Posted in Life & Happiness

The Reason You Are Unhappy

I don’t want to be the reason you’re unhappy. That would just make me unhappy and I really don’t want to be the reason I’m unhappy.

~ Phoebe Buffay, Friends

This appears to be such a simple, whimsical line from a sitcom, but Pheobe’s words carry a surprisingly deep truth.

Too often in life, we are our own reason for being unhappy. As much as we like to blame bad luck, systemic failures, other people’s incompetences and the environment we were raised in, if we examine the root cause of our misery closer, we discover some uncomfortable truths.

For example, a common source of unhappiness is loneliness, particularly the lack of a romantic relationship. There are many reasons people will give as to why they are (involuntarily) single, from self-deprecating comments such as “I’m not pretty enough”, to lamenting their bad luck for not meeting the one yet, to toxic blames such as “girls only go after bad boys, not nice guys like me”.

But are those really the true reasons to your loneliness? Or is it because we haven’t learned to love ourselves yet, hold onto negative beliefs such as a romantic partner being the solution to our deep-seated problems, or feel entitled to love? Perhaps it is because we are too stubborn or scared to take action, putting our hearts on the line by asking our crush out, being vulnerable or even taking the simplest step such as accepting a set-up or trying internet dating.

We often talk about how we can be our own best friend or our worst enemy. Because of our insecurities and anxieties, we often let fear steal our funk, creating barriers to living a happy, full life.

So what is the solution to this curse?

The answer is simple: follow Phoebe’s advice and do not let yourself be the reason that you’re unhappy. If you feel unhappy, take a moment to think about why that is and don’t be afraid to consider that your actions and thoughts might be the cause.

But this is not to say that you should blame and criticise yourself.

Instead, treat yourself with compassion, kindness and love, giving yourself a chance to be happy. Be the manager and mentor to yourself that you’ve always wanted: someone who will let you be the best version of you, clearing roadblocks to your success and happiness. When you discover something that makes you happy, take action to pursue it further, cultivate it and fight to protect it. Seek out new possibilities and exciting opportunities.

Be the reason that you are happy.

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Posted in Life & Happiness

No Regrets

You will never regret being kind.
You will never regret having hope.
You will never regret prioritising happiness.
You will never regret being yourself.
You will never regret taking chances.

People think regret is born out of bad choices, but more often than not, regret is the result of not making a choice. Taking a chance may come with consequences, but that is a risk we have to take. Because if you’re too afraid of consequences or being hurt and refuse to take action on the important things, life will pass you by in the blink of an eye and you might miss it. On your deathbed, it won’t be the decisions you made that you regret, but the bites you didn’t take.

Happiness is an active process, not something that will come to you passively. So choose to be kind and choose to be hopeful. Choose to laugh and choose to love. Choose to be the person you want to be, living the life you want to live.

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Posted in Life & Happiness

Encouragement

Perhaps the encouragement you need to hear is not:

“You can do it!”

but:

“You’ve done the best you can”.

Sometimes it’s okay not to hang in there, or to keep trying, or to give more of yourself.

You are not a roly-poly toy; you are a person. You are allowed to rest and recharge for a while, so that you have the energy to get up again when you are ready. There is no point burning out by running on fumes.
It’s okay to suffer, to be tired and to feel down.

It’s okay to be human.

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Posted in Life & Happiness

Shared Silence

When we are with someone, our instinct is to engage in conversation. We feel an urge to interact as we feel that is the social norm. For some reason, it feels wrong or rude to do something individual in the company of others, such as reading a book, indulging a personal hobby, or even being alone with your thoughts.

That is not to say that social interactions are bad. Some of the happiest moments in life come from a sense of connection through deep conversation and sharing a passion. However, we feel obligated to always do something together. To avoid awkward silences, we fill the gap with meaningless small talk, or force a shared activity such as watching TV. This can be quite burdening for both parties, especially for introverted people who expend energy when socialising, needing some time alone intermittently to “recharge”.

This is why a marker of a healthy relationship (romantic or platonic) is whether you can comfortably share a silence with someone. Whether it be walking side-by-side without talking, or reading in the same room, there is an ineffable feeling of comfort and safety in sharing a space with someone without being forced to interact.

It is a sign that you trust and know each other to the point that silence does not represent awkwardness or dislike. You have a mutual understanding that even though there is no verbal communication, the other person still cares about you while respecting your need to be an individual.

Ironically, silence and the lack of interaction can allow for a deeper connection. Sharing a silence speaks louder than words to say that you like each other enough that you are okay to let your guard down and be yourself. It means that both of you are content just to feel each other’s presence in the same space.

Most of all, it is a mutual agreement that it is okay not to follow social norms as long as it makes you happy and it doesn’t harm anyone. In an ever-increasingly interconnected world, it is okay to be an individual, even in the presence of company.

(Image source: Puuung http://www.grafolio.com/puuung1)

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Posted in Life & Happiness

Compliments

When we are little, we are showered with compliments. We marvel over and celebrate a child’s first steps, or when they score a goal, or when they gift us a squiggly drawing. At school, we receive stickers saying “Great job!” when we do our homework. At home, we receive words of encouragement, support and love from our family.

Why do we compliment children over even the smallest achievements? Compliments are one of the simplest, cheapest ways to positively reinforce good behaviour. When we hear a compliment, we feel that we have done something well. We feel a sense of pride and accomplishment, building up our self-confidence. Best of all, we feel good when we are complimented, because we feel accepted and noticed by someone else.

But as we grow older, we receive less and less compliments. Instead, we are constantly under the microscope, being critiqued on every aspect of what makes us us. Our work, partners, friends and family continue to push us to be even more “perfect”. Performance reviews tell us we are not efficient enough, our magazines and advertisements tell us we are not beautiful enough, our loved ones tell us we are not successful enough… No wonder we all have such fragile egos.

A good example of how little we are complimented is how we generally react when someone gives us a genuine compliment. Some people feel wary that the other person is using it as a opener because they want something from us. Many people react by rejecting the compliment, either in an attempt to be modest, or because they genuinely don’t believe that they are worthy of the compliment. Instead of thanking the other person and moving on with your day with a skip in our step, we put up our guard and beat ourselves down even more.

In a brutal world such as this, a compliment can go a long way to make someone’s day. A compliment can range in depth, from our friends pointing out a personality trait of ours that they respect and appreciate, to a stranger noticing and commenting on your choice of outfit. A kind word can be a candle in the way down darkness of stress, hardships and criticism that we face on a daily basis, making us feel valued.

Perhaps life would be just a little bit easier if we each complimented someone once a day. If you consider how many compliments you give to a pet dog in one petting session, a compliment a day to one person seems like nothing. By giving more compliments, the more you will notice that others will compliment you back, as they feel it is safe to do so. This is particularly true in toxic, masculine cultures where complimenting is seen as a sign of being soft, weak or deceptive.

So, where do we start? Just think of what kind of compliment would make your day better if you heard it.

Start simple with a small thing that you notice the other person has made an effort on, whether it is their hair, clothing or an accessory. We feel more appreciated when someone notices something we have done and can change, rather than something we are born with, like our physical appearance.

Then, you will start noticing and appreciating more positive things the person does, such as how they work, their small but significant achievements, products of their creativity and their demeanours.

Lastly, if it is someone we are close to and know well, it might be worth pointing out every now and then something we like about that person on a fundamental level. This includes their values, dreams, passions, convictions and character. Perhaps we respect their strong resolve and positive approach to life. Perhaps we appreciate the kindness they show to others. Perhaps we just love them for being themselves.

Think of the last time you were moved by someone’s compliment to you. Pay that kindness forward by making someone else’s day with a compliment of your own. You will feel happier just seeing another person smile when they hear your kind words.

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Posted in Life & Happiness

Disconnect

One of the greatest types of non-physical pain is the feeling of being disconnected. This may be due to being physically separated from someone, such as when a friend moves overseas or when a loved one passes away, or emotionally distanced, such as when when someone stops talking to you for some reason or a partner acts uninterested in you.

As social animals, we have a strong desire to feel connected to others. In fact, it is one of the greatest sources of happiness for us. Connection gives us a safe space for us to express ourselves and feel accepted for who we are. It gives us room for emotional growth as we not only share our inner thoughts and feelings with another person, but also teaches us empathy as the other person tells us more about themselves. Lastly, it gives us a sense of belonging and feeling wanted and needed. Therefore, becoming disconnected from someone can feel as hurtful as if a part of you has been cut away.

The pain of disconnection can be so powerful that it is a common cause of affairs (particularly emotional affairs) in relationships. As a relationship matures and we grow older, people may prioritise other aspects of their life more, become stressed by work or grapple with their insecurities and anxieties. This may result in people becoming more withdrawn as they sink into themselves, becoming more distanced from their loved ones. If the reason for this is not communicated, the partner may easily think that the cause of disconnection is because they are no longer wanted or loved, and they may look for intimacy and closeness elsewhere.

So how do we remedy the pain of disconnection? The obvious answer is connection.

Firstly, we can restore the connection with the person we have been disconnected from. This may include more frequent calls and video chats with a friend who lives overseas, or communicating honestly with a partner to tell them that we are hurting and to explore why the disconnection happened in the first place. Without communication, we resort to assumptions based on our fears and insecurities, which can cause even more damage.

Secondly, we can seek different kinds of connections (but not having an affair). For example, developing deeper connections with other people such as friends, old and new, or finding people to enjoy a hobby or passion with together. The reason for feeling disconnected may be a temporary stress for the other person not involving you, so giving them space while distracting yourself is not a bad idea.

Lastly, if there is true disconnection because of a falling out where even communication cannot repair it, then we must accept the disconnection as a loss, grieve it, process it and move on. People come and go in life and unfortunately, we must accept that even relationships are impermanent.

The reason why disconnection causes so much suffering is because connection lets us be so much more than just ourselves, creating the magical equation of 1 + 1 = 3.

In other words, the feeling of disconnection teaches us to value and be grateful for the connections that we have in life and to encourage us to make more effort to maintain and foster those connections.

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Posted in Life & Happiness

Crush

At some point in our lives, most of us have experienced a crush: an intense, emotional, almost obsessive attraction towards someone that we barely know. A crush, also known as infatuation, puppy love or limerence, has many distinct characteristics.

Firstly, we become overwhelmed with emotions of romance and adoration, to the point that it can affect our thinking and behaviour. We have daydreams and can’t stop thinking about them (“intrusive thoughts”). We imagine whole lives together with them, and may even be under the illusion that they are “the one”.
Secondly, despite knowing little about them, we idolise them as near-perfect beings. Sometimes, we even fool ourselves thinking that they will solve all of our problems, such as giving us a purpose in life or filling the hole in our hearts.
Lastly, it is unrequited. We keep our crushes secret and adore our crushes from afar. We fear that if we approach them and get to know them better, we will find that they are imperfect, or that they will reject us because they find us repulsive. To avoid pain, we don’t even try, resulting in even longer suffering.

Already we can see how a crush is not the most emotionally healthy phenomenon. Crushes are based on our lack of knowledge of the other person and our brain filling in the gaps with wild fantasies and idolisation. Our ignorance allows us to construct the image that they are perfect in every way. In other words, we are not attracted to the person because of their charming features, but because we lack knowledge of their flaws.

We are not in love with the person, but an idea of that person.

That said, crushes are natural, common and not necessarily all bad. The fact that it is so addictive is a sign of how much pleasure it can bring to someone, while being a testament to how much emotions and fantastical daydreams our brain can conjure. The key is to not let a crush fester and doing something about it. If your feelings are reciprocated, then it can blossom into a beautiful relationship. If they are not, then it is better to deal with it early so you can move on, rather than pining after something that never would have happened.

So how do we “treat” a crush? The answer lies in the fundamental flaw of a crush that it is based on a lack of knowledge about the other person. That is, the cure for a crush is to get to know them better. A relationship cannot grow without conversations. By spending time with our crush, talking with them and exploring all the little things that makes them a unique person, they transition from a mere “idea”, to a fleshed-out person.

An important thing to bear in mind is that your crush is just another human being. Like us, they are also flawed, imperfect, insecure and maybe even broken in some places. Perhaps it will be the strange way that they laugh. Or an annoying habit like chewing with their mouth open. Perhaps their flaws may make you lose interest. Perhaps you will find them even more attractive in light of their imperfections, because now they are more approachable, unique and personable, rather than a perfect god or goddess. To quote Robin Williams from Good Will Hunting:

“You’re not perfect, sport, and let me save you the suspense: this girl you’ve met, she’s not perfect either. But the question is whether or not you’re perfect for each other.”

Much like many other problems in life, a crush can only be solved by taking action and doing something about it. There is no shame in enjoying the flood of emotions for a little while, but if left unresolved, it will become toxic and damaging. You deserve a chance at being loved, and your crush deserves a chance of being judged for who they really are, not by the idealised picture you painted. This will also create a stronger foundation for a relationship, because there will be less unrealistic expectations of each other, resulting in happy surprises and discoveries, rather than disappointments.

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Posted in Life & Happiness

Home

What makes your home a home?

The definition of a home varies from person to person. For some, it is simply their current place of residence. But for many, a place must fulfil certain criteria before it could be considered a true “home”.

For some, a home is a place of rest. It is a peaceful place where they can lay their weary heads to rest. A place where the chaos and pains of the world cannot touch you. A place where you can feel safe in your own space.
For others, it is a place of connection. A place they share with the people they love, whether it be a significant other, family or close friends. It is a place where you can connect intimately with someone at the deepest level, as you would only invite someone you wholly trust to your sanctum.

Much like many questions, this is one where there is no one true answer. Everyone would have their own reason as to why their home is a true home. For myself, a home is a home when there is normal, day-to-day domestic things going on, such as someone cooking up a meal or resting to some music.

Whatever your reason may be, the question is worth pondering because once you have figured it out, you will never feel lost in life. 

For home is where your heart is.

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Posted in Science & Nature

Antimatter

Nature is surprisingly balanced. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction (Newton’s Third Law of Motion). Energy can change forms in an isolated system, but cannot be created or destroyed as the total energy must remain constant (Law of Conservation of Energy). Similarly, matter is balanced by the existence of antimatter.

Antimatter is a substance that is the polar opposite of matter. For example, instead of positively charged protons and negatively charged electrons, anti-protons are negative and anti-electrons (or positrons) are positive. Much like matter, antimatter particles can interact with each other to form more complex particles, such as an anti-atom, meaning that it is conceivable that an entire world could be made out of antimatter.

When antimatter and matter collide with each other, they annihilate. Much like the equation 1 + -1 = 0, the two opposites cancel each other out. Conversely, to create matter out of nothing, you must create an equal amount of antimatter to balance it out. Strangely though, physicists have noted that there is a great imbalance between the two in the observable universe. There seems to be far more matter than antimatter, which does not make sense. The question of why this imbalance exists is one of the biggest unsolved mysteries in physics.

An interesting lesson we can take away from antimatter is the concept that to create something out of nothing, you must balance it out with “anti-something”. If you borrow money from the bank, you may have $1000 now, but you have also created a -$1000 debt. The total balance is still 0.

The same concept can be applied to happiness. If something makes you happy, then the possibility exists that the same thing can cause you an equal amount of grief. Let’s say you find a fulfilling relationship with a significant other who brings you extreme joy. This is balanced by the extreme grief that will be brought to you if the relationship is strained or ends abruptly. Ironically, the pursuit of happiness creates more room for potential misery, as grief comes from the loss of something we care about.

So what does this imply? Does it mean that we should avoid falling in love or caring about anything, because it will only hurt us in the end? Should we even bother trying to live a happy life if it is cancelled out by all the sadness that it can bring along the way? Of course, these are silly thoughts. How dull life would be if we did not have any ups or downs.

Instead, the lesson here is that we should be mindful that happiness is not free. Grief is the price we pay so that we can experience the wonderful moments of joy, love and connection that life can give us only if we reach out. If you avoided connecting with someone or taking a leap of faith due to fear of failure or loss, then your life would be empty. This philosophy allows us to be grateful for the joyful moments, while helping us endure grief as we know that is the price we must pay for true happiness.

You can’t let fear steal your funk. To quote Alfred Lord Tennyson: 

“‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

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Posted in Life & Happiness

Price Of Admission

We are critical by nature. This is especially true when it comes to relationships, because we’d like someone as perfect as possible to accompany us on the journey of life. A large part of dating is meeting people, getting to know them better at a deeper level and trying to judge how compatible they are with us.

During this process, we might come across something that we consider a dealbreaker – that is, something that we find annoying, repulsive or unacceptable enough that we no longer desire that person. This may range from serious behaviours such as alcoholism or unfaithfulness, to benign but annoying behaviours such as chewing with an open mouth or being messy.

But with so many potential dealbreakers, how do we know which are legitimate and which are frivolous? Are we being too picky, meaning we will be forever alone, or are we trapping ourselves in a miserable, incompatible relationship, because we are not brave enough to leave the relationship?

An American columnist named Dan Savage answers this question with the concept of paying the “price of admission”. His process is extremely simple: if you cannot count the number of dealbreakers for you on one hand, then the problem lies with you. Choosing the right partner is a very important decision and you are encouraged to have a reasonable idea of what you want and what you don’t. But if your list of what you cannot live with is long and full of superficial things, then you will never find a happy relationship.

People are far from perfect, but we try to hide that fact. On a first date, we try to present an idealised version of ourselves to impress each other. We dream of finding “The One” – someone who is perfect for us. We set unrealistic expectations in our head and use it as an excuse, lamenting that we cannot find the right person while turning away potential partners because of trivial reasons. These delusions distract us from the harsh truth that no two people are perfect or fully compatible for each other from the get-go.

So if your partner has a characteristic that you dislike and it is not one of your core, serious dealbreakers, then ask yourself the question: is it worth it? Does this outweigh all of the good qualities they possess? If you believe it is, then you may leave the relationship, but you must accept that this was your choice and not your partner’s fault. If it isn’t that big of a deal, then this is a price of admission to this relationship. This is the price you must pay for the privilege of the joy, the laughter, the connection and the love your partner could provide you through the relationship.

When you see it this way, it becomes easier to accept their bad qualities. We can be angry and frustrated and annoyed, or we can choose to accept our partners for who they are – flawed, but wonderful people who are worth the trouble. Of course, you can communicate with your partner to see if you can compromise on some grounds, but this should not be an ultimatum and you cannot expect your partner to forcibly change who they are.

Lastly, remember that just as you find some qualities to be suboptimal, your partner will also feel the same way about certain parts of you. So hopefully, both parties can understand that every relationship has a price of admission that must be paid. Then, they can work on smoothing out the rough edges through communication and compromise to produce a strong, healthy long-term relationship.

The secret to a fulfilling relationship is not expecting to find The One, but instead striving to become The One for each other by rounding up.

(Image source: Puuung http://www.grafolio.com/puuung1)

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