Thought of the Day: Monotony

Monotony

Thank you to all my readers for your kind patience with my erratic posting schedule this April and May. The various bank holidays in England and my trips away have wreaked havoc to my usual routine. There is so much to share with you but it seems that there are not enough hours in the day to fit everything in.

Continuing my journey on self-compassion, I have tried to be kinder to myself by being less critical when I don’t achieve 100%. Yet, I have not been able to stop an encroaching sense of guilt for not completing things I have set out for myself; such as my blogging and dedicating time for other projects that I care about. Though I had previously recognised it would be a long journey in developing self-compassion, my impatience with the lack of progress is also holding me back which then slows me down even further…

In the past few weeks, I have also developed a trapped sense of monotony: the everyday churn of waking up, travelling to work, work, commuting back home or going to the gym, chores, washing and, sleeping. This feeling does not go away, even when my routine has switched up, such as seeing my friends and family during the holidays. No matter way I do, I couldn’t seem to shake this feeling of monotony. 

Monotony

When researching this topic, there is a clear link between boredom and monotony, but in my opinion, they should not be used interchangeably. As previously written on the blog, it is possible to embrace boredom from time to time; it can be used to stimulate creativity. However, I believe that monotony is chronic boredom and tips the scale to negativity. There are others who have argued otherwise and believes that monotony frees up time to think about other stuff.

Monotony is defined as “lack of variety and interest; tedious repetition and routine.”

I believe the key emphasis is on “tedious”. Monotony impacts an individual differently, where some people cannot live in monotony and require frequent and or excessive changes in their lives. I believe I am one of those people, so much so that I would get upset if I have the same lunch and/or dinner two days in a row (but I am fine having the same breakfast every day; don’t ask me why!…)

On the other hand, other people become used to it. It is also possible that certain monotonous activities can become an “addiction” because it is so comforting, such as a drinking a cup of coffee/tea in the morning, or having something sweet after dinner. I struggle to agree with this argument and rather melodramatic. Can’t something be routine without it being monotonous? There is nothing wrong with seeking comfort in predictability but can monotony be negative to our mental wellbeing? 

Routine vs. Monotony

From the readings (though there is not much on this topic), monotony is bad. However, there are many advocates on the positivity of monotony whereby it is possible to make life simpler and calmer because monotony creates a structure which results in a calm feeling and removes decision making. The simplification of your life helps you conserve energy for things are more important. 

However, I fundamentally disagree with those arguments. This is because I believe that the articles confuse routine with monotony. The fact I brush my teeth in the morning and night is good for my dental health, or going to the gym three times a week is good for my physical and mental wellbeing. Yes, it takes away decision making and allows my mind to wander (similar to boredom), however, this is a routine, not monotony. Routine is monotony without the feeling of “tediousness”. For example, I really dislike dusting the house and associate it with something negative – whenever I complete the task it feels very monotonous. The fine line between routine and monotony is, therefore, in the mind. It is important to recognise the signs and then be proactive to change it. 

Mental Health Check

Through the course of writing this blog post which has taken me several weeks; I have had the chance to step back and assess my mental health and I believe that the following may have triggered my negative mental state. 

  • Lack of reading – I have been struggling to find a good book to get my teeth into. I was reading “Start with why” by Simon Sinek but was couldn’t engage with the book, so I thought I would change it up and read “Little History of Philosophy” by Nigel Warburton, but was not taking much in. Finally, reading “Unnatural Causes” by Richard Shepherd kicked me back into my reading routine and mentally felt better and refreshed.  I am really surprised by how reading has become such an important part of my mental health. Others have also found that this can help with monotony. [Note: not paid for the links, just thought I would be helpful!]
  • Lack of Time Out – As an introvert, socialising is really tough. I love spending time with my friends and engage in deep meaningful conversations but it takes a toll when I am doing it multiple times a week. I was not listening to myself and allowed social obligations to dictate my diary instead of being strict with my time and recovery
  • Lack of Routine – As emphasised previously, having a routine does not equal to monotony. With many friends visiting and travelling to Vienna & Barcelona, I did not follow the comfortable routine I have developed over the past few months, particularly when spending weekends to visit art galleries or museums; (I had to squeeze in a lot of activities in one day rather than time to reflect after the visits). This has also meant that I have not spent much time with my boyfriend which is never a good thing! 

By failing to recognise the importance of routine and checking into my mental health, things that were pleasurable had become monotonous and negative.  

Other Tips & Ideas to Break Monotony

There are others who have suggestions on how to “escape the monotony of life”.

  • For those who are adventurous, I would suggest checking out this article. Clare Healy focuses on the need to being outside and also travelling, such as becoming a weekender nomad by visiting and staying in other cities to break away from your normal routine. 
  • For those that need convincing that you are number one and it is important to invest in yourself, read this article here. It is a great article on overall life tips (not necessarily to tackle monotony). The key take away points are that you should always invest in yourself, whether a nicer holiday away or learning something new – you are always worth those extra pennies. Take risks and own your own time.

In the past few weeks, I have read more and tried to resume my routine of going to the gym and galleries. I can feel myself slowly recharging and become my more positive self, and not surprisingly, life is feeling a little less monotonous! Have you ever experienced monotony? How did you overcome the negative mental hurdle? As always, I would love to hear from you! 

With Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x

P.S. For those who are sporty, a sports example of routine vs monotony can be found here

Thought of the Day: Self Compassion

Self Compassion

Happy Sunday everyone and welcome back to another long read on the Pineapple Chicken Blog. Last week, we discussed confidence and it was a chance to embark on a long but hopefully positive journey. However, this week I seemed to have taken a step back. It was a particularly difficult week and I could feel that I was not myself.

I have been trying to lose weight for my own personal health and to feel more comfortable in my own skin. But let’s be honest, there are social pressures to look a certain way especially when I spend so much time on Instagram looking at other inspirational women. However, this week I managed to put on weight which was extremely frustrating. I tried to “fail forward” by telling myself that it was a poor result but I need to push myself for the next coming week and lose what I put on and more.

Though this is not the main reason for my poor mental health this week, it certainly was a catalyst and impacted my relationships with others. I was taking a lot of issues back home; though my boyfriend tried his hardest to get me out of this “funk”; it proved to be futile. I am very grateful for my supportive network, but messaging my sister and communicating it with my boyfriend made it worse. My feelings of inadequacy grew because I had to reach out for help and inconveniencing others. Frustratingly, I was unable to effectively communicate how I was feeling and I just “couldn’t just get over it”; which then furthered spiralled into negative thoughts on how I could not get anything right. Worst still important people in my life think that a lack of confidence is “unattractive” which went back to the topic of not looking attractive and I put on weight this week, and this was an obvious fact to prove my inadequacies…the spiral goes on. 

This is why I wanted to focus on self-compassion this week. I know that I am very self-critical, however, I believe I need this to push myself forward and be “successful”, “effective” and “high achieving”. I have days where I believe that things are going right and feel awesome but these are plagued by many more days when I look and the mirror all that is staring back at me are my faults and flaws.

Self Esteem

Through my research on this topic, it seemed to be important to distinguish the difference between self-esteem and self-compassion, they are very different and I have been too focused on the wrong thing.

Self-esteem is defined as your feelings about yourself (positive or negative), as well as how you think other people value you and feel towards you.

When we become concerned about our self-esteem, it is necessary to compare yourselves to others. This is how you judge whether you are “better” or have “progressed” further than your peers. My constant comparisons are: Am I earning enough? Am I as successful as them in my career? Do I have the same comforts/lifestyle as them? They have already bought their dream home, when will I ever afford mine? They are getting married, will I ever be married? Do I look as beautiful as her? How do I get myself as slim as her?   You are probably thinking, girl, get a grip! Why are you comparing yourself to others? Though it is clear that I am overly concerned with my self-esteem and what I think of others and what others think of me.

It is clear that my thoughts are negative and for someone who stresses out really easily, it is a double whammy of emotions (Something else to work on…). In such instances, the body’s primitive response kicks in – the fight or flight response. In order to motivate yourself, do you judge yourself harshly and yourself a mental kick to push harder (fight)? Or do you run away and avoid the situation altogether and just “shut down” (flight)? I certainly can recall situations where I have selected the fight or flight response, or flip-flopped between the two.  High achievers consider themselves with more at stake because it is necessary to maintain an image of competence or success. The faster you are sprinting any little bump along the road will trip you up and the harder you will fall and any trip is seen as a failure. 

Being over concerned about your self-esteem does not help to build resilience. Self-esteem is fragile and forces us to becomes dependent on the acceptance and praise of others. In the era of Instagram and a constant online presence; the search for instant gratification and recognition by others through “likes” or “followers” has had a negative impact on our mental health, particularly mine. I recognise the irony that I write a blog and have a presence on Instagram as well. I could just turn away from it all but social connectivity is also fundamentally a human trait. For me, I wanted to tackle the issue more head-on than to remove my online presence but noting that this is not for everyone. There are more and more books coming out on digital detoxes etc.

If self-esteem shouldn’t be the focus, then what is self-compassion and why is this a better model?

Self Compassion

Self-compassion involves applying a sense of warm, positive regard towards yourself. It does not differ from the compassion you give to others. It is when you can empathise and appreciate that things don’t always go according to plan and it is okay to make mistakes. Self-compassion is just when you do it to yourself.

Without it, you are faced with feelings of negative self-esteem. The feeling you are unworthy and in its extreme form could develop into addictions, unhealthy relationships, hollow success, or material possessions. I am sure my boyfriend would say I have fallen into the material possessions category! This can potentially go on to negatively impact your mental wellbeing and develop into mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. 

From my readings, I understand that it is necessary to work on my inner struggles and learn to love myself. Do not be mistaken that self-compassion is not self-pity. It is not an “excuse” card nor a lazy way out. It is not a sign of weakness. Self-compassion requires vulnerability and the courage to face our insecurities as this is the way to learn self-compassion and acceptance.

“The first step we need to take on the path toward self-compassion is to embrace the most simple and basic fact that when our emotional immune systems are weak we should do everything in our power to strengthen them, not devastate them even further,” – psychologist Guy Winch.

When talking about self-compassion, it is nearly impossible to ignore the research by Dr Kirsten Neff who has also published a book on this topic. I have not yet had a chance to read it, but if I ever get a chance I will give a review when I do! She defines that self-compassion has three components

  1. Self-kindness vs. self-judgment – it is being understanding towards ourselves and recognising that it is okay to be imperfect and that life will throw things at us, but that is okay. If we accept this as inevitable then we can be kinder and sympathetic to ourselves
  2. Common humanity vs. isolation – it is to understand that you are not the only one suffering and that all humans suffer. You are not alone.
  3. Mindfulness vs. over-identification – self-compassion requires taking a balanced approach to negative feelings. You have to be mindful of those who are suffering around you and putting your own situation into a larger perspective and try not to get caught up in your own negativity. It means you have to be open to your own emotions and not be judgemental.

If you are interested in learning more, there is a test to check how self-compassionate you areI got a score of 2.23, which unsurprisingly is considered low in self-compassion. A score of 2.5-3.5 indicates you are moderate, and 3.5-5.0 means you are high. It is all well and good knowing a score but the key question is how do we develop more self-compassion? 

Cultivating Self Compassion

  • Practice Mindfulness/Meditation: This is linked to the three elements of self-compassion above; if you find yourself listening to your inner critic and telling yourself stories about your own inadequacies, this is known as over-identification. Be mindful and aware of these thoughts. Acknowledge them and just push them away. The below video is a little exercise you can try for yourself and for those who would like to learn more about standing up to your inner critic, please see this article here
  • Give yourself permission to be imperfect: Stop punishing yourself for your mistakes. It is totally acceptable to fail. You need to accept this feeling, giving yourself the permission might make it easier to accept how you are feeling
  • Express gratitude: I think this is also a topic that is big enough on its own, but feeling a sense of gratitude is very powerful. There is a lot of strength in appreciating what we have right now and who we are right now. Embrace that and you may notice you will develop a gentler voice and move the focus away from our shortcomings.
  • Work with a supportive therapist or coach: Remember my tips are from my own research if you feel that you need extra help, always go to a professional! They are trained to see through all the negative beliefs and can help you find your way back to the amazing person you are and always have been.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s post. As always I would love to hear from you, so leave a message below or on other social media channels. Remember you are awesome and worthy, so be kind to yourself and others.

With Sweet and Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x

Thoughts of the Day: Confidence

Confidence
Welcome back to another Sunday Read on the Pineapple Chicken Blog, this week’s key theme will be on confidence. This is a topic that is close to my heart because it is something I struggle with which meant that this post was particularly difficult to write. Given that I am no expert on the topic, clearly, it is necessary to research and delve deeper into the subject. I believe it is something I have to tackle head-on and make the effort to understand. The internet seriously has an abundance of information. Today, we will just scratch the surface but I hope to keep on discussing it in future posts. Ultimately, the question I want to answer is: will increasing my self-confidence bring positivity to my life?

Firstly, I wanted to thank all my readers for commenting on my blog post “Finding Your Passion”. This completely made my day! I love interacting with you so please do keep sending your feedback/comments through all the various channels. The reason I mention this was because some readers commented on how it can be extremely difficult to find support for their passion or they raised concerns about whether they will succeed; whilst others were extremely positive and believed that “you can do anything when you put your mind to it”. To me, what differs between the two, was the level of confidence in themselves.

What is confidence?

Confidence is about the faith you have in your abilities, the person you are, and how you view your most important relationship — the one with yourself.

Confidence is attained when we’re prepared and self-aware enough to appreciate who we are, faults and all. Being able to appreciate yourself means that confidence can only develop with true belief i.e. you got to believe yourself with conviction. You are not fooling anyone when you are not being true to yourself as we all know that this is not sustainable. Self-belief or confidence has to be authentic, you just can’t fake it.
Confidence is the belief in your own capabilities to succeed, by being confident in your own abilities today, it will reflect the level of performance and mastery you can develop in the future. Basically, it is the key ingredient to drive you forward.

Self Doubt

Confidence touches your past, present and future. It is key to success and requires inner reflection and appreciation of your own self. Honestly, it is no wonder that I do not have much it! Just thinking about my own capabilities and how it will shape my future just makes me hyperventilate. The little voice in my head reminds me that I am not good enough.

Self-doubt is a feeling that is more familiar to me. I understand it stems from fear and negative thinking because I feel it. I have realised that I have consistently stopped myself from trying harder or pursuing things I am passionate about because of the fear of the unknown.

Fear and self-doubt lead us to believe the risk associated with trying something new is greater than the risk of remaining in our current situation.

I have an overactive imagination where I would think of worse case scenarios rather than focus on positive and constructive thoughts. These thoughts are constant spectres in my mind: What if I tried and did not succeed? What if that person doesn’t think I am intelligent enough? What if what I do is just a waste of money and time wasted that I would never get back? What if I am not a good enough girlfriend? What if they don’t think I am good looking/cool/funny enough? The list can go on…

Lack of self-confidence stems from the negative stories we tell ourselves. It is our own imagination and often this is disjointed and distorted from reality. It is unlikely that the people around you are scrutinising your every move and looking out for your mistakes. We need to spend more time listening to our strong inner voice – the voice that says you got this!

Why is confidence important?

Understanding that self-doubt is negative to my mental wellbeing, it would be logical to assume that confidence is important and positive for my wellbeing. Confidence makes all the difference to your hustle, according to this article confidence is how successful people overcome daily obstacles. Confidence is a self-administered magical cure!

Without self-assurance, we are more likely to move towards having negative “perfectionist” traits, such as extreme procrastination or avoidance. You can imagine that without confidence, we would avoid trying something new, we wouldn’t want to push ourselves and, we would become stagnant by avoiding any situation which might cause stress or embarrassment. When we hold ourselves back; it takes away our freedom to be ourselves.

Confidence is critical. It’s an essential ingredient of happiness, an unequivocal component of success and the one thing that stands between us and the person we wish to become.

Cast your mind back, can you recall the last time you felt confident? When you looked in the mirror and thought – looking good? Or after giving that presentation and you couldn’t stop smiling because you knew you kicked ass? Confidence is a positive emotion; it makes you feel good; it makes you glow. It’s an emotion that yields greater self-worth, more happiness and enjoyment, greater strength and capabilities, freedom from social anxiety, and of course — more beneficial and enjoyable interactions with others. Like I said – this magical cure!

Though in all seriousness, confidence seems vital for my path to positivity; so the key question is, how do I build more confidence?

How to build confidence?

Note that the list below is not exhaustive. From my recent searches, everyone has tips and tricks to build more confidence. My list below is just a selection of tips I have read and think are important. If you would like to see more, just let me know in the comment box below!

  • Self Compassion – This is probably the most important thing you can do for yourself. This is why I have put this on the top of the list. I have said this many times before but the message never gets old because I find this difficult myself. You need to have a good relationship with yourself; stop giving yourself a hard time because you don’t deserve it. Stop letting the self-doubt overpower you. You are great and strong; totally embrace it and believe it.
  • Self Reflection – Complimentary to self-compassion is to also be honest with yourself. Self Reflection is necessary, we are not perfect and there is room for improvement. If you want to take that step forward then you have to self reflect. This is not your opportunity to be negative. Start noticing when you’re telling yourself stories. It’s those stories that dictate the way you act, and when they’re negative, your ability to be true to yourself is compromised. Self-reflection is a constructive and positive process. With self-compassion, liberate yourself from your negative thoughts and with self-reflection embrace the courage to improve.
  • Take ActionIt seems obvious that confidence is part of success but one cannot be successful if we don’t turn our thoughts into action. Sometimes it is necessary to think less and take action. As discussed in the topic of passion, you just need to do something. Confidence is the same process. You can keep listening to the negative thoughts in your head – that little voice that beats you down. If you just become deaf to it (even only partially) and just take that first step forward, you are already on your journey to building confidence.
  • Avoid Perfectionism – I have discussed this topic in depth before, but it is really interesting how it is tied to confidence. As mentioned above, we have to notice “perfectionist” traits because it really stop us from having the freedom to be ourselves. Allow yourself to fail because you learn from mistakes, not successes.
  • Comparison to others – not much to say about this as it is self-explanatory. Don’t get me wrong, it is necessary to calibrate where you are from time to time. Comparison to others should be used to check whether you are heading in the right direction. It is not a destination. If you are using it to build on your negative thoughts about yourself. Stop it – it is a waste of time and energy. Nobody has time for that!

I would like to be a person of my word, thus, I will be trying these techniques for myself and will let you know if any of them help me more than others to build my own confidence. I recognise that this is a long and difficult journey, so will keep you posted.

As always, I really would love to hear your stories. Are you a confident individual?

  • If yes, AWESOME, do you have any other tips for me?
  • If no, you are amongst friends and I encourage you to take a step forward and join me on this journey. Be brave – you got this!

With Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x

Thought of the Day: Perfectionism

Perfectionism (3)

Happy Sunday everyone 🙂 How has your week been so far? My week felt pretty slow with nothing happening exciting at work, apart from Wednesday morning, Dr Eziefula presented an introduction to perfectionism which I have leveraged for today’s long Sunday read on the Pineapple Chicken Blog 🙂 I do not know much about perfectionism from a clinical psychological perspective and the potential impact it can have on our mental health; so I thought why not do a little more research and share what I have learnt too? You might want to grab your tea/coffee before we begin… 

What is perfectionism?

A simple dictionary definition for perfectionism is the refusal to accept any standard short of perfection. This is pretty simple to understand and probably what most of think perfectionism is. We all have our own standards on what we do or expect and a perfectionism likes it to be “perfect”.

In clinical psychology, however, it differs and perfectionism is defined as a personality trait characterised by a person’s striving for flawlessness and setting high-performance standards, accompanied by critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others’ evaluations.

Two sides of perfectionism

Perfectionism is a personality trait that is multidimensional, where it can be positive and negative. Personally, I think everyone can be a bit of a perfectionist. The concept of “perfect” would differ for everyone but wanting things to be of a certain “standard” is something we can all relate to. For example, you want a piece of work to be “perfect” before presenting it to your peers. However, using this simple example, perfectionism can easily become a negative trait if “perfect” is an unrealistic goal or unattainable meaning you are spending hours and hours making the presentation beautiful and stressing out over minute details; possibly even missing the deadline because one couldn’t “let go”.

Positive

Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best. Perfection is not about healthy achievement and growth – Brené Brown

From my research, I get the sense that perfectionism is not a positive trait to have should not be confused with the desire to obtain excellence. Obtaining excellence is a positive trait to have, as it helps to motivate people to reach their goals and when they reach that goal, then there is a feeling of satisfaction. Unlike perfectionism, the desire for excellence is the desire to do the very best possible, not the quest for the unobtainable.

Negative

Following from above, it means that perfectionism is a negative trait to have. Individuals caught up in perfectionistic thinking or behaviour commonly experience significant personal distress as well as chronic health and emotional problems. Such individuals can also provoke extremely negative reactions from others due to their unrealistically high standards and quest to avoid failure and rejection.

Perfectionism is the belief that unless I am perfect, then I am not okay. This belief is driven by fear, mainly the fear of failure. To me, the pursuit of perfection seems extremely stressful and it is not surprising that it can be a cause of depression. It can also cause anger as well because you are always frustrated at yourself, as you are never good enough.

Dr Eziefula  mentioned that it is possible for perfectionists to be extreme procrastinators, because they are too worried about being perfect – or planning to be perfect that they don’t want to tackle the issue at hand; or if they know they won’t be the best or perfect at the task, they rather not do the task at all. 

In its most extreme form, perfectionism can become like an obsession and manifest into Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (“OCD”), where everything has to be completely organised, idea that “a place for everything and everything in its place” rings true to these individuals. Prior to the presentation at work, I was reading a heart-wrenching account of how beauty became a perfectionist’s obsession. It was a great insight into how perfectionism can manifest itself and negatively impact an individual’s wellbeing; I highly recommend the post.

Are you a perfectionist?

From the presentation and my readings, the one question that I always had at the back of my mind was whether I was a perfectionist? I found a few quizzes and but, as always you should take the below with a pinch of salt. Regardless, I used the quizzes and the other websites as a guide for personal reflection.

  • Perfectionism test
    • A quite detailed questionnaire and analysis with a breakdown of potential strengths and limitations. Took me about 5 minutes to complete and you can pay for a full report (but I didn’t)
  • Perfectionism
    • I found this to be a good guide to perfectionism if you wanted more detail that is not covered in this post.
  • 11 Signs of a Perfectionist
    • Rather simplistic but a good starting point.

Tips

There is a myriad of posts that provide tips to help with perfectionism. However, from my research and understanding the potential detrimental impact on mental health, if you think you perfectionism is impacting you, I would encourage you to see a specialist first. In spite of this, below are a few tips that I have chosen are good to follow, and not just to tackle perfectionism.

  •  Set realistic expectations – The focus should be on one thing at a time and setting goals that may be “stretching” but attainable. When they are unrealistic, it is demotivating, or worse – self-destructive. I have learnt that goals/objectives should follow the SMART model. Try it out for yourself!

http://www.j6design.com.au/setting-smart-goals/

  • Take time for yourself – I have always preached this. Turn off that computer/put that pen down and listen to your true needs and how to meet those needs. Take time for self-care and be kind to yourself because you are important and worthy!
  • Take a step back – Consider the tradeoffs between making something “perfect” and using that time and energy for something else. Take a step back and ask yourself: what is more important in the grand scheme of things?
  • Perspective – Once you have taken a step back, take a step forward. There are plenty of small steps that, were you to take them, would help move your life forward. Don’t excuse yourself from doing them because the conditions aren’t right or because a better opportunity might come along soon. Do what you can, now. And when you’ve done it, keep it in perspective and be pleased with the result because by looking back you will see how far you have come.
  • Ask yourselves these questions:
    • What am I spending most of my time and energy on right now?
    • Am I doing this because I want to, or because I’m trying to compete with or please someone else?
    • Is what I’m doing making me feel worthy and valuable? If not, how can I stop doing it?
    • Am I doing what I said I would do to reach my goals? If not, is my goal too big or perfectionistic? How can I make it more reasonable?
    • Are my actions more in line with who I want to be today than they were yesterday?

The Pursuit of Good Enough

If perfection an illusion, if this is the case then why do we continue to pursue it? It is okay to be good enough? Haversat discusses this in her  TED talk and uses some key examples we see today in politics. She focuses on compromise and refers to Voltaire’s statement – “Perfect is the enemy of the good”. Worth a watch!

On your 80th Birthday

Dr Eziefula’s presentation ended with an open question and I will pose this to you to end this blog post.

On your 80th birthday, what would you want people to describe you as?

  • The person that answered all emails on time? 
  • Amazingly beautiful presentations? 
  • Beautiful/Perfect – not a hair out of place? 
  • Someone who lived by their values? 
  • Someone who built a legacy

I don’t have an answer to the question, just yet, but I know which direction I want to go.

With Sweet & Sour Love, 

Pineapple Chicken

P.S. I hope you found this post helpful, as always, I would love to hear from you!

Thought of the Day: Finding Your Passion

Finding Your Passion

Happy Sunday Everyone! 🙂

I hope you had a wonderful weekend, as usual, Sunday on the Pineapple Chicken Blog is a long read on what has been on my mind as I continue my search for positivity. This week’s post is inspired by my boyfriend, though he has not blogged recently, behind the scenes he has been working really hard working on his trading strategy, and a business plan, on top of his day job. He is a doer: when he has his mind set on something it becomes all-consuming (which can be a positive and negative thing). I can feel his neurons firing away. For me, this feels like true passion which is very inspiring.

I realised that I have not felt like this in a long time. I feel like I have no true passion. This might explain the slight undertones of melancholy I have been experiencing over the past few months. I love learning and always in search of the next thing that I can work on or become better at. I mentioned to my boyfriend I felt like I have stalled. Recently, I feel like I have lost a bit of passion, or I was not sure what my passion was…. Do I have one? What is passion? These were all big questions, and honestly, it floored me.

With deeper searching and inward reflection, one potential cause for my little funk might relate to my job where I am now very “comfortable” and I am not sure what the next steps are and how I want to grow. Do I even want to stay in my industry? Or it might be something completely different entirely and I have not stepped outside my comfort zone to explore/discover? Or am I not being grateful for what I have and always in this constant search for something new and shiny?

As any girlfriend would, I relayed my concerns to my boyfriend and his usual supportive self, asked me the following:

  • What do you mean you have “stalled”?
  • Are you sure that you have even started, let alone “stalled”? (ouch!)
  • Is it because you do not have the headspace to think about it? Do I need to give you space?
  • With regards to your job, no one can tell you how to develop your own role/next steps. You need to decide this for yourself, don’t rely on your manager to guide you!

These were very painful truths but I think that was a kick up the butt I needed. I realised that I have been sitting in the backseat of my own life and was waiting for “passion” to land on my lap. I have also recently discussed this with my best friend and she mentioned that when her sisters felt comfortable, they would do something drastic just to switch it up, like quitting a job. Maybe this might be something I need to do.

What is passion?

“Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” – Oprah Winfrey

I associate passion with something that is exciting and positive. If you are passionate about something you would have an unlimited motivation to keep working at it. I am sure you have all heard – “Find something you love to do and you’ll never have to work a day in your life”.

Being passionate sounds amazing! The burning desire to make something happen because you care about it. When was the last time you were passionate about something? Personally, I can’t really remember and I really struggled to answer this question when my boyfriend asked me. Even when I told him that I am going to write a blog about passion, he noted that it would be difficult for me since I don’t seem to have one (ouch again!).

After my trip to Chamonix and seeing my friends from my master’s degree, I remembered what passion felt like. During my time at university, this was my sole focus, my “role” was to be a student and work hard towards graduating with a good grade and developing a network of like-minded and passionate individuals. To get me out this funk, I did what every other person would do in this situation and googled “How do I find my passion”? lol!

How do I find my passion?

I was hoping that my Google Search would provide a step by step guide to finding my true passion. I was ready and prepared to do something positive about it. There were a few wishy-washy ones like this article and this one. Somewhat frustratingly a lot related to careers, I did not want to look at what I could do as a job, there were a few articles that were interesting but ultimately, I wanted to learn more about myself. There are a few quizzes out there as well, but they never are any good (for those that clicked on the link, I got: Lifelong Learning).

Unfortunately, I did not find it very inspiring, so I kept digging. The more I searched, the more I realised that there were more articles and posts like this:

I was genuinely shocked by the turn of events as I was expecting rainbows and unicorns and a lot more positivity. In the hours of research and reading for this post, there were some key messages that came up time and time again.

1. Passion is an emotion

Passion is not something that drops out of the sky as some people believe – i.e. forget the ‘Eureka!’ moment. Maybe you are the lucky few that this might happen to, but for most people, you got to work for it. It is a bit like falling in love, your dream man/woman is not just going to casually walk into your life. You need to create the opportunity, pluck up the courage to speak to the other person, engage and court etc. etc. etc. – we can all agree – dating is hard work!

You know what passion is? Passion is an emotion. It’s an emotion without an action. Passion will get you nowhere. Inner drive will get you nowhere unless you act on it. You have to act on your passion. You have to act on your inner drive. Don’t let those feelings stay inside you. You gotta know what to do with them. You gotta know how to make them work to get what you want. – Michael Jordan

2. Do Something

As mentioned above, you need to do something, how will you ever find your passion if you sit on your laurels. Dweck and Greg Walton of Stanford recently performed a study that suggests it might be time to change the way we think about our interests. Passions aren’t “found,” they argue. They’re developed.

Try spending 20 minutes each day thinking about the things that have interested you recently, or any opportunities that you have spotted. Maybe try thinking back to when you are a child, what did you care about? What did you enjoy doing – is this something you can do now as an adult? Have you done something that made you lose track of time because you enjoyed it so much? It is a journey of discovery and it is exciting!

3. Grit

Closely correlated with doing something is that once you found something you care about – you have to keep at it. For the long term, come rain or shine. You don’t necessarily have to be good at it but you need to have grit and persevere with it. Don’t give up!

When you develop competence in something you enjoy, you build more confidence to help you tackle larger challenges, and you continue to grow, which fuels more passion to repeat the process. – Ayodeji Awosika

Angela Lee Duckworth’s video is really short and engaging about grit – I highly recommend clicking the play button!

4. Read

Once you have identified something that might be of interest. Read all about it and read some more. Do your research – websites, blogs, books, anything you can get your hands on! This is because there is probably someone out there in the world that is passionate about the thing you are. Read up about it, they probably have already done a lot; so learn from their experiences, enhance your knowledge.

My Passion

As I researched for this post and talked to others about my concerns and the little funk I have been in. I realised that I have been ungrateful (I feel like this might be a future topic to write about!).

This blog is definitely a passion of mine and I had failed to recognise that. I absolutely love seeing art, travelling and researching for the Long Reads. It has been such a joyous journey and I have learnt so much during the process. Yes, there have been times where I dragged my feet and didn’t want to make the effort. There have been times when I had a creative block and didn’t have content. Nevertheless, the blog has taken me to places I have not been to before and I have learnt about myself in the process.

In Chamonix, my boyfriend told me it is time to get serious about the blog. If this is my passion then I have to work for it! I am not yet there to quit my job and become a blogger full time – though that would be super awesome, possibly in the future. However, I am going to keep up with my posting schedule and take myself out the comfort zone and bring my dearest readers (you!) more interesting content on art and positivity.

Whoop, you have made it to the end, I hope this post inspired you to go out there to find your passion (if you don’t already have one). For those, who have found their passion – keep up the great work, persevere because what you are doing is awesome!

With Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x

Thought of the Day: Sleep & Creativity

Hi everyone!

Lazy Sundays

How has your weekend been? Hope you ready for another long read on the Pineapple Blog. Following on from last week’s topic of boredom and its impact on creativity, I wanted to talk about sleep and creativity this week. I have just finished Matthew Walker’s “Why Do We Sleep?” [not an ad] and I highly recommend this book; it is filled with eye-opening information backed by scientific facts and experiments. I had a lot of “oh that’s why!” moments when reading the book.

I am continuing the theme of creativity as I am on a journey to try and find more ways to use the other side of my brain. Working in finance with numbers and analysis, I am noticing more and more how my job lacks creativity. Since I have started writing this blog it has made me realised how creativity is very important to me and brings a lot of positivity.

Sleep Cycle

There are two distinct parts to sleep: Non-Rapid Eye Movement (“NREM”) and Rapid Eye Movement (“REM”). This can be then further broken down to several stages of NREM before entering REM, making the sleep cycle as follows:

  1. Stage 1 NREM sleep is when we change from wakefulness to sleep. This stage only lasts several minutes and it is light sleep where your breathing and heartbeat slows and muscles relax
  2. Stage 2 NREM sleep moves us from light sleep to deep sleep. Body temperature decrease and eye movement also stop (hence, NREM).
  3. Stage 3 NREM sleep is the deep sleep that ensures that we feel refreshed in the morning. It occurs more in the in the first half of the night. This is the time where it is very difficult to wake you.
  4. REM sleep first occurs about 90 minutes after you have fallen asleep. Your eye movements begin to rapidly move side to side (hence, REM). Breathing becomes faster and irregular, and your heart rate and blood pressure increase to near waking levels. This is where dreaming and creativity occurs. Your limbs are paralysed so you don’t act out your dreams.

Recently, I have purchased the Fitbit Charge 3 (again, not an ad, but it is pretty cool!) and wear it whilst I sleep so that it is able to track/guestimate my sleep cycles. Got to love a bit of data! Unfortunately, this week I have only been averaging around 6 hours of sleep which is not enough, but below was Friday’s night sleep cycle, starting at 11pm. You can see my first bit of REM (4 mins 30 secs worth) at exactly 12:30! Totally geeking out about it 🙂

Sleep

REM Sleep & Creativity

For today, I wanted to focus on REM and its impact on creativity. During NREM sleep research has shown that memories captured by the hippocampus are replayed during NREM sleep, and as we detect similarities between them, that information gets stored in the cortex. During this stage, both parts of the brain communicate with each other and are in sync. The hippocampus prefers to replay things that are similar or thematically linked, it encourages us to find those links and use them to form schemas or organizing frameworks. This is why NREM sleep is associated with consolidating and strengthening memories.

REM sleep, on the other hand, the hippocampus and cortex do not seem to be in sync. As a result, the cortex is now free to replay stored memories in any combination, regardless of whether they are similar. By doing this the brain is able to make different connections, and may not be linked at all (essentially, thinking outside the box). The brain is able to blend together abstract thoughts in novel ways.

Benefits of REM Sleep

Many have described how dreams inspired them, such as Paul McCartney’s story of how his hit song “Yesterday” came to him in a dream or of Mendeleev’s dream-inspired construction of the periodic table of elements. Otto Loewi design of a simple experiment, supposedly by dreaming. He eventually proved something he had long hypothesized: Nerve cells communicate by exchanging chemicals, or neurotransmitters. This, in turn, resulted in him winning the Nobel prize. As alluded to above, REM sleep is beneficial for the following reasons:

Time to sleep

After reading Matthew Walker’s book, I have realised the importance of sleep. This has been talked about by others too (see video). Given its importance, I think we should all consider incorporating time to wind down and give yourself a good night’s sleep. I definitely do not need to be told twice to jump into bed!

For those that struggle with sleep, here are a few tips recommended by Matthew that might help:

  1. Make sure your room is dark and that you are not looking at bright light sources i.e. your phone around 1 to 2 hours before you sleep. This also links back to my previous post, don’t reach for the tech to fill in time when you’re bored, in this case, particularly around bedtime. You may want to also dim your lights around the house in earlier parts of the evening to stimulate sleepiness.
  2. Have a set routine – go to bed and wake up around the same time. Currently, I am trying to be in bed by 10:30pm for shut-eye at 11pm so that I am up for 6am for work and the weekend.
  3. Keep the temperature cool in the house at night. This is because your body temperature needs to drop at night to sleep.
  4. If you have trouble falling asleep or wake in the night feeling restless, don’t stay in bed awake. Get up and read in another room (don’t stare at a screen!), when you start nodding off, then go back to bed.
  5. Don’t have caffeine late in the day or an alcohol-infused nightcap as these will interfere with sleep!

I hope you all enjoyed this blog post, maybe it even sent you off to sleep –  I am not offended at all!  I wish for all my readers sound sleep to stimulate creativity and positivity. As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic and I hope you all have an awesome start to the week.

With Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x

Thoughts of the Day: Boredom

Boredom

Hi everyone!

Did you all have a good weekend so far? I hope you are up for another long Sunday (night) read on the Pineapple Chicken blog. Today, I wanted to discuss boredom – it is an odd topic but please bear with me on this one 🙂 Earlier this week, I spent the better of last weekend and which dragged out to the remainder of the week in bed after catching a really bad cold that manifested itself into a horrible chesty cough. (I apologise for the superlatives, but honestly, I hate being ill).

Though I should have been resting in bed and recovering, I found myself extremely bored and growing ever restless. I felt guilty that I wasn’t using my downtime properly and doing something more productive. In my semi-delirious state, I thought I should try and understand what boredom really is and why do I feel bored? Should boredom be considered as something negative? 

What is boredom? 

“Bored” as defined in the dictionary is “feeling weary and impatient because one is unoccupied or lacks interest in one’s current activity.” It is interesting that the definition also associates boredom with negative feelings, I would personally also associate boredom with restlessness and frustration.

I think Grant Faulkner wonderfully describes boredom in this article as an incessant need for stimulation – I have a tic, an affliction, a virus. When a moment of emptiness descends upon me, I reach for my phone, tap it madly, and hope to find stimulation…My brain craves novelty and stimulation, and I’m caught in a loop of compulsive neediness.

Why do we feel bored?

Though it may be potentially simple to define boredom, there is a lot more literature around why one feels bored and try to explain the underlying causes. Gustavo Razzetti explains boredom as the following, but I find it difficult to agree with. Personally, life is not always about giving more because let’s face it – that can be so tiring at times! 

“We feel bored because, deep inside ourselves, we know we can give more. Boredom is the pain of unused potential; it’s a disconnection to everything we can offer the world and vice versa.”

There is one train of thought that boredom has come from over-stimulation referring back to Grant Faulkner above, it is this constant need to fill in “gaps” with your phone but ultimately you never get satisfied. I agree with this statement more because I have not found myself bored if I am reading a good book, blogging or trying to meditate (and still trying very hard). Yet, I can feel bored whilst just looking at my phone to browse social media or try to find something interesting on Netflix.

Others have tried to explain the cause of boredom is because we find it hard having fun with our own company. I only partially agree with this, I love going to museums, galleries, and bookstores etc. on my own. I love solitude (from time to time) and I think it is important for my wellbeing. However, I agree with the opinion because when I was at home ill, I needed company and stimulating conversation; which also drove my boyfriend nuts as I was just being needy! I did try and do something productive like finishing my book. Honestly, my brain was just not up to it, so instead, I ended up binge-watching Netflix which seemed to make me even more bored! Was I facing the dilemma below? 

“We crave for more time. However, when we have free time, we don’t know what to do with it. Nothing seems exciting enough to deserve our valuable time. We end up doing nothing and get bored.”

Is boredom all the bad?

Why is boredom seen as such a negative thing? It implies that we are unappreciative of the world and what it has to offer, like the age-old saying – only boring people get bored? As one writer explained his experience when he was growing up – he had “exhausted the world of possibilities”. That is pretty harsh! I understand the sentiment that when one is learning, you shouldn’t be bored because there the world is a magical place and there is always something to learn/interest someone. Though there are definitely counter-arguments to this, I mean, who are they to say that the kid isn’t just the next entrepreneur. 

Whatever it is, boredom is a state of mind, just like sadness and happiness; therefore, should we really be categorising it into something that is negative or positive?

Others have said that boredom is a sign of laziness– savage! If boredom is just a state of mind, then it can be changed; i.e. you are not happy about something, change it! Let’s be honest, it is easier said than done. Should we not just be kind to ourselves from time to time and also recognise that we are imperfect and just human, with a myriad of emotions and thoughts?

Is it okay to be bored?  

To turn the argument on its head, is boredom really as bad for us? Do we have to constantly be productive? Others have put a lot of thought into this, particularly in this article

Sandi Mann, a psychologist, conducted an experiment to further understand emotions in the workplace in the 1990s. She found that “People who are bored think more creatively than those who aren’t.” Others have described that boredom can be a powerful tool that invites you to rethink your relationship with the world. Potentially my boredom in the sick bed created the right connections in my brain to write and research this topic (maybe, just maybe :)). A wonderfully light-hearted TED talk yet inspiring talk by Manoush Zomorodi on “How boredom can lead to your most brilliant ideas”. She has also written a book – “Bored and Brilliant” which I think will be going on the to-read list! Have any of you read the book? 

Her video was part of a playlist on TED talks to discuss “Why it is sometimes good to be bored”. So if you have time, I really recommend taking the time to have a listen to the various talks, maybe it may inspire you to embrace boredom and think of it as something positive and good for the mind. 

Parting tips

It is surprising how much is written on boredom and how it is a multi-dimensional topic with various views. Thank you for sticking with me to the end of this blog post! 

I am going to be kind to myself (as I always am lol!) and I think it is okay to be bored, I do not see it as a negative feeling and think we should embrace a wandering mind. However, I do think that replacing boredom with more stimulus such as YouTube videos or Netflix is the one thing we should be avoiding. Though, I recognise that there are days when mindless videos are just what you need. I want to start off with baby steps, so before I pick up my phone or TV remote, I am going to try a few of the tips below and I would love to know if they work for you!

Tips for boredom

  • Avoid technology when you feel bored – entertainment snacks will make you crave for more; rather than controlling your boredom, your need for distraction will never be satisfied. Hence, my binge-watching of Netflix from time to time.
  • Recover the joy of mundane tasks – when was the last time you wash the dishes and just allowed yourself to be present at the moment thinking of nothing else? Recovering the pleasure of doing small tasks may build a sense of achievement. I found that KonMari/tidying up is a good thing to do when I am bored.
  • Let your mind wander – when you find yourself bored, why not pick up a pen or paper and just let your mind wander. See where it leads you, let your mind feed on your own thoughts. It could potentially lead you down a creative path.

As always, I would love to hear from you about your thoughts on boredom, so please do leave a comment below!

With Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken