Updated: Nov 3, 2021
I’ve been on the path of self discovery and self improvement for almost a decade now. Because of the pretty pictures painted by one half of this world, those of us who aren’t very artsy in our ways, might feel relatively unaccomplished. It’s a rat race everywhere. Once I realized this, (fairly recently, in the past 2-3 years) it got easier to seek out solutions. I realized that I had to approach my problems with a deep understanding and then work on my resilience to deal with them with the right attitude.
Life before I hit adolescence seemed breezy - parents who loved me, one of the best schools in my city, loads of friends both at school and around home, and everything I possibly desired at the time. My challenges at the time were my friends making fat (and short!) jokes about me, and not doing well in my exams.
My problems seemed to grow in number and intensity with time - choosing the right friends in college, boys, managing to stay out of trouble with parents, and the like. By the time I reached my 20s, the burden felt so heavy that I started to feel like I would crumble under it. To add to it all, there was now unresolved trauma from childhood, the death of a dear friend, peer pressure, late nights of partying, living away from parents, and the stresses of a work environment.
Questioning the universe about ‘Why me?’’ seemed to make things worse! Gradually, I came to accept that we’re all unique, and have our own trials, fears and insecurities.
Here are some commandments (for myself) that I’ve arrived at through living and learning.
1. Thou shalt rest your body well.
Pushing one’s limits to normalize 4 hours of sleep a night might be glorified as ambition or a go-getter attitude.. I realized through careful observation over a number of instances that when my body wasn’t rested, I was simply wasting more time.
2. Thou shalt rest your mind well.
Meditate, if only for 5 minutes a day. Spend a few minutes observing a bird, a butterfly or a plant. The wonders of nature fill most minds with awe.
3. Thou shalt take breaks.
Stretch. Take 5 deep breaths every hour. Change your position. If you’re sitting, then stand up every hour. If you work on a standing desk, then try to take a short walk. I notice that a slight shift in my posture helps me think better.
4. Thou shalt move vigorously for at least 15 minutes a day.
Jumping jacks, a brisk walk, a quick cycle ride or dancing like nobody’s watching - it’s amazing how energizing this can be..
5. Thou shalt get creative.
Draw, paint, write, make a collage, redecorate your home, style your hair differently, make a castle in the sand (literally). Exploring my creativity helped me look at my problems differently, somehow.
6. Thou shalt eat and drink well.
All my life I have LOVED fried and junk food and have always swapped the simple home-cooked meals of Dal-chawal-sabzi for pizzas and Chinese. I still struggle with drinking the prescribed amount of water everyday. Turns out this doesn’t bode well for my moods. Reading into nutritional psychiatry (it talks about the links between food and brain function) helped me better my food choices over a (long) period of time. Definitely happier for them.
7. Accept thyself.
Know that you are unique. It used to annoy me that I could not function on less than 7-8 hours of sleep every night, even when work pressure demanded foregoing sleep. Or that I couldn’t be someone else’s idea of ambition. Reflecting and writing down a couple of pages on who I am, my likes and dislikes helped me get to know myself better, and then accept.
8. Thou shalt not compare.
“He is always calm under pressure.” “Wow, she’s able to pack so much into her day.” “They have it easy, my problems are so much bigger than theirs.” I decided to watch myself every time I made a comparison - just observing I am doing that allows me to make room for improvement. Maintaining a consistent gratitude habit seems to help me with this.