A no-nonsense tip for success, or the power of asking

Knock and the door will be opened.

Knock and the door will be opened.

Like in the popular cartoons, this morningI felt an invisible lamp being lit over my head;  the so-called “a-ha” moment, and I want to share my insight with you.

As usual, it happened when I was injecting my morning dose of inspiration on BBC.com Capital into my brains. “The Three Secrets of Getting What You Want”- the clickbait headline already foreboded a mix of ultimate reading pleasure and a promise of tangible outcomes (read: subsequent actions).

I’m not going to criticize or summarize the article. Rather, I’ll focus on the  single point that rang a bell to me. Asking as a prerequisite for getting what you  dream about. And this is when I realized the only gross obstacle pulls me back and halts my progress toward the goals: I suck at asking because I’m too proud, sometimes lazy, and other times just foolish, and even when I ask the time spent on the decision-making drains the energy that could have been spent more efficiently on my goals.

“Ask and it shall be given to you”, the famous Bible quote swirled into my mind (which is rare given my not being a keen Christian or an overly religious person) which started conflicting with another thought-provoking quote by my favorite Mikhail Bulgakov: “You should never ask anyone for anything. Never- and especially from those who are more powerful than yourself.” (NB: Woland’s advice to Margarita).

Sorry, my favorite Bulgakov, author of immortal “Master and Margarita”. With all my love and respect to your masterpiece, these words are not up-to-date anymore. The life realities haves changed. Life speeds have so much accelerated that one can’t have the luxury of sitting back and waiting when those “who are more powerful” to notice your merits (for instance, to give you the deserved raise or recognition at work).

And my recent life experience has come to prove that. Of course, it took me months to take the step of asking to later find out it’s not at all humiliating and tough, especially when you’re sure you deserve what you ask for.  The result? I got what I wanted (even if it was a short-term fix), and I’m not sure if I would if I hadn’t asked.

A conclusion? Besides your personal strategies and tactics (share, please, if you do anything specific and out-of-box to reach your goals), the overused “visualization” and already cliche “positive thinking” strategies, just ask for the particular thing you want to have for your longer-term goals, and 90 times out 100 you will be rewarded. After all, rejection is better than regret.

Advertisements

Can shopping beat the blues? Shopping vs alternative  “therapies”

At one point, things start owning us

At one point, things start owning us

What do you do while distressed, frustrated, anxious or furious? I bet 2 out of 3 (women) will answer- go shopping! It holds true to me, too.

Quick statistics.

Having an apartment repaired was a well-grounded reason  for me to “inventory” my belongings (apart from all the side effects of any repairs- chronic headache, more frequent family conflicts and lack of the special tint of lemon-grass-yellow that I wanted to have on my walls :)), reflect upon my shopping volume and choices and make better decisions for future.

40% of the clothing I bought about 2 years ago is either “too boring now” or “just reminded me of unpleasant moods and situations in past” (NB: a self- quote). So- off they went to be donated. A noble decision, indeed. But it made me wonder: can I live with less and still feel more fulfilled. Or, to be more precise, can the things make us happier, or, if they can, what volume of them?

Yes and no. Yes- for a while, no- when their alarming portions become inversely proportional to your purse contents. The more you get- the more you want to get. It’s an axiom.

Sometimes, feeling like a short-term fix, I run from a store to store and hoard a couple of clothing items to show them off next day at the office (which is prevailingly female and thus very scrupulous and judgmental about your looks). What comes next is disenchantment and even more frustration at the thought that I could save the money for my next travel destination (the strongest impulse to resist the purchase 🙂 ).

But in other times, I just fill in the void by just activities that are not associated with squandering money. Below I share the list in the hope everyone can pick a “therapy” for him/her to swap it with excessive shopping.

  1. Bibliotherapy – or, to put it in simpler terms, reading fiction. Next time when distressed or listless or just itching for an extra pair of jeans, direct your steps to the nearest bookstore. Here is how I practiced this therapy and read away the apathy. Even if you don’t eventually buy a book, you’ll be much positively influenced by the process distracting yourself from your problems.
  1. Music- therapy”. Have you heard about Mozart effect? A whole scientific research is devoted to the impact of the great composer’s music on brain and emotions. In fact, I’m convinced it refers to other composers and genres of (good) music. My recent finding is that there is no gloomy mood – there is incorrectly chosen music. My personal favorite choices are: something energizing for morning (pop or rock), Bach and baroque music for studying and working and lounge/ambient for evening.
  2. Travel. To be more precise – saving for travel and planning. Yes, it’s more pricey than the posh red pumps enticing you from the shop window. Yet it’s a powerful stimulus to not buy the extra pair and rather invest money in your next travel site.
  3. Friends– therapy”. Can there be anything more heart-warming and fulfilling than a casual chit-chat, existential ruminations or even crying with your bestie over a glass of wine on a dreary (for you, the depressed) fall day? Maybe, traveling with her/him could be J Anyways, force yourself (I know it’s hard when you’re blue) to meet him/her or them and talk away the blues. At least, for an evening.
  1. Writing. Well, this one is very specific. It’s my “thing” that keeps me sane in tough times, while others get even more frustrated while faced with the blank sheet of paper. Anyways, it’s worth a try. Just jot down your thoughts without judgment and go with the flow- here is the best strategy. You can only toss it away and scroll up to the above mentioned “methods”.

Okay, now, let’s clarify something. None of the “therapies” is a miracle cure, or a full replacement of shopping. Of course, you and I need a healthy portion of shopping-spree in the search of decent outfits. Let’s just keep it less and sweet and balance with non-material activitiesJ that are fulfilling in the long run.

P.S. What do you normally do when stressed out? Maybe, something extraordinary? Don’t shy away! Share on the comment section below!

“Cheer up” and 5 more taboos not to comfort your depressed friend with

"Cheer up" is no effective

“Cheer up” is no effective

Recently, I’ve come across a very thought-provoking article written by one of my favorite columnists, Oliver Burkeman, for The Guardian. With his challenging irony and sarcasm, the author argues the pointlessness of the “comforting” commands such as “cheer up”, “calm down” that you and I often use to help a depressed friend.

“Is there anything more annoying than being told to cheer up when you’re feeling down?…if you could cheer up by choice, you’d already have done so”. Couldn’t be said better- spot on!

That’s what I’ve been experiencing and mulling over lately which resulted in drafting my own top 8 list of the taboo phrases that you shouldn’t catch yourself telling to a grieving person (or even the ones who’re just slightly depressed). Not because you should be tough. With your best intentions considered, these “soothing” phrases are merely pointless (remember a single time you instantly soared with happiness after your best friend’s ”cheer up” command. That never happened, right?).

So, here you go. Remember and immediately forget these phrases when you’re dealing with a suffering heart.

“Pull yourself together” (=”calm down”). Yes, she will calm down. But after she’s cried herself into sleep (I’m not aware of the man’s actions. Maybe beating the punching bag to the thrash rock music? :).

“Look on the bright side”.  She/he won’t see any colors on the “side”. They won’t even see the “side”.

“Life is wonderful”.  Only to others, not him/her. Now everything sucks.

“Take it easy”. Do you want her/him to get furious in addition to being deeply sorrowful?

“You’re not the first and last person to have gone through this”. This one is my favorite. Yes, she/he’s mature enough to realize that “everything shall pass”, and repetition in this case is the mother of not learning but even more grieving.

What could you do instead? Just listen compassionately and even validate his/her sorrow. From my experience, that helps  overcome the blues faster. Only then, when the critical period is passed can you make him/her dress up and have a nice evening together over a glass of wine.  That’s my “therapy” (another effective one being the bibliotherapy) against “the cheer up” treatment 🙂

What are your observations? Do you have your own list? Please, contribute to the post with your comments 🙂

“Smart” detox: the results and conclusions

Try to rest from digital world from time to time.

Try to rest from digital world from time to time.

A couple of weeks ago, I screwed up all my willpower and decided to leave my smartphone home together with the hustle and bustle of the city for the week-end. What came out of it was that my phone screwed up, too 🙂 But in the negative meaning of the word.

I guess it was a terminal offense to my poor device: upon my arrival, it crashed. To be more precise, it became an ordinary cellphone without Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Just like that. No failed landings on the floor, no bathings in the water. Nothing. Just a final and categorical No Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

So, my smartphone diet was involuntarily prolonged (as fixing the issue cost me quite a lot of money and time which is another story). I blew away the dust from the once-posh Motorola L6 and embarked on the smart-less journey.

As a “glass is half-full” person, I decided to take advantage of my new circumstances. Just to relax, not to check for notifications and messages every 10 minutes, to toss away the trash information that’s the social media is overstuffed with and relish other joys of the non-tech life. The results?

  1. More peaceful sleep and no rushing to grab the phone to look through Facebook updates. Instead, 15 minutes of productive writing and reading time in the morning.
  2. Less backache. We’re doing too much texting with our backs twisted and our heads bent causing the constant tension on the neck and back.
  3. More time for my long-forgotten hobbies, such as playing the piano.
  4. And lastly, more quality time to connect with family. (By the way, they turned out to be quite interesting conversationalists 🙂
  5. But for the constant need for my favorite playlists and the camera every now and then, I’d never miss this piece of technology. Honestly, I didn’t have the desire to chat or comment or check notifications on social networks for all this while.

The conclusion? I’m going to deliberately “leave” my smartphone somewhere inside my desk and organize such “smart” detoxications once a month, at least for 2 days. (I’d do more if my job allowed it). And I strongly recommend you to enhance your lifestyle with this simple yet very salient method. Let’s go even further- do digital detox– computer and phone-free days once in a while! 🙂

P.S. My smartphone is  now ok, of course, not without considerable money investments 🙂

Life: our friend or foe?

life-has-no-ctrl-z

Recently I’ve been ruminating over the rules of life. Like a little fretful princess, it likes taunting us, torturing to tears, biting and stinging and then, at the end of the game, “award” us with a shiny smile.

Suddenly, in the middle of my reflections, I thought how good the life can be at throwing us to the situations opposite to the ones we would strive to be.

Love being in silence? Here you go- a job in a crowded office with constant buzz and bubble (over the work or everyone’s husbands’ work).

A passionate person? Good for you! Go and find your way of sublimation- shouting, yelling, bitching around or- more civilized variants- beating the pillows and dancing like a crazy- since you are not going to have any affairs (or a single meaningful one) for a long time. Deal with it.

An extrovert? Sorry, but there is only this available job opportunity in a small office with no colleagues. Go and grab it, you’re broke and have nothing to chew.

A tough woman seeking a strong man? Then you’re sure to be exposed to either a bunch of mellow losers, or shrewd gigolos, or- just the “perfect” but…married ones.

Life is sometimes against us. It’s our enemy, the most hostile and bellicose rival that you could ever meet. But it’s the fight that makes us stronger. It’s the acceptance of the impossible to change that makes us resilient. And it’s the bit of irony and cynicism that helps us stay sane in the most hopeless states.

As the closest friend may one day become your fiercest enemy, the life can play both roles at the same time. As one of the ancient sages said: “I don’t know what’s good, what’s bad”. Let’s at least TRY not to judge the events, just to accept them and be optimistic about what’s awaiting as in the Life’s next twist.

Pre-vacation stress: yes, it happens

Getting ready for vacation? Don't stress out.

Getting ready for vacation? Don’t stress out.

As the summer vacation is only a couple of days away, I’m getting more and more reflective and… stressed out. Vacation is kind of a small “coffee break” till the final New Year review. What did I change after my last vacation? What moods are overflowing me? What’s disturbing me most, and above all, what needs to be fixed in my life?

These are the thoughts that sometimes crawl into my mind at night causing sleep reduction (as a good 7-hour sleeper, it’s a bit of uncomfortable experience for me, indeed).

It’s always a good idea to take a breathe breath, or, better, a vacation to a faraway country before making life-changing decisions. That’s what I’m up to in this point of my life. I don’t know where I will land after my soul-search and re-search and re-discoveries of myself, but one thing is sure: I’ll not be the same, since every new experience, every new culture and people we encounter make notable changes of paradigm, attitudes and life philosophy. I don’t know where the changes will take me- but I do know that even a negative alteration of the fixed routine is more motivating than the warm stability of the already wornout relationships, careers and life beliefs.

So, if you happen to be in the same pre-vacation-stressed-out-yet-hopeful situation as I am now, don’t worry. I’m sure we’ll all come back with our mental hardware formatted and refreshed and will tackle our problems with doubled efforts.

Good luck, and have an enthralling holiday!

You should never ever swim! 10 weighty arguments

Summer is only a couple of days away, and many of us have probably thought: it’s time to at last learn how to splash in the waters of a pool or sea without resembling the Titanic. Are you sure of your decision? Here are 10 very weighty reasons why you should never ever jump into the water (irrespective of the season, place and circumstances!). Here you go:

  1. Swimming is harmful to your physical beauty.
Michael Phelps, N1 swimmer in the world.

Michael Phelps, N1 swimmer in the world.

  1. It’s dangerous, even in a pool.
Beware of sharks! They are everywhere

Beware of sharks! They are everywhere

  1. And leads to depression and sadness.

1344925_11n

4. It’s harmful to your health, especially for heart.

Swimming places a vigorous demand on heart

Swimming places a vigorous demand on heart

5.Swimming is not at all sexy,

Water has a magic power of making even the most average body look sexier.

Water has a magic power of making even the most average body look sexier.

6. or aristocratic,

Princess Charlene of Monaco:former South African Olympic swimmer

Princess Charlene of Monaco: former South African Olympic swimmer

7. or motivating.

Michael Phelps got Sportsman of the Year award in 2008.

Michael Phelps got Sportsman of the Year award in 2008.

8. Just the opposite – it’s the sport of losers,

Federica Pellegrini, holder of a few world records. No bad, isn't it?

Federica Pellegrini, holder of a few world records. No bad, isn’t it?

9. and overweight people.

Charlize came back to her slim body after "Monster" due to workout and swimming.

Charlize came back to her slim body after “Monster” due to workout and swimming.

10. And finally, never ever go in for swimming if you’re fighting insomnia.

Swimming is a perfect way of relaxation.

Swimming is a perfect way of relaxation.

I hope these powerful arguments will keep you miles away from anything like a pool, lake or sea for good.:)

Grab your mat and do yoga- no matter where you are

Lotus pose

When I tell someone I’m doing yoga here in Armenia, I face with two types of radically different attitudes: “wow, you’re great, wish we would have time/desire/ physical shape/money to do that” and – “oh, how frivolous of you to do those awkward poses instead of learning to, for instance, how to knit for your future children”. I won’t go into details explaining the roots and reasons for the latter attitude toward yoga – this is something peculiar to the society I live in (and maybe other conservative societies as well)- enmity to something undiscovered. Instead, I want you to share how this 5000-year-old physical and spiritual practice has influenced my routine, physical and mental state. Whether you’ll join the “wow” or “blah” posses, it’s up to you:)

  1. Flexibility and strength

It’s already 2 years that I have been practicing yoga. Of course, there was a major hiatus during this time (about a 6 months of non-yoga period) after which I restarted it a few weeks ago. At first, it felt awkward. Sometimes I would burst out laughing while doing Mukha Svanasana (downward-facing dog), especially when I failed to keep the posture for at least 20 seconds (20 seconds feel like 20 hours during the first yoga classes, I confess) and saw my tortured reflection in the mirror. But gradually I got accustomed to even the most intricate asanas, and my body and mind started loving it. From 20 seconds up to 1.5 minutes- this is the asana-holding progress of mine.

Downward-facing dog pose

Downward-facing dog pose

  1. Positive aura

From the first yoga classes, I noticed: when a group of people begin focusing on their bodily sensations and dropping their worries and never-ending inner dialog, a unique aura of tranquility is created. It’s shaped by the instructor in the first place. So, it’s important to find the one whose methods and aura aligns well with yours. Soon enough, you’ll discover and nurture deeper connection with him/her and follow the instructions involuntarily, naturally, without forcing – just going with the flow of series of conscious stretches (a very Zen- and yoga-like concept, indeed). I’m happy to have a great instructor whose overflowing positive aura is making the class a really serene experience.

  1. Self-discipline

Like any other hobby or pursuit, commitment is key for prominent results, and it holds true to yoga in the first place. Practicing yoga is never a route from tada-asana (mountain pose) to sirsasana (headstand). It’s a never-ending journey- full of self-discoveries, failures, challenges and fulfillment. Nobody (even the most distinguished gurus living in Tibet Mountains) can say they fully master yoga. So, what can we, common mortals, expect from practicing twice a week?

First of all, after a couple of months, expect to enjoy the classes and want more. The best time for yoga is indeed morning. Especially in spring, it’s such a bliss to wake up at 7:00, drink some water and start a 10-minute yoga warmup followed by OMM and a couple of morning asanas or Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation). (Dear owls, don’t fret and justify your not doing yoga at least 4 times a week by your crazy sleep patterns. Do it an hour before sleep! It’s better than nothing). Believe me, the rest of the day will seem calmer and more stress-free. Besides, if you commit to asanas, you notice modifications in general patterns as well – more resilience, patience and even wisdom in decision-making.

Surya Namaskar

Surya Namaskar

  1. Relaxation

It’s naive to think that doing yoga twice a week is a ticket to blissful and stress-free routine. Neither does it prevent us from the negativity we face in every walks of our lives. If you seek nirvana, leave the urban life and go to mountains. Still we can control and reduce our stressful lives led at crazy city paces with yoga breathing exercises or pranayamas. These are simple yet powerful breathing techniques which reinforce our vital energy and slow down our rushing thoughts.

As I’m writing these lines I feel like standing up and twisting my body into a cobra pose or doing a simple pranayama (I’ve been sitting for almost 50 minutes in a row- it’s torturing for a beginning yogi!). A couple of hours and I’ll grab my mat to my room and breathe away the daily stress for a few minutes. And I strongly encourage you to drop your complexes and fears and try your yogi practice as well.

5 insights on what to start this spring

569c6ac55041afbb08cde01305f23254

Goodbye winter, welcome spring!

Okay, I admit we all become sluggish and lazy in winter, and even the promise of having a body like Apollo/Venus can’t make us leave our coaches for the gym or even cinema. But I have good news (in case you’re still hibernating and missed it): the spring has come! Perhaps, some of you have a well-though-out “to-do list (or “to-Not-do list”) for spring, yet others are still clueless about how to add some color to their lives this spring. In both cases, replace your favorite “I’ll start it in spring” with “I’ll do it today” and consider one of these options:

  1. Gym/ pool/yoga/capoeira classes

Don’t be panic-stricken by the thought that summer is 3 months away and you’re still far from Adriana Lima (and, in general, don’t panic, “This too shall pass”:)). Instead of obsessing over your imperfections as an imminent result of winter pig-outs, just stick to healthy lifestyle: balanced eating, “green day” – meaning only vegetables and fruit- once a week,+ physical activity minimum twice a week. If you top the list of the laziest geeks, then at least do this short 10-minute workout in front of your favorite soap opera.

  1. Cultural events

Spring is time to not only physical but also spiritual and mental “workout”. Check out your local events and pick one closer to your heart. Or, rather, try something new – like a museum or gallery if you’re more of a music fan, or ballet if you have never seen it live. Sometimes, changing such small patterns gravitates fundamental changes in life.

  1. Reconnect with “the lost” friend

All of us have that friend who is always on our mind but we’re always too busy/exhausted/ annoyed/ in love to squeeze time for him/her. You chat occasionally on Facebook recalling the fun you had together and still…fail to put her/him on your priority list. As you regained physical and mental shape (if you follow the above-mentioned tips, of courseJ), it’s time to make the move and schedule an offline meeting with that pleasant but interrupted connection.

  1. Plan ahead your summer fun

It’s a life-tested technique: whenever you feel bogged down or listless, plan (or at least, imagine) your next (summer mostly, and autumn- in some cases) destination. It’s my only remedy against apathy, to be honest: I go to BBC Travel, read a travel blog or watch a video about faraway countries,  and then visualize myself in one destination at a time. Even the thought of upcoming travel propels me to tackle the routine more effectively, and I’m sure it will work for you, too.

  1. And finally, plan to be more spontaneous. This may sound a paradox, but arrange to leave some room for spontaneity that may come your way. I should confess I’m a control freak most of time and I get overly annoyed if something pops out of my agenda. But then I remind myself that all the wonderful things that happened to me when I least expected them. So I sometimes I cancel a class, make an impromptu call to a friend or dig in the nearest bookstore in search an insightful book, or just stroll aimlessly observing the city life and passers-by.

P.S. The beauty of life is in inventing ”variations” on main ” theme” of your routine. Fill it with more music, more spontaneity and action, do not  follow these insights if you have something more exciting in your mind- just savor the promising warmth of spring and all year round!

Want to burn 500 calories an hour? Go to capoeira!

Adriana Lima doing capoeira.

Adriana Lima doing capoeira.

Think about what Vincent Cassel and Adriana Lima have in common besides their near-perfect bodies and EU citizenship. Don’t dig too deeply, the answer is – capoeira- the Brazilian martial art which they practice to keep in shape and keep conquering hearts of millions.

When I took my first steps in capoeira, I didn’t even know (and care) what celebrities have passion for it. I just wanted to grow stronger, more flexible and most of all, compensate my sedentary lifestyle with an intensive physical exercise. After a few weeks of training, however, I figured out this fascinating piece of Brazilian culture has many other benefits.

  1. It doesn’t require any previous training

Once I started recommending my new pursuit to my friends, the most popular answer was: “It’s not for us. You’re already well-trained, and we are far from sporty”. It’s a misconception. Even if you’re a geeky type and the only exercise in your life was the one with Rubik’s Cube, you can do “a bridge” and handstand in a few months. All you need is the desire to get yourself off the “computer zone” (which is even worse than a “comfort zone”) and exercise regularly.

  1. It helps you overcome your fears

Handstand has always been one of the greatest fears in my life. Honestly, I joined the class to prove myself that “I can hold everything in my hands, even my own weight”J My first attempts were horrifying. I was choking out of fear. But as my hands gained strength (after a myriad of failure, of course), I suddenly found myself standing on them by the wall. I’m proud of this victory over the paralyzing fear. But that’s only the beginning. Capoeira has many other challenging tricks to throw your way.

tumblr_nfy0e9e4CV1rv6ehho1_500

  1. It’s social and positive

 Despite being a non-contact martial art,  capoeira implies attacks, defenses and …failures to stop the kicks. Rarely is it dangerous; mostly it is funny. In fact, you often laugh at your and others’ failures (light-heartedly, no offense) which makes the whole class a very positive experience. Besides, jogo– the “game” of capoeira accompanied with songs and national music- is a tricky way to reveal people’s overt and covert traits. You should try to beat them with your flexibility and strategy rather than strength (though honestly, my fellow capoeiristas claim I often shift to an aggressive-mode during the jogo. Not a thing to be proud of:)).

10426289_623127094471354_560661581952288362_n

Capoeira Armenia group

  1. 1 hour of capoeira=500calories

If you’re anything like me you will find an hour at gym boring. Spinning,  running and pushing up for an hour is not for me. I like variety of action, communication, dances and music. In this sense, capoeira is a perfect solution. But there is another irrefutable benefit. It’s proven that 1 hour of capoeira burns 500 calories. It equals to 1.5 hours of spin class, but instead, you won’t have a sore butt at the end of the class.

So, now it’s perhaps clear for you why the above-mentioned celebrities are capoeiristas. If you’re still skeptical about it, just re-watch Vincent Cassel’s capoeira episode at Ocean’s 12, and you are sure to feel like trying capoeira at least once.