Aug 27, 2020

Happiness

 

This thought flashed in my mind this morning while going for a walk in the terrace

"You don't seek happiness. Happiness seeks you. Whether you acknowledge it or not is what defines you"

 As I pondered over this thought, three key characteristics of happiness emerged:

 

(1) Happiness comes to us in myriad ways. What matters is whether we can identify it, recognize it and acknowledge it

Maintaining a happiness journal is one of the ways by which we can recognize such happy moments we encounter during our daily lives. Even if we don't have the time or inclination to write down, a few minutes of reflection at the end of the day or week also helps. 


As I reflected on the past few days, the following were some of the moments when happiness found me.

I have always been wanting to learn to make the mango leaves thoranam that we usually hang on either side of our front door. But during every festival day, I would just buy a bunch of leaves and tie it at the center on top of the front door. On the day before Ganesh Chathurthi, I quickly browsed a Youtube video and learned how to make the thoranam. It was super easy and all it took me to make was 15 minutes. It brought so much happiness to see the thoranam I made, hanging on top of our door. I made an elaborate spread for the festival and felt so much joy without an ounce of tiredness.


I have cribbed quite a bit on my blog and Instagram about how I miss the Sun, thanks to cloudy, gloomy weather in Bangalore for the last couple of months. This morning, when I woke up, I decided to go for a brisk walk instead of my usual Yoga practice. It was cloudy with no sight of the rising Sun but I went ahead with my walk. It wasn't so bad - the fresh air, chirping of birds, the dark sky that wasn't so threatening and the quiet surroundings. At the end of my 30 min walk, I felt so refreshed. Happiness found its way as I overcame my mental inertia.


(2) The aspects of our life where we acknowledge happiness is what defines us, our values, our principles and our character

From the examples, what I observed is that my happiness is reflective of the work I do - any work for that matter; personal or professional. Happiness also finds me when I break my preset internal barriers / mental blocks. Nothing magnanimous, even small fears or minor discomforts when overcome brings me happiness.


(3) The more we acknowledge happiness, the more ways happiness finds us

When we are aware of our present, we are fully engaged and we find happiness in little things. Initially, this might seem like a lot of effort, but over time, this becomes our second nature and we start to recognize and appreciate the little things. 


Another example from this morning - I had made mini idlis after a long time. The idli plates were washed and stacked up on a tray near the kitchen sink. As I was washing my hands, I just noticed a reflection of myself on the mini idli plate and there were 18 faces of mine. I then called my daughter to see her own 18 reflections and we started making funny faces. It might sound silly but if I were so immersed in my thoughts about the past or future, I would have missed this moment. Yes, happiness seeks us when we are least expecting it.


Does this resonate with you? How does happiness find you? How do you respond to it?

Aug 26, 2020

Kissan Pizza and Pasta Sauce Review

 
Whenever I open a Youtube video these days, I stumble upon one of these two ads - Zomato - craving for biryani or pasta? and Kissan's "Iss bhaar Italy ghar le aate hain"

Since most of us are avoiding restaurants/takeaways, the only way to eat pasta / pizza (which we used to order B.C.) is to make them at home. Some of us might order the store bought pizza and pasta sauce, so we can quickly whip up a bowl of pasta for dinner or to satiate our kid's cravings. Some of us might even take a step further to sanitize the outer pack. Wait a second, do we sanitize the contents inside? We presume that the contents inside such packs are hygienic. But are they healthy?

Let's look at the nutrition label of Kissan's pizza and pasta sauce. 
 
 
 The expiry date is nine months from manufacture. How does this pack last for 9 months? Thanks to this permitted Class II Preservative - 211, also called as Sodium Benzoate. 

Quoting from this research paper,
"As the result of long term intake even though it is small amount, the preservatives may cause harm to consumers within some sickness and in chromosomes level. The following adverse effects of food preservatives are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, rhinitis, bronchospasm, migraine, anaphylaxis, and hyperactivity in children"

The paper talks about how sodium benzoate toxicity can result in DNA damage. 

Sodium benzoate when used with foods containing Vitamin C causes the formation of benzene, a known carcinogen. 

Making a marinara sauce at home for pasta or pizza is super easy. Homemade, fresh, hygienic and without any harmful preservatives. I'm sure no Italian would add a few drops of sodium benzoate to his pasta sauce. If we want to bring Italy home, let's learn the proper method of making the sauce at home and avoid these harmful shortcuts.

Let's read the nutrition labels and avoid ALL products that contain any form of class II preservatives.

Aug 23, 2020

Why are we fixated on Educational Qualification?

 I did a Q&A on Instagram stories a few days back with the question "What are the challenges and obstacles that you are facing concerning health and well-being given the current situation?". 100+ questions came up during the 24 hours. Most of them were related to consistency, habits, sleep routines and exercise motivation. There were also a few questions on specific ailments like migraine, PCOD etc. Many people DMed me that the answers I shared were very helpful. My intention to do this Q&A was to understand if there are any patterns and also share my learnings on keeping up with a schedule during the lock-down situation, being mindful and conscious about the food we eat, our activity, sleep cycles, the information we consume and our emotions.

I don't claim to be an expert in any of these topics. I'm a work in progress and I consciously introspect on where I need to improve and implement key practices in my daily life.

I strongly believe that our health and well-being play such an important role in our life and there are now too many distractions and temptations that take away our precious health. My vision is to empower people with the right information to make conscious choices - not just about food but overall health. And I have strong personal reasons that motivate me to work harder towards this vision.

I didn't realize that this was my calling when I was 17 years old. Or maybe I did to some extent - why else would I have studied so hard in my 12th grade to get into medicine? Things didn't work out for various reasons, inspite of getting good marks, being a top rank holder in school and a third rank holder in the district. My path deviated - I went into software engineering, worked in the software industry, completed my MBA from IIMB and built a good career for more than a decade. My 20s just whizzed past by, accomplishing these goals.

With PCOD related issues and the struggles that followed, somehow by God's grace, I conceived naturally and gave birth to a baby daughter in 2011. In the past 9 years, though I was focusing on many software related projects, health and well-being became my interest, my passion and now my calling. This blog has been a witness to this transition over the years.

If you are wondering why am I writing all this today, let me share with you the trigger.
One of the questions that came up during the Q&A was "How does gluten affect our body?" The answer I shared was "Gluten doesn't affect everyone. Observe yourself and how your body reacts. Don't go with the popular opinion of going gluten-free. Do you feel bloated, acidic, indigestion, headache after eating wheat? Then you can try skipping gluten for a week or two and see if it helps."

One of the readers took offense to my response. She DMed me, saying that I should read up more about celiac disease and I shouldn't be commenting on topics that I'm not qualified to talk about. I tried to explain my rationale saying that there is a difference between celiac disease and gluten insensitivity and that I wasn't giving any diagnosis and merely suggesting that we need to listen to our body's signals. In the end, we concluded that our perspectives are different and ended at that.

After I gave some thought about this interaction, I felt maybe I shouldn't have given my response to the question in a few lines as a story but elaborated as a blog post as this needs more explanation. But I'm not going to stop talking about topics like gluten or PCOD, just because I'm not professionally qualified (in common parlance, don't have a university degree in medicine or nutrition).

I strongly believe each of us needs to have at least a basic knowledge about our body, nutrition and health. Without this knowledge, we are being taken for a ride by the "health-washing" practices of packaged food manufacturers, "qualified professionals" prescribing medicines for lifestyle disorders without making us aware of the numerous side effects and without educating us on lifestyle changes that we need to make.

I'm not generalizing this behavior to the whole profession. There are many excellent doctors in the country who provide the right advice and help people heal and get better through lifestyle changes. But we also need to accept the fact that there are a few whose intentions aren't right - they want patients to become their repeat customers. In any business, repeat customers/repeat purchases are what drives more profits.

I have been a victim of a few such gynecologists who only prescribed hormonal pills for managing PCOD symptoms, without prescribing the lifestyle changes I need to make in my 20s.
My family elders have been a victim of a few such doctors who kept writing long prescriptions for diabetes and high blood pressure, without educating them on food choices and importance of exercise, activity and sleep. They have been suffering for decades because of the complete trust they placed on their doctors.

I so wish we could just place our complete trust on "professional" doctors/nutritionists and follow their advice to the T, without doing any due diligence from our end. But the past two decades have taught me that this would be a terrible strategy if I want to stay healthy.

ALL of us need to equip ourselves with the right knowledge of lifestyle disorders and the factors that contribute to good health.

Qualification shouldn't be a roadblock. The curiosity and thirst for learning, implementing and improving is all that matters, especially in the current times of MOOCs and easy access to knowledge and research. When we implement a concept and it works for us, it is also perfectly okay to share about our experiences on social media. Yes, our experiences are unique based on our situations and may not apply to all. But even if one person can benefit from it, it is worth the effort.

If you are someone interested in human behaviors but don't have a professional degree in psychology, please let that not stop you from exploring this topic and going deeper.

Professional education should never be a hindrance for us to learn about various life skills - nutrition, health, mental well-being, personal finance, investing, gardening etc. The intention is not to set up private clinics, do diagnosis, prescribe meal plans or recommend insurance policies BUT to share our learnings and takeaways with others for whom they might be relevant.

P.S. Through Instagram, I reached out to a popular nutritionist who was conducting many Live sessions on interesting topics on nutrition. I suggested to her that I can do a session on decoding nutrition labels but never got a response. If "professionally qualified" people are unwilling to discuss these topics openly, then we need to step up and empower ourselves with the right information.

Aug 18, 2020

Emami Smart Balance Oil With Immunity Booster Review of Ingredients

 
 I recently came across an ad for this brand of cooking oil that stresses on the buzzword of 2020 - Immunity. Diya Mirza is the celebrity promoting this brand.
 
As always, I was curious to know about the ingredients - This brand Emami Smart Balance Oil with Immunity Boosters is a blended oil with refined soyabean oil (75%) and refined ricebran oil (25%). 
The ingredients added in addition to these oils are the ones that are linked to immunity - the added vitamins (A, C, E and D).

Refined vegetable oils are heavily processed and affects our health in multiple ways, leading to inflammation, obesity, thyroid disorders and diabetes. 

Quoting from the book "The magic weight loss pill" by Luke Coutinho (Page 52-53)

Soybean oil is found in almost every processed food. It is difficult to visit a restaurant that doesn't use soybean oil or some sort of vegetable oil that contains soybean. Soybean oil is a polyunsaturated oil. This and its products are used to feed livestock to fatten the animals. It also promotes unhealthy weight gain in human beings.

Do we need to invite new lifestyle disorders in the name of "boosting our immunity"? Something to think about.


It is best to stay away from all forms of refined oils as much as possible and switch to cold pressed oils that are native to our region (groundnut oil, sesame oil, coconut oil or mustard oil).

Let's focus on the immunity boosting added vitamins and their associated values.
 
 
As you can see from this table, the added vitamin values are incomparable to the nutrition provided by real, natural foods. We can easily get these vitamins from various plant-based sources.

Let's not jump into buying any new brands or products stressing on immunity. Our immune system is so complex that we cannot just "boost" it by popping supplements or using fortified products. Let's think holistically when it comes to our overall health and immunity - diet, sleep, exercise, physical activity and stress levels. All these components play a vital role in our immunity.

P.S.
For Vitamin A, the brand has mentioned the values in mcgRE (retinol equivalent). I converted the betacarotene values of food sources (mentioned in IFCT tables) into retinol equivalent using a ratio of 12:1 as given in this research paper

For a healthy population, the major factors that affect the bioavailability of food carotenoids and the bioconversion of food provitamin A carotenoids to vitamin A in humans are food matrices, food preparation, and the fat content of a meal. Recent studies reported that the conversion efficiency of dietary β-carotene is in the range of 10 to 28:1 by weight. These data indicated that the bioconversion of β-carotene to vitamin A was not as efficient as expected, and, as a result, the Food and Nutrition Board recently revised the estimated efficiency factor for the conversion of dietary β-carotene to vitamin A from 6:1 by weight to the new value of 12:1 by weight. However, this new conversion ratio must be regarded as temporary and could well change, as more data become available.

Food, preferences and evolution

 

After a long time, I made aapam and Kerala style veg stew for dinner last night. While cooking, the aroma of the coconut oil, the roasting of whole spices and curry leaves took me to Kerala and rekindled the memories of many beautiful vacations we have had in the past few years. Kerala is our family's most favorite and default travel destination. We usually make at least one trip to some part of Kerala every year. Due to the current situation, we won't be able to travel this year and D is quite disappointed.

While making the stew, I was inhaling the aromas a few times on purpose as I just love the smell of coconut oil. Coincidentally a few days back, as I was revisiting an old blog post, I stumbled upon a travelogue from 2005 where I had written that I hated the smell of coconut oil. I couldn't believe it and I was thinking, "wow, there was a time in the past when I didn't like coconut oil! Strange!". 

This is just a small example of how we evolve every day, every week and every year - our preferences change, our priorities change and our thought patterns change. People who knew me in the early 2000s might find to their surprise that I'm a different person than who I used to be. Even our beliefs and our values can also change depending on the duration of time, the environment we are exposed to and the experiences we have during this time frame. I can confidently say that 30s Anu is quite different from the 20s Anu. 

Keeping track of our life through a blog or a personal journal gives us these indicators that show how much we have evolved as a person. If you are in your early 20s and reading this, I strongly encourage you to journal regularly, if not every day. When you turn these pages after years, you will be surprised (or even shocked) to notice how much you have changed.

Jot down experiences, interactions, day-to-day challenges and how you addressed them - anything about a given day. Make this a habit. Writing is a powerful tool for self-reflection. Don't fret too much about grammar and sentence formation. Just go with the flow and write freely without editing or correcting your language. Make it public if you are comfortable. Or just maintain a private journal. And yes, make sure you write down the date of the journal entry. It is fun to read what your journal entry was on Aug 18th 10 years ago!

Aug 15, 2020

Singing, ARR and freedom

 

I'm not a bathroom singer but a "paathiram" singer, if I may say so 🙂 Read further to know why.

A sink full of dirty dishes was calling me out. I didn't pay heed to its call as I was deliberately looking away from my kitchen. It was 6:45PM already and I knew it was high time I kicked the laziness out and cleared those dishes. I switched on my phone, opened Spotify app and started to play an ARR playlist with the title "Happy birthday Rahman". The next 40 minutes turned out to be so blissful as I was singing on top of my voice while cleaning the dishes. Songs from Roja, Kadhalan and Indira were playing one after the other - yes, the 90s Rahman! No, I don't belong to that category of Rahman fans who believe his 90s albums were his best work. I enjoy his Singapenne as much as his Chinna Chinna Aasai. Every decade, every album and every song of his has some special moments in them. 

As the nation celebrates its Independence Day, we Rahmaniacs are also celebrating 28 years of AR Rahman on this very day. As much as I enjoy listening to his songs, I love singing them too. BUT the moment I start singing, D would immediately request/plead/beg/order me to stop it. For some reason, she hates it whenever I sing at home or in the car. 

I got the perfect chance to sing to my heart's content this evening as D and K were busy with monopoly in the other room. I experienced that sense of freedom - to sing freely with no inhibitions or interruptions. It's been a long time since I did the singing session at home. And so it gets recorded in my blog.

P.S. Paathiram in Tamil means dishes :-)

Aug 14, 2020

How to practice delayed gratification?

 

In my previous post, I spoke about the two obstacles we face as we pursue digital minimalism. I shared a few thoughts about one of the obstacles - seeking external validation.


In this post, let's talk about the second obstacle - "instant gratification". 


Instant gratification, in simple terms, is our expectation that we need to get what we want as and when we want it, at that very instant. The "WANTS" are not only materialistic by the way. They could be anything in this connected world - information, entertainment, recognition/appreciation, completion of work etc.


An email arrives, we open it immediately.

A WhatsApp group message arrives, we check it immediately.

We start reading a book, we share about it on social media right away.


As we seek more instant gratification, we lose our ability to stay patient and wait for things to happen. We avoid work that requires perseverance and patience. We get stuck in a world of busyness.


To give you an example, I have been meaning to write an e-book for the past 3 months. I could hardly make any progress on that front but I have been regularly writing here on my blog. Writing 600-700 word posts and clicking on "Publish" is much more gratifying than writing a 200-pager e-book. 


Think from your personal life - what are those projects or ideas that you have been putting off because they are complex, ambiguous and require a lot more effort? There are high chances that you might be choosing other less important tasks that are high in the instant gratification scale.


Social media is all about instant gratification. We learn a new skill for a couple of days and we immediately want to share on our social media handles. Our focus is not on practicing/mastering the skill, rather it gets shifted to flaunting our amateur efforts to the world. 


There are many such instances in our day-to-day life where we seek instant gratification and we end up avoiding work that requires real effort.


Here are a few ways by which we can practice delayed gratification. 

  • Be extremely mindful of your smartphone usage. Disable notifications. Avoid or reduce constant check-ins. 
  • Be mindful of your time on social media and the posts you share. Ask yourself why am I sharing this now.
    • If you are practicing a skill, say photography, would it be worthwhile to wait for a few days and then share the pictures on social media?
    • If you are doing a course, finish it completely before talking about it
    • If you are reading a book, finish it completely before talking about it
    • If you are a content writer, save the post as a draft, chew on the content a little more before publishing it
    • If you are into gardening, let the plants grow for 3-4 months before sharing the pics
  • Take up projects that require more time and effort to complete. For example, E-book over a blog post, Long-form content over short-form content
  • Avoid reaching for your smartphone/kindle/iPad/TV the moment you feel bored. Wait for at least 10 minutes.
  • Allocate a specific time to watch your favorite YouTube channels or read the newsletters you have subscribed to or blogs you like to read. Avoid jumping onto the new and shiny the moment a new video/newsletter/blog post arrives.
  • Identify at least 2-3 offline activities that you enjoy and pursue them for the sheer joy of it, without seeking external validation. If possible, avoid talking about it on social media. External validation feeds instant gratification.


I need to remind myself of this list, so I'm jotting them down for my personal reflection as I want to consciously practice delayed gratification in my day-to-day routine. The intention is not to advise or preach to anyone. If you feel you are succumbing to instant gratification and want to change, we are in this journey together.

Aug 13, 2020

How to stop seeking External Validation

As we pursue our journey towards digital minimalism, we encounter two key obstacles along the way.
  1. External validation
  2. Instant gratification
Both are related to some extent but there are also subtle differences. In this post, let's focus on the first obstacle - external validation.

In simple words, external validation is the feeling we experience because of the reaction we get from others. We feel good when others appreciate our words and actions and we feel bad when others don't approve of it or criticize the same. 

While growing up, we experienced external validation in the form of tests, exams and competitions in schools and on occasions when we met our relatives during social gatherings where we were appreciated for our good behavior.

Such instances didn't occur every day for most of us growing up in the 70s and 80s. As a result, I notice that most of us born in those decades do not associate our self-esteem strongly with external validation. It is only my general, biased observation. I might be wrong here. Social media usage might have changed the thought patterns of this age group as well.

As I thought more about external validation, I also realized this -
The more we get external validation, the more we seek or crave for it. 
If we don't get enough validation on a social media platform, we lose interest and drop off. BUT if we start to get validation, we invest more energy into the platform - more time, more check-ins, more posts. And we eventually get fixated on validation metrics such as likes, hearts, thumbs up, comments, retweets, followers count, subscribers count etc. And slowly we start to associate our identity with these metrics. It is a vicious cycle, in which we can get caught if we are not aware of the repercussions.

A question all of us need to ask ourselves, irrespective of the decade we were born in - 
Is our self-esteem dependent on external validation? 
If you don't know the answer, here is a sure-shot way to figure that out:

Answer this question honestly:
If all social media platforms decide to shut down today, what activities would you continue to do and enjoy?

If the number of activities is higher, then your self-esteem is not determined by social media vanity metrics.

As I thought about this question in the context of my life, these are the activities that popped up in my mind.
  1. Yoga - except for one post that I shared on International Yoga Day in 2019, I haven't posted any other picture of mine on social media. Yes, I do write about my Yoga practice now and then in my blog posts but I don't talk about how many rounds of Suryanamaskars I complete every day.
  2. Walking - I don't post about the number of steps I take or the number of kms I walk daily. I don't use a step counter in the first place. 
  3. Cleaning - I enjoy cleaning but I don't like to post pictures of various clean corners of my home. I think I might have only shared 1-2 pictures so far on Instagram.
  4. Cooking - this is a tricky one as my Instagram account is mainly filled with pictures of food. But there are so many dishes which I have cooked and I haven't clicked a pic of all of them to share on Instagram. I don't feel the need to share pics of every single dish I cook.
  5. Writing - this is a happy realization in the past 2 weeks. I have been consistently writing on my blog but I haven't shared the links on any social media platform. This could be because I'm currently on a break from Instagram. Whenever I resume using the platform, I'm gonna make sure that not all my blog posts need to be shared. I write because I enjoy writing. 
Take some time to identify those activities in your current life that you do for the sheer joy of it, without the need for external validation through social media. Keep adding more to this list. 

A richer, fuller life can be lived outside social media. Let's aim for that.

Aug 12, 2020

Why I celebrate all festivals?

 

Yesterday was Janmashtami but in my family traditions, Krishna Jayanthi is usually celebrated in the Tamil month of Aavani. So we would be celebrating Krishna's birthday on Sept 10th. But since D was hearing about Janmashtami from her teachers, she wanted to celebrate yesterday. Over the past few days, I had been having this seasonal allergy sniffles (sneezing, running nose etc). This has nothing to do with the top news of 2020. I feel a lot better today :-)

Till about 3PM yesterday, I didn't plan anything to celebrate the festival. I then had a nice, warm shower and wore a comfortable saree. The festive mood immediately kicked in. I made a small portion of akkaravadisal (a close cousin of the sweet pongal). I cleaned up the Pooja space and brought the silver lamps from the storage cupboard. D noticed what I was doing. She joined in, brought a few smaller silver lamps. She observed how I was placing the kumkum paste on the edges of the lamp. She did the same to her lamps. 
I asked her, "Do you want to give bath to baby Krishna?"
She was thrilled to do this activity. I gave her a small bowl of warm water and she nicely gave a bath to little Krishna idols. She remarked, "Krishna is getting ready for his birthday party!".
I then said to her, "We didn't buy any flower for the Pooja"
D quickly responded, "Don't worry mummy. I'll pluck some flowers from the garden"
She rushed to the balcony and brought a bunch of fresh, red Exura flowers. She plucked a few tiny flowers and added to the warm water. "Krishna needs flowers in his bath water", she said.
I lit the lamps, she lit the incense sticks. A simple Pooja was done and we then relished the akkaravadisal.
During this time, my sniffles also reduced a lot and I felt happy. It was one-hour of productive and screen-free activity time for D.


Why am I sharing this? 

Come festive season, there will be a few posts circulating on social media saying that women slog so much during the festival days, cooking and cleaning while men don't do anything except attend the Pooja. I saw a tweet a few weeks back on similar lines. 

My question to such tweets - Is the slogging forced or been done as a happy, voluntary activity? That is the important question that all of us need to ponder.

While growing up, I observed how my two grandmothers worked so hard during festivals, preparing all the delicacies and an elaborate festive meal with a lot of happiness and dedication. These festival days made my childhood so special and memorable. As an adult in my 20s working full-time in the software industry, I didn't do much during these special days, except for making a simple payasam. These festival days were more like a holiday from work, where I could wake up late and relax the whole day. None of my family members forced me to follow the festive traditions. I wasn't so keen either.

As I entered my 30s and when my little girl was around 2-3 years old, this realization dawned on me - "If I don't introduce the festivals, traditions and practices to her at home, then she wouldn't get the exposure". Her grandparents live in a different city and they are not the type who would make homemade treats to their granddaughter like the way my grandmothers did for me. So it is up to me as a mother to decide how I want to celebrate the festivals. I can choose to just relax without doing much or take up a lot of work and keep whining that I HAVE to do everything on my own. Instead of these two options, I chose a third option - celebrate every festival in a way that gives me happiness and doesn't overwhelm me and D gets to experience a slice of these traditions.

In the past 6-7 years, I have been celebrating every single festival with a lot of joy and happiness. The menu may not be as elaborate as how my grandmothers used to prepare. But I still prepare whatever I can, do a simple Pooja and involve D in whatever manner possible. Along the way, I have learned to cook many traditional recipes.

I strongly believe that it is my responsibility as a mother to pass on such family traditions and values to my daughter. I'm not expecting that my daughter should follow the same in her adulthood. My responsibility ends with the exposure and it is her choice to follow them or not.

Aug 11, 2020

The magic of the written word

We have heard of the popular adage - "A picture is worth a thousand words" but yesterday I realized the corollary makes a lot of sense - "A thousand words is worth more than a picture (or a video)".

10th Aug 2019 - the day when I checked off one of the items in my bucket list. Yes, the day I attended ARR concert a year ago! Instead of going through the pictures and videos I took that day, I went through the post I had written down. It reminded me of the wonderful memories of that special day. As I shared this post with a few people, the conversation veered into cricket. Memories of Sachin hitting a century in 2001 in Chepauk Stadium came gushing back. It was such a memorable day for me and am glad I jotted down my experience in 2005 in a blog post. As I revisited the post, I could literally feel myself sitting on the stands amidst the crowd, cheering and doing the Mexican wave.

Such is the power of words! They transport you to a world of memories. They help you relive the exact moments. I doubt whether photos or video can capture the memories as beautifully as our own words. I'm glad I have captured many such moments in this blog. 

Another insight I realized is that photos (or video) only capture what something is and not how we feel at that moment. You take a picture of a beautiful sunset. The photo shows as it is. But it can never capture how we felt while watching the sunset - the surreal feeling, gratitude for the Sun, the peace we felt, admiration for nature etc. 

Words are magical, they help us time travel to various moments of our lives. It is sad that when we witness something beautiful, we immediately reach out for our phones to grab that moment - clicking in various angles, changing multiple settings, adding filters and what not. Instead, if we just witness it with our eyes and our minds, the moment gets truly absorbed for a lifetime. We can then jot down our experience in a journal or a blog - not just about what we witnessed but also how we felt, what made it so special and the range of emotions we experienced.

I used to diligently write a travelogue after every trip but for the last couple of years, I haven't been doing it. Whenever the next travel plans materialize, I'm gonna make sure that I write a travelogue at the end of it. It is not for others but for myself to read after many years and relive the experience. Just like how I time traveled to Chepauk yesterday!

Aug 10, 2020

Attention

 

For the past few months, media is constantly abuzz with news about a famous actor's demise - updates, twists, viewpoints by celebrities etc. Many of us are following such updates on a daily basis. The topic trending on Twitter everyday is related to this news.

When our minds are deeply focused on this one topic, there is a very high possibility that we might be ignoring other updates and important happenings around the world. Sometimes when I ponder over this, I wonder if this situation is intentionally pre-designed so we would ignore the current situation - how it is being projected, fear-mongering tactics, the unregulated buzz word "immunity" and numerous offerings being launched to boost the same.

Our attention is like a river. We can control the flow, the direction, the number of tributaries and the kind of materials it gathers while it flows. This is possible through awareness of our thoughts, our feelings and our emotions. At the same time, external triggers (news, social media, information overload) can play an important role which can influence the flow of this river of attention. The flow can be twisted in such a way that we end up feeling more anxious, more angry or more depressed.

The more attention we pay to these external sources, the less attention we have for other important issues. 

Our attention is finite. Let's consciously choose what we pay attention to at every moment.

Aug 7, 2020

Motivation to wake up early

A few days back, when I had shared my time budgeting post on Instagram, someone had DMed me asking if I could share some tips to wake up early.

From my experience, the only tip that will help you to wake up early is to have the right motivation. I wake up by 6-6:15AM on a daily basis even during the present lockdown situation when there is no hurry to pack lunch boxes or get my daughter D ready for school. 

There are multiple reasons that motivate me to wake up early:
  1. I'm a slow starter. I need some time to awaken my senses. I'm not the person who can just wake up and start checking off the items from my to-do list. I need 10-15 minutes to sip my morning chai in peace.
  2. I don't like to talk for atleast an hour in the morning. It might seem weird but this is how I am 🙂 I need that quiet time to just be myself. On days when I wake up late or when D wakes up along with me, I find it incredibly challenging to answer her questions. I get irritated at times when I have to talk but I don't want to.
  3. I get atleast a couple of hours of quiet time for myself in the mornings. Before the lockdown, I used to get more quiet time (4-5 hours) at home when K is in office and D is in school. I miss those quiet afternoons, when suddenly I get a random dose of inspiration to do some deep work, write an article, cook a new recipe, read a few pages or just lie down on the couch and relax after lunch. Such quiet afternoons are not possible these days. Without these quiet times, the days feel so rushed and the channels to express myself feel unattended.
  4. Another option to get this quiet time is to grab a couple of hours in the night after D goes to sleep. But this would end up disturbing my sleep cycle. I want to align as much as possible to the circadian rhythm.
  5. What I have also noticed is that if I miss my morning time for Yoga practice, I'm not allocating any time during the rest of the day. A simple 30-min Yoga practice makes a load of difference to how my day progresses.
Motivation comes through observation of our own self - What we want, how we want to start our day, our priorities, our reactions when those priorities are not met and how we express ourselves as an individual (apart from the varied roles we perform throughout the day).

Tips like "keep an alarm 15 minutes before your usual time", "don't snooze", "keep your alarm at a distance where you have to walk and switch it off" are tactical. Until and unless there is enough motivation to wake up early, these tips wouldn't really work. Speaking from a personal experience 🙂

Aug 6, 2020

Adios to Twitter and Facebook

This morning, I deactivated both my Twitter and Facebook accounts. I haven't been active on either of these platforms for the last couple of years. It didn't make sense to leave the accounts idle when I'm not using them. Ever since I started taking steps towards conscious content consumption, this task had been on my mind but I was hesitating, thinking I might login if needed. Yes, the same talk we have with ourselves when we don't want to get rid of old stuff at home - "This might come in handy one day. I might use it sometime". Sounds familiar? 

FB keeps sending notifications by email that so-and-so has uploaded a pic, posted an update etc. The best part is this message - "So much has happened since you logged onto Facebook". When you login to check, the notifications count will be 4. And all of them will be exactly similar - so-and-so uploaded a pic 🙂

Grateful to both the platforms all these years. FB helped me connect with many of my school and college friends. I vividly remember this brief period in 2010 when I was hooked onto Farmville, gathering virtual gifts from friends and family as and when they share on FB. It was super fun. But over the years, the "connection" element got lost because of various factors - FB's algorithm deciding what to show in our feed, giving preference to sponsored content and even the way we use the platform has shifted more towards external validation.

Twitter helped me connect at a professional level with many thought leaders on startups, product management, marketing, entrepreneurship, growth hacking etc. Even though I stopped using Twitter, I still connect with many of these thought leaders through their books, blogs, podcasts and newsletters. 

My intention is to engage with long form content in a planned manner. Scheduled time slots to read newsletters is one such practice I mentioned in my previous post. Will share more as I implement other ideas into practice.

Aug 5, 2020

Precrastination

I came across this term "Precrastination" in Chris Bailey's newsletter. We all know about procrastination and its impact on our productivity. But precrastination is something new. 

From this article,
Originally coined by David Rosenbaum, a psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside, “precrastination” is a little-known productivity trap in which we rush too quickly into tasks.
The main intent of the article was to showcase how we rush into tasks, sometime on autopilot mode or the need to get rid of them to clear our mental space.

As I was reading this article, a thought struck me about areas where we precrastinate easily without much awareness.

For instance, you are working on something. An email pops up. It is a newsletter. You quickly scroll through it and find an interesting article. You click through the link and read it. There is a new article linked to it. You click through that as well and continue reading it. Turns out 15 minutes have gone by in a flash. The information might be useful and relevant. But it is unplanned. You have precrastinated to reading it immediately than planning it for a future time.

This kind of behavior happens quite a lot while we browse through our social media feeds as well. We drop in for a minute but we end up spending 20 minutes because of new information we come across - an article, a video, news update etc.

We "content hunt" all the time and it comes in the way of doing actual work.

I have been a victim of this behavior too and over the years, I have consciously taken a step back to not succumb to the new and shiny all the time. 

I love reading newsletters from many authors/thought leaders (Will do a separate post on my favorites). Instead of reading them as and when they arrive, I have scheduled specific time slots to read them. My morning tea time is one such time slot where I read 1-2 newsletters. Although Chris Bailey's newsletter came to my inbox yesterday, I went through it this morning at peace. The term "precrastination" struck me and I started jotting down this post during my morning writing time. 

This habit of scheduling specific times for reading new content is helping me quite a bit. Do give it a try if you read a lot of information from varied sources.

Aug 4, 2020

Connections

After a very long time, I wrote an email to a friend yesterday. Not 1-2 liners but 4 paragraphs 🙂 I felt so happy after sending it in the morning. When I received her detailed reply later in the evening, I felt doubly happy to read it. As you might have realized, I love long form content - both reading and writing. I rarely use new age slang like "hru", "hbd" etc.

In the early 90s, my cousin and I used to write a lot of letters to each other through inland letters - yes, the light blue colored ones. We used to stay 30 kms apart and there will be at least 2-3 letters exchanged every month. We had so much to write about - our school, our subjects, our friends circle, movies etc. My aunt (her mom) would tease us that we write in every little empty space in that inland letter 🙂 That reminds me - I should search my cupboard to check for these letters. I might still have a few!

Fast forward to 2020, we both have lost touch and I wrote her a short email in March to check if she and her family are doing okay amidst this situation. She replied with a short message. 

In this connected world, anyone can be accessed with a click of a button, yet we have drifted apart so much. Similar story repeats with many school friends and college friends as well. I should have kept in touch during my 20s but I didn't make enough time on it. Everyone is added as "friends" on Facebook but except for the HBD on birthdays, we don't get to interact much. 

Past cannot be changed, but from now on, let me take the first step to write either handwritten letters or long emails to my friends. Whatsapp, Instagram or Facebook are not the platforms to build deeper connections.

Have you sent handwritten letters when you were a kid? Share your experience in the comments below.

Aug 3, 2020

Curiosity

This phrase just popped out of my head while practicing Yoga this morning
Curiosity often leads to more experience. Knowledge is only a by-product.
What is the relevance of this phrase? 

Let me first try to share my thoughts on curiosity. Curiosity is a mere interest in someone/something, without any external trigger/recognition/rewards. 

I'm curious about music, cats, food, process of learning, brain, human body in general to name a few topics.

I would seek out experiences to explore these topics but I may or may not gather knowledge/technical know-how about the same. For example, I enjoy listening to music but I may not know the raagas. Whenever I see a cat on the road, I might stop and admire it but I may not be keen to know which breed it is.

We often tend to assume that people who exhibit curiosity in a particular topic has a lot of knowledge on the subject. This is a wrong assumption. People may seek out more experiences on the topic, as a result of which they might come across new information. Such information need not be collected/stored in memory. In this day and age, even if we don't know the right information, it is easy to access through a simple Google search.

What we need is sheer curiosity on a wide range of topics that may or may not be related to our career/earning potential/skill set. 

Through observation, we can understand the areas where we are curious about. 
What moments in life do we take a pause? 
What are the articles that we stop to read while scrolling through our social media feeds? 
What are the book recommendations that we add to our wish list? 
Whose thoughts do we resonate with - both offline and online?

Identify and make a list of those topics. It might be surprising to see that you are curious about so many topics. Keep the curiosity alive by seeking out more experiences. The universe will also do its part by providing you with the right experiences.

Aug 2, 2020

Are you a working woman?

Are you a working woman? - this is a question that I often get asked by school friends, college friends and on social media. It is curious that this question is asked mostly by women to other women. I recently got asked this question when I posted about how I budget my time, where all the work I do is clearly listed down. Inspite of this, the question still pops up. If your intention is to ask whether I work for an employer, please change your questions to "Are you working for an employer? Are you earning a monthly paycheck?"

In my opinion, all women are working. They work for the well-being of their family members. Child care, elderly care, home management - all these are such important and valuable contribution we do for the society. Yes, these are unpaid labour but they are still WORK. So please, women, let's give enough credit to ourselves for doing this work, even though there is no appraisal, paycheck, yearly hikes or promotions. Let's not judge another woman, based on whether she works for an employer or works for her home.

Let's also not put a value on ourselves based on the monthly salary we bring home. We are adding tremendous value to our family in so many non-monetary ways. Let's take pride in that and pat ourselves on the back.

MONEY - Is that all we value? It might be easy to quantify and compare. But relationships, personal satisfaction, good health, contentment and peace are extremely valuable, although they aren't easy to quantify.

I gain tremendous satisfaction and meaning from the food-related blogging work I have been doing for the past 5-6 years. I don't earn a penny from my blog but the comments and messages from readers are so valuable to me.

"My health has improved so much thanks to reading your blog. I have stopped eating all packaged foods"
"My pregnancy was smooth because I chose to eat home cooked foods as you suggested" 
Is it even possible to associate a monetary value to such comments?

Many women do similar work through which they find meaning for themselves and contribute to the society. Let's not ridicule their efforts by asking "Are you a working woman?"

P.S. I worked full time for 9 years before I had my daughter in 2011. Since 2013, I have been working from home / taking up part-time consulting projects / telecommute (partial work from office) etc. Right now, I don't work for any employer.

Aug 1, 2020

Friend's visit

What started off as a slight discomfort in the morning turned into a full blown migraine by the evening. Yes, "migraine", my college buddy used to visit me quite often earlier but thanks to many lifestyle changes, the visits have become sporadic. He still pays his visit once every 2-3 months. Nowadays, whenever he visits me, my first question is to figure out the reason why he has scheduled his visit now. My mind literally walks through a checklist
  • Is it PMS? Both pre-menstrual and post-menstrual days 
  • Have I been drinking too much of tea or coffee?
  • Have I been spending too much time on devices?
  • Have I been having disturbed sleep?
  • Have I been having too many thoughts?
  • Have I been eating too little of fibre?
  • Do I feel acidic?
  • Am I constipated?
As I walked through this list of questions, I figured out how he got the invitation - Have I been drinking less water?

A big, resounding YES.....The weather in Bangalore has been fluctuating quite a bit - bright and sunny on some days while gloomy and rainy on other days. As such, I don't like to gulp water in litres. I take a few sips as and when I feel like drinking water. I haven't been doing much of these sips too these days. And my mouth felt dehydrated for sure.

I nailed down the reason, drank a few glasses of water and slept through the evening. The next morning, I woke up early, did my Yoga practice, made breakfast but I still wasn't feeling energetic. I have always observed that the day after migraine attack, I experience a thoughtless state of the mind. My energy levels were low and my mind felt blank. The calm after the storm, maybe!

I wanted to check why this is happening and so I googled 🙂 Turns out there is a term called "migraine hangover" that many people experience once the pain reduces. 

So anyway, the friend waved good-bye and went off. The lesson I learned from this experience - be extremely conscious of my water intake. Drink warm water, if needed.

If your best buddy also goes by the name "migraine", do check out my earlier post - 8 ways to control migraine attacks.

Get the latest posts by email

Blog Archive

All contents copyrighted by Anuradha Sridharan, 2020. Don't copy without giving credits. Powered by Blogger.