not addressed or his feelings are not attended to. He lashes out in anger which hides the sadness and vulnerability he is actually feeling. The person who gets yelled at usually yells back or withdraws or mentally detaches from the other. Either of these can fan the flames of conflict which then escalates into a full blown argument.

Learning to fight fair is far more important than trying to avoid having a fight or argument.

These are a few absolute ‘No – No’s during an argument

# Trivializing – Do not minimize your partners feeling [ “…. You are just over-reacting; it wasn’t so bad…”]

# Blaming – Not owning up to your part of the fight [“…. I said this because you did this first…. “]

# Invalidating – Rejecting or Judging the way your partner is feeling. [“Its wrong to feel like that……”]

# Bringing in artillery from past fights – [“Last week you did X and then you promised …..’]

# Name – Calling [“what an ungrateful **** you are …”]

# Putting down – Shaming your partner [ “…. There you go …crying …That’s all you know…”]

# Using ‘Always; Never’ [“you always do this or you never do this ….”]

# Bringing the ‘But” into the sentence. [“…I know you are tired but you could have….”]

# Threatening – Hurtful threats incite anger and are hard to forget or forgive [“if you do this …..i will take the kids to my mothers house…”]

Anger sometimes makes one say hurtful things to their partner and get at their vulnerability. That is unfair and immature. How a couple handles disagreements affect the health of their relationship.

A few tips on how to resolve an argument without any emotional injury

# Empathy. The one important thing to have during an argument is Empathy. Empathy says ….i do not agree with you but I am willing to listen to you and understand from where you are coming’. When you are empathetic towards your partner, he/she feels understood, calms down and the overall tension is defused.

# Communicate clearly how you feel. Don’t just talk about what your partner has done. Talk of your feelings. Use ‘I feel’ more than ‘You did’ statements. Sentences that begin with …’I feel hurt when you don’t ask me where I want to go on a vacation….’addresses feelings which put both partners in a place where repair is possible.

As you begin to empathize and communicate clearly the conversation changes in nature – you begin to talk less and listen more. Its at this point that you begin to understand and address the needs of your partner – needs that lie hidden behind all the shouting …..needs that are otherwise difficult to express.

# If the arguments start to escalate, if tempers fly or harsh words are flung at each other then ……its ‘Time Out’. This is not quitting or sulking; its pressing pause to cool off for a while. It helps because it allows you and your partner to calm down and maybe  a little later come up with a strategy to resolve the matter.

Couples who go through their conflicts and arguments and move into a more harmonious existence, share greater intimacy and mutual respect for each other.

Conflict is a given; You are two different people with unique personalities, thoughts and opinions. There are three entities in a relationship – you, your partner and your relationship … and its important to watch out for the health of all three.

It’s the way couples deal with their disagreements that make or break a relationship.

Couple Counselling can help identify negative patterns of communication which have eroded the quality of interactions between a couple and help them learn new skills to recognize and resolve conflict.


Get Over That Slump

22 Jan

Halfway through January and it seems like a struggle to keep up with the resolutions you made.

No doubt the goals were carefully written down with all good intent but two weeks later that exhilarating feeling with which they were written down wanes away and your center of gravity doesn’t let you move away from the couch.

So how do you set yourself up to follow your dreams; stay engaged once the initial excitement is over.

This has been a forever challenge with me and I have come up with a few steps that help me stay on task.

#Rethink what is meant by motivation.

Motivation isn’t all energy and zest. Some days it is the quiet plowing away at things even if you don’t really feel like it.

Einstein’s observation that ‘nothing happens until something moves’ can be applied to every aspect of life including being motivated. Get off that couch and begin doing something …….. Motivation doesn’t necessarily have to precede action. Don’t we do so many things that we don’t feel like doing – like calling your banks customer service or paying bills etc. Similarly, you can begin a task by just going through the motions without feeling like it. You may not always ‘feel’ like doing something but begin anyways. Action often pulls Motivation along. What you need is to just get started

#Start with the small things.

Build momentum by tackling the tiny jobs first and soon you will get going – A few things done will make you feel victorious and will give you the necessary fuel to break the Inertia making the larger tasks seem more achievable.

#Start with the superficial                            

Have a shower, put on your favourite clothes, maybe play some happy music. Chances are that you’ll feel ready to get going. Looking like you are ready to begin work will nudge you to feeling like it too. Dawdling Mid Morning in flip-flops and pyjamas are not conducive to any kind of inspiration.

#Get accountability from friends and family

Tell a few people what you intend to do and ask them to check on how you are getting along. This way you are less likely to give up.

#Remind yourself of how important this goal is to you

Write down 3 reasons why this goal matters to you and put it up where you can see it. Read them during periods of low energy so they give you the encouragement you need to take that step forward.

#Be kind to yourself

Adopt an inner voice that treats you like you’d treat a good friend. You certainly wouldn’t deride your friend for not sticking to his intentions; instead you’d point out that each day is a new opportunity to start again. Likewise, you need to treat your self with understanding and compassion

Its important to note that incase you feel a lack of drive to do anything for more than two weeks it could be anhedonia [ a symptom of depression]

It is a condition where your anticipatory pleasure is numbed so you don’t feel like pursuing any rewarding stimuli. This condition can derail you from finding the energy to follow through what you intend to do. This is treatable but it is important to visit your therapist and get the right kind of help.


That Caring Space Within You

16 Jan

“This is the best place to be “I said to my colleague as we sat savoring the sun set gently over the hills. She was quiet for a while and then burst into tears.

“There is something wrong with me” she said between sobs.” I just don’t feel good”. She went on to explain how flawed she was, never up to the mark and felt so unworthy.

As she spoke I saw how she berated herself and criticized herself for all her real and perceived errors.  She seemed to have lost the ability to love herself. Dwelling on her flaws, she brushed aside her positives and went on explaining how imperfect she was and how she hated herself for it.

It was as if in her belly basement there were hundreds of bottles of fear, rage and despair.

Occasionally during therapy one comes across people who find it difficult to love and accept themselves – Imperfections and all.

She needed to understand and implement the art of self- compassion or kindness to self – The ability to recognize the difference between making a bad decision and being a bad person. It reminds you to unconditionally accept yourself along with all your personal short comings rather than harshly judge yourself for every act of yours.

People who have self compassion are able to navigate through life’s disappointments without losing their self worth.

If we hold ourselves to impossible standards and never allow ourselves the possibility of things not going the well, chances are we wont allow the same for others and thus be incapable of forming healthy relationships not just with ourselves but also with others.

To live a life of happiness and contentment – self compassion is a key ingredient.

Tips to be kind to yourself –

# Reflect on your thought process

Acknowledge that the thoughts and feelings you carry along with you are responsible for the pain/anger/anxiety/depression you experience. What do you do when feelings of unworthiness grip you? Do you set out to prove you are better than others; get discouraged; resort to addictive behavior? Do these feelings persist because you try to live life according to the expectations of others? Its only when you get increasingly mindful of what your inner voice tells you each day that you will want to free yourself from that painful prison.

# Direct a more focused attention onto your feelings

Investigate without judgment what is it that’s asking for attention. A more pointed kind of inner inquiry will unearth those key feelings that lie masked under the unworthiness – A need to please others or the need to do everything right …every time? Imagine you bend down to pet a cat and she smacks you with her paw. After the initial anger you notice that her tail is caught in a trap. Now your anger shifts to concern and you understand that the cats’ reaction came from vulnerability and pain……So your focus shifts to easing its pain. That’s is what attending to your feelings do……you become aware of your painful feelings.

# Treat your self with compassion

Consider yourself as a child in a painful situation…. what would this child need the most ? Give yourself the same love as you would this child.

Compassion arises when we connect with our suffering

# Allow yourself to be flawed

Give yourself the ‘permission slip’ to be imperfect or lazy or having made a wrong decision. After all you are human and hence fallible.

# Challenge your Inner critic

Be aware of how your inner critic sabotages your thought process and distorts your reality.  Whenever you hear his persistent voice – know that its time to challenge him. Question these automatic thoughts and come up with realistic alternatives. No one is free from mistakes. That’s completely OK because fallibility is an inherent part of the human experience. Use affirmations like “I’m not perfect but I am learning’

# Work with a Therapist

Patterns of thought and behavior take time and effort to change. A therapist can hand hold while you learn to notice your thoughts, have a more realistic perspective of yourself and others and internalize new skills required to treat your self with compassion.


You need to treat yourself kindly; Infact you owe it to yourself.

Each of us is unique- A genuine bona fide snowflake of imperfection.

Both we and our lives are amazing and perfect the way it is –  And that’s what make us beautiful.