Category Archives: Happiness

On Tattoos and Hijabs

Whenever I imagine calling all my close friends for a party and putting all my friends under the same roof, in the same room, my mind goes into overdrive. Plagued with an overactive imagination, my life plays out like an elaborate broadway show or a high budget Karan Johar movie, and this one scenario seems like the plausible climax beyond which I’m not really sure how the movie will go.

Some friends would be indifferent, some shy. Some overbearing, some withdrawn. Some would be the life of the party and some would prefer to go home to a book or a drink. Together all my friends would make for a very interesting, albeit emotionally charged party.

I’m not one to hang out in big, gregarious crowds. I prefer small, intimate groups. I’m picky about my friends and pickier still about my close friends. From becoming dancers to scientists, to supporting Trump, my friends have been there, done that. I don’t know how I know so many different kinds of people,  but I know why – because, without them, I would be stuck in my tiny version of reality.

Our reality is limited. We extend our reality only to what we think we know and can understand. It’s a catch 22 really. What we don’t understand we don’t know and what we don’t know, we don’t understand. So where do we begin to break out of our tiny realities?

I hear a lot of discussions regarding “learning moments” and every time I hear the phrase I cringe. The notion that we have to seek out learning moments is as absurd as that of women being a weaker sex.

Learning moments isn’t a physics classroom wherein you only learn physics. Learning moments happen when you open your eyes and mind to two notions –

  1. I don’t know everything
  2. I can always learn something new

Both of these realities have been shunned in our MBA driven society where one has to know everything. While many people may know a lot of things, many of them don’t comprehend or analyze or understand these things.

To truly learn, one simply needs to make more friends, to make different friends, to make yourself uncomfortable and vulnerable, to be wrong, to be correct, to feel safe, and to feel challenged. A learning moment can come from a YouTube video or an Albert Camus book. A learning moment can come in the kitchen or at an IPL game.

Often, a learning moment comes when you least expect it, from someone you least expect. Make friends who are different from you, physically and emotionally. Meet more than one person of a ‘type’ and you’ll see that there is no such thing as a ‘type’. Tattoos, hijabs, miniskirts. They don’t make the difference, you make the difference in your head. Meet at least three people of a ‘type’. Then four, then five. You may like only one, but you may not like the first one.

Don’t let an earring or a tattoo or a hijab stop you. Move beyond them.

The Best Way to Escape

I was recently introduced to Quora by a close friend of mine who one day in the middle of a conversation, stared at me for good ten seconds and then said, “I don’t know why I didn’t think of this, but you HAVE TO TRY QUORA YOU’RE GOING TO LOVE IT!” And this guy is usually quite calm and composed, so this obviously caught me off guard. But he was so excited and animated, I knew I had to at least sign up for Quora.

And I did. And I loved it! So much so that I wrote 43 answers in two weeks and counting. It was when I was browsing through my Quora today that I realized at least 26% of my answers, involve words related to Reading.

The situation (questions) vary greatly, but the outcome of any answer that has reading involved is almost always one that brings a sense of peace, belonging, and calm.

Reading, and I don’t want to sound like your parents, is one of the best gifts you can gift yourself. The habit of losing yourself in a new story, in a different world, is one that cannot be replicated in any other action. Reading provides the soul with imagination and an instant escape, both of which are necessary for a happy, healthy life.

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Now, there is no one who exists who doesn’t like to read. Seriously. I know it’s a MASSIVE generalization, but it’s true. If you don’t like reading, then you simply haven’t found your kind of books. No matter what kind of books you enjoy, don’t be ashamed.

People tend to give too much importance to “serious” works. You ignore it. I can read anything from a Murakami to Gladwell to even Mills and Boon all of which I enjoy with as much fervor and excitement (okay maybe, Mills and Boon provide a little extra excitement than the rest)  but the bottom line is that you ought to read whatever makes your heart tick. I can pick up a Camus with as much excitement as I pick up a Pinker. And yet, sometimes I get stared at for crying in romantic novels. Whatever the case, if people judge or they don’t, pick up a new book and read it. Don’t like it? Pick up a different book.

Books introduce you to new minds, similar minds, and scary minds. They, in short, introduce you to the world one tiny page at a time. They make you realize that there’s a huge world out there just waiting to be discovered. They remind you of how small your problems can be and how common they are.

So do yourself a favor and pick up a book. Any book, and read.

 

 

 

This is What Home Means

Home has always been a constant for me, but which house I lived in, has never been a constant. Coming from an Army background I have traveled all my life. Between cities, between countries. Most places I’ve lived and some I’ve just visited. My recent trip to Doha to meet my cousin sister and her family. When I was there, it felt like I was home and that’s the reason I was prompted to write about what it means to be home.

At some point, we all leave home for a long period of time. Be it for college or a job or anything really. And when we do, we begin to miss home. We begin to miss the routines that we are brought up in. We know what mum will say when you tell her something, how papa will react or how your sibling will pounce on you if you even dared to touch their Maggi.

But what does it mean to be home? I understood this time in Doha. To be home is to be familiar. To be home is to be in a place where you’re welcome the way you are. Where you hear the words your loved ones use, the language, the culture.

While many believe that any place can be made a home, a lot of us who have traveled and lived all over the world, know how difficult it actually is. The theory is simple but realizing it is so difficult.

Home comes from a feeling of being comfortable. Where you don’t have to explain yourself constantly, where you’re always welcome.

Sometimes brick rooms feel like home, sometimes human souls, sometimes our furry friends. Home is a concept. It’s where your heart is the happiest, safest.

Home is where you can shed your fears and conquer your dreams.

That’s it. It’s quite simple really. Home feels right.

What do you think? Let me know on Facebook or Twitter.

Image by Cameron Kirby

On Creating Oneself

Being who you, are is easy in a way. We don’t have to change or nudge ourselves to be different. But what happens when we want to change? When the urge of being who you are isn’t enough to carry you forward?

What happens when you want to create yourself? To take one step back and two forward?

Well, you get confused. You get upset. You won’t know where to begin and where to end, but here’s the thing – that’s completely okay.

To create one needs a canvas and if the canvas is full, you need longer to first figure it out and then work on it. To create, one needs to begin. One needs to slowly find the faults and repair them.

To create oneself, one needs to learn to be okay with the unknown. One must find what they want in life and one must finally begin to work on it. Today.

Working on creating yourself will require active effort. It will require you to challenge yourself and read more.

People talk about reading all the time, the reason is simple – the more you read, the more you can learn. The more you learn, the more you know even for yourself.

In order to create yourself, learn about yourself, and then learn about others. Learn from them. Dr. Carol Dweck, in her book, Mindset, says that our change is a function of our mindsets. That if we decide in our minds that change is possible and work towards it, it will be possible.

Think of yourself as a dynamic changing being that is constantly in progress.

So it’s okay to make mistakes, to be unsure, to not know. the important thing is, to keep moving forward.

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How to Write/Form a Resolution

2017 is finally here. After an interesting 2016, 2017 comes in like a much-needed vacation after the vacation. You know what I’m talking about, right? A break after a break? The tiny break we need after the big break we had? Anyway, now that 2017 is here, the best thing to do is make a resolution.
Yes, that is the best thing to do, regardless of what Facebook memes tell you. If you’ve always wanted to do something, or if you’ve had a dream you’ve been putting off, what better way to get back at it (or start it), when everything is new?

Resolutions often don’t work because we do it wrong. We make goals we can’t achieve and set the bar so high that often we don’t even see it. What we forget is the process. We forget to make a blueprint. So, if you want to form a resolution, break it down into tiny tasks.

Break down the main goal into tangible daily routines. By doing so, your goals will be more manageable and your resolutions are more likely to succeed. Example –

Goal – Run a marathon

Resolution – Run a little every week

Goal –  Publish a book

Resolution – Write for two hours every week

 

Goal – Be less angry

Resolution – Count for three seconds before responding in a tense situation

It’s very difficult to change the way one has been. So, a drastic resolution is likely to fail. If you want to actually make any change it has to be tiny enough for your brain to be excited yet convenient enough for your body to work towards it.

So make your list, 2017 is going to be a great year!

 

 

My Perfect Day

I’ve often been asked what my perfect day looks like. Well,  a perfect day for me is one where I’m surrounded by family. It’s a day when I read, clean, cook and surround myself with people I love. I’ve been told many times, that as a feminist I shouldn’t like to cook. And that got me thinking of all the pressures of any term. You know, we have a certain mold for what we think  a feminist should look like and while that mold helps us organize life in general, I think more often it restricts us. A feminist may choose his or her life path and choices, isn’t that the basic idea? Be it cooking, cleaning, sky diving, writing, or anything for that matter. My perfect day is for me to decide. Same goes for you. Your perfect day is only for you. So do it your way.

Think about it.

Choosing Yourself

NaNoWriMo is happening. That’s the National Novel Writing Month. In November every year, writers world over decide to try and write a novel of a minimum 50,000 words. Why NaNoWriMo is in November and not any other month, I couldn’t tell you, but what I can tell you is this- if you decide to do it, do it for the joy of writing.

And the same rule applies to all your hobbies. Every passion today seems to be shared by a million people, at least. Writing, sky diving, rafting, mountaineering, knitting – you name it, there are at least a thousand  people doing it and many who are way better at it than you are.  Hence, whatever you do, there will be someone better and regardless of your goal (to keep it to yourself or become a pro at it), it can be intimidating or demotivating to do something that so many people are doing or that so many people are already good at.

The best reason to do anything is to do it for yourself because you enjoy it.

Life is too short to not have personal goals and hobbies. Constraints will always be there, but if you pick and choose what you will do and what you won’t do, you can squeeze in time for things you love. Doing what you love, will definitely make you happier and if philosophers are to be believed, happiness is the ultimate purpose of one’s life. Within your life constraints, try to do one thing that makes you happy. Every day choose yourself for at least a little while. So, for all of you NaNoWriMo fans, do it, if you love it.

To Think or Not To Think

Life is what it is.

The day comes, the noon passes and the night eventually hits. One day turns into two, two in four and weeks in months, into years.

My life is extremely unpredictable. It changes it’s course in a matter of days. And at one point I hated it, but now slowly but surely, that’s not the issue at all anymore. In fact, I’ve come to love this constant change and look forward to it and maybe Who Moved My Cheese  had a little to do with it, but my family had a lot more to do with it. What I want to talk about today, is not the change, but the mental images I make of that change.

I’ve been told that sensitive people overthink a lot. That worriers are smarter and hat they are more intuitive and the likes, I however, have a different reason to worry – I think too much and worry too much because I care. I either care about myself and my future or I care about others and their impact on me and my future. But the future well, it’s just that, the future. So here I arrive at a Catch-22.

One end I  want to live in the present, and not worry about the future. On the other end, I want to plan for the future and work towards it. Simply telling me to “calm down” or “relax” does JUST the opposite. I freak out more. I’m someone who needs to believe it, not just hear it. So, with a lot of introspection, patience and reading a ton of fiction, I’ve slowly starting seizing the day and planning for the future without over analyzing (too much).

I have a three step process.

Think. Work. Thank.

Think. Think about what I want tomorrow. Think about what I have currently that can enable that tomorrow. Think about the best way to move forward with what I have for where I want to be.

 Work. I start working on it. Will it succeed? Of course it will. It’ll take time, patience, reinvention, mistakes and again- time. It’ll happen. Failure is temporary, so work on it.

Thank. This is what keeps me sane. I make it a point to thank everything and everyone who has ever helped me or continues to do so. I’m very spiritual, I’m definitely a believer  (yes, I’m an aspiring social scientist. Don’t look at me like that). So I thank the universe for what I have, for my situation, for my family.

It is not to say that everyone needs to follow a rule or stop (over) thinking, but once I let go of the reins a little bit, I have more time to enjoy my day and be happy with where I am.While it’s not easy to just stop thinking, it is simple. Keep busy, have personal goals, surround yourself with things you love and one day at a time, see your life unfold.

Because ultimately, it’s all you’ll ever know-

The present for what it is, the past for what you think it was and the future for what you hope it will be.

So, have faith in yourself. If you’re a believer have faith in whatever/whoever you believe in and let each day unfold and surprise you.

How We Can Learn to Be More Confident

How can we be more confident? What can we do that will help us be the best versions of ourselves? Confidence is such an intrinsic part of our emotions and beliefs. It’s how we feel, so measuring it objectively is hard. Yet, in today’s day and age where everyone is doing everything and rushing to the next big thing, confidence has become imperative for one’s self and their work.

The good news is that Psychology is slowly but surely finding all the answers for us. How can we be less hypocritical, what impact money has on us and most importantly (for this article) how we can increase our confidence.

My website, The Psych Way, is replete with ground breaking psychology studies that will help us be our best selves and better members of society. One of the studies, on body posture, have shown that if we stand straight, or hold up out head and keep our shoulders back, we can indeed increase our confidence.

Confidence then, is a belief which we can train and work towards.

Here are a few scientifically backed things we cam do to increase our confidence-

  1. Sit up straight.
  2. Before an important event, stand up and don’t slouch over your phone
  3. Make it a routine to consciously walk and sit up right.

You can read the entire study and recommendations here- The Psych Way Confidence Boost.

I hope you learned something new.  You can follow The Psych Way on Facebook and Twitter.

You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter as well.

I’ll see you soon!

Love,

Sanah