Sophrosyne

How do you want to live your life?

I have awakened…

The title of this post might surprise many of you but in its truest essence, we are not totally mindful of our every waking moment or even why we do the things that we do. We do because it is a habit or because it is what society expects of us.

 

In the last few months, I have been contemplating a lot as I consider the options I have and the choices I need to make. I grew up on the amazing island country Singapore. The biggest impact it had on me is not the academic pressure or rat race. The greatest struggle I have faced growing up is being me, in terms of outward appearance and personality. But today’s topic is not about my personality, it is about finally accepting that this is the best that I can be and finally be okay with it.

 

I have always struggled with weight issues and as with many women out there, I am always unhappy with how I look. When I first moved to Australia more than 10 years ago, I was fortunate enough to meet a great group of friends who taught me to love me for who I am no matter how I looked. Fate has it that we had to relocate back to Singapore 7 years ago. I had the best time there and the only thing I lost once again was the ability to love myself no matter what. Again I was reverted back to constant dieting and worrying about how much I weighed.

 

Two years ago, we moved back to Melbourne and I struggled to assimilate back here. I found that my old friends have moved on and I simply could not find the motivation to get anything done and before I know it, I had put on a lot of weight on! Trust me, when I say ALOT! It’s a double figure increase. I made numerous attempts to get rid of it and failed miserably.

 

It had gotten so out of hand that I would stress every time I have friends visit from Singapore because I know that they will be constantly on my back about how much weight I have put on and I really should do something about it. Let’s just put this down as a cultural behaviour. There is no malice, just a reminder. Three weeks ago, I attended a good friend’s 40th birthday. The whole time, she was hugging me, and telling me how much she missed me. Not once did she mention the weight I had put on.

 

A week ago, I received news that a close friend who survived cancer now had cancer returned in another part of her body. It made me finally realise that this obsession about body weight does nothing to improve my quality of life. I keep emphasising that I am fitter than ever and happy but all some could see was the 40 years old me. I am over 40! Why am I still expected to have the 20 years old body ?

 

So this is my awakening. I will live my life happily doing the things that I love doing and stand proud! I am happy with my body and how it looks and what it can do for me. Love me for me!

 

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Rethinking my perspective on life

I have been having writer’s block for the longest time, nothing much inspires me , therefore the dry spell continues. Of course it takes one person who knows you really well to say the magic words, “Just write about what affects you!”. So here I am, writing about the things that have consumed me my whole life and the one piece of someone else’s reality that knocked some sense into me.

It should not come as a surprise that like many women, I obsessed about my weight and how I look. Yes, the constant dieting and endless exercising. Well, that was until I moved back to Melbourne. I lost all motivation and simply could not care less. In my defence, winter can be brutal especially if you have been raised in tropical Singapore like me. Anyhow, as my weight continued to pile on, so did my disgust with myself. You would think that it would be enough to spur me into yet another bout of diet and exercise frenzy. Errr.. nope. I prefer to continue to indulge and allow the evergrowing ass to keep expanding.

So, this has been my cycle for as long as know, and many women would understand my agony. Of late, I have began to see things in a different light. Not being in a country where aesthetics is a lifelong priority helped a lot. Instead of seeing what kinds of clothes I could fit in. I started viewing my body in terms of what it can still do. Well, after one turns 40, this piece of machinery does slow down quite a bit. I realised that I can either choose to take care of this body through proper nutrition and exercise or continue to starve it just so it can fit into another outfit.

I used to work as a cabin crew with Singapore Airlines where how you look is top on the list and my whole life has been all about how skinny I can be up til this point. So, pardon me for taking almost a year to get here.

This is my epiphany:

  1. I am no longer 20 years old so I do not have to beat myself up if I don’t have a 20 year old’s body.
  2. My body is a piece of machinery. In order for it to work at its full capacity until the day I die, I do need to put in quality fuel and tune it often with exercise.
  3. I would rather focus on the time I get to spend with my family than obsess about my weight.
  4. I choose fitness over looks because it is about quality of life.

What really inspired this post was something I heard on the radio this morning. It was the story of a little boy who lost his dad suddenly 2 months ago and his mum was diagnosed with terminal cancer 6 months earlier. This really hit home for me because it is not something anyone prepare themselves for. We hear about such tragedies happening to people but we would never expect it to happen to us. I was deeply ashamed of myself after I heard this story. Here I am getting all upset about my weight when there are people out there with real crisis to face.

This is the nail on the coffin. In this coffin lies the constant need to be skinny , the shallow belief that being skinny will make me happy, and that I am only beautiful if I am at a certain weight. On this day, I bury this coffin together with all these ridiculous notions.

If you have taken the time to read this to the end, then please take the time to ponder over this and hopefully it speaks to you the way it spoke to me.

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Is technology really bringing people together?

In one of the chapters in my book, The Parenting Trap, I mentioned that it is unhealthy for children to be on their electronic devices all the time. It is much better for them to be out socialising with other children or even to get a bit of fresh air and sunshine. I have been searching for more evidence to support my belief and I am glad to have found it!

In my recent study in Positive Psychology, I am glad to share with you that there are scientific evidence to support my claim. Research has shown that the less we use our social skills, the more we lose the ability to use them. Social connectivity is like our muscles, the less we use it, the more we lose it.

This is great news for people like me who loves company, good company of course. The more positive social connections we have with others, the more health benefits we reap. Extensive research in the field of Positive Psychology have strongly suggested that cultivating these positive connections is as powerful as starting a new health behaviour, such as quit smoking, healthy eating plans..etc. Isn’t this so exciting to know that we can all get healthier simply by staying connected with good friends and catching up for that coffee more frequently?

This also allows us to appreciate why solitary confinement has been used for as long as we know to punish prison inmates. It is one of the cruellest form of punishment to enforce onto anyone. If it can improve our health so much that it can be scientifically significant; then one only needs to imagine what will happen in the absence of human contact.

So, after all that, you ask me, what if my friends are busy or for that matter I am too busy to catch up on a regular basis, does that mean my health is going to suffer? Absolutely not! Lucky for us, Positive Social connections is not exclusive to interactions with people we already know. A simple hello and exchange of pleasantry with you local baker may be all you need to sustain you for longer than you know. So, it DOES NOT need to be someone you know. As long as the exchange is genuine and the experience is a positive one, it will work to elevate your wellbeing.

I can go on and on and run the risk of confusing you with too much technicalities and jargon. If you are interested to know more, please go to the link provided here.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/24/opinion/sunday/your-phone-vs-your-heart.html?_r=0

All you need to remember is that you can influence your health by increasing positive connections with others. So, look up from your mobile devices the next time you are out, and take some time to connect with your fellow humans.

 

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Actively seek the positive!

I have recently gotten off my backside and jumped straight back on my mission: to unravel the intricacies of some amazing human qualities such as resilience, gratefulness…and many more which fall under the umbrella of Positive Psychology. I have the good fortune of being able to be part of a course conducted by Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, one of the leading experts on Positive emotions.

This area of study holds great interest for me both on the professional and personal level. But that’s another story for another day. Today, I would like to share something that I learnt today in class. Great news!!! Positivity can be learnt and can be increased!!

Here is a simple way to increase your positivity. Get yourself a glass jar/vase, plus a pen and paper. Everyday, write down 1 thing that was good that happened to you. This event may evoke the following emotions in order to qualify; joy, gratitude, amusement, interest, love, awe, serenity, pride, inspiration and lastly, love.  It may seem tedious but you will be amazed by the result. Just by thinking of a good thing that happened to me everyday last week was enough to bring a huge smile on my face, can you imagine a full year of goodness! Good things happen to us more often than we are aware of. The purpose of this mindfulness based exercise is to help you be more attuned to these precious moments that we often overlook. Go on, have a try, even if it is only for a month! What have you got to lose?

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Can you handle what you really want?

This post was inspired by a movie I watched yesterday called ‘Transcendence’ by Johnny Depp. Very interesting concept of creating an ultimate form of Artificial Intelligence that is capable of feeling emotions and making independent decisions. To simplify the plot of the movie, Johnny Depp played the role of a scientist who was on the verge of such an invention but unfortunately was assassinated. His wife who was also a scientist managed to transfer his ‘consciousness’ into the hard drive of his invention and brought him back to life – online.

The aim of this post is not to discuss whether such an invention is possible. It is the contradictory behaviour of human beings that I would like to point out. How many times have we heard of inventors and scientists, even beauty queens emphasis the importance of finding a cure for cancer? Looking for means of saving our planet? Ah, on the movie set, all these can happen and it did! But it also revealed the distrusting and ungrateful nature of the human race. He found the solutions to solve all of the world’s problems and that earned him the title of trying to play God which was why he got assassinated in the first place.

Today, I hope that whoever took the time to read this post also take a few minutes to consider what is it you really want in life? Will you be happy just to accept when it is given to you? If you are religious, then have faith that all these are part of the master plan. No one is trying to play God because if God does not want it to happen, then it would not. Is this not called having faith? But if you are not religious, just be happy that you got what you ask for.

We often moan and groan about not getting what we want, but when the opportunity presents itself, how many of us are courageous enough to reach out and grab it? And after you hold it tight in your hands, be grateful; don’t allow that annoying negative voice in your head spoilt it for you. That is the culprit, the insecurity in all of us that rob us of our ability to be happy. The need to question everything instead of accepting and enjoying the gift graciously.

That said, the next time the guy you have been eyeing asks you out for coffee, don’t allow the voice to tell you it is because you are the easy choice. It is simply because he likes you and wants to know you better. When your boss gives you the promotion, it is because you are deserving of it, not because you are the only obvious choice left. He can always give the job to an external applicant. Finally, the next time, when someone finally finds a cure for cancer, let’s not question why and how he did it. Let’s just be glad that more lives can be saved. Let’s choose to be happy!

‘Miserable people focus on the things they hate about their lives. Happy people focus on the things they love about their lives.

 

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Making the tough decision to choose you

“Don’t ever feel bad for making a decision about your own life that upsets other people. You are not responsible for their happiness. You’re responsible for your own happiness. Anyone who wants you to live in misery for their happiness should not be in your life anyway.” – Isaiah Hankel

I read this short passage on facebook today and it resonates very strongly with my values. Growing up, I had the same insecurities as any typical adolescent. That said, it meant that my top priority was to ensure that the people around me were happy; because that means that as long as I can keep them happy, they will remain my friends. Sounds familiar?

Over the years, I learnt many hard lessons about life. The single most valuable wisdom that I have gained is that people who truly cares about you will not begrudge you for choosing your happiness. But this is not to say that you covert your friends’ boyfriend and is dead sure that he is the love of your life and proceeds to take him away from your friend. Common sense and the rule of ‘nonmaleficence’ (means to first do no harm) does apply. Now, why would you purpose break your friends’ heart just because you lust after her boyfriend?

To help you gain a better understanding of what I am trying to say, allow me to give you an example: now, we all like to be around people who makes us feel good about ourselves. In my case, I love being around people who genuinely cares for and validates me, and these people are generally happy with their lives as well. For some, they use others to make themselves feel good. They constantly criticise others in the guise of having better knowledge. They also get upset when decisions are not made in their favour. In other words, they expect you to be responsible for their happiness. Always needing you to put them ahead of you.

During my ‘need to please others’ years, I was miserable. I was constantly walking on egg shells, worrying if I had made the right decision or even said the right thing. There were times that even when I had chosen their happiness over mine, it still did not guarantee the friendship. It was awful. Fortunately, as I grew older and with the help of amazing friends who helped me realise that the more genuine the care, the less they need for you to sacrifice for them. You can make choices as an individual with no sense of guilt or misgiving.

According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the highest level that we all yearn to achieve is self actualisation. In my humble opinion, that means we live the life that is meaningful to us and we are happy because we are the best that we can be. Therefore, in each and every one of us, there is an innate pull to achieve our personal self actualisation. We all want to be happy, and we want to live a meaningful life. Place this in contrast with trying to please others whilst holding on to our miseries. How far is that from our natural calling? No wonder we cannot achieve self actualisation from pleasing others.

Of course the most crucial part of this post is the acknowledgement that such choices are not easy to make. This is especially if the people involved are friends for many years or even family members. It takes time and a lot of courage in order to do so. Personally, I find that spending time with like-minded friends or simply those who truly cares about you will lead you to making the right decisions eventually. So do not be disheartened if you did not find the courage to walk away from those who are not good for you. It will happen but first you must choose it.

That said, have a wonderful rest of the week!

 

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Truth behind staying happy

I want to start off the post by sharing this piece that I read recently:

‘Once you learn to be happy, you won’t tolerate being around people who make you feel anything less.’

Yes, I can see some of you smiling in acknowledgement. I would like to break today’s post into 2 parts. First part examines why we feel a certain way about some people; second part is aimed at helping those who find it difficult to defend their own happiness.

Just last week I had some friends come over for dinner and after they left, I was in great spirit, gushing about how wonderful dinner was…etc. My husband in response to my lovely mood, commented:” Well, you do choose friends who adores you.” My immediate response was to defend my integrity as a person! I most definitely do not choose friends based on how much they adored me! Piff! Ah, but I have learnt over the years that a good response is usually not made in haste. So I sat on it and had an honest conversation with myself. I concluded that yes I do choose friends who adores me. I mean who would want to be around people who says hateful things about you all the time? But these friends also had to meet certain criteria. They had to be real, share common value systems, great sense of humor, smart, compassionate, passionate about life…yes it seems like it is an impossible list but you will be surprised how many people possess such qualities!

We NEED to be around friends who validate who we are, yet unafraid to speak the truth when required. Yes, this post is not called the definition of a true friend. But it is a fact that a true friend also validates you; they are sincerely happy about your successes and are there for you in times of need. One without the other will not work. It is, in my humble opinion very much a give and take relationship. All these circles back to the quote today, once you had a taste of great friendships that leaves you giddy with happiness, why would one go back to those who cannot provide such happiness? We are drawn to certain friends because of the way they make us feel.

Now, let’s move on to the next part, we all have different types of friendships. Those aforementioned, and the ones that we hold on to because ‘it is the right thing to do’. How often have you come away from these obligations and felt dejected and lousy about yourself. People who are supposedly your friend but cannot validate or inspire you to be better are not good for your self-esteem. And yet, time and again we find it difficult to cut the cord and set ourselves free. I am still trying. But how about this for a start? Begin by trying to spend more time with those who lifts you. And do your best to minimise contact with the ‘not so healthy’ friends. In order for this to work, you need to be honest with yourself. Remember, all relationships need to have an almost equal amount of give and take. A friend who gives all the time is not good, nor is one who takes and drain you all the time. For me, it is so important that good friends can share your glorious moments as well as help you sweep up your mess. Again they need to be able to do both. You do not need a ‘fixer’ friend who is super helpful when you are in trouble, because you are not broken, just need a little help to clean up some mess. Similarly, you do not want party friends who are only good when things are going well.

I hope that I am making sense to you and that you feel more equipped and empowered to select the friends around you. In all honesty, a bad friend is not better than no friend. You are better off without until the right one comes along! Good luck and choose to stay happy!

 

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Definition of a good friend

Hi there,

I must say it has been a very long time since I last posted. Well, life does get busy and time escapes us whether we are careful or not. My recent relocation back to Melbourne made me realise one of the most fundamental function of a good friend. There are so much literature out there describing what a good friend is, should do or behave. But I learnt first hand from an admirable woman, Dr Marsha Linehan, (Founder of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) that all we need is a little bit of validation from the people around us. I have always known that the friends I have chosen have a certain quality that they all share but could never find the words to describe it. My husband likes to say that I choose friends who say things I want to hear or agree with me. I tend to disagree because these very friends are also the ones who can be brutally honest when need be.

So, here is my personal definition of what a good friend is: Someone who validates who you are. That’s it! Simple as that. So, what does it mean to validate someone. It means to accept who the person is openly and affirming the good that the person does. And of course, being a true friend does not mean that you only see the good and ignore the bad. It also encompasses the responsibility of informing your friends when they are in the wrong.

Culture and race aside, human beings as a species have a habit of taking the good or right things that people do for granted. We are afraid that if we keep praising someone, they will become overconfident and arrogant. This is not true at all. Perhaps it is more obvious when it comes to how parents react to their children. When was the last time you said thanks for picking up after yourself to your child? See, it is assumed that it is something that they should do. Therefore, no appreciation needs to be shown. Little do we realise that validation is such a powerful tool. It helps grow self-esteem because when someone validates us; they are saying they notice the good in us and appreciates it. It increases self-confidence because we are constantly receiving confidence boosts from external sources which helps us affirm who we are.

So don’t be afraid to tell the people around how much you appreciate what they do for you or more importantly for just being them. Celebrate their every success, no matter how small it may seem. If they are sharing it with you, it meant something to them. My first published book would not even be remotely possible if not for friends who constantly validates me. The best immediate effect that I totally enjoy is the nice warm feeling I get when my friends validates me. I feel warm, loved, appreciated and accepted. That is the best free gift that you can offer the people you love everyday! So, get out there and start trying!

By this time, you may be tempted to agree with my husband that I do choose friends who say things I want to hear but allow me one more defence. Why do I want to spend time with someone who constant criticises who I am? My aim in life is to be happy, what better way than to spend time with people who loves me for who I am? Friends like that are not impossible to find; so stop holding on to the ones who make you feel bad about yourself all the time. As for changing for the better, I am able to accept the criticisms from my friends far better because I know that they always look out for me. When something that I have done upsets them, then it is time for me to reflect on my behaviour because their intention is to grow me, not make me feel lousy about myself all the time. This is vastly different from saying what they think I want to hear. There is an element of honesty, acceptance and genuine interest. I hope that I have managed to at least get you thinking about the importance of validation.

If you are convinced, here are a few tips to get you started:

1. Be mindful of what they do. Learn to appreciate the little things. Focus on the positive.

2. Be genuine and honest. Do not say what you think they want you to say. Say it because you believe in it.

3. It is about them, not about you. Allow them their moment of glory; resist the urge to share your personal experience.

 

I leave you with this today: Choose your friends wisely and decide what kind of friend you want to be!

 

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Reason to continue my work

Had to share the story of this amazing young man. I met him in the course of my work and yes although it can be emotionally exhausting at times. I look forward to seeing him whenever I go to work. He inspires me so much! In a nutshell, he suffered a stroke not too long ago which resulted in very minimal movement on the right side of his body. But instead of feeling sorry for himself or give excuses to not attempt challenging activities. He is always the first one to volunteer himself. He also instinctively helps out others in need. Be it helping them pick up something they dropped or stand up to an injustice.

He epitomises the spirit of resilience and grit (A new theory in positive psychology). I am so proud to have been a part of his growing process. It is moments like this that propels us forward. I am truly humbled.

 

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Choose to be happy – Happiness project

Yesterday I posted on my facebook page that I will be embarking on a happiness project which is what I will be starting today. Reason? Simply because happiness like many things in life are within our control. Yes, what I am saying is to be happy, all you have to do is to choose to be. That is not to say that one is rid of unhappiness forever. It means that we choose to be more mindful of the good things in our lives and take more active steps to do that things that we want to. Be it doing something nice for someone or to stand up for what you believe in.

Whatever decisions you make, it should be one that you want to or at least willing to make. So this is how I am going to do this. We tend to take things for granted, what I am going to do is start posting things that makes me happy. Gratefulness is the key to the door to happiness. Please feel free to share what made your day as well!!

My motto in life is this: “We are not here for a long time, so why not have a great time!”

Okay, just to add in some housekeeping details. I usually post directly on this blogsite when I have something to say but as this is a very spontaneous type of project. I much prefer to be able to post whatever I want when things happen. You can like my page on facebook (Look for how do you want to live your life), that way you can follow me whenever I post anything. Alternatively, if you are on instagram, search for #ichoosehappy, it should be what I posted.

Let the party begin!

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