live well



Why are the Danes so happy?

Danes are living a simple and slow life. They are happy because they have a good welfare model and a concept of hygge. Their welfare model is able to reduce risk, uncertainty and anxiety among its citizens. The Danish culture hygge is also the key to happiness. What exactly is hygge? The Little Book of Hygge, which is totally the bible about hygge, can give you a comprehensive explanation. It’s my favorite book about happiness! I’m grateful that a friend of mine gave this book to me as a gift. I feel hyggelig every time I read it. Plus, I love and admire so much about what Meik Wiking, the author of The Little Book of Hygge, has been doing! His job sounds like my dream job. He studies what makes people happy by focusing on well-being, happiness, and quality of life. He found the Happiness Research Institute to explore the causes and effects of human happiness. He is one of my favorite idols.

How to make a hygge corner at home

Meik suggests how to make a Hygge Emergency Kit to boost your hyggeness. That’s sweet. But I prefer to make a hygge corner at home more, where I can hygge every day and night. I guess everyone’s hygge corner is different and unique. What would you like to have for your hygge corner? I love to put the followings to mine.

Books — Reading is hyggelig to me and books are my brain food

Photos — awesome photos with friends and family are warm and sweet

Handwritten cards — birthday cards and Christmas cards are loving and human

Plants — who doesn’t like nature? I love greenery and flowers

Diffuser — life is good when smelling good

Music — something I can’t live without


Make your own hygge corner today.

Creative doing!




Why I love The Flower Recipe Book

I love this book because of three reasons. One, the recipe concept is cool as arranging flowers is exactly like cooking food. After learning the basics and ingredients, you can get your hands dirty and create your own style. Two, the flower arrangements in the book have a strong aesthetic sense and I can’t take my eyes off it. Three, this is a perfect flower arrangement book for beginners. The content is pretty practical and great for beginners who are looking for the basics and are interested in learning more about various kinds of flowers and primary tools like a pair of decent flower scissors.

How to arrange flowers like a pro

The Flower Recipe Book has inspired me to create my own style of flower arrangement which I have created an Instagram account @plantplaylist to record my works. It was definitely a fun flower project as I can practice selecting flowers and foliage, putting them together in harmony, connecting with friends. I become more sensitive to colors, textures, and forms. The fascinating world of flowers simply amuses my eyes and makes me happy! It’s colorful, beautiful and joyful.

Screen Shot 2019-04-05 at 11.06.55 PM.pngArrange some flowers with your creativity today.

Creative doing!

think big


3 Things to Take Away from The Magic of Thinking Big


Action cures fear

The book The Magic of Thinking Big had a positive impact on my life. Why? It helped me to make a breakthrough: from unable to swim to love surfing! I thought I couldn’t swim in the past as I was afraid of deep water. I failed to swim even I had learned twice. I figured out the main reasons are lack of practice and fear of drowning. So I tried a new way suggested in the book. Thinking big. I envisioned myself to become a cool surfer and go surfing around the world to have fun, enjoy nature and life. Having this big picture in mind, I was motived to practice swimming in the pool and the sea in summer. Massive actions really cured fear. The more I swam in deep water, the less fear I had. My strong desire for surfing made me do what I fear. When I was more confident to swim, I started to learn surfing with a friend. We go surfing on Sundays when the weather’s nice and waves are good. I’m looking forward to a surf camp in Australia in December this year!big-ocean-wave-under-blue-sky.jpg

Believe it can be done

What is the size of your thinking? What would you like to think big for your life? David J. Schwartz, the author of The Magic of Thinking Big encourages you to think as big as you can. The first step is to believe. Here’re some of his big thoughts about belief: When you believe, your mind finds ways to do. You can discover solutions to personal problems if you believe you can. Belief releases creative powers. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Be progressive

Next, is to make it happen in a progressive way. I like a story he shares about being progressive. A female entrepreneur questions herself: “How can I do it better today?” Her answer is a weekly improvement program. All during the week, she made notes and jot down ideas as to how she can improve her business in 4 elements: customers, employees, merchandise, and promotion. At the end of the week, she reviews the ideas and figures out the solutions. We can set up a weekly progress check on the things that are important to us too, such as fitness, relationships, finance, etc.

The audiobook version is simply worth listening if you haven’t tried.

Creative doing!




what makes you happy?


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.

Screen Shot 2019-04-05 at 11.06.55 PM.png

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!



Creative & meditation



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



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.


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


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.

Mindfulness meditation


Why meditation can give us joy?

Mindfulness meditation is having its moment in the recent decade and it has become a billion-dollar business. Companies like Nike, Google, Facebook, and Sony are using meditation to empower staff to be happy and creative. Steve Job meditated. Emma Watson meditates. Tim Ferriss meditated. After writing this blog post, I have convinced myself to start meditation too! Simply meditate 10 mins every day. I found myself happier and healthier! I dug into the myth of mediation and I have concluded 2 main reasons why meditation makes us happy — it makes us see things from a different perspective and live in the present.

Seeing from a different perspective

When I forget to bring the door keys and can’t go home, I judge myself being stupid and feel angry and ashamed. My judgment and reaction are automatic. My stupid example shows that we tend to react to or judge our experience habitually without awareness. Mediation is a way to get into the aware mode and take a break from the default mode. What happens when we are in the aware mode? We see things from a higher or broader perspective. And that makes a difference.


The little book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice by Shunryu Suzuki is a great read to get a thorough understanding of Zen practice. Suzuki, a Zen Buddhist, shows readers how to appreciate zen practice with the key concepts explained in short chapters. Concise and sweet. Beginners’ favorite. My favorite! Reading this little book is like practicing Zen. It calms me and gives me broader perspectives to reset myself. If Zen has a slogan, it will be “Just sit, and breathe”.

Living in the moment

A cognitive experiment about meditation reports that meditators keep a non-reactive and non-judgmental awareness of anything that occurs in their experience of the present moment. While maintaining this awareness, the contents of experience such as bodily sensations, feelings, and thoughts are not distractors but simply contents for observation1. If they are preoccupied with life experiences (the autobiographical sense of identity that projects back into the past and forward into the future), they become distracted from awareness of the present moment. Put it simply, meditation is a way to live in the moment.

I feel enlightened when reading The Power of Now! Thanks to the author’s great examples or metaphors, I totally understand the concepts. It helps me imagine or visualize what it’s like when accessing the power of now. It’s a must read if you want to go deeper to figure out nowness or the art of living in the present moment.

Health benefits of meditation

You can find tons of benefits of meditation when you google it. Here is a quick summary for you to get an idea of how great meditation is for our mental and physical health. Meditation helps us to become less anxious and more focused. Mentally, it enhances self-awareness, generates kindness and fosters creativity. Physically, it lowers our blood pressure and boosts our immune system. People who need better sleep may find it helpful too. For more details, please click here.

Aging and meditation

No one wants to get old! I guess you want to stay young as much as I do. According to scientific research, feeling stressed doesn’t just damage our health – it literally ages us. We all know exercise, eating healthily and social support all help to reduce stress. But do you know what is one of the most effective ways to slow aging? To my surprise, it’s meditation.

How to meditate?

Observe and accept

The more I get to know meditation, the more I want to give it a go. Therefore, I read 3 books written by meditation experts to learn about how to meditate at home or anywhere. Yes, experts agree that it’s possible to meditate anywhere. But a quiet space for sitting comfortably is the most ideal. Making space: Creating a home meditation practice gives a simple overview of step-by-step meditation. I love “the cake in the fridge” practice for maintaining family harmony. Thich Nhat Hanh, a well-known Vietnamese Buddhist monk suggests that whenever there is a fight, take the cake in the fridge and take a break to enjoy it. What if you don’t have any cake in the fridge? It doesn’t matter. The main point is to break the tension and focus on the enjoyment of life. You can have some tea or do anything that makes you feel good. Thich Nhat Hanh also teaches how to sit for meditation. He describes sitting is to purely enjoy life and living fully. In his point of view, mindfulness can be practiced in our daily activities. And he suggests that we can jot down or draw to record any thoughts and enlightenment from meditation. Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world is a complete how-to book that provides you with audio guides. I must say you have to be open-minded while following the audio guides. Otherwise, you can’t embrace mindfulness in all senses. 


Guided meditation

You can find a meditation guide here or listen to the following guided meditation from two experienced meditators, Sam Harris and Tara Brach, if you feel like you need some space for your head. Personally, I like to use the app Headspace for guided meditation as it’s cute and simple to use.

FIRE Movement

CreativeDoing personal finance

What is FIRE movement (Financial Independence Retire Early)?

I have been thinking about how to get financial freedom last year and Google directed me to FIRE community. I feel like I see the light of Jesus! OMG. I want to be FIRE too. Who doesn’t want Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE)? FIRE movement is created by frugal and simple-living people who want to have more time and freedom. The idea of FIRE is appealing to many people, especially millennials who love traveling (including me). FIRE community is apparently happy and creative as they can do whatever they want and be free in any way. I dig into this community and study their secrets to happiness and creativity.

Save massively & earn passively

The first key to FIRE is to save more than 50% of your salary and earn more passive income. Many people who are FIRE reduce the spending on unnecessities and greatly increase the saving power up to 70%. They also find their own ways to build more income streams by freelancing, blogging or building a business, particularly the passive income.

Invest wisely in low-cost index fund

The second key is to invest in low-cost index funds. You may wonder which low-cost index funds do they invest exactly? I dived into their investment strategy and found that most of them invest in Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF (VTI) and Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF (BND) which are the most cost-effective and diversified. They don’t believe in financial advisors so they manage their own personal investment and rebalance the asset allocation consistently. The asset allocation could be 80% VTI and 20% BND and it varies according to the your risk tolerance and age.

Where do FIRE learn the FI secrets from?

The book Your Money Your Life is a bible for the FIRE community. Most of them are influenced by Vicki Robin’s way of thinking about money and life which encourages people to be minimalists and environmentalists. I love Vicki’s interpretation of the relationship between money and life — your money = your life energy/time. When we spend money, we’re actually spending our life energy because we traded our energy/time for money before achieving financial independence. Therefore, have a second thought before purchase: “Is this expenditure of life energy in alignment with my values and life purpose?” After all, life is bigger than a job/money. Don’t equate life with job/money. Another most popular source of FI wisdom comes from The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy, which highlights the importance of frugal lifestyle rather than the high-consumption lifestyle. The interesting research in the book shows that multimillionaires usually have frugal wives and these crazy rich people are long term investors who spend a certain time on investment planning but trade less.

Index investing is a strong conviction that every FIRE holds! Interestingly, there are two books about index investing FIRE must read. The first one is The Simple Path to Wealth, which is a good and easy read for beginners like me. I would say it is far more digestible and entertaining to read than the other book The Bogleheads’ Guide to Investingwhich is more academic, with detailed explanations.


My favourite FIRE

Many FIRE are personal finance bloggers, podcasters, or entrepreneurs. They form a community online and even offline sharing experiences, advice and helping each other. I love this happy and creative community and I love the below FIRE bloggers the most. You might like other interesting FIRE if you discover more of them.

MMM – Mr. Money Moustache is very optimistic and he is the core advocator of FIRE community. He always shows people the possibility of being FIRE with maths and real-life examples.

Millennial Revolution – This resonates with me as I love traveling and simplicity as they do. I love their investment workshop which demonstrates how to online invest index ETF steps by steps, giving you confidence that you can do it too.

JL Collin – His stock series is the best source for understanding index investing. I love his sense of humour, his deep voice and his great dad image. The way he explains investment strategy is perfect for laymen such as me. Here’s his talks at Google.

Personal finance resource I found helpful & wonderful

Directory – an excellent source of personal finance

Documentary – an aspirational doc about FIRE movement and a retirement calculator for you to see the big picture of how long it will take to be FI

Forum 1  Forum 2 – an online platform for FIRE community

News – an article about FIRE movement

Happy reading!

New rich


What is new rich (NR)?

Happy new year! Wish you a happy and creative 2019! How would you design your new year 2019? Speaking of new, have you ever heard of the term new rich (NR)? It’s a word coined by Tim Ferriss who is living a new rich lifestyle. What the hell is new rich lifestyle? It’s a totally different lifestyle designed by entrepreneurial and creative minds that provoke people to rethink the way they live and ask the question “How would you like to design your life?”

The new rich is idea-rich, time-rich, experience-rich and relationship-rich. What makes the new rich people different is that they design their desired lifestyle instead of living by default, and they prioritise time for important relationships and dreams.

Tim Ferriss’s The 4-Hour Workweek is a good book that explains clearly what exactly new rich is about. The book was written 10 years ago but its impact has lasted so long that it has inspired many people to redesign their lives. The key to have a nomad life like Tim Ferriss is outsource, outsource and outsource! Tim lists some other new rich people in his book:

Another book by David Moore called The New Rich: Escape the job you hate by starting a business the world will love is one more good example who challenges the mainstream lifestyle and design a different way of living. Everyone can create the life they want so why not be adventurous and do what you want. What is the one thing that you want to do the most in 2019? My answer is I want to write a book. Of course I have many other things want to do as well. Yet, it’s more effective to have a focus. Prioritise the top one and get it done first.

How would you like to live your 2019 and the rest of your life?

Creative doing!

Listen to audiobook

CreativeDoing personal finance



What are the advantages of listening to audiobooks?

No more still reading

Let me start with a “still” sentence for you to read: I just tried 30-Day Free Trials of Amazon Audible and saved some money by registering and immediately getting two free audiobooks of my choice. Ok when you read till here, I believe you are a patient person, which is a good thing. If you’re also a curious person, you would go on reading till bored. Alright, here’s the thing. As I’m learning how to invest so I get an audiobook which is highly recommended by many personal finance bloggers who are Financially Independent and Retired Early (FIRE)! The magic book is The Simple Path to Wealth: Your Road Map to Financial Independence and a Rich, Free Life (a way-too-long name). Another audiobook I get is about how to invest less: The 80/20 Investor. With the insights from these books and the FIRE community, I learned how to invest well and live frugally or creatively (they manage money in a different way) in theory. Yes, in theory so far. I’m trying to practice so will let you know when I catch FIRE.

Anyway, back to the point. The whole new way of listening to books simply saves me some space storing physical books. And the most amazing thing is that reading becomes so mobile. Anywhere. Anytime. I can read when I’m walking, running and doing work out. It’s totally worth trying! Just check out Audible and get two free audiobooks.

Audiobooks free my eyes

It was totally awesome that it frees my eyes! I can listen to books in one hour’s commute to work without exhausting my eyes. It’s great for anyone who needs to watch computer screen for the whole day.

Happy reading listening!