Geography of Bliss

This book is written in the form of a travelogue of a grump that travels all over the world seeking happiness. I loved the message in the book, although I think Bill Bryson does a much better job of being a travel writer than Eric Weiner. I’ve never actually thought about the ‘happiness temperature’ of a place, preferring to think of happiness as a very internal thing as opposed to a function of your environment. This author turned that concept around and explains how culture begets or robs one of happiness. It’s a good read – below are my favourite notes from the book –

The Hedonic Treadmill

Imagine you are on a treadmill and your reward is a cup of coffee. The coffee costs $1. You earn the coffee and feel good about yourself. Pretty soon you’re earning $1 coffees on a daily basis and it doesn’t motivate you anymore. You go get yourself a $5 Starbucks coffee that does the same job that the $1 coffee did. The fascination dies away in some time and you crave something better and more expensive next to provide you the motivation…

This was my most favourite concept from the book. Money cannot guarantee happiness and the more you try to make it so, the more entwined you are in its grip.

Mai Pen Lai or Let it Go

This one is from the Thais. They believe in the process of living happily, as opposed to the end goal of being happy. Life is an infinite game and setbacks or successes are to be treated with the same attitude of Mai Pen Lai.

This reminded me of the my favourite line from the Gita: “Do your duty; lay not claim to its fruits”.

Happiness can be Aural 

Have you ever experienced a rush of memories when you hear a long forgotten sound? I do, frequently, and as it turns out, a lot of happiness is associated with the sounds of a place/person! The next time you feel like you’re having a good time that would qualify as a great memory, try to capture it in sound 🙂

“The good life cannot be mere indulgence. It must contain a measure of grit and truth”, or the need for messiness in one’s life to remain happy. Perfection is overrated. Listen up, Singapore!

“Happiness is 100% relational. There is no such thing as a ‘personal happiness’. Happiness acquires meaning once you share it with others.. it is connective tissue”. (Still trying to wrap my head around this one).

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When do you feel curious?

It is a question I’ve been asking myself recently.

1. I think curiosity can be developed only when you are secure enough to explore unfamiliar territory. You should be able to walk out of the experience and shrug it off if it was a bad one, or rejoice in it if it was a good one. There’s a lot to learn from kids on this behaviour..

2. Curiosity also needs a certain degree of dissatisfaction with the current status quo.

3. Curious people also tend to like asking many questions just for the sake of learning. Not for any higher purpose but to store up the knowledge in their brains.. in other words, being actively interested to learn!

I think the first step to being a more curious person is to ‘respond to offers’ from your environment. More on ‘creating a culture of Yes’ here.

What are your thoughts on curiosity?

Decisioning making as adults

You know you’re a grown up when you eat salad to be healthy, are expected to make 5 year plans and wake up at 6am without anyone throwing water in your face. It is really hard to be a grown up, and not as fun as I thought it would be. 

Last night, I went for a movie and debated in my head about getting some popcorn. “It’s so overpriced!” “its full of salt and unhealthy for you” “its so yummy and I had a small, too-healthy sandwich for lunch…”. I finally did get the popcorn after an intense mental battle with myself and at the end of it, the popcorn didn’t even taste THAT great. Somehow, it always tasted better when all you had to do was to plead your case with a grownup and they would buy it for you. No internal debating. The decision making was the poor grownup’s problem, not yours. 

All decisions, no matter how small or big have consequences. It would be easy to say to go easy on the small ones to leave room for the big ones in your head. But all big decisions are always based on smaller decisions…

How then, can we make “small decisions” less painful as adults? Some guiding principles I want to abide by:

– Put as many decisions as possible on autopilot

 I do this a lot. I eat the same breakfast almost everyday, know what I am wearing to work every morning and have schedules for my lunch places. I find it liberating!

– Eliminate choices ruthlessly. Helps to have a binary approach when doing this. 

– Set a deadline to make the decision 

– Some decision is always better than indecision

– Be happy and feel at peace about your decision once you’ve made it. This is a hard one.

 

How do you make your small decisions? Does delegating your “small” decision making work for you?

The HappyDays project

Earlier this year, my housemates and I created a shared blog to record and share our ‘happy days’ with each other. This was inspired from the internet project – http://100happydays.com/. We try to post one ‘happy post’ per day as part of our commitment to be more positive people. I’ve loved the experience so far and the blog looks like an amazing collage of shared memories 🙂 

I strongly encourage you to start one with a group that you want to keep in touch with. The amount of bonding that rises from such a simple online group project is amazing. And it’s just another excuse to look at the good things about your life. Who doesn’t need one?

How can you start? WordPress and both have great mobile apps that help you blog with a click or two. Just create a blog on either platform with multiple authors, install the app on your phone and you are good to go.

Happy week, friends!

PS: For an energy boost – listen to Happy from Despicable Me. It’s been running on loop at home! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q-GLuydiMe4

 

Waste

The amount of waste we generate is mind boggling.

Last weekend, my housemates and I did some spring cleaning of our kitchen. Threw out many dollars worth of expired products, rotting vegetables from the fridge and so much plastic. We had 11 trash bags in total after the cleaning. And this was barely 2 months from the previous cleaning in December! I was shocked at the amount of crap we had accumulated. 

I was most surprised at the plastic we had generated… zillions of plastic covers, so many plastic one-use containers and then some more plastic covers. We really did generate a lot more waste than was necessary for a house of 5 people. 

How to reduce waste? There are many ways to get started and the internet is full of ideas.

But it all REALLY starts with awareness. Its all very well to watch talks about the environment and see dumpsters/landfills with trash… Your mind de-sensitises itself from the reality and nothing really ‘hits’. My suggestion is for you to start by cleaning your own home this weekend and make a note of the different types of waste that you create.

Then, watch this great TED talk (8mins).

Happy cleaning.

Show up early.

They say showing up is half the battle won..
I completely agree. On many Monday mornings, the Resistance kicks into overdrive and makes me develop imaginary illnesses. I sometimes go into ‘self-destruct’ mode as early as Sunday evening. There is an irrational urge to not complete weekly chores, to sleep late and to be miserable.

These are occasions where I identify that my enemy Resistance is back, and attempt to snap myself out of it. And I find that the easiest way to do this is to put one small step in front of the other and keep doing so… In other words, show up.

What helps me even more is to show up early. Show up at 8:30am instead of 9 to work and you’ve already got a headstart in getting out of self destruct mode.

If showing up is half the battle won, showing up early is three quarters the battle won. The Resistance won’t know what hit it.

Good luck for the busy week ahead!