17. THE POSITIVITY PROJECT – ONE EMAIL TO READ BEFORE WORK (DAY 9)

Get your AM brain into gear by signing up to gohighbrow.com’s fun email-learning platform. It sends a five-minute lesson (on a huge range of subjects – money, art, tech, health) straight to your inbox each morning for ten days.

Day 9 – Understanding self-compassion

From Highbrow:

Do you treat yourself as well as you treat your close friends and your family? People who find it easy to be supportive and understanding to others are often surprisingly self-deprecating. They beat themselves up for small failures like being overweight or not exercising.

One way to deal with this overly harsh self-treatment is to be more forgiving with ourselves. And that’s where we enter the realm of self-compassion.

It’s often easier to understand self-compassion when we first understand what it means to have compassion for others. Compassion basically involves three components: When we are compassionate, we first notice another person’s suffering. Then we respond kindly and caringly. And last, we remind them that they are not alone and every human being shares these experiences.

Let’s say you have a close friend who tells you about something that’s wrong in her life. If you have compassion you sense her suffering. You respond kindly and wholeheartedly to this suffering, give support, maybe even a hug. And then, you might tell your friend that she is not alone, that it’s an experience that everyone shares once in a while.

Self-compassion works in pretty much the same way. Rather than beating ourselves up when we don’t stick to a diet or get a bad mark on an important exam, it’s much more beneficial to respond in a self-compassionate way:

First, we need to notice that we are suffering. That can often be harder than we initially think. Because in a difficult or stressful situation we hardly ever take time to step back and recognize how hard it is for us in the moment.

Second, stop judging ourselves and start bringing kindness to ourselves. Often the reason for our suffering is that we judge ourselves too harshly. When we’re self-compassionate we remember that it’s really hard to feel inadequate or ashamed.

And thirdly, remember that suffering and imperfection is part of the shared human experience. Not everything in life is perfect – everyone on earth makes mistakes and experiences negative emotions.

Tal Ben-Shahar, former Harvard professor, gives the example that there are only two kinds of people who do not experience negative emotions. The first group are psychopaths. By definition, they do not experience emotions like shame or embarrassment. And the second group of people who don’t experience negative emotions are dead. So if we look at it from this perspective, it’s good if we experience negative emotions. Because it means that we are still alive and not a psychopath.

Often the initial reaction of many people sounds something like this: ‘Hmm I am not sure about this self-compassion thing. I need to be harsh with myself, otherwise I’ll never make the change.’

But in reality, this deprecating self-criticism is not at all helpful. We are not making ourselves a better person by beating ourselves up all the time. We are just causing ourselves to feel inadequate and insecure while we should be kind and supportive to ourselves when we most need it. Practicing self-compassion has now been researched for over a decade and by now there is a lot of evidence showing it’s a powerful way to open the door to real and lasting happiness.

14. THE POSITIVITY PROJECT – ONE EMAIL TO READ BEFORE WORK (DAY 6)

Get your AM brain into gear by signing up to gohighbrow.com’s fun email-learning platform. It sends a five-minute lesson (on a huge range of subjects – money, art, tech, health) straight to your inbox each morning for ten days.

Day 6 – Practice Gratitude

From Highbrow:

Practicing gratitude reminds many people of saying ‘thank you’ for a present. But being grateful can be much more than that. The leading gratitude researcher Robert Emmons defines it as a feeling of wonder, thankfulness and appreciation of life. His research from the last decade has shown a host of benefits; from stronger immune systems and better sleep to more happiness and better relationships.

Human beings like novelty and we adapt fast to new circumstances such as a new apartment or the last promotion. Gratitude helps because it allows us to benefit from the things we usually take for granted. There are many things in our lives, both large and small, that we might be grateful for. When we are grateful for something, we appreciate its value. And that’s why practicing gratitude on a regular basis allows us to notice the positives more and that magnifies what’s good in our lives.

But gratitude does even more good to us! It also blocks toxic emotions such as envy and resentment. You can’t, for example, feel gratitude and envy at the same time. Try to be truly grateful and at the same time envy someone for having something that you don’t have. It’s impossible, they are incompatible feelings.

If you want something to engage in, take this easy exercise: Throughout today, take notice of things you can be grateful for. Make a list of these things – no matter if small or big. And in the evening, take some time to revisit the list. You can ask yourself what your life would be like if those things were missing. And you can try to experience a bit  of gratitude for things that you probably haven’t noticed in a while.

8. The Positivity Project – One Email to Read Before Work (Day 3)

Get your AM brain into gear by signing up to gohighbrow.com’s fun email-learning platform. It sends a five-minute lesson (on a huge range of subjects – money, art, tech, health) straight to your inbox each morning for ten days.

Day 3 – Myths of Happiness

From Highbrow:

Nearly all of us buy into what Sonya Lyubomirsky – one of the leading happiness researchers – calls the myths of happiness. Those myths are beliefs that certain achievements in our lives will make us forever happy and that certain failures will make us forever unhappy. People believe they will be happy once they’re married or have a certain job or income. At the same time, many people tend to believe that having health problems or having only little money will leave them forever unhappy.

The beliefs are called myths because research has convincingly shown that they are wrong. There is no ultimate life event that changes people’s feelings forever. The myth is not that achieving those dreams won’t make us happy. They almost certainly will. The myth in this belief is that we tend to think the happiness we get will last forever. The problem, though, is that the happiness we get is not as intense and by far not as long-lasting as we believe it will be.

So here are the two kinds of happiness myths: The first myth of happiness is our mistaken belief that we need certain events or situations in our lives to finally become happy. It is the notion that I’ll be happy when ____ (fill in the blank). I’ll be happy when I get that promotion, when I have a baby, when I’m rich, and so on.

Similarly wrong is the other kind of happiness myth. This myth is the belief that I can’t be happy when ____ (again, fill in the blank). For example, I can’t be happy as long as I don’t have a partner. I can’t be happy when I’m broke. Or I can’t be happy as long as I’m so much overweight.

When something negative happens in people’s lives, they often overreact. They feel that they can never be happy again, and that their life as they know it is now over. That’s the second type of happiness myths and it’s equally wrong. People adapt to almost all circumstances over time. Lottery winners for example are just as happy as people who never won the lottery. Even many people with paraplegia return – after some time – to the level of happiness they had before they became disabled.

7. The Positivity Project – One Email to Read Before Work (Day 2)

Get your AM brain into gear by signing up to gohighbrow.com’s fun email-learning platform. It sends a five-minute lesson (on a huge range of subjects – money, art, tech, health) straight to your inbox each morning for ten days.

Day 2 – What is happiness?

From Highbrow:

A course to increase one’s happiness cannot help but start with a definition of happiness. That’s important because if the goal is to increase happiness, we have to first understand it.

Psychologists look at happiness from various different angles. The definition of happiness we use here is based on the work of Paul Dolan (author of the book ‘Happiness by Design’) and includes two components. Happiness from this perspective is best understood as experiences of pleasure and purpose.

Pleasure is about feeling good versus feeling bad. Pleasure as part of our definition of happiness refers to the range of positive emotions we can experience. From joy and excitement to fun and contentment. Feeling bad, on the other hand, means to suffer. This suffering encompasses all the negative emotions we can feel – from anxiety and stress to sadness and anger. Happiness – from the pleasure perspective – is having more of the positive feelings and less of the negative ones.

However, there is another component to happiness: Feelings of purpose versus feelings of meaninglessness. Feelings of purpose always come up when we do something worthwhile, something that’s meaningful and fulfills us. These feelings are different to feelings of pleasure, even though they often come together. An example would be working on a project that you really feel makes a positive difference in other people’s lives. Or teaching your child how to ride a bicycle.

The opposite of purpose is meaninglessness and many of us won’t have to think hard to come up with an experience that falls into this category. It can be anything from washing the dishes to preparing a report at work that you know will end up in the drawer.

To sum up, happiness consists of pleasure plus purpose. To be truly happy you need to feel both. Different people want different combinations of pleasure and purpose. But real happiness requires both to some degree – feelings of pleasure and purpose.

2. The Positivity Project – Netflix and (actually) chill, together

It turns out boxsets are good for your love life. Researches at the University of Aberdeen said the couples who frequently watched series or films together felt more committed. 

the-walking-dead-season-7b-rick-lincoln-key-art-800x600-logo

(Photo subject to copyright/Photo credit)

My husband and I are huge movie fans, especially those from the Marvel and DC Comics. When we do have time together (alone), rather than go on romantic dates, we would go and watch the latest movie at the cinema. And at home, we love our boxsets, especially The Walking Dead. We don’t have Netflix. Instead, we have SKY cable. My husband likes to watch the up-to-date boxsets rather than the old ones unless I am watching them, and that includes girly series like Desperate Housewives, Devious Maids and Gossip Girl. He says he likes the storyline and doesn’t care about the femininity of it. We both also share the love of 90’s classics Charmed and Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

desperate

(Photo subject to copyright/Photo credit)

charmed_ver3

(Photo subject to copyright/Photo credit)

My husband and I might be in our thirties, but we still have our 90’s teenage spirit in us. I guess that is what’s kept our marriage happy and strong. Sure, there were bumpy roads along the way, but at least we can be ourselves with each other, and that means bringing out the teenager in us every now and again. Just last month for my birthday, we ended the night with three bottles of red wine between the two of us (yes, only the two of us). A bottle and a half later, we switched on the 90’s music TV channel and started dancing like we were teenagers. My husband (he will not be reading this post) even shook his booty like Beyonce (yes, he can booty dance for real). I don’t care what anyone else thinks. It was the best birthday present…and not the last for sure. It definitely made me forget about everything else.

Puiyin’s Thai Green Curry

According to friends, I tend to make the most delicious Thai green curry. Whether it’s true or not, I have no idea. But they have been asking for the recipe. There are a few ways of making the Thai green curry. With the traditional Thai version, bamboo shoot is put in the curry, which gives it a really strong exotic ‘kick’. The ‘kick’ itself is like a marmite thing. Either you like it or you don’t. As for me, I prefer not to have it as the taste and the smell is quite strong. And with other versions, the sauce is thicker, whereas some have a slightly ‘soupier’ texture. It really depends on how you want the curry and what you want in it, so as long as it tastes like Thai green curry. In this post, I will share with you my version of the curry, also known as PY LAB’s Thai Green Curry, or Puiyin’s green curry amongst my friends.

Get ready onion(s), lemongrass, potatoes and chillies. It’s up to you how much of the ingredients mentioned you want to use. Traditionally, potatoes are not used in the green curry. But because I am a potato freak (I love my potatoes), I always use them in the curry. I have more potatoes in the curry than anything else. I’m not sure if lemongrass is used in the traditional green curry, but I love the ‘kick’ it gives, so I tend to put a lot in. Sometimes I like to use Thai basil as well. 15078720_10154038899998202_206636651525844298_n

As far as I know, chicken is the main meat used in the Thai green curry. In Thai restaurants, there are other options such as beef, pork, prawns and vegetables. For me, I always use chicken or king prawns.15134786_10154038905978202_6677827460711957242_n

Chop the ingredients to your size choice and wash them. It’s best not to chop the potatoes too small as they might break up easily during the boiling process later on. And as for the onions, I tend to chop them in big chunks as I don’t want to ‘cry’.  15094413_10154038906638202_6018731592218905806_n

15078731_10154038909173202_7897113243227229087_n

15094843_10154038910253202_2151311719142727198_n

15095631_10154038911643202_1677771240431259208_n

Make sure you have the coconut powder and Thai green curry paste. It’s up to you which brand you use, but bear in mind sometimes it does make a difference to which brand you use. One time I used African coconut bar and the entire curry turned out funny. It tasted nothing like Thai green curry. I always use the Maggi coconut powder as I like the brand itself. You can also use the coconut milk. But if so, it’s best to use the Thai brands. 15073573_10154038902798202_5967606796669707357_n

It’s best to use a pot to cook the curry.15085494_10154039264518202_1007339773389597103_n

Heat the pot and then add in the oil after it’s hot enough. 15085632_10154038912908202_2389539767607022929_n

Then add in the onions. You can choose to use red or white onions. 15134648_10154038914163202_4974267654206179857_n

After the onions are half cooked, add in the chicken.15192599_10154038915378202_1539537297310981917_n

Cook until the chicken looks cooked enough. 15095455_10154038916783202_3468618695726872139_n

Then add in some hot water. Just add about no more than 3-4 inch of water level. This is because the more water there is, it’ll be harder to get the curry sauce to become creamy, which is the way I like it. But it’s up to you how much water you want to add in. 15078676_10154038918228202_7998432021892127464_n

It’s now time to add in the coconut powder. There are two ways of doing it. You can pour some powder in a bowl and add in hot water and then stir it before pouring it into the pot. This way, you can make the coconut powder (into coconut milk) and determine the texture, whether you want it creamy, soupy etc. But it does take time as you would need to repeat the step a few times. Alternatively, my way is to pour in the coconut powder directly into the pot and I will determine the texture as I go along by adding water if needed. Remember to keep stirring if you are choosing to follow my method.  15135756_10154038919388202_2164422509123153845_n

15055699_10154038920443202_6640443065097293416_n

15095428_10154038922008202_632169271440173733_n

Now it’s time to add in the chilli paste. It is not cheating to use the ready-made chilli paste. Most Thai restaurants use the ready-made paste as it would take A LOT of time, work and ingredients to make the paste from scratch. Most of the ingredients must be traditionally Thai-based if you were to make the paste from scratch, and as far as I know, it includes fresh basil, cilantro, and coriander, as well as Thai green chillies, lemongrass, garlic, ginger, kaffir lime zest, fish sauce, shrimp paste, cumin and coconut milk. Also, you would need to get the taste and texture of the paste right. So it is not cheating to use the ready-made paste as it saves time. It’s perfectly normal. 15056441_10154038924463202_4236231259649998297_n

How much of the paste you use is up to you. Obviously the more you put in, the more spicier the curry is going to be. The lighter the ‘green’, the milder it is. And the stronger the ‘green’ the spicier it is. Don’t forget to keep stirring as you put in the paste and keep tasting the sauce with a spoon as you go along. 15094870_10154038923163202_8541769207283440889_n

For the last part, add in the lemongrass, potatoes and chillies.15037323_10154038929238202_7759132110882359899_n

15109424_10154038927163202_3667226557139170973_n

Cover the pot with its lid and leave it to boil in medium-low heat for about thirty minutes or so. 13532833_10154038930508202_62908490821058191_n

While you are waiting for the curry to boil, you might want to cook some Jasmine rice to eat with the curry. It is usually best eaten with Thai Jasmine rice, which is my choice. But it’s down to you how you would like it eaten. 15109432_10154038932228202_8465197200346015432_n

Your curry is now ready.15094473_10154038933403202_8626746228534859828_n

15078648_10154038934018202_5141188476092028820_n

15134531_10154038941153202_8613094170001462551_n

Aroi mak mak!!! (Very delicious in Thai)

Excerpt from ‘Who We Were’

Who We Were Cover (pb).indd

“The lady stopped writing and turned to look at him. As soon as he saw her, he stopped abruptly, suddenly lost for words. Looking back at him was the most beautiful face he had ever seen, probably about the same age as him, in her mid-twenties. Stunned by her beauty he couldn’t help but stare as he felt he was looking into the face of an angel. He had never seen such beauty before. She had the most exquisite, fair, soft-looking complexion. She had beautifully almond-shaped, light brown eyes and her medium-sized lips were painted red, making her appear slightly sultry.”