Let us Talk – 5 solid strategies for effective communication

Good communication

Communication is the ONLY way to get things done in a group, no doubt about it. Every day, we use various media, including e-mails, phones and our bodies for communication and we rely heavily on our ability to communicate with others to go about our daily lives. However, often, we struggle to express ourselves in a way that results in a positive outcome or at the very least, gets our point across lucidly. Many obstacles come in the way of effective communication, most of which stem from our own physical self, i.e. our body language and voice intonation. How we perceive a problem and imagine a probable outcome greatly affects our ability to do anything about it. Whether it is communication on a personal or professional front, there are some basic rules to communicate effectively. The following five guidelines encompass the most basic rules of good communication-

 

Rule #1 – Prepare to communicate– The biggest cause of failure of any endeavour is lack of preparation. The same is true for communication. Whenever there is a matter that needs to be discussed, shared or brought up, be prepared with the facts of the matter, so that your communication is crisp and clear. This exercise will also help you alter your speech for your audience and compel you to think a little more about the problem on your own before sharing it with a larger group. It will also help you determine what is the outcome that you want from the communication and help you consider other possible outcomes that you should be prepared to accept.

 

Rule #2 – Take a neutral stand, physically – This is an important aspect to understand. By a neutral stand, I don’t imply that you should be ambivalent or unclear of what it is you want. What I mean here is that you should not start the conversation being either offensive or defensive. This is because, whatever stand you take, your audience is likely to take the opposite stand, and the conversation is likely to turn into a battle of words, without either side being empathetic to the other. Your words and body language should neither be aggressive, nor be too submissive, as either extreme is likely to bring unfavorable results. Instead, a confident, yet poised body language and voice is likely to draw people’s attention to you and make them more willing to give you a patient listening.

 

Rule #3 – Be civil– This seems like a no-brainer, but it still needs to be on the list. Many times in our conversations, especially with people who we are closest to, we end up taking liberties that we really shouldn’t. We must constantly remind ourselves to speak so as to grow, learn, share and improve. If the aim of speaking is to hurt, abuse, insult and oppress, such communication is likely to only spoil any possibility of a good outcome. Remember to always be current, and focus on immediate feedback, instead of dragging old issues into the conversation. Let bygones be bygones. Always ask yourself these 3 questions before speaking – Does it need to be said? By me? Now?

 

Rule #4 – Be a good listener – Communication can never be effective if one person only talks and the other only listens. Good communication comprises a conversation that allows freedom of speech and expression to each party involved. The ability to blank out the voice in your head, and simply listen to the other person, without thinking about your next response, is the key to understanding a problem in its entirety and to work out a lasting solution.

 

Rule #5 – Get closure – Finally, no communication can be considered effective if the involved parties don’t have closure on the issue. In such case, the problem is likely to persist and to keep causing conflict on an on-going basis. If you are taking the initiative to start the conversation, make sure that there is a peaceful closure to it so that there are no lingering thoughts or unaddressed concerns in the minds of those involved, which may lead to failure of the communication attempt.

 

 

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Can Selflessness be Taught?

I am always amazed by acts of selflessness around me. I belong to a family where my mother selflessly devoted her time and energy in raising her daughters. My aunt (mother’s sister) is an epitome of selflessness for me, since I have seen her joyously dedicate her life to her extended family, despite having a full-time job, without so much as a frown on her forehead. Even in the larger society, we always look up to people who have selflessly dedicated their lives to the wellbeing of others – Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa to name a few. I admire the quality of selflessness, especially because I know how hard it is to be genuinely selfless; To really be flexible and adjusting to the other’s needs; To do something for someone without wanting anything in return; To delay one’s own gratification to fulfil someone else’s wish; To think of someone else’s wellbeing more than one’s own; To put someone else’s comfort higher than one’s own. It seems like a sacrifice, but truly selfless people don’t see it like that. For them, it is a way of their life. It’s just how they live.

 

As a parent, there is nothing that I dread more than my child turning out to be a selfish, self-centered and self-obsessed adult. On the other hand, I may not really want him to be selfless all the time, as I also don’t want him to be a pushover. I want him to ask for the things he wants but I also want him to give to others as much as he can. And the funny thing is, it seems almost impossible to teach selflessness! I was going through a parenting forum where a mother had posed a question saying that if she tries to model selfless behaviour in front of her child and gives him all that he asks for, it ends up making him selfish and always expecting to receive. On the other hand, if she tries to put her foot down for things she wants and that the child should give her, the child sees the parent as the greedy one, not modelling selflessness herself. What a Catch-22 situation! It made me think that selflessness is probably a trait that one can only be born with. If it must be taught, then it has to be preceded by a discussion on detachment, since selflessness can truly happen when we are not attached to our own comforts and wants. However, detachment is clearly a topic that people fail to truly understand even after a lifetime, so it is nearly impossible to teach kids.

After much thinking, I almost gave up on the thought of cultivating selflessness and started wondering if it is even worth teaching. I mean, there is the other way to live as well – by being self-centered, living a life of self fulfilment and placing one’s own motivations as top priority. It is not an awfully wrong way to live, is it? Just as I started to debate that, I came across an article by Wall Street Journal best selling author Joshua Becker titled ‘The Pursuit of Selflessness’. He wrote, and I quote “Selflessness is an important key to marriage, friendships, and relationships. It is also an essential key to happiness and fulfillment“. Further he writes something that resonates deeply with me  – “Our lives can be lived for any number of purposes. They can be used to advance a personal kingdom for selfish reasons (money, possessions, fame, prestige, reputation). But our lives can also be lived for the pursuit of justice, happiness, or growth for another person or people group. We can live to solve the problems we encounter in this world. We can dedicate ourselves to advancing certain ideals. But only when we embrace service and selflessness will we find lasting significance in our world“.

We see such examples every day as we meet people in our lives. There are many with limited means who still diligently volunteer to help others. There are yet others who keep going from one possession to the next, never finding the ever elusive happiness they thought they could buy. Where I truly want to see children of tomorrow is the former space, where they will persevere to make the world a better, warmer and more accommodating place for everyone. The pursuit of happiness is a shorter, more enjoyable journey when the destination lies beyond one’s own limited self.

As for the answer to the question of how to teach selflessness to kids, I still don’t have clear answer. Maybe a good way to do so would be to continue being a role model by embodying selflessness through our daily acts, while also reminding the children how satisfying it is to care and share. It may also be helpful to talk to children about the huge potential of their friends, siblings and even others in the society, and how we should try to help nurture and support that potential in the best way we can, so that they become empowered to do more. May be the answer lies in being sensitive to other’s needs and sufferings and doing something to make it better, so that the kids know that we are all powerful enough to make a difference. I believe that the answer lies somewhere in living a selfless, self-aware and connected life and that it definitely will have a positive impact on our kids. We can always start at home – the best place to act upon all of life’s lessons.

 

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The Child Safety Paranoia

Child safety

At the time of writing this article, I am the parent of a toddler, so I can become the over-stressed, over-worried mother in a matter of seconds. All it needs is for my son to have a fall, or for him to go out of my sight for a fraction of a second. There are times when my husband tells me not to say ‘oh oh’ as soon as the child falls and then there are other times when he starts howling when the kid runs away slightly out of his reach in the market. I guess we both try to put up a strong front some times, but are mostly always concerned about the well-being of our child, just like every other parent.

A wise person I know keeps saying that parenting is the easiest thing to have an opinion about but the hardest thing to actually do. How true, isn’t it? We can say that we should just let our kids run free and let them get hurt and be wild, but is it really possible to do, without letting our hearts bleed? I feel we live in times where a lot of scary information floats around freely on social media and almost every step has the potential to go awfully wrong. Posting pictures of our kids online, dropping them at day care centers, offering them media to keep them engaged, letting them snack on packaged food – all of these “new millennium” problems are something that we grapple with as parents, without much guidance from the previous generation who probably never had to deal with these issues. In my own experience, I have come to the conclusion that an extreme view on any of these issues is both impractical as well as unnecessary. A middle path or a balanced approach is the best way to keep our own sanity as parents, and let the children have their freedom.

I started off being quite an authoritarian parent, always being very particular about many things, all for justified reasons. But I gradually realised that while I need to continue being consistent with my original thought-process, I also need to ensure that I am not stifling my child’s freedom in the process. I think it is best to leave some scope of negotiation for the child to feel that he has a say in decisions concerning him, as long as overall safety is not compromised. With my kid, I talk about safety in the car, in the market and on the playground beforehand with him so that he is prepared to watch out for himself. I try to refrain from saying it over and over again, though, so that it doesn’t bother either of us constantly. Such an approach encourages us to set reasonable limits, discuss and consider consequences and simply accept that we cannot prevent our children from every fall. Having said that, the parent’s role of being careful and watchful never ends!

 

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Fats – Lots in a Name

 

Healthy fats

We instinctively tag a person as a villain if they are called ‘Mogambo’, ‘Gabbar’ or ‘Shaakaal’. Sounds judgmental, but that’s how we are wired to think. Something similar happened with fats, one of our body’s three most essential nutrients. Just because we associate the word fat with a shape and outer body appearance, the nutrient too got bundled with it and popular belief became that fats make you fat. Moreover, for the fast food companies, propagating this belief became a way to cut their costs by replacing good quality fat sources with cheap shortening alternatives that also had longer shelf life. And so everyone was happy with the fat-free era – the producer since this opened up a totally new market for them, and the consumer, who was mostly gullible enough to believe that those zero-fat wheat crackers, sugar-laden breakfast cereals, It’s-not-butter spreads and low-fat milk were good for her health. Except, world over, the reality is much different from what was expected.

Nuts

Let us talk about India alone. In a recent review paper titled Epidemiology of childhood overweight & obesity in India, the observers reviewed the data on trends in childhood obesity reported from India during 1981 to 2013. The analysis on the data from 16 states across the country showed that the childhood obesity rate is around 20%, up by 4 % in just 5 years. At last count, India ranked third in the list of the most obese nations in the world! The western countries that are the creators of addictive, fast, convenient and palate pleasing foods and also the lands of origin of a bouquet of diets are doing even worse. Neither is their supermarket food working for them, nor the highly researched and recommended fad diets. On the other hand, we all have that granny or those aunts who gawk at our measly plates and squirm at the thought of roti without ghee or dal without tadka. They seem to be pretty confident that fats are a must for glowing skin, functioning joints and an active body. Granted, that they may not have the best of figures themselves but you would notice that they aren’t morbidly obese, physically fatigued, brain fogged or chronically ill. What are we missing? Did we go after the wrong guy?

Avocados

Let us, therefore, understand the true role of fats in our bodies. Fats are essential for our bodies. Along with carbohydrates and protein, fats are responsible for supplying calories for all bodily functions. Fat molecules help transport vitamins and minerals throughout the body. Vitamins A,D,E,K are all fat-soluble, so fats are required in our diet to ensure proper absorption of all these vitamins. Without adequate fat in the body, many diseases associated with the deficiency of these vitamins such as vision troubles, dry skin conditions, poor blood clotting and bone softening can occur. Also, fats provide the necessary insulation to our vital organs and protect them from sudden movements. Additionally, our nerve cells are coated with fat tissues, which enable smooth transfer of electrical signals within our body. Contrary to popular belief, a low fat diet leads to increased appetite, less satiety, more fatigue and resentful, along with causing hormone imbalance, insulin resistance, weight gain (yes!), digestive issues, poor brain function and even diabetes – the very disease that low fat products claim to fight.

Full fat milk

The body’s craving for fat, which is a result of our evolution and genetic makeup of thousands of years, does not simply go away because we are on a diet. To compensate for that craving, we end up substituting good fats such as cow’s ghee, cold pressed oils, home-made butter and omega 3 rich oils with apparently bad foods with processed sugar, simple carbohydrate products such as breads and cake and even the covert bad foods that present themselves as “healthy”. Some examples of such foods that have gained a solid place in our households are multi-grain biscuits, breakfast cereals, low-fat chips and fat-free bread spreads. They have successfully pushed out our home-made mathrees with achaar, stuffed paranthas with curd and besan cheela out of our plates in the name of being easy to get, quick to eat and fortified with nutrition with their marketing strategies. When popular faces of celebrities lend their voice and support to such products, we feel that they validate the goodness of the product and thus start the endless cycle of getting addicted to one product after another.

 

I recently attended a health workshop by Akshay Chopra, a fitness enthusiast and author of many books on nutrition. Some of the highlights of his session were as follows-

 

  • Every diet works for some time for a simple reason – that it cuts out the junk! Simple. The fact is that you may get short-term results by suppressing your cravings but in more than 99% cases, the person gains back the weight (and even more) once the self-control ends, and it always does. The important thing is to train your mind to identify good, healthy, local and pleasing to the palate cuisines and stick to them in moderation.
  • Black coffee does indeed help in increasing metabolism and mobilizes stored fat, but it is only beneficial to do so if one is working out, so that the fat gets converted to energy. He has personally been taking butter-coffee for a long time and swears by its taste and impact.
  • Any product that is marketed as ‘no-one-can-eat-just-one’ is a product that contains unhealthy amounts of taste enhancers, salt, sugar and low quality fats. They are so addictive that indeed, no one can stop at just one. Avoid those. Nutritious, wholesome food, which is eaten slowly and consciously, leaves a person feeling light and happy, neither ready to burst, nor unsatisfied.
  • The key to digestive health and long life lies in eating local, seasonal food and that too, up to 80% of one’s capacity at any time. Being a little hungry at the time of wrapping up the meal gives time to the stomach to process the food a little, which in turn tells the brain that it is through with the meal.
  • Before making a grocery purchase, think if your previous generation (or better still, the generation before) had access to this food. They can still be kept as a benchmark in terms of long-term health management. Reading labels and checking the percentage of sugar per serving will give you an idea of how that item might taste and what impact it may have on your body.

 

In short, if you are a person who, for many years, has had toast without butter, parantha without ghee, eggs without the yolk and only soups and bread for dinner, loosen up a little bit. Start by making small changes to your diet and incorporating good fats, without frying them. My simple rule is to swap the white with the yellow or brown in your diet. See if you feel more satisfied, more active and ready to burn those extra calories from fats. If you want to become a low-fat person, you don’t need to give up fats in your diet. Take them in moderation and then burn the extra calories. In two words -Eat Fat.

 

* For specific medical issues, contact a professional, preferably a nutritionist.

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Love comes with an expiry date

Hourglass

Forever. Lasting till Eternity. Endless. These adverbs are usually seen associated with the mainstream definition of love. The idea of having a lover who cares for you and moulds themselves for you through the curves, sharp-bends and occasional smooth highways throughout your life is truly uplifting. The musicals, the classics, the bards, everyone tells us that there is nothing as magical as being in love. And it is true too. The magic first presents itself in the form of release of a cocktail of chemicals more intoxicating than any potion. There are suddenly more reasons to laugh. There is suddenly a person to just curl up on and lose yourself in. There is suddenly a person to open up to, to show who you really are. But, like all good things, this doesn’t last.

 

In the beginning, love is like a delicate and precious earthen pot being molded by the two people who have fallen for each other. They are both extremely gentle with it; hold it delicately as it spins into a beautiful piece of art on the potter’s wheel. They both synchronize their hand movement to ensure that there are no dents in it. They want their harmony to reflect in their creation. All is well up until then. But the true test of the strength of this pot lies in the real world, with the passage of time. The people who created it may no longer have the time or energy to care for it. They may have more important things to do in order to survive, than simply being obsessed with their creation, which may then get pushed back to one corner of the house. Some may handle it roughly and may not give it the importance that it deserves. Some may not value it and may treat it frivolously. What was once the center of attention for the two people who created it, becomes a thing of past, and sometimes even a burden to maintain. That is the moment that the love has reached its expiry date. It may or may not become toxic after this, but, at the very least, it is ineffective and doesn’t add value to either person’s life.

Happy relationships

The expiry of love as it started is a given, but the time period can vary. For some it can come a few years into a relationship, for some others it may come on the second day of marriage. For some, it may come after one decade of marriage and for some others, it may come after five. For some it may come after the death of the significant half and for others it may not come until after their own death! For those who continue to see value in their creation and decide to work on their love, care for it, give it attention and work towards keeping it safe, it lasts long enough to be coined as forever. Life will invariably poke holes in the boat of love, with the ice pick of responsibilities, priorities and unmet desires. How fast and diligently you plug those holes will determine if the boat stays afloat or sinks to its fate.

 

It takes a lot of work and a lot of daily efforts to keep the love, or some remnants of it, alive. It is pointless to assume that what started on a great note will continue on that note forever. With changing lives and circumstances, people MUST change. All the books and people who romanticised the idea of being with someone who doesn’t change you, didn’t know the mechanics of love and life. They wrongfully assumed that you have always been the best version of yourself and that there is no scope or need for improvement. Change is a must. We must embrace it for our own good and adapt. That is the only way to keep the love alive. What worked for two people earlier may not work in future. What was attractive and exciting in the beginning may become repetitive and non-inspiring later. If you have faith that the person who you fell for deeply still has the potential to walk besides you, you must keep unlearning and relearning about them. You must keep reinventing yourself. There needs to be a constant exchange of love and respect and more importantly, of understanding the other’s definition of love and respect. There is no universal definition of these and most couples will always be on different pages as far as these are concerned. Getting on the same page every single day is the only way to be at ease in the other’s presence. It is the only way that silence will become comfortable. That love will triumph over ego. That truth will become more powerful than assumptions.

 

Love is undoubtedly the most potent medicine for most of life’s troubles, but the tricky thing is, you decide the expiry date. What date will you put on it today?

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The Eighth Sin – Ungratefulness

We all know about the seven detestable sins that humans are inclined to commit. These are lust, gluttony, greed, laziness, wrath, envy and pride. Think about it. Isn’t every single day a constant struggle to keep these negativities in check? We get out of the bed defeating laziness. We keep our diets in check by suppressing our gluttonous nature. We sometimes give in to and sometimes successfully beat our lust, envy, wrath, greed and pride. The days that we overcome these shortcomings feel like good, productive days. The days that we don’t, we feel drained and consumed by empty, worthless thoughts.

 

But did you know that there is one major sin that we commit, that is a super-set of all these sins. It is because of this sin that all other negativities are able to take root in our minds. It is because of this sin that nothing that we do or get is ever enough. That sin is ungratefulness. It is because we are ungrateful for being alive and for receiving a fresh new day that we are lazy and unwilling to live it to the fullest. It is because we are ungrateful for the body that live in that we abuse it by being ravenous. It is because we are ungrateful for our own possessions and blessings that we experience lust, greed and envy. It is because we are ungrateful for our own privileges and support system that we feel pride in our achievements and experience wrath when things don’t go our way.

 

If we can start being more grateful for all that we have, even if it doesn’t come naturally at first, gradually, our mind will start seeing the good in every situation. It is not necessary to force yourself to think positive, but to think realistically. In fact, I believe both negative as well as positive thinking is removed from reality. It is simply your own interpretation of what is happening around. Realistic thinking is more of an acknowledgement of things as they are, without judgment. When you start seeing your life as it truly is, you will see that the reality is actually much better than what you thought in your head. Some aspects of your life may be in an abysmal state, yet at least some things must be going right. At least you have a roof over your head. At least you might have friends who support you. At least you might enjoy good health. Being grateful will not remove all the problems from your life, but it will give you enough strength and encouragement to keep on trying. It will, at the very least, save you from feeling totally dejected when the going gets tough. Your response to people and situations will gradually become more empathetic and less impulsive.

 

Acknowledge and express gratitude as often as you can. It has the power to turn your circumstances around for the better. The easiest way is to say your prayers. Regardless of your religion or beliefs, you can always thank your parents, your friends and your circumstances. It doesn’t take a lot to say thank you, even if it is simply said out loud to the universe in general and no person in particular. Or if you can, say it to your house-help, your child, your grandparents, your grocery-store owner or anyone who is adding value to your life, even if momentarily. Try it out for a week and see the difference.

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The thin line between jealousy and admiration

Praise, admire

Most of us are likely to sense when we are being truly admired. Admiration makes itself obvious in the eyes, words and body language of the person who admires us. Think about yourself and how you feel when you admire something – a picture, a place or a person. Your eyes would widen, you would want to know more about them and would want to spend more time looking at them or talking to them. Similarly, when we are in the company of people who truly admire us, we can feel their enthusiasm about us, we can hear the excitement in their voice and everything about their body language is coherent with that they are trying to express – their admiration for us.

 

Now think of situations where you were seeing something that you admire but don’t want to say out loud or listening to someone who you see as competition. Even if that thing or the person is truly presenting an admirable proposition, we may only cursively nod or congratulate and then remove our gaze and simply move on. That is exactly what jealousy looks like. When we don’t look at things or people just as they are, but rather perceive a threat from their sparkle, we move into the realms of envy. We may not physically turn green or show signs of rage or anxiousness, but the half-hearted appreciation is enough to validate the feelings of jealousy. The thought that appreciating someone else’s achievements somehow makes you look small is at the root of this jealousy. But how is it possible to compare any two lives, when we are all on our separate journeys? Is it not flawed to think so, since we are all so unique and have something different to offer to the world, anyway?

 

There is a lot of joy in appreciation, in accepting and in involvement. Every now and then, try to move away from the sidelines and come forward to indulge others. Let others feel you value them by giving them your time, lending them your ear and by simply being there. This can come only by having faith in one’s own abilities, having belief in everyone’s potential and being completely secure in one’s own skin. Start to work on yourself first. Gradually, it will start to show.

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Are We Raising Little Criminals?

Youth Crime

Nov, 2015 – Four teenagers in England stole a Chihuahua, drugged the dog, broke its neck, burnt it mercilessly and abandoned it.

 

July, 2016 – Two final year MBBS students in Tamil Nadu threw a dog from the terrace of a three-floor building.

 

July, 2016 – News alert! A group of 5 minor boys in Hyderabad burnt 3 puppies alive, filmed their act and posted the video on Facebook.

 

The above three cases are just a small sample of youth indulging in cruelty towards animals, which is again, only a small subset of misdemeanor of minors and young adults in our society overall. The recent cases of hit and run in Delhi-NCR involving speeding high-end cars and drunk drivers are testimony to this menace of reckless living and non-existent concern for lives other than their own. Just these three cases of cruelty against animals are sufficient to show that such behavior is neither limited to a particular age group, nor a particular geography and not even a strata of uneducated youth. Even the so-called “well-informed” children and youth, if misguided, can indulge in heinous behavior in the name of trying-it-out and experimenting. But I can’t wrap my head around this – How is it possible that young kids can find pleasure in torturing innocent animals? Where did they see such behavior being condoned? Who gave them the right to treat another life so frivolously? The answer lies closer to home.

 

Ah, the plight of parents! I have never come across a role more challenging and demanding than parenting. Every step is filled with doubt and confusion and no matter what you do, there is always that guilt of not having done enough, or at least well enough. Everyone enters this institution for the first time with some theoretical knowledge and zero practical experience and, as famous American Educational theorist David Kolb has historically established, concrete experience is the starting point of any learning cycle. So essentially, even though good parenting forms the foundation of a healthy society, almost everyone is learning as they go, making myriad mistakes in the process! Now isn’t that akin to playing with fire? Most of us are doomed to fail at some point or the other.

 

Becoming a parent recently has opened my senses to a whole new reality – you can never really do all that you planned in your head for your child. It’s fair to assume that all parents want their children to grow up well-behaved, loving, responsible young beings and to reach this end goal, we all try our level best to instill good values and be a role model. But in our attempt to get the “Big Picture” right, is it possible that we might miss on some subtle clues that can be an indicator of the founding bricks of prejudiced values, a mindset of social inequities, violence, entitlement and many such societal maladies making a stronghold in our kids?

 

So the question to ask is when and where is it that we, the parents, are going wrong? What is it that we do or say that plants the seeds of violence against other beings as acceptable behavior in the credulous minds of our children? Do we do this unknowingly every time that we justify raucous behavior of our boys by saying ‘Boys will be boys’? Do we do this unwittingly every time we ask the house-help to accompany us to dinner to take care of the kids but make her sit outside the restaurant, feeling lost, even as we enjoy our meal? Do we do this casually, every time we encourage our children to pelt stones at stray dogs or cats? Do we do this matter-of-factly every time we slap the auto-rickshaw driver who grazes past our car, scratching it ever so slightly? Do we do this offhandedly every time we make fun of someone’s physical appearance or disability in front of our children? Or do we do this irreparably when we justify a rape by blaming the victim’s dress/looks/guts?

 

Every instance that we, the parents, treat another life with disrespect, it serves as an endorsement for such behavior and our children are then at liberty to extrapolate such behavior to other situations as well. Their ability to judge and choose right over wrong gets taken over by their inflated sense of self and a lack of respect for other beings.

 

Solution – Teaching our kids about CORE Consequences, Ownership, Respect and Empathy. Any person who is mindful of the consequences of their actions, who takes ownership for their doings, who respects other beings and who empathizes with others will never wrongfully and intentionally hurt others or create situations of violence. A strong foundation of these CORE values can serve as a true guide for our children as they try to navigate life on their own. In school, at work, during play and at home – there is not one place where these values won’t come in handy. We can all start by trusting our children to take their own decisions, however trivial they may be, and entrust them with the responsibility to own the consequences of their decisions. We can show them the power of love and respect closer to home. And we can practice empathy with our employees, our house-helps, our neighbors, our elderly and anyone we come in contact with, so that our kids understand that it is a non-negotiable.

 

They need to see us living expanded lives that go beyond our physical self. They need to see us embrace diversity and accept change. We are not just raising helpless beings; we are shaping the future of this world. It would serve us well to appreciate the gravity of this responsibility and be extra mindful of our own thought-process and deeds. We must treat each day as an opportunity to build their character, rather than another day to get through. Let us ensure that we are sowing the seeds of virtues and lasting goodness in them, every single day!

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Lemongrass Essential Oil – An Olfactory Delight

Essential oil

Essential oil is, by definition, the product obtained after a process of distillation of certain plants and herbs or by cold compression of certain rinds. The process of distillation ensures that only the most potent product is left, i.e. the essence of the plant or herb is fully available in a small amount of the product. There are many kinds of essential oils easily available in the markets, such as rose, lemon, lemongrass, orange, lavender, eucalyptus and peppermint. They all have various uses inside homes, for cosmetics as well as for treatment of common ailments. A quick list of uses can be found here.

On one of my recent trips to Dehradun, I visited a place called Kaaya Learning Centers in village Tilwari. They are primarily a camping site for children of both elite as well as affordable private and public schools, where they can all come and experience rural lifestyle for a few days. The idea is to facilitate cross-learning and giving the urban children a view of tradition living methods, including organic farming, as well as providing rural kids an opportunity to just have a place to let their hair down. They also support small cottage industry of making basic furniture from waste tree barks and making essential oils as well. That is where I got my bottle of lemongrass essential oil.

I am currently using lemongrass essential oil by mixing a cup of water, a few drops of essential oil and a spoonful of hand-wash in a spray bottle. I use this to clean the bathroom tiles. It acts as a potent deodoriser and also keeps mosquitoes and insects at bay. Lemongrass essential oil is also said to be very effective in relieving muscle pains, reduce general body pains and can even been consumed internally to aid in digestion. Again, more information about this particular essential oil can be found here.

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The Ball is in Your Court

The exercise ball, often called Stability ball or the Swiss ball, is an excellent workout aid, for young and old alike. It is a great tool to build stability and balance, to tone up large muscles , as well as for recuperating from an injury. Moreover, working out on a stability ball doesn’t feel like workout at all! Simply sitting on the ball reminds the body to constantly align itself, stretch and lengthen the spine and correct the posture. This is also a great way to strengthen the core of the body and tone muscles with fluid motions. This is why many swimmers and athletes are now training with the Swiss balls, which strengthens the movement, thereby reducing drag in the water, helping them cover more distance in fewer strokes and help generate more power from the limbs.

For people who are just easing in to a workout routine, and who dread the dumbbells and barbells in the gym, but also find simple body-weight workout boring, this is a fun way to become more active, and that too in the comfort for your home. In fact, for those who spend long hours in office, there is an even better news. Simply replace your office chair with a Swiss ball. Not only will you correct your sitting posture, but you will be working out your muscles without even knowing it and sub-consciously you will want to move about on the ball, instead of sitting static and even want to get up and walk every now and then. A lot of people are gladly replacing the lazy bean bags at work and switching over to the humble exercise ball. If you are still not convinced, here is a whole list of reasons to encourage you to ditch the chair. Since I work from home a lot and that too on the laptop, I have ordered one for myself so that I can keep it in my balcony-cum-garden, and engage my core while I also engage my brains. I will update the article on my feedback of this experiment shortly.

 

 

One of the most significant benefits of using the Swiss ball is that is helps in strengthening the muscles that support the spine. Our spine not just provides structural support to our bodies, but also provides protection to our central nervous system and facilitates our body movement. The famous Greek philosopher Socrates wrote that “If you would seek health, look first to the spine”! Such is the importance of a healthy spine in the body. The balancing and stretching exercises that you can perform on the Swiss ball will help train various ligaments and muscle groups of the upper back, lower back and abdomens, which ultimately supports the spine.

In my previous workout class, my trainer used to ensure a 15 minute Swiss ball workout at least once a week. The routine that she followed was largely similar to this one. The difficulty level of this routine is medium, so if you are just starting out with the exercise ball, then this routine has few exercises in the beginning that are simple and easy to follow. It is also one of the cheapest and most durable workout equipments that you can invest in. So what are you waiting for. Just bring the ball home.

 

Simply click on the link below to purchase you very own Swiss Ball :

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