12 o’clock on New Year’s Eve!!!

What do you generally do when the clock strikes 12 on New Year’s Eve? Usually, I just celebrate by cutting a cake. This year I wanted to do something different.

People around the world do different things at 12 o’clock.

In Denmark, people stand on their chairs and literally “leap” into January at midnight, to banish the bad spirits, and bring good luck. They also smash plates and cutlery at the doors of their friends and family, for good luck.

People in Spain try to eat 12 grapes in the first 12 seconds of the new year, one for each month of the year. It is believed to bring luck and prosperity. But, if they are unable to eat them, they believe they’ll face misfortune in the new year.

People in Columbia carry empty suitcases and run around the building, in the hope of a travel filled new year. (Let’s hope that in 2021 we can travel more)

Puerto Ricans throw buckets of water out of their windows to ward off evil spirits. They also sprinkle sugar on their doorstep for good luck.

Some people believe that keeping the windows open at midnight will send the old year out, and let the new year in. On my part, I’ll be sure to open my windows tonight 🙂

So, which tradition did you find the most interesting? The Spanish tradition intrigued me the most. I’m going to try eating 12 raisins (it’s not grape season here sadly :/) at 12, and hope for good luck x)

Let’s hope that 2021 will be a better year for us!

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A short escape

As I sit, contemplating my existence,
A myriad of thoughts flow through my mind,
They call out to me and I give in without resistance,
I enter the illusory world, reality left behind.

I often visit here, it’s peaceful and calm,
I forget my stress and escape the reality,
I can stay here for hours without a qualm,
Enjoying this ever blissful serenity.

Suddenly a voice interrupts my short escapade,
My math teacher asking, “Did you get the answer?”
I see my blank page, feel dismayed,
And long to escape for another adventure.

Kind hearts win Unkind times

Came the pandemic and disrupted our lives 
Corona, the unwelcome visitor arrived. 
Schools were shut, jobs lost, everyone was in despair, 
The economy was down and there was sadness in the air. 
What helped us cope in these times so critical 
Was the kindness of people and it was indeed magical.

Whether it was couriering food to an infected relative, 
Or listening to a friend’s woes and being supportive, 
Or sending a nice message to light up someone’s day, 
Everyone tried to be kind in their own unique way. 

When online classes soon became the norm, 
Kindness of people took a different form. 
Like sending a screenshot when the board becomes blur, 
Or suggesting solutions when a glitch occurs, 
Or answering a doubt that someone asked in the chat, 
Helping out during internet issues and times like that. 

For all of us, 2020 was a year like no other 
And our kind friends and peers helped us hold it together. 
For, kindness helps make the world a better place 
And leads to everlasting happiness of the human race. 

Lockdown Diaries

Like many people, I’ve been on autopilot all my life. Go to school, come home, study, sleep and repeat. I took comfort in this familiar routine. The lockdown was like a ‘reset’ button. Suddenly, I was stuck in my room all day long, with just me to keep myself company. Thoughts and memories flooded my mind, a fervent combination of strong emotions, moments and delusions.  
I got time to reflect on myself, work on my habits and experiment with different productivity regimes. 

Months have passed and the new normal is set in the horizon. There are newer ways of doing what we used to do before the pandemic, and little things matter now, more than ever. I believe these will be defining days of what the future will look like. I am sure we will emerge from this phase with clearer minds, a driven attitude, and an increased sense of purpose. When it all ends, we would cherish the rush and routine of our daily lives back again. 
I have learnt a lot during the lockdown, and I can say with confidence that staying within the four walls of my room for the past few months has taught me more than being outside for 17 years. 

3 lessons I learnt in 2020

1. Take less stress-
This is the most important lesson I learnt. This year I’ve been really stressed. Starting from the board exams, to their results (yes, it was equally stressing out), to our monthly tests in college, to worrying about the future.
Stress isn’t a good thing. I take so much stress that many times, I fall sick on the day of the exam. I get frequent headaches, because of worrying so much. It apparently affects your heart, and increases the risk of hypertension. In fact, stress is recognised as the number 1 ‘proxy killer’ and is the cause of 60% of all human illnesses.
The major cause of stress for me, is exams. So to avoid stress, I remind myself that failing one test isn’t going to affect my future in any way. Also, there’s no point in trying to live up to the expectations of parents, or anyone else, for that matter. After all, your life is yours, so do what makes you happy. Whatever it may be. Stress will automatically reduce, making you happier and healthier.

2. Done is better than perfect-
Since I was young, I have been a perfectionist. I don’t feel satisfied with what I have done. Whether it is a blogpost, or a poem I’ve written, I don’t feel content. I always feel that there are ways to improve my work. Most of the time, I give in to this feeling. I didn’t publish so many blogposts because they weren’t perfect.
I wouldn’t take appreciation from people, because I would think, I could have done this better. It isn’t perfect. (I still wonder how people effortlessly accept compliments for their work. It is foreign to me. But I’m working on it)
Same for performing in a test. No matter how well I’ve done, I always feel I could have done better. I drove myself crazy at one point, when I got 100 on a test, and I began to think that the paper could have been set better.
These days, rather than working for perfection, I try to get more things done. Instead of writing one “perfect” poem in a day, I will try to write three. This mindset shift seems to be working, and I’ve learnt to be satisfied about doing the task quickly, rather than perfectly.

3. Have to vs Get to –
So, this is a small mindset shift I made. Whenever I don’t want to sit in a boring class, rather than grumbling that I ‘have‘ to, I tell myself that I ‘get‘ to attend class. And thus, I should be happy, because not everyone gets the opportunity to attend class!
Or if I feel like sleeping in some day, I tell myself that I get to wake up and experience the daylight. I get to go to my terrace and sit under the sunshine. And this makes me feel like doing it more, and not just because I’m supposed to be doing it. More positivity is always a good thing.
This idea helps make doing things you don’t want to, less of a chore. Rather, think of like a privilege that you have. Quite a nice mindset, I think.

That’s it for this list. These are the top 3 lessons I learnt this year. Thanks for reading.

The power of Journaling

Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Abraham Lincoln, Leonardo Da Vinci, Charles Darwin, and so many more eminent people wrote in a journal. Journaling is a vent for your creativity, an activity in mindfulness and a time to spend with your thoughts. It helps you enjoy each day, and feel good about any progress you make.

Journaling can be as simple or as elaborate as you want it to be. It is an art form in and of itself. Many scientific studies have shown that writing in a journal can help you cope with stress better, and lead to an overall improvement in the quality of your life. Journaling can be done in numerous ways, you can doodle, write down your dreams, goals, what you are grateful for, track your habits, write daily to do lists, it all counts. Or you can do a combination of everything above, like a bullet journaling practise. 

I have been journaling almost every aspect of my life for the past two years.  While I don’t call myself a conventional bullet journalist, I have incorporated many of its elements into my work.
Journaling is the single habit that has changed my life the most. I feel more energised, positive and productive after writing in my journal.  As James Clear says in his book Atomic Habits, “You do not rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems.”  And one such ‘system’ is journaling.

If you would like to start, now is a very good time. 2021 is approaching and there are many dated diaries available online. Or you could make your own, by printing out a template of each month. I did this for the last two years, and it works out very well.
Here are a few quick tips if you are a beginner :

First, make journaling a part of your daily routine. Set aside time for it, maybe 5 minutes each morning, to reflect on your day. Set a reminder on your phone, if you tend to forget. 

Second, write down one thing you are grateful for that day. It could be as small as getting to experience the morning sun. Or being thankful to your parents. Or for your eyes to enjoy the sights around. Believe me there are a lot of things to be thankful for, that we often don’t think about. 

Third, let your mind free. Don’t restrict your thought process. If you feel like you have nothing to write on any particular day, there’s no obligation. Maybe colour the page with a highlighter, or doodle something that day. The possibilities are just endless.

Finally, just get started. I would suggest to try it out for a month. Once you start, it is much easier to actually keep going.
Try it out, and have fun. 🙂

Realism or idealism?

Everyone inherently looks at life in one of these ways, either as a realist or an idealist.
This may be reflected in the way you plan, for instance. Do you put less items on your to do list, anticipating interruptions or do you write down an endless list in the hope of a perfect day?
This is also very closely related to whether you have perfectionist tendencies, in which case you are likely to be an idealist.

Neither school of thought is right or wrong. Though in different situations, one approach may serve better.
An idealist is usually overly optimistic of the situation, and a realist incorporates all possibilities, and hence, tends to be pessimistic. We should have a mixture of idealism and realism to succeed, whether in studies or in life.
For instance, we can wake up with an optimistic approach to our day, and hope that our day goes very well. But due to some reasons, if we get interrupted, we need realism to analyse and change our plan for the day.

I am an idealist by nature, and my daily plan is often way too optimistic. I don’t account for the time I spend procrastinating on the sofa, for instance. Or the time I spend staring out of the window, or watching youtube videos for hours at a stretch.
I usually end up taking a whole week to complete whatever tasks I plan for one day. As a result, I always have unfinished tasks at the end of the day, and constantly feel dissatisfied with myself. This approach affects me negatively, as I get demotivated at the end of the day. Hence I had to adopt a realist’s strategy.

But my idealistic mind couldn’t bear to put an “imperfect” plan on paper.
A close friend told me this way to think of it. She said, ‘When you plan your day, don’t think that you are going to do the tasks. Instead, plan for your alter ego to do them. Remember, your alter ego is a lazy wasteman who does very less work. So plan only as much as she can do.’
This is the realist’s view point. And this way actually makes a lot of sense, because when you feel positively at the end of the day, you are more motivated to work hard the next day. So you will be happier and more productive in any given week, than the dissatisfied idealist.
I am still getting used to doing things this way, and it feels sooo unnatural to me.
So, at least in terms of planning, the realist’s approach is better.

Another aspect is studying. Being an idealist and perfectionist, I feel the need to study all chapters completely for any given exam, and to solve all the possible problems. Now this approach worked well in 10th grade, when we had just a few easy chapters.
But since I am now in class 11, it is practically impossible. I need to see it from a realist’s point of view. It is realistically not possible to do all the problems from all the chapters, in the vast syllabus that we have. It’s an art of picking and choosing chapters and topics and deciding what it is ‘enough’.
This is a skill I’m still learning.

Lockdown blues?

It’s a rough time for everyone right now. Due to the pandemic, colleges are closed, we barely go out anywhere, can’t meet our friends, it’s such a bore. 
At some or the other point in this lockdown, all of us have felt low. 
Either because we aren’t being productive, or because of the lack of human connection, which we all need in our lives.

These days, I get stuck in my head for long periods of time. Sometimes for days together, I feel a disoriented lack of purpose, like I don’t know what I am doing. 
I find myself mindlessly attending classes, sitting at my desk all day, but not studying, and before I know it the day has come to an end.
I am often unable to cross off anything from my to do list, and it builds a feeling of dissatisfaction and guilt, which has only been increasing.
This has caused me to go through a prolonged period of feeling low. I am usually an optimistic person, and I haven’t felt this low before.

But what we should realise is that, it is common.
Right now, most people feel like this. Nobody is used to staying isolated, not meeting anyone, just stuck within the four walls of their room.
Especially when going through an academically challenging year, we need people to relate to us and share our problems.
There is negativity in the air, headlines are always about cases and deaths, it is a negative vibe that’s rubbing off on everyone.
So everyone is in the same boat. Everyone is going through this. 

We should start caring for our mental health, because if we aren’t feeling energised and positive, then our productivity takes a toll.
So how can we do this ? I have two suggestions.

The first way is by talking to people. (Talking, not texting, though I suppose you could start there)
Call up your close friends from school, and have a chat with them. Sit with your mother one evening and talk to her. Or do a video call with your grandma, whomever you are close to. People who care for us can empathise with us, and offer good advise. Also, we will realise that we’re not alone. It will reduce our boredom, and give us something to look forward to. 
Whether we are extroverted or introverted, or fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, we will all benefit from talking to people. 

Another thing that helps me, is meditation.
We have all heard it many times before, but believe me, there’s nothing better than meditation to clear your mind.
The technique is very easy. Simply focus on doing any one thing. It could be reading a book, listening to music or focusing on your breath.
My favourite kind is by putting on some relaxing music on youtube and focusing on the tune. It gives me positive energy and after just a few minutes, I feel refreshed.

I hope these two simple techniques help you become happier and more productive. Remember, you aren’t going through this alone. Stay safe 🙂

The Ideal way to Read

“Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested” -Francis Bacon

Imagine a pastry. It has many layers with cream in between, a thick layer of icing on the top, some jam glazing it and a cherry placed in the middle, surrounded by chocolate wafers for decoration. It’s delicious, right? Don’t you think so?

But can you judge the taste of the pastry just by looking at it? Not really. You need to taste it, so you proceed to lick the icing. Yet you cannot comment on the cake. You need to dig in. Only when you take a bite, do you really get the taste. Now you can evaluate the icing, glaze and chocolate and savour it.

This analogy can be applied to reading books. You cannot (should not!) say anything about a book from its cover, or even its first chapter. (It is like eating the cherry and reviewing the cake.) You need to read it in its entirety – till the very last page, to get all the main ideas. In fact, you will realise that if you read a good book for the second, third or tenth time also, you will get a new takeaway from it. Its magical!

And this, in my opinion is the ideal way to read a good book. To delve into the book so deeply that you can visualise all the individual elements that make up the story, and marvel at how they connect together seamlessly. It is when you taste the icing, jam and chocolate separately and then devour them as part of the whole pastry.

This Chinese saying summarises what I want to convey,

“To read a book for the first time is to make an acquaintance with a new friend; to read it for a second time is to meet an old one.” -Chinese Saying

So join me on my journey to read many good books the ideal way and make them our best friends.

Why you should read books (from now!)

Reading is the single most essential habit for anyone who wants to do something big in life. It is the best (and the only) way you can gain experience of a hundred years in just a few hundred pages.

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” -Dr Seuss

I am an avid reader myself, and I believe that reading is one of the few habits that can help you (almost) instantly develop your personality and become a better person. Be it fantasy, science fiction, autobiographies or even murder mysteries, there is always something to learn from every book.

A reader (You!) just has to read through the pages and delve deep into the world of the book. A good reader is one who is able to devour the book in its essence, in order to truly and completely learn all that it has to offer.

“Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home.” -Anna Quindlen

When you pick up a book, you step into the shoes of the protagonist, and enter his world. You see the world through his or her eyes, feel genuinely happy when he wins a battle, and very sad when he loses one. Unconsciously, reading bestows the trait of empathy in you. You become a kinder, gentler and more caring person.

“Reading is an exercise in empathy; an exercise in walking in someone else’s shoes for a while.” -Malorie Blackman

This is the secret to gain knowledge and wisdom equal to living for hundreds of years. Why, by reading good books you can even live for a thousand years!(metaphorically, of course). Books also teach you many values. They teach you how to filter the negative influences in your life and instead focus on positivity and happiness around, to look for the silver lining in every grey cloud.

Reading books also teaches you to stay strong and overcome all obstacles on your journey of life and gain success along the way. It helps you become a better human being with a vast array of knowledge.

“Reading is essential for those who seek to rise above the ordinary.”Jim Rohn

So keep reading, so you can live many lives, and also gain knowledge and experiences equal to living for hundreds of years. You will become a much wiser, happier and more successful person.