Sugar Coated

I caught this one on Netflix. I haven’t been able to catch documentaries for a long time now, especially after K. So I decided to indulge in something meaningful this time. Here are some takeaways…

Sugar is not empty calories, it is toxic calories. The increased consumption of sugar by humans have resulted in the non-communicable diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and so on, also called lifestyle diseases. Not all calories are made equal, and hence metabolized equally by our body. When our body has a overload of sugar, like when we eat dessert, the fructose needs to be processed by our liver which then feels overwhelmed and converts the sugar to fat thus contributing to weight gain.

Sugar is dangerous when consumed beyond a limit. That limit is set by World Health Organization to 5% for children and for adults 10% of daily total energy intake. That comes to 25g of sugar at 5%. Now, approximately 4.2g is equal to 1 teaspoon. So, that makes it 6 teaspoon of free sugar per person a day.

Sugar is hidden in MOST of the packaged foods. Even bread contains sugar- my package says it is less than 1 g per slice not 0g. I consider myself to follow a normally healthy lifestyle. I cook all my meals and use ketchup, syrups, sauce in moderation. So, how did my sugar intake add up for today?

  • Organic tomato Ketchup 4g in 1 tblsp
  • Coffee 12 g
  • Brownie 24g
  • Honey as I have cold : 1 tbsp 16g
  • Total = 56g =  14 tsp.

Whoa… that is more than twice the recommendation!! Add to this any snack for evening time that is just not under my control yet.

Dry fruits need a special mention. When they package dry fruit, seems they dip it in sugar syrup and then package to increase the weight to maximize the profit. So it is not ordinary dried fruit but sweetened dry fruit. Sugar is so rampant in packaging because it is cheap for it’s weight and makes the food palatable. Especially the low fat version where the food tastes so bad they add sugar to make it tasty.

“No Added Sugar” on the front of the cover does not mean it contains no sugar. Sugar in ingredients list also comes in so many different names. We need to read the nutrition information at the back for the actual grams of sugar per serving. This is especially true for fruit juice, fruit jelly, fruit snacks that are for kids. While it is OK to indulge in them on occasion, regular eating damages dental and over all health.

Once our tongue gets used to a specific quantity of sugar or salt or spice, that taste does not stand out. To make it sweeter, we tend to increase the quantity of sugar automatically or go for larger quantities to get to the same experience. This works in favor of food industry as the consumer tends to finish up the product quickly and return for more.

Sugar through whole fruits, whole foods is fine. The fiber in whole foods fills us up quickly and we don’t consume dangerous quantities plus we get to have the nutrients that our body needs for daily function and repair.

So the bottom line is, we need to be more watchful of the limit on sugar intake per day. This limit, though it looks adequate, can easily be surpassed by the sugar we consume without notice though packaged foods.

 

 

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The Island

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Lets go to this place
that is not too far, yet much forgotten;
This island for one
where other than you, there is none.

You are no mother or father
nor daughter, sister, uncle or a son;
Except for your one single self
You are in no other relation.

You have nothing to possess
nothing to show off to the world.
Everything there is, everything you need
just to be used and left behind.

No big house, no posh car, no shiny shoes
no branded clothes, no accessories either.
Not even banks to tally your net worth;
All in abundance, but nothing your own.

Not even a mirror
to admire your face or features
Nobody with whom you have the need to compare
You are the one and only there,
not even an audience to cheer!

Stripping off all these distractions,
you are left with your core – 
the values, principles and meaning, 
things that matter to you the most!

This person, in this stillness
when have you met him or her?
Gender too, does it really matter?
How friendly is he to you and you to him?

Other’s thoughts, words and actions fade into a low hum;
what you think of others too is no more than tides on the distant shore.
Now just within you, with you and by yourself,
soak in every drop of this magnificient silence!

Valuing this self and treating him with kindness
and planning a frequent little retreat together 
will keep you strong and grounded on shifting sands
and when riding the tide of time!

But I’m Supposed To…

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The other day I was having a conversation with my daughter and she was feeling bad that she forgot to do something related to her school. I tried to cheer her up and she kept saying “Ya, but I’m supposed to have done that.” She was into this self blaming phase for a little while which got me thinking about how much I as a woman get into this. How many of such instances have occurred in my life that left me questioning myself. One of the things we women do is ruminating, because of our biological brain build. We stick to a past shortcoming and make a mountain out of nothing. We are equipped with this capability to work through the problem and find a long term solution but most of the time, we just stick to the working through the problem part and never get to the solution and move on. This keeps us at a disadvantage in a professional race when we compete with men who think differently. Failure for them is an instance that they shrug off quickly. Their emotional part shuts down and quickly move to solution finding mode. If we have to give our girls and ourselves more confidence, we need to become aware of this and work on it.

Coming to the actual title of this post, “I’m supposed to”, this is a never ending list of expectations, some stated and some understated, that hangs in front of our eyes every time, everywhere from our parents, teachers, friends, relations, society as a whole and then from ourselves. Of course, one can not satisfy everyone every time, and this is when priorities come into play. If we are in touch with our self, we will be in a better position to prioritize what we want to do in life at that moment and life will be by choice, instead of trying to live a life to be worthy in eyes of others. As a daughter, I’m supposed to be obedient, helpful and understanding. As a student, I’m supposed to pay attention at class, get good grades. As a professional, I’m supposed to be reliable at work and constantly improve my capabilities. As a mother, I’m supposed to give the best nourishment and care to my baby. As a parent, I’m supposed to instill good values and conduct in their character. As a sister, as a wife, as a friend, as a xx relative… as a woman in a society… it goes on. Many times, there will be a clash and what you pick will have to be in line with your own values. This will give a feeling of deep contentment even if it is not viewed favorably by others involved.

As a stay at home mom, I was told that I’m wasting all my education and experience by sitting at home. I’m supposed to be at work earning money, respect and advancing my career. First, value of education is not the money you get by working a job that you get based on your education. Learning is life long and does not matter what you learn. As long as you add something new that expands your mind, it is enriching. In fact, after quitting, I could learn about religion, spirituality, science, parenting, cooking, health, people dynamics, self help and it felt like I hit a highway from an narrow inroad suddenly. Second, I stayed with my baby for not just baby’s need but my own need. I wanted to be with my kids during their foundation years, which enriches me deeply. If someone wants to work and finds fulfillment in that, then definitely they should go for it. Again, the choice should be of the person and not other’s around. That is true empowerment. True, women before us fought to get to where we are in terms of equal rights to work. But I think taking a break when a woman needs is an organic extension to this and not a setback to this fight. I mean, 3 months maternity leave, really? I dream of a way better situation for our daughters. Third, I have used my education and experience in serving what I am doing currently. When we get the knowledge, we should be able to apply it to our life situation so that it helps us do our job better, more efficiently. That, I think, is the purpose of education. It is not just what you do that decides your capability, but how you do whatever you are aiming for. If I go to work when I am not ready and give a half-baked result, that is not OK. But if I succeed in giving my 100% to my nurturing during the break, then that still is a time well spent. Fourth, there is no “supposed to”. Other’s expectations are other’s problems. I should be more in tune with my needs. As women, we push ourselves behind easily. We are the “giving” type, even when no one is asking for it! We need to learn to “take” control of our lives.

Finally, our heroes in epics, Rama was a prince. He was “supposed to” rule Ayodhya but Ramayan was not about his ruling but the 14 years spent in jungle. Pandavas were so capable and they were “supposed to” rule for the people’s good. But their story was that of the struggles they faced before they could establish that rule. Siddhartha was supposed to be a Emperor. But he became Emperor of hearts. There is no real “supposed to”. It is time to write our own stories, take our own decisions and give our heart and soul to what we do and make this world a little better one day at a time.

Reference:

Ruminating from The Confidence Code

Anatomy of Prayer – Part 2

This is a multi part series, where we discuss the different steps in Shodashopachara Pooja which I learnt in a religious class in a nearby temple. We did not go into the specifics of exact rituals and Vedic methods, instead we dealt with the more abstract meaning and thought process as a mental exercise and how we can make use of it in our modern lifestyle.

In part 1 we lighted the lamp. The next step in is Aachamanam, which means purification with water. In Vedas, water is considered an important element. This could be because of how water responds to positive thoughts and emotions. At the end of a yagna, I have seen priests sprinkling this water all around the house for spreading the positive effect.

In Achamanam, we narrate 24 names of Vishnu and touch various sense organs after sipping water. Since we are considering Prayer as mental exercise, we will ignore the physical aspects for this article.

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My Guru said, in Hinduism, we have so many Gods and then we have so many names for each of these Gods. It is like we have so many pet names for pampered kids in our family. The more the pampering, the more the number of pet names. We call and pamper the child with all these names when we are in a nice mood. Also, these names form a specific characteristic or role or activity of that God form. For Example, Krishna means dark skinned, Keshav means curly haired, Govind means cowherd and so on. He said, we don’t practice noticing and saying nice things to people in our daily life these days. We just take so much for granted. To live consciously means to notice these tiny aspects of life. It is increasing the quality of our life’s moments. So we have the practice of praising God, an invisible entity. He said, lets describe and pamper Him or Her and then lets take it further to our own family and outer circles slowly.

This is so true. I wonder how many times I have failed to notice and register the beautiful features of my kids, of my spouse, of even my own self, the little acts of affection and love we give and get, in the daily business of life! Being mindful makes us conscious of all the love we have for others and this love overflows in our actions and words. When this happens, our relationships get stronger, our emotions are in the right state and overall, life seems wonderful and fulfilling.

Now, to the ritual:

Om Keshavaya Svaha
Om Narayanaya Svaha
Om Madhavaya Svaha
Om Govindhaya Svaha
Om Vishnave Svaha
Om Madhusoodhanaya Svaha
Om Trivikramaya Svaha
Om Vamanaya Svaha
Om Shridharaya Svaha
Om Hrishikeshaya Svaha
Om Padmanabhaya Svaha
Om Damodharaya Svaha
Om Shankarshanaya Svaha
Om Vasudhevaya Svaha
Om Pradhyumnaya Svaha
Om Anirudhaya Svaha
Om Purushothamaya Svaha
Om Adokshajaya Svaha
Om Narasimhaya Svaha
Om Achutaya Svaha
Om Janardhanaya Svaha
Om Upendraya Svaha
Om Hariye Svaha
Om Shri Krishnaya Svaha

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The third step is Pranayama. Pranayama is breathing practice. We use Gayathri mantra for this step. Gayathri is considered a very powerful mantra in creation of positive energies for the person saying and the one hearing it.

 

Om pranavasya
para brahma rishihi
paramathma devatha
devi gayathri chchandhaha
pranayama viniyogaha

Om boohu
om bhuvah
om suvah
om mahah
om janah
om tapah
om sathyam

Om tat savithur varenyam
bhargo dhevasya dheemahi
dhiyo yonah prachodayaath

om apo jyothi raso amrtam brahma bhoor bhuva suvar om

Meaning:

According to Vedas, one progresses through the seven planes of existence Bhooh, bhuva, suvah, mahah, janah, tapah and sathyam by their spiritual practice to achieve enlightenment or liberation at the end.

We meditate on that most adorable, desirable and enchanting brilliance of our Supreme Being, our Source Energy, our Collective Consciousness….who is our creator, inspirer and source of eternal Joy.  May this warm and loving Light inspire and guide our mind and open our hearts.

The next step if Guru Dhyana. Guru is any incident or being that makes us know or realize something that was within us and was not visible until then. It is like shining light on something which was invisible in the darkness of ignorance, but was present already. When we learn something new, we believe that it was totally new and someone gave it to us through training, teaching or knowledge sharing. But here, the idea about learning is to uncover what was already there within us. We just did not know that it was there. So a Guru is merely a catalyst that makes us know what we already had within. That gives a feeling that we are enough, we don’t need anything from outside of us. This idea is amazing. It instantly calms our constant quest for material or other gains – to add something more to make us a little better all the time.

Gukaras thvanda karovai
rukaras thanni varthakah
andhakara nirodhithvad
gurur idhyabhi dheeyathe

guru brahma guru vishnu
guru devo maheshwara
guru sakshaat param brahma
thasmai shri gurave namah

Meaning:

The consciousness when shining on my inner self, removes the darkness and brings out the universe. What I see, feel, hear, smell and taste are not outside but the play of senses within my head and emotions in my mind. (Who remembers Matrix?) This consciousness is my Guru, my guide. This consciousness creates, protects and destroys what I perceive as my world around me. It is also the consciousness that is beyond that perception which is the universal truth that does not change with perception. Let this consciousness be my guiding light to clear and keep my world in right perspective.

We completed steps 2, 3 and 4 in this part. We will move to next steps in part 3 shortly.

Kids Mealtime Drama

My memory goes back to my early childhood when my grandma used to pamper me to bits especially during my summer vacations when I get bulk of time to spend with her. She would feed me, play with me, listen to my stories, take me out to market… Those are warm memories I cherish to date. I particularly remember how she used to consider food. According to her, food makes you strong and you need to treat it right. She says if I leave the food on the plate after it is served and go to play or do something else, I am disrespecting it. If we spill even grains on the floor, we pick it up immediately because food is God and we don’t want to step on it. Particularly when she fed me, she would put a small piece of it in her mouth, almost as a reflex action, and then start with me. I once told her if she was hungry, she could eat first and then feed me. She laughed and said, she was not hungry, but it had become a practice to check the food first, before offering to babies/ kids. She was checking for taste, ingredients and how hot/warm it was. It stuck to my memory and comes up every time I prepare to feed my baby. This simple action makes me understand if my baby has tough time with that feeding session, why he might be doing so.

I have seen some of my friends struggling with feeding their infants or toddlers. Kids these days need a distraction to eat. Mostly it is videos. It is sad to have the mind of the kid taken away from one of the most satisfying experiences of life, that is, having a tasty meal. Sometimes, there is a rush and the kid does not understand the concept of time. Sometimes, the kid is too tired to sit for a satisfying experience and would appreciate finishing off quicker than usual, so they can go to sleep early. Sometimes, the caregiver is unwell and needs to finish the task with minimal energy and time spent. These times, taking help of videos for distraction is fine. But they should enjoy the food experience in a normal daily basis.

What does not feel good being done to us, does not look good when we do it to another, however small that person may be. For example, we don’t like being force fed. We don’t like to eat something we don’t like the taste of. We don’t like to eat when we feel full, because we had lesser activity that day or due to temperature outside or we feel constipated etc. We don’t like to eat when we are thirsty and want to drink just plain water, even if it is meal time.

There are a few points we need to remember when feeding our kids.

  • Satisfaction instead of completion: Our duty is to offer nutritious foods at right times and in adequate quantities. It is the choice of the kids to decide how much they want to eat. That bowl or plate need not get empty. Only that the tiny tummy needs to feel satisfied.
  • Kids change as they grow: We need to know their taste, if they like a particular spice or ingredient more. This comes with trial and error. Sometimes they just need to grow up a bit more before they like what we are offering. My baby was not taking cow’s milk when I offered it soon after his first year. My doctor advised me to try different flavor, sweeten it and so on. I tried, but nothing helped. He was just not ready. Every few weeks I would try and give up. At 17 months, he was ready. Forcing them to gulp down what we think is important for them is the most violent thing a person can do to a tiny human that has not developed skills to communicate or defend themselves. This works the other way too. What the kid/baby eats well at a point, they may not like as their palette matures. The textures, tastes all change. We need to be flexible to this fact and celebrate the growth involved.
  • Saving our energy and emotions: Taking so much effort and time to make a meal specifically for a baby and then throwing 99% of it to trash is heartbreaking! It’s emotionally and physically hard on the caregiver. So, instead of pushing ourselves to make another meal and then ending up in frustration, lets have backup plans like fruits, quick snacks, ready-made foods for emergencies. We have limited time and energies. Lets not waste it worrying about the past and save it for the next meal time.
  • Forget the clock and let them feel hungry: Just leaving the kid to play some more until they get really hungry will make them eat well. Don’t go by the clock. Physical activity and outdoors help a lot.
  • Handling Rejections: While eating, if after a few spoonfuls, the kid refuses and turns his/her head away, we have the urge to somehow make them eat what is in our hand. Just this one, we plead. I had caught myself doing that a few times. My feeling was one of being rejected or dejected. Why is it so hard to take a no from a child? Is it the “adult ego”? I don’t know. I consciously put the spoon down and back off a couple of steps to register that I am not in any pressure to get that food in. The baby is in charge.
  • Give them space and time: Sometimes, my kid needs a few moments before he continues eating. Probably, he is overwhelmed at the speed at which he is eating and wants to take a leisurely pace. Or he just got interested in some play suddenly and couldn’t concentrate on food immediately. Sometimes, he is working on a tiny bit of nut or veggie that is stuck in his mouth and he can’t accept another spoonful. Sometimes, he has dry throat and needs water and not food that time. There are so many valid reasons that could be addressed or just waited over before continuing with the feed. Giving him space and time usually resolves it and he usually comes back on his own.
  • Gentle but firm: Perseverance pays off. With kids there is a learning curve. We just need to stick to what we need to do firmly and not give in to junk foods or other short cuts/ bribes to get them to listen to us. We need to be cautious about being gentle but firm at the same time.

Babies and kids are more in tune with their bodies than us adults. Following their lead not just makes parenting more enjoyable and less of a war zone, it definitely produces better results and improves confidence in our kids as we respect their choices. Kids have very big hearts. With all the well-meaning mistakes we parents make, they shower us with so much unconditional love! I have my share of mistakes and learning during my journey and I’m so grateful for this love from my little ones!

 

Baahubali Milk

Come cold season, we expect common cold and flu symptoms especially with little kid and grade schooler at home. One of my childhood memories is whenever I used to catch cold, my mom would prepare Masala Paal (half a cup of warm milk with 1 tablespoon honey, 1/4 tsp turmeric and 1/4 tsp pepper powder) that night for me. I hated the very look of it. Yellow liquid with black specks floating at random. Milk is supposed to be white and frothy and sweet and soothing. This was nothing of that sort. I would run and hide as much as I could, bargain with her to reduce the quantity she gives me by half or even argue on why she should skip that damn pepper which leaves my lips burning. She would increase the honey but no other compromise. Fine, I would have one more teaspoon of honey at the end of that milk. How much drama I used to create! Now, with my kids, I give them the same at the first strike of a cold symptom. I know what they feel when they rebel. But it is important for them to drink it in order to feel better and stronger the next day. Falling sick is lot more work than few minutes of argument and lecturing! Logic and logistics are mommy’s worries. Kids are kids and I have to give them reward at the end anyway! Of-late, I started calling it Baahubali Milk, which turns their white blood soldiers racing in their blood streams into super heros that they are capable of fighting the bad guys, the virus and bacteria that have launched an attack now. Drama! Works both ways 😉

So what makes this milk so special? We all know turmeric is anti-inflammatory. It boosts our immune system. But then, when we just add turmeric, our liver would flush it out through the kidney by making them water soluble. When pepper is present, though, this function of liver is inhibited. Plus when we have a fat base, which is the milk, that helps absorb a good portion of it through our lymphatic system, bypassing the liver. This bioavailability (availability of a component in the blood stream) of turmeric in presence of pepper increases by 2000%. Now that is definitely super hero standard! How much my mom knew when she forced, cajoled me into having this except that she did not know the science, I marvel now. I do want to bridge the “why” gap for my kids!

Reference:

Why Pepper boosts turmeric blood levels

Boosting the bioavailability of curcumin

Anatomy of Prayer – Part 1

In India, we call prayer as pooja. During festive seasons, be it Navratri or Janmashtami or Varalakshmi Vratham, we decorate our dear God or Goddess with flowers, dresses, jewelry and of-late there has been a surge in accessories like hair extensions and jewelry for Kalash to make it into a complex work of art… the richer, the better. It has become more like a competition of who gets most likes or whose is more eye catching. When that happens, we totally miss the point. I learnt Pooja Vidhi – Rules for Prayer in Hinduism in a nearby temple. I’m going to share it here. Shodashopachara, which is a 16 step process of upachara. Upa means being near and achara means paying attention or showing care. The God or Goddess is assumed to visit our home and we are showing hospitality during the brief period of their presence. It’s like a little girl’s role play with her doll. But the thoughts that go into these shlokas are very deep. It’s amazing how they have made such deep philosophical ideas bundled into a child’s play and weaved it into our culture that has stood the test of time.

First step before starting pooja is preparation of the place for our guest to stay, that is our mind. We start by lighting the lamp, Deepam. In my childhood, my mom used to light lamp every single day at 6 pm sharp. That was a ritual and I find it comforting to light up a lamp even to this day. Especially when my mom was very ill, she always double checked if the lamp at home was lighted. At that point, I realized that this small act was seen more than a ritual, as holding on to hope or positivity.

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Shloka:

Deepa jyothir param brahma
deepa jyothir janaardhanaHa
deepo me harathu paapam
deepa jyothir namosthute

Shubham karoti kalyanam
aarogyam dhana sampathaha
shathru buddhi vinashaya
deepa jyothir namostuthe

Meaning:

The light from the lamp is the same light from the universal consciousness that created this whole existence (param brahma). The light from the lamp is the same light that shines through the one who protects this world (Janaardhana). Let the darkness symbolizing negativity be defeated in the glow of this lamp. I bow to this light. This line is a literal translation of  the word Namostuthe. When I say Namaste to another person, equivalent to a hello in western culture, it means “I see you” like in Avatar movie, as in, I identify my inner life force as the same force in you… sort of I identify with you. Taking this meaning to Namostuthe, it translates to, I identify myself as one with this light. It is so much more powerful to get into that thought.

Let goodness categorized as auspiciousness (Shubham) in my actions culminate in success (kalyanam), health (Aarogyam), wealth (dhana) and prosperity (sampath). This is powerful once again. My own actions or karma (karoti) results in success, health, wealth and growth or abundance. Shathru buddhi – This can be interpreted in two ways. One is the mind or capabilities of my enemies. This is a little bit narrow thinking where one sees the world as a separate entity than oneself. The other is one’s own opposing thoughts or negative energies and thoughts. I find the second more empowering. Let my own thoughts that oppose this universal consciousness filled in me, be destroyed, as I identify myself as one with this light. That is any thought or emotion such as anger, jealousy, hatred, inferiority complex etc that separates me as an individual (one’s ego) and puts me in comparison or competition with another similar being and thus brings me misery, let that be destroyed. I love this!

This one action and one shloka when recited with the complete meaning in mind and spirit, puts us in right mindset for prayer.

Looking at progress and not perfection

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Corporate life was all about perfection. The perfect resume, perfect presentation, perfect pitch… I quickly got trained to give my best every single time. It started in school and then continued in professional life. Everything seemed… perfect. Until I became a parent. In the parenting world, and in life in general, perfection doesn’t exist. I was struggling by unconsciously bringing corporate standards into my household and then wondering why there was so much friction. The baby was “supposed” to sleep by this time, eat in these many minutes, be in perfect health… oh, I was miserably naive. In perfection mindset, you are skilled to do something and are expected to give the best output within the given time limit. Efficiency is tracked and graded. If you don’t measure up to a certain standard, then you are considered not skilled or capable enough. Actually, what we should be after is excellence. Excellence is reaching one’s highest potential by striving and practicing. But when we take off the striving part, the tiny failures and the time required and look at only the result, we are stuck with the perfection mindset. We expect a lot more, too soon and create burnout. This might work with a repeated task that does not need any new learning but otherwise, perfection kills growth.

When I started on my parenting journey, I had to unlearn quite a few things and work on my mindset. With life, people and kids, it is progress mindset that works. In progress mindset, it does not matter how you perform as long as you have showed an improvement over time. It is self-paced and it should be rightly so. Everyone has a potential and their path is unique to them. When we observe babies trying to walk, it does not happen overnight or on a set time frame. They try, fall, try again, fall again, wobble and stumble and over time, with all the trying and falling, they gain their strength, balance and coordination that they master this skill. Unlike perfection mindset that is binary – either it is a success or a failure, the progress mindset plots through a series of setbacks, struggles, stepping stones which then lead to a final success. Trying, perseverance and grit through these setbacks are the values that help us succeed in life.

Applying progress mindset to our own lives makes it easier for us emotionally. Instead of feeling down and beating ourselves up for failing, if we break down a task into small steps and aim at finishing that one step at a time, then over time, we will reach our goal. This helps when there is a lot of multitasking, especially when there is baby on board. My laundry task, for instance, has these series of steps. Loading the washer. Running it. Loading into the dryer. Unloading from the dryer. Folding the laundry. Storing it. I attend to one small step of the task at a time and when that step is finished, I feel I am one step closer to the final result. Certain steps can be delegated too so I can save up time on that. This way, I could multitask and cross out many to dos from my list.

From parenting to policy making, from everyday chores to exciting goals the progress mindset could be applied everywhere. It helps keep up our motivation levels too. When the tiny chunks get finished, we get a dose of dopamine more often and that keeps us going. Tiny failures are fine and are integral for learning. Instead of always thinking about getting the first place or a 100% in test scores, when a kid makes mistakes, lets discuss the learning it provided and the fact that they put in hard work and tried. Lets look at the growth, however tiny, that incident provided, instead of looking at it as a failure purely from the result point of view.

 

 

Nature and Nurture

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Many of our character traits are identified as gene strands in our DNA. These are either inherited or formed during conception and over the 10 month pregnancy period. By week 26, scientists were able to identify the formation of the genes that relate to how confident the person is. This is called the predisposition of that individual. The tendency of that person to act in a certain way to a certain situation. This is their nature.

But our DNA itself is malleable. The experiences we undergo and the situations we are put through affect our tendencies to a great extent. This effect is studied by Stephen J Suomi not on humans but on monkeys that share 94% of our DNA. Monkeys that have a specific variation of the confidence gene are naturally resilient to outside pressures. They have greater tendency to be more assertive and have leadership qualities. Monkeys that are born with the other variation of the same genes are naturally more anxious and timid. They are followers and workers in the group.

But the story does not end here. This is where the nurture part comes in. The monkeys that have mothers that are not caring or supportive have their natural tendencies deepen and play out. Babies with confident gene variation grow up to become leaders and babies with the other variant become more and more anxious and submissive. But when the mothers are caring and very supportive, give a good environment for the baby to thrive, these babies that do not have the resilience built in when they were born, not just become good, but they excel and develop to even surpass the natural born leaders. The absence of natural resilience in the DNA does not mean it is bad, it just means that the individual is more responsive to the environment. When given the right environment, they bloom beautifully to their potential. That breakthrough provides us with tremendous opportunity.

When we directly correlate this to our species, the care and support we give to our children in their foundation years seem crucial. The earlier years are when the experiences are ingrained into one’s subconscious mind. By year 6 this is mostly set. It is like designing a highway that handles most of the traffic. As one grows older, there are options to build roads to connect to different points but the highway is something we have to deal with the rest of our lives.

To hold a baby, hug and kiss them drenches them and us in oxytocin, giving them a meaningful, peaceful routine in a space they trust most bathes them with serotonin, encouraging them when they achieve tiny milestones gives them dopamine – all the feel good hormones that promote physical, mental and emotional growth as opposed to a rushed lifestyle where caring for kids are just treated as a liability, an additional workload which makes cortisol course through their veins. It is important not just for the family but for the society as a whole to provide for a nurturing environment because it is these babies and kids who will be the society, 10 to 20 years down the line! We as a society should build a strong support system for every mother during her pregnancy and a couple of years after, so that she can peacefully concentrate on the most important task of nurturing her baby with the best food and best environment that nature has designed for that new life.

 

Reference:

The Confidence Code – by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman

Just one meal

 

What does one meal do to us? Can we not escape the consequences?

Image result for restaurant food india

This week I had restaurant food. The reason was “I was tired and overworked after everyone at home took turns to getting sick over the past month or so or I just wanted to eat something to make myself happy for just this once or my body needs variety and rich food to get stronger (haha! Excuses can get so lame at times, especially when it comes to food) or I was craving for this dish or that or I just need a change from routine.” You are free to choose any or all of these or make up your own. But that day I had it for lunch. It was tasting fresh and good, but as I said it was richly prepared. It was so tasty that I had few additional helpings more than my usual limits and felt my heart and tummy both full! Finally!!

There were no adverse reactions and it felt like a well deserved break. I got back to my usual home cooked meals by dinner. The next day the feeling of fullness was still there. Looked like my body was working on digesting it for a really long time. So I decided to go for a run on treadmill, my usual routine. I was used to walking at 3.5 mph and running for 8 minutes at 4.5 mph for half an hour. That day I could barely walk at 3 mph. No, I did not even try to run. Suddenly my body felt so alien, so heavy and I was literally dragging it through my 20 minute short workout session. I was sweating and panting heavily when walking at 2.5 mph. “What have I done to my body ?”, I thought. I gave myself rest and lighter foods for another day and then I was feeling much better. Exactly 4 days after I ate that meal, I felt light again and was running at my usual routine. After that feeling of heaviness, it felt like it was a miracle for my body to have healed itself to it’s lighter self again!

When one single meal can do this to our body, what will happen when we constantly assault it with hard to digest foods, toxins and empty calories and lack of conducive environment for it to heal. These actions of ours cause inflammation and make us sick. How capable is our body to recover? And if we do not give those conditions for it to recover like good sleep, stress free mental state, abundance of feel good hormones for a really long time, then what? How much built up trash would we have to deal with? We reach a point where we no longer recognize our body’s signals anymore. We become mutually disconnected with each other and go on a mindless living and feel total lack of control thereafter. Living would become so painful with all the medications and their side effects to add on. It becomes a vicious cycle.

But this human body is an amazing machine. It can self-heal when we just stop doing more damage to it. That is no rocket science! Babies are so good at reading their body’s signals. We were born intelligent. We grew up to become lesser and lesser! Lets give this faithful companion, our body, it’s due respect and treat it with love and care! Lets stop hurting ourselves with our wants.