Posted in Life & Happiness

The Secret To Positivity

There are mixed responses to the concept of positivity. Many people (often realists) feel that it is “unnecessary” and “fluffy” – something that does not help you survive in this dog-eat-dog world. Others lie at the other end of the spectrum and spit out generic, pseudo-inspirational quotes, saying that they are so happy that nothing can touch them. But as with anything, balance is crucial. Being overly pessimistic can make you a miserable, anhedonic person who is incapable of getting any enjoyment out of life. Being overly optimistic can make you have false hope, setting you up for a catastrophic crash when a bad situation arises to knock you off your feet.

So what is a good balance? According to the broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions, having an overall positive balance of emotions leads to a happier life with not only more contentment, but more awareness, mindfulness, creativity and success. Through positivity, a person can break out of the prison made by everyday stress and explore hobbies and interests, learning new skills, meeting people and building relatinoships. It also builds resilience, allowing you to withstand more stress and endure on until a better time. A rough rule of thumb is a 3:1 ratio of positive and negative emotions.

The reason it is important to allow for some negativity is that human emotions are not black and white. Sadness, pain and stress can be crippling if left unchecked, but they also catalyse growth and change. Human beings grow by learning from experience. If you ignore and push down the negative emotions, you will never react to them and you will not learn how to become better at preventing and managing such harsh times. Much like how something as foul and repulsive as manure can be an excellent fertiliser, negativity in controlled amounts acts to help you develop positivity. Do not let negativity control your life and do not bottle it up, pretending not to be affected by it. Instead, let yourself be overwhelmed once in a while, cry if you need to and learn from the experience.

The secret to positivity is not just boosting your happiness level, but being mindful of all of your emotions and learning to find the balance.

Posted in Psychology & Medicine


Perspective is everything. By changing your perspective, you may discover an innovative solution to a problem, or understand the actions of someone else. But more importantly, your perspectives have direct implications in your life and health.

For example, let us consider pain. Pain is a sensation – an electrical signal in response to a noxious stimuli that is causing damage to your body. It is a warning system that screams to the brain that something is wrong. To boil down the complex physiology of neurotransmission, essentially imagine the system as an electrical circuit. If something damages tissue, like a knife slicing through flesh or a clot blocking off oxygen supply to the heart, the pain “switch” is activated, a signal is sent to the brain, and it is interpreted and “felt” by the brain as pain. Because your brain needs to interpret the signal, pain is essentially subjective. If you are distracted or in a good mood, you will feel less pain compared to when you are distressed and focussing on it. The same stimuli can be handled completely different by every person, making pain extremely complicated and difficult to assess in a medical setting. Pain scales may be used to try objectify the level of pain, but this is still very crude.

UCEM Pain Scale

One way or another, pain is technically all in your head. That is not to say that pain is not real – that would be an insult to sufferers of chronic pain. But your perspective, way of thinking and frame of mind can make a significant difference to the amount of suffering the pain causes. This is not just an overly-optimistic view of the world that everything can be fixed with optimism. There are real physiological systems in place to alleviate pain when you are happy. These chemicals are called endorphins – so named because they are so potent that they match the effect of morphine (endo(inside) + morphine). This natural painkiller is released in response to pain, but can also be stimulated by having fun and being happy. Laughter is literally medicine.

Not only that, but by being in a good mood, you become more resilient and “distracted from the pain”, allowing you to bear the pain more easily. A woman going through childbirth suffers quite possibly the most extreme level of pain a human being can experience, but the prospect of seeing their newborn child (and probably finally ending their pregnancy) and the loving support of their spouse, family and friends keep them pushing onwards. Even though the noxious stimuli of stretching is real, the brain can choose to downplay how much pain it thinks it should feel with these positive factors.

Although it may not be able to make your pain magically disappear, never underestimate the power of positivity, laughter and happiness. Perhaps that is why the emotion of happiness was evolved – to alleviate the misery and pains of living in this world. To survive.


Posted in Life & Happiness


Contemporary artists say to the public: “Art should make people think and feel some kind of emotion. Therefore, we make provocative art to invoke the negative emotions too.
To them, I say: “Life is ugly enough to give you those emotions every day – what’s wrong with just looking at paintings that bring out some positive emotions?”

Parents say to their children: “Why can’t you get good grades like others? Why don’t you listen? Why can’t you do anything right?
To them, I say: “We will all be insulted plenty throughout life, do you have to criticise us even more? Can’t you give us even a few words of encouragement, something society will never give?”

Religious people say to atheists: “How can you understand true happiness without God, faith or the belief that there is heaven after death?
To them, I say: “Knowing that I will return to nothing after a short but content life rather than going to hell for even the smallest thing simply makes me ecstatic.”

Pessimists say to optimists: “What’s so great about life? Unless you are a fool, there is nothing worth being happy about.
To them, I say: “And that is why I try to think more happy thoughts and be nice to others. Otherwise I would never make it through this rotten world. People all have enough going on in their lives – why bother making it more difficult when you can make it a little better at no added cost? The time we have is short, so what’s the point of only thinking negative, depressing thoughts? I would rather laugh like a fool, admire the little beauty left in the world and make other people’s lives a little happier before I go.”

Everything in the world depends on your perception, so why not think positively and live happily? No matter what, we can only live a certain time, no more, no less. The key to happiness is to enjoy appropriately, learn as much as possible and to love infinitely.

Posted in Philosophy

Power Of The Mind

There once lived a Buddhist monk by the name of Great Master Wonhyo(원효대사) in the kingdom of Silla (during the Three Kingdoms period of Korea). At the age of 45, he set out to the country of Tang (modern day China) to further his understanding of Buddhism. During his travel, he decided to rest in front of a grave when night fell. In the middle of the night, he woke up feeling thirsty and searched for a drink. He found a bowl full of water in the complete darkness and drank it quickly to quench his thirst. He thought to himself “How lucky I am, to find a bowl of such sweet water.” and went back to sleep.

When morning came, he checked to see if there was still water in the bowl. He then realised that the bowl was actually a skull, and that the water was stagnant, putrid water that had collected in it. Realising that he drank the vile liquid from the skull, the monk started throwing up. But then, he realised that in the darkness, he drank from the skull with no problem, and even thought that the drink was sweet and refreshing. To quote:

Objects and rules are only born from the mind; a dead mind is no better than a skull. Buddha’s Three Commandments originate from the mind, everything is born from knowledge. What could I ask for more when I have a mind?

Thus, the Great Master Wonhyo understood the way of Ilche Yushimjo (일체유심조/一切唯心造/“The mind is the origin of everything” – the key principle of Hwaumgyung, an important Buddhist text). He turned back and returned to Silla, where he devoted his life to spreading Buddhism to the people.

Any sadness or frustration can be dissipated if you look back on it. Depending on how you see the world, it can be either beautiful or tragic.

Posted in Philosophy

Glass Of Water

A pessimist sees a glass as half empty.

An optimist sees a glass as half full.

A wise, happy person drinks the refreshing liquid and then pours another glass.

(also see Points of View)

Posted in Psychology & Medicine

Rabbit Or Duck


What do you see in the above picture? A rabbit? A duck?
This image shows a phenomenon first described by an American psychologist, Joseph Jastrow, in 1899 and tells us a few things about the brain’s way of processing visual information.

Firstly, this picture is neither a duck nor a rabbit. However, our brain tries to match it to what it has seen in the past, and in that process (for example) it decides it must be a rabbit. Then when the same picture is presented, it decides it must be a duck, because the picture appears to match both figures and the brain randomly decides it can only be one of them.

This experiment proves that the human brain does not simply record visual information on to film (memory), but instead processes it first then records it. This is the reason we see UFOs in clouds, the face of the Virgin Mary on burnt toast or a rabbit on the moon. This phenomenon is called pareidolia, when the brain gives a meaning to what is actually a random visual stimuli. Due to this, we cannot totally trust what we see.

Also, this picture teaches us a valuable lesson regarding our perception. From one point of view it is a rabbit, but from another it is a duck. This kind of scenario is seen countless times in life, such as a song you hated that suddenly sounds great, or a guy you once thought was a tool appearing wonderful all of a sudden, or a girl you never even considered becoming attractive one day.
Like this, perception can not only be affected by optimism and pessimism, but even small things like emotions or random events.