what makes you happy?

happiness

One thing to take away from Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project — six-second hugging

Among all the stay-happy tips shared from the book, I love hugging longer (at least 6 to 20 seconds) the most! The science of hugging is remarkably magical: a 6-second hug can boost oxytocin (the happy hormone), lower blood pressure and cortisol (the stress hormone). How could you not to hug longer and more when long hugs make you and the one you hug happier and healthier? Hug away anxiety and worries. Knowing this happy fact isn’t enough, we have to really do it to feel the effect. Let’s hug someone for long every day! Start with your close ones. XOXO

Get inspired by The Happiness Project

When I first read the book The Happiness Project a few years ago, I was not very impressed and not very friendly towards the author, Gretchen Rubin. Because I was younger and egocentric back then and I didn’t understand how women with kids think and feel about life. I thought that it’s just a book written by a woman who can’t control her emotions and finds ways to make her life happier. However, when I get older, I understand how hard it is to stay happy all the time, especially if you are a woman. Because women’s emotions are greatly affected by hormonal changes. I can feel the need to stay happy now. LOL

The flower project

Gretchen Rubin’s one year project is to focus on doing different things each month. It’s short and sweet. I was inspired by that and created my first happiness project —  the flower project. It lasts about a year or so as I like to focus on one thing for a longer period and dive into it a little deeper. I started to love flowers when I was living in London where greenery and gardens are everywhere.

I was fascinated by the beauty and the variety of flowers and plants and I could feel the intense healing power of flowers. There was a time I felt it so deeply. That was when my kind landlady gave me a lovely garden rose inside the new room I was moving to. That move was a depressing change for me at that time as my good friend had moved out and I was moving alone from a big room to a small room. That single garden rose simply saved me from being too depressed. Sounds a bit dramatic yet it’s the power of nature.

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I wanted to learn floristry since then. It took me some time to research and decide how to learn. Finally, I opened an Instagram account @plantplaylist and recorded the flower arrangements I had made. A friend of mine who is good at photography has joined me later so we opened a new account @moonshinefolk to take some artistic shots. The flower project was so much fun and beautiful in my point of view.

What would your happiness project be?

Creative doing!

 

 

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Creative & meditation

creativity

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Why meditation boost creativity?

Have you ever got stuck while writing or generating ideas? I always do. For many creatives, meditation is a good option to foster creativity and I’m interested in why it can do so. For me, toilets and parks are the places where good thoughts come to me naturally because I feel liberating while having a shower or detoxifying in the toilet, and I’m relaxed while walking in the green park. Do I have to work in toilets and parks? Yes and no. Yes for parks. Toilets? No. So how about meditation? How does it work for creativity?

To my surprise, there are so many different kinds of meditation and they vary in results. For now, I only focus on two kinds that are most relevant to creativity — Open Monitoring Meditation(OMM) and Transcendental Meditation(TM).

Scientists think…

It’s the non-judgmental attitude

What do scientists say about OMM? It basically trains our mind to be in the present moment by simply stopping to react to and judge what’s happening now and paying passive attention to our breathing, sensations, and thoughts. This can develop awareness of our experiences instead of immediate emotional reaction towards what’s going on in our mind including our past and projection about the future.1  As a result, with this non-judgmental attitude towards our thoughts and emotions, we are primed to be open-minded and come up with new ideas or perspectives. 

Artists feel…

Many artists practice TM, which is a simple effortless meditation technique that uses a mantra as a tool to let the mind settle down naturally. Just like diving in the wavy surface of the ocean and then diving deep to the bottom of the ocean for stillness. The ultimate is to transcend thought. Let’s take David Lynch, a famous filmmaker, as an example. He practices TM for big fishes, his unique ideas for films. He believes TM is a way for world peace and he even established David Lynch Foundation for children to learn TM. He is truly an advocate of TM.

Deep rest and inner peace

In the book Catching The Big Fish, David Lynch puts it beautifully: “Ideas are like fish. If you want to catch little fish, you can stay in the shallow water. But if you want to catch the big fish, you’ve got to go deeper. Down deep, the fish are more powerful and purer. They’re huge and abstract. And they’re very beautiful.” What I learn from David from his book is that when you are in a state of deep rest and feeling peaceful within, negativity and fear go away completely. This is a turning point in creation. And this is a beautiful state. Peace of mind leads to creativity where you can create freely with enjoyment.

Liberating unique self-expression

The Zen of Creativity: Cultivating Your Artistic Life is a book that records the creative journey of a photographer who creates works with meditation. He points out that you feel the world with strong emotions towards certain things that resonate with you particularly but may not with others. So your way of experiencing the world is unique. Self-expression is what you are trying to show this unique experience. It’s your experience. It’s your thing. Creativity lies within you. All you have to do is to be yourself.

The thing about meditation is: you become more and more you.

I meditate…

It’s awkward sometimes

I have tried guided meditation at night before sleep for about two months. Most of the time I was breathing in silence and trying to stay still despite the fact that my leg and hip muscles were contracting. Worse still, sometimes I couldn’t help breaking the silence with a pretty embarrassing noise. I farted loud and long. Lucky that no one noticed except me.

Apart from the awkward moments, I feel refreshed, reset and energized after meditation. Just like rebooting a laptop. Everything starts afresh. As I breathe in more oxygen consciously and limit physical movement during meditation, my mind has more energy to stay awake. I enjoy the calmness and awareness. It helps me to clear the negative thoughts and declutter memories from the past, creating space for the mind to rest and focus on now. I find myself happier, more productive and let go quick after meditating.

If you’re interested to understand mindfulness meditation (OMM is one of it) better, try reading Mindfulness in Plain English and Wherever You Go, There You Are. Or follow the guided meditation to practice yourself. After all, practice is the only way to get there.

Love is a choice

happiness

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How to love better

I was thinking about how to love others better, especially in the month of love: February. Like happiness, love is a choice and a skill to be learned and practiced. No matter we are aware or not, we choose who to love, what to love, when to love, and how to love. Although we are born to be loved by parents or carers, we are not born to love. Loving is a life-long journey.

I picked two books about love and after reading I realised that one is written by a Christian and the other one is written by a Buddhist. Interestingly, I felt like I attracted something kind as Christianity and Buddhism both share the same value — kindness. Perhaps being kind is the most essential foundation to love.

Gary Chapman, an American Christian who was a marriage consultant, came up with a concept of 5 love languages which was down-to-earth and saved people’s marriage. I was curious about this concept and I wanted to know the secret to a long-lasting relationship. The 5 love languages include words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch. After digesting the book, I summed up these love languages into 3 simple stories for easy understanding. In the book, the author also tells a true story to demonstrate how to love like Jesus. Unconditionally loving someone who doesn’t love you takes so much effort and patience. It’s hard to do but achievable. If you are interested in the full version, you can check out the book. Now, let’s have a taste of the essence.

The story of boyfriend and girlfriend

A girlfriend has always been requesting her workaholic boyfriend to spend time with her. Not having quality time with boyfriend makes the girlfriend so unhappy and makes her feel unloved. She starts to complain about this and speak negatively towards boyfriend. The negative wordings annoy boyfriend and cause him to feel unloved. What if both boyfriend and girlfriend understand each other’s love languages and both are willing to speak those languages? Once the boyfriend understands that girlfriend’s love language is quality time and he is willing to prioritize his time so that he can spend reasonable time with her, the girlfriend’s love tank becomes full again, feeling his love. Knowing that her boyfriend’s love language is words of affirmation, girlfriend always appreciates him verbally and communicate positively to keep boyfriend feeling loved all the time. This story demonstrates that boyfriend’s love language is words of affirmation while girlfriend’s love language is quality time.

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The story of husband and wife

Since a husband realizes that his wife’s love language is receiving gifts, he gives her wife all sorts of gifts every week to show his love to her. He has chosen the most effective way to express love to her wife specifically and he fills her love tank consistently. He always feels the love from his wife because she always takes good care of him and handles all the domestic work. His love language is acts of service so he feels loved by his wife.

The story of touching

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Emotionally, a man yearns for his life partner to reach out and touch him physically. When he reaches out to his partner physically and the partner is not responsive, he will feel rejected, unwanted, and unloved. These feelings are so intense for him as his love language is physical touch. He will feel loved if his partner reaches out to him physically.

“Cries in life provide a unique opportunity for expressing love. Your tender touches will be remembered longer after the crisis has passed. Your failure to touch may never be forgotten.”

What are your love language and your partner’s love language?

I did a quiz on the 5 languages website to find out my love languages are both quality time and acts of service. I also asked my partner to do the quiz too because I wanted to know his love language and love him better by speaking his language. I was happy that he took some time to finish the test for me. Once I knew his love languages are quality time and words of affirmation, I thought of making him a love book which would be full of positive words about my appreciation for him. And I intentionally gave him more compliments after knowing his love language. However, the relationship didn’t last long. I thought my way of expressing love to him was not explicit or good enough for him. In the end, he didn’t accept everything about me and he decided to love me no more. So I tried to accept myself again and chose to love those who are willing to love me. After all, love is a choice. We all have the freedom to choose who to love.

How would a Buddhist love?

In the book HOW TO LOVE, Vietnamese Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh states understanding is the foundation of love. Ask your partner “What would make you happy?” We are loving others when we are getting to understand what they really need. Loving someone is like planting a flower. If we take good care of the flower, it will grow. If not, it will wilt. To help the flower grow beautifully, we have to understand its true nature, give joy and relieve pain.

“For true love to be there, you need to feel complete in yourself, not needing something from outside.”

It’s a matter of will to be generous

We are human with both strength and weakness. Being generous to accept the imperfection of others plays a vital part in the action of love. It’s always easy to accept the good of others. Accepting the bad is the crucial part to love. And it’s a matter of will. I love Alain de Botton‘s insights about marriage — we are all hard to live with. Willing to love others as if they are babies is the most generous way to love.
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