Saturday, April 22, 2017

A to Z of Happiness: S - Simplify #atozchallenge @AprilA2Z

Simple living is usually thought of as minimalist living or spartan living, or even miserly living.

Grow your own food.
Don't keep a car.
Give away ALL your possessions.
Don't outsource.
Cut off from the world.


In short, go to the Himalayas and live like a monk!

Personally, I don't see anything wrong in doing that. I think it would be an immensely empowering experience to be so self-sufficient. But, if everyone took off to the Himalayas, wouldn't it get too crowded?

Jokes apart, I have a slightly different interpretation of simple living... a SIMPLER interpretation.


Simplify

Every individual in this world is different. And we all have different roles to play in the grand scheme of things. So how can one size fit all? It can't.

I believe that simple living is all about removing the UNNECESSARY clutter and noise from our life. The stuff that we don't really NEED. The stuff that DISTRACTS us from what is really important in our life.

If a car helps you do your work more efficiently and lets you spend more quality time with the people who matter, then what's wrong in keeping a car?

If using a mixer-grinder-juicer in your kitchen allows you to eat healthier, then why give it away?

If outsourcing your cooking gives you more time to do stuff that gives you greater satisfaction, then what is the harm in it?

If an internet-enabled smart phone lets you make video calls to your grand-children, halfway across the globe, then how can it be a bad thing to have?

Simplifying our life doesn't mean that we give up all worldly possessions, dreams and desires. It just means that we set our priorities, and then align our life with those priorities. It is a simple 3-step process.


3 Steps To Simplify Your Life


  1. Identify your goals.

    Personal goals - could be related to health, travel, education, hobbies, etc.
    Professional goals - your career ambitions and financial targets.
    Relationship goals - marriage, kids, social clubs, etc.

    Make sure these goals are not in conflict with each other. Remember what happened in the movie Cheaper By The Dozen?

  2. Identify what you need for those goals.

    Do you need more sleep and exercise? Or maybe a course in photography and a new camera? Or a new job with flexi timings? Or perhaps you need to move to a smaller town, so you can afford a bigger house for a bigger family?

    Figure it out in simple actionable statements.

  3. Remove everything else.

    Let go of all the habits, beliefs, possessions, and even relationships (Yes, those too!), that don't align with your higher goals. Most importantly, let go of all the secondary goals that conflict from your higher goals. Majority of them will anyway be things that the SOCIETY expects you to do, not what YOU want to do.

    Yes, this won't be easy. But this is all the difference between a "simple life" and a "complicated life."

And in the end, there are a few things that we all can do with a little less of. And they are:

  • Worry less.
  • Complain less.
  • Compare less.
  • Think less.
  • Want less.
  • Talk less.
  • Doubt less.
  • Hate less.
  • Fear less.
  • Say 'Yes' less.

MINDFULNESS (covered under 'M'), GRATITUDE (covered under 'G') and RESILIENCE (covered under 'R') are our three sharpest tools for simplifying our life.

  • Watch what/who you let in your life. Watch WHY you let them in your life? Do they take you closer to your goals? Or do they deviate you from them?

  • Always appreciate what/who you have, and remember how they are helping you fulfill your dreams.

  • And once you identify that something/someone is important for you, then commit to them. Don't let anything/anybody else come in between you and what makes you truly happy.

Have you got all your priorities sorted out in life? Do you need what you're chasing after? Do you need what you already have?

This is my 19th post for AtoZ2017.

I have completed this challenge once before, and published it as a kindle ebook.
You can get it on amazon: A to Z of Blogging: Take Your Blog To the Next Level.


Friday, April 21, 2017

A to Z of Happiness: R - Resilience #atozchallenge @AprilA2Z

Life is full of all kinds of challenges, hardships, setbacks and disappointments. So many times, things don't work out the way we planned. We fail in our endeavors, we suffer financial losses, or health issues, or heartbreaks... or all of them at once! (Oh yes! For some, all hell DOES break loose!)

But the thing about life is that it WANTS to live.

We all have an inherent survival instinct within us. And I'm not just talking about us humans, but about ALL living things. The whole planet, in fact. We are NOT made to give up. Perhaps, that's the reason for evolutionary adaption.

Our "default setting" is that of resilience. It is the ability to bounce back up after a fall. It allows us to come out of difficulties and adverse life conditions, by adapting and learning.


Resilience

So if "resilience" is in our very nature, why do SO MANY of us find it so difficult to "come back"? Why does it take so many years for some of us to heal, to recover, and to move on? And why do some people just quit? On their very existence?

As I was researching the internet on this topic, I learnt that resilient people have a specific set of characteristics. And surprisingly, all of those characteristics are present in my A-to-Z list of happiness! Which means that resilient people are naturally HAPPIER people! Have a look at these characteristics:


10 Ways In Which Resilient People Are Happier


  1. They have faith in their own strength and ability to overcome challenges. And they BELIEVE in life (Covered under 'B'), that it will give them a second chance.

  2. They have a goal to fight for, a goal they believe in, and that gives them the HOPE (Covered under 'H') and INSPIRATION (Covered under 'I') to get back on their feet and continue chasing their dreams with renewed vigor.

  3. They are OPTIMISTIC people (Covered under 'O') who look for the silver lining in every situation. For them, even their failures are opportunities to learn something new and better.

  4. They have a childlike desire to experiment and EXPLORE new possibilities (Covered under 'E'), which makes them more resilient. Their interest in "what was" is very quickly replaced by their curiosity of "what could be".

  5. They ACCEPT (Covered under 'A') that there are certain things they can't control, and simply DISREGARD them (Covered under 'D'), so that they can focus all their energy towards those battles which they have a chance of winning.

  6. Resilient people don't take life too seriously. They don't take their successes and failures too seriously either. They tend to look for the humor in every situation. And this element of JEST (Covered under 'J') is what helps them bounce back up so easily.

  7. They keep trying to find innovative solutions for their problems. When confronted with a challenge, their focus automatically shifts to "How can I better equip myself to deal with this?" They are seekers of KNOWLEDGE (Covered under 'K')... about themselves, about others, about their business/profession.

  8. They have a set of VALUES in life (Will be covered under 'V') that are important to them and that give a sense of purpose and direction to their life, like a "Vision/Mission Statement". When they face setbacks, they just pause for a moment, and then realign themselves with those values.

  9. Above all, they take responsibility for their health and WELL-BEING. (Will be covered under 'W'.) Because they know that they'll be able to fight again ONLY if they have sound physical, mental and emotional health.

  10. And lastly, they understand the importance of having a strong social support network, for dealing with personal tragedies. So they continuously strive to BUILD such a network around them, by being XENIAL (Will be covered under 'X') and spreading LOVE (Will be covered under 'L'.)

What these characteristics show us is that resilience and happiness are very closely linked to each other. But, MORE IMPORTANTLY, it also gives us an implementable action-plan to become more resilient, so that problems don't break us that easily. (Or at least not in so many pieces that we, like poor old Humpty Dumpty, cannot be put together again!)

And HOW do we become more resilient? By adopting the above characteristics as a part of our own personality.

Resilient people don't let adversity and stress define them. They always remember that things tend to work out in the end, because that's how life is. They live by the motto "this too shall pass", and believe that "what doesn't kill them, makes them stronger".

They experience grief, anger, pain, and all such negative emotions, just like everyone else, but they don't get "stuck" in those emotions. And, because of all the characteristics discussed above, they tend to find greater contentment from their lives.

I think I'm fairly resilient. And I think it's mostly because of my curiosity for learning new things. Although I DO need to work more on numbers 9 and 10.

What about you? Do you find it easy to bounce back up? How many of these characteristics do you think you have?

This is my 18th post for AtoZ2017.

I have completed this challenge once before, and published it as a kindle ebook.
You can get it on amazon: A to Z of Blogging: Take Your Blog To the Next Level.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

A to Z of Happiness: Q - Quietude #atozchallenge @AprilA2Z

Most people, when asked about their top 5 sources of inspiration, will list 'laying in bed', 'taking a shower', and 'a quiet walk'. What is common between these three sources? The quiet.

We live in times where quietude is a rarer commodity than real estate! Honks of traffic, TV debates, mobile phones buzzing at every Whatsapp message... that's the world we live in. Add to it the silent (i.e. non-verbal) chatter of social media. Constant information bombardment! Even when we are alone, our minds keep replaying most of this chatter back to us. And we probably don't even need to know 99.99% of this information, but because they occupy so much space in our mind all the time, we often miss hearing the 0.01% that actually might be useful for us.


Quietude

When I was in Patna, we stayed at one of the busiest intersections of the town. Right in the middle of the market. But when we moved to Jaipur, we selected an apartment towards the outer end of the town. Know why? Because of the greenery, the clean air, and the quiet. After years, I could finally hear the sound of birds chirping in the morning, instead of the honks of school buses.

What is the co-relation between quietness and happiness? What positive effects do peace and quiet have on our life?


5 Ways In Which Quietude Leads To Happiness


  1. Quietude Abates Anxiety

    While it's true that man is a social animal, it is also true that we need a little bit of peace and quiet too, to function optimally. Constant noise sends our mind into hyper-drive, whereas quiet surroundings have a settling effect on our minds. With practice, of course we can learn to quiet our minds even at noisy parties and busy malls, but for most of us, CALMNESS (covered under 'C') comes easier in undisturbed silence.

  2. Quietude Sparks Creativity.

    It is in silence that we are able to reach into the most creative and resourceful parts of our subconscious minds. That's when we are able to find solutions to our most challenging problems. That's when the "bulb goes on". That's why most of us find our muse in the stillness of mind. INSPIRATION (covered under 'I'), apparently, speaks in low volumes.

  3. Quietude Increases Awareness.

    Quiet and peaceful environments create a stillness within us. When our mind is not jumping around all over the place, like a hyperactive kid, we begin to notice things more. We become more aware of our surroundings and of ourselves. We are able to individually identify all the thoughts and feelings crossing our consciousness. In short, we become MINDFUL. (Covered under 'M'.)

  4. Quietude Cuts The Negativity.

    In my personal experience, too much of "connectedness" with the world only exposes us more to negativity. Be it TV or social media, or even social calls and visits. Most of the time, we only end up gossiping about others or comparing ourselves with others. I remember, during the few occasions when I went off Facebook for a month or more, I've been the most productive and most self-content. We need such moments of quiet to DISREGARD (covered under 'D') the negativity in our life.

  5. Quietude Intensifies Learning.

    Quiet environments facilitate alpha and theta brain states, the state of heightened learning and concentration, of insights and intuition. Children are naturally in alpha state most of the time, but, as we grow older, our default brain state shifts to beta, the state of reasoning and alertness. Beta is the state where we apply what we've learnt, but for absorption of KNOWLEDGE (covered under 'K'), we need to be in alpha.

In silence, the world seems full of possibilities. In silence, the past and future cease to exist, and we become content in the now. In silence, we hear voices we never get to hear in the rush and turmoil of life.

Quietude is perhaps a stimulating conversation for our spirit.

How much peace and quiet do you require in a day? Several hours or just a few minutes? How do you take a break from the noise of technology these days?

This is my 17th post for AtoZ2017.

I have completed this challenge once before, and published it as a kindle ebook.
You can get it on amazon: A to Z of Blogging: Take Your Blog To the Next Level.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

A to Z of Happiness: O - Optimism #atozchallenge @AprilA2Z

We've all heard of the famous quote by Winston Churchill that "a pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."

But, there is also a not-so-popular quote by Marianne Williamson that sums up optimism quite brilliantly. She says - "Children are happy because they don't have a file in their minds called 'All the Things That Could Go Wrong.'"

I think that's all the difference between an optimist and a pessimist.

Optimism is a mental state that expects things to get better, even during times of hardship. It is the belief that negative situations can be transformed into positive ones, and that we HAVE enough control over our lives to shape it in whatever manner we choose to.

While pessimism would have us believe that every little mistake or obstacle is "THE END", optimism lets us see it for what it actually is, and motivates us to find solutions and better ways of doing that task.


Optimism

Both pessimism and optimism are ways of thinking though, and not a permanent part of our personality. It means that we can CHOOSE to be either of them - a pessimist or an optimist. Our experiences during our growing-up years do tend to shape our inclination towards one of them, but it doesn't mean we are "hard-wired" and cannot change. And I know this from personal experience.

Why then should we choose to be optimistic rather than pessimistic?

Research has shown that optimism offers a lot more benefits than pessimism, in practically all areas of life, and ultimately, all these differences add up to making us happier individuals. Here are some of those benefits discussed in detail.


How Does Optimism Lead To Happiness?


Optimism Keeps Us Detached From Negativity.

If you are an optimist by default, then you wouldn't know how a pessimist thinks. I do, because I am one. Pessimists blame themselves for everything. Even if someone else is being a jerk, our first instinct is to see what we did wrong! Remember that "inner-critic" we discussed under DISREGARD (covered under 'D')? That inner-critic is especially loud and active in our cases. Add to it a critical environment too, and that's it. You'll never get us to do anything! I've learnt that adopting an optimistic way of thinking is the best way to remain unaffected by both the inner as well as outer demons.


Optimism Makes Us Hopeful.

While pessimism is rooted in our own lack of self worth, optimism is the belief that we have the ability to change things around us. Optimism is the feeling of "empowerment", as against the "helplessness" of pessimism. Optimism fulfills two out of the three HOPE postulates of Snyder (covered under 'H') - 1. Agency and 2. Pathways.


Optimism Prevents Us From Quitting.

Pessimistic people think along the lines of "This well never work!", "What's the use?", "I'm destined to be doomed!" They quit very quickly, be it a new diet plan, or a new exercise schedule, or jobs, or relationships... you name it! (This is my default setting, by the way.) Whereas optimistic people bounce back more easily from setbacks and disappointments. "It didn't work out today. Maybe I'll have better luck next time!" That's how they think. In short, optimism makes us more RESILIENT. (Will be covered under 'R'.)


Optimism Improves Our Health.

Research has shown that optimism has a positive effect on our physical and mental WELL-BEING. (Will be covered under 'W'.) It gives us a stronger immune system and helps us recover from illness more quickly and completely. It also makes us less prone to anxiety and depression. Besides, people with optimistic way of thinking naturally make healthier lifestyle choices, because they believe that they have control over their health.


Optimism Helps Us Maintain Good Relationships.

Optimistic people are mentally and emotionally better equipped to dealing with relationship challenges. They are more willing to give things another shot and try other ways of interacting. They are also more open to working upon themselves. Pessimism makes us withdraw from people, but optimism encourages us to go out and patch things up. In short, "put in the effort".


With so many benefits, it only makes sense to inculcate a mindset of optimism. I have realized that the "shift" happens when we take control of our own life. When our thought process changes from "there is nothing that I can do about this" to "what can I do to make this better". That is the point of transformation from pessimism to optimism.

What is your default state of mind - pessimism or optimism? What tactics do you use to get out of pessimistic situations and recharge your "hope meters"?

This is my 15th post for AtoZ2017.

I have completed this challenge once before, and published it as a kindle ebook.
You can get it on amazon: A to Z of Blogging: Take Your Blog To the Next Level.

Monday, April 17, 2017

A to Z of Happiness: N - Nature #atozchallenge @AprilA2Z

With the advent of cable TV, internet, and now mobile phones, our pastime activities have got more and more confined to the indoors. A lot of us spend weeks and months without any proximity to natural surroundings. But studies have shown time and again that getting involved with nature makes us healthier and happier, and not just because of the little bit of exercise we might get in the process!


Nature

Spending time with, interacting with, or even just observing and appreciating nature can have a marked difference on our happiness and vitality. Here are some ways in which being connected to nature promotes a sense of happiness.


How Does Nature Make Us Happier?


  1. Creates Acceptance.

    Spending time outdoors and interacting with nature, causes a shift in our perspective. We remember that we are not alone, that we are a very tiny part of something infinitely bigger and grandiose. And that helps us ACCEPT things as they are (covered under 'A'). We understand that everything around us has a role to play, and so do we.

  2. Reduces Anxiety and Hyper-Tension.

    There is something about nature that takes our stress away. Whether it is the deep blue of the ocean or the earthy greens and browns of plant life. Or maybe it is the realization that a force so much bigger than us has created all of this. And, in comparison, all our worries tend to fade away into insignificance. And CALMNESS descends over us. (Covered under 'C'.)

  3. Encourages Us to Explore.

    Being in nature brings out our sense of wonder. The different patterns on sea-shells, the varying colors on butterflies' wings, the shapes in the clouds, a new nest in the trees... we keep striving to discover more. The "new" doesn't frighten us anymore. Rather, it excites us. It fills us with a sense of possibilities. We become more open to EXPLORE. (Covered under 'E'.)

  4. Promotes A Sense of Gratitude.

    My shop is just a 2-minute walk from my building, but even that little bit of time fills me with GRATITUDE (covered under 'G'), as I notice all the trees along the way and the clear blue sky above me. And I'm reminded how nature provides for all my needs. Most of all, it reassures me of my own place in the grand scheme of things.

  5. Inspires Creativity.

    You look up any article on dealing with writers' block, and one of the suggestions will be to spend some time in nature! nature fuels our curiosity. Why do apples fall down and trees grow up? How do birds fly and fish swim? nature is perhaps the biggest source of INSPIRATION (covered under 'I') for human minds.

  6. Brings about Mindfulness.

    Spending some time with nature, just experiencing it and observing it, can help us become more grounded in the present moment. Whether we are gazing at the stars billions of light years away, or listening to the birds chirping at our window sill. (In my case, it's the top of my shop shutter! And they are busy chattering away right now, as if the fate of this world rested upon their tiny shoulders!) A connection with nature makes us more MINDFUL. (Covered under 'M'.)

  7. Makes Us Kinder and More Generous.

    In a research, one group of participants were made to stare at some very tall trees, and another group spent the same time looking up at high-rise buildings. The first group showed a measurable increase in feelings of awe, and demonstrated more helpful and ethical behavior even long after the experiment was concluded. Being in nature enhances our ability to connect with others and feel a part of one whole, making us more XENIAL. (Will be covered under 'X'.)

  8. Improves Our Health.

    Exposure to nature has scientifically proven benefits on our physical and mental WELL-BEING. (Will be covered under 'W'.) It strengthens our respiratory and cardiovascular systems, and alleviates depression. It relieves the attention fatigue and "burnout" caused by constant information overload in these times of ubiquitous technology, and restores our depleted mental circuits to their normal health.

Richard Ryan, a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, says that "nature is fuel for the soul". His advice to us is that when we feel tired and reach for that cup of coffee, we should instead go for a stroll in the park.

Nature makes us "feel more alive". No matter how busy our schedule may be, we must always try and find some time to appreciate the beauty and oneness of nature around us.

How do you make time for nature in your life? Do you have your own vegetable garden to nurture? Or a dog perhaps, to lead you in search of rabbit holes? Or are you a part of some photography group that holds weekly "photo walks"? How do you get your daily dose of nature?

This is my 14th post for AtoZ2017.

I have completed this challenge once before, and published it as a kindle ebook.
You can get it on amazon: A to Z of Blogging: Take Your Blog To the Next Level.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

A to Z of Happiness: M - Mindfulness #atozchallenge @AprilA2Z

Mindfulness is a centuries old therapeutic technique, used for focusing our awareness on the present moment... on our thoughts, feelings, actions and bodily sensations RIGHT NOW... so that we don't get distracted by our environment and the inherently flighty nature of our mind. Mindfulness reduces stress and improves effectiveness in our day-to-day life. It helps us control our mind, so that we can use it to our maximum advantage.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, a well-known author and founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts, says - "Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally."

Psychologist Scott Bishop describes mindfulness as a “nonelaborative, nonjudgmental, present-centered awareness in which each thought, feeling, sensation that arises... is acknowledged and accepted as it is.”


Mindfulness

When we are mindful, we do things "purposefully", not just for the sake of completing them. When we are mindful, we don't keep switching to and fro between regrets about the past and worry about the future. When we are mindful, we don't "react" to our experiences, we simply witness, and, if required, we "respond".

So how exactly does mindfulness affect our happiness quotient?


5 Ways In Which Mindfulness Leads To Happiness


1. Mindfulness Makes Us More Grateful.

Our life is full of countless blessings. From the air that we breathe, to our bodies, which we so carelessly neglect. But our minds our usually so "full" that we never notice how blessed we are. If we start paying attention to our life, moment by moment, we will find that we have a million things to be grateful for every single day. An attitude of GRATITUDE (Covered under 'G') makes way for happiness in life.


2. Mindfulness Increases Productivity.

When we do something with all our focus and attention, our memory and concentration automatically increases. We are able to learn more, faster. We are able to recall things better. We tend to make fewer or no mistakes. Our quality of work improves. And we are able to complete the task at hand quicker.


3. Mindfulness Makes Us Content From Within.

When we are fully focused in whatever we are doing, we know that we are giving it our best. Whether it is the preparation of an important client presentation at work, or something as mundane as brushing our teeth in the morning. We know we haven't forgotten anything. We know we haven't made any careless mistakes. We are confident that we have given our hundred percent. And that gives us a sense of inner satisfaction.


4. Mindfulness Cuts the Negative Chatter In Our Minds.

Human minds can hold only one thought at a time. Most of the time when we get caught in a loop of mental negativity, it happens because we don't even realize that we've started on thoughts that make us unhappy. Because we haven't been paying attention to what we were doing. When we learn to be mindful, the moment we notice that a negative thought has crept into our mind, we can instantly change it with some other positive thought. Mindfulness helps us see thoughts as clouds floating by through our consciousness. It shows us that WE have the POWER to decide which thoughts will stay and which won't.


5. Mindfulness Improves Our Inter-Personal Relations.

Would you like it if your partner, despite knowing the fact that you're an asthmatic and allergic to cigarette smoke, started smoking around you? Forget allergies, let's talk about likes. Have you never been annoyed at your mom for packing something in your school lunch box that you hated? We expect our closed ones to be "mindful" of our needs, don't we? Likewise, we also tend to get closer to people who show sensitivity to our needs.


Despite all its benefits, mindfulness is not our "default" state. It has to be developed by conscious effort and practice. There are three key elements of mindfulness:

  1. Intent: You must consciously WANT to be fully aware in your present moment (and do this repeatedly, whenever your awareness shifts).
  2. Focus: You only need to pay attention to what is happening RIGHT NOW. What you are doing, what you are feeling, what you are thinking, what does the air feel like around you...
  3. Attitude: Just watch. Do not judge. Do not react. Only witness.

Do you try to practice mindfulness in your daily life? If yes, then how do you do it? How has being mindful improved your life or your relationships?

This is my 13th post for AtoZ2017.

I have completed this challenge once before, and published it as a kindle ebook.
You can get it on amazon: A to Z of Blogging: Take Your Blog To the Next Level.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

A to Z of Happiness: K - Knowledge #atozchallenge @AprilA2Z

What makes us humans different from the rest of the animal kingdom? What makes us more "evolved"? It is our ability to process and store knowledge, and to use it not just to survive, but to thrive. The rest of the animal kingdom adapts or goes extinct, but we have the ability to think and innovate. This applied "knowledge" is what makes us superior.

Seeking knowledge is intrinsic to human nature. Knowledge about our world, knowledge about how things work, even knowledge about ourselves and our very existence! (Of course, there are some things you're better off remaining ignorant about. For example, knowledge of what it's like to have kidney infection or UTI!)


Knowledge

According to some schools of thought, acquiring knowledge could perhaps be the only reason of our existence. We are born, we learn things, we pass on our knowledge to the next generation, and then we die. Remember the movie Lucy?

How does pursuit of knowledge lead to happiness then?


4 Ways In Which Knowledge Leads To Happiness


1. Pursuit of Knowledge Gives Us A Goal.

Pursuit, of anything, gives us a sense of purpose. When we go after our "goals", it activates the "seeking" neurological structures in our body, which in turn generate Dopamine - a chemical, responsible for increased alertness, focus and concentration. And doing something with all our concentration creates a state of MINDFULNESS (will be covered under 'M'). It leads to a sense of greater satisfaction, making us happier.


2. Knowledge Helps Us Shape Our Destiny.

Knowledge is power. It gets us closer to our goals. Whatever we want to achieve in life, we need to take constant steps in that direction. And knowledge gives us the power to decide what steps to take. Our life is the sum total of the outcomes of our decisions. And "informed decisions" can influence those outcomes towards a course that makes us happier. A very small example... if I KNOW that kids will come looking for friendship bands at my shop, in the first week of August, I can plan ahead and stock them in time. Satisfied customers, AND more sales for me! That is the power of knowledge.


3. Expansion of Knowledge Increases Our Self Confidence.

Snyder's HOPE postulates (covered under 'H') included creating "pathways". Multiple routes to reach our goals. Keeping an open mind and always pushing our self to learn new skills and new things, ensures the creation of those multiple channels. Knowing that we have more than one way of achieving our dreams, makes us more confident of our own abilities, and increases our self esteem.


4. Knowledge Improves Inter-Personal Relationships.

Being knowledgeable about the world and things around us gives us something to talk about with strangers. Makes it easier to engage with others. Whether it is at work, or during "solo" train journeys. Having knowledge about the people around us... what motivates them, what shaped them in the past... helps us interact better with them. Leads to fewer conflicts. And knowledge about our self makes us aware of our "buttons", so that we can avoid reacting when they're pushed.


Without knowledge, we cannot progress in life. And without progress, there can never be happiness. But sometimes, too much knowledge can also seem overwhelming. For example, if I had known ten years ago that blogging would require such a lot of work, I might not have started it. But then I would have missed out on a secondary source of income. And some lovely friends.

So maybe not "all" knowledge is right for "all" of us. And maybe not "all" of it is right at "all" times. But knowing the "what" and "when" requires more knowledge. Ignorance, then, is not bliss... it is chaos. We need knowledge to be happy in life, but we also need the knowledge of "selection" of that knowledge.

Have you ever made a mistake in life, because you didn't "know better" at that time? Have you ever missed any opportunity in life because you didn't have the required knowledge for it then? Did an unexpected "door" ever open up for you because of some knowledge you acquired years ago but never thought you'd use?

This is my 11th post for AtoZ2017.

I have completed this challenge once before, and published it as a kindle ebook.
You can get it on amazon: A to Z of Blogging: Take Your Blog To the Next Level.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

A to Z of Happiness: J - Jest #atozchallenge @AprilA2Z

There are these two 10-11 year old girls in my neighborhood, who come to my shop very often to buy pens and other small stationery items. And they always have jokes to share with me. "May I tell you a joke?", one of them will ask me, and then continue on without waiting for an answer! :D Then there is this other girl, probably 7 year old. She usually comes with her grandpa, and she has him totally wrapped around her little finger, with all her wit and playfulness! Always manages to coax him into buying more than he'd originally agreed to! (But you don't see me complaining at that, do you?)

A lot of kids at my store are like that. Everything seems funny to them. When they run short of cash, that's something to laugh about. When that expensive pen they bought 2 days ago got "lost" at school and they got scolded at home for it, naturally that was one of the funniest things to happen them. So was the time when they fell off their bike and scraped their elbow. (Oh yes! I get to hear "those" stories too! Little boys love to brag, don't you know?) One 12-year-old finds it most amusing when his mom threatens to lock him out of the house if he spent more than "X" amount of money in my shop that day!


Jest

Kids don't take life as seriously as us adults. They simply find the humor in everything, jest their way out of any tricky situations, and win everybody's hearts with their innocent laughs. Nothing fazes them. They know, then, what we tend to forget somewhere between getting voting rights and becoming grandparents.


3 Ways In Which Humor and Jest Lead To Happiness


1. Humor Improves Our Physical Health.

A good, hearty laugh is good for the heart. No, really! It's a fact. Laughter exercises those muscles and blood vessels, and increases blood flow. It releases endorphins in our blood stream, that act as temporary analgesics and promote overall WELL-BEING. (Will be covered under 'W'.) It also reduces stress hormones in our body, and boosts our immune system.

2. Humor Keeps Us More Positive.

Remember Bruce Willis in the Die Hard series? Even in hostile enemy territory, he never stops making wisecracks and funny one-liners. Humor not only puts a stop to feelings of anxiety and anger, but also helps release stress and recharge our energy. It shifts our perspective from "I am doomed" to "Anything is possible". And, most importantly, it helps us get emotionally detached from our stressful situation, putting us in a state of mind from where we can find better solutions and ways out.

3. Humor Enhances Inter-personal Relationships.

Humans naturally gravitate towards jovial, optimistic people. We bond more easily with people whom we laugh with. Our jocular colleagues are the ones who are considered first for that promotion at work. Humor makes people forget their hurts, resentments, disagreements, and doubts. And nothing diffuses conflict faster than humor. Besides, remember Jim Carrey in that boardroom scene in Liar Liar?


One of the best ways to develop our sense of humor is to stop taking ourselves so seriously. Everyone loves a person who can laugh at himself. You know which were my two most popular blog posts on social media (i.e. Facebook)? "When I blushed" and "When I got locked in the bathroom at my best friend's wedding"! :D

So... do you have any such personal "goof-up" story to share that could tickle my funny-bone?

This is my tenth post for AtoZ2017.

I have completed this challenge once before, and published it as a kindle ebook.
You can get it on amazon: A to Z of Blogging: Take Your Blog To the Next Level.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

A to Z of Happiness: I - Inspiration #atozchallenge @AprilA2Z

The Oxford Dictionary defines inspiration as:

"The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative".

People usually associate inspiration with the creative sorts - artists, musicians, writers, scientists. But inspiration isn't limited to only a select few. The fact is that all of us, regardless of what our profession may be, need inspiration to remain happy and productive.

It is very easy to spot an inspired person among us. He could be a doctor or a teacher or even your neighborhood shop-owner. (Like me!) He could be anybody who does his job with love and imagination. Anybody who keeps discovering new, creative ways to solve the challenges in his line of work. A person who is FUELED by problems, not discouraged by them. A person who is inherently curious, and every new challenge is an opportunity for him to learn something new.


Inspiration

6 Ways In Which Inspiration Leads To Happiness


  1. Inspiration gives us a purpose in life. Like that apple did for Newton. It gives us something to strive for. (Snyder's first HOPE Postulate - Covered under 'H'.)

  2. Inspiration opens us to new possibilities and changes the way we perceive our own capabilities. Inspired people have higher self-esteem. They have greater confidence in their own competence and creative ability to achieve their goals. (Snyder's second and third HOPE Postulates - Covered under 'H'.)

  3. Inspiration makes us more receptive to new experiences. Inspired people are naturally more willing to EXPLORE. (Covered under 'E'.) They are like kids. A little spark can set them off on new "treasure hunts"!

  4. Inspiration leads to greater absorption in our work. And it is a scientifically proven fact that whenever we do something with all out heart in it, we enjoy it more. MINDFULNESS leads to contentment. (Will be covered under 'M'.)

  5. Inspiration motivates people intrinsically rather than extrinsically. That is why, when we are truly inspired, we are not affected so much by our work conditions. Workplace clutter goes unnoticed. We forget to have our meals. (I know I do that!) We can thrive on fewer hours of sleep. We don't care what others around us are doing. In short, the "small stuff" doesn't affect us anymore. Inspirations fuels our inner drive... our PASSION. (Will be covered under 'P'.)

  6. Inspiration inculcates GRATITUDE in our life. (Covered under 'G'.) Ask anyone who was ever "hit" by inspiration, and he'll say it felt as if the idea was suddenly "planted" in his mind by some "higher force". The more inspired we are, the more grateful we are... to whatever it is that guides us.

So How Do We Find Inspiration?

Well. Inspiration is like lightening. It can hit us anywhere, and at any time. So, obviously, there cannot be a set "formula" that might work for everyone, right?

At the most, what we can do is to learn how to create a state that attracts that bolt of lightning to us. In other words, we can figure out what works as a "Lightning Rod/Conductor" for us.

All we need to do for this is:

1) Monitor the things and situations that inspire us most.
2) Incorporate them in our natural work flow, so that we become constant "magnets" for inspiration.

My top five sources of inspiration are:

1) Stimulating phone conversations
2) Spending time with kids
3) Necessity (that makes me very innovative!)
4) Quiet (at night in bed, or in the shower)
5) Reading (books, blogs, Facebook updates)

Your turn now. What are your top 5 sources of inspiration? Do you feel happier when you are inspired?

This is my ninth post for AtoZ2017.

I have completed this challenge once before, and published it as a kindle ebook.
You can get it on amazon: A to Z of Blogging: Take Your Blog To the Next Level.

Monday, April 10, 2017

A to Z of Happiness: H - Hope #atozchallenge @AprilA2Z

Life is full of challenges, disappointments, and failures. At times, we feel so stuck in our life situations that we feel like giving up... on our dreams, on our health, on the people in our lives, even on ourselves. But Nature didn't create us to quit. We're not meant to give up. Not without a struggle, no. And that is why we possess something called "hope".

Hope is the belief that things will fall into place, even if it doesn't seem so right now. Hope shows us a better "future", even when the "today" looks bleak. When logic screams in your head - "This will never work!"... hope whispers gently - "Anything is possible!" Hope is what keeps us going, when the going gets bad. Hope is that state of mind that allows us to believe that things will change for good.


Hope

10 Documented Effects and Benefits of Hope


  1. reduces anxiety and depression
  2. brings about positivity and optimism
  3. induces a greater sense of meaning in life
  4. increases productivity and makes you persistent
  5. enhances self-esteem and builds self confidence
  6. leads to physical, emotional, and financial well-being
  7. promotes healthy living and increases longevity
  8. makes you more tolerant, inspired and grateful
  9. improves your relationships and social life
  10. helps in easier and quicker recovery from illness

So if hope is so beneficial and is supposed to be a "natural" mental state for us, how come so many of us end up without it?

Psychologist Charles Richard Snyder states - "hope is a process of goal-directed thoughts that reflects both - the belief that one can find pathways to the goal, and has motivation based on one’s perceived capabilities or thinking."

Snyder postulated that hope requires the following 3 thought components:

  1. Goals – Clearly defined, meaningful objectives, that give you a sense of PURPOSE in life.
  2. Agency – The sense of empowerment, that you have what it takes, to facilitate CHANGE in your life conditions.
  3. Pathways – The knowledge that you are capable of figuring out MULTIPLE channels/routes to achieve your goals.

so how exactly do these three things add up to form hope?

Snyder's Hope Postulates (Requirements for Hope):

GOALS:

Human beings are dreamers. We dream, and then we work to make those dreams come true. And when we achieve them, we weave some more dreams. It is what we live for. It is what makes us jump out of our beds every morning. And look forward to the day in hand. But sometimes, our dreams get broken, leaving us without anything to aspire for. And sometimes, they can be so brutally trampled upon by other people that we might even become too scared to dream again!

Not knowing where you want to go or what you want to do in your life can easily suck you into feelings of despair. You lose your sense of purpose in life. You don't know what you're here for. You have no reason to get out of bed every morning. Or get out of your pajamas into something nicer. Or get a haircut. Or go out and meet people. Or cook.

You don't feel like you're adding any value to the world in any way. You are merely... existing. You try to picture yourself 5 years into the future, and you see yourself exactly where you are right now, doing the exact same things. You're stuck here, in this very spot, for the rest of your life. You cannot move, well... because you DON'T KNOW where to go! That's when you start questioning your very existence. "Why am I even still alive?"

Dreams are important. In order to have hope, we need to have realistic goals in life. Always. No matter how badly we failed in the past, or how much it hurt in the past.

AGENCY:

Human beings need to feel empowered. We need to be able to believe that we have some amount of control over our lives, that we CAN affect change when required. Feelings of "helplessness" can very easily turn into "hopelessness".

This is probably where most of us get stuck. We grow up in such critical environments that many of us aren't even aware of our own capabilities. Oh we all know what we're bad at... we keep hearing it so often, both from others as well as our own inner critic... but what we're GOOD at is something that we're never quite confident of!

In order to have hope, we need to be able to recognize our own strengths and skills. What are you good at? What can you do? What do you know? How can your specific skill-set help you realize your goals? If we have conviction in our abilities, and believe that we can reach our goals, we will never despair.

And for that, we need to learn to DISREGARD the negativity in our lives. (Covered under 'D'.) We need to allow only those people in our lives who are appreciative of us, who help us see how wonderful and amazing we are. We need to network with people who BELIEVE in us, so that OUR belief becomes strong. (Covered under 'B'.) And we need to keep doing more of what we know we're good at.

PATHWAYS:

We've all heard of the saying, "Do not keep all your eggs in one basket", haven't we? Well... Snyder's "Pathways" are our multiple "baskets" of hope. Even if we drop one basket, we still have other ways to get to our destination. And all it requires is a little bit of proactive thinking.

You need to prepare for multiple options/ways of reaching your goals. (Plan A, Plan B, Plan C... the more the merrier!) Some of those options may be less desirable than the others, but the fact that they ARE there, in case you need them, provides a higher probability of reaching your goals. The knowledge, that you have multiple cushions to fall back upon, automatically makes you more optimistic of achieving your goals.

So invest in the diverse... be it your financial portfolio, or your relationships, or your skills. EXPLORE new possibilities and ideas. (Covered under 'E'.) Take up new challenges and hobbies. Learn new skills. Work on your imperfections and limitations. Interact with new people. Always keep striving towards creating new channels and pathways towards your goals. (See... that, in itself, can be a goal to wake up for!)


People without hope are not just unhappy, they are depressed. They are stuck in a tunnel with NO LIGHT at the end. They are the ones who flush their medicines down the toilet and put a knife to their wrist, or a rope around their neck. They hide in their "cave" and refuse to come out.

I am no psychologist. And I'd never heard of Snyder or his 3 postulates until yesterday (when I started doing research for this post). But I DO know what living without hope means. And I know that Snyder's theory is correct. I had to work upon all 3 of these to come out of that mental state. And I wish now that somebody had told me about them back then. Maybe my phase of "despair" wouldn't have lasted for so long.

Today, I'm only going to ask you ONE question at the end of this post. Do you know of anyone who might be exhibiting signs of such acute despair... or depression? If yes, then PLEASE share this article with him/her. Just knowing that they're not losing their mind, and that there actually IS a step-by-step method they can follow, to restore positivity and meaning in their life, will give them the hope they so badly need. Thank you.

This is my eighth post for AtoZ2017.

I have completed this challenge once before, and published it as a kindle ebook.
You can get it on amazon: A to Z of Blogging: Take Your Blog To the Next Level.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

A to Z of Happiness: G - Gratitude #atozchallenge @AprilA2Z

The root of our unhappiness lies in the fact that human beings, as a general rule, are inclined towards hedonistic adaptation. Seeking pleasure, by itself, is not so bad. But getting used to it and taking it for granted, feeling a sense of "entitlement" towards it, that's a perfect recipe for disappointments, frustrations and unhappiness.

Most of us keep waiting for something big to happen in our lives, so that we could take out our fine china and open that bottle of expensive wine to celebrate. But that gives us so few opportunities to celebrate in life, doesn't it? If we only focus on the "big" things in life, we'll spend most of our life being unhappy.


Gratitude

The last decade of my life has been tough. There were a lot of setbacks, harassment and illnesses, and hardly any of the so-called "big" things that I could celebrate. (Except for my sister's wedding and my move to Jaipur perhaps, and even these were lined with so many little frustrations!)

That's when I learnt to appreciate the "little" blessings in my life. Most of all, my own body. (Which is probably the one thing that is taken most "for granted" and abused!)

I don't want to start a list here of all the things I learnt to be grateful for... (maybe some other time, in some other post) but I do want to share what I realized about the importance of gratitude in staying happy.


5 Ways In Which Gratitude Leads To Happiness


  1. Gratitude checks our hedonistic adaption tendencies.

    I first noticed this tendency when I used to play FarmVille on Facebook. We all had become so addicted to getting ALL the new stuff released in the game! It didn't matter whether we had any use for them or not, we wanted them anyway. If only to dump them in our "storage"! We'd become hoarders! And we hardly spent any time enjoying the things we'd already won in the game, because we would immediately start trying to get the "next" thing!

    Our happiness, on achieving something new, is so short lived! The more we get, the more we want! And the more dissatisfied we become with what we have! It is like a madness!

    Practicing gratitude for all our little achievements puts a stop to this insatiable insanity. It prevents us from taking the good for granted, and helps us in remaining detached from the positive circumstances in our life. "This too shall pass." So enjoy it while it lasts.

  2. Gratitude helps us sail through tough times.

    This is actually just the reverse of the above point. Gratitude keeps us from getting attached to the positivity in our life, but at the same time, it also helps us maintain an emotional distance from our rough times, because we realize that even they will pass!

    Good times, bad times... they're BOTH merely passing through our life. We don't identify with either. We're not "entitled" to either.

    Practicing gratefulness helps us remember that. Consequently, it reduces the intensity of our suffering during stressful and traumatic times.

  3. Gratitude raises our self esteem.

    We are usually conditioned to focus on our shortcomings and failures... and all the things we don't have in life. "I can't do this... I'm so bad at this... I don't have this...!"

    Making a conscious effort to remain grateful shifts our focus to our virtues, accomplishments, and all that we DO have in life. "I am awesome at this! I did that! I have this, this, and this! I have soooo much!"

    How can you suffer from self worth issues when you KNOW, for a fact, that you're living in so much abundance?

  4. Gratitude improves our interpersonal relationships.

    If we were to make a list of the most "taken for granted" items in our life, our family and friends... people who love us and are always there for us... will probably take second place (after our own body). They're the ones who are most exploited and unappreciated!

    All of us like being appreciated. Yet, all of us are so miserly when it comes to appreciating others. If WE feel so happy when someone sincerely thanks us for something, doesn't it then follow that OTHERS will also feel equally happy on receiving a sincere word of appreciation from us?

    It is basic human nature, isn't it? We like being with people who appreciate us. We tend to do MORE for the people who appreciate us.

  5. Gratitude attracts more of things to be grateful for.

    This follows logically from the previous point. If we express our sincere gratitude to the people in our life, they automatically do more for us. If we express our gratitude for that as well, they do even more.

    Thus forms a cycle that feeds and strengthens itself. This works not just with people, but with the entire Universe. This is the "Law of Abundance".

I know from personal experience that it is almost impossible to remain thankful when nothing seems to be working in your life, when whatever you do goes wrong. But, I also know (again, from personal experience) that it is even more important to stay grateful during such times.

Gratitude is not just a word. It is a way of living, acquired through diligent conscious practice and mindfulness. Being thankful for the little things. The food on our plate and all those random strangers who've worked to get it there. Our family and friends. Our sometimes shitty jobs that still help us make ends meet. Our newspaper vendor, who gets up at such ungodly hour in the morning, just to ensure that we get our daily dose of news with our morning tea. The guards in our building, who open the gate for us so that we don't have to get out of our car.

If we start thinking about it, the list will be endless, you know! We'd end up saying "Thanks" at least 10,000 times a day! How can we remain unhappy if we have so much to be thankful for?

Do you practice gratitude as a part of your daily life? I know some of my regular blog buddies do. Would you care to share your experiences since you started expressing gratitude?

This is my seventh post for AtoZ2017.

I have completed this challenge once before, and published it as a kindle ebook.
You can get it on amazon: A to Z of Blogging: Take Your Blog To the Next Level.

Friday, April 7, 2017

A to Z of Happiness: F - Forgiveness #atozchallenge @AprilA2Z

Holding on to a grudge is like taking rat poison and hoping that the rat will die. ('Rat' being the person who wronged you, obviously!)

In reality though, it harms only you and, if you allow it to get out of hand, the people in your life who actually love you and support you. The person who wronged you remains oblivious to your pain, and carries on with his life as if you never existed.


Forgiveness

I usually don't find it difficult to forgive others. There are two reasons for it.

  1. Being a Capricorn, I tend to allow very few people into my emotional center, where they might have the power to hurt me DEEPLY.

  2. I began to understand, from a very early age, that many of us are weak. And weak people hurt others. Because they need that "power boost" over others to feel strong. Strong people don't have any such power or control issues that they might need to take advantage of others.

Yet, a few years ago, I found myself in an unprecedented position, where I simply couldn't find it in me to forgive someone who had hurt me deeply. Probably hurt me more than anyone else ever had.

Oh I didn't stay up at night plotting revenge or anything. (Capricorns are too practical-headed for that sort of thing. I mean, it's a sheer waste of time, right? And us 'mountain goats' don't believe in wastage!) But, I couldn't bring myself to forgive this person. Not till some time last year.

And during all this while, I realized some important things about forgiveness.


9 Things You Must Know About Forgiveness


  1. It is soooo easy to "preach" about forgiveness, but when you're actually experiencing the pain of betrayal, forgiveness is not even the LAST thing on your mind! In fact, it actually feels like an invalidation of your feelings and your hurt, every time somebody tells you to "forgive"!

  2. Normal unenlightened human-beings don't come with a switch called "forgiveness", that they can just press and instantly move on! They have to first process through all the different emotions involved... hurt, anger, resentment, grief, bitterness, pain, sadness... PLUS all the insecurities and fears associated with creating a new unknown future. This takes time, and every one goes through this phase at his own pace, depending also upon the kind of support network he has.

  3. Not forgiving is like creating this giant wall around us, with all our hurt and hatred and bitterness. It is a kind of defense tactic, to "protect" us from further hurt. We've been violated. And therefore, we realize instinctively that we are weak and vulnerable. So these "walls" stay, until we recover our strength again.

    (I remember my biggest fear during this period was about letting this person back into my life and getting hurt again. I didn't think I had the strength then to walk away. Deep emotional ties ARE hard to break, you know. So I deliberately replayed all the hurt and pain in my mind, over and over again, just to make sure that I didn't forgive. I needed that wall, you see.)

  4. They say that you must forgive and forget, but in reality, you don't need to forget. On the contrary, you should actually remember it, for the lesson it contained.

  5. Forgiveness doesn't mean reconciliation. You don't need to let those people back into your life. You can forgive them and still refuse to talk to them or even answer their emails. Forgiving them doesn't mean you owe them any part or space in your life. (I didn't know this for such a long time! I wouldn't have been so scared of forgiving this person otherwise!)

  6. Forgiveness doesn't need an act of "penance" from the person who wronged you. It doesn't need ANYthing from that person actually. Except perhaps space. All you really need is to be left in peace, to not be reminded of the incident in any way, so that you can heal, and move on.

  7. Forgiveness doesn't absolve the person who wronged you from guilt or blame. There are some wrongs that can't be written off. There are some wrongs that cause permanent damage. Just because you forgive them, doesn't mean that they are not responsible for it anymore. You're not "setting them free" from anything by forgiving them. You don't NEED to set them free. You only need to set YOURSELF free... from that pain and suffering and helplessness.

  8. Forgiving the other person is so much easier than forgiving yourself for allowing that person to take advantage of you, for putting your faith in someone who didn't deserve it, for being so gullible and naive.

  9. No matter how long it takes you, eventually you just have to forgive. For your own sake. Because YOU don't need to be a hostage to a memory. You deserve better than this pain and bitterness. You deserve joy... and hope.


It is only when we are seriously shattered by someone that we feel like we'll never be able to forgive him. It can take a long time to pick all the broken pieces of our life together, and even then, we might never recover all that we lost. Things might never go back to being as they were before. WE might never be that same person anymore.

But forgiving that person, despite all this, means that we finally have the courage to venture into the "unknown". It means that our past and the person who wronged us don't have any control over us anymore. We were weak when we were hurt, but now, we are strong. And we look forward to our new "adventure".

Have you ever been in a position where you couldn't forgive someone who wronged you? What helped you move on then? What did you learn along the way? Do you feel comfortable sharing your experience with us in the comments below?

This is my sixth post for AtoZ2017.

I have completed this challenge once before, and published it as a kindle ebook.
You can get it on amazon: A to Z of Blogging: Take Your Blog To the Next Level.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

A to Z of Happiness: E - Explore #atozchallenge @AprilA2Z

Have you ever noticed? Kids are always so much happier than adults! What is the one big difference between kids and grown-ups?

Kids love to explore. They are constantly exposing themselves to new things and new experiences. Grown-ups, on the other hand, like to stick with the tried and tested, the familiar, the comfortable, the well-beaten path.



In order to be truly happy and to enjoy life, we need to be like kids. We need to let out our adventurous side. We need to allow ourselves to stray away from the beaten path and try something new every once in a while. Here are a few things we should be open to exploring.


Four Things We Should Be Ready To Explore


Explore New Ideas

The world is a huge place with so much to offer. Most of the time, we don't bother to look beyond the obvious. We never bother to scratch below the surface.

"Think out of the box". We've heard it so many times, but how many people actually DO think out of the box?

At the risk of sounding repetitive, I'm going to refer to M. S. Dhoni again. During tough situations in a match, he pulls out fresh ideas like rabbits out of his magic hat, e.g., bringing Virat Kohli out to bowl!

There is an ocean full of ideas, and all we need to do is go fishing!


Explore New Opportunities

When I was hired as a Technical Support Executive for Dell, I had no prior experience or training of computer hardware. I only knew of software installation and computer programming. I decided to explore the opportunity that had presented itself before me, and I discovered later that I was good at the job.

I opened my store also without any prior business experience, and I would say I'm doing pretty okay at it, considering the fact that about half a dozen other businesses, that opened in my neighborhood around that time, have either shut down or relocated.

Life presents strange opportunities to us at times. It is up to us whether we give them a try or not.


Explore New Methods

Have you ever left a baby with food? He'll stare at it, poke it, drop it, smash it, play ball with it, stuff it under the sofa cushions, and rub it in his hair. He'll do everything with it and... maybe... even eat it!

I'm not suggesting you do the same, but there can be more than one way of doing things. There's actually a book on 365 Ways To Cook Eggs! (Check it out on amazon.com or amazon.in.)

We may have been doing something a particular way throughout our life. That doesn't mean that we cannot try any other way. One approach may not work, but the next one just might. Remember those maze puzzles we solved as kids? No need to despair without trying a new method.


Explore New Perspectives

We usually tend to go by first impressions, whether we're dealing with situations in life or people. We look at something, read the first interpretation that comes to our mind, and hold it as the truth. Rarely do we stop to look at it from a different angle or viewpoint.

But we forget: even a dice has six different faces. Life and people are so much more multi-dimensional and multi-faceted than a dice.

So just pause to look at your problems and worries from a different perspective. (Recommended reading: Live Life: Find A New Perspective) You might realize your problems are actually blessings in disguise.


It is easy to fall into our comfort zone and remain there, but life gets stagnant there after a while, and it becomes difficult to find happiness in the same old day-to-day routine of doing things. Opening ourselves to newer experiences brings an element of freshness in our life and infuses it with renewed joy and vigor. It also brings a sense of achievement at having tried something new, which leaves us feeling more positive.

How do you add the element of newness in your life? Do you like to explore new ideas and opportunities? Or do you like to stick with the old and comfortable?

This is my fifth post for AtoZ2017.

I have completed this challenge once before, and published it as a kindle ebook.
You can get it on amazon: A to Z of Blogging: Take Your Blog To the Next Level.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

A to Z of Happiness: D - Disregard #atozchallenge @AprilA2Z

All of us want to be happy, but all of us are influenced by negativity from all directions, be it from the outside or from within us. Negative criticism from people we know, or own own negative habits, or even the negative voices in our head--all of them steal our joy, self confidence and happiness. In order to be truly happy, we need to learn how to ignore and disregard all such negativity in our life.



There are three sources of most negativity in our lives - negativity from our relationships, negativity from our environment, and negativity from within us. Here's how we can deal with them so that they don't affect our happiness.

Negativity From Our Relationships

Have you ever noticed how conversations with some people leave us feeling totally drained and bad about ourselves and our life?

There are people who never have anything good to say about us. They can only criticize us whenever we are around them. And there are some who never have anything good to say about their own lives. They are always unhappy about something or always complaining about something. Such people are like energy vampires. They suck all happiness out of us. (Being a PotterHead, I like to think of them as "dementors".)

We must make it a point to spend as little time as possible with them. And whatever time we do spend with them, we must make a habit of disregarding all the negative words they throw at us, so that their negativity doesn't get to us. We must set clear boundaries in our relationships. At the same time, we need to surround ourselves with more positive and upbeat people. Their passion, enthusiasm and energy will keep us mentally and emotionally charged.

Negativity From Our Environment

Once upon a time, more than 15 years ago, there used to be just one TV channel, and news was telecast once every morning and night. Now, we have innumerable dedicated news channels, bombarding us with negativity 24 by 7. On top of that, we also have the self-proclaimed jury on social media, ready to give their verdict (mostly negative) on everything under the sun.

The media will constantly tell us that the world is a bad place to live in, that life consists of sufferings, and that we need to meet really high standards to be accepted in the social world, but all that is not true. (Just look back to your life 15 years ago.)

We need to limit such toxic media. Instead, we must spend more time doing stuff that makes us feel good and helps us appreciate our life.

Negativity From Within Us

We can cut the negative media from our lives and avoid the negative people, but what about that voice inside our head? Our inner critic? The one whose favorite pastime is to regret our past choices and worry about our future. The one who keeps telling us all the time that we are not good enough. How do we distance ourselves from that voice? Is there a way we can throw it out of our head?

No, there isn't. But we can practice to ignore that voice and make it shut up for at least some time during the day. We can do more of things that we know we're good at. I've found that learning new things, taking up new challenges, always works for me.

We need to develop the habit of focusing on our DREAMS instead of our fears. We need to accept ourselves as we are, to shut our inner critic. We must learn to forgive (will be covered under "F"), to let go of the regrets. And we must believe in the best of ourselves and others, to let go of the worry.


If we go to a restaurant and happen to order something new that doesn't quite agree with us, we don't feel obliged to eat it anyway, do we? We just leave it. We need to practice the same approach when we are served any kind of negativity in life. Just disregard it.

What do you do when you encounter toxic people? How do you deal with them? How much time do you give to the media and social media per day? What techniques do you practice to control the negative thoughts in your mind?

This is my fourth post for AtoZ2017.

I have completed this challenge once before, and published it as a kindle ebook.
You can get it on amazon: A to Z of Blogging: Take Your Blog To the Next Level.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

A to Z of Happiness: C - Calmness #atozchallenge @AprilA2Z

Anxiety is a big sucker of happiness. It makes us lie awake at night, tossing and turning in bed, while millions of random thoughts stream through our mind. It keeps us in a mental hyper-drive throughout the day, eating away at our productivity and draining us out faster. It makes us fearful about things that will probably never happen. It steals all joy and wisdom from our present moment.



I have often looked at the Indian cricket team captain, M. S. Dhoni, with admiration. No matter what happens on the field during a match, he never has a trace of anxiety on his face. He remains as calm as the deepest part of an ocean, and that enables him to think out-of-the-box and take game-changing decisions, even in the midst of adversity.

How do we do that then? How do we maintain our inner calm when our external world is in a turmoil?

How To Remain Calm in Stressful Situations

Here are five techniques we can practice daily to inculcate the habit of remaining calm in stressful situations.

Regular Exercise

Exercise releases endorphins. They're the natural stress busters and mood boosters of our body. Exercise also results in deeper breathing, leading to more mindfulness. This helps in reducing feelings of anger and panic, and promoting a sense of calmness and well-being.

Enough Sleep

Good sleep is essential for beating anxiety. If we don't get proper sleep, we become more prone to stress. Even the slightest things can give us panic attacks. It becomes important, therefore, to ensure that our body gets complete rest while we sleep. Listening to soothing music helps a lot in this respect.

Cut the Caffeine

Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants. Yes, they keep us more alert, but they also exaggerate our stress response and disturb our sleep cycle. Excessive intake of either of these makes us more prone to anxiety. We need to minimize caffeine and nicotine if we want to remain more calm and centered.

Limit Negativity

If we expose ourselves more to negative people and negative environment, we become more easily stressed out. Watching the news at night might seem necessary, but it triggers the most negative chain of thoughts in our mind. Listening to someone rant for long periods of time may seem like the right thing to do, but it can create havoc with our own mental equilibrium.

Practice Detachment

We need to focus less on the outcome of our actions and more on the act of doing our best. What will happen will happen. We have no control on it. The only thing we can control is our response. So, in order to maintain this detachment, we need to learn how to distract our mind with stuff that make us feel good. We need to keep ourselves busy with activities we enjoy doing.


Anxiety need not always be a medical disorder. And it is most certainly not a permanent life state. You are not your anxiety. Brantley and Millstine describe it as "part of the present-moment experience [...] instead of as an absolute truth or an immutable personal defect."

If worrying can become a habit, so can remaining calm. Win or lose, pleasure or pain, joy or sorrow, we must remain calm and at peace with our circumstances and feelings. Acknowledge everything but don't let anything take over, and you have a recipe for happiness.

Do you get anxious at the drop of a hat? Or do you remain calm even when things are falling apart all around you? How do you keep your mind at peace in stressful situations?

This is my third post for AtoZ2017.

I have completed this challenge once before, and published it as a kindle ebook.
You can get it on amazon: A to Z of Blogging: Take Your Blog To the Next Level.

Monday, April 3, 2017

A to Z of Happiness: B - Believe #atozchallenge @AprilA2Z

Money is the root of all evil.
Love is an illusion.
Romance happens only in fairy-tales.
Good guys finish last.
It's a hostile world out there.

And so many other such limiting ideas we grow up with and choose to believe. And in doing so, we forget:

We are what we believe.



Our world and our life is an exact replica of what we believe in the deepest parts of our heart... about ourselves, about others, and about our life and the world.

Belief in Self

If we believe we are not good enough, then we will never be good enough. If we believe we can't do something, then we will never be able to do it. If we doubt whether we deserve something, then we will never get that thing.

The irony is that most of the time, we are the ONLY ones who don't believe in our own awesomeness. People who know us may think we are amazing. They may want to be like us. Some might even be jealous of us. Yet, we remain filled with self doubts. (I know I do that.)

Why is it so difficult for us to see our own beauty and self worth? Why is it so difficult for us to believe that we are wonderful, lovable people, deserving only the best in life?

Belief in Others

As we grow older, we meet people who abuse our trust, and, as a result, it becomes more and more difficult for us to believe in others. We become scared to depend too much on people or share our feelings with them. We don't entrust them with responsibility. We start to believe they will let us down or hurt us in some way. We stop believing in second chances.

But everyone is not the same. Not everyone is "out there to get us". Sometimes, we NEED to trust people, despite our past experiences.

Yes, some people may not deserve a second chance, but WE DO. We need to believe in the goodness of people, because WE DESERVE good people in our life.

Belief in the World

We finish school and then step out into the "big bad world". None of us are ever told that we'll step into the "big beautiful world". We grow up hearing: Life is not a bed of roses. Life screws everyone. Life is a bitch. Even before meeting life, we're convinced that it will be the worst thing to happen to us!

But is life really that bad? Is this world really such a hostile place to live in?

Whenever we need anything, the world provides it. Ways to grow food faster, cures for terminal diseases, technology to build better infrastructure... the Universe "facilitates" scientific discoveries and inventions for whatever we need. Then why do we believe that it is bad?


In order to be truly happy, we need to have a little bit of faith. We need to believe in our own strength and capabilities, and we need to believe in those who love us.

Most of all, we need to believe in life itself. When I opened my store, I received help from the most unimaginable places, and in the most unimaginable ways. The whole world is there to support our dreams. If we believe that we can, we will.

So what do you believe about yourself and the world? Are you ready to challenge any of your "limiting" beliefs?

This is my second post for AtoZ2017.

I have completed this challenge once before, and published it as a kindle ebook.
You can get it on amazon: A to Z of Blogging: Take Your Blog To the Next Level.