We humans love dichotomy. In a modern society bursting with mindblowing gadgets and technology to aid us in saving time and achieving more, our lives are busier than ever. No one ever stops to smell the flowers anymore. We are forever giving 200% effort on that hamster wheel.
Our thirst to be outstanding and unique needs to equally be quenched by feeling accepted as part of a tribe. From selfies to usfies to wefies, we relentless humblebrag on social media about our ever-so-fabulous lives.
Instead of celebrating material wealth, unless you are part of the #RichKidsOfXXX clan, experiences and discovery that gives us joy and thrill are much more valued and deemed worthy to share on social media.
Why is it then, if our lives are so enviable, that depression is on the rise? We need apps to help us relax, sleep, reduce anxiety, and even learn to be happy and stay positive. Herein lies the ultimate dichotomy. You are thinking, yea yea I know #FirstWorldProblems.
There may be no overcoming of our contradictory behaviors in the short term, but there are ways to help us improve our overall wellbeing. Lifestyle—that ubiquitous term we fling around to flaunt our globetrotting, athleisure-clad, adventure-filled experiences—could and should be reinterpreted to truly empower us.
Introducing: Infusing the 5 pillars of growth into your lifestyle.
We are exposed to the topic of personal development often. TED talks, life coaches, counseling, you name it. But infusing the PRACTICE of personal growth in our daily lifestyle is a whole different story, and something not to be bragged about on social media.
As an entrepreneur, my life is an enviable façade. The flexible hours, creative projects, working at hip co-working spaces, no longer bound by corporate bureaucracy and politics… No one can see the roller coaster of emotions that an entrepreneur experience, questioning themselves daily if they had made the right choice, anxious to make the business work, and braving the judgmental sneer of the outside world.
Practicing one of these 5 pillars daily, in rotation, has not only kept my sanity intact, but also built and maintained a strong foundation of wellness. The good news is, all these habits could be infused into your daily routine without a huge demand of extra time.
If we stop learning, we stop growing. As cliché as it sounds, the truth resonates every time we are faced with innovation. The need to learn a new interface, algorithm, technology... Groan. The brain is inherently lazy and needs as much exercise as our body in order to stay in tiptop condition.
Make it a point during your commute to work each morning to feed your brain. Cerebral sustenance is just as important as edible ones. Here is what I do:
- Luminosity: Brain games that actually trains our specific cognitive skills, like speed, acumen, memory.
- Espresso: Yes, I am addicted to coffee, but Economist’s morning world brief named Economist Espresso is fantastic cognitive caffeine to start the day.
- Sudoku: Rev your brain into high gear with this memory and logic enhancing exercise. It also prevents Alzeimers and improves concentration.
We all know what that is. Physical health needs neither introduction nor elaboration. Ingest the necessary food groups, stay away from fat, sugar and other unhealthy grit, and pepper your week with consistent workouts.
How we wish life were that easy! A girls’ night out here, a sumptuous client dinner there, a few nights of overtime, and all that balanced diet and exercise mumble jumble are out the door. But we should also be cautious not to give ourselves too many excuses.
- Spark recipes: Not only does this platform have a plethora of healthy recipes that you actually salivate over, they also feature creative ways to make your favorite foods, such as “Unexpected Avocado Recipes”
- Runtastic: A highly acclaimed tool for runners, Runtastic now has apps targeting specific anatomies and nutritional knowledge. My pear-shaped body has benefited hugely from their Butt Trainer app.
- Fitsugar: From 10-minute fat burns to 30-minute funky dance workouts, Fitsugar classes rarely disappoint. Anna Renderer is a positive (and not annoying) fitness host and all workouts can be done in your underwear at home.
Nope, you won’t find Tinder here. Swiping left and right on social apps has proven to alienate ourselves more from humanity and is detrimental to our social skills. Traditional networking can be a nuisance or a bore. Physical face-to-face human interaction with likeminded people is the most nutritious soul food—AND it triggers physical positive feelings.
- Industry or hobby specific networking events: Unlike traditional networking, interest-based meet and greet like doodling for creatives or cooking events for food enthusiasts are now on the rise. After all, don’t we all claim to be foodies and creatives on social media?
- Volunteering: Also an ingredient for spiritual wellbeing, volunteering helps individuals act upon values they believe in. Volunteers tend to think in terms of greater good and are less abrasive when found in a giving environment.
- A night out: Sounds corny but when was the last time you had an immensely enjoyable potluck at your friend’s home or went out to a movie (a real movie, not flicking on Netflix at home) with your loved ones, indulging in popcorn and soda?
This is undoubtedly a tough one. How can your emotions “eat well and exercise regularly”? We often feel like we have no control over our feelings—anger, jealousy, anxiety and negative thoughts can take over our minds and bodies by storm—and decide to reside within us if we let them.
Experts tell us to be confident. Shrinks advise us to stay positive and hopeful. But some days we just don’t love ourselves and it seems impossible to wave away the gloomy clouds above our heads. These are the six steps I use to “help myself feel better”
- Express gratitude: Growing up amongst a generation of entitled brats, myself being one of them, feeling and showing gratitude is not commonly practiced. But when you feel nothing is going right for you, thinking about all those (I mean really imagining yourself in their shoes) less fortunate than us will make us appreciate all that we have.
- Find purpose and meaning: Even if you are stuck in a boring corporate job with a b***h on wheels boss, your job is a means to an end--- could be supporting a family you love or a future startup business.
- Ability to have intimate conversation: Easier for an extrovert like myself to yap away about my fears, hopes and dreams, but perhaps challenging for introverts. All you need is one person to communicate your feelings to ---- your mom, friend, dog, goldfish--- the audience does not matter as long as there is an outlet channel.
- Identify your own emotions: Can you differentiate jealousy and envy? Or shame and embarrassment? Only with the right diagnosis can you apply the appropriate remedy.
- Identify others’ emotions: Labeling others’ emotions accurately, especially those you interact with the most, could help you understand and empathize with them more, thus improving your own emotional health.
- Accepting yourself and situations: We all have that belittling voice within ourselves ready to attack with self-deprecating remarks and thoughts. On days when the voice becomes overwhelming, schedule something that you look forward to, and try to seek and embrace positive traits of yourself and your life.
Spiritual health is measured by the harmony and peace an individual experiences in daily life. Faith, values, beliefs, principles, and morals also define our spirituality. Of the 5 pillars of wellbeing, this one is the most abstract, but an equally critical aspect to our wellness.
Those with strong religious faith could find the transcendence of spirituality and questioning of the priceless question—what is the meaning of life—less overwhelming than others. For agnostics like myself, I only strive to find harmony and between mind and body to weed out noises from day-to-day life for that little speck of inner peace.
- Meditation: As a thrill-seeking individual who prefers sky diving and Thai boxing, sitting still is perhaps the most painful practice for me. Meditation at its very basic is all about the breathing. A Tibetan monk once said, “No matter what you are doing, even if you stop for a few seconds to become aware of your breathing, that’s meditation.” I started becoming sporadically aware of my breath, and have now moved on to Head Space, a ten-minute per day meditative tool.
- Yoga Studio: I dream that one day I would eventually be able to wrap my legs around my head. In the meantime, platforms like Yoga Studio or Daily Yoga provide soothing guided practices for my daily relaxation fix.
- Mindfulness: We don’t need tools to become mindful. A form of meditation, mindfulness is simply being focused on the present—like focusing completely on eating your meal, or writing this article…
So there you have it. An unofficial recipe for a lifestyle infused with wellness. If these 5 pillars of improving your positivity prove to be ineffective, you can always default back to epic cat fail videos.