Category: Habits

Mental Habits, Nutriment and Happiness

Mental Habits, Nutriment and Happiness

The Pattern that leads to Depression 

As I see more and more patients, especially the elderly, and especially during this Covid-19 pandemic, I see a pattern.   

This is the pattern – our mental states, whether happy or otherwise, is very dependent on our mental habits that we have cultivated and strengthened over time.  

This is especially so in the elderly because as we grow older, our mental states tend to be dependent on our dominant mental habits. As we start to lose control over some of our physical functions, we seem to also gradually lose control over our ability to direct our mind. Thus, our mental habits become the dominant determinant of our mental states. 

This loss of control over our life is a source of fear for us, and especially so for the elderly. This fear, coupled with the dominant mental habits, become the trigger for anxiety and depression. 

Thus, if we have the mental habit of wanting to control people, circumstances or outcomes, we become fearful in old age as we gradually lose control. If we have the mental habits of focusing on the negative, we become more worrisome over time, and again, this leads to more anxiety and depression. 

Training the Mind 

Another pattern that I notice is this – it becomes increasingly difficult to train the mind as we grow older. This is understandable as we become more and more set in our mental habits, in our ways.  

Therefore, the wise advice of the ancient sages – that the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, and the second-best time to do so is now. The best time to cultivate and train our mind is 20 years ago, but if we have not started, now is the second-best time to do so. 

What kind of mental habits should we cultivate, and how do we do that? 

Well, one of the best mental habits that we can cultivate, that will continue to be beneficial for us now and into the future, is the habit of focusing on the positive. Learn to see the positive in any situation. In fact, if you can see the positive in even the most negative situation, then you have won a prize hard to gain even though you may have lost something else. Therefore, train your mind to see the positive in any situation. 

One effective way of seeing the positive in any situation is to learn gratitude. Gratitude trains our mind to see the good in everything. Open your eyes in the morning and you can be grateful for being alive. Walk into the bathroom and you can be grateful that you are still mobile and strong. Eat your breakfast and be grateful that you have food on the table. Walk outside your house or go to work, and be grateful of the freedom that you still have. Return home at night and be grateful that you have lived another day. There is just so many things you can train your mind to be grateful for.  

Secondly, unlearn the habit of wanting to control people, situations or outcomes. Learn to accept things as they come to you. Be OK with whatever comes along. Just make the best of the situation. Look for your best possible response to the situation that is beneficial to both you and those involved. Let go of your fear or feeling of discomfort at not being able to control the outcome. If the fear or unpleasant feeling persists, be OK with that too. Just learn to watch your fear or discomfort non-judgmentally, and see that they will dissipate with time. They will go away when you don’t feed them with your judgment. On the other hand, if you do feed them with your attention and judgment, they grow stronger and more persistent. This is the wisdom of non-judgmental awareness, and the insight or realization that you will gain. This is also the concept of nutriment is action.  

Too Old to Train the Mind? Try Chanting 

It is often said that “you can’t train an old dog new tricks”. Although not an absolute rule, this observation is generally accurate. It is difficult to train your mind when you are old because you already have a strong set of mental habits. So, start training your mind when you are young. Start now. 

For those who find it difficult to train your mind now, you can try chanting. Chanting, done regularly and diligently, is also a form of mind training. When you chant, you are focusing your mind on something positive or neutral, and therefore not focusing on the negative. The longer you can chant, the better the benefits. So, learn chanting.  

Another method is to keep your mind busy with some kind of work or activity, such as gardening, exercise, walking in the park, playing mahjong with friends. If you have a hobby, then focus on the hobby. Spend more time at your hobby. Any kind of activities that can take your mind away from thinking negatively is a good activity for this purpose. 

Be of Service to Others 

Finally, look for and join societies or clubs that give meaningful services to others. Become a volunteer. Do some charity work. Be of service to others. 

Be a Problem Solver, not a Problem Creator

Be a Problem Solver, not a Problem Creator

This is a very simple, yet effective, principle to follow that leads to success in any area of your life.  

If you are a problem creator at home, you will soon lose your family. If you are a problem creator at work, you will soon lose your job. If you are a problem creator with your friends, you will soon lose your friends. This is a very natural and predictable outcome. 

On the other hand, if you are a problem solver – at home, at work, anywhere – you will be welcome. You will be wanted. You will be needed. That is why there is such a term as a “solution provider”. A solution provider is basically a problem solver. A solution provider provides a solution to your problem. 

Think about it. The supermarket solves your food problem. The doctor solves your health problem. The accountant solves your accounting problem. Even entertainers solve your boredom problem.  

Most of us do not want to be a problem creator, nor do we set out to be one. However, we sometimes create problems unconsciously and unnecessary due to our lack of self-awareness. We constantly react to people and situation automatically, out of habits. Our past experiences condition our reactions. In other words, we continue to live in the past.  

Once, a lady patient came to see me due to stress. On further discussion, her problem started because of a simple phone call from her mother-in-law to her husband late at night. She was totally upset with that late night phone call, and therefore upset with her husband. When I asked her whether she would have reacted in the same way if the caller had been her own mother or sister, instead of her mother-in-law, she was stunned for a while. Then she responded that she would not have reacted in the same way.  

On further examination, the issue was not really the phone call. The real issue was her own relationship with her mother-in-law. She has had a troubled past with her mother-in-law, and from those old experiences had come this conditioned reaction that she was not aware of.  

Often, we are caught in similar situations where we react to people or situations simply out of past conditioning without our conscious awareness. Many of our relationship problems arise in this manner. Thus, if one has a high degree of self-awareness, many problems can be prevented in this way. 

While most of us may not consciously set out to be a problem creator, we need to be aware of those who intentionally set out to create problems, and then pretend to offer you the solution. We see this modus operandi a lot in politicians. Many politicians love to divide and rule. They create or fan racial or religious issues, turning them into big problems, and then offer themselves as the solution provider. 

 Unfortunately, this simple modus operandi is easy to implement and succeed because we ourselves have inner prejudices and biases which we are either not aware of, or not willing to admit and take responsibility for. In this way, we become easy pawns for their manipulations. Thus, we see here how denial can be harmful not just to ourselves, but also to others, and to society at large. Denial can make us an unconscious and unwitting participant to problem creation.  

Reality itself does not create problems.  

The Importance of an Open Mind

The Importance of an Open Mind

Having an open mind is an important requirement or prerequisite for personal transformation.  

This is because the reason we are stuck where we are right now is our rigid and unyielding mind. It is precisely because of this rigid mind that we do not seem to have changed, to have progress, to have moved forward. We are still stuck in our old limiting beliefs, and therefore in our old attitude that has become a hindrance to our own progress.  

With this rigid, unyielding mind, we are blind to opportunities and possibilities that are there for us. We are building walls and closing doors. We imprison ourselves in our own little world, our little cocoon of comfort and apparent safety. We may feel safe, but it is actually a false sense of safety. In the long run, it is detrimental to our psychological and physical health. We are constantly validating our fears. 

When you have an open mind, you start to change all that.  

An open mind allows you to see more possibilities, more opportunities. An open mind allows you to consider other views, other options. They are all there, waiting for you. But you need to have an open mind to see them. With an open mind, the doors disappear. The wall disappears.  

With an open mind, you can start to see and recognize your own limiting beliefs and attitude. And once you are aware of them, you can change them. With a rigid mind, you cannot even see them, let alone recognize and change them.  

Thus, an open mind is an important prerequisite for personal transformation. If you want to change your life, start by having an open mind. 

Making Decisions

Making Decisions

We would all like to believe that we make rational decisions, based on facts and logical thinking. However, the truth may be far from this simple assumption.

There are two ways we make decisions.

The first way is to make decisions based on what we think, and by this, we mean logical thinking. Thinking that is based on facts and reality. Thinking and making conclusions based on logical deductions.

However, we must be aware of the fact that we actually have a lot of irrational thoughts – thoughts that are not logical. Many of our thoughts are simply assumptions and beliefs. They are not evidence based. And we make conclusions and deductions based on these unconfirmed assumptions and beliefs. Not surprising, then, our conclusions are wrong.

To make rational decisions, we therefore need to verify our assumptions and beliefs, checking them with facts and evidence. We also need to make sure that our logical thinking process is valid, thereby the conclusions we come to is accurate and sound.

The second way we make decisions is based on our feelings. This would be considered an irrational way of making decisions, and often inferior to the first way. However, the reality is that many of us do make decisions based on how we feel. Sadly, we are not even aware of this fact when such decisions are made.

Without this awareness, we can be easily manipulated by others. They can easily rouse our emotions through clever and manipulative speeches. Advertisers are very good at this. Politicians too. Think Hitler. Think Trump. You get the idea.

If ever there is a need to make decisions based on emotions, then, always choose love over fear.

Examine your motivations. Are you motivated by greed, lust, hatred, anger, fear? If so, drop them, like you drop a hot iron. However, if you are motivated by love, compassion, kindness, gratitude, then you can choose and act on them.

You are likely to enjoy a better outcome with love.

Whatever act done repeatedly becomes a habit

Whatever act done repeatedly becomes a habit

Whatever act through body, speech and mind that is done repeatedly becomes a habit, and quietly slips below the conscious mind.

Mental habits are useful, but they can also become harmful as circumstances change. What is an appropriate response initially may no longer be appropriate now.

So, re-examine your mental habits.

How to Overcome your Negative Self Talks in 3 Steps

How to Overcome your Negative Self Talks in 3 Steps

Self talks are things we tell ourselves, often in a subconscious way, that we believe to be true. They are not necessary true. In fact, they are often left unexamined, unchallenged and unverified. They are simply assumed to be true. Often, when we have properly examined them, they turn out to be otherwise.

Negative self talks are things we tell ourselves that negatively impact our lives. A common example is “I am not good enough”. Another one is “I am a bad person”. Negative self talks such as these are detrimental to our well being. They are harmful to our self esteem as well as to our physical health.

Everyone has negative self talks. We differ only in the degree or frequency of negative self talks. The good news is that we can change and reduce this unbeneficial mental habit.

1. Learn to be aware of your thoughts

Most people are not very aware of their own thoughts. By this, I do not mean that they do not know their thoughts entirely. We are all aware of our conscious talks. However, there is another layer of talks further below this conscious level that many are not very aware of. Very often, our self talks are found in this deeper level.

The way to become more aware of these self talks is by being more mindful. This would require a purposeful act of paying attention to our thoughts as they arise. In the beginning, this may feel awkward and foreign to our habits. With repeated practice, we can become better at paying attention to our own thoughts.

2. Pick out the negative self talks

Once we are good at noticing our thoughts, we can then pick out those negative self talks that often prevent us from becoming our best. For now, leave the positive self talks alone.

3. Challenge the negative self talks

Very often, negative self talks are found to be untrue when they are properly and honestly examined and challenged. They are often simply excuses we made up so that we can continue to stay “safe” in our comfort zones. Recognize that these are mental barriers that we ourselves have unconsciously erected, and they prevent us from facing up to our fears as well as stop us from overcoming our self-imposed limitations.

To challenge your negative self talks, ask yourself:

1. “Is it true?”
2. Can you be absolutely sure that it is true?
3. How would you feel if it were not true?

The goal is to challenge the truth of your own thoughts. Our natural habit is to resist this, and we can recognize this resistance by noticing the discomfort and anxiety that arise. Allow the anxiety to be. There is no need to act on the anxiety. Simply watch it arising, and with time, it will pass, just as all feelings do.

The more you practice, the easier it becomes to simply watch the resistance arising and passing away. Eventually, the habit of resisting reduces. We become more discerning in our thoughts. We may even be able to consciously replace a negative thought with a positive one.

This is true progress in changing a negative mental habit.

Let Go of these 5 common Mental Habits and Transform Your Life

Let Go of these 5 common Mental Habits and Transform Your Life

We all have both good and bad mental habits. Mental habits are those habits that run almost imperceptibly in our mental background. They are our tendencies to think and do things in a certain way. When we have good mental habits, they help us to get what we want in life. On the other hand, when we have bad mental habits, they hinder us from getting what we want out of life.

Mental habits are not set in stones. They can be changed. By letting go or changing our bad mental habits, we can change our lives for the better. Sometimes, simply letting go of one bad mental habit can completely transform our lives.

Here are five negative mental habits we should let go to improve ourselves.

1. Seeking Approval

The root reason why we seek approval from others is because we seek acceptance. And why do we seek acceptance from others? Because we have very little self esteem. We do not regard ourselves as good enough. We think our thoughts, values and ideas are inferior to others.

This tends to happen when we compare ourselves with others, and find ourselves lacking in certain things or areas which we regard as important.

It is important to realize that underneath all the external facade, we are all of the same essence. We are no lesser than anyone else. If you think that you are lesser, it is only because you have the habit of thinking so. You have convinced yourself, through your own negative self talks, that you are lesser than others. The reality is that you are not.

You need to recognize this truth so that you can work ourselves out of the negative mental habit of belittling your own worth.

2. Belittling or Criticizing Others

If you have the tendency to belittle or criticize others, you should realize that this is a symptom of your own inner insecurity. People with good self esteem do not often find it necessary to belittle or criticize others. Only those with poor self esteem do that as a way to boost their own ego, whether they consciously know it or not.

This is not the same as pointing out someone’s bad habits or behaviors in a critical but impersonal way where the focus is on the negative acts (bad habits or behaviors) and not on the person doing them.

3. Denials

If you have the habit of denying your own faults, then it is a reflection of your fear. What exactly are you afraid of? Each time you deny, you should make it a habit to find the answer to that question. Most of the time, you will be pleasantly surprise to find out that your fears are unfounded.

Often, we deny our faults thinking that others will not accept us when they know that we are imperfect. Just as often, we will find out that this belief is not true when we truly challenge it.

One big side effect of denial is that we refuse to take full responsibility for our thoughts, words and actions. When we do that, we often end up apportioning the blame to others.

4. Comparing Self with Others

Having a habit of frequently comparing ourselves with others is another symptom of a low self esteem and the need to seek acceptance.

We need to realize that we are not meant to live our lives like a carbon copy of others. We are each unique individuals who have different dreams and goals, and therefore there is no need to compare.

However, you can use other people’s success as a guide and motivation for your own goals in life.

5. Negative Self Talks

All of us have negative self talks. That is to say that all of us have doubts about our own self worth at times. This is normal as we are not perfect beings. The important thing is to realize that we have these negative self talks, and we should make the effort to cut down the frequency of these negative self talks. To do that, we need to bring these negative self talks to our conscious awareness. We need to learn to be mindful of their arising.

When we are able to cut down on our negative self talks, we will begin to feel more self worth and better self esteem.

When we are able to let go of these negative mental habits, we will begin to become a happier and more successful person.

Why You Should Always Buy the Best

Why You Should Always Buy the Best

One of the single, biggest mistakes people make in their quest for wealth is buying things because they’re cheap rather than buying things because they’re the best.

Surrounding yourself with cheap things is not in any way conducive to developing and maintaining the mental attitude that’s absolutely necessary for you to become wealthy.

In an article titled “The Constructive Attitude”, the fifth article in his “Lessons in Constructive Science” series, Wallace D. Wattles, best known for his classic masterpiece “The Science of Getting Rich”, said this on the subject:

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