Monday, June 29

Ways to create oxytocin #1 and #2

What is oxytocin you may ask? A quick search on wikipedia says it is a "mammalian hormone that also acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain." So what is so special about this neurotransmitter that we want to increase its production?

John Gray, the same guy who wrote the Mars & Venus series shared in his latest book - Why Mars and Venus collide- that Oxytocin is a feel-good hormone from Venus. It is also the love and bonding hormone. One way to deal with stress for women is that they need to learn how to increase or create oxytocin for themselves. It is not enough that she depends on the partner to do the job. The book gave a long list of what she can do to help herself. Help was also provided to her partner who may be clueless.

Here I would like to share 2 tips.

#1 Buy flowers for yourself. The choosing process stimulates production of oxytocin.
Additional tip: If it makes you feel happier to get it from your other half, there's no rule that say you cannot buy on his behalf.

#2 Place the vase in strategic place where you can admire the flowers easily. Not only do they brighten up the room, it makes me happy just to see them.

The colours are so gorgeous. Ahh...

Saturday, June 27

What I Know For Sure

Change is the only constant as they say. Things change all the time and it is not always easy to deal with them. Is there anything that we can hold on to in the midst of storms and rain?

After reading The Top 20 Things Oprah Knows for Sure I was inspired to think about my own list.

1. There is a Higher Power much greater than I.
2. Life is full of surprises.
3. No one is too rich to receive and too poor to give.
4. This too shall pass.
5. The desert spares nobody. Dark nights eventually find us all.
6. Marriage is like a plant and it requires constant work and nurturing.
7. Friends especially girlfriends are angels in disguise.
8. Where there is a will, there's a way.
9. Not all battles are worth fighting.
10. Human being is adaptable, resilient and stronger than he/she thinks.
11. Change begins with me.
12. The best is yet to be.
13. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.
14. Every day brings a chance to start over.
15. Being a mother is the hardest job on earth.
16. You reap what you sow.
17. There is a time and place for everything.
18. Seek first the Kingdom of God and all the rest will fall in line.
19. Charity begins at home
20. The attitude of gratitude can help you get through tough times.

Sunday, June 21

The one on suffering

I read the article on suffering by a Catholic priest, Father Ronald Rolheiser and it struck a chord. I found it comforting and meaningful and it is something that I would like to keep in mind. I hope you draw strength from it too. Here are some excerpts:

"Lost is a place too...being down-and-out, alone, lost, struggling for meaning, and looking bad, is also a valid place to be."

I've always considered myself independent and capable of handling my life. Naturally I don't like the feeling of being lost. It gives me lots of anxiety and frustration. I think most people feel the same way. This is a nice reminder that being lost is a valid place to be and as long as I recognise this, it will help me ride through my own insecurities and anxieties. We often forget that suffering is the flip side of joy.

"..this is a good place to be, a biblical and mystical place. that doesn't make it less painful or humiliating. It just gives you the consolation of knowing that you're in a valid place, a necessary one, and that everyone before you, spent some time there and everyone, including all those people who seem to be forever on top of the world, will spend some time there too. The desert spares nobody. Dark nights eventually find us all."

"knowing this doesn't make it easier to accept feeling lost and on the outside, especially in a world in which being successful is everything. That is why it's hard to ever admit, even to our closest friends, that we're struggling, tasting more ashes than glory."

"...inside that place, our souls are being shaped in ways we cannot understand but in ways that will stretch and widen them for a deeper love and happiness in the future.

"Beauty is ultimately more about the size of our hearts, about how much they can empathise, and about how widely and unselfishly they can embrace. To that end, the desert heat of loneliness is helpful in softening the heart, enough at least to let it be painfully stretched. That happens more easily when we're lost, feeling like unanimity-minus-one, unsure of ourselves, empty of consolation, aching in frustration, and running a psychic temperature. Not pleasant but it's a place too.

Friday, June 19

Wednesday, June 17

Who am I?

Often time when I read a blog, I learn bits and pieces about the writers through the content and the style. Those writers whom I feel a connection with, I often wonder about their backgrounds. Guess, I'm just curious like that. I decided to offer a little glimpse into who I am. Just so you know I am pretty harmless although I do talk to myself aloud once in a while ;)

1. I am a child a God. Baptized as a Roman Catholic and proud to be one.
2. I am happily married to a wonderful man.
3. I was born in Sarawak, Malaysia.
4. I came to Singapore to pursue my studies at age 18.
5. I have lived in Singapore since.
6. I live in the United States of America (North California) currently.
7. I was diagnosed with Moya Moya Disease at age 28.
8. I went through 2 brain bypasses in July and September 07 respectively.
9. I suffered several mini strokes and had a major one which led me to have Homonymous Hemianopia
10. I studied Psychology as my major in undergraduate. I love Psychology.
11. I worked as a Psychologist for 3 years.
12. I pursued my interest in addiction work and became a certified Substance Abuse counsellor.
13. I am taking a break from work to enjoy my new life in the States.
14. I enjoy learning new things, going to new places and meeting like-minded people.
15. I tend to be serious.
16. I am a typical Piscean
17. I love being in the nature.
18. I love to cook.
19. I enjoy walks.
20. I believe in friendship and girlfriends rock!
21. I learn that human beings are more resilient than they imagine.
22. I indulge in introspection.
23. I love to travel to new places.
24. I enjoy taking photographs.
25. I am a keen learner and a good student.
26. I aspire to be a good wife and mother.
27. I hope to realize my full potential.
28. I enjoy imparting knowledge.
29. I am an achiever and I am goal-driven.
30. I am a survivor.

Thursday, June 11

How to...

uplift your (occasional) low mood?

Everyone has those days before. You wake up feeling a little out of sort and can't quite pinpoint what exactly make you feel so "weird". The worst thing is you engage in pep talk and you feel worse. What should you do next?

I discover that sometimes it is more useful to switch from a thinking mode to other medium when you are stuck. For example from thoughts (word) to images or audio. I used to subscribe to Webshots where I can download gorgeous wallpapers. After a difficult session at work, i found comfort in looking at the pictures. Somehow they took my mind off the situation that i was in and my mood improved. This tip actually came from a friend. She said that we must store "wallpapers" in our mind of beautiful places or pictures so that we can pull them out and remember those moments when we feel down.

I have several wallpapers that I like to extract whenever i feel a little down. Here is one of my wallpapers that usually does the work.

This picture was taken at Railay beach in Krabi, Thailand. We saw this beautiful sunset after a wonderful afternoon of rock climbing. I was feeling high from completing 3 climbs (first time ever) and was mighty pleased. As an icing on the cake, we were treated to this gorgeous gorgeous sight as we return to the beach to wait for the boat to take us to Ao Nang. Seated on the mat with a large backpack was our instructor who was really helpful and patient. I remember sitting on that mat admiring the beauty, wishing time would freeze. It was awesome.

As i recall this story now, the memory is so vivid. My heart rate slows down and I feel a lot calmer and at peace. I feel like I have been transported back to Railay.

This is an example of Imagery Relaxation

Monday, June 8

Blindsided by a Diaper: Over 30 Men and Women Reveal How Parenthood Changes a Relationship. Edited by Dana Bedford Hilmer

Main reason I picked up this book is the attractive title. When I found out that it is a collection of essays written by writers who are parents themselves I was even more enthralled. It is my personal belief that there is much to learn from the experiences of others; people who have been there and done that. The added bonus is they are written by established writers. As such, other than benefiting from their experiences, I get to enjoy their wonderful writing styles.

Essentially the authors shared their experiences in dealing with the birth of a child and how they were blindsided by all the changes, how they cope and find the equilibrium again. It is definitely insightful and enlightening as stuff like these can't be easily found in the Parenting sections in a bookstore. This is an attempt to summarize and consolidate my key thoughts after reading the book.

It is a given that life will NEVER be the same once a baby enters into the picture. While it is necessary and advisable to prepare for the arrival, accept that the preparation can never be 100%. No one truly knows if one will ever be ready for the massive responsibilities and that is not the point. What is of more importance is the willingness to accept that it is a journey with its ups and downs, joy and sorrows; that you won't be great at this parenting business right away (except for a blessed few). That with love, patience and perseverance, you will reap the fruit of your labour and see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Here are some of the major changes:

1. Expect severe, relationship-altering sleep deprivation after the birth of a child.
Parents just have to accept that this is the reality. There is no point in being resentful. It is a stage which will pass sooner or later.

2. 2 become 3.
We have to bid goodbye to coupledom and accept that the adorable and sometimes terrorizing little bundle is going to be part of the new life forever.
"We were never going back to the way we were before. We were forever altered by the startled awareness that the two of us have become three and that part of hearts were forever going to belong to the child."

3. Know that this baby totally depends on you for his/her basic needs and these needs evolve all the time. You sign away the carefreeness forever, as parents never stop worrying about their child.

4. Your priority and lifestyle will change. Embrace it.
Awareness is always the first step in any journey. The next thing is to learn from these parents how they cope with all the changes and enjoy parenthood with its intrinsic bliss and pain. Marriage is often tested when the little one arrives and conscious efforts have to be made to prevent breakdown from happening.

a. Accept and embrace the change. Live in the moment and avoid reminiscing the carefree past.
..Instead of trying to claw our way back to a couplehood that no longer existed, we totally surrender to our new existence. We adapted. Perhaps this and this alone is the key to survival- not to mention happiness – in marriage and in life: to embrace the change inevitably wrought by dramatic event, to recognize that looking back is not only pointless but destructive. What doesn't bend breaks.

b. Know what to expect.
For example, baby will be in phases; it has nothing to do with how good or bad the parent is. Preference for one parent is a normal stage.

c. Just keep going. It shall pass. Whatever it may be- the colicky moments, sleeplessness, the never ending demands. Just keep going.

d. Parenting is demanding. Period.
Know when to surrender and not fight for control. As one of the writers wrote,"there is nothing else I can do." I believe the Serenity prayer comes in handy here.

e. It is important to figure out how to balance responsibilities between couple.
It won't always be equal but it should be equally acceptable. Yes, your marriage will be tested and there are 2 primary factors (according to the book) to determine whether a marriage will improve or worsen after a baby has arrived.
a) Husband's ability to put his own needs aside and support his wife in her new all-encompassing role
b) Wife's ability to forget about baby now and again and pay attention to the man.

f. Communicate.
Make effort to do it. One writer shared about her 3 AM marriage where she and her husband bond and rediscover each other at that time daily.
“here we are just two people rediscovering each other in the dark. It is in these hours that I remember all the reasons why I chose my husband, why I will never leave his side and how he makes my life complete.”
Another one said, "A marriage, like a house will last a lifetime with proper care. Without it, it fails with alarming speed. Words are the foundation of our relationship. When we don't make time to talk, the foundation cracks and alienation fills the void."

g. Honour your vows.
"Think of your commitment to your spouse as permanent as your commitment to your child. Take a long view of your relationship so you don't take slights personally. And of course to schedule play dates...I learn the importance of appearing good natured, being able to discuss irritating behaviour, rather than criticize character, to attempt to understand the source of brattiness, rather than react to it.”

h. Know and claim your prize.
Most of the parents share of their prize in parenting. What they have gained, how they have become better and stronger person as a result of the little one. This is the part that I find most encouraging and that I will cling to and claim should I become a parent one day.

"Parenthood, like any intense experience is a crucible. It changes you, certainly but it also shows you what you were made from in the first place."

"I am now different, but not less. I discovered a fuller, more enriched version of myself. In labor I was introduced to a woman who was stronger and more determined than the girl I knew. In motherhood, I found more patience, more compassion, more intuitive power than I knew I had."

"But for each of those dark moments, there were a hundred more where we were overcome by pure bliss. ..this tiny everyday miracle; each movement she made, each sigh she issued, mesmerized us. Every time I looked at her, my heart felt bigger. Why didn't anyone tell us about that?”

I appreciate that each parent's journey will be different. It seems to me that the joy and reward seems to be the same. I have always believed that parenthood is a divine calling. Not everyone has the opportunity to walk through that path and for those who have the blessings, do cherish and embrace it.

Friday, June 5

101 things..

i wish i knew when I got Linda and Charlie Bloom.

This is a great book for couples who are looking to improve and strengthen their married life. Often we hear that marriage is hard work and it is an ongoing challenge to keep the marriage alive. Sometimes the process can be so overwhelming that we choose the easier way out. Sometimes we commit the mistakes simply because we do not know better. Nevertheless when we have the willingness and openness to learn and grow from the relationship, there will be tons of opportunities presented to us. Just as it is painful when the plants are being pruned, be prepared that the process will be uncomfortable. Focus on the rewards you will enjoy when you persevere.

The authors take turns in sharing their experiences and lessons they have learned in their own marriages as well as those who have sought their help. What I like about the book is how it is written in a format where you could bite as much or as little as you want each time. Each of the 101 things is covered in 2-3 pages. You will be surprise how substantial each bite is when you start to chew and mull over it.

1. Great relationships don't just happen; they are created.
2. Vulnerability is disarming.
3. If your job gets your best energy your marriage will wither.
4. One of the greatest gifts you can give your partner is your own happiness.
5. There's difference between judging and being judgmental.
6. It's possible to hate and love someone at the same time.
7. When you complain about your partner to your friends, remember that their feedback is based upon distorted information.
8. The only rules in a marriage are those to which you both choose to agree.
9. Commitment isn't a prison; it's a means to greater freedom.
10. It isn't conflict that destroys marriages; it's the cold, smoldering resentment that is bred by withholding.
11. If you choose monogamy, keep your agreement.
12. It's not what you've got; it's what you do with it.
13. Even good marriages have recurring seasons, and there can be some hard winters.
14. Your primary relationship is with your partner, not your children.
15. If you think you're too good for your partner, think again.
16. Growing up in a happy family doesn't ensure a good marriage, and growing up in an unhappy family doesn't preclude having one.
17. It's never too late to repair damaged trust.
18. Secrets are lies.
19. Sex can improve wtih age.
20. If you're keeping pace with the people around you, you're probably moving too fast.
21. If you can't be happy without your partner, you won't be happy together.
22. Marriage is like yoga.
23. The prince isn't going to come.
24. Getting help when you are unable to work things out isn't a sign of weakness; it's a sign of intelligence.
25. One person, no matter how much he loves you, cannot meet all your emotional needs.
26. Love isn't always enough to sustain a marriage.
27. True intimacy can exist only between equals.
28. The real issue is usually not the one you're arguing about.
29. Love isn't just a feeling; it's action that shows our caring.
30. Expectations set us up for resentment.
31. Arguments can't be avoided, but destructive ones can.
32. One of the greatest gifts we can give to our partner is our focused attention.
33. Even people with great marriages sometimes wonder if they might have married the wrong person.
34. Your partner cannot rescue you from unhappiness, but he/she can help you to rescue yourself.
35. The cost of a lie is far greater than any advantage you gain from speaking it.
36. Even the best marriages have irreconcilable differences.
37. Your opinion is not the truth.
38. Vacations are necessities, not luxuries.
39. Truth takes years to establish and moments to destroy.
40. Ultimatums and threats do more harm than good.
41. Guilt-tripping won't get you what you really want.
42. Give what you want to receive.
43. Don't neglect your friends just because you've acquired a spouse.
44. If you think, "You're not the person I married," you're probably right.
45. Resisting the temptation to prove your point will win you a lot of points.
46. What you judge in your partner is a reflection of what you judge in yourself.
47. Your partner is your teacher and your student.
48. Commitment is not a one time event; it's an ongoing process.
49. Generosity of spirit is the foundation of great relationships.
50. If your partner is being defensive, you may be giving him/her reasons to be.
51. Marriage isn't 50/50; its 100/100.
52. Trust can be rebuilt even after painful betrayal but it may require hard work.
53. You can pay now or later, but the later you pay the more penalties and interest you accrue.
54. The cheap thrill you get from putting down your partner isn't so cheap.
55. Marriage requires sacrifice but what you stand to gain is infinitely greater than what you give up.
56. Good sex doesn't necessarily make a marriage great but it sure helps.
57. Forgiveness isn't a one-time event, it's a process.
58. Even the tiniest spark can reignite the fire of love.
59. If you find out what you partner wants and help him/her get it, you'll both be happier.
60. Marriage alone does not make you a better person but accepting its challenges does.
61. Creating a great marriage generally takes more time and effort than it seems it should.
62. Creating a marriage is like launching a rocket; once it clears the pull of gravity it takes much less energy to sustain the flight.
63. Being attracted to someone else doesn't diminish the quality of your marriage; acting on that attraction does.
64. A successful marriage has more to do with how you deal with your current reality than what you experienced in the past.
65. In order for it to thrive, love requires separateness as well as togetherness.
66. We all have a terminal diagnosis.
67. Don't keep feelings of gratitude to yourself.
68. Knowing where your lines are and being willing to draw them serves your partner and yourself.
69. You don't have to be able to love well to get married; the training occurs on the job.
70. Privacy won't hurt your marriage but secrecy will.
71. Possessiveness and jealousy are born out of fear, not love.
72. Facing your fears build strength; avoiding them diminishes it.
73. Authenticity is contagious and habit-forming.
74. Don't say anything about your partner that you're not willing to say to them.
75. Your greatest weakness can become your greatest strength.
76. Of all the benefits of marriage, the greatest is the possibility of using this relationship to become a more loving person.
77. If your partner thinks something is important, it is!
78. Marriages never outgrow the need for romance.
79. The sparkle of new relationship is always temporary.
80. There is violence in silence when it's used as weapon.
81. There's a difference between sex and intimacy.
82. It's better to focus on what you can do to make things right rather than on what your partner did to make things wrong.
83. The fire of infatuation has to cool before mature love can develop.
84. Nothing deadens sexual desire faster than unresolved differences.
85. The biggest risk is in not risking.
86. If you think marriage counseling is too expensive try divorce.
87. Forgiveness is its own reward.
88. Revenge is its own punishment.
89. When two hearts are connected, the biggest problems become workable; when they are not the smallest difficulties seem insurmountable.
90. Constructive criticism generally isn't.
91. The capacity to feel joy grows in proportion to the capacity to experience pain.
92. There is no greater eloquence than silence of real listening.
93. External conflicts are often outer expression of internal ones.
94. One of the greatest questions you can ask your partner is,"How may I best love you?"
95. There's more to be gained by understanding your partner's world than trying to get them to understand yours.
96. A loving marriage can heal old emotional wounds more effectively than the best therapy.
97. Just keep talking.
98. Assumptions are fine as long as you check them out before acting on them.
99. Marriages can stay fresh over time.
100. Intention may not be the only thing but it's the most important thing.
101. The amount of joy and fulfillment available in a loving partnership is considerably more than you can imagine.

Tuesday, June 2

My favourite things

I love the song My Favourite Things from The Sound of Music. It is such a happy and catchy song and it has great tip in there too.
When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When I'm feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don't feel so bad

I decided to name my blog My Favourite Things because I want to share the things that bring joy to me with you. Here is my list and let's see if we share anything in common.

God. Life. Nature. Books. Husband. Family. People. Friends. Girlfriends. Beautiful images. Knowledge. Psychology. Surprises. Beauty. Love. Rainbow. Sunset. Laughter.

These are just part of a long list as you might have guessed.

I love to share and communicate my thoughts with others and I find writing such a great outlet for me to express what I have learned and experienced in life. We don't always have to make mistakes in life (if we can avoid it) and we can often learn from others' mistakes. Isn't that neat? Needless to say there are mistakes that are inevitable and they serve to teach us important lessons in life.

My other love is reading. A large part of this blog will be dedicated in sharing the lessons that I have learned from the books that I have read. Not everyone has the luxury of time to read and this will be my contribution to you. I read and summarize for you and if it strikes a cord in you, I hope that you will pick up that book and have a good read. After all, we may be reading the same book but our interpretations could differ greatly.

I like to think that we are companion on the same journey. The destinations may be different but the goal is similar. Life is not always a bed of roses but with fellow travellers, it makes the journey so much more bearable and delightful.

To conclude this introduction post I like to invite you to have a think of your favourite things and tell me if they make you day a little brighter :)