Month of August – LET’S TALK EMOJI – HAPPY

Would you believe that “HAPPY” is the password for the Virgin Lounge wifi?  I actually smiled when I keyed in “HAPPY” into my phone.  It’s one of those words that has a transforming effect.  You just burst into smiles when you greet someone HAPPY Birthday, HAPPY New Year, HAPPY holidays.

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How do I key in “HAPPY” into my brain system so that I can use the data to live well?  Is it as easy as wifi access in the Virgin Lounge?

It turned out, as Professor of Harvard Dr Daniel Gilbert put it, that the brain has the capacity to manufacture happiness when we choose to key in happiness into the system.  That’s why we often hear that happiness is a choice. Key in happiness and you get happiness!


Image result for happy muffinHappiness is what we get when we get what we want.  A very happy moment for me was when I finally remembered the flavour of the muffin after a few hours of racking my brain.  It was a distinct flavour but I totally forgot the name of the ingredient.  Nothing could help me recall and I decided to leave the matter alone.  It was in the most unlikely phrase in an English comprehension book for senior school students that I found the answer to my search and prayer:  ‘A rhubarb is a rhubarb is a rhubarb.’ Imagine my happiness when I got what I wanted!

I have told the rhubarb story many times over and each retelling carried the same sense of happiness as when I opened that book with that phrase popping out of the page.  My brain has the capacity to manufacture happiness again and again for me as I repeat that beautiful story.

Can you recall some of your stories of happiness when you get what you want?

You wanted that scholarship and you got it; you wanted to learn cooking and you got into a cooking class; you wanted to visit your friend at his house and you bumped into him at the shopping mall etc.  Big or small things can make you feel happy.

Yet when you ask people what make them happy, many of them are tongue-tied.  Some don’t know what they want so they don’t know how to feel happy even when they get them.

Shawn Achor, the American happiness researcher, recommended writing a gratitude journal for 21 days recording 3 new things each day that you are grateful for.  Being mindful of what you want and being deliberate about how you get it will help you experience happiness at a tangible level.

Image result for writing happily“I am grateful that I could study on a scholarship.”

“I am grateful that I can cook green Thai curry.”

“I am grateful that I met my friend at the shopping mall.”

I am already looking forward to tomorrow to record another 3 new things I am grateful for.  The anticipation itself even makes me feel happy as it holds for me the great possibility of getting what I want.

Happiness gives the body a great boost. Endorphins are released into the blood and alter the state of the body. The mood is elevated and the pain is reduced. The body works out a new energy to cope with the challenge. “A cheerful heart is good medicine.” (The Bible, Proverbs 17:22)


What if life is not so wonderful and memories are not so fond?  Dr Gilbert’s research revealed that the brain can still manufacture happiness even in unpleasant times.  He quoted the example of Moreese Bickham who was put in prison for 37 years for a crime he didn’t do.  Moreese made an astounding statement, “ I don’t have one minute’s regret.  It was a glorious experience.”   He is not alone.   St James in the Bible (James 1:2-3) says, ‘Is your life full of difficulties? Then be happy,  for when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow.’ What!  That’s furthest from how an average person would perceive happiness!

Perception is everything! How we view our external world determines our inner world.   Moreese and St James nailed it – their lives are testimonials of research findings that 90% of happiness depends on how you process the external world.

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Events in the external world are sometimes out of our control and if our happiness is controlled by them, then we will always be like a yoyo swinging with each twist.  But if we recognise that there are always alternatives and way-outs in every situation, then we can stay calm and can even be happy.

Work at being excellent in manufacturing positive perceptions.  It’s in the capacity of your brain.  Lead your brain to have a high level of ‘ikigai’, a beautiful Japanese word that means ‘the reason for living.’ We want to wake up every morning with a good reason for living.

In an experiment where people were exposed to 3 minutes of negative news and SOLUTIONS, it was found that they became more creative and not negative at all.  If you need to listen to negative news, do listen to the solutions as well.  Happiness pathways are created as problems become possibilities and walls become doors.

Happy are the problem-solvers for they will inherit happiness!


Happiness can be perpetuated.  The happiest people are the people who have people to laugh with, to smile at, to talk to.  There is a restaurant in Northbridge in Perth that is called “Pleased to meet you.”  I thought it was a strange name at first but it is slowly warming up to me with its great message.  When you are delighted to see your friends, it’s contagious.  They will be equally pleased to meet you.  We have mirror neurons in our brain that copy the behaviour of people around us. That’s how we brand cultures – that’s a fun-loving bunch; it’s  a friendly country; they are a happy-go-lucky family.

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Rather than waiting for another to smile at you and say hello, be the first one to do so.  You will get a mirror effect that will surprise you.  I had the funniest thing happened to me when I was a young adult.  I lived in an apartment and the lift stopped at every floor.  That day, the lift opened and I saw my elderly neighbour whom we called , ‘Ah Pei’, a respectful word in my Chinese dialect for an older male person.  I must have shocked him with my enthusiastic tone that he mirrored back to me, ‘Ah Pei.’  I had a good laugh after I exited from the lift.

What do you want mirrored to you?  If it’s happiness, then you need to project that image to get its expression.

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There was a perfect lying -down spot on the sofa.   The beautiful sun of Sydney shone through the glass door into the living room.  The piano music from the YouTube album on prayer drifted through the room.

Nudie and Jack were already relaxed and suntanning at their corners.  Nudie is my daughter’s hairless Sphinx cat and Jack is her newly-acquired cat. It was a very beautiful picture of peace. Usually they would be chasing each other’s tail, running and plonking up and down the stairs.


I was writing and rewriting a script for an upcoming talk.  I was anxiously cancelling and adding notes to the script. The empty space between the two cats called out to me. It was cold where I was; the sofa looked warm and inviting.  It looked like a zone of peace.

I laid down.  The cats didn’t move; they were transfixed by the peaceful presence of the room.  I started to pray. The peace was out of this world; it was beyond words. I entered into a sphere, a special zone of God’s felt presence.

Something happens inside when you pray. One of the ways to exercise spiritual self-care is prayer.

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Prayer is attached to your tranquillity system. When you pray, you release a healthy supply of GABA.  GABA is a tranquillity neurotransmitter that is distributed in the neurons of the brain and the nervous system. It calms you down, it brings perspectives, it vitalises hope. GABA is the braking system in your brain. Without GABA, your brain will go on an activity overdrive and burnout is the outcome of that kind of brain.

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Prayer has the force to change the state of your mind.  An anxious state can be changed into a less anxious state or even a calm state. John Ortberg an author said that a prayerful life experiences inner peace and  contentment.  Dr Catherine Hart another author said that prayer is a critical factor to recovery and well-being.

One of the peace-killers is anxiety. Modern life has many stresses – working for a living, health issues, matters relating to people near to us and dear to us etc. Your brain is designed to cope with stress.  One hormone which helps us cope is cortisol.  It’s a stress hormone produced in the brain.  It’s like an alarm bell in the fire station to tell you that there’s a fire to be put out.  It alerts and rallies the body and brain systems to put out that fire. All is well if the fires are put out.

But sometimes you are so harassed by the cares in your lives that you carry them all and find yourselves anxious about anything and everything. There are just too many fires to put out.  The mind can be so easily cluttered with toxic thoughts and worries.  Anxiety can cause a lack of sleep and a lack of appetite.

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Prayer helps you to unload your anxieties and cares to a personal God, whom you believe is interested in you and attends to you when you are in trouble.

In prayer you see possibilities in problems. One day I was asked to give a talk.  I was quite anxious about the title of the talk.  I prayed before I slept and that prayerful attitude must have been carried into my sleep for me to have a vivid dream that night.  In big letters, the title of my talk flashed out – MAX YOUR POTENTIAL formed with puffy clouds in the sky.

Andrew Newberg, a neuroscientist, did some research on prayer and the brain.  He found that prayer activates the parietal lobe. The parietal lobe processes space, touch, vision and language.  When you pray, you enter into the visual space where pictures can be accessed.  One phrase or one picture can change circumstances for you. Philip Yancey, an author and a public speaker said, “Prayer is the act of seeing reality from God’s point of view.”

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Spiritual self-care is a necessary part of life.  When you pray, it’s  like making  deposits into your spiritual bank account.  Your hopes are raised, your anxieties are lowered, your horizons expand, your resources and possibilities multiply. You are the richer for it when you pray!



With glistening eyes and a pristine voice, actor Ewan McGregor wooed Nicole Kidman with the song,

Love is a many splendoured thing
                                 Love lifts us up where we belong
All you need is love.”

Love is many-splendoured, uplifting and definitely needful in our relationships to give us the most happiness and highest well-being.  It’s great happiness to enjoy connection and chemistry with the people around us. Together, people make magic – love is shared,  ideas are sprouted, feelings flourish, lives are liberated, wounds are healed. Only in a loving community are all these possible.  People tend to be more generous and open when they sense the spirit of the community is a loving one.

That being the case, our relational self care plan is to learn how to love better so that we can create a sense of community and enjoy interpersonal harmony.

How do we go about relating harmoniously? Start telling yourself:

  1. “I love people”


Image result for Kelly Rowland with SamKelly Rowland in The Voice Australia was saying how camaraderie was formed among the contestants and her colleagues when they were working together to harness the singing talents of Australia.  Camaraderie, the mutual trust and friendship among people, is so needed in our social lives.

To be a friend, show yourself friendly (The Bible, Prov 18:24). When you are friendly, you send signals that you are ready and willing to befriend and develop the relationship. Scientists claimed that we have mirror neurons that help us connect. When someone speaks with a certain accent, we mirror back with a similar accent.  In so doing, we will appear friendlier and seek some form of connection for the relationship to take off. Mirroring can also come in the form of actions.  When our neighbour gives us home-made bread, we give them blueberry tarts.  The more people can mirror accurately and appropriately, the more social exchange can happen.  Love blossoms as a result.


  1. “I love to help”


One trait that distinguishes us from robots is compassion, said Mr Jack Sim, the Founder of World Toilet organisation.  He is the right person to say that because his compassion for people who are not as privileged is admirable.  He raised funds and awareness to build toilets for developing countries.  Compassion is gut-wrenching but Mr Jack Sim goes about doing his charity work with humour and lightheartedness.

Image result for Mr Jack Sim founder of World ToiletWe may not have compassion that reached the United Nations level as Mr Jack Sim has achieved.  But we can show compassion in our own sphere. Doing acts of kindness not only benefit others, it strengthens our immune system, elevates our moods and makes us  likeable.

Ask ourselves frequently, “Who can I show love today?”  Start with small gestures of love.  Ask, ‘What do people around me need?’ I became a psychologist because I realised that people needed a listening ear.  And I couldn’t do much listening when I was a school teacher.  I resigned from the teaching service and started the counselling career in my 40s. My cousin in her 60s, a nursing director, said, ‘  People need help.  And I can still contribute.’  That’s compassion at work and that’s inspiring!

  1. “I love ideas”


Networking is a buzz word these days. People spend time and efforts to see how they can best come together to produce greater works and better effects. From business to religion to families, it is necessary to collaborate.  Why collaborate? Exponential effect is achieved when there is collaboration.   “One pursues a thousand, two puts ten thousand to flight.” (The Bible, Deut 32:30)  One  Belgian horse can carry 8000 pounds;  two can carry 24000 pounds.  And Belgian horses raised from 2-3 years old can carry 30000 pounds together.

Whatever capacity or opportunity you are given to collaborate, use it. It greatly benefits you and your social world:

  • Change your way of doing things and make it more effective. Writing a blog was as a result of collaboration with my husband.  I write and he teaches me how to publish it on the various media.  I changed the way I do things and it’s making it more fun and far-reaching.
  • Complement others and enhance the work outcomes. I have a friend who is excellent at organising people and another who is very good at making dumplings.  Together with their pastor, they decided to make 200 dumplings to raise funds for Cambodia. But on their own they couldn’t make that many.  They rallied a team to complement them. The support was so overwhelming that they made 500 dumplings in the end.    It was all win that weekend – they exceeded their target, in dumplings and money!
  • Capitalise your strengths as you get the opportunity to keep using your abilities.  People will seek you out when you are good in a skill.  That skill may even be regarded as your signature skill.  What are you good at doing?  Keep capitalising it.  It will bring much happiness to the people around you.

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                                                               “I love ideas”

                                               Ideas sprout via collaboration



Image result for achieving and healthy peopleMulti-tasking, achieving and excelling, pushing to the limits are all very exciting activities in our lives.  The human body is designed to be the best it can be.   You can move faster, think faster, accelerate more. Perhaps your job or your role in life at this time requires you to be a greater achiever.  Life in the fast lane can be enjoyable and fulfilling.  But there is a need to balance it with lifestyle choices to enhance the energy and to increase positive affect.

Definitely it is more flattering to be enthusiastic, energetic, confident and active than to be alert, fatigued, hurried and devitalised.   As we clocked in time to be involved in work, we also need to have time- out for rest and recovery.  Physical self-care is like the pause between music notes. French poet-philosopher, Paul Valery, wrote, “the pauses between the notes (of a piano piece), ah, that is where the art resides!”  The art of practising good physical self-care will bring great harmony to your life.

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In this blog, I will focus on 2 aspects and 2 activities of physical self-care. One is active and the other is passive.  Active self-care is setting aside time for exercise and movement; passive self-care is taking time to sleep.


A large group of people running in a marathon in the middle of a street in Brussels

Recently my friends gave me a Fitbit, a watch that monitors my physical fitness by counting the number of steps I take in a day.  The ideal number of steps is 10000 and the reward of that is fireworks on the watch screen to celebrate the success of a well-moved body.  A small gesture as it is, it has huge motivation for me.  Knowing that I have done the 10000 steps or more makes me feel healthy and lively.

Psychiatrist and author  John Ratey writes that exercise and movement release neurotransmitters into the brain and body that are like a dose of the most important psychiatric medicines. That’s a money saver and a great mental health benefit!  Exercise is indeed good medicine just as laughter is (Proverbs 17:22, the Bible).  It would be interesting to see how exercise can be combined with laughter to give you double potency!

Exercise and movement is beneficial for just about everything – from elevating mood and enhancing energy to recovering from stress and reducing the risk of sicknesses. The emphasis on health has resulted in the popping up of  many fitness clubs and health centres, some of which are 24/7 to cater for people of varying needs. These are great facilities to sign up with, especially with the changing seasons or the preference of specific exercises.  Otherwise, the free parks and walking and cycling tracks are great avenues.  The key is to find one suitable and more accessible facility or activity to be involved in.

Start small, like me, to encourage yourself into the active regime of physical self-care. I started with taking a walk around my neighbourhood and then I went further to the neighbourhood park.  Now I am able to walk up to 3 rounds of the park itself, 7000 steps in all.  Physically I am exercising more and psychologically, I would regard myself as an active person and I definitely feel better.  See how interrelated exercise is to other aspects of yourselves!

Take steps in being active and you will experience changes in your body, mind and emotions.


We are programmed to sleep in order to have  optimum well-being.  Each time we hosted people from overseas in our house, the first question I would ask each morning is, ‘Did you sleep well?’  Most times, I get a beaming smile and a positive answer.  In fact, most of them would like to get  even longer sleep if not for the fact that the planned itinerary beckons.

Dr Archibald Hart would recommend a hearty 9 hour sleep if possible.  If that’s not possible (as it is a luxury or an impossibility for many to sleep 9 hours), 7 ½ hours is great. I was in his class in Pasadena and he explained that sleep comes in 1 ½ hour cycles.  With 7 ½ hours, you would have gone through 5 cycles.

Each 1 ½ cycle has restorative and recreating functions.  There’s deep sleep where the fatigued body literally drops into a state of quiet and non-movement and the body does its repairs.  Then there’s the REM sleep where the brain creates dreams and consolidates and files the memories.  This is when the brain is most creative and active, sometimes even solving problems that you don’t have solutions earlier in the day. A healthy 7 ½ hour sleep pattern ensures that you have 5 chances of deep and REM sleep each night.

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This is interesting trivia – crocodiles don’t sleep fully because they have half a brain that sleeps and half a brain that doesn’t. They don’t need safety because they are predators. As predators they need to be alert for survival.  Hopefully as humans, we don’t need to be alert even in our sleep.  God doesn’t sleep, we are told in Psalm 121:4 , the Bible, and perhaps it’s best to let God take care of all your cares whilst you sleep.

Do consult with the professionals if you have a sleeping problem so that you can identify what is keeping you from a good night’s sleep. Good sleep is non-negotiable.  You don’t want to be tired all the time, irritable and grouchy, forgetful and not nice to be around.

Surround yourself with quiet and restful cues to help you get to sleep.  Laptops and TV need to be stowed away, just like when the plane is landing.  When you want to descend to sleep, you need to wind down. All artificial lights need to be switched off so that your brain doesn’t have to light up at every trigger.  Take a warm bath, have a mug of warm beverage; put on your diffuser of lavender essential oil.  Oh yes, if your spouse has a snoring problem, sleep before he or she does! Sleep tight and don’t let the bedbug bite 🙂

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I once gave a talk entitled, ‘Unlock the possibilities – open the front door of your thinking’ and thought the title is a good start to this mental blog.

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The brain is like a house with doors that need keys for access.  Thinking begins in the front part of the brain. When you let yourself in to good and logical reasoning, you enjoy growth and progress.  The world of possibilities open up to you.  This includes the ability to be inventive – to fix something that isn’t working properly.

The trouble with the brain is, like a house, it can be threatened by break-ins.  With any break-ins, the peace is threatened and the property can be destroyed.  It takes time and effort to restore the place to its original order and to be reminded that the place is safe again.  Negative experiences, a lack of support, overwhelming challenges and losses in life are unwelcome intruders but the reality is they do happen in one’s life.  The key is not to let them have unbarred entry into our space.

“The most important things in life

are the thoughts you choose to frame.”

Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor.

“The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness;

But of everyone that is hasty only to want.”

Proverbs 21:5, the Bible

Two things the diligent can do to take care of and thrive in their thoughts:

  1. Tapping therapeutic thoughts

Person in a red shirt and blue hat relaxing in grass near mountainsThoughts that are therapeutic make you feel healthy and hopeful. The more you tap into them, the more dendrites your brain will grow and the more you can think new and therapeutic thoughts.  A penny for your thought – it’s important to know what thoughts you are tapping into!

It’s good practice to think of truthful things and being truthful yourself. Your mind gets nourished when you reflect on promises that are made and kept in good faith. “Considered done when I shake your hands,” someone said the other day.  People like this make you think well of this world especially when the handshake really result in a done deal.  It inspires me to be the person who wants to stay true to my promise, my words, my character. When my motives are pure, my thoughts will be clear and my relationship with people will be sincere.

Think of lovely and admirable things, things that bring good reports.  You can train your mind to attend to things that are worthy of your thought. Therapeutic  thoughts spring from the study of good things. Do tap into therapeutic thoughts and occupy your brain with an exhaustive catalogue of good things.

Image result for think of good thoughtsSpeak and think well of events and people, not gossipping and ruminating. Remind yourself of dwelling on the strengths and goodness of people and the joy of hanging out with them.  Remember the times of hospitality where you have been well-treated, not the rude and obnoxious service.  And talk about the excellence of the multiple good treatment you received, not repeat and repeat the old story of how your food didn’t come on time.  Reflect on lovable, pleasing, auspicious things and people often.  Read affirming and life-changing books like autobiographies, sacred writings etc. Your brain needs such input to thrive.

Think therapeutically consistently. New healthy thoughts can be cultivated.  You will grow to like your thoughts and enjoy life better.

  1. Terminating toxic thoughts

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Any thought is toxic when it sabotages you from experiencing peace and happiness.  Especially destructive are thought patterns that are conditioned because of your past or by choice and habit. They break in to your mind and cause you to be discouraged.

Be aware of the break-ins toxic thought patterns can cost you in your quality of life. Imagine yourself predicting the scenarios to come to these conclusions:

“ People are staring at me.” “I feel inadequate.” “I feel the pressure to perform.”

 “I am going to get fired.” “  I am a bad worker.” “I will never get a job.”

You will be insecure in your job and personal life if you let these thoughts run wild and form negative associations.

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‘Take no thought’ (TNT) is a good way to terminate toxic thinking. The more weight you give to toxic thinking, the more they will affect you negatively.

Toxic thinking sometimes amplify the effect to make you worried and exasperated.  Bring it down to size or give it a reality check so that the thought doesn’t overwhelm you:

“People stare at me. They mean no harm; they are curious, not cruel; they are interested, not judgemental.”

“I am not fired yet!”

“But if I do get fired,  there may be other reasons besides I being a bad worker. I can find that out.”
“ It doesn’t mean I will not get another job.  That’s overgeneralising.  It’s not the most pleasant feeling to be out of job but it’s not the end of the world.”

After having rationalised the situation and seeing realistic perspectives, take no thought (TNT) about it. Terminate it! Change the way you think about toxic situations. “ It’s too hard,” you may say.  But what are the advantages of hanging on to  gloom and doom thinking? Probably none.  It’s better to postpone the worry till the actual situation happens and then deal with it.  Sometimes the imagined situation doesn’t even come!

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When it’s time for caterpillars to spin a chrysalis, some of them would resist and try and cling on to their larval life.  As a result, they won’t spin a cocoon till the following year.  This state of clinging is called diapause, a period of suspended development.  Holding on to what is familiar  deprives the caterpillar of the potential of reproduction.

Responses to toxic thoughts can be very automatic conditioned by many years of repetition.  Clinging on to the old patterns seems easier to do but it can result in a delay of possibilities.  For your optimum mental self-care — Unlock all possibilities – open the front door of your thinking!

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Good emotional self-care brings about what I call ‘The Hydrangea Effect.’  Hydrangeas change their colours when you change their soil.  Pink blossoms become blue when you put aluminium sulfate in the soil. The acidity of the soil dramatically changes the colour of the hydrangeas.

Violet and pink hydrangea flowers in two white vases

When you put the right ingredients into the soil of your heart, you change the colour of your world of emotions.  You can be the emotionally healthy and intelligent person.  You don’t have to alienate yourself and you don’t have to be an emotional wreck.

Emotions are beautiful like the blues and pinks of the hydrangeas.  It’s great to feel happy, loved and surprised!  To be in touch with your emotions is to be human.  But perhaps you have been taught that feelings are unreliable and therefore not to be trusted.  And you disallow yourself to feel deeply and miss out on the greater meaning of life. You can change the way you approach emotions particularly those of anger, sadness and fear; you can bring colour to your world.


All emotions have a message.  An event or certain people could have evoked that emotion.  You can read your emotions by describing the event.

Emotions            Describing the event

Happy                  I am happy that you came and spent time with us.

Love                     I cook a good meal for my children.

Surprise               I am surprised that I enjoyed that movie.

Emotions in your thoughts

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Your emotion has a thought attached to it. Your thoughts determine the quality of your emotion.

Thinking well of the guest that visited you makes you happy. Thoughts of cooking a nutritious meal for your children make you feel like a loving parent. The idea that you can be touched by a movie that you are open to gives you a greater thrill.  These thoughts give rise to the emotions of happiness, love and surprise.

However if you think badly of events in your life, you can feel badly towards them. These are like scripts in your head for example,  “The guest was all out to take advantage of my hospitality”, “the children are so demanding and want to be fed often”, “ I never like true story movies and will definitely not enjoy them.”  Thinking like this might make you feel angry, resentful and closed up.

Imagine your emotional world if you allow negative thoughts to occupy it most of the time:

“I am a mistake and a burden.”

“I am worthless and only feel Ok when I am approved by some people.”

“I don’t have the right to enjoy myself or to say what I think.”

“My value is based on my intelligence and education and not for who I am.”

Emotions on your face

Image result for face expressionsYour face is the quickest place to reflect your emotions.  The Bible in Proverbs 15:13 writes, “A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed.” If you want news of the heart, ask the face. Happy heart, happy face!

When you are happy, your happy hormones or endorphins are activated and your face lights up.  When you smile or laugh, others will join you as you mirror one another’s behaviour.  Behaviour is contagious! And your face is the most accessible mirror of your emotions.

Sometimes a confusing signal is sent in the face.  You are happy but you don’t want to show it evidently for a myriad of reasons.  The recent Volkswagen advertisement showed a boy who had an ecstatic experience in a Volkswagen but he wanted to be cool and didn’t want to reveal his true feelings.  He put on an ‘It’s ok’ face. In a sense, this is not being honest in your emotions.  Emotional dishonesty can have low risk, medium risk and high risk effects.

A public speaker said something I found amusing, “My face is not so loving.  Don’t worry.  It’s only a face.  I am still working at it.”  Work we must at our face, at our thoughts – not just reading the emotions but also in REGULATING them.


Your emotions need to be regulated so that they can operate properly.  When emotions are well-regulated, you sleep deeper, you socialise better, you think and feel fresher.

Change your thoughts

You can change your thoughts about events and people so that your emotions are more controlled.

You may be angry at a person because of your angry thoughts about him for example,  “ I am so angry that the husband behaves so badly towards his wife.” Rather than letting your blood pressure go up by this observation, get another perspective. Tell yourself that you don’t have the full picture of this couple;  you don’t know them enough to get so uptight.  Many things in life can trigger anger in you.  You need to get better in seeing new and peaceful perspectives

When you felt embarrassed about your skiing skills, rather than keep comparing yourself with others and feeling miserable, think of more constructive ways to improve yourself – take up skiing lessons, tell yourself you are only having fun and you are not taking skiing as a serious sport, stop looking at others and downplaying yourself etc.

A big part of the brain is designed to deal with the regulation of emotions. The limbic system releases hormones to stimulate or inhibit your emotions; it draws from your long term memory to help you deal with the present emotion and then form new memories with it.

Change your input

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Download good scripts into your brain so that your limbic system can churn out good feelings and store positive memories.  Affirm yourself,

“I regard myself highly and respectfully despite my imperfections.”

“It’s good that I exist”

“ God loves me and has an unique plan for me”

“I can be confident, secure and joyful.”

Say it as you believe it.  You are putting good nutrients in the soil of your heart. And look out for the Hydrangea Effect!





Month of May SELF-CARE

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You are a creation of God (Psalm 139, the Bible).  Like a 3-star Michelin creation, you are given a dollop of value, a dash of the meaning of life, a drip of respect and a drizzle of dignity.  You are a delightful masterpiece.  Your job is to take care of yourself throughout the seasons of your life. 

Circumstances and people can add to your value, they can also devalue you.  It’s great to feel respected and dignified for the contributions you have made, but if you let accomplishments and people define you, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. While others are important in our lives to boost our zest for life, there is a great need to have self-care. Jack Kornfield is right when he writes, “If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.”

A healthy picture of someone who practises self-care is one who is an all-rounder.  Perhaps to flow with the pun is to illustrate such a person with a circle.

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The circle is divided into 5 significant ways we approach life – emotionally, mentally, physically, relationally and spiritually. Each aspect is important and related to one another.  It is an interesting interaction of our body, mind and soul with the internal and external environment that we arrive at a balance.

In any given day, the human body can cope with 50 stresses. Weaving through the morning and evening traffic can be a huge stress factor; the demands at work can take up huge amounts of energy; home duties can tire us out easily.  

Cortisol which is a stress hormone is specially designed to deal with these challenges of life.  It is a great action hormone giving us the buzz in our daily activities.  But when it is overused, it can cause burnout and anxiety.   When this arises, the body needs to undergo repair.

Self care pumps energy and motivation into the body system causing you to be ready for life again.  Dopamine, a pleasure hormone, gives you the desire and motivation to enjoy your life, your work, your family.

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When you eat, pray, love, think and feel with self-care in mind, you are taking positive steps forward in promoting optimal care physically, spiritually, relationally, mentally and emotionally.  In the month of May, I will blog on each of these aspects.

Takeaways on self-care:

S      tart appreciating yourself.  You have value, meaning, respect and dignity.

E    xamine your drainers and boosters. If ‘others’ drain you or boost you in most things           you do, it’s time to have self-care. People can be fickle and inconsistent. Energy that           comes merely from other people is not sustainable.

L    ive a balanced life – be healthy emotionally, mentally, physically, relationally and              spiritually. 

F    uel yourself daily with self-care activities. “An empty lantern provides no light. Self-          care is the fuel that allows it to shine vibrantly, lighting the way for others.”                          (Anonymous)

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C   hemicals in the form of hormones are God’s gifts to help us regulate and achieve a              healthy balance when confronted with the stresses of life.

A    ctively engage yourself in eating wholesome meals, praying regularly, loving                       unconditionally, thinking and feeling well.

R   eplenish your energy daily and 

E    njoy life fully!

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The month of April – MARRIAGE

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In the month of April, I have blogged on 4 topics on MARRIAGE:

  1.  Cultivating compatibility
  2. Communicate constructively
  3. Read my signals
  4. Take charge of your atmosphere

I like to invite you to ask questions on the topics above or on other matters relating to marriage.  All answers will be published in the next blog.

In the month of May, I will blog on SELF-CARE and will also have a question and answer blog at the end of the month.

Thank you very much for reading and responding.





MARRIAGE Take charge of your atmosphere

Atmosphere is palpable. When your spouse is happy, you know it – the dinner is sumptuous; fresh sunflowers are in the vase; there’s singing in the kitchen.  It is safe to be home.  But when your spouse is not happy, you can feel the deafening silence or hear the banging and clanging at the sink.  You need to wait for the storm to blow over before you ask if you could your dream motorcycle jacket.

Atmosphere is also dynamic – it can change so easily.  All it takes it is a small action or a careless word.  “Why do your chicken look so miserable?” is enough to take all the joy of cooking away. Or coming home expecting to be served and complaining that your shirts are not ironed well will certainly not promise you a good restful evening.

The study by Olson and Olson 2000 showed that when couples take charge of their atmosphere and resolve conflict better, they are happier and better adjusted.

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How do we take charge of the atmosphere?

  1. Decrease PUSH communication

You are pushy if you use a lot of push communication. You will push away your partner if you continue to use this style of asserting yourself and making your partner feel unimportant.

Your spouse came home with the news that she was given a new role in the office.  She was enthusiastic about it as the new role is an indication that the company was happy with her performance.  She would expect to be praised and encouraged.

But if she hears remarks like “There’s no money to it” or “let me know only when there is a real promotion”, she will feel hurt and unsupported. Rather than sharing more about the new role and the possibility of a strong career path in the company, she would take that push away comments as the end of the communication.

The atmosphere is fragile with push communication.  Wrong buttons can be pushed and the atmosphere will become hostile and unconducive for meaningful family time.

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Avoid pushing away your partner using statements that are:

  • Threatening

“If you are so smart, why don’t you walk out now?

  • Vague

“You’re so lazy!  You are horrible, awful, ugly, useless…”

  • Overly demanding and unsympathetic

“I don’t care if you’re tired.  You should know that you are supposed to get that job done today.”

  • Bottled in anger

“I have had enough of you.  You’ve not moved an inch since I asked you to vacuum the floor 6 hours ago.”

It is easy to be destructive in the way you communicate. Criticism, blame, unfair requests or rejection can kill the strength of your marriage.  Dave Willis, a pastor in Augusta says,  “A strong marriage requires 2 people who choose to love each other even on days when they struggle to like each other.”  Loving each other requires you to be respectful even though you may be upset. Rather than spitting out sarcasm and insults, you can use PULL communication to confront the issue and to engage your spouse.

  1. Increase PULL communication

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You are a more appealing communicator when you strive to learn and understand the situation and your spouse as much as possible before offering an opinion.  Peter Scazzero, author of Emotional Spirituality,  has this to offer – use the phrase ‘I notice … and I prefer’ to get a complaint across and to get a solution.

I notice you have been keeping late hours to do your assignment and it’s hard for you to be on time for work the next morning.  I prefer you to be on time so that I won’t go to work late. I don’t want to set a bad example to my subordinates.”

  • Express

You say clearly the behaviour that needs to be changed.  You want your spouse to go to work earlier in the morning. The changing is not within your control but you can lead the change by your request.  Your request sounds more reasonable if you put up a good case and you express it in an even and peaceful tone.

  • Empathise

You understand that the reason for not being on time the next morning is because of the assignment.  You acknowledge that your spouse is working hard the night before.  Your empathy will cause your spouse to listen up.

  • Explain

You point out the consequences of the behaviour. Providing a reason is always more convincing. An experiment was conducted to see how important giving a reason is.

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A man asked if he could get a photocopy of his document done.   He approached the first man and asked, ‘I need to get a photocopy. Can  I go before you?’

With the second man, he said, ‘I need to get a photocopy because I need to get a photocopy. Can I go before you?’

He said to the third man, “I need to get a photocopy because I need it for my next class. Can I go before you?”

The largest group that allowed him to get a photocopy is the third group.  This is obvious because he has a valid reason.

The second largest group is the second group.  Though the reason sounded ridiculous, it is still a reason.

Your spouse needs to know how his/her action affects you, in this case causing you to be late and therefore not setting a good example. That is the reason for him/her to make decisions to solve the problem or to change the behaviour – get another form of transport, sleep earlier, be more disciplined in doing assignments etc.

You can take charge of the atmosphere of your marriage. The Bible in Proverbs 12:18 writes, “Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing.” You can either be the one who makes cutting remarks or the one that uses healing words.  Words and actions that push your spouse to a corner will fracture the relationship and cause wounding. But strategies that pull your spouse towards you will build a conducive atmosphere for growth and love.

Indeed you can build the atmosphere of your marriage or you can bring it down.  The choice is yours!  Your marriage depends on it!

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