Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Sunshine Award

Colleen,who blogs at http://thenocturnalflower.blogspot.in/ is a recent blogger friend but her posts are so candid and forthright that I feel as if I have known her since long.Her post about her homeland http://thenocturnalflower.blogspot.in/2015/09/the-prairies-that-whisper-to-me.html is a poem of love-love for a homeland we are often forced to leave.She pleasantly surprised me by nominating me for the Sunshine Award.Thank you Colleen!

The rules for this award are:--
Thank the blogger who nominated you and link back to her.
List the rules and put the picture on your blog.
Answer the questions.
Nominate other bloggers and notify them.
Come up with questions for them.

Here are the questions which Colleen asked me:--
Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
I am an introvert.
Where in the world are you most drawn to?
To New Delhi,the place where I grew up.
What characteristics in others do you like most?
Intelligence and a sense of humor.
What characteristics in others do you like least?
Dominating and lying.
What area in your own life are you seeking to grow in?
I am trying to perk up my self esteem and confidence.I have gained a lot but I want more :).
Do you have a daily routine?
Oh yes,I have a deadly monotonous routine starting early morning with yoga and ending at 10 pm with Sudoku.An evening walk with friends and a couple of kitty parties in a month are the highlights of my routine.
Since this is a Sunshine Award,what things bring light and sunshine into your day?
When my kids are home for a vacation it is all light and sunshine.Otherwise I take solace from the fact that we are together and in fairly good health. Meeting friends over a cup of tea is always enjoyable.

Now it is my turn to ask questions.I will repeat the first one:-
Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
The first item on your bucket list?
Your favorite hobby?
Your strength?
Your weakness?

I would like to nominate the following for this award.I hope they will accept it.

Mridula at http://traveltalesfromindia.in/


Renu at  http://www.renuvyas.com/

Archana at http://drishti.co/

My congratulations to you all for hosting outstanding blogs :)

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

How To Be Mentally Tough

Life is a race--to learn more,be more,get more and zoom ahead leaving others far behind.In this race, sometimes laggards charge ahead of those who had been seen as brilliant,sure winners.It is not credentials,intelligence or even talent;which decide who comes out on top.Rather,it is the quality of mental toughness that marks the winner.

Mental toughness is an amalgam of different qualities like clear thinking,tenacity,self confidence,optimism and fearlessness.If you are blessed with a combination of these qualities then you can achieve much in life--whether it be in the field of education,work,relationships or health.

Mental toughness gives you the strength to cross over hurdles and reach your destination,even when the prospects look bleak.It also gives you the resilience to set aside hurts and disappointments and get on with life.You are better able to resist the temptations which could destroy your health or ruin your personal life.

Many of us feel that we are not tough enough,and miss success for want of grit.We give in to opposing forces instead of fighting them, and this prevents us from attaining the heights we are capable of.Here are some pointers which could help us to get rid of this handicap:--

* Start with a clean slate--rid yourself of preconceived notions,prejudices and other whimsical theories.

*Forget past failures,misadventures and misunderstandings--they will only dishearten you.

*Accept responsibility for your past mistakes--do not look for scapegoats.

*Examine accurately the situation you are in today,even if it is not what you had dreamed of.

*Accept a daunting challenge,the one which is most crucial to your happines--it will help you to evolve.

*Chart your plan of  action and follow it religiously.

*Take calculated risks--nothing ventured,nothing gained.

*Be conscious of your drawbacks at all times,so that they do not jeopardize the results of your actions.

*Be ready for failures--nobody succeeds every time.

*Some people get pleasure from pulling down others--don't let their jabs or jibes discourage you.

*Avoid seeking advice from others--take well thought-out independent decisions.

*Don't let anybody push you around.

*If you don't want to do something,or do not agree with what is being said;have the courage to say no.

*Voice your opinions--they are no less important than what others say.

Mental toughness comes handy in many fields of life but it's best function is to save us from mental disorders.The tough ones do not crack even after major upheavals or traumas.Nothing can keep them down for long.They spring back with minimum collateral damage.

But a word of caution will not be out of place here.Our quest for toughness should not catalyze us into hard rocks--after all murderers too,are tough!Single-minded pursuit of self interest to the exclusion of human sentiments will leave us high and dry.We have to take care that we do not step on others' toes or climb over their shoulders to reach the top.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The # friends we have,the company we keep.

It was the year 2010.Computers had invaded our lives in a big way and the urban young had taken to it like fish to water.But me?I was not young any more.I felt left out,relegated to the margin as it were.Just out of curiosity and a desire to test myself,I wanted to have a go at it.But buying a PC involved a tidy sum and I did not know if I would be able to learn it's operation.

So I asked a friend who was already fiddling with it- 'do you think I will be able to learn how to operate a PC?'She looked at me for a moment and then said yes.So I went ahead and bought one with the help of my grandson who had come over for a visit.That was the beginning of my life as a blogger and a net-surfer.

Now cut to another friend.Suppose I had asked her, who always sees a glass as half empty;what would she have said?'Oh no Indu don't even think of this,it is a highly technical gadget and at our age it is very difficult to learn new skills.'Period!

You get my point?The friends we have and the company we keep;often shape the way we think and act.We tend to imbibe the habits and perspectives of those with whom we interact over extended periods.That is why extreme caution is needed while choosing our friends.

Generally we opt for like-minded friends whose values do not differ majorly from ours.We enjoy their company.They offer support when we most need it and also caution us if we give in to questionable temptations.They influence us in subtle ways.When I see a friend putting up stoically with a divorce or an illness,I too am motivated to be more resilient.On the other hand if I spend most of my time with a habitual whiner,I may feel bound to chime in with my own grouses and begin to see the world through darker shades.   

But old,comfortable friends could also be a reason for confining ourselves to trusted environs and not attempting anything new.If we want to venture out of our comfort zone,try new things and add to our repertoire then it is necessary to connect with those who are active in those fields.Similarly,those who are aspiring to reach the next level in their profession, will profit hugely by associating with those who are already there.It will hasten their progress.Therefore new friends too,come with many advantages.

Today connectivity and networking make it easy to make new friends and build up contacts.But reaching out to a different set of individuals should be preceded by careful consideration of the group in question as well as our own predilections.We are naturally attracted to those who have qualities which we secretly admire but do not possess.But joining a group vastly different from our temperament is not without it's perils.

Suppose a laid-back person is fascinated by a cluster of ambitious,progressive individuals,and joins them in order to upgrade himself.Will their dynamism rub on to him?Will he become a super achiever?Or will he attempt something for which he is not cut out and fall down with a thud?It is also possible that their achievements and cheery attitude should accentuate his dullness and further erode his self esteem.

When we leave the inner circle to fraternize with a new set of people we should be prepared for all kinds of reactions.It is not necessary that they should all be positively inclined towards us.Some will be curious,some intrusive;some indifferent and some belligerent;some will cooperate and some will be ready to stab your behind.So we will have to be very alert to the vibes emanating from others.It is good,it will sharpen our senses and make us more worldly-wise.

No matter with whom we associate,we mustn't lose our own individuality,however attractive or fetching the other person might be;because then we would lay ourselves open to dominance or exploitation.If the values of our colleagues,acquaintances are different from ours then we will have to insure that our own values are not compromised.It is necessary to set boundaries.

All said and done,old,tried friends are a blessing and a crutch during difficult times;but since their interests, activities and aspirations mostly tally with our own it becomes necessary at a point in life;to fork out,make new connections and learn new skills.A wider circle of peeps enables us to evolve and touch new heights.

Image courtesy google.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

An Act of # Kindness.

It was a very cold day.I saw an old woman lying by the roadside in front of my home.She was obviously very sick,probably burning with fever.Her husband stood by,watching her helplessly.There was not much he could do.The day was very windy and they must have been shivering with cold despite the sunshine.They were waiting for the consultation hours to begin at a nearby clinic.I made some tea and sent it down for them.They were visibly relieved by the gulps of a hot beverage.

This made me realize how essential it is for us to be aware of those around us and to be kind whenever or wherever possible.Some thoughts about it's benefits :--

Kindness increases happiness.
This did not cost me much time or money but the returns in terms of spiritual satisfaction were immense.This happened many years ago,but till date,whenever I think of that episode a rush of joy envelops me.A one time act has given me many moments of joy.A good turn releases endorphins which result in greater peace and fulfillment.This is known as the 'helper's high'.Kindness not only promotes the happiness of the recipient and the doer ,but also of the observer

Kindness is uplifting.
When we diverge from our trodden path to help someone; we evolve,become a notch better than who we were previously and feel worthy too.We develop the ability to discern the emotions of people around us and be concerned about them.This hones our ability to empathize,which is any day better than scheming and deceiving. 

Kindness improves our mental health.
Unselfish acts stimulate the release of endorphins and serotonin.These chemicals have a calming effect--they regulate our moods and kill anxiety.We feel moral,upright,energetic and strong.It is as if we have passed a test.This is good for our self image.Somewhere deep down we feel that we are more deserving of good breaks,which kindles hope.

Moreover,thinking about others' problems and reaching out to them pulls us out of our own shell,shifting the focus from our own difficulties to those of others.Our tensions subside--we realize that we are not the only ones to have problems.

Kindness teaches us to be grateful.
The recipient of a good deed is usually one who is in a worse situation than our own.This makes us realize that we have a lot to be grateful for.

Kindness improves our physical health.
Research has shown that the kind kind live longer,healthier lives.The warmth associated with a kind act releases heart-friendly oxytocin which lowers BP and reduces stress.Altruistic people have fewer aches and pains and greater immunity.

Kindness gives us a bounty of good will.
We live in communities of sundry members.What happens to us,how we fare,whether we fail or succeed,whether we are well connected or isolated, happy or sad--all of this depends;not only upon our own efforts,but also on how others judge us and relate to us.Kindness generates good vibes all round.I would go so far as to say that even a casual observer will feel added respect for you when he sees you reaching out to someone in distress.In this way,it cures loneliness and social isolation;and makes life easy--not only for the recipient but also for the doer.

Kindness begets kindness.
When we give a leg up to someone struggling to keep afloat,that someone in turn,will most probably extend the same help to someone else.Kindness is contagious-it spreads and makes the world a better place.

Having said all this,a skeptic soul like me cannot but add a few disclaimers at the end:--

Lord Krishna in Bhagavad Gita cautions us to give alms charity and donations only to deserving candidates.Let me illustrate how misplaced charity does more harm than good:--
Not very long ago a prominent English newspaper carried the plight of a rickshaw puller who was forced to carry a newborn infant in a basket attached to his vehicle because his wife had died after giving birth to the baby.There was a deluge of contributions to his account and he became a millionaire.Guess what?He gave up plying the rickshaw,became an alcoholic and neglected his baby completely.

As in many other spheres so in kindness--too much of it can have a negative fall-out.Those who devote themselves heart and soul to volunteering,run the risk of suffering from Secondary Traumatic Stress or Compassion Fatigue.This was portrayed sensitively in a  Hindi movie Khamoshi wherein a nurse,in the process of extricating a jilted lover from major depression,herself succumbs to it.

Volunteering is said to be good for depression but those who are hyper-sensitive or easily impressionable should stay away from it.There is danger of them imbibing some of the negative characteristics of those whom they choose to help.

Those who have too much on their plates should also think twice before volunteering on a regular basis;or they could themselves end up needing help.Going overboard with kindness can result in physical,emotional and spiritual exhaustion.

Today most of us do not have enough spare time to take up philanthropy in a big way.But small gestures resulting from an awareness of how people near us are doing, also have a lot of significance.Things like opening a door for someone laden with many bags,holding the door open for the person coming behind you,smiling at a visibly downcast stranger,helping an elderly person cross the road,giving your seat to infirm or tired travelers and donating your goods--all these have the potential of making someone's day and earning you blessings.Such gestures are never wasted,what goes round,comes around!

Images courtesy google search.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

What Went Wrong?All Facts,No Fiction.

She was a model child--quiet,obedient and well behaved.Highly intelligent and pretty to look at.Everybody praised her gentle mannerisms.She did well in school,though not fantastically so.She had a narcissistic streak from the very beginning and was a a perfectionist by nature.

Then the time came for her to get married.She rejected many proposals,finding some fault or the other in the boys.Ultimately she settled for one.The boy was enamored by her and they started their married life on a happy note.But her husband turned out to be a Casanova.There were ugly spats.

Ultimately she returned to her parental home with her kids.Her parents were very fond of her and took the necessary steps to make them comfortable.But contrary to everybody's expectations she was not happy.She became paranoid,suspected others' motives and made unreasonable accusations.This was followed by violent fits of anger.She also began to suffer from #Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.She would spend hours washing her hands and taking bath.Her kids cajoled her to consult a psychiatrist who prescribed #Psychiatric medicines.

These medicines did subdue her symptoms but she could not return to her original,normal self.Now,after having taken them for many years,she has become a caricature of her old self.She is prim,proper,formal and cordial;but the spark is missing.Certainly her condition prior to taking the medicines was unbearable but now she has become absolutely wooden in her responses.It is as if she is living in a mist.Her doctor says she would have gotten much worse if she had not been treated;but this too,is no life.

Why do psychiatric medicines have such disastrous side effects?Very often the poor patients don't have a say in whether they want to ingest them or not.It is easy to manipulate them--for their own comfort and also for the family's convenience.Till better medicines are invented many will be forced to live a blighted life.

But I wonder,where did she go wrong?A promising life was all but extinguished in the prime of youth.Was it her narcissism which caused her to make unreasonable demands from others?Or did her perfectionism make her difficult to live with?Did her parents' cosseting render her unfit to face the ups and downs of life?

There is no doubt that her husband was a philanderer but after she separated from him what slashed her chances of leading a normal life?Her mental disease surely,but it could have been the consequence of what transpired between husband and wife.Who is at fault?Many factors coalesce to make us what we are.One never knows how they will pan out in adult life.