20 Positives Of 2020 (Part 2)

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The other day I spoke about why it is important to practice gratitude for your happiness and peace. If you haven’t read it yet, click here. I did not want to end this year on a bad note, because I have been grateful for a lot of things. So here’s an elaborate list of all the things that have come out of 2020 that have added value to my life and have a positive impact.

Ps. If you haven’t read the first part yet, click here.

11. Professional/Blog Growth and Writing

For Bombay Ficus and for me personally as a writer, the lockdown was a big win. Not only did I get more time to write and publish more content, it also allowed me to brainstorm and put forward more projects and expand the blog. 

For all our readers that aren’t aware, Bombay Ficus was birthed amidst the lockdown on 19th June, 2020. (To read about our history, click here). The lockdowns across the globe also led to increased internet activity that gave this page a boost in terms of it’s viewership and visitors, which is only encouraging for me as a blogger to write and publish more often.

I have also embarked on a journey to become an author and wrote down the first chapter to what I hope will eventually be a published book someday. (You can find my experience of the beginning as an author here)

12. Nurturing Relationships, Recalibrating Priorities and Recognising Important People

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As I mentioned in my post yesterday, I was communicating with a handful of people that I really called my own, during the lockdown. People, who made men happy and who really cared about my wellbeing. But I have to thank social media (Instagram mainly), because it also told me about what other people were upto, reminded me of people I hand’t been in contact with and it is no secret, that Instagram stories act as great conversation starter countless times.

So I did reconnect with some old friends from school and some people I’d only met recently. Over time, I started nurturing those relationships back to good health and now my inner circle consisted of more than 8-9 people. It is no secret, that conversing with the same people everyday in an uneventful period becomes tardy, so expanding the circle did help.

Here’s a half of the best part : I ended up reconnecting with my ‘on again – off again’ bestfriend from school and I think this time, we’re going to stick around for a long long time.

Here’s another half of the best part : My relationship with a not-so-old friend grew to an extent where they’ve become my favourite person and one of the best things to happen to me in 2020.

13. Getting Over Excuses

ResolutionsExcuses
“I’m going to learn the guitar this year”“Work has been crazy and I don’t get the time”
“I’m going to take up dance classes over the weekend”, etc etc “Work is so hectic, I need the weekends to relax”, etc etc

Starting April, I did have a lot of time on my hands to jumpstart on my New Year Resolutions or do something I’d always wanted to do. Which I did, initially. But as the lockdowns became the new normal, I eased into my old lifestyle and spent time lazying around watching TV or doing something unproductive. It took me a while to realise that I ended up using ‘Work’ as a convenient excuse for all the things I was too lazy to do. It was pretty convenient since no-one could question it or hold me accountable because I prioritised over what helped me earn my living.

So yeah, I stopped making excuses and started holding myself more accountable for my boring monotonous life and took necessary actions against it.

14. Digital Evolution – Webinars/Zoom Calls and Digital Development at The Workplace

As a continuation to the previous point, I started taking up classes online. I took up a 3 month dance course, trained with my trainer over online sessions and brushed up on my guitar lessons with Youtube. These were things that I would’ve always preferred doing in person, until I couldn’t.

Work-from-home was also a concept that was not too common in my line of work. Mostly because we functioned in a more traditional sense. While we had been wanting to update ourselves and be at pace with the technological developments, we always ended up procrastinating for one reason or the other, until we were forced to do it.

But COVID19 and lockdowns forced our hand and now we have a fully functioning system where working remotely is smoother than ever.

15. My Parents and My Privilege

A roof over your head, running water and working electricity. As much as you use them, you might be taking these amenities for granted. Imagine your life without these conveniences, and you’ll find every reason to be thankful for them. I never had to worry about surviving in these circumstances and was mostly protected under my folk’s roof and had a convenient time.

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16. My Health

A lockdown meant I was not allowed to hit the gym nor go out and party or eat at restaurants. It also meant staying at home, choosing my own working hours and investing the time saved in commute to catch up on my sleep.

I researched and changed my way of working out, doing only body weight exercises (which were really nice for my joints), I focused on my mobility and saved myself from tiny niggles and injuries. Resorting to only eating home cooked food meant I was using healthier ingredients, watching what I was eating and improving my gut health. The added sleep also helped me deal with my everlasting fatigue and helped me be more calm and made me less cranky.

17. To Realise You’re Going To Be Able To Handle Adversity

@vaishnaviarote writes : This one is kind of a personal experience. Most of my family members tested positive to COVID, I even lost my beloved family member to covid.

Just when things could not get any worse, my younger sibling got diagnosed with something unusual that needed urgent surgery and left him to be dependent on people for daily activities. It felt like my whole world had collapsed. I felt like I couldn’t deal with it, but just like that I did and things have started to get better. Even when you feel like nothing is working in your favour, there will be this one thing that’ll make you have faith again and uplift you and make you believe. Remember,this too shall pass.

18. Taking care of your mental health

As the lockdown kept extending and a lot of things kept delaying along with it, my anxiety took a toll on me. I was not able to cope well with it but I was pretending like I’m okay which made it worse. A few of my friends encouraged me to seek help and that’s when I contacted a foundation that provided me with a counsellor. It’s still going on and I’m not completely alright but I’m doing a lot better. This year taught me that it’s okay to PAUSE and look out for yourself and your mental health.

19. Mental health awareness

A lot of taboo goes around mental health and how it’s merely an excuse or just in the head. This year has been very difficult for a lot of us and our mental health has gone for a toss in the bargain. I read a lot of articles about how people have been clinically diagnosed with depression and suicidal tendencies due to the anxiety, fear and loneliness that came along with this pandemic. But then along with this I also saw people making an effort to cope up. There were 24*7 helpline numbers for those who minds were going through a turmoil. People have been talking a lot more about mental health and taking it positively while supporting their loved ones.

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20. Getting rid of toxicity

I’m going to try to explain this with a small metaphor. 

Imagine you have an allergic reaction to something but you’re not sure what it is. So you stop engaging in certain activities (like petting a dog/cat) or eating some specific foods and then slowly resume each activity one at a time. Then, you just use the elimination process to rule out an activity after another.

Similarly, things were going well for me initially during the lockdown days when I was cut off from the world. Then slowly as the lockdowns were lifted and I started interacting with people again, I was able to realise what kind of people were toxic to me or not good for my mental health and I subsequently maintained a distance from them.

Ps. We have a lot of exciting projects coming for you in 2021. So do hit the subscribe button if you’d like to keep hearing from us and thank you for being supportive and leaving encouraging comments for us. It only motivates to keep going.

Here’s wishing you a very happy and safe New Year!

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20 Positives Of 2020 (Part 1)

Yesterday I spoke about why it is important to practice gratitude for your happiness and peace. If you haven’t read it yet, click here. I did not want to end this year on a bad note, because I have been grateful for a lot of things. So here’s an elaborate list of all the things that have come out of 2020 that have added value to my life and have a positive impact.

1. I Learnt New Skills

This is the easiest positive to begin with. Once things settled down and it was clear that lockdown and work-from-home culture was here to stay, a lot of changes took place. The primary change was that I’d end up saving time on commute and the relatively slow economy ensured lesser work assignments and ample free time at home (atleast initially, until people came to terms with it being the new normal). In order to use this free time efficiently, I ended up polishing on some of my old skills and learnt some new ones. 

I took my baking skills to another level to now be able to bake my own fresh bread, brownies and pie. I learnt to cook newer dishes from different cuisines too. I also ended up refreshing on my guitar skills, which I hadn’t played in almost 6 months. Webinars to brush up on some work related knowledge, more reading and educating myself on better ways to maintain hygiene and safety also took place.

2. I Learnt To Be More Patient

I also learnt to be more patient this year. Every person has been affected by 2020 and is dealing with it differently and it is important to respect that as well as give the other person their space and time. Things may not be available on demand as they once used to be. It was also necessary, since I was spending so much time at home with my family, which I hadn’t done in months.

Similarly, personal communication at work was replaced by zoom calls, making it more time consuming and slowing down the overall work cycle. Reports took longer and help did not come immediately. Thus, it became very important to exercise patience in these circumstances.

3. Importance of relationships

During the lockdown, the only people I got to see personally were my folks and siblings. Work carried on via zoom calls and a lot of time was spent doing house chores. At the end of the day, I ended up talking to barely a couple of close people outside my family that I actually missed or my work colleagues who I was in constant communication with.

This lockdown though, also somewhat forced me into spending more time and bonding with my family. It personified the phrase ‘blood is thicker than water’ for me. We took care of each other. We lifted each other up during our lows and I realised their importance especially when I heard about how lonely my friends got (the one’s who were living alone).

I had so little to worry and so many people to share my day and pass my time with.

4. Relationship priorities

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When it was announced that the entire country was going into a lockdown, survival seemed improbable for a social butterfly like me who went drinking or partying every weekend and had a big social circle. But, I mostly spent the entire lockdown only talking to members of my family and 4 of my friends. It was only these people that I spoke about my day-to-day with. 

I realised, the people outside my inner circle were irrelevant to my happiness and in some ways, not worth the effort I was putting in to stay relevant in those social circles. I was better off saving that energy and investing in myself and people within my inner circle.

5. Work-life balance and the ability to say ‘NO’

One of the biggest cons of a work-from-home office culture is the lack of fixed office hours. While in a normal world, I’d barely work once I was out of the office or after office hours, those rules didn’t apply anymore. Thus, it became all the more important for me to set up boundaries and be able to say ‘no’ when an unnecessarily high amount of work was being sent my way or being dumped on me.

With a more relaxed and balanced lifestyle, I was able to work more efficiently and not hate my job or my bosses while feeling fatigued or close to a burnout. A proper work-life balance helped me bring my personal life back on track, brought about a good change in my lifestyle and health and also made me more efficient and happy.

6. I learnt to plan things

It was not all fun and games during the lockdown. I was supposed to do my part in the house chores, help my mother in the kitchen and work was a pain, thanks to the endless zoom calls. Simultaneously, I had also taken up a couple of online classes, had to spare an hour a day for my workouts and was pursuing my passion of writing. This required for me to plan my day properly, in order to be able to make the best use of my time. 

Another example of planning was preparing a weekly list of things. Keeping safety in mind, we would try to buy all our groceries for the entire week in one trip. That meant, preparing elaborate list of meals and buying perishables accordingly. It was way more difficult than it seemed, because supermarkets were running short of supplies and we had to make do with what we could get.

7. Finding happiness in small joys

This is one of the most important lessons I’ve learned, that I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life. While I was stripped away from all of my indulgences and it seemed like hell had broken loose, I started to find joy and get excited about the smaller things in life.

Like when I could see my Soufflé rise in the oven, or on completion of a book or finishing a post in time to publish on the blog, playing cards with my folks after dinner, etc.

It just made me realize how important it is to celebrate the more regular occurring smaller joys of life and not wait for decades until I bought my own house or a luxury car or wait for a promotion, etc.

8. Being more independent

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Here’s something from @vaishnaviarote :

There was a point where I was living by myself for a few months and I had never entered the kitchen before. I didn’t know anything about cooking, instant noodles being an exception of course. I somehow got interested and started cooking these delicious meals all by myself while taking care of my rent, bills, laundry and work.

It was hectic but it also made me realise the pain our parents go through to provide us with all of these essential basic things and also how privileged some of us are. 

It made me a lot more confident about living by myself. I knew I could survive.

9. Needs vs Wants

COVID19 ensured that there were no appraisals or bonuses for the year. In fact, I was amongst the luckier bunch of people who got to keep their jobs and not take a pay cut. Here’s an account of what it was like to lose your job during the pandemic from our very own Esha J.

With the shutdown, my expenditures were reduced to almost a third of my usual monthly expenditures. I was not spending money on new clothes or going to malls or the movies, wasn’t eating or drinking in restaurants or pubs nor ordering-in came. I also ended up saving a ton of money which I usually spent on commute.

All I really ended up spending money on was groceries, my Netflix subscription and some utility bills. Since I lived under my parent’s roof, these expenses were also seldom often taken care of. All I needed was 20% of my actual salary to meet my needs and  an additional 10% to spoil myself. It opened my eye on a lot of wasteful expenditures I did, simply because I could.

10. The forbidden fruit is sweeter

Although I have never been someone who lives on alcohol or parties or just has to go out to the mall or movies, it was pretty easy to not engage in those activities initially.

But as time went by, I was craving to go to the movies or go to a restaurant or pub for the food and dancing. For the first time, I was actually starting to miss my workplace and my small (but well decorated) cubicle. I was just missing getting into my car and driving around the city. Atleast in the first few weeks when there was a strict lockdown.

It is only when something is taken away from you, that you realise how much it meant to you.

Note : You can check out Part 2 of our post here.

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Practicing Gratitude : Why You Should Practice Gratitude In These Times

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Virus. Pandemic. Lockdown. Quarantine. Unlock. Virus 2.0

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It’s hard to stay positive when these are the words we’re being exposed to day in and day out. Of course, the fact that we’re cooped up at home  only makes the situation worse.

Over the last few months, I have read a lot of books in order to find the secret behind being happier and trying to maintain a healthy balance in life; physically, mentally and spiritually. Although different books and authors have different perspectives and methods, one of the most common amongst them is ‘Gratitude’.

It may seem like the new normal will never end, but don’t lose hope just yet. Why? Because this is a good time to remind ourselves of everything we have to be grateful for. And when you think about all the things you once took for granted.

So while you stay safe, wash your hands, and maintain social distance, also remember to add ‘practising gratitude’ to your list.

What is gratitude, though?

It is an emotion or feeling, a recognition and appreciation for what one has, that comes from acknowledging the goodness in one’s life. It opens your eyes to the fact that what you have is truly enough. Research demonstrates that the practice of gratitude can enhance overall wellbeing, and other studies have shown that people who practise gratitude are more resilient in the face of trauma. What’s more, spending a few minutes every night writing down what you’re grateful for can even help you sleep better. In short, gratitude makes us happier — and that’s definitely something we need now more than ever!

Researchers in Positive Psychology have found that gratitude and happiness are always strongly correlated. A possible theory is that gratitude moves people to experience more positive emotions, to thoroughly enjoy the good experiences, better their health, face adversity, and develop and maintain relationships of strength, which in turn makes you happier.

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The three common ways people can express their gratitude are:

  • By being gracious of their past (i.e., think of positive childhood memories)
  • By being gracious for the present (i.e., taking time to be present and enjoy)
  • By being grateful for what’s to come (i.e., hopeful and optimistic of the future) (Giving thanks makes you happier).

There is a direct link between happiness and gratitude. Expressing gratitude brings about happiness for the one giving thanks. The more someone is thankful or feels gratitude, the less there is time or room for negative thoughts.

Oscar Wilde once said, “What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise.”

Ps. Here’s a poem I wrote a long time ago about being grateful about some of the people in my lives.

Here are a few ways in which you can get started:

Maintain a journal

Close-up Of Gratitude Word With Pen On Notebook Over Wooden Desk

Count your blessings and write them down every day — be it the great cup of coffee you enjoyed in the morning or that recent video call you had with your friend. Soon, you’ll realize that you have more than you need to be happy.

Express appreciation mentally

If you can’t find the time to write every day, think about something you’re grateful for — e.g. the healthcare workers, police officers, and other essential services that are ensuring we remain safe — and be thankful for their hard work.

Meditate

While meditation usually involves a complete focus on the present moment, the practice can also be used to focus on what you’re thankful for — such as pleasant weather, a nutritious meal, or a good night’s sleep. Try the guided gratitude meditation on the cure.fit app or website to get started.

Why should you practise gratitude?

Now that you know how to inculcate the practice — and the feeling — of gratitude in your daily lives, here’s a deeper look into the myriad benefits that come with it:

Improved heart health

Being grateful helps you stay healthy. Research has shown that a positive attitude brings down the risk of depression, stress, and anxiety, all of which are factors behind heart disease. Further, according to various studies with participants that suffered from asymptomatic heart failure, individuals who were willing to see the brighter side of life and exhibit ‘trait gratitude’, slept better and took better care of themselves! Happiness, better health, and a good night’s sleep? It’s a win-win.

Stronger relationships

Of course, showing someone appreciation makes them feel good — but the effects of gratitude go even deeper than that. Studies have shown that expressing gratitude is associated with positive future relationship outcomes, while other researchers compare gratitude to auxiliary emotions that bring people closer, such as trust. So show your loved ones how much they mean to you — and go the extra mile to reach out to friends or family you may have lost touch with. Now’s the time to let people know you’re thinking of them, and how much you value them.

Better self-esteem

Yes, noticing what other people don’t have will make you feel better about yourself — but the most important part of practising gratitude is going beyond comparison to appreciate what you have. And that’s when you stop comparing yourself to others completely. This is what helps you get rid of toxic emotions such as greed and envy, and cultivate better self-esteem!

While these are compelling enough in themselves, there’s another reason you should start practising gratitude — sooner rather than later. Research shows that regular expressions of appreciation alter the molecular structure of the brain and keep grey matter functioning the way it should. Further, the feeling of gratitude activates multiple regions in the brain, boosting the production of ‘happy hormones’ like dopamine and serotonin.

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To sum up

People who practise gratitude have a positive attitude and feel better about their lives as well as their connections with others. So there’s really no reason to wait — there’s no better time than the present to remember all that we have to be grateful for.

As Melody Beattie once said,

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.”

So what are you feeling grateful for, today?

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