Happily Puzzled!

Happily Puzzled!

You might be wondering what I am “happily puzzled” about, isn’t it? Well, do you know, today is Puzzle day? Yeah! I really never knew there was any such day that celebrated solving puzzles. But, there is and it has a good reason behind it, too.

We all have solved puzzles right since childhood. Those simple jigsaw puzzles that we tried to put together as little kids, and then, those 1000 pieces puzzles that took a lot more time and effort to put together. Then, the crossword puzzles and the Sudoku puzzles, the Rubik’s Cube, the Scrabble Game…ah, there are puzzles aplenty!

But, do you remember how deeply engrossed you would get when you were in the midst of solving a puzzle? As kids, we would forget about the homework that needed to be completed; all we were interested in was solving that puzzle. And, the same goes for today, too. For those who regularly solve puzzles will know what I mean.

Solving a crossword puzzle on your way to work, or on a leisurely Sunday, or before going to bed, is such an interesting activity, we forget where the time goes. And, when we complete a puzzle, we are jubilant! It gives such a high solving a crossword or a Sudoku, however easy or cryptic these might be.

Do you know what exactly that puzzle does for you, for your mind, for your brain?

PUZZLES ARE THE BEST WORKOUT FOR OUR BRAIN

The way we give our body a workout through Yoga or a walk/jog/dance, so do we need to give a good workout to our brain. And, solving a puzzle does just that. It’s akin to sharpening a pencil! When you solve a puzzle, you are sharpening your brain, nudging it awake and making it think, work, make some extra efforts. And, you know, this exercise of solving a puzzle revitalises your brain, sharpens it thoroughly and helps it stay young, ‘wrinkle-free’. In short, solving puzzles is like giving our brain not only a workout, but also a thorough ‘body-massage’! And, who doesn’t love a body massage?

PUZZLES ARE THE BEST STRESS-BUSTERS

Last year, when hubby was admitted to the hospital after a Bi-Polar manic episode, I knew my stress levels would definitely drive me over the edge. So, as I sat by his bedside, I busied myself solving puzzles. It took my mind off the present situation and made me focus completely on the puzzle, giving my mind a much-needed break. This respite refreshed me because I hadn’t been wasting all my time worrying about the situation, or dreading about the future. And, we all know how, an idle mind is a devil’s workshop. So, why let the mind sit idle? If you have no work to do, no chores to complete, just sit down with a newspaper and solve all the puzzles printed in there. It will be the best thing you will be doing for yourself.

PUZZLES REDUCE ANXIETY

Because you are concentrating on getting the answer to that puzzle, you are not allowing any thoughts that cause anxiety to enter your mind. And, this, in turn, makes space in your mind for better thoughts. Be it a crossword puzzle or a game of Scrabble, your mind is busy coming up with words that will help you win the game or complete a puzzle that has been testing your vocabulary skills. Your anxiety is well handled and you are much at peace.

PUZZLES HELP IMPROVE OUR VOCABULARY

Teach your child to play Scrabble or the crossword puzzle and you will help him build a solid vocabulary. It will do the same for you, too. We aren’t familiar with so many words, and often, as we age, are at a loss for words. The right words elude us, leaving us feeling embarrassed or helpless. Word puzzles are not just entertaining but educative, too.

PUZZLES PROVIDE THE BEST COGNITIVE STIMULATION

Especially to the senior citizens, who are at a greater risk of age-related illnesses of the mind. A puzzle will help them stimulate their mind, give a workout to their brain and keep them occupied in something positive. Puzzles are considered perfect in preventing the brain from deteriorating. This particular information is something I always come across in articles by medical practitioners.

So, these are quite a lot of reasons why you need to begin solving puzzles, if you aren’t already, isn’t it? I love solving the crossword and Sudoku puzzle before I go to sleep. My bedside table holds a few newspapers everyday, folded in such a way, the puzzles’ page is always on the top, ready to be picked up and worked on before I begin yawning! It really helps me fall asleep soon, you know?

And, that’s the reason behind that title, “Happily Puzzled”! Solving puzzles makes me happy!

How about you? Which one’s your favourite? Do share.

 

LOVE,

SHILPA…

 

Improve your mental agility with the help of puzzles.

 

 

 

Fighting superstition. #WATWB

Fighting superstition. #WATWB

Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

India is a country where, even today, in the age of the Internet, superstitions rule (and ruin) the lives of many people. There are activists and organisations trying to get people to change their beliefs, but, it is an uphill task as these superstitious beliefs are so deeply ingrained in their minds that it takes years to bring some change.

One such organisation is the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANIS) which was founded by Dr. Narendra Dabholkar. Sadly, this fearless activist, who toiled tirelessly to change people’s mind through a scientific approach, was gunned down by those who opposed him. He passed away on August 20th, 2013. However, one of his many admirers and followers, Nandini Jadhav, the Pune district president of the organisation launched a campaign to help women get rid of their matted hair.

People believe that cutting of the hair would invite the wrath of the Gods, and so, for years together, refuse to touch their hair, comb it or even cut it. This leads to a number of health and social problems that they suffer from.

There are some of those, who secretly desire to get rid of their matted hair, but face opposition from their family members for fear of a curse.

But, Nandini Jadhav, despite facing stiff opposition and threats to her life, launched this campaign to help women chop off their matted hair and live a better, healthier and happier life.

Do read the story of this brave woman here.

We need more such fearless Nandinis, who come forward to fight this evil called superstition and free the society from such regressive practices. It’s the people, who usually belong to the lower strata of the society who fall prey to such superstition and suffer for their entire lives, waiting, in vain, for the miracles promised to them by their “Guru”.

We Are The World Blogfest

This post has been written for ‘We Are The World Blogfest’, an initiative to share real-life stories from the world over that speak about heroes who go against all odds to help those in need and prove it to us that the world is not such a bad place.

Do post any such stories you might come across on your blog and share them widely on social media. We all know we could do with some positivity in a world that can often get dark and frightening.

Why you need to pursue a hobby.

Why you need to pursue a hobby.

Today feels like one of those perfect days when my household chores get done before time and I find some extra time on hand. Days, when I can plan out my work and complete it and be satisfied with myself. And, happy, too!

Yes, my work–my writing and my art–gives me immense happiness. And, on days when I am unable to indulge in either of these, it feels as if I missed out on something very important, which makes me cranky. Writing and art are the two hobbies that make my heart feel contented and my mind, relaxed. And, as I finished my housework before time, I could actually sit down this morning to make an artwork before beginning this post as opposed to every other day when I have to fight for some time for my art.

Hobbies are a part of our life, be it writing, reading, art, sewing, crocheting, gardening, cooking, baking, dancing, singing….the list goes on. These are activities that may not help us earn our livelihood, but more importantly, these help us stay mentally and physically healthy.

HOW HOBBIES HELP OUR MENTAL HEALTH:

IMPROVE FOCUS & CONCENTRATION: When you sit down to read, write or draw, or, in short, spend some time pursuing a hobby, your mind makes space for thoughts related to that activity and gets rid of all the clutter that usually crowds the mind. Your worries, stress, anxiety, irritation, anger, sorrow – all of it gets replaced by a sense of calm and peace. Your attention span improves, you focus wholly on that activity and become oblivious to the rest of the world. Hobbies quieten the restless mind and help you reap the benefits of being ‘still’.

IMPROVE MOOD: The time you spend doing that activity instantly improves your mood, which, in turn, results in a release of your happy hormones–endorphins, serotonin and dopamine. You may have noticed how refreshed you are by the time you have completed the activity. A dancer might feel all the more energetic, or a singer might feel a lot calmer. And, an artist might feel jubilant at having created the art he/she had planned in detail.

REDUCE ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION : Hobbies are those activities that help us push away all the other thoughts, the what-ifs, the stressors and concentrate on creating something with our hands, our fingers. Watching it ‘coming to life’ drives away the thoughts that make us anxious or depressed and relieve us of all the accumulated stress. Hobbies can, actually, act like a drug that reduces anxiety, increases calmness and helps us sleep better!

HOW HOBBIES HELP OUR PHYSICAL HEALTH:

KEEP YOU FIT: Your hobby keeps you physically active and as a result, fit and healthy. Be it dance, sports, gardening, or any other activity which requires you to step outdoors and get moving, It helps your heart beat wonderfully and exercises every muscle, every bone that would otherwise lie idle, lolling on the couch, doing nothing!

HELP YOU SOCIALISE: If it’s a hobby that requires you to step outdoors and visit places, then you are sure to meet like-minded people, who share your passion for that hobby. You learn to share your experiences, swap ideas and express yourself better. And, if you are an introvert, then be sure to observe a sea change in yourself if you begin pursuing a hobby that asks of you to step ‘out’ of your cocoon! Your social circle is sure to widen and loneliness will become a thing of the past.

HELP YOU WIDEN YOUR HORIZONS: Yes, these are activities that will not only help you health-wise, but also increase your knowledge, change your perspectives and help you learn something much more than you ever imagined. There are a countless things in our world we know nothing about. Your hobby is sure to help you discover something new and help improve your skills, give you new ideas and teach you newer ways of doing things. I learned Zentangle and making the Mandala through the various social media platforms–art forms I never knew existed!

We live our lives in pursuit of peace and happiness. That’s why, in a life that is so short, uncertain and full of stress and difficulties, it helps having a hobby that gives us some moments of respite from all the chaos; gives our mind and body a few moments of peace and joy that give us renewed energy to go back out there and tackle Life and its complicated situations, all over again.

So, what’s your hobby? Do you make time for it in your daily schedule?

Love,

SHILPA..

 

Your hobby keeps you healthy.

 

 

 

 

Managing anxiety.

Managing anxiety.

I discovered last month that after battling chronic stress and anxiety over a period of 19 years, I had developed Generalised Anxiety Disorder, which went unnoticed for a long time. There was Life to deal with. Earlier, it was MIL’s illness and her passing away, followed by my pet dog’s illness and his passing away, and then, last year, hubby’s illness and many other unimagined, unexpected events that turned my world upside down.

It is only so much that a person can handle without getting intensely affected by the events that take place in his or her life. But, when the stress, the fear and the exhaustion gets unbearable, it is sure to affect a person’s mental health.

I am glad I sought professional help when I realised I couldn’t take it any longer.

Generalised Anxiety Disorder can be managed provided you work on yourself and your thoughts that cause you the anxiety. And, yes, also seek medical help.

So, after a few sessions of counselling and medicines that help in controlling the anxiety and its thought process and get an 8 hour uninterrupted sleep (ah, sheer bliss!), I have been handling my anxiety much better. I have learned to distract my mind from thoughts that cause the anxiety to escalate; I have made a few changes in my daily life to help me loosen up a bit, relieve the stress and learn to live in the moment that makes things a lot easier for the mind.

Today, I would like to share the ways in which I manage my anxiety and am in a much calmer space despite the chaos around. Well, chaos is omnipresent, isn’t it? It’s always going to be your companion in Life!

ANXIETY:

Anxiety is a feeling we all experience in our life. Some anxiety is even necessary for us to be able to face and deal with any situation that comes in our life at every turn. However, when this anxiety takes over our mind to such an extent that it becomes difficult to deal with everyday life, we ought to seek professional help. There is no need for any embarrassment, really. Our body will function to its optimum only if we are in a healthy frame of mind.

So, if you do feel your anxiety and fear making life difficult for you, then:

  • Consult a mental health expert,

  • Seek counselling, and

  • Take the prescribed medications.

  • And sharing a doctor’s advice :

    Try and understand the thoughts that cause you the anxiety and look for solutions. Journaling helps. Write down the thoughts that cause you anxiety and find ways to tackle those issues if and when they do arise.

Most of the times, people with GAD imagine the worst case scenario which causes extreme anxiety. Know, that whatever happens, you will be able to face it, cope with it. Diverting your attention won’t help in the long run. But, assuring yourself that you can and will deal with the uncertainties in Life will arm you with the strength you need.

EASY AND EFFECTIVE WAYS TO MANAGE ANXIETY:

PRACTICE MINDFULNESS:

An easy way to practice mindfulness is to make it a goal to be followed for a particular number of days. Say, for a week or so. Every task you do, make sure your mind is in that very moment a 100%. Grab your mind by its collar when you feel it wandering and bring it back to the present. it isn’t easy, mind you, but you need to do it for yourself. Just do it a few times, while cooking/working/walking, and you will notice how it relieves the mind.

BREATHE:

Breathe. The one process our life depends on and the one process we often neglect. We aren’t even aware whether we are breathing correctly.

Sit cross-legged on the floor, or a chair; be comfortable and then inhale slowly and deeply, for as long as you can. Then, exhale the same way. Focus on your nostrils as you take in the air and let it out, or focus on your stomach as it inflates and deflates as it takes in the air and lets it out. Do it just for 10 counts, initially. And, then, do it whenever you are sitting idle, lost in thoughts. Bring your mind to the moment and begin to breathe. And, FOCUS on your breath. DO NOT let your mind wander.

SLEEP:

An uninterrupted sleep is so necessary for our body and mind to recover from the day’s exhaustion, to repair itself and to rejuvenate.

Switch off your gadgets–phones, laptops and TV–an hour or half an hour before bedtime. Carry a book or the newspaper to bed and read or solve puzzles. Within ten minutes of doing this, you are sure to feel drowsy. This is because there isn’t the blue light emitting from the book/newspapers, neither is there any movement on a screen in front of your eyes to keep your mind alert. Sudoku and crossword puzzles work for me. Find out what works for you.

DIVERT YOUR MIND:

Each time I used to travel in the car with hubby at the wheel, I would panic. So much so, that I used to beg for divine intervention to come and save me. I am mortally scared of speed. I feel at ease only when the vehicle runs at a speed of 60 Kmph. Slower than that is also welcome!

Now, thankfully, since hubby learned about my GAD, he drives real slow. And, if by chance, there is a nutcase driving like a maniac and hubby tries to veer away from his path, I hold on tight to my bag in my arms and go away to some far away fantasy land. This works like a charm. Although, what I do need to work on, is to tell myself that I can cope with the speed and assure myself that whatever happens, I will take care of it.

TAKE A WALK/PRACTICE YOGA:

Any form of exercise, when done with complete concentration, helps distract your anxious mind.

I practice yoga for 30 – 35 minutes in the morning and go for a 40 minutes walk in the evening, without fail. And, while doing these activities, I do not have any app guiding me or recording/calculating the number of steps or calories burned. I just stay in the moment. I breathe, take in the scenery, or concentrate on the asanas. That’s THE way to enjoy your workout!

LISTEN TO MUSIC:

Music is therapy for the mind and the soul. Agree?

Just put on some music of your choice while working or doing chores and feel your mind relax. It is, indeed, therapeutic. I have made a habit of listening to music at least once a day–morning or evening–and it leaves me feeling so fresh!

COMMUNICATE:

Talking things out with your close ones helps tremendously.

I have marked days of the week when I call up my close friends and cousins and have a heart to heart talk with them. I have set alarms in my phone that remind me of which day and at what time I am to talk to which person. Amusing, I know, but this helps me stay connected with my close ones and have my support system when I am in need.

INDULGE IN FRIVOLOUS ACTIVITIES:

Absolutely insignificant stuff like looking for matching accessories for your clothes, deciding what clothes you will wear for which occasion (even if there isn’t one anytime soon), pampering your body with a spa treatment at home, preparing face masks or body scrubs from stuff in your kitchen cabinets–it is super fun, I tell you! These things, though frivolous, push out the anxious thoughts that often find a snug spot in our mind. Try it. It’s silly, I know, but it helps.

READ:

Fiction, especially suspense-thrillers are my go-to books when I need to divert my mind. Self-help books seldom help me at such times, coz I don’t want any gyaan; all I want is some adventure to read about or some murder mystery that grips my attention like nothing else can.

PURSUE A HOBBY:

My favourite is art, and especially, the Zentangle. And, these days, I am bitten by the Mandala bug. I can forget the world and its hundred worries when I sit down to make a mandala.

Anxiety is a feeling that will always be lurking somewhere in your mind. Life is such. But, you need to show your anxiety who’s the boss!

Take care…

Love,

SHILPA…

P. S.

Do read my friend Sanch’s comment below. She is a psychologist and has shared some much-needed advice for us.

Thank you so much, Sanch! ūüíü

Love,

Shilpa.

Manage your anxiety the easy way

Are you lactose intolerant?

Are you lactose intolerant?


Featured post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

Do you remember, as kids, being coaxed to drink up that tall glass of warm milk every morning and evening? I know, some of you couldn’t even tolerate it and so emptied the glass in the flower pot or the sink, right? ¬†The smell and the taste can be off-putting, so I can understand.

But, there’s a reason why our parents wanted us to drink that glass of milk, you know?

Milk is a COMPLETE FOOD as it consists of every such nutrient that we humans need.

 

We have heard it since the time we were kids about how drinking milk will give us strong teeth and healthy bones as it is rich in Calcium.

But, apart from that, it also helps keep the heart healthy and the blood pressure under control.

Milk fortified with Vitamin D helps us sleep well and helps produce serotonin–our ¬†‘good mood’ hormone–which could keep depression away. Now, this is an information my doctor provided. ¬†He said that a lack of Vitamin D results in all of the PMS related feelings like mood-swings, irritability, depression, fatigue, etc, that, if not taken care of, can only worsen with time.

And, yet, so many of us find it unbearable to even bring a glass of milk close to our nose! Well, if the smell puts you off, you could always add a spoonful of some nutritional powder, like Horlicks, Boost, Complan, or even almond/cardamom powder–there’s a wide choice of nutritional drinks available in the market. Choose the one that you like.

If hot/warm milk gives you nausea or gas, try chilled milk. I love chilled milk. I add a spoonful of Horlicks to it and have it for my breakfast.  My last post was on coughs and cures, where I failed to mention that my cough usually gets cured by a glass of chilled milk, instead of the usually prescribed warm haldi wala doodh (milk with turmeric)!

Lactose intolerance and food options:

When the body cannot digest the lactose present in the milk, it makes you lactose intolerant. One could suffer from nausea, vomiting, gas or diarrhoea and, hence, stay away from milk, altogether.

However, if not milk, then you can surely have other milk products such as curd or yoghurt, buttermilk, cheese, cottage cheese or paneer, ghee, butter and milk which is lactose-free.

Other alternatives are soy milk, coconut milk, almond milk.

Dark green leafy vegetables like spinach contain calcium as does Amaranth. Chia seeds, beans, lentils and tofu are other foods that also contain calcium in good quantities.

Milk products for the lactose intolerant:

Curd contains high amount of proteins making it a highly nutritional food. Add some fruits of your choice, some dates and other dry fruits and honey and you have a delicious and healthy bowl for a midmorning or evening snack, ready in no time!

You could also make a smoothie with curds and some fruits. Keep sugar out of these recipes, though. And, artificial sweeteners, too. Using honey, dates or raisins is a better alternative.

Curds go well with parathas, rice (curd-rice, any day!) or oats, too.

Buttermilk, when had after a heavy lunch, makes for the best digestive. Just add some cumin powder, rock salt (kala namak),¬†some finely chopped green chillies and coriander and you get the best cooling, digestive drink, ever. You know that, don’t you?

Cottage cheese, or¬†paneer,¬†is another milk product loaded with calcium and proteins. And, it aids in weight loss, too. Homemade¬†paneer¬†tastes the best–soft and creamy–as opposed to the readymade one, which is often rubbery and lacks any taste. Just add a spoon of lemon juice to some warm milk and when the milk curdles and the curds separates, pour it through a cloth in a strainer. Gather the cloth, squeeze it lightly to drain the excess water and tie it up. That’s it. Perfect, soft, tasty¬†paneer¬†ready to be used in your recipes, or eat it as is.

Cheese provides calcium and proteins, vitamins A and B12, riboflavin, phosphorus and zinc. The best benefit of cheese, I read, is for the teeth as it prevents tooth decay. For those trying to gain some weight, you could add cheese to your diet. It helps improve the bone density and also strengthens the muscles.Opt for cheese with low salt content as otherwise it could affect your blood pressure.

And, finally,¬†ghee,¬†or clarified butter, is another milk product that you can consume on a daily basis. It will help in maintaining your gut health, keep your joints healthy, your heart beating beautifully, your skin soft, and your weight under control. My post on¬†Ghee has the method of preparing it at home. it’s really easy to make, or you could buy white butter from the market and use that to prepare the¬†ghee.

So, if you have deleted milk from your daily diet due to lactose intolerance, do include it now through the various milk products. ¬†You will be doing a world of good for your health–mental as well as physical health. Trust me!

Take care,

Love,

SHILPA…

 

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