Wednesday, December 12, 2007
As human beings, we are endowed with the ability to think, imagine and plan for the long term. Our massive ego is the other quality that sets us apart from animals. This is the reason we consider ourselves superior in the animal kingdom. We believe ourselves to be the chosen ones to rule the earth and its resources. Why, we're even setting out to prevent natural disasters due to global warming!
Doesn't all this sound a little hollow considering that we want to save the world when we don't even have control over our own bodies? If we did have control, we would be eating more responsibly, squeezing in some exercise, handling stress better, deciding on a close-out time for our work every day and not be tied to our electronic leashes. This is commonsense and we already know it, yet we jeopardize our health anyway.
Today, our bodies belong to our employers and crazy work schedules, junk food outlets and over-processed food, doctors and the pharmaceutical industry. We maintain our cars better than we do, our bodies.
If you want to start getting healthier, first, get a medical check-up done. Most companies fund these as part of the medical allowance. If you're not suffering from any major ailments, wresting your health back into your hands fundamentally requires you to change your attitude first.
- All attempts towards good health begin with the person taking a deep breath and a decision – "Starting now, I take the decisions on my health. This body belongs to me. It will listen when I do something in its favour and I will listen when it tries to signal a problem."
- Stop being a perfectionist and a procrastinator. "I won't start going for a walk because I can't sustain it." "I can't go to the gym because I don't have fancy gym-wear or the latest shoes." "I'll start eating healthier after this holiday when the temptations are gone." There is no better time to start than NOW.
- There will always be this voice inside your head saying that an extra slice of pizza won't kill you. Eating one less won't kill you either. Most of our trouble with sticking to healthier choices is because of that voice of temptation. It's the same voice that whispers that you won't be able to go for a walk because of that twinge in your foot. How will you know until you try it?
- Don't link self-pity to diet and lifestyle. If you're in a job you don't enjoy, that's no reason to eat four gulab jamuns at one go. De-link your emotions from your body. In situations with high stress and depression, we are too embarrassed to go to a psychotherapist for a long term solution, but instead expect comfort food to do the job of a psychotherapist. You can't fill an emotional void with something as physical as a burger!
- Recognise that you will make mistakes and give in to temptations. Don't be a mercenary who kills himself for his army's defeat. Be a warrior who rises every time he falls. Just get back on the bandwagon immediately.
- Most importantly, start with yourself. Don't expect the world to understand. Be graceful about this and don't evangelize anything until you've made it a habit that has worked for you. Accept that one's spouse and children will not adapt immediately. It may take years of observing you before they reluctantly evince an interest.
- Walk the talk. As the old adage says, Actions speak louder than words.
- Take up yoga, meditation or breathing exercises. These are taught almost in every neighbourhood and there are also video CD demonstrations of the techniques.
- Start a family tradition by going for a walk together in a park or along the beach on weekends.
- If you want to get fit more intensively, walk, jog, run, swim, hit the gym.
- At a macro level, you could consider discussing corporate gym-memberships with your HR department. If you already have a gym at your workplace, schedule sessions three days a week to begin with and work closely with the trainer.
- Overkill does indeed kill. A sedentary individual, who is suddenly inspired to exercise, will overdo it, thereby laying a self-made trap to jeopardize the attempt. Walking for twenty minutes six times a week is better than doing two hours at one go once a week. Consistency is key.
- Do sip water if you feel like it, when you exercise. Many of the cramps that newbie exercisers experience are because of dehydration.
- The day you don't feel like exercising without reason – that's the day you need exercise the most. Challenge yourself.
- Set yourself a goal. Participate in a half-marathon, for instance. Take the help of someone who has done it. Running a half-marathon requires consistent training over many months. The goal will keep you motivated even while you're grappling with minor sprains. Or take a dancing class. It'll keep you moving and help develop that sense of rhythm. Walk to a place of worship. Time yourself climbing a particularly steep gradient near home, then challenge the time.
- Play a sport. Join a cricket team that plays on Sundays. If you have access, play tennis, badminton, squash, basketball, throw-ball etc.
Pointers in the area of diet and lifestyle changes will be covered in our July 2007 newsletter.
(Article written for Best of Crest, 2007)
Stress is the by-product of the body’s self-preserving instinct to face or flee danger. It’s called a fight-or-flight response. When the brain signals the body that there’s danger ahead (be it an approaching deadline or an approaching tiger), the body sends itself into high-alert. Stress is a result of overdrawing of the body’s resources in these situations of perceived threat. As a result, the body’s effective and efficient functioning is disrupted time and again, leading to dis-ease.
Earlier, this would happen for instance, when one saw an approaching tiger. Today, our perception of ‘danger’ ranges from the aforementioned tiger, right down to, say, running out of staples in the stapler. Sure, somewhere in the middle is that important board meeting next week and the sudden absence of that Sales Manager you hired last month.
In effect, what we must recognize is that the mind and body are not independent of each other. What ails the body, ails the mind, and vice versa.Why do we get stressed?
- Technology : With the rapid changes in technology, we are 24/7 workers. There’s simply no getting away from the ‘electronic leash’. Don’t believe me? Just count the number of calls you get after work or on holiday.
- Circle of control: We don’t see the difference between situations within our control and those outside our control. The only thing we can control in the latter case, is the way we handle ourselves. It’s unhealthy to nurture a ‘Kick the dog’ attitude, where we take our angst out on someone least connected to the situation. By the way, it’s also unhealthy to assume you’re that person and kick yourself for it! Hit the ‘Pause’ button and gauge this.
- Imponderables: Things go wrong. Chaos is part of our lives no matter how technologically advance a race we are. It’s better to simply accept that and sometimes, even anticipate imponderables when you’re at planning stage of a project.
While eliminating stressors or withdrawing from one’s stressors is one solution, stress-management techniques help in fortifying the person so he/she can better handle situations that possibly can’t be escaped. Psychotherapy is one solution, but meditation, physical exercise and a balanced diet certainly work on a healthy, every-day basis. Add to that Pranayam (breathing exercises) and yoga that are seeing resurgence today.
Do remember that the change towards a less stressful life begins with you.
Read the second part of this article, HQ – Common Sense Health, in the next issue of Best of Crest.
SOME USEFUL LINKS:
Stress - http://www.lifepositive.com/stress.html
Mind-body medicine - http://nccam.nih.gov/health/backgrounds/mindbody.htm
(Article written for Best of Crest, 2007)
While many of us are well into the investing mode, it might be worthwhile revisiting some basics.
So how does one go about creating wealth? A good place to begin would be to know the difference between Savings and Investments. Savings is the money left over from after your expenditure and taxes. An investment is putting that money into an instrument so that it generates more wealth for you.
Knowledge about financial instruments is key to creating wealth. You may have already invested your money in instruments like Fixed Deposits, Mutual Funds, the Stock Market or Insurance. But do you know all that you need to know about the instrument? See our Further Reading links at the end of this article, for a start point. Read books, surf online for articles, talk to people who seem to have it right – in short, ask a lot of questions. But remember that any advice you get is only an opinion.
Risk is another key factor in investing. Most of us are risk-averse. However, the golden rule in investing is to ‘manage risk’ for better returns. This fundamentally means we risk only as much as we can afford to lose.
Sure, we’ve had chit funds promise us the moon, and we’ve ended up with a handful of dust. This is a clear case of not asking a key question – What’s the catch? Beware of offers that look too good to be true!
Taxes. Do you know if your unique financial profile has some tax-exemption benefits that you can avail of? Remember, it’s exemption, not evasion. Exemption is legal – evasion isn’t.
Think of the millionaires we read about in media. While they may have a flock of investment advisers hovering around them, every decision with regards to money, is still theirs. None of them say that somebody else makes the money-decisions for them.
Unless you monitor these investments, you may miss some great opportunities to make them work harder for you. Think - Is this the best instrument I am invested in at this point? (Do remember that a financial distributor makes more money from you every time he makes a transaction on your behalf – be it investing, liquidating or switching between subtypes. So, it’s better that you’re sure about your decisions.) Unless we take ownership for our financial wellbeing, we will forever be worried about being unable to afford something or provide for our families. Just knowing how much of our money is invested and what kind of returns to expect, will help us focus on how to spend that money.
Do you at this moment know exactly how much of your hard-earned money is invested in which instrument and how much the returns are?
- Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki
- One Minute Millionnaire –Mark Victor Hansen and Robert G. Allen
- The Richest Man in
- Useful link:
o Basics of Wealth Creation - http://www.dallasfed.org/ca/wealth/1.html(Article written for Best of Crest, 2007)
To understand the role money plays in your life, do this some time. Try spending a working day with minimal cash in your wallet and no plastic money. Do you feel lighter, less burdened or do you feel anxious by the absence of spending power?
Each of us has a unique relationship with money. Our financial sense is inherited to a great extent from what our parents inculcated in us from childhood and our own experiences as adults. No two individuals are alike and neither is their individual relationship with money.
In the ancient days, people bartered goods and services. One would take pots from a potter and in return, fix his roof. If the blacksmith wanted to buy wheat from a farmer, he would offer a few implements in exchange. That was how business was done.
Money came into the picture, perhaps when people felt that they were getting an unequal deal in the barter. A concept like money would affix value on each good or service, and these would be traded at an agreed price. Even then, money was still considered a means, and not the goal.
Making money is not necessarily a bad goal, as it can get us focused on creating wealth. As someone rightly put it, if creating wealth wasn’t a goal, how would you go about achieving it?
Greed is not necessarily a bad word, it needs to be better defined for today’s times.
Money-making is only as good as where it leads to ultimately. The crux is whether you choose to be defined by the money you make.
Every philosopher, ascetic and prophet has said that if we have our heart set on material things, we will always be disappointed. What do they mean by that? Simply that one can’t fill an emotional void with a physical object. If there’s an emotional void in the area of love, a Tissot watch will not fill it. It will merely distract us for a while. The need of the hour is to find a way of filling that emotional void – spend time with older relatives, children and the underprivileged. Having said that, there’s nothing like celebrating a milestone by gifting oneself a luxury product. Here, the object symbolizes an emotional reward.
There are deeper emotions that dictate one’s relationship with money.
For example, take a spend-thrift or someone very deep in debt. If you analyse the person’s relationship with money, you will probably find that he/she has a deep-rooted belief that they don’t deserve money. So, when money comes along, some inner part of them jeopardizes any attempts to save or invest it. The temptations are bigger, brighter and more colorful and before they know it, they’ve spent it.
Take for instance well-off people who hoard things. It’s a challenge for them to get rid of things they no longer use. If they still manage to send off one truckload of things, they go out and buy two sets of every item they use, just in case. They derive comfort from having things around them. This could be a carry-over from a time when they were financially deprived and couldn’t afford essentials. The feeling of deprivation is so strong that it manifests itself years or even decades later when they are able to afford much more.
Here’s another more common example. A teenager’s need to buy more clothes, accessories, footwear, make-up and the latest mobile phone. It’s not a need to buy as much as a need to keep up with one’s peers. A need for acceptance. There are anxieties that one isn’t attractive enough and there are attempts to fill that void by buying a new pair of jeans when one already has seven others in the wardrobe.
So, what does money mean to you? What role does it play in your life?
Read the second part of this article, FQ – Creating Wealth, in the next issue of Best of Crest.
(Article written for Best of Crest, 2007)
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Spirituality has been defined in many ways. One of the most common definitions is that of a person’s innate bond with a higher power. It has also been described as the relationship a person has with his/her deepest self or soul.
No matter what faith one belongs to (or chooses to be irreligious to), we all have a relationship with our deepest selves. Rituals are fundamentally the means of making that connection.
Spirituality is a broad term and has both breadth as well as depth of meaning. There are so many streams of the study of spirituality and each stream is like a hyperlink which you can access deeper for greater understanding.
Ponder the following questions and step back to observe your thoughts on these. Dwell on the answers. Revisit these questions from time to time. Remember, there are no right or wrong answers.
- How connected are you with your deepest self? Do you sense a duality in yourself? Or are all your dimensions aligned to you and your purpose
- Do you revel in who you are or are you comfortable being yourself? From where do you derive the strength of your connection with yourself (be it a deep bond or a tenuous link)?
Some common spiritual experiences that you can touch frequently by fully being in the present:
- Be in the midst of nature and sense your awe at how the world and everything in it, came to be. Muse over the whorls on a finger tip, the nature of waves, the intelligence of the house crow or about how children think.
- Visit a place of worship and feeling connected to the higher power and fellow-worshippers. Notice the sights, sounds and smells of a place of worship.
- One of the most common ways to touch a spiritual high is through meditation. You can learn to meditate through a faith or even irrespective of it. (See the link in Further Reading)
- The Wooden Bowl by Clark Strand (read a review here - http://www.positivehealth.com/Reviews/books/strand50.htm)
(Article written for Best of Crest, 2007)
WHAT IS EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE?
John D. Mayer, along with Peter Salovey, is credited with introducing the term, Emotional Intelligence to our vocabularies. On his website, he defines it thus: “Emotional intelligence refers to an ability to recognize the meanings of emotion and their relationships, and to reason and problem-solve on the basis of them. Emotional intelligence is involved in the capacity to perceive emotions, assimilate emotion-related feelings, understand the information of those emotions, and manage them.”
Mayer goes on further to define the concept as “involving the abilities to:
· accurately perceive emotions in oneself and others
· use emotions to facilitate thinking
· understand emotional meanings, and
· manage emotions”
Although John Mayer introduced the term and concept, it is psychologist Daniel Goleman who is credited with popularizing it in his ground breaking books, ‘Working with Emotional Intelligence’ and ‘Emotional Intelligence – Why it can matter more than IQ’. He says on his website, “Like Mayer and Salovey, I used the phrase to synthesize a broad range of scientific findings, drawing together what had been separate strands of research – reviewing not only their theory but a wide variety of other exciting scientific developments, such as the first fruits of the nascent field of affective neuroscience, which explores how emotions are regulated in the brain.”
The Byron Stock Associates website defines it simply as “Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the ability to acquire and apply knowledge from your emotions and the emotions of others. You can use the information about what you're feeling to help you make effective decisions about what to say or do (or not say or do) next. Emotional Intelligence is NOT about being soft! It is a different way of being smart – having the skill to use your emotions to help you make choices in-the-moment and have more effective control over yourself and your impact on others.”
IQ vs EQ
Susan Dunn MA, compares IQ and EQ thus:
- EQ gets you through life vs. IQ gets you through school
- Appealing to reason and emotions to convince someone vs. Trying to convince someone by facts alone
- Using your emotions as well as your cognitive abilities to function more effectively vs. Relying solely on your cognitive skills
- Knowing how and why vs. Knowing what
- Knowing how to motivate each person vs. Treating everying as if they operated the same way which they don't
- Managing emotions and using them for good results vs. Being at the mercy of emotions because you don't understand them or know how to work with them
Emotional Quotient vs Emotional Intelligence
Steve Hein, author of ‘EQ for Everybody’ draws a difference between Emotional Intelligence and Emotional Quotient as “distinction between a person's person's innate potential versus what actually happens to that potential over their lifetime.” He defines EQ as “a relative measure of a person's healthy or unhealthy development of their innate emotional intelligence.”
He also offers ten suggestions to develop one’s Emotional Intelligence:
"I feel impatient." vs "This is ridiculous." I feel hurt and bitter". vs. "You are an insensitive jerk."
"I feel afraid." vs. "You are driving like a idiot."
2. Distinguish between thoughts and feelings.
Thoughts: I feel like...& I feel as if.... & I feel that
Feelings: I feel: (feeling word)
3. Take more responsibility for your feelings.
"I feel jealous." vs. "You are making me jealous."
4. Use your feelings to help them make decisions.
"How will I feel if I do this?" "How will I feel if I don't"
Ask "How will you feel if I do this?" "How will you feel if I don't."
6. Feel energized, not angry.
7. Validate other people's feelings.
Show empathy, understanding, and acceptance of other people's feelings.
8. Practice getting a positive value from emotions.
Ask yourself: "How do I feel?" and "What would help me feel better?"
Ask others "How do you feel?" and "What would help you feel better?"
9. Don't advise, command, control, criticize, judge or lecture to others.
Instead, try to just listen with empathy and non-judgment.
10. Avoid people who invalidate you.
(Article written for Best of Crest, 2007)
Saturday, December 01, 2007
Delhi-belly - a term I’d like to see done away with, considering the symptoms affect alike, people holidaying in
Here’s an advice from a local - the fare is so varied that one is best advised to sample it while taking in the sights. This is also one way of avoiding what is called, ‘eat in haste and repent at leisure’. So, perhaps the objective of this article is really to equip the seeker of good food with a basic vocabulary of street food and an approximation on where one can find these in
Mughlai food takes its name from the Mughals and the famed culinary expertise of their khansamas (chefs). A plethora of spices infuses richness and flavor to the Biryanis, kormas, Nahiri (beef/lamb stew) and rumali rotis (handkerchief-thin chapathis). Let’s not forget the succulent kababs (kebabs) that are on offer, like shammi kabab, sheekh kabab and boti kabab. The area around the Jama Masjid is one great Mughlai eat-athon, burgeoning with food vendors especially during Iftar (breaking the Ramzan fast).
During the Indian Independence in 1947, the influx of people into
For light eats, there’re always alu tikkis (potato patties), samosas, raj kachori (lentil filled fritters), dahi bhallas and the ubiquitous chaat comprising golgappas (also called puchkas in Kolkatta and pani Puri in Mumbai), papri chaat and the like. The combination of sweet, sour and chilli in Chaat, is personalised to the customer’s taste. Try these at the Main Colony Market and Gol/Bengali Market. Try the pakoras with hot milky tea at
For the workforce around
There is also a range of the usual roasted corn, peanuts, pop corn, hot milky tea, sharbat and sugar cane juice to stave off hunger pangs until the next indulgent meal.
A recent court ruling prohibits the making of food on the street in
(An edited version was published in the December 2007 issue of 'At A Glance')