Decide What You Want And Pursue It Relentlessly

I recently re-read one of my favourite psychology books called ‘Grit’ by Angela Duckworth. It’s essentially about why passion and perseverance are the keys to success. In other words, talent isn’t everything, it’s about the work and deliberate practice you put in.

When I think of a lot of people in my life, I notice a trend around complacency. Many people have ambitious goals and really want to succeed, but often fall short when push comes to shove. I’d like to use this post as somewhat of a ‘motivational’ speech.

Firstly, for myself. To remind myself of why I’m doing whatever it is I’m doing. Secondly, because I want you to understand how important it is to be driven by something deeper than motivation. I think motivation is unreliable, but habits can last. Lastly, so that we can stop making excuses and avoid hiding behind the comfort of our complacency.

Growth Mindset - The McManus Project

Why?

We come back to the concept of purpose. It always starts with your reason, your intention, your why. We’ve heard about this everywhere and keep seeing it all the time. But I want you to understand that you don’t necessarily just wake up one day and figure out your purpose. In fact, you may never figure it out. You keep striving towards something meaningful and enjoyable, then determine your why from there.

That’s the first misconception that I want to uncover. Purpose is not easy to find. You often have to chase things that are in your self-interest and don’t necessarily contribute to other people. Once you start developing a certain level of expertise in that domain, you can then try and look beyond yourself, and figure out how to make an impact.

Let’s use my blogging as an example. Originally, I started it off as a way for me to vent. I just wanted a space to share my thoughts with other people. Not for their sake, but for mine. I was never a reader or a writer, but a few years down the line, I started getting better at it. I started enjoying it. It became a habit.

I started writing more about life lessons, book, mindfulness and little tricks that I found really helpful for me. A few of my friends and family members then started telling me how helpful my posts were to them. That they were inspired in some way. That’s when I realized the potential impact I could make by writing more meaningful posts.

“Aspire to Inspire” became the motto, to try and help people reach their full potential by sharing the little nuggets of wisdom that I have. What started off as a venting mechanism, turned into something purposeful. That brings me to my next point, why motivation is not reliable.

Motivation is unreliable

Some days we wake up feeling incredibly energetic and ready to conquer the world. Other days we dread the thought of getting out of bed. That’s essentially the issue with seeking motivation, it’s temporary and subjective. What can we look for instead, to stay inspired?

This may sound annoying, but my answer is to form habits/routine/rituals! Remember this quote:

“First you create your habits, then your habits create you.”

It’s all about consistency and making things somewhat predictable. If you have a routine going, you try to stick to it irrespective of your moods. You don’t only brush your teeth when you feel like it, you brush your teeth because it’s a habit, and you know that it’s important for your hygiene. You don’t only go to the gym when you feel like it. You go to the gym because it’s part of who you are. You are someone who is dedicated to your physical wellbeing.

So think of it in terms of who you are as an individual, not just as an activity that you perform. Initially, it will take some motivation and some push, but once you have the ritual and discipline going for you, you flow into it.

That brings me to another really important point, stop making excuses!

Stop making excuses

The thing about motivation is that it can be used as an excuse. ‘I just don’t feel motivated today’.

What does that even mean? Can you pinpoint exactly what’s causing you to slack off? Is it mood-dependent? If there are genuine reasons why you cannot go after what you want, then so be it. But if the reasons are fluffy and intangible, it’s not worth it.

I want to make it clear that I’m not trying to force you to be more productive or to do more. I want you to help you identify the flaws in your own argument when you convince yourself that you’re incapable of achieving something. The quote that immediately comes to mind is:

“Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right.”

So if you need to take a break and if you really just need some time off, then do exactly that! It’s not about about toxic productivity and pushing yourself to the point of burnout. It’s about being realistic, ambitious and efficient. That’s my approach to life. Feel free to disagree with me in the comments.

Decide what you want, and pursue it relentlessly

The point that I’m trying to make in this post is that you should figure out what you want, then go after it. Relentlessly pursue your goals and ambitions. Why? Because tomorrow is not guaranteed. You don’t know if you’ll be here in another week, month, year or decade.

Given that fact, you should embrace the present moment but remembering the shortness of your life. Memento Mori. Your problems and challenges are there to fuel your journey moving forward.

Start deliberately practicing. Understand that the effort you put in is worth more than just talent. If you want to get better at something, put in the hours. Don’t wait for motivation, look at the habits you need to have in place. Stop making excuses and find ways to inspire yourself. Consistency is the key to mastery.

Who do you need to be, to achieve what you want to get done?

How Can We Eat More Sustainably?

No, I’m not going to tell you to go full vegan. But let’s see how close we can get to that.

I received a lot of positive feedback on my previous post on ‘Why do we waste food?’. I figured it would be useful to dive into a relevant topic. The concept of eating more sustainably is something that I strive towards, it’s not something that I fully live out as yet. I attempted it when I lived alone in Cape Town, but struggled once I started staying with my family again.

In today’s post, I’d like to dive into a few aspects of sustainable eating that are worth considering. Let’s first look at why it’s important, how our current habits impact the environment, ways we can try to improve on our eating habits, and how to move forward as a society.

Gary Lawrence Quote: “Sustainability is a political choice ...

Why is this topic important?

I think many of us underestimate the impact our eating habits have, not only on our body, but our mind, our community and the environment. I personally think it’s important because we typically eat around 3 meals a day (+snacks), every single day of our life. That’s somewhat astonishing, if you think about how much we actually eat in a year (>1000 meals). If we think of the population as a whole, that’s 7 billion people eating at a rate of 1000 meals a year – there’s a lot of mouths to feed.

Now I know that’s a bit of a stretch, since not everyone eats that much or has the privilege to. Trying to also point out why we should be incredibly grateful to fit that category.

That rate of eating means that we need to find ways to efficiently produce enough food for everyone. Efficiency, however, can come at a cost (I realized that from own personal experiences). We’ve started to extract natural resources at an unnatural rate, and the products get distributed unequally. That means that we’re now producing more food than ever before, but are causing significant damage to the environment and not feeding everyone.

Let’s dive deeper into that.

How are our current eating habits affecting the environment?

Here some interesting facts from Our World In Data:

Bar chart of how much of the world's greenhouse gas emissions (26%); habitable land use (50%); freshwater withdrawals (70%); eutrophication (78%) and total mammal biomass (94%) results from food and agriculture.
https://ourworldindata.org/environmental-impacts-of-food

The bar graphs essentially show the contribution of the food and agriculture industry on different aspects of the environment. What we don’t realize is that the type of food we eat, has a direct impact on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, land-use, fresh water supplies and even biodiversity.

Here’s another interesting figure to see how specific food types affect GHG emissions.

The immediate takeaway is that the top 3 contributors are all meat-related. That is because livestock and cattle are all incredible potent methane producers (cows and sheep fart, A LOT). When you stack up all the farms that use unsustainable techniques, it adds up to tonnes of GHG emissions.

I’ve also talked about the impact of food waste in my previous post, which has its fair share of environmental impact. There’s also the packaging and plastics that are used throughout the value chain, which all accumulates.

It’s not all bleak and sour though, there are clear ways for us to improve on these issues. It’s not as easy for some people and it might be easier in other countries, but it all starts with a single step.

最高の引用: これまでで最高のGreenhouse Gas Effect Cartoon
https://image.cagle.com/151304/750/151304.png

How can we improve?

From my personal experience, it’s somewhat simple. We just need to be more conscious of where we get our food from. The first thing is to try and support local as much as you can. The more you’re able to source from small farms, butchers and reliable sources of free range food, the better.

Try to cut down on buying fast food and eating out at large franchises. Those are typically major contributors to the emission chain and tend to be incredibly unsustainable.

The next thing is to add more vegetables, fruit and plants into your diet. The less we rely on cattle and poultry, the more we are reducing our contribution to the GHG emissions. It can be as simple as setting up a meal plan for the week, and instead of eating meat for like 4 days, cut it down to 1 or 2 days (essentially cut down from your current habit).

The last thing is to grow your own food where possible. This is more applicable to people who live in houses with gardens. The more you can source your own food organically, the healthier it is for you and the environment.

If you’d like to find more tips on how to eat more sustainably, check out the link below:

https://www.wwf.org.uk/what-can-i-do/10-tips-help-you-eat-more-sustainably

Moving forward

As a society, we’ve started to romanticize the concept of fast food and take-outs. Some people I know can eat fast food on a daily basis. It’s cheap and convenient. But it comes at an indirect cost.

To move forward as a society, I think we need to start finding ways to encourage and incentivize each other to live more sustainably. We live on a planet with finite resources. The impact of our actions from the last few decades/centuries are starting to take its toll. We can’t keep plowing ahead with the same habits. The population is growing, so that means we’ll only have more mouths to feed.

ラブリーAnimated Greenhouse Gases Cartoon - インスピレーションを与える名言
https://ojogalaksihmbah.blogspot.com/2020/07/animated-greenhouse-gases-cartoon.html

It’s all about taking a small step in the right direction. Little by little, a little becomes a lot. Don’t underestimate the ripple effect of the minor changes you make in your life. Just try your best, whatever that means to you.

The point I’d like to make here is that we can do better. Most of us choose not to, out of convenience. The choice of eating more sustainably is definitely a privilege, but one that we should utilize as much as we can.

Eat better today, for a healthier planet tomorrow.

Why Do We Waste Food?

I’ve been doing some research into household consumer behaviour and why we waste food. I thought it would be an interesting topic to speak about, given how common food waste is nowadays.

In today’s post, I’d like to dive into several aspects of food waste (which can be extrapolated to any kind of waste). I’ll look at the impact it has on society, the impact it has on our psyche and the impact on our environment.

Impact of food waste on society

When it comes to societal impact, it’s easy to look at it from 2 different extremes; those living in abject poverty and the filthy rich. The majority of us lie somewhere in the middle. For those who live in a state of constant hunger and search for food on a day-to-day basis, it’s quite clear why wasting food makes no sense.

Think about it this way, whenever you intentionally throw food out (bec you let it expire etc.), you deny other people a chance to leverage that same thing. Yes, there should be a threshold or limit to what you can give or can’t give (based on the quality of the food for example). But more often than not, people who don’t have anything to eat will be incredibly grateful for your left overs.

Food waste comic. | Food Waste Facts & Stats | Pinterest ...

This applies even more when you’re eating out at a restaurant. Time and time again, I see people leave large portions of their food on the table when they leave a restaurant. Those restaurants can’t do anything but throw it away. You, on the other hand, can ask for a takeaway box and give it to someone else (a guard or beggar etc.).

Our decisions always make an impact on other people, whether we see it directly or not. You can change the lives of the people in your community by simply giving away some of your leftovers or excess food. Especially when you know you’re not going to eat something, but keep it in the fridge until it expires/rots and throw it away.

Be mindful of these habits, they also have an effect on your psyche.

Will.i.am Quote: “Waste is only waste if we waste it.” (7 ...

Impact on our psyche

As I mentioned already, there are indirect consequences to our wasting habits. The impact actually seeps deep into your subconscious, because you are essentially programming yourself to live a certain lifestyle.

Something as simple as throwing away leftovers? Really?

Yes, because it ingrains a certain level of ingratitude. This may sound like an attack to some of you, but it’s how I personally view the topic. When you’re comfortable with wasting, you are essentially doing the opposite of being grateful. You’re not truly appreciating the value of the blessing.

It happens by mistake and a lot of the time it’s not on purpose, but when it’s habit/lifestyle, then it can be truly problematic. Especially because you’re living out your values. And I don’t think any of us would really like to acknowledge that ingratitude can be a core value.

Apart from that, there’s also a huge concern about the environment. Landfills simply can’t sustainably deal with the type of food waste we produce.

Food Waste | ECOEducationService

Impact on the environment

Apart from the clear and obvious non-degradable aspects of the waste (like packaging and containers), the food itself causes a significant problem. Considering that most of our food waste typically ends up in landfills (in unsustainable quantities), it ends up being buried for microorganisms to decompose.

The issue is that the process is achieved through anaerobic digestion (without any oxygen), and the by-product is large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions (like CO2 and methane). This means that food waste directly contributes to climate change.

Another factor to consider is the value chain of the food process. From the time it’s farmed/produced, through to the logistics of transporting it, to the refrigeration/storage, all the way to consumption, there’s a lot of waste created when we throw that food away.

You can find more information on what happens to food waste in the article below.

What can we do about it?

I know that sounds all dark and gloomy, but there is something really simple that we can do about it. Simply waste less.

Start by paying closer attention to your buying and eating habits. If you notice that you always buy an excessive amount of certain items that usually end up expired, then start buying less of it. When you notice things approaching their expiry date and you don’t plan on consuming it, then give it away.

In addition, just give more to those who less fortunate than you. It obviously needs to be edible and in decent condition, but it doesn’t have to be brand new or immaculate. People appreciate the smallest of gestures and acts of kindness. By doing this, you’re acting out the value of gratitude. God has blessed us all with much more than we can count. It’s time to make our actions count.

So if you want to play your part and make a difference to society, to your psyche and to the environment, waste less, be more mindful of what you buy and start giving out more. You got this.

Work-Life Balance

Here’s a topic a lot of people I know may be struggling with (myself included, lmao). In the age of working from home (WFH) and everything being done virtually, we seemed to have lost touch of boundaries that are typically associated with work-life balance (WLB).

Most of us are expected to be online till way past our ‘working hours’, just because we can be. The amount of work that we are required to achieve in a single day has increased for some reason, despite the fact that it’s not necessarily easier being at home.

In today’s post, I’d like to deal with quite a difficult concept: how to improve on our work-life balance. I’ll talk about the boundaries that we need to set, the objectives that we need to have on a daily basis, spending enough time with our family and friends, looking at the spiritual side of things, as well as making time to get adequate sleep.

My experience of this topic comes from the fact that I’m part-time studying and working full-time – mostly from home. So there’s a lot of effort that I need to put in place to ensure that I get enough downtime and rest.

Boundaries and rituals

The reason why I talk about boundaries being blurred is because many of us no longer drive to the office, we don’t pack up our laptops when we’re done and go back home, we don’t feel how late it can get compared to when we’re at the office.

Nowadays, we wake up and the first thing we check is our work emails, we jump straight into meeting (often while we’re still in bed), we stay up till way later to meet deadlines, and we struggle to meet our other obligations – all while we’re at home.

First thing’s first, we need to identify that not having boundaries is a problem. A lot of us get used to the intensity and almost accept it. But if we don’t look at it for what it is, we may not appreciate a healthy balance. Once you understand the need for boundaries, you need to find ways to specify and implement them.

This can be done by understanding your objectives, which I’ll touch on briefly after this. For example, you may want to exercise before/after the work day. Block off an hour in the morning/evening at a specific time and try to let your team know that this is necessary for you to be effective (ensure it doesn’t clash with meetings etc.).

Another way to try and improve your WLB is by setting a cutoff time for you to respond to emails/attend meetings. I know it’s not always possible when projects get intense, but it’s worth a try. The point is to look at what you need to stay efficient, and build rituals around that.

Gerard Manley Hopkins Quote: “Your personal boundaries ...

Daily objectives

Your daily objectives should basically be aligned to your boundaries. Understanding what you need on a day-to-day basis will enable you to make time for those requirements. We all need to prepare for meals, get administrative tasks done, work on hobbies/side projects, maintain social relationships and get some exercise done.

By setting these objectives down at specific times during the day (with some flexibility), we can then incorporate those boundaries. The aim is to ensure that you sustain a healthy balance and attend to your personal matters too. That’s the whole point of understanding work-life balance.

Family/friends and alone time

This is an incredibly important component to me personally. I find that I need a recovery period with the people I love and cherish. There’s something about quality time that just recharges me. Without it, the balance starts to tip over.

I live away from most of family in Joburg, so I don’t get to see them as often as I’d like. But I still try to video call them often and then make plans with people that I’m close to here.

I also found that I need quite a decent dose of alone time to let my thoughts settle and to make sense of everything that goes on around me. I need time to meditate, to walk in nature, to read, to reflect and to contemplate. It’s a different way for me to clean out my energy and bring more positivity into my work.

Spiritual Aspect

Another fundamental part of my life revolves around Islam and my daily prayers. This can mean different things to different people, but having a spiritual grounding is truly something I can’t do without.

It is the essence of my purpose in life and I find that I’m always calmer and more collected after I’ve prayed. What I love about the Islamic approach, is that you’re required to pray 5 times a day. That means you get 5 chances every single day, to reconnect to your spiritual side and stay in check.

Find what works best for you and ensure that you incorporate it on a daily basis; even if it’s just being grateful before you start the day.

Sleeping beauty

Another critical aspect of a healthy WLB is getting enough consistent sleep. This is easily a challenge, especially when there’s so much that needs to get done. Setup a cutoff time for when you go to sleep and for when to wake up. The consistency makes it easier for your mind to settle.

The benefits of getting enough sleep should be really clear by now, I’ve written a post about it already. The takeaway from this post is to make sure you respect your body’s requirement. If you sacrifice a healthy amount of sleep for too long, the harmful effects can last a lifetime.

If you can, try to get at least 7 hours of sleep. 6 if you’re pushing it. Anything below that (depending on your sleep cycle) would be detrimental. Calm down on the coffee too, especially past 3/4 pm.

The Awkward Yeti » Comics

So, we’ve given quite a bit of thought to the concept of WLB. There are a lot of considerations to factor in, especially given how we’re all WFH. Make sure you understand your daily objectives so that you can set boundaries, figure out how much time you need to spend with family/friends or alone to recharge, find time to pray, and make sure you’re getting enough sleep.

There’s always going to be a lot to do. That’s the nature of life. But just as the birds and animals know when it’s time to rest, so should you. Follow your nature and keep doing your best. You got this.

Apocalyptic

I wrote this post looking back at the events that occurred around 3 weeks ago. It felt exactly as if we were in an apocalypse.

*Trigger warning*

Looting and unrest continue ahead of Zuma's case - Prime ...
https://www.primenewsghana.com/images/2021/may/12/e302a7eff2393087c431fb564e923f44.jpg

There seems to be a lot going on in the world rn, especially in South Africa. If being in a 3rd wave of the Covid pandemic wasn’t enough, we also experienced some intense riots and looting 3 weeks ago. It was quite strange, seeing how things spiraled out of control so quickly.

Today’s post will be another part of the Thinking Out Loud series. I just thought it would be interesting to discuss relevant topics and get insights from different people. First, I’ll give some background to the riots and looting, then I’ll go through the 3rd wave struggle, how we’re stronger together, and lastly, I’ll look at how these experiences serve as a turning point in our lives.

What on earth happened South Africa?

To give some context, the riots started off as protests in support of our ex-president Jacob Zuma.

“Zuma was sentenced late last month for defying a constitutional court order to give evidence at an inquiry investigating high-level corruption during his nine years in office until 2018. The decision to jail him resulted from legal proceedings seen as a test of post-apartheid South Africa’s ability to enforce the rule of law, including against powerful politicians.”

After his arrest, many of his supporters went out in protest to this incident (don’t ask me why people protested against imprisoning someone corrupt). The protests quickly turned into some kind of organised mayhem, where they chose a specific day to start mass looting and cause sporadic destruction in KZN and Gauteng.

https://www.autoexposite.com/world/death-toll-rises-as-violence-and-looting-spreads-in-south-africa/

This included supermarkets, warehouses, malls and all sorts of businesses. Highways and main roads were also blocked, paralyzing supply chain routes and causing a huge shortage of many essential supplies, including petrol. For the few days that the chaos occurred, people couldn’t buy bread, milk, order food online or refuel their cars. It was like a full on apocalypse; quite surreal if we’re being honest.

“What we are witnessing now are opportunistic acts of criminality, with groups of people instigating chaos merely as a cover for looting and theft.” -President Cyril Ramaphosa

The army was eventually deployed and things started to calm down. In the interim, we all kind of forgot that we were in the middle of a pandemic.

WATCH Looting at Shopping Mall in KZN, South Africa ...
https://www.sapeople.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/looting-shopping-centre-South-Africa-th.jpg

3rd wave of the pandemic

I’ve already talked about my personal experience getting Covid, but it seems like the waves and variants are just endless at this point. I don’t think we truly understand the impact on the economy of having another wave of Covid in addition to a week of looting and shutdowns.

The amount of damage that was done to infrastructure, to the modes of transport and to supply chains have only made things more intense.

What I love about this country though is the resilience. We are an incredibly diverse nation, with a very strong history. We’ve overcome immense challenges to get to where we are today. Despite the motives behind everything that’s happening and this 3rd wave, people are still giving it their best! We are not giving up. Not anytime soon, that’s for sure.

Coming together as a community

The most incredible thing that I observed in all this chaos was the way in which we came together as communities. I noticed how despite several Muslim businesses being looted and burnt, many of them still contributed and assisted in preparing hampers for those who were unable to get groceries, and for the poor/needy. I’m sure there were many non-Muslims who contributed in that sentiment as well.

Additionally, they were also many people who came together as vigilante groups and neighbourhood watches, to protect their families, areas and livelihoods. It was incredible to see the support from everyone at this dire time, and the all-nighters being pulled for our safety.

Yes I know certain people went overboard with these initiatives; fueling hate crimes and racism, but I’m focusing more on those who did their best to stay put and protect.

From an Islamic perspective, the prophet Muhammed (pbuh) taught us that we should never discriminate against anybody. There are several incidents from his time when he forgave, accepted and embraced people who were once his enemies, people who killed his friends and family, and people who were tirelessly trying to end his life/mission.

The lesson we can learn from all this is to continue being kind, caring and forgiving. It’s not the time to point fingers and start polarizing from different groups. It’s not the time for revenge. We should demand justice, definitely. But until then, we need to be compassionate and lead with an open heart.

Turning point

On the shortness of life. I’d like to leave you with a critical question:

If you knew the world would end next week, what would do differently?

Over and over again, I think of how I live assuming that I’ll wake up tomorrow. It’s quite an important assumption to make, obviously. But it’s also one that can make us incredibly complacent.

As I discussed in my previous post, we take life for granted. We get used to the way things are. We don’t anticipate change as often as we should. That’s why I propose that you deeply sit with the question above. Reflect on what you would do differently moving forward.

Expect the unexpected, without putting too much pressure on yourself. Stop being surprised at the fact that life is a roller-coaster ride. Its proven that to you many times already.

It’s so cold!

As many of you may know, I moved to Johannesburg (Joburg) at the start of the year. It was quite warm at the time, given we were edging towards autumn. We’re now peaking into winter, and it’s rather cold. Cold enough for us to dread even sitting on the toilet seat (like North America/Europe kind of cold).

I thought it would be interesting to write about how we adapt to changes in the weather as human beings. Or to even look at how we’re psychologically affected by it. Let’s talk about how we can learn to brace the cold, developing resilience, the effect the sun has on our psyche, and being grateful.

Bracing the cold

It’s a mindset thing really. Almost every conversation I’ve had with anyone living in Joburg has involved complaining about how cold the weather is (I’m guilty for contributing to that). That’s obviously what got me thinking… How can we actually learn to embrace the cold without just unnecessarily complaining?

I think it has a lot to do with mindset, exposure and breathing. Mindset is a bit of an obvious one, but important to bring up nonetheless. The more you tell yourself you’re feeling cold and are suffering, the less likely you are to effectively adapt mentally. The more you layer up, keep the heater on and stay inside, the less likely you are to physically adapt.

To juxtapose the mental and physical adaptation to cold, we should learn to focus on our breath. It’s interesting because if you think about it carefully, your breathing gets all shallow and rapid when you’re shivering. Learning to control your breath when you’re feeling cold will definitely facilitate some kind of resilience.

There’s definitely a limit to this and it can’t go on infinitely, as you have to avoid getting sick. It really is a fine balance, but you have to start somewhere.

Developing resilience

As I already mentioned, it’s about taking baby steps to avoid completely shocking the system and getting sick. So where do we start with developing some kind of resilience to cold? I think more than 90% of you will hate my answer to this: cold showers and less layers.

Before you panic and decide to completely ignore what I have to say, please know that I’m asking you to start small. You gain a lot of mental strength when you can put yourself through that little bit of discomfort, which enables you to actually deal with constantly feeling cold. Some of you may have biological or health issues that make it tougher, but the principle is the same.

When it comes to cold showers, I’m just suggesting that you try it out for 10 seconds or so while you wait for the water to get warm. This not only helps you save water, but it helps you adapt to the cold a little more! Essentially, you want to get your body used to that little shock. To overcome that mental fear. To learn how to focus on your breath while your body starts panicking.

Cold Garfield Quotes. QuotesGram
https://hawkoffbeat.files.wordpress.com/2021/07/3e341-1988-01.jpg

The same logic can be applied when you’re deciding to layer up and leave the house. Instead of wearing 3 jackets and 2 socks, try and wear just enough for you to feel relatively warm. You can use your breathing technique to help you deal when it starts getting really cold. Again, I’m not asking you to suffer (well I kind of am), but I want you to strengthen your mental and physical capacity to deal with the weather.

Here comes the sun

The weather impacts our mood. If you don’t believe me, just go outside on a sunny day vs a cloudy / rainy day. You’ll immediately notice a difference. When it comes to getting enough sunlight though, we should really stop undermining the benefits (both from a mental and physical health point of view).

The most obvious benefit is vitamin D. Everyone knows that they need to get enough sunlight to sustain a healthy dose of vitamin D… But how many of us consciously put in those hours? I’m guilty of this myself, especially since I started working from home (also bec it’s freezing outside). But we should try to get in at least 15 min a day, to refresh our psyche and strengthen our bones.

The sun also gives us a serotonin boost. This means that it directly affects our mood, as I alluded to earlier on. There’s an added bonus to this though… Serotonin and Melatonin work together, so getting exposure from sunlight may even help you sleep better.

If you want to read more on the benefits of sunlight, check out the article below.

The point I’m trying to make is that the weather and season play a role in our overall attitude, our mood, and even our energy levels. We can use that understanding to ensure that we make the most of the situation we’re in and optimize our health.

Gratitude

As always, the most important lesson to take from all this is a little bit of gratitude. When it comes to extreme weather conditions, we should always be grateful to have some kind of luxury in place to help us deal with it.

Whether it’s the electricity that powers our heaters, the thick blankets we have to sleep in, the roof above our heads, the jackets and socks that we have. We should be thankful to God for all that he has blessed us with.

It’s crucial that we don’t forget about how many other people are less fortunate and don’t have a fraction of what we have. In order to truly live out the value of gratitude, I suggest you try and give out some of your old clothes that you haven’t worn in a while to people who would desperately make better use of it. Put yourself in their position and imagine how much tougher it would be to adapt when you have so little.

Gratitude Quotes - 23 Islamic Quotes About Being Grateful

It always comes back to the fact that God has given us all different circumstances and different tools to deal with those circumstances. You are truly blessed and you should never forget that. #LiftAsYouRise

Taking Life for Granted

I’ve been reflecting over my experiences lately and I’ve come to realize that we take a lot of life for granted. Whether it’s the people in our life, our health, our wealth or even the food on the table, we often find ways to get complacent and ‘expect’ it all to be there day after day.

A really close friend of mine was recently diagnosed with a very serious illness, and it was heartbreaking to hear. Not only because of the thought that I might lose him, but also because I would’ve never expected something like that to happen to ‘us’; considering how young and full of energy we are.

We’ve also been through a lot in terms of the civil unrest + the third wave of the pandemic here in South Africa. I’ll touch more on that in next week’s post.

Today’s post is going to be a familiar talk on gratitude. The emphasis, however, will be on ways to improve our daily engagements to appreciate life a little more. There are some incredibly simple steps that we can take to make a worthwhile difference. Let’s talk about observing nature, being more vulnerable, expressing our feelings, showing gratitude and appreciating ourselves.

Kirby Puckett Quote: “Don’t take anything for granted ...

Nature nature nature

I keep coming back to the concept of spending time in nature because I honestly think we all really underestimate the power it has on our psyche. One of the ways in which I personally make the most of my day is by spending some time surrounded by nature; whether it’s in the garden, watching the sunrise/sunset, going for a walk, listening to the birds or even just staring at the clouds.

Just like we constantly need to be connected to the internet, we need to also find ways to be connected to the planet. The more we are able to appreciate the gifts that are all around us, the less likely we will feel like we’re taking life for granted.

It sucks now that we’ve entered multiple lockdowns, we have travel restrictions, inflation and taxes are making things more expensive, we can’t really socialize or adventure as much as we used to. What can we do tho? Strengthen our relationship with nature and mindfully observe how we’re all interconnected – find ways to transcend mass consciousness.

Vulnerability and expressing our feelings

One of the ways in which we undermine our capacity to live life to the fullest is by falling short of telling people how we truly feel about them. We are not vulnerably honest enough. We keep beating around the bush, hiding our feelings and waiting for some future state of preparedness.

It’s not too late to start telling the people who mean the world to you, how much you truly love and care for them. In fact, we should make it a regular habit to do just that. We often get caught up our worldly demands, that we tend to neglect those who are closest to us.

Tell them you love them more often. SHOW them you love them more often. Stop waiting for a birthday, an anniversary, a special occasion. The more love you give to the world (and yourself), the more love will be returned to us.

psychology humor and comics about being vulnerable and ...

Appreciating ourselves

We appreciate ourselves when we’re able to truly cherish who we are as individuals. As flawed, as weird, as imperfect as we may be, there’s still so much that we’re remarkable at. More and more, we’ve been conditioned into a very specific societal view of what ‘normal’ is meant to be. We ache to fit in and ensure we’re not outcasts; it’s part of our DNA (survival depended on us conforming to group norms).

We’ve reached a point in time tho, where we don’t need that same level of conformity. We shouldn’t have to force ourselves to change who we are, to be loved and appreciated (within certain limits, obviously). We should start appreciating our quirks and realize that it’s what makes us unique. It’s what differentiates us from the rest of the population.

You are incredibly special. You have so much to offer the world and those around you. You are loved. You are capable. And you are absolutely worth it.

Don’t lose hope and stay grateful

Energy follows focus.

It’s always about being thankful. It’s always about appreciating other people. About appreciating what we have. About focusing on our blessings.

It’s been rather chaotic over the past few months, so many different reasons. Yet, our blessings and all that we have is still immeasurable. Don’t lose hope. Don’t despair. Have faith. Trust the process. You will get through this. Faster, stronger and braver than ever before.

It may seem impossible now, but you’ll think back and be astonished at what you’ve accomplished. Take care of those around you as much as you can. Spend enough time in nature. Express your love and affection to those you care about.

“Live for the present like you’ll die tomorrow. Plan for the future like you’ll live forever.”

The Covid Chronicles

So I tested positive for the Vid! 3rd wave definitely came in with a bang. Made me feel a little less invincible, which is humbling I suppose. Incredibly grateful for my body’s ability to manage the symptoms and keep it under control.

I actually wanted to use this post to run through some of the thoughts that I had while I was recovering. Can I also just say that I’ve been having peculiar dreams over the past few weeks, that I’m still desperately trying to make sense of. Anyway, back to the Covid Chronicles.

God bless the antibodies.

COVID-19 antibodies last as long as 8 months
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Contact

The first thing that triggered the whole situation for me was getting into direct contact with someone who tested positive. Grateful that they called me to tell me about it. I was still very convinced that I had escaped getting infected. I eat a lot of naartjies and apples, btw.

Coronavirus: The Walking Dead artist Charlie Adlard joins ...
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Symptoms

A few days after that call, I started feeling sluggish and a little under the weather. There was no doubt at that point that it was probably Covid. Yet, my inflated ego somehow managed to find a way to believe that it wasn’t. To be fair though, it was relatively mild; just a sore throat and fatigue.

After a few more days of that intense fatigue, I decided it was time to get tested (3 days after experiencing symptoms).

Getting tested

So I try to get myself booked for a Covid test, but because of how wild 3rd wave is in Joburg, most centres are pumping. I had to wait till the next day. Woke up fresh and early on a Sunday morning and got myself geared up for a Covid test. Up the nose and away we went.

Why Use Tests - Dilbert Comic Strip on 2020-05-30 : dilbert

Got home, took a nap, and eagerly watched Verstappen and Red Bull thrash Mercedes at the French Grand Prix.

Results

Because of the fatigue, I’ve been taking naps at random times throughout the day. On that Sunday, after going for a snooze at 6 pm, I ended up waking up at like 11 pm. It was quite disorienting, but I decided to watch some Peaky Blinders. 1 episode in, and I get an sms from the labs – Covid hypothesis confirmed; I was positive.

Quickly stocked up on Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Zinc and Panado – oh and ofc more apples and naartjies. Managed to get some Ivermectin as well, which may or may not have helped.

10 days later

The tragic thing is that during this period, I also infected my flatmate, who is vaccinated. Tbh, it definitely made me question how effective those injections are. Thanks capitalism.

Took off from work and basically spent the day: sleeping, eating, watching Netflix, watching Euros, reading books – repeat. Sounds like a dream, but it got boring rather quickly.

An interesting coincidence was the fact that I had a dream of a friend of mine who I hadn’t spoken to since like 2017. When I reached out to her, it turned out that she had Covid too! So we bonded (virtually) over the whole struggle to recover. I think she had a lot worse than I did, but it was still relatable content.

Ordered some plants to keep me company

A week after testing positive, I started feeling a lot better. The only thing that was really lingering was the fatigue. Could definitely get used to the lifestyle of taking 3 naps a day. One thing I’m incredibly grateful for is not losing my sense of smell or taste.

Did you know that 80% of our taste comes from smelling?

Now that we’ve fought this bundle of protein, I’m hoping the antibodies will keep me sorted for the rest of the year. Thankful to everyone who supported me in this swift recovery. I’m also here if anyone who is infected needs some virtual help.

There’s a lot that I’ve reflected on over this experience and I’ll dive deeper into that in the next blog post. I wish you all the best and try to stay safe! This too shall pass.

Thinking about mental health

There’s been a rapid increase in talking about mental health these days. It’s always been such an important topic to me, especially to try and remove the stigma around mental health problems and assisting those who experience them.

The personal aspect about this is that I’ve never really struggled with severe mental health issues myself. It’s something that I’m incredibly grateful for. The issue with that is because I had no real awareness of the topic, I found it difficult to empathize with people who did struggle with mental health in my early adolescence.

Since then, I’ve had several friends and family members who battled with it on a regular basis, and who were kind enough to educate me on the topic. That’s not to say that it wasn’t my responsibility to go out there and learn about it for myself; it was just an advantage that I received.

In today’s post, I’d like to look at ways to understand mental health from an emotional intelligence lens, how to try and look after your own mental health, how we can support those in our life who do struggle with mental health (by removing stigma), and why to stop spitting out solutions (a problem I struggle quite a lot with as an engineer/consultant).

Understanding mental health

The difficult thing about understanding mental health is that we each have our own version of ‘normal’. What we’ve experienced internally from the time we were kids up until now forms the basis of our reality. A lot of the time, it takes quite a lot of experience or reflection to start noticing/understanding your own mental health.

A great place to start is by being a little more conscious of your thoughts and moods. Are they sometimes erratic? Uncomfortable? Inconsistent? Unbearable? Bizarre? Wild? Scary?

One of the best ways to structure your thoughts and understand yourself better is by journalling. A lot of people tell me that what they write down can sometimes feel uncomfortable. This is already an indicator of your mental processes and overall mental health (you obviously develop the skill of writing down your thoughts, I’m talking more about the nature of the thoughts themselves).

Once you have better awareness of what goes on in the processor, you can start working towards maintaining a healthy performance. Find habits and routines that allow you to feel challenged and fulfilled.

If you really struggle here to identify and act on what you can do to improve your mental health, it might be a good option to seek out therapy. It’s just a great way for you to make sense of the chaos and find a comfortable space to unravel your mysteries (speaking from experience).

Looking after our own mental health

This is the tough part. This is the part that requires effort, discipline and consistency. If we don’t look after our own mental health and keep in check on a regular basis, we could then start struggling to perform optimally.

I just want to make it clear that I’m not saying we should do this purely for performance. I’m just using that word to help us understand how it inevitably affects our performance, which affects our overall ambitions, mood and aspirations.

When it comes to looking after our own mental health, we need to start with awareness as I’ve discussed in the previous section. That awareness and acceptance then allows us to formulate an action plan to keep ourselves in check.

A few habits that tend to work well (for me personally) include staying active (even if it’s just a 15 min walk), getting sunlight on a regular basis (kill 2 birds with 1 stone by going on that walk), spending time in nature (now the walk is proving to be remarkable), eating fruits and veggies as often as possible, taking time off from work/studies to recover, socializing with people who genuinely care about me, reading an entertaining book and writing in a journal.

It sounds obvious and possibly boring, but don’t underestimate the cumulative effect of consistently doing these little habits on a daily basis. You’ll be astonished at the impact it’ll have on your life. Find what works best for you and keep at it. Once you’ve managed to keep yourself in check, you’ll be able to support those around you.

Supporting those who suffer with mental disorders

The main thing about awareness campaigns is that it aims to educate people as well as ensure that stigma is dealt with. We’ve seen incredible progress over the past decade in terms of a global acceptance of mental health disorders. This is important because it allows for diversity, equity and inclusion.

When it comes to supporting people who may suffer from certain mental health issues, it’s important that we come from a nonjudgemental standpoint. Additionally, we need to avoid having a superiority complex if we considered ourselves to be mentally healthy.

What I’ve noticed from my own limited experience is that people appreciate being heard and acknowledged. It can oftentimes be difficult to emphasize, especially if you’re not entirely sure what it feels like. But just being there, showing that you care, putting in the effort to comfort them and accepting that they’re more than just their struggle, can go a long way.

Artist Creates Heartwarming Comics To Raise Mental Health ...

What I’ve also learned is that you don’t want to jump into finding solutions (which can sometimes go against my instincts, so I have to be very conscious of this).

Stop looking for solutions

This applies to helping people deal with their mental health issues as much as it does to helping people with their problems in general. Giving unsolicited advice and pointing out solutions to other people’s problems is something many of us struggle with. The reason why we do this is obviously subconscious. It’s easier than sitting in the discomfort of empathy or listening attentively.

As much as we think we’re helping other people by throwing out suggestions to their seemingly simple problems, it can actually distance them and make them less comfortable opening up to us. It makes the them feel unworthy of being able to solve it themselves.

Author & Illustrator of Mental Health Comics Holly ...

People love autonomy. We love to feel like we’re in control. Like we’re capable. Like we got this. The minute someone else comes and tells you how to do it (even if it’s a perfectly viable solution that can make your life a 100x better), you’re likely to resist it and try to ignore it.

The same logic applies when you’re trying to help someone who is feeling anxious or depressed. Instead of jumping to a solution and telling them to go drink water/ meditate / sleep / exercise, try and engage more meaningfully in discussion and allow them to do more of the talking.

I’m still trying to find the right balance here myself, but what I’ve noticed about giving advice is that you should either wait for it to be asked, or prompt them first and check whether they’re in a receptive space to hear you out.

It’s always going to be complicated to try and understand mental health, even your own. The point is to try your best each and every day, whatever that means to you. Your best may differ from time to time and that’s okay. You’re going to get through this. You’re strong and capable enough. Don’t ever give up. You got this.

#LiftAsYouRise

Automation or Mindfulness?

We’re bringing back another episode of Mindful Monday! The reason I thought about this topic was because I’ve been personally been feeling a little disconnected lately. Sure, my habits are still in check. Still waking up before dawn, meditating, praying and journalling. But there’s an aspect of being robotic that I’m still struggling with, specifically when I’m eating, driving or speaking to someone.

I’d like to use today’s post to discuss aspects of our nature that we need to be a little more mindful of, striking a balance between automation and conscious thinking, breathing more deeply and ways of working from home.

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When we should focus being mindful of
Things are that are closest to nature.

When we’re praying, when we’re cooking food, when we’re eating the food, when we’re watching the sunrise, when we’re in the shower, when we’re brushing our teeth, when we’re working out, when we’re spending time with family, when we’re out with friends, when we’re about to fall asleep or just after we wake up.

It’s incredible how often we tend to be on our devices when we’re doing any of those things. It seems like we are starting to lose the essence of our senses. We no longer pay attention to what we look at with our eyes, what we listen to through our ears, what we eat in order to taste, the way we look after our body, and what we talk about with other people.

When we aren’t being mindful of those aspects of our nature, we stop living in the present moment. We forget to be grateful. We forget to be thoughtful or appreciative.

What we need to do is be stricter with ourselves when it comes to our focus. We should start making the most of the time we have right now. We need a balance between doing things on auto-pilot and consciously living.

The balance between manual thinking and automation

It’s something I’ve thought about and discussed here before… How do we find the right balance between doing things on auto-pilot vs. using conscious energy. There’s definitely an efficiency trade-off to think about, specifically looking at what actions are worth putting in genuine effort.

We’re lazy beings. We always try to find the shortest way to get something done, which typically makes sense. That’s why our brains do the same when it comes to consistently repeated habits. We eventually end up training our subconscious to ignore being present.

We should probably look for what we find valuable and spend more of our energy being attentive to it. The last thing we want to do is allow ourselves to get complacent.

How Robotic Process Automation Can Help Businesses Success ...
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Breathing deeply

I know I know, I talk a lot about breathing. But you need to understand how fundamentally important it is. It affects every aspect of your life. From your ability to deal with anxiety, stress, fear, joy, happiness, to when you’re preparing for an interview, working out, walking up the stairs, and even having a cold shower.

All these activities require us to have a consistent influx and outflux of air. Well tbh, you need it all the time. But your ability to manage your breathing in those situations will allow you to perform much better than uncontrolled breath. It’s interesting how we often ‘run out of breath’ not because we need to inhale oxygen, but because we need to exhale carbon dioxide.

That’s besides the point. My point is, focus on your breathing more often. It’s easy to forget this little habit, because the body does it automatically. But it will truly make an impact on your health and ability to deal with challenges. I’m not saying that you should consciously breathe every second of the day, but when it’s necessary and when you can remember to.

Another consideration is how to stay mindful when we’re (working) chilling at home all day.

Working mindfully from home

Whether it’s studying, working or anything else that relates to being at home for most of the day, we tend to lose our touch with the present moment. In a way, we are less exposed to usual array of stimuli from being outside. That being said, we can often ‘forget’ to be as mindful when we’re working from home. Not that being in an office/classroom all day is any better, but the moving around is what makes all the difference.

When go outside for a quick walk, stare out the window for a bit or just decide to chill in the garden, it allows us to get some exposure to the natural world. I repeatedly talk about the benefits of spending time in nature, and it’s because of the way it forces you to be mindful. Even if you can’t go outside, find ways to focus on nature within your home (this could even include being more attentive when you eat or speak to friends).

Authors share their mindfulness tips for working from home
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What we should try and do if we can leave the house, is focus more on the leaves of trees and how their colours change, the clouds and the way they dance across the sky, the birds and how they sing to each other, the lil insects and bugs that are always flying around, or even the way the earth feels on our feet.

Giving our senses that stimulation will snap us back into the present moment; which will make us feel grounded, grateful and more energetic. If we take short 10 min breaks from our work and do this regularly, it will have such a significant impact on our ability to push forward. Go outside right now and try it out if you can. The world is yours for the taking.