Sophrosyne

How do you want to live your life?

What is Mindfulness?

I have dedicated a whole category of my website to this topic called mindfulness. So, what exactly is mindfulness?

I was first introduced to this concept when I started practising yoga 2 years ago. The yoga teacher will make comments like: Mindfully breathe in and feel what your body is telling you…. and I will be like…huh? What was that again??

Over the course of my undergraduate studies, I then came across mindfulness in various forms; in psychotherapy, mindfulness was coined existential therapy by Viktor Frankel.

To explain it simply, mindfulness means that you are aware of you and your surroundings. You are living in the present, right here and now. I was already a huge fan of this school of thought before I even knew of its existence! In order to attain mindfulness, the most common way is through meditation. A myth I would like to debunk: meditation does not mean that you have to sit still for very long and it is not hard to learn at all. TRUST ME!! I am not asking you to cross your legs right now and do it. I am just saying that it is one of the ways to improve mindfulness. Of course the other way, is to be consciously aware of your surroundings and the things happening around you.

So, how does meditation help you improve mindfulness. All meditation is (according to me only) simply concentrating on your breathing; in and out. You will be surprised at how often your mind wants to wonder (Hmmmm, what to have for lunch, should I buy that dress???….). Then as soon as you realise that you are drifting, you bring your focus back to your breathing again. Easy! And so you ask: What does this do for me again?? I have only started to reap the benefits of meditation (Trust me, I was one of those who used to squirm and wriggle as soon as the yoga teacher says ‘Mmmeditate….ZZZzzzz) Yeah, I was that bad. But I just kept doing as I was told and suddenly I realised that all those ‘breathe in for 6 and out for 6’ has taught me how to gain control over my mind.  I do have better control over my thought processes!

Another myth I wish to debunk is that mindfulness does not equal to enlightenment or make you lose all your steam altogether. What it does for you instead, is this: Your inner world is now on slow motion; the rest of the world still moves around you at their usual pace, except that for you, you now take the time to think things through before taking action. And as a result of the ‘slowing down’, you began to be able to appreciate the things around you better, instead of rushing around and missing the beauty around you. It also does not mean you stop getting angry and stop swearing. You still do because penting up emotions is not healthy. The difference is that you know that  you are swearing because you choose to. Life no longer just pass you by, it takes you by the hand and makes sure that you are not missing out on the details.

It changed the way I look at things, might be worth for you to give it a go. You need to give it time and I’m not saying it was easy, but to me, it was worth it!

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Choose to be Happy

CHOOSE TO BE HAPPY

This statement may sound very strange to many people but if you can just bear with me, I can help you understand what I mean.

Everything we do and every emotion we feel, it is all by our own choice. You can stop that angry thought or sigh if you conscious choose to, rather than just allowing it to happen. People have outbursts and credit it to a lack of control. And honestly, who owns that control?? We do! We can make choices in many things, words we use, food we stuff into our mouths…the list goes on.

I am not asking you to make healthy food choices, give away all your worldly possessions, start an exercise regime. One baby step at a time… All I’m saying is, starting today, choose to be happy. If someone upsets you, consider the impact of their behaviour in the big picture and if it still matters, then think of a solution to fix it. It is bad enough that they have messed up afew minutes of your life, why give them more power by staying angry?? They don’t care, we are the ones who are stuck in the anger.

Humor me, try this out. Choose to be happy no matter what others do. Tell yourself, it is your life and you are gonna be happy no matter what. A personal tool that I use all the time – amuse yourself. Learn to see the lighter side of things. It is a technique used in CBT(Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), called reframing. Change your mindset about things. Recently, I had a friend who was diagnosed with breast cancer. Yes, she was devastated for a few days, then we spoke about it and decided that she was going to see her situation this way: She always wanted bigger boobs, now she got the legitimate reason to get them done. She could moan and groan and blame the whole world about her situation but what does that achieve? Nothing.

Therefore, I urge you to choose happiness everyday unless the alternative emotion serves a purpose, then by all means sulk for the rest of the day. And I am saying this, you do not always wake up in the morning happy, it is a conscious choice and requires effort. Even thoughout the day, you need to remind yourself to be happy. But it is worth it! Besides being in a great mood, you also become a much nicer person to be around. Lastly, I am going to leave you with my favourite tagline:

“We are here for a long time, we might as well have a good time!’ – Karen Foote

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Be Thankful

‘Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you do not have, you will never, ever have enough.’ – Oprah Winfrey

Very simple wisdom, but we are all guilty of it. Fortunately it is something most people can agree on. Some may say it is an excuse to be complacent. That is rubbish. There is a difference between using thankfulness to appreciate everything you have in life versus being lazy. Being thankful does not mean you stop striving to be better. It means you choose to be happy now, and not waiting to be happy after you achieve your ideals.

It is ‘I am happy with what I have and where I am now in my life, I will continue to work hard to get that promotion but I do not need the promotion to be happy now’.

As opposed to ‘I can only be happy after I get that promotion’.

See the difference? All I am saying is focus on what you already have and learn to be content. It is much better than yearning for something that you may not get at all.

 

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Maintain your social life

Many parents have a misconception that once you become a parent, you cease being the person you used to be. Understand this, being a parent is only one of many roles you play, much like being a friend, spouse, son/daughter. It does not change who you are. I mean, it does a bit but not entirely. You become more responsible because in addition to being responsible for yourself, you are now responsible for another little person. Your biological instincts will propel you to change your behaviour and thought process automatically. I am here to tell you to resist it.

IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO RETAIN YOUR PERSONAL IDENTITY!!

Naturally, your lifestyle choices will change but do continue to make time for your personal life. It is of course easier to catch up with friends who also have children, because you will have common topics to talk about. You should also try to hold on to friends who do not have children yet. Seriously, do you want to be talking about diapers and runny noses all the time? The non-parent friends will be the ones to anchor you to the ‘outside world’. They are equally important as parent-friends. They can provide you with support and information, just on different topics, that’s all. And remember, the non-parent friends may not need to hear you talk about your children all the time either. So, save those discussions for play-date mums.

Maintaining a social life, in my definition, is to still have your own hobbies, do your own stuff independent of your family and children. This is not called selfish. It is healthy. How often have you seen parents dedicate their whole being to raising their children and they become lost when their children grow up and move away? You don’t want that, do you?

It is important for me to emphasis that I am not proposing a full-on ‘leave the kids at home and live my own life’ propaganda. All I am suggesting is that , it is okay to take time off to have that coffee with a girl-friend. Perfectly great to go for yoga three times a week.

There is life outside raising children, it is healthy for you as well as your children. If you have not had contact with your friends, make that call now! You will be surprised how good you feel after doing something for yourself.

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Friendships takes effort

If people think that making new friends are difficult, it is even harder to maintain friendships. That is why friends come and go. As you go older, you will begin to realise that in honesty, one does not need alot of friends. Just a handful is enough. Because with age comes other responsibilities such as work, family, significant halves, children….etc. At stage, you would have also gone through some challenges in life and discover who your ‘real’ friends are.

I have moved and lived in other countries several times and I am telling you this. Meet new people because there will be some friends that you meet later in life that will become great pals. But do not for one minute think that it is easy to hold on to these friends. Like I mentioned earlier, every one have their own lives to live, and time flies by. It does take time and effort to keep in touch with friends. I have managed to keep up with a few good friends over the years and it was absolutely worth it! With the technology these days, it is easy to skype or text or whatsapp, facebook…etc. But the key here is time, no matter which form of communication tool you choose, it still requires effort. Sometimes, it may seem that you are the only one in the friendship making all the effort. But think about it this way, if you really treasure the friendship, why be overly concern about who puts in more effort? Eventually, it will all even out.

If you are on the receiving end of the friendship, think about putting in as much effort as you can muster. Great friends are hard to come by. Do not let them slip away because you think that there is always a next time to keep in touch or to make that call. Some people might feel taken for granted or that you simply do not want their friendship. Do you really want to lose a good friend?? Even if it is only a short message once a month or a quick coffee means a lot. It is the thought that counts, not the frequency. If you have the time to read this post, you can afford the time to send a message out to a friend to tell them how much they mean to you!

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Language of Love

There is a book called the five languages of love, I have not personally read it but had it summarized to me by a friend. Very interesting concept. The book says that everyone has a different language of love and if their language is not understood, they will feel very unfulfilled. Simply put, everyone sees expressions of love differently.

For example, to my wonderful husband, his language of love is action and service based. He feels loved when I do nice things for him and say lovey stuff. For my children (at the moment, hopefully that will change) It is material based. They measure love by the size of their gifts. They have yet to learn that it is not the size of the present that count, it is about quality!

Anyway, knowing the language of love of your loved ones can greatly enhance your relationships. Imagine all you needed was a kiss and a cuddle, but he never shows any affection, instead brings you to nice places for dinner. Although his gestures and intentions are good and you can appreciate that, you will never be truly satisfied. Because it is not what you want!

It is easy to know what is a person’s language of love (Disclaimer: It is not from the book, just personal observations, so just use it as a point of reference). All you need to do is to observe what they do for the people they care about. People usually do to others what they themselves like. Their logic would be: I like it, so they should too. It is like buying a present. Don’t we tend to choose something we like and hope that the person that we are buying it for will like it too??

So, observe what they like to do for others and try using their method the next time you want to do something nice, , and see if it works. You will know when it is working, you will not be able to miss the joy from their faces.

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It is okay to want company all the time

I was having coffee with a good friend this morning when this topic came about, I commented that I really enjoy spending time with friends. Her concern was whether I was able to enjoy my own company. This is my take on this topic; I can be alone if need be. But you can be alone in the coffin after you die, so why not enjoy your friends now. Do not be mistaken that I have issues being alone, I don’t; for those who know me, they know that I am an extravert. An Extravert can be defined as someone who gets their energy and inspiration from external sources. It does not equal to noisy and obnoxious. I love meeting new friends, and have a curiosity about people. I really enjoy being with friends and having a great time. Good friends are hard to come by and friendships require maintainance. So, I encourage you to spend time with friends who love you for who you are. Extremely good for your self-esteem.

Word of caution: Having said all that I did,  I am extremely fussy about who I actually spend time with. If the company is no good, I’d rather be on my own. In one of my previous post about choosing your friends, choose wisely. Good friends build you while lousy friends suck your energy and resources. I am rejuvenated every time I spend time with my friends. And they know my policy about time and how I choose my company. I am with them because I truly enjoy their company and vice versa.

So, pick up that phone and make that lunch date that you have been meaning to!

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No expectations

Now this is a tough one. I am asking you not to have any expectations from anyone so that you will be be disappointed or hurt. But let’s be honest here, we are human, it is natural to expect something in return for anything we do. I’m guilty of harbouring large amounts of expectations. For example: When I hold the lift doors open for strangers, I expect them to say thanks! But of course in Singapore, it would be strange if they did actually!

So, let’s turn our focus on our friends and family. These are the people we know and love. Family, we have no choice but we are suppose to have each other’s back because we are family. Friends, on the other hand, we chose ourselves. But at one point or another, somebody will disappoint us not because they did not reciprocate our affections. It is more likely that they may not have done it in the way that we expected. Thus, we get upset and disappointed. In order to avoid feeling like you have been taken for granted, ask yourself this, did you do it out of your own accord? Or were you asked to do it? If you have been asked to do it, do it because you want to. If you don’t want to, don’t do it.

I know full well that it is easier said than done. But the next time you do something nice for someone, do it because you want to, and mindfully remind yourself that you chose to do it, nobody forced you to. So, if nothing comes back from it, it is absolutely okay.

Of course on the flip side is that if you are Mr nice guy all the time and people take you for granted, then that is a different issue altogther. In that case, you have to reconsider the friendship and reasons why you remained a door mat.  But keeping in context of you choosing to do something nice for someone, don’t expect anything back in return. Because the joy you derived from it should simply be the mere fact that it was within your power to make someone’s day.

Cultivating this mindset takes time and requires a great presence of mind. Fortunately we can all get there with a bit of practice.

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Get it right…

“If someone does not like you or what you do with your life, it’s their problem, not yours” – Karen Foote

I try my very best to live by this because at this stage in my life, I have learnt the hard way that you cannot please everyone. The only person that we live with on a daily basis is ourselves. So, what I am saying here is: Self-acceptance. I may not be perfect to everyone, but I am able to accept my imperfections. Don’t live your life trying to meet other people’s standards. They don’t really know how you want to live and they don’t really care.

Believe in your uniqueness and have faith in your internal moral meter. Once your ideal self and true self is in sync, inner peace will follow.

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How to improve your people skills

Here are some pointers that I have picked up over the years either through books or by observing people:

1. Have a ready smile.

2. Be helpful.

3. Pay a Compliment (Now this is a tricky one, the compliment must be genuine, you must mean what you say! Don’t say, ‘Love that dress! When in fact you thought it looked like drapes’ It could be as simple as ‘you have a great smile’ or even ‘cute socks’)

4. Don’t be afraid to be the first one to say hello.

5. Show a genuine interest in the person and what they are saying. Do not force yourself if you don’t want to, then all these steps won’t work!

 

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