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!

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“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.

The autumn tree vs cubicle: an episode from my journal

autumn-63271_640

From time to time, I read a random passage from my to find clues to my present emotional state and reconsider some areas in my life to get out of shitty moods. Today I again went down my memory lane to analyze and make some conclusions for a few life-changing choices. Scrolling down and down, I ran into the following episode, written 2 years ago. It struck me with its despair and urgency and listlessness yet it totally conveyed the whole inner drama I was going through at that time.

“I looked out of the office window today to see this totally yellow tree standing in front of me with the whole splendor and majesty that the autumn brings to the nature. Someone’s laundry hung beside the tree making the whole picture even more sentimental. I wish I had a photo beside the tree or of the tree but unfortunately I didn’t take my photo camera today (I didn’t have a smartphone back then- edit.). I could stand by the window and meditate long on the tree but I had to go back to my cubicle. That symbolizes the whole office life- attached to the computer, half-asleep at the end of the day.  The real life seems to pass by my office window sometimes. Especially when it’s sunny and warm – like today. When you go out and breathe deeply, the life starts sprinkling your soul with joy and happiness, even more motivation to life than any of those great books that I read during the day.

Anyways, I am grateful for what I have and feel. Mostly – for what I feel. Because life is all about feeling and not having”.

An ending of an incorrigible optimist:)  At least, it reminded me of being one.  And it helps to repeat it from time to time, as a mantra, to help us out of difficult times.

5 taboo phrases you should never tell your single female friends

There are phrases to be avoided while dealing with a single person

There are phrases to be avoided while dealing with a single person

My personal life has never been a piece of strawberry cake lately. Actually, I haven’t recently had one in the first place ( to judge it in terms of good and bad). After my latest failed endeavor, I just dropped my guns and quit the personal front. Travel, career and family- this is what I substituted the romance, dating and love with.

I don’t complain. It’s been a life of a happy single surrounded with happy couples J However, this seemingly idyllic life (which undoubtedly is better than being in a rotten or dead-end relationship) is often challenged by supposedly well-intended phrases thrown here and there to cheer your single soul up.  I’m sure the intentions are most noble and sincere, but they do backfire.

So, I decided to deliberately stop narration of the last part of my trip (so urgent the topic was!) and  brought together top 5 phrases that have just the opposite effect on single women. Here we go! (NB: Hey, I haven’t always been single, and I’m guilty of making these mistakes, so the examples are life-tested from both sides).

  1. “It’s okay, enjoy your time alone (with your friends, family, hobbies and whatever)”. Well, with a couple of hobbies, great friends and nice family, that’s what I’m doing now (and many others, too, I hope). But thanks for reminding 😉
  1. “Just wait- the right person will show up at the most unexpected moment”. No comment. Just a nod. I myself am a protagonist of whole concept of “right person at right time”. But believe me it is of no use when on a particularly dismal winter evening you eagerly desire he were by your side here and now.
  1. But, at the same time: “Hurry up! You’re already 25+.” Well, my answer in such cases is something like: “Okay, set me up with a super nice man. Oh, you don’t know one? Then, I like my life of a happy single as it is for now. Bye”.
  1. My favorite “Any news in private life?” (Especially when the curious one is just a neighbor who you meet once a decade or a colleague who you can’t but see every day…unwillingly ;)). Believe “the news” you would be at least holding my hand at the moment of your asking. I know but a few other questions that can be so annoyingly inappropriate (with the “When are you planning a baby” topping the list).
  1. You’re a strong woman, men are intimidated by them”. One correction: men (if you know what type of a man I mean) are not so easily intimidated (if yes, then I don’t even consider the option), especially by a strong and a bit bitchy woman (if you know what type of a woman I mean). So, dear strong women, go on with your self- and career-development and never lower the bar.

Actually, all these taboos boil down to a common conclusion: as long as possible, just bypass the topic. Talk about art, nature and even your neighbor’s wedding but not the prospects of private life of your (happily) single friend, colleague or neighbor. Unless you know a super nice guy who could be a match for her 🙂
 

Day #795: “When you complain, you make yourself into a victim..”

Complaint-free and happy life is our choice

Complaint-free and happy life is our choice

Let’s be winners, not victims. Let’s act or accept instead of complaining. Let’s not compare us to others but to our former self. Let’s just spare our energy for more constructive things than complaint and constant frustration.

1000 Days of Inspiration

“See if you can catch yourself complaining, in either speech or thought, about a situation you find yourself in, what other people do or say, your surroundings, your life situation, even the weather. To complain is always nonacceptance of what is. It invariably carries an unconscious negative charge. When you complain, you make yourself into a victim. When you speak out, you are in your power. So change the situation by taking action or by speaking out if necessary or possible; leave the situation or accept it. All else is madness.”

-Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment

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BeNe Trip: Day 6- Ghent, or Mission Completed

What could comfort me, a solo traveler with a lot of insecurities and fears who, above all,  just said goodbye to new friends- participants of Ent-Ex programme? Perhaps, the sweet anticipation of meeting old ones.  After an aimless stroll in the Amsterdam streets and my final must-do in the city- the boat- trip, I packed my things to wake up early next day and take a train to Ghent – where I was supposed to meet my good old friend Tigran and his sister Sona.

What happened in reality was off my schedule. Still slow and lax due to my recent booze and weed-trial (they say its effects last a few days- or, at least, it holds true to my case ;), I miscalculated the time needed for getting to the station. Then I successfully failed to find the right platform, and eventually saw my train leave – completely deaf to my screams and pleads, which, to put it in a coherent speech, were “wait, wait for me”.

Thank God, the cannabis and easy-going Amsterdam vibe has had a calming effect on me, too. Sticking to my recently acquired “I-don’t- care” attitude, I just took the next Thalys without further panic.

Here I was – standing beside the Ghent Saint Peter’s station waiting for my friends and simultaneously trying to “detect” the vibe, music and color of the city. The vibe- that of a student, nonchalant and maximalist at the same time (for objective reasons, since the Ghent University campuses are scattered all over the city, and my friend was doing his post-doc in one of them), the music – Medieval Flemish tunes (which from time to time was heard in the historical center) and color- soft terracotta mixed with Gravensteen-gray.

Gravensteen, Ghent

Gravensteen, Ghent

I guess I fell in love with the city during a boat trip which we relished with Belgian waffles – a perfect mix of aesthetical and foodie experience. The city views were something, so were the waffles: from the very first bite, all the sweets which I’ve had before (even the Italian tiramisu) momentarily paled into this mouth-watering blend of waffles, vanilla ice-cream, chocolate and strawberries to top with. And all these- against the background of well-preserved (and renovated) medieval blendings, flower-clad canal houses with metallic small statues on the roofs ( I loved them!) and surprisingly (for Belgium) cloudless blue sky (I loved it even more!). Envy me how much you want 🙂

Boat trip and Belgian waffles

Boat trip and Belgian waffles

Our next destination was the famous 91-meters-tall Belfry (UNESCO’s World Heritage Site, by the way). When I saw the narrow stairs leading to the top the first thing I recalled was Duomo. Soon enough did I realize it was not the only similarity with Florence. The enthralling panoramic view of the city reminded me of Florence- similar colors, vibe and terracotta-tiled roofs (NB: I missed Florence…For me, it’s the most beautiful of the ones I’ve seen so far).

2015-07-09 14.39.54

However, my must-do program didn’t only include marveling the city gems. I had a “mission”, so all three of us headed for the Boekentoren– Tower of Books- Ghent University Library. Why? That’s what the librarian’s face expressed when we started taking photos of a memory board of a man with mustache with a not-so-Belgian but so-Armenian name and surname. Actually, it was a memory board dedicated to an alumnus of the university, famous Armenian poet and victim of the Armenian Genocide Daniel Varouzhan, with an excerpt from his poem. Having studied at school named after this great poet and man and scrupulously learned his biography, I couldn’t but pay my homage to the great contribution he made in Armenian literature and history overall. Only then, after traversing the Ghent streets and accomplishing my modest “mission”, I could leave for Brussels (where my hotel reservation was) ticking all the MUSTs for me (not the ones mentioned in travel guides) 🙂

Mission completed: Daniel Varouzhan memory board found

Mission completed: Daniel Varouzhan memory board found

Goodbye Ghent- Florence of the North. Next station is – Brussels– New York of Europe.

P.S.  I highlighted my recommendations or must-dos with bold. Just explore the city on foot and explore other hidden gems by yourself -this is the best tip from me:)