Category Archives: Home Improvement

Work It Out!

working out
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working out

Working out

Working out is a hobby I started practicing regularly since my early teens.  Since then I have been asked one question many times, “Why do you work out; you are so thin?” I thought after the 90’s everyone knew that one goes to the gym for more than physical fitness but I guess not.  Physical conditioning was the primary objective for working out, but what kept me going back to the gym was so much more addictive.

While exercising our brains secrete chemicals that elevate our mood, reduce our stress level, and boost our self-esteem.  The mood component is what makes me keep going back for more; but working out the muscles in my body is what I do there.  I do a cardiovascular workout which works my heart, I do the leg press which works out my leg muscles, and I do the seated press which works out my chest muscles etc. but what about that muscle which we often overlook for its cognitive functioning?

 

A healthy brain is a happy one

A healthy brain is a happy one

The brain as a muscle is often overlooked as the brain as an organ.  It is the brain that synchronizes all of our other muscles; it is the brain that releases all the chemicals that lets us enjoy the working out of our other muscles; it is the brain that allows us to be aware of our surroundings, but it is also the brain that diminishes in capacity and functioning over time due to inactivity, injury, or overexertion like any other muscle.

Working out the brain is as simple as doing the things we used to as a child,playing an instrument, practicing tongue twisters, or problem solving.  When doing brain activities we use both hemispheres of the brain: the right side which is more logical and analytical and the left side which is more artistic and creative. As children we use our left brains as much as our right brains that is why we are more ambidextrous and are quicker learners.

 

Why do kids have a higher learning curve than adults?

Why do kids have a higher learning curve than adults?

As we get older we start relying more on the left hemisphere of our brain.  The pressures and responsibilities of our lives require us to use more logical reasoning and thus we are naturally disinclined to use our imagination, intuition, and creative intelligence.  Our brain is intended to work as a whole and this is usually the case in children, which may be one of the reasons they are able to learn at a quicker pace than adults. Our brains use both hemispheres to tackle a problem, but if we use one hemisphere more often than the other than that hemisphere will be quicker to solve problems.  For example a popular brain activity is colour words: a series of colours spelled in a different colour ink. Reading the colours instead of the words uses of different a part of our brain than reading the words rather than the colours.  When doing this exercise I am quicker when reading the words; which are you quicker at?

the right brain tries to read the color while your left brain instists on reading the word

the right brain tries to read the color while your left brain insists on reading the word

All of us have a dominant hemisphere, but the idea is not to let the other hemisphere lay totally dormant.  Our non-verbal and artistic brain is usually overshadowed by our linear, mathematical brains; as we get older we slowly lose interest in coloring, dolls, the fake kitchen and edibles, and (my personal favorite) stickers: collecting, trading, etc. these interests are replaced by real world demands such as reasoning, critical thinking, and logic.  In other words, activities that engaged our right brains more are replaced with activities that engage our left brains more.

Just as any muscle; the brain diminishes in elasticity, alertness, and speed when not used regularly.  So to keep the brain’s activity up to par we must work out our brains. When the brain learns, experiences, or tries something new new neural pathways are formed in the brain and the brain flexes its muscles to absorb the sensory input from that new experience, solve the task set forth by the new experience, and to learn from the new experience. When doing something new, something differently our brain uses its muscles differently.

 

brain puzzle

Brain puzzle

So take a different route to work, sing a song to a different melody, or try doing with your non dominant hand what you do with your dominant hand; have a different experience, have a new experience, or just have a funny experience to work out your muscles without breaking a sweat. The next time you go to the gym for a workout don’t forget to work out that muscle that reigns over the body at the top of the head.

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…For the Wrong Reasons

Trying can seem like an uphill battle
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Trying can seem like an uphill battle

Trying can seem like an uphill battle when the efforts are not sincere

Part II of Trying Harder than We Should

Trying hard is good, it builds character. People who try hard win hard; but we only win hard when we try hard sincerely, earnestly. If we persist in our trying we will achieve success because with every new failure the probability of success increases. Trying to achieve something can expand horizons, holds our interest, and increases perseverance; however trying can become mundane, monotonous, and boring also.

This duality arises when we try for the wrong reasons: competition. When we try out of sincerity, to improve ourselves, to better ourselves trying takes on its positive qualities, but when we try to impress the boss, increase our popularity, or compete for the best grade, best car, etc. the negative qualities surface. When we try for ourselves the effort is more organic and therefore more pleasurable, but when the effort is made for others it becomes more of an obligation.

If you work you had the experience of your boss telling you to do

Anne Hatheway attempts to impress her boss...and she is miserable

Anne Hathaway attempts to impress her boss…and she is miserable

something in a manner you disagree with. You will carry out your attempt in one of two ways; either you will make this attempt as an obligation and find the task boring and mundane which will cause the completion of the task to take longer or you will look at this attempt as an opportunity to learn something new. A seasoned employee will mostly always take the former route (a lesson to the employer.) When your boss tells you to get something done without giving you specific parameters your attempt will show more gusto, creativity, and ownership. If the boss dislikes the outcome of your attempt, your second attempt may be laden with the negative qualities of trying if you refuse to see this as an opportunity to learn something new.

When we try to achieve something for the sake of being the best our attempt is not sincere. Mary Kom took part in a sport which was all about competition, but she loved boxing that is why she was able to live it, breathe it, and win. When we study just to get the best grade, studying becomes a chore; however if we study because we enjoy the topic or take it as opportunity to learn something new, the good grade comes automatically. In high school when I needed to write a paper of a certain length it was an easy ordeal when I wrote from knowledge and experience, but once I made the attempt with the mindset to reach a certain page writing became monotonous and gruesome. Quality over quantity never fails!

when we are focused on popularity our attention is shifted


When we are focused on popularity our attention is shifted

Popularity is similar to competition in that it takes the sincerity and pleasure out of the attempt. I enjoy writing and it became a natural and preferred hobby of mine in my early teens. Till date 1 have about 100 poems, more than a dozen short stories, and more than 20 articles; when I write with the aim of getting a good grade, attracting the most viewers, or to satisfy another my content quality will diminish, I will find it more difficult to write, and I usually am not overly satisfied with the result. Also when we win something due to sincere efforts the fruits are much sweeter rather than winning because of our popularity.

Don't make yourself so available to others that you become unavailable to yourself

Don’t make yourself so available to others that you become unavailable to yourself

Continue the effort, because it is the effort that defines our success; but make sure the effort is not made in the wrong vein. Trying, but for the wrong reasons takes out some of the gusto when we achieve our success at that endeavor. We all enjoy getting the good grade, the gold metal, and being the most liked, but once these pleasures become the aim of our attempt we lose sight of what’s important: the journey there. Sometimes we take educational courses for the certificate, the skills we will acquire, or the suffix we will get to our name; this takes away from learning, understanding, and the learning qualities. So when you try to do something, focus on the attempt itself and enjoy the natural fruits. The enjoyment of the journey is in the experience not the destination.

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Trying harder than we should…

our efforts are whaat makes us extraordinary
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Trying can seem like an uphill battle

Trying can seem like an uphill battle

Everyone tries their best, and that is a good thing. Being the best we can be is noble, healthy, and inspiring. If everyone tried their best there would be a lot less disappointment. If everyone understood that trying their best is good enough, there would be less misery, but they don’t. Instead there are a lot of face rubbing, hair pulling high achievers who believe ‘my best is not good enough.’ I was one of them.

We are the sort of people who will go the extra mile to get the job done; we are the types of people who will not rest or take a break until the task at hand is complete; we are passionate people who get lost in the undertaking. Once we set out minds to do something we become very stubborn and adamant and don’t feel satisfaction until we see a finish line. Does this sound like you? This means you are hardworking, passionate, and have ownership qualities. What tipped me off that I was an unhealthy high achiever were my sleepless nights all throughout school, then my inability to take a break at work to eat, and my irritation when my concentration was disturbed when I was working, studying, or doing something else that I sought to outperform myself in. I am still struggling with this, but I am better. What has helped me is the following: meditation (if you are unfamiliar with meditation sit quietly, in a quiet corner and close your eyes. If you can visualize great if not quiet your thoughts and focus on your breath), socializing, and the realization that I won’t always make or break the outcome.

Your greatest contribution is you

Your greatest contribution is you

Understanding that your contribution while important does not outweigh the importance of YOU, is the most important piece of self realization. I had a very difficult time understanding this; at my first community service job employees whispered to each other wondering if I worked there as the physical labor I was performing was so sincere and at my most recent corporate job I worked endless hours, concentrated more on my work output than my food intake, and made myself available at all times. While this workaholism leads to certain gains it definitely has drawbacks. The gains are: it teaches ownership, it can lead to promotion, it enhances passion and Flow, it keeps your mind on its toes, and it increases the size of your skill bank. I experienced all of these benefits while I worked, but when it came time to take leave I realized that for more than half a decade I was conveniently hiding behind the workload I began to love in order not to live life.

When you work to relax you are a workaholic

When you work to relax you are a workaholic

So while working is important, whether you’re an employer or employee, have a startup business or a multi-million dollar company, or have a stake in the company or just work there, your contribution will always be that: yours. If you are not well enough to contribute what will your contribution be? Whether you are a Bill Gates, an Albert Einstein, a Steve Jobs, or an average Alma Chopra and your contribution can change the world, make you richer, or make things go a little faster, it will all be negligible if your health is not up to par. Like everything there is a balance that must be maintained.

our efforts are whaat makes us extraordinary

Our efforts are what makes us extraordinary

Read Trying Harder Then We Should II! Trying Harder than We Should…for the Wrong Reasons

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A Nonviolent Approach

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"Strength does not come from physical capacity, it comes from indomintable will."-Ganndhi

“Strength does not come from physical capacity, it comes from indomintable will.”-Gandhi

We all learn about the great nonviolent movements of historic figures like Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi. How these movements changed history and persevered amidst opposition is eye opening.  The importance of these movements lies within the radical and defining changes they brought about in society.  Through nonviolent tactics both leaders produced prolific and resounding revolutions that we still refer to today.  However, despite being introduced to these movements early on we refuse to accept these teachings, no matter how peaceful and gentle we claim to be.

I wrote a paper on Martin Luther King Jr. when I was entering high school. It is difficult to learn about the history of America without learning about slavery.  It is hard not to see the effects Mahatma Gandhi had on the history of India and Great Britain.  The heights Gandhi’s activities reached are unparalleled and were noticed worldwide, but then what? We watch movies, read books, dwell on quotes, and praise these men, but this is all history; what does it matter now?

Learning about these movements teaches us how history was formed,

Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr.

how revolutions were created without weapons, and the force of the multitude.  However there are some lessons that are not taught and less spoken of, lessons that reach far beyond history.  These lessons include how one man can change the world for millions, how a single belief can proliferate, and most importantly, the root of non-violence.

The root of nonviolence lies within us.  Most of us deny living violent lives; we don’t expend force upon anyone, we do not aggressively hit others, nor do we act out in ferocious behaviors. Although aggression, ferociousness, and force are very broad terms they all contain a seed of violence.  The seed of violence is planted within us at a very early age and is given adequate nourishment to grow into very bushy trees.

Each derogatory remark, criticism, and blame we place upon ourselves is a form of violence.  Starting in our early school years to when we start mimicking media: trying to get that perfect figure, getting that perfect grade, trying to perform that flawless routine; we begin pushing ourselves, slapping ourselves, and smothering ourselves.  Every time I fell in public I would call myself names and think I deserved punishment despite the fact that the fall was not really my fault.

The violence within us

The violence within us

Just as the saying goes ‘we are our company,’ we project onto others what we think and do to ourselves.  If our minds are negative, it only follows that we will become accustomed to repeating that negativity.  When we are in school most of us compare ourselves with others, and when this comparison doesn’t meet our expectation we tend to blame and find inexcusable fault with ourselves.

This is where violence begins.  When our minds become agitated and upset we inflict pain and misery upon ourselves. This pain can only be contained for a short period of time before we start projecting our internal state onto others.  When we lash out at others or share an insult with another what is it but a violent act?  Most of us equate violence with physical acts of hate, but words can hurt far more than knives.  If we know how to hate, punish, and sabotage ourselves it follows we will know how to do the same to others.

Violence is a societal phenomenon.  Violence is taught to us in schools, through the media, and via fraternities.  When I was I high school, college, and post grad school I used to pull all-nighters and stayed awake all day, all night, and all day again for the sake of a grade, scholastic learning, or official work; what is this if not violence to our bodies? My average day is 13 hours and when I run above 15 hours I start feeling achy and groggy. When I was in school I sat like a zombie if front of the computer until that 2nd kick came in at 21 hours. It is not the natural state of the body to stay awake for this long, but we feel the need to in order to feel good about ourselves, meet the deadline, or compete with others.

Through competition and comparisons, we are actually taught to commit heinous acts against ourselves, and to propel and amplify the hatred by putting ourselves down, criticizing ourselves, and doubting ourselves.  Violence, like other learned phenomenon is only as effective as the energy you put into it.  So although we are given the tools for violence at an early age, it is our continuous practice and involvement in the behavior that labels us violent creatures.

Unfortunately, we are violent beings; most of us won’t admit to it, but the torture we put ourselves through proves otherwise. Our internal monologue creates changes within our bodies and because our minds are so susceptible to subliminal messages and other forms of convincing propaganda our internal monologue creates damaging changes such as the rate of digestion, tense muscles within our body, or secretion of abnormal hormones.

Free yourself from the violence within you and bring peace to the world

Free yourself from the violence within you and bring peace to the world

The effects of violence are so pervasive so why not cut down on the violence and start leading more peaceful lives?  We watch the news and condemn the violence that we see around the world, but we neglect to see and acknowledge the violence within us.  If we are nicer to ourselves, the atmosphere of our minds will be reflected in our surroundings.

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When prejudice become practice

Prejudice
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Prejudice

Prejudice turns us against eachother

If you are like most people you will deny that you are prejudice. What is prejudice? It’s an intolerance, a bias, or even a disliking that we have. It is natural to have prejudices, but becomes problematic when we become offensive or discriminatory based on them. People learn prejudicial behavior, and if we repeatedly reject or condemn something due to our prejudgments the behavior is strengthened and becomes a form of hate. People generally are scared of what they don’t know and hence construct an opinion based on their notion. If one is too scared, hesitant, or unaware of how to cope with something forming a preconceived notion is the easiest way to understanding that thing.

When I was in high school, my classmates used to call and my lazy and drunk. If you read my story you know that I have a condition and comments like this are hurtful, at the least. My classmates did not know what to make of my abnormal gait, so based on the knowledge available to them [most kids at that age drink and intoxication produces abnormal gait] they jumped to the most logical conclusion [she must be drunk]. Why do people feel the necessity to pass negative comments about what they don’t know? If something is different or deviates from the norm, the instinctive reaction is to condemn it.

Prejudice narrows our vision to Include things we dislike

Prejudice narrows our vision to Include things we dislike

When you force yourself out the natural tendency to form prejudgments you liberate your mind from the bonds that preconceived notions form. Permitting your mind to create, imagine, and think of outcomes different from what your experience says, you allow for a more positive understanding of the outcome. If you form a prejudice based on fear or experience you limit yourself to the negative possibilities that ruminate in your mind. So liberate yourself and start expecting unexpected outcomes.

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