Saturday, August 3, 2019

Lessons from social media dieting for the past 4 years and counting...

Disclaimer: This post has been three years in the making, marking the 3rd anniversary of my life's event/lesson that triggered me to make this decision or publish this post. (It's also a pleasant reminder that I have completed 8 years in this country today!!) This particular post has been inspired hugely by one handed economist, jalebiuncoiled and last but not the least RR. A huge thanks to all three of them!

I decided to take a break from the social media in the past 4 years or more...

My reasons for doing so might not apply to anyone of you at all. According to one of my most favorite bloggers, a better term for social media is 'alienating deception' and I concur.

My decision is no surprise to a lot of my closest pals and a few family members. I have found that social media in general makes it difficult to understand who is having a conversation, argument, disagreements, debates and so on. Everybody who has access to your information, feels it to be their right to jump in with an opinion, solicited or not. I have seen and heard people complain that they felt disappointed, insulted, heart broken, let down and so on. I have seen people get into discourses, which are very rude and thoughtless. Thoughtless because they forget whatever they put online is forever. What saddens me even more is that I know how all these folks are in their real life, no matter how much they portray to be learned, intellectuals or celebrities online.

To provide a context from my Indian culture, in the Hindu epic Mahabharta, the Yakshya asks Yudhishtra (the eldest pandva) to answer many questions before letting him drink water or take it for his dying siblings.

The Yaksha asked, "Who is truly happy? What is the greatest wonder? What is the path? And what is the news"?
Whereupon Yudhishthira replied, "He who has no debts is truly happy. Day after day countless people die. Yet the living wish to live forever. O Lord, what can be a greater wonder? Argument leads to no certain conclusion, the Srutis (what is heard) are different from one another; there is not even one Rishi, (sage) whose opinion can be accepted by all. The truth about Dharma (religion) and duty is hidden in the cave of our hearts, therefore that alone is the path along which the great have trod. This world full of ignorance is like a pan. The sun is fire, the days and nights are fuel. The months and the seasons constitute the wooden ladle. Time is the cook that is cooking all creatures in that pan (with such aids). This is the news".

Time is currency today. Most people tend to glorify being busy or having no "time" for anything worthwhile. Thanks once again to the social media too. To put things in perspective, FB takes 50 minutes of your time daily and on an average a teens spends 4-9 hours online. How they do it? By "multi-failing". For me its annoying and mind boggling.

For some people, this maelstrom of "information" provides a pleasurable diversion, but it's pure torture to me (and RR). When I was growing up, my adoptee grandparent required that I write letters before I could visit my relatives during vacations to find out if it was alright with them and send thank you notes after the visits. Ever since then, perhaps due to my upbringing, I have always been a stickler for answering nearly every letter, email (for around 30 years now), text and phone call I receive, but others are not of the same mind. This clash of habits leaves me dissatisfied (sometimes annoyed) and them indifferent. (RR and I always joke that we'd have never dated if we were Facebook friends. I am glad to have met him in person first, instead of bharatmatrimony or shadidotcom, (Indian versions of eharmony and matchdotcom and so on)

Many argue that we are only now starting to understand the social impact of continuously browsing without paying attention, I have been seeing some issues already for sometime. Screen-addicts meandering on their bikes or walkways; couples "talking" with one eye on their screens; lunching friends and dining relatives/family members picking up and putting down their phones as their "just a quick look" interruptions overlap. I understand this is because people are constantly distracted by FOMO (fear of missing out), such that they cannot pay attention for more than 30 seconds to a real live conversation before they get fidgety and turn to their urgently beeping devices.

Put differently, we are directly losing time to social media that spins by and indirectly losing time by the distraction of potential social media when we are doing something else (for me, this manifests as "oh no! I need to answer that comment someone made to me or argue/defend my point of view"). Combine these feelings within one person with those of another person, and you get a bad mix of two (or more) people, who cannot be present with each other because each one's distraction increases the distraction of the other.

This article on the "death of the telephone" has an interesting description of how we have gone from talking to each other about casual, intimate or curious things to texting or commenting terse instructions that are often misunderstood but always more distant than their vocal equivalents.

So I'm not just talking about social media but a general problem of people losing contact with their friends as well as strangers as they leave the here and now for a virtual cacophony of casual nothings, missed intentions and empty "likes."

I said something to this effect as RR and I were walking into our local GAP store. A teenager overheard us and said "well, you don't have to participate." "Exactly," I replied, "That's why I have been actually cutting back on that." I have almost stopped tweeting @pallavibhar and have pledged to not comment on Facebook, LinkedIn and insta. My Facebook "friends" complain that they do not know what's going on in my life and why there are not any updates from me in the past. My one word answer, it's all "fake". They argue that it's only my perception. Agreed, I say. However, how can someone be just happy, successful and winning all the time. To me, that is simply not humanly possible that everyone has 'made it', whatever 'made it' is...

On one hand, I can see a real problem for the world if I stop sharing my views on these platforms. On the other, I can't see that my input has made much difference -- especially compared with the rich, interesting and fulfilling conversations I have face to face with friends, or the calls I make or Skype or FaceTime talks with family. Yes, I can send 20-30 tweets or write 10 comments in the same time as I can make one phone call, but the quality of that phone call is certainly higher than the value of social media likes or impressions. Thus, I am hoping that my gain is also yours, as I reduce my contribution to the cacophony.

You want to get in touch? Simply pick up the phone and call or send an email.

As always please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section or at pallavibharatgmaildotcom.

I am still going to be blogging here and on my professional blogs, so you can opt to receive those email updates. If you reply, then we can also have a nice one-to-one discussion :)

I am also available on FB messenger, whatsapp and viber (guilty as charged because of convenience to family and a few very close friends from India)

Please feel free to read this piece by Andrew Sullivan -- the world's most famous blogger -- on how social media nearly killed him and this viral article from NYTimes that cemented my decision even further this year.

This post Lessons from social media dieting for the past 4 years and counting..., first appeared on hugglesbugglesmakesbubbles.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

I am back with Creating Habits That Lead to Happiness

Hello There my beloved friends and readers! 

I am trying to revive my blog after years of silence. Also debating whether to go public or not. Oh well! that post is for another day. Please also pardon the appearance of this blog post as I am just brushing off dust from my blogging skills.

RR recently completed a career accelerator program this summer. He was supplied with a few recommended readings and one of them was author Gretchen Rubin. Since the success of her first bestseller, The Happiness Project, Gretchen has released a handful of other books that touch on happiness, everyday habits and understanding the way your personality and the way you are wired impacts your happiness. In her better than before book she has categorized all of us in four broad tendencies. I am in the upholder category and RR is in the questioner. You can also take the quiz and determine your own by going to her website .


Gretchen also hosts a podcast called Happier, along with her sister Elizabeth. I am yet to hear one of those awesome podcasts where the episodes are short, easy to listen to and often leave one with a little tip or trick that we would try and apply to our lives to try to increase our personal happiness. Gretchen approaches achieving happiness in an easy yet methodical way and gives insight into seemingly small things we can do or implement in our lives that may result in a surprising amount of joy.

Earlier this week, I came across the mention of the Happier podcast (episode 90 if you want to check it out on her website) in one of my favorite blogs. There Gretchen and Elizabeth discussed what Gretchen deems “The Essential Seven,” or seven habits that most impact our happiness.

Gretchen is HUGE into creating good habits and firmly believes that creating positive, lasting habits is essential when it comes to living a happier life. She mentions in her book better than before, “We can use decision-making to choose the habits we want to form, use willpower to get the habit started, then—and this is the best part—we can allow the extraordinary power of habit to take over. At that point, we’re free from the need to decide and the need to use willpower.”
We all know the habits we want  in our lives. Healthy habits, responsible habits, habits that make us feel more connected, valued and successful. Gretchen breaks down habits into seven categories and in Episode 90 of the Happier podcast, she and her sister speak about something they want to change or begin doing related to each of The Essential Seven habits to increase joy in their lives. I found myself thinking about what I wanted to change or focus on in my life after reading about The Essential Seven habits and ended up creating a list in my mind that I thought might make an interesting new blog post.

The Essential Seven

Here are The Essential Seven, taken directly from the Happier podcast notes:
  1. Eat and drink more healthfully (give up sugar, eat more vegetables, drink less alcohol)
  2. Exercise regularly
  3. Save and spend wisely (save regularly, pay down debt, donate to worthy causes, make purchases that contribute to happiness or habits, pay taxes, stay current with expense reports)
  4. Rest, relax, and enjoy (pursue a hobby instead of constantly browsing, enjoy the moment, stop checking notifications, get enough sleep, spend less time in the car more walking, take time for yourself)
  5. Stop procrastinating, make consistent progress (practice an instrument, set aside two hours daily for uninterrupted work, learn a language, maintain a blog, keep a gratitude journal)
  6. Simplify, clear, and organize (make your bed every day, file regularly, put keys away in the same place, recycle, give away unused clothing and household items)
  7. Engage more deeply—with other people, with nature, with yourself, with the world (call family members, do some good every day, volunteer, spend time with friends, observe the holy days, spend time alone in nature)
Below I am breaking down The Essential Seven and sharing a little bit about one tangible thing that I am planning to do to address the habit and hopefully increase happiness.

1. Eat and drink more healthfully: 
My goal: I am planning on being more wary of what fats I put in my body after my most recent annual check up (got cholesterol a tad bit higher than normal)

When Gretchen and Elizabeth discussed this habit, Elizabeth identified nighttime snacking as her biggest health-hindering issue. In her book, Gretchen has also identified the same issue for her. For me, it’s the cooking medium. I know this without a doubt. I was born and raised in India, where one's love is measured by the amount of oil or worse ghee (clarified butter) is put in the food. I struggle with this because I also use it as a way to celebrate, connect (RR and I LOVE planning the weekend Indian snack foods that I can recreate at home and introduce Parth to them), distract (I am guilty of over oiling as a form of procrastination), make myself feel better (my fats consumption definitely goes up when I am feeling more emotional). I have zero desire to completely give up unheatlhy fats (butter and ghee) because I like it and things like poori, samosa, paranthas, bhaturas and so on (various versions of Indian fried breads) make me happy. Baking is also one of the habits that I am trying to get into more and more as it utilizes way less cooking medium than stove top methods I have observed.

Healthy semolina, almond and whole wheat cookies

2. Exercise Regularly:
My goal: Take 20-30 minutes for yoga every day
I feel fortunate to really enjoy Yoga (a habit so embedded in my DNA by my adoptee grandfather that its like breathing for me) and it is already a part of my routine but I know I could always benefit from more stretching and cardio. Whether it be taking myself through some of my poses while Parth naps or simply carving out 10 minutes after my workout to stretch, I know my body (and mind!) are the only tools that I need and they would benefit immensely from a little extra stretching. I am setting an additional 10 minutes as a goal for myself because it feels more achievable and  realistic.

3. Save and spend wisely: 

My goal: Identify a spending tracking app and cook more meat and seafood at home for RR and Parth.

My finance-savvy husband tracks our monthly spending, which is something I personally struggle with. I am glad that he does it because it makes it easy to see when certain categories jump on a month-to-month basis. However, doing it in a haphazard and unorganized way is both tedious and burdening for us. Looking for an app that both he and I can use to track our spending is one of my goals.
Food is one of our biggest areas of spending and the difference in our monthly food expenditures when I take the time to meal plan weekly and cook at home versus when I don’t, is more shocking than I would have anticipated in my past life. Multiple trips to the grocery store add up, especially when you factor in impulse buys or take-out on nights when you feel like you don’t have anything good at home to eat.  It is especially challenging for RR, who is an omnivore and is always excited to introduce Parth to new foods. When I shop with a plan and a list, I spend less, feel more organized through the week and our food waste goes way down. It’s a win-win and a habit that I am actually looking forward to getting into. I am also planning to consult more and more online resources for healthy and tasty recipes for meats and seafoods cooking. 

3.  Rest, relax and enjoy:

My goal: Spend more and more time as a family

RR and Parth

Just look at RR and Parth on the hillock on our most favorite place in NYC. We had so much fun this summer now that Parth is a curios little toddler. Watching them bond is both peaceful and allows me to focus on the beautiful weather and how good it feels to simply rest my body and collect my thoughts while I read one of my favorite blogs (Aguanomics). I know all of the family people must have said it many times before but watching father and son have a blast on an outing and seeing them get the biggest kick out of simple things like sticks, dandelions and squirrels also serves as the perfect reminder for me to enjoy and cherish the little blessings in life. I am planning on more and more such experiences as the weather gets meh here and the days get shorter. 

4. Simplify, clear and organize
My goal (personal): Organize, sort and store Parth’s toys' chest.

This one is haunting me every time I walk across Parth’s toy chest in our living room. I need to carve out some time to sort his toys and organize or donate everything that’s broken, he has lost interest since he is no more a baby and the toys are no longer mocking me from a giant heap in the corner of living room.

My goal (work): Create an ongoing web blog series on my professional blog , brush up my resume/CV and work methodically towards my and my family's better future going forward. Through the professional network,  I feel very fortunate to have worked with a myriad of talented and gifted professionals but since I am just getting back into the grind again, it can feel very overwhelming at times to keep all of my relationships in line. I have worked and interacted with people in a variety of ways (volunteer, full time, part time, project based gigs etc.) and while I have all of my contacts and referees in front of me on my computer every day, once I have completed the day, I forget to get in a touch with them in a timely manner. I need a good organizational system in place for keeping track of what I need to do for upcoming career related moves and who I still need to follow up with a request for a reference.

5. Engage more deeply:

My goal: Write down my gratitude in a list and thank at least one person before bedtime with Parth. 

All too often I will find myself thanking people at the end of the day and my brain feels like a jumbled mess. My mind will wander and I want to get better at being more intentional with my thank you. Since writing is something I love and something that immensely helps me work through my thoughts and feelings, I want to begin writing out my thank you to people too.

Question of the Day

Pick one or two of The Essential Seven habits and tell me about a goal that you would like to create for yourself to help yourself feel happier in that specific area of your life.

As always please feel free to comment below or send me an email message.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Five years and counting...

Potpourri from our garden 
It has been five years:

In all the hustle and bustle of our lives, I completely forgot that it has been five years yesterday, since I started calling the new world my home!

I will remember yesterday, as a bitter sweet day of my life, because of the following reasons:
  1. One of my friends of twenty years ended (terminated in her words) our relationship over a very rude whatsapp message. Thank you social media! (Bitter)
  2.  My boy was prevented from a tragic fall by God's grace (Morbid!)
  3. My boy's first two lower teeth popped out (Sweet for me, not  so much for him!)
I didn't even realize that it has been five years (since I landed on the American soil as an immigrant from India with two suitcases full of my past 30 years of life), until I recalled it in a conversation with one of my close friends over phone today.

Our baby's birth and relationships' lens:

Nature boy
Ever since we became pregnant, and our son came along in 2015, the whole experience has put a crystal clear lens on our eyes to see the world in a very different light. I am sure that many of you, who have kids or underwent a life event of your own, might be able to relate to this. Only those who reached out and continue to inquire about his well being are worthy of keeping around for positivity and well wishes.

RR and I have been constantly evaluating our life and relationship (of over seven years or so that we have been together) and have taken this stern decision to let all the negative people and forces go. No explanations, no long conversations, no continuation of drama. Life is too short to dwell over inconsequential people and events. Like one of my fellow blogger friends wrote recently in one of her blog posts, so what.. its our own life.. we set the rules and we govern our life with our own rights and wrongs!  

It is very shocking to realize that individuals, who appear to be so intellectual, well read, celebrity like and worldly online, could be so violent and passive aggressive in real life. You live and learn, I guess.

Folks reach out to you, only when they need you in some way. For me distances, time zones and coordinates do not matter. One of my friends recently reached out, as she needed someone to confide into someone for her extramarital affair. Another friend reached out, when she needed some advise on her recently ended marriage and next steps. I am no expert. I am just a chump with computer. I try and share my own relevant experience with them. Just lend an ear to them really. They may take it or leave it, it's all up to them. I just try to be courteous, that's all.    

In the end, from this most recent roller coaster of emotions yesterday, I am a strong believer of this saying:

It takes nothing to be courteous to your fellow human beings. Everyone is going through their own struggles in life, it doesn't take a lot to just behave politely. 

Have you ever had a friend, who ended his/her relationship with you in a childish manner? How did you handle that situation to make yourself feel better? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section or at pallavibharatgmaildotcom.