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
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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

Wave After Wave

It almost felt like things were starting to get normal again. A few months ago, we were starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But just as we started getting comfortable and complacent, the fear of another wave started creeping in.

Life is like the ocean. The tide oscillates between high and low. Waves come crashing in at different speeds, heights and strengths. We have no control over that. What we can do is learn how to surf through the challenges.

Today’s post won’t be focused on Covid or the beach. I’m sure you read enough about that already. I’d like to talk about how things generally get worse before they get better, expecting the unexpected, noticing our behaviours and reflecting on the shortness of life.

Things get worse before they get better

In hindsight, we always tend to appreciate the struggle. Amidst the chaos, however, there is a very different feel to the pressure. What I’ve noticed in most of the challenging experiences that I’ve encountered, is that it generally gets worse before it starts getting better. This is not always true and I am speaking from limited experience, but it’s just an observed trend.

The insights I gained from this is that when things start hitting the fan and you feel overwhelmed, it’s easy to lose hope and want to give up. What we don’t realize though is that our growth and greatest strengths tend to arise soon after overcoming the struggle.

If things were always easy and we behaved complacently, we wouldn’t need to push past our limiting beliefs. So, when things start looking gloomy and difficult again, embrace it! It firstly means that there will be a moment of relief eventually. Secondly, it means that we will be forced to grow and push past our comfort zone.

This is how we can equip ourselves with a rigorous growth mindset and an impeccable ability to be resilient.

Expect the unexpected

This should be standard procedure by now. We should no longer expect a smooth sailing the whole way through. It’s about looking at all that is unpredictable and almost expecting it. Sure, you cannot expect everything. But if you start thinking about the worst-case scenario and how you would potentially overcome that, it makes it less shocking when things do get pretty bad.

You’d need to be in a fairly healthy state of mind to be able to do this exercise. It’s not about being pessimistic and holding onto negative thoughts. It’s about finding ways to be proactive. Here are some examples of questions you can ponder over:

  • If you lost your job, how would you react?
  • If you became terminally ill, what would you do differently?
  • If you lost certain loved ones, how would that affect you?
  • If Covid only gets worse, what do you need to do from now to adapt?
Thomas Jefferson Quote: “If you want something you have ...

The flipside to this is to also give thought to optimistic ‘what ifs’. Don’t limit yourself and don’t hold yourself back. I won’t write down bullet points on that, but it’s essentially thinking along the lines of ‘What if I achieved that goal?’, ‘What if I won that prize?’, ‘What if I could start that business?’ etc.

Your mind is a supercomputer. Don’t undermine it. The more you work it out, the stronger it gets. The more data you feed it, the better it become at analysing. Let’s look at what drives our behaviour then.

What drives our behaviours?

Intentions, intentions, intentions. Why do I keep coming back to intentions? Because what I’m realizing more and more, is that when you have the right intentions (and behave accordingly), it makes a difference. We don’t necessarily have to get it perfectly right or think like angels, but at least just think about your intentions before you do anything.

It substantially changes your ability to make sound decisions. The thing about waves is that your intention is what helps you push forward. It’s what keeps you dedicated to the purpose. The intention to do good in the world. To try your best. To keep learning. To help other people. To be as kind as you possibly can. To make an impact.

Remember your intentions, assumptions, beliefs and values. It will all affect your behaviour and how you show up in the world.

What drives our behaviour at work?
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The shortness of life

Again and again and again, we need to ponder over our death. If we look at the world around us, it’s just absolutely chaos sometimes. That’s the cycle of life. We will pass on in order for others to carry on living. Nature has a remarkable way of operating, thanks to God.

I’d like to leave you again with the concept of how short-lived we are. The reason I constantly emphasize this is because it can also drive our behaviours. We should strive to be more grateful, more appreciative, kinder to those around us, and shower people with love and compassion.

We should try to give everything we do our best shot. Why? Because why not? When you reach the end of your life, you’re more likely to regret the chances you never took (definitely can’t say that I’m speaking from experience, haha). Stop trying so hard to satisfy your ego and live in a little bubble. It’s not going to burn the fire inside of you.

The Shortness of Life quote by Seneca

Try out something new. Go on an epic adventure. Speak to strangers more often. Plan that party or event. Live more fully and in alignment with your values. It’s not about being reckless or out of boundaries, it’s about making the most of the time you have left.

Wave after wave, we get better at surfing.

Surfing and Posture - The Surfing AccountantThe Surfing ...
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Change And New Beginnings

Every year tends to bring with it a new chapter. A new beginning. A new adventure. The concept of novelty is highly sought after, despite how terrifying it can be. We’re creatures of habit, but we also get bored very quickly.

Life can be quite painful. We encounter tragedy at every corner. It’s essentially inevitable. What we have control over is our perception, reaction and ability to adapt. Let’s talk about accepting change, becoming resilient and seeking novel experiences.

Accepting Change

To really understand why it’s so important to accept change, I always think about this quote:

“Change is inevitable, resistance is futile.”

It’s going to happen whether you like it or not. Nothing stays the same. All you can do is prepare and become receptive to the disruptions that are inbound.

I recently talked to a friend of mine about the concept of being in a cocoon. We start off being little caterpillars, content with our leaves and staying on the same branch – immature. Then life gets a little trickier and we decide to engulf ourselves in a chrysalis. It feels safer, more comfortable and we don’t have to deal with the external world.

The initial discomfort is a crucial step in the metamorphosis. It catalyzes our transformation into the best version of ourselves. Once we’ve adequately accepted the change, we start evolving into a butterfly and break out of the cocoon – matured. This is the point of escape; from limitations, negative self-talk and denial. We fly into the world stronger, faster, braver and more beautiful than ever.

What we don’t realize is that the difficult and new circumstances were a critical aspect of the transformation. We require novelty and a certain degree of hardship to grow.

Becoming Resilient

And so, when we learn to continuously embrace challenges and try to overcome them, we become resilient. The reason I love talking about resilience is because it’s at the heart of learning.

When we experience change or disruption, we’re forced to adapt. When we learn to continuously adapt, it becomes easier for us to deal with more unprecedented changes. The cycle essentially feeds itself. We need to approach our fears with courage and prove to ourselves that we truly are capable of overcoming them.

Resilience allows us to try again. It allows us to keep pushing. It prevents us from giving up because deep down we know, we can do it.

If you really want to observe resilience at its best, just spend time in nature. Watch the trees and plants. Notice how they have absolutely no control over their environment, yet they find ways to thrive. Follow your nature and embrace the inevitable changes that are coming your way. In fact, you should go out of your way to face challenges that you’ve never experienced before.

Seeking Novel Experiences

Instead of waiting for changes to come your way, why don’t you go out to face them instead? I don’t just mean trying out a new restaurant or hotel, but I mean actual adventures that require some form of courage and dedication (I can see how you could argue that for restaurants or hotels, but you get my point here).

What I want you to understand here is that you can mentally (and I suppose physically) train yourself to get used to adapting. Not just to survive, but to get the hang of it and thrive. You prove to yourself that you’re capable of overcoming the discomfort, difficulty and uncertainty. The more you leave your comfort zone, the more you’re exposing yourself to growth.

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The point I’m trying to make is that we’re always going encounter unfamiliar situations. It’s going to be scary, overwhelming and challenging. What we can control is our approach to and perception of those situations. We can look at the circumstances we’ve overcome in the past and utilize the same skills again in the future. We can turn those challenges into opportunities to grow.

If you just reflect over the past few months, you’ll realize that you’ve been remarkably resilient. You’ve endured an incredible amount of hardship and suffering. Yet you’re still here. You’re still fighting. You’re still giving it your best. Don’t give up when it’s hard. Smile and embrace the challenge. It’s going to transform you into the beautiful butterfly that you’ve been destined to become.

Let’s Do It, Again

Good day beloved reader! I hope the past few days have been nothing less than extraordinary. So much has changed since my last post, especially the date on my calendar. Nonetheless, I hope you’ve taken some time out to reflect over the past year. You’ve gone through a lot. Despite not coming out unscathed, you’ve come out wiser, smarter and a lot more resilient.

In seems quite common in our day and age to attempt to make the new year ‘ours’. I’ve never really understood that concept, hence why I’m going to try argue against it. Let’s talk about making every day ours, reaching for the stars and learning from mistakes.

Strive to be your best, every day

We’ve all started a new year at some point saying: ‘This is going to be my year! I’m going to finally work out, start reading more, start eating better and get my sh*t together.’

It always lasts a few days, maybe weeks, maybe even months. But then the momentum wears out and it feels like we’re back to square one again. That’s just human nature.

Have you ever thought about how we’re the only species that makes a big deal about the new year? It’s basically celebrating when Earth orbits around the sun. What we should really take heed of, is the fact that we’re not even guaranteed another day. The goal should be striving to be better each and every day, not just at the beginning of a new year.

With that being said, there’s definitely a psychological advantage to starting on a clean slate, especially at the dawn of a new year. Make sure your intentions are aligned with your values every single day.

Reach for the stars

More often than not, we set our own limitations. When it comes to dreams and ambitions, there is no need to be overly cautious. As we set the bar high for ourselves and strive to do our best, we push past our own limits and grow more than we ever imagined possible.

The world has enough challenges and there are a significant amount of factors trying to pull us down. We shouldn’t add to that and further limit ourselves.

Learn from your experiences

I recently read that it’s clever to learn from your own mistakes, but it’s wise to learn from the mistakes of others. In order to progress rapidly and grow, you need to carefully reflect over your experiences.

We’re impeccable feedback machines. We were algorithms before they were computerized. We take in data, process them, make decisions and achieve certain outcomes. The outcomes then become data and help us make better decisions.

The point I’m trying to make is that each day is a source of data. All you need to do is consciously process them and see how your decisions influenced those outcomes. Continuously improve the quality of those outcomes by making better decisions.

Sometimes it feels like the world is burning and everything is falling apart. We’ve been experiencing pain and discomfort unparalleled to previous years. Ultimately, it’s all meant to be. We’re exactly where we’re supposed to be. It’s okay if you’re feel scared. It’s okay if you’re feeling tired. It’s okay if you just to want to give up.

Realize that you’re like a diamond. You take time and pressure to form. Every time something feels uncomfortable, every time you face a setback or a loss, ever time things don’t go according to plan, it’s a sign that we’re transforming and being re-directed. Don’t lose hope. Don’t despair. You will get through this. I believe in you.

The Skills You Gain From Experiencing Hardship

I haven’t been able to post in the past 2 weeks because Uni got the better of me. Let’s face it, we’ve all experienced tremendous discomfort or stress at some point in the past few months. In today’s post, I’d like to talk about the skills that I’ve developed because of that.

This will relate to my previous post on breathing, where I tried to encourage a mindfulness technique for maintaining calm. This time, it’s more about approaching difficulties with a growth mindset. Here are 5 key points that I’ve taken away from experiencing discomfort.

  1. Faith
  2. Resilience
  3. Patience
  4. Compromise
  5. Gratitude

Faith

Let’s start with Faith. Your fundamental beliefs and your values define the way you view the world. You need to have a sense of purpose, a why, otherwise you won’t understand the reason behind the suffering.

I’m grateful to be a Muslim, as Islam has shaped the way I engage with difficulties and finding a sense of purpose. The mindset and outlook I have towards my life experiences are largely shaped by my faith.

You’ve got to trust in the process. You’re exactly where you’re meant to be, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time. Keep this beautiful quote in mind:

“What’s meant for you will never miss you, what misses you was never meant for you.”

When you start accepting how much is out of your control, it brings a sense of calmness. Focus on what you can do. Focus on your perception. This brings me to the next point, resilience.

Resilience

I absolutely love the concept of resilience because it resonates with everything that I do. It’s about constantly trying your best, regardless of the setbacks and hardship you face.

It’s also important to understand that our failures are ultimately our greatest teachers. When we decide to face those fears and tackle the problems head on, we start to develop resilience.

It’s easy to give up. It’s easy to complain. It’s easy to blame others. It’s easy to feel sorry for yourself. It’s easy to throw a pity party. But that’s not what leads to growth. That’s not what helps you succeed. That’s not what will benefit you in the long run.

Next time you experience something profoundly difficult or painful, remember how much it’s going to help you grow. Every day is just a set of new problems. It’s doesn’t get any easier, you just get better at solving it.

Patience

Being patient is another crucial skill you’ll need throughout your life. It’s something you will encounter in every single task you experience. Being patient is about training your mind to accept the inevitable. To slow down. To stay calm. To remain level-headed.

You need to be patient with the process. You can’t rush through and expect everything to work out. Life is more of a marathon than a sprint. You need to pace yourself and focus on your breath work.

Don’t get worked up on things that are out of your control. Focus on what you can do. Take it easy dude, you got this. Let’s see how adaptation plays a role in all this.

Compromise

Things almost always never go according to plan. You’ll realize that sooner or later. Compromising isn’t about lowering your standards. It’s about accepting that you have to change your plan when things hits the fan.

This is generally a combination of the previous points. With faith, resilience and patience, you can learn to rapidly adapt to unexpected challenges. Think about how many times things took longer than they should’ve? If you account for contingencies and plan for the worst-case scenario, you’re less likely to get overwhelmed.

Gratitude

Easily the most important skill (or value) to gain. If you view things from a lens of gratitude, everything is there to help you grow. You start appreciating the little things in life a lot more too. You realize how much you take for granted on a daily basis; be it your time, energy, wealth or health.

When you experience difficulty of any sort, focus on what’s going well in your life. I know this can be particularly challenging, especially when sprawling into negativity is so much easier. But really think about how blessed you truly are. Think about all that you’ve managed to gain or retain during the challenging time.

You’re gaining life skills. You’re more resilient. You’re more patient. You’re learning to work hard. You’re still breathing. You still have food to eat. You have access to the internet (and therefore, to education). You have access to electricity. To shelter. To warmth. To clean water.

Don’t ever forget about everything that you do have when things start getting tough.

It’s critical to establish honest communication with yourself (and those who are important to you). If you’re clear about what’s going well and what isn’t, you’ll have a better idea of how to prepare. You’ll also be able to articulate how you’re feeling to those around you; allowing them to assist you where possible.

This post just covers a few simple points to think about next time you experience something difficult. As I already said, life is just a process of solving problems; every day there’s going to be a new challenge.

Trust the process and have faith. Understand how this all builds up your resilience. You’ve got to remain patient and stay level-headed. You need to learn to adapt and overcome. You need to focus on what you have and be thankful. Failure is just a stepping stone to success. You got this!