give and take

happiness

Are you a taker, matcher or giver?

Yes, I am a matcher most of the time, unfortunately, and sometimes a taker or a giver. I feel the need to get evolved to be a giver after reading the book Give and Take by Adam Grant as giving wisely makes life happier. Yes, it takes actions and time to be a generous giver so it’s better that we really enjoy the process of giving. I’m trying to get there although I’m still far from the end of evolution.

How to be a cheerful giver?

Givers are generous folks who take other’s interests above theirs. Not many people can do that all the time I guess. I hope you’re one of the cheerful givers and I hope I can be one soon. Adam Grant advocates giving as he loves to see more successful givers getting to the top without cutting others down, finding ways of expanding the pie that benefit themselves and the people around them.

“When you meet people, regardless of who they are, you should be asking yourself, ‘How can I help the other person?’”

Perspective-taking

I must admit that my ability to imagine other people’s perspectives is very weak as I’m an introvert and I don’t practice perspective-taking a lot in real life. I always get stuck in my own perspective so I find myself not so helpful to others. Once upon a time, my boyfriend at the time asked me to help him to do his individual essay but I just promised him to help with the proofreading. He then asked another friend to finish it for him near the deadline. Since then, he broke up with me. This relationship let me realize that he is a matcher and I am not a giver. I failed to put his interest over mine and he failed to prioritize our relationship over his study. What if both of us are otherish givers considering our partner’s thoughts and interests to find ways that satisfy others without sacrificing our own interests?

Seeking advice

Adam suggests us to ask for advice, which is a form of powerless communication showing our vulnerability. In his opinion, advice-seeking has 4 benefits: learning, perspective taking, commitment, and flattery. For example, when I ask my senior how to get a pay rise, he will give suggestions for my situation (engage in perspective-taking) and help me if he is a giver (commitment). I will take new information (learning) from him and give appreciation (flattery) to him. This whole process of seeking advice is more like prompting the adviser to be a giver. It literally gives the adviser a chance to give.

The 100-hour rule of volunteering

In the book, Adam also mentions the 100-hour rule of volunteering — the optimal hour to give without burning out. It’s just two hours a week if we break down 100 hours a year. Research shows that happiness increased when people performed all five giving acts or volunteer work in a single day rather than doing one a day. And if you are burning out, you can recharge your energy by shifting your giving to a new domain where your contributions showing visible impacts.

Seeing everyone as talented

Adam Grant believes generous givers simply start by seeing everyone as talented and try to bring out the best in them. They don’t excel only at recognizing and developing talent; they’re also surprisingly good at moving on when their bets don’t work out.

There’re so many great stories about takers and givers in Adam’s book worth reading. Hope you will be willing to give more no matter big or small after reading this. If we measure success in what it has done for the people around us, being helpful to others with a sense of free choice is successful.

Happy reading!

 

 

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LOL this is funny

happiness

What makes you laugh today?

I have no idea what my facial expression looks like when I’m not looking at the mirror, until more than 2 people said to me,” You looks so serious”. What? I have been wearing a serious look all day, all months, or maybe all years? I thought I have a happy smiling face all the time. Are there fights between emotions in my brain like the movie Inside Out?

The idea that I was not LOL all the time makes me panic. Then I watch comedies, sitcoms, and funny books. I also put on a pair of funny glasses and see things from a different perspective. It turns out people laugh at my stupid face.

Life is absurd. It’s better not to take it seriously. I want you to have a good laugh as that will make me laugh too. How? Yea, how exactly? I don’t quite know, to be honest. But,  here I’ve got some funny stuff, for you to judge if they are funny enough to make you laugh.

Funny graphic memoir

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Have you ever read any weird comics from Allie Brosh‘s funny blog? I gave the book a try after Bill Gate‘s recommendation. I found it enjoyable to read and I couldn’t help laughing at her whimsical drawings and writing. Allie illustrated the anecdotes about her childhood, her dogs, her identity, her depression and her daily life in a hilarious and exaggerated way with her unique sense of humor. I love it! Life is not that boring if you see it in Allie’s way.

The Simpsons jokes

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What’s your favorite Simpsons joke? The Simpsons may seem stupid, yet I love the smart jokes that make people can’t help laughing at. I tried to hack the joke writing secrets. Yes, I tried a bit, not hard. After listening to the audiobook of Springfield Confidential, I have a bit more ideas about how the Simpsons writers work: they use simple language to talk about the moment of shit and put a surprise at the end. 

The Simpsons

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The British sense of humor 

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The British sense of humor is more sarcastic and pessimistic. James Acaster’s Classic Scrapes is a good example, telling his autobiographical stories in a comedian way. He’s hilarious. You can definitely feel that when he speaks, not to mention his funny stand-up shows.

Happy reading & laughing!

 

create meanings

happiness

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What is the meaning of life?

Most of us have asked this tricky question, especially in adversity or when burning out. Do you have the answer now? Some people are lucky that they are always clear about their life purpose. Some people discover their meaning of life while suffering. Some people are not sure about it yet and some may have changed their meaning of life. What is the meaning of my life? My answer, at this moment, is to inspire you to live a more meaningful life.

Many philosophers, psychiatrists, and writers have their unique views on the meaning of life. Among these different views, I can see a shared value regarding the meaning of life. In general, that is to do something loving for others. That’s it? That’s the truth about the meaning of life? Sounds too simple to be true. No matter what the truth is, we have the freedom to decide our own meaning of life.

live to inspire

Emily Esfahani Smith, the author of The Power Of Meaning, thinks our lives become meaningful when we have strong relationships with others, cooperate with others for the good of society, reframe our stories in a more positive way, and connect to nature or god. Her four pillars of meaning: belongings, purpose, storytelling, and transcendence, is psychology-driven and pragmatical for real life. We are doing these activities in daily life, aren’t we? Do we simply take a meaningful life for granted?

achieve, love, suffer, hope

According to psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankel, we can discover the meaning in life in three different ways: by achievement; by loving someone; and by suffering. When Viktor was suffering in the concentration camp, he found the meaning of life by treating patients and writing his classic book Man’s Search For Meaning. In his view, what human needs is the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task, to prevent existential vacuum (inability to find or create meaning in life). In other words, just do something of your choice that makes you feel fulfilled. What goal do you choose to live a meaningful life?

Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.

What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment.

The more one forgets himself—by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love—the more human he is and the more he actualizes himself

work play love

Paul Thagard, a philosopher who specializes in cognitive science, summarises the meaning of life as work, play, and love in his book The Brain And The Meaning Of Life. Balancing these three areas can satisfy our psychological needs: competence, autonomy, and relatedness. Cool, keep working, playing, and loving. And most importantly keep balancing.

serve others

Many of my Christian friends’ meaning of life is to serve God by serving others. They choose to believe the meaning of life lies in religion. Philosopher John Cottingham also thinks so and he points out the spiritual benefits in his book On The Meaning Of Life: the care of the soul, the tranquility of mind, release from the false pursuits of egoism and material gain, a closer awareness of the mystery of life, an affirmation of its profundity and its blessings.

contribute & cooperate

Psychotherapist Alfred Adler’s finding of the meaning of life is to contribute to the whole and cooperate with others. I feel that his book  What Life Should Mean To You is more like preparing readers to be good parents. Because he stresses the importance of parents’ sufficient love for children (especially for children with imperfect organ, pampered children, and neglected children) can help raise a good person instead of a criminal.

final thought

After all, we are not alone in this world so our meaningful lives must involve other people. When it comes to your meaning of life, only you can live it for yourself.

Happy reading

live well

happiness

 

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!

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!

 

 

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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Mindfulness meditation

happiness

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.