The secret code to a lasting relationship

What-makes-a-marriage-last-sustaining-relationships

When I got married more than 12 years ago, marriage was a fancy notion. Being married meant romance, love, adventure, and countless fond memories that would last a lifetime. While the memories did last, the marriage did not. As time passed, and the unthinkable happened, I found myself doing what everyone who parts ways from their partners does—analysing why a marriage that should have worked for many reasons, didn’t work for just a handful of reasons, murky at best.

The analysis of the ‘why’ did take place over countless cups of coffee, all-nighters, and video calls with worried friends. Whether a clear answer to the big ‘why’ surfaced or not, the myriad analyses gave rise to a more pertinent question: what does make a marriage work? Eventually, I realised such answers take time to come. Sometimes, they don’t, which is when you must accept the question marks. For the time being, at least.

But the mind, it is a sneaky little wanderer. Now and then, it goes back to the questions that linger, and to the historical debris, in the hope to sew together a possible explanation of perhaps the most significant event of your life.

Fortunately, for me, the answers came in bits and pieces, through conversations and observations—sometimes friends, at times, even strangers—couples who have been together almost their entire lives, those who have spent the better part of their lives with each other, or some who’ve spent the more significant years together; couples who are together because they’ve managed to overcome their differences and couples who are together despite their differences. What left me overwhelmed was the spirit with which people celebrate their relationships and their partners along with the differences they cannot ignore.

So, what is this big, bold secret behind relationships that last?

Given that millions of people are asking this question, this enduring quest no more remained personal. It became only imperative to take it to the next level, put some thoughts out there, perhaps as something to chew on for those treading this wavelength, wondering why, and why not.

In an endeavour to find answers to this quintessential question, we, at Soulveda, did a little digging. What we found were not mere confessions of those who have managed to master ‘marriage’ but also insights, lessons, and solutions to the most complex of all human relationships.

A closer look at relationships that have lasted the test of time and circumstances demonstrates the role of a value system that’s similar, if not identical.

Validate the feelings of your partner

Picture this. An argument between a couple takes place. Tempers flare up, words get spoken, hurt and pain take over, one of them storms out of the room, the other bangs the door shut, tears are shed and something lingers—the dissatisfaction of not being heard and understood. “…To feel truly “gotten” is to feel deeply, rewardingly validated,” says Leon F Seltzer, psychologist and author, in an article on Psychology Today.

Often, couples complain their feelings are dismissed by the significant other. Inadvertently, while waging the war between right and wrong, one person’s feelings end up being dismissed. What could be the solution? Validate the feelings of the one you love. Don’t assume just because it does not make sense to you, or you can’t understand it, it isn’t true.

Honour the expectations

There is no relationship without expectations. The problem appears when we try to resist them. Because where there is love and closeness, there are expectations. And if there are expectations, they should be communicated, not dismissed just because they are coming from someone else.

Communicate, communicate, communicate 

One of the scariest pitfalls of a relationship is a lack of communication. Often, the assumption is that the significant other knows how you feel at any given point of time. Whether it is the expression of your love, affection, or displeasure, communication is a prerequisite in this most fragile of all relationships. “Many people in troubled marriages say, ‘We just don’t communicate anymore.’ Most likely, they mean to say that they don’t communicate effectively anymore. The truth is that people are communicating all the time. Even two people giving each other the silent treatment are communicating with each other,” says Erika Krull, a mental health expert, in her blog on Psych Central. So, spell it out even if it seems redundant. The key to a successful relationship is healthy interaction and dialogue.

Don’t take it personally

Where there are two people, there will always be disagreement. No matter what the equation, two people cannot possibly agree on everything. Disagreements mean there will be feedback coming both ways which may not always be palatable. And when you don’t like what you hear about yourself, don’t take it personally. It could be factual rather than judgemental.

Accept the person for better or for worse

“Don’t try to turn your spouse into someone they are not!” goes the advice of every family counsellor. Your partner may not be what you want them to be, but they are who they are. Do not compare them with anyone else. Who doesn’t come with flaws? Imperfections can’t be wished away. There may be habits and traits of your loved one that annoy or upset you. It’s important to remember that if you accepted those habits initially, why would you become finicky all of a sudden?

Celebrate the differences

No two people are the same. Yet, it can be the hardest thing to accept when someone we are close to is different than us. When it is a life partner, differences can easily become the cause of conflict. While it would be great to find a partner or a spouse who has a personality and sensibilities like ours, it would hardly be fair to expect our partners to think or be like us just because that’s the way of life we understand. The magic potion for a marriage or relationship is to celebrate the differences, however hard it may seem. Couples who have lasted through years of battling and overcoming such expectations, vouch for this mantra.

Values are the glue that bind the two

One of the most essential, albeit often side-lined, attributes of a successful relationship is the value system that two people grow up with and as an extension, bring it to their relationship too. A value system shapes an individual’s world view and perception of life. A closer look at relationships that have lasted the test of time and circumstances demonstrates the role of a value system that’s similar, if not identical. It is the glue that binds two people together despite differences.

As new perspectives sink in, and you begin to see your partner in a new light, there is room to undo the past hurt by making a fresh start and thoughtful gestures.

Love is the unassuming saviour

Deon Jackson famously sang Love makes the world go around. Ironically, love is the one ingredient we take for granted the most. But when everything seems to be falling apart in a relationship, the unassuming saviour is love. In the grips of a low patch, it is tempting to dismiss everything good and be ruled by what doesn’t work. This is when relationship experts call upon the importance of relying on the most stubborn of all emotions—love. The power and intensity of love felt for a partner is so strong that it can drown out the noise of discord.

Be good friends

If love is the saviour of a fading relationship, it is friendship that brings the groove back in a rusty relationship. Sage advice emphasises the importance of friendship between a couple. According to John Gottman, Relationship expert and author of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: “Happy marriages are based on a deep friendship.” When the spark between two people appears to be dying out, a warm friendship saves the day. The uncomplicated nature of friendship can kick-start an open dialogue and end a long feud. The fact that friendship does not come with the baggage of the past, helps an effortless camaraderie.

Acknowledge and reciprocate gestures

When you have been with someone for too long, the love and care you give and receive become part and parcel of the relationship. The gestures that made you skip a heartbeat, somehow become routine. Couples who have managed to crack the relationship code swear by appreciating and reciprocating gestures. While you may be used to a gesture your partner often makes, acknowledging it and reciprocating it with something you can do for them is a sure winner.

Spend quality time together

One of the most discussed aspects in relationships is quality time together. Relationship veterans don’t blink when they say spending quality time together is the golden key to a healthy relationship. Because people are different, things they like to do are varied too. It is perfectly healthy for a couple to engage in separate activities and interests. But finding common interests is paramount when it comes to love and relationships. Doing even simplest of things together such as taking a walk in the park, cooking, cycling, gardening, or simply reading together retains the spark between two in love.

Don’t get needy, give space

Where there is need for togetherness, there is always room for some space. Giving space to your partner is, perhaps, the best advice you’d come across. And when you do, be consistent with it. Life, today, can get demanding and invariably exhausting. If there is no space in a relationship, it could easily get overbearing. So, don’t get too needy, too often.

Don’t throw in the towel just yet, seek help

Despite being with a person for a considerable part of our lives, we are ready to bow out when things get too hard to deal with. Irrespective of the reasons leading to the break-down of a relationship, the instinct is to quit often to self-preserve. There is nothing wrong with walking away but seeking professional help before doing what cannot be undone is the wiser thing to do, say experts. Objective and unbiased advice coming from a third person brings in a fresh perspective. “…the effectiveness of marriage counseling is directly related to the motivation level of both partners and timing. For some couples, marriage counseling is really divorce counseling because they’ve already thrown in the towel,” writes Terry Gaspard, therapist and author, in her blog on Gottman.com.

Press the reset button

Just in case, you have climbed an uphill battle of overcoming differences, resolving conflict and seeking help to save your relationship, don’t just conclude the job’s all done and dusted. As new perspectives sink in, and you begin to see your partner in a new light, there is room to undo the past hurt by making a fresh start and thoughtful gestures.

The daughter’s father

daughters father

He had always wanted a son—his spitting image, a ‘typical’ boy whom he would raise to be a fine young man and a responsible citizen. He often visualised being a father, watching his son play, teaching him, reprimanding him if he didn’t eat his vegetables. During their pregnancy, he often told his wife, “We will raise our son such that he will value relationships. He will care for people. Our son will be around when we grow old not because he’ll have to, but because he will want to.”

As he paced impatiently outside the delivery room, the affable doctor came out smiling, “Congratulations, you have a daughter!” He smiled back at her with joy, of course. Yet, a silent disappointment enveloped his heart. Am I sad? Am I sad because we did not have a son? Or, is it because I did not want a daughter? I am an educated, open-minded person. Of course, this can’t be true. It was emotional torture! He didn’t want to entertain such thoughts any further. I will be equally happy raising our daughter.

Struggling with numerous such thoughts, he went in to see his wife and daughter. The next moment he found himself holding his little girl. He finally understood the phrase ‘pure love’ as he cradled her in his arms. He felt deeply protective of this little person he saw for the first time. But even so, the feeling of disappointment continued to gnaw at him.

Years passed, a lot changed. He lost his beloved wife to a fatal tumour. At her deathbed, he decided to raise his daughter single-handedly. And he did. But even 10 years after losing his wife and being the single parent he chose to be, his relationship with his daughter remained distant, formal at best. Often, while travelling and taking his ritualistic evening walks, he pondered over her future and wellbeing. He still longed for a son, and wondered what their relationship would have been like.

Years went by, and nothing changed. Well, one thing did—his daughter got married and moved away with the love of her life. As for him, life was the same except that he was much older and took longer walks. One Sunday evening, he returned from his walk feeling sad and alone, dreading an empty, dark house. As he walked past the main gate, he saw the lights on, the door unlocked and his daughter and son-in-law standing together, smiling. “Father, we thought it’d be perfect if we lived close to each other. Better still, next door! We’ve found two adjacent houses on a peaceful street, not far from here. There’s also a beautiful park for your long walks. What do you think?”

Overcome with emotion, he could barely say anything in response to his daughter’s thoughtful gesture. He smiled with a nod, instead.

Strolling through the park months later, he contemplated life’s events. His heart warmed at the realisation that the love, care and security he sought in a father-son relationship he never had, was there all along. He just forgot to look.

Foolishly, we spend our lives mining for love, when love’s never too far. Overwhelmed, he smiled.

Looking forward to the hot cup of tea his daughter was waiting with, he walked home. The disappointment had long turned into bliss.

6 ways to prepare children for the future

children

When we think of children, we imagine tiny tots, vibrant and full of life. Blissful souls, self-assured, bubbling with confidence, yet to face life’s realities. However, as children grow up and interact with people around them, some interactions boost their confidence and motivate them, while others downright discourage and demotivate them. Children must be taught early that such experiences are part of life. They need to consider such interactions only as a stepping stone to empower themselves.

But first, what does empowerment mean, when it comes to children? It means, helping children become aware of their capabilities; and helping them take charge of their lives. The earlier children are empowered, the more resilient they become to face adversities in future. Such children (when they become adults) find within them, the ability to surmount obstacles, confidently, and become the best version of themselves. So how do we raise empowered children? Soulveda lists a few ways.

Master the art of listening

A child seldom needs a good talking to as a good listening to. – Author Robert Brault

Perhaps, one of the easiest ways to empower children is by simply lending our ears to them. In developmental psychology, listening to a child is referred to as ‘holding a child’s mind in mind’. By simply listening, researches show that children feel valued. Their emotions too become well-regulated, which improve their self-image and self-worth.

So, what does it take to master the art of listening? As paediatrician Claudia M Gold writes in the book The Silenced Child, “True listening comes from a stance of “not knowing,” in which we are open to imagining our way into another’s feelings, even when they are not our own.” As she further writes, it requires us to be mindful of our children’s difficult and intense feelings, while at the same time conveying a feeling of support and safety.

The sooner a child learns to understand and process their emotions, the better they’d be empowered to tackle the ups and downs of life.

Choose your words carefully

The words with which a child’s heart is poisoned, whether through malice or through ignorance, remain branded in his memory, and sooner or later they burn his soul. – Novelist Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The words we utter to our children have a profound effect on their impressionable brains. These words become their inner voice which guides them for the rest of their lives. It could affect their self-worth and self-esteem. So, while talking to children, it is wise to exercise caution.

In the book Parentspeak: What’s wrong with how we talk to children, and what to say, author Jeniffer Lehr cites a quote by late psychologist Thomas Gordon. It goes, “Every time you talk to a child, you are adding a brick to define the relationship that is being built between the two of you. And each message says something to the child about what you think of him. He gradually picks up a picture of how you perceive him as a person. Talk can be constructive to the child and the relationship, or destructive.”

Bolster their emotions

Emotional intelligence begins to develop in the earliest years. All the small exchanges children have with their parents, teachers, and with each other carry emotional messages. – Daniel Goleman

We often underestimate the range of emotions children experience. Even infants can feel a range of emotions such as joy, anger, sadness, and fear. emotional development occurs by the first three years of age, well before a child is exposed to the outside world. So, the sooner a child learns to understand and process their emotions, the better they’d be empowered to tackle the ups and downs of life.

KidsMatter, an initiative funded by the Australian government, lists a few ways in which parents can support their children’s emotional development. For example, by tuning into children’s emotions, parents can help them decrypt and understand their emotions. Parents can then guide them so that they learn to recognise, accept and process their emotions effectively.

This way, we’d resolve our emotional issues, and break free from our own unconscious negative patterns.

Nurture a child’s core personality

Children are not things to be moulded but are people to be unfolded. – Professor and author Jess Lair

We often take a newborn child as an empty slate. We then strive to engrave on that slate, characteristics which we think would contribute to their success in life. But what if, each child was already born with a unique personality core—an inborn nature? Shouldn’t we then nurture that core?

In the book Nurture the Nature: Understanding and supporting your child’s unique core personality, author Michael Gurian writes, “The nature of your child is far more powerful than you may realize, and it provides a parenting plan and a direction for everyday life as a parent that is like no other.” So, all we can do is become aware of children’s unique personalities and come up with an action plan to support their strengths and accommodate their weaknesses.

Trust your child’s choices and decisions

Children learn how to make good decisions by making decisions, not by following directions. – Lecturer and author Alfie Kohn

We all aspire children to become independent adults. It is a life’s journey, where we teach children the lessons of creative thinking and decision making. But when children make their own choices and decisions, how often do we agree with them—especially when the decision seems downright immature and foolish, or when the choices they make are not something we necessarily agree with?

In Love no matter what: When your kids make decision you don’t agree with, author Brenda Garrison reminds us that children often make decisions that are not in line with our preferences. Some of their decisions could seem downright immature to us. So, what do we do then? As much as it may hurt us, we refrain from chiding them, and respect their decision anyway. The more we allow children to make mistakes, the more they’d become responsible and prudent. As Garrison writes, “Our hearts should be open toward our children, so we can do whatever we are called upon to do for their benefit—whatever says to them, “I love you, no matter what.””

Lead by example

Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them. – Novelist and critic James Baldwin

How often have we tried to be all that we expect our children to become? If we are honest with ourselves, the answer is, not often. Ironically, no matter what we teach our children verbally, children learn by watching us. So, instead of teaching our children to lead an empowered life, it would be wiser to simply lead one ourselves. But how do we empower ourselves?

Clinical psychologist and author Shefali Tsabary explores a few ways we can transform ourselves and empower our children in her book The Conscious Parent: Transforming Ourselves, Empowering Our Children. According to her, the more we become conscious and trusting of life itself, the more we’d fall in tune with ourselves and our emotions. This way, we’d resolve our emotional issues, and break free from our own unconscious negative patterns. When we bring this approach to parenting, we’d become conscious parents, intuitively attuned to our children’s needs. We’d not only become better at empowering our children, but also awaken to life lessons that children teach us. We’d then realize that parenting in itself is a spiritual experience.

Gods and their creatures

god

The relationship between man and animal has always been an intricate one. For years, the mutual bond has been beneficial to both. As man evolved, his relationship with animal evolved too, and somewhere in this journey animal became a part of man’s various religions.

According to Johannes Weissenborn, the author of Animal-worship in Africa, the primitive man began worshipping the unique traits of animals long before the idea of religion came into being. As society grew, mythologies across the globe displayed an overlap of animals and religions.

The origin of the link between animal and God has been attributed to a legend. Classical author and Greek historian Diodorus traced African folklore and found that according to one legend, the gods were threatened by the giants and had to hide. They decided to do so under the guise of animals. This prompted people to worship those animals. Even after the gods came out of hiding, animal worship continued.

Not all religions look at animals in the same way though. While those following Paganism believe in the spiritual essence of nature and worship animals, the idea that gods walk the earth embodied in animals is disregarded by Abrahamic religions.

Let’s take a look at some animals that have been associated with gods across cultures and religions.

The owl

Considered the wisest of all, the owl is known as the symbol of Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth. According to a Hindu legend, the nocturnal nature of the owl symbolises ignorance and darkness. However, another legend says that the owl is a representation of Alakshmi–goddess Lakshmi’s other half who was born out of the dark side of Lord Brahma’s face. In yet another version, her owl is Uluka, another name for Lord Indra–the king of heaven–who represents glory, power and wealth.

While most Hindu legends look at the owl as a symbol of darkness, goddess Lakshmi encourages us to rise above our ignorance and take the path of light.

The owl is also sacred to Athena, the Greek virgin goddess of wisdom and courage. As per legend, the bird is either the goddess’ escort or just represents her. Athena’s association with the owl has many explanations by various mythographers. The most interesting is by Marija Gimbutas, an archaeologist who traces the goddess’ origin as an old European bird. Greek legends associated with Athena also associate the owl with wisdom as it can see clearly in the dark.

The swan

The swan is the vehicle of Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of wisdom and of Apollo, the Greek god of music and poetry, among other things. According to the Hindu mythology, the swan symbolises the ability to discriminate between good and evil as it has the power to drink only milk from a mixture of milk and water, hence the association with the goddess of wisdom.

On the other hand as per a Greek legend, Apollo’s father Zeus gifted him a golden mitre, a chariot drawn by swans and a golden lyre. The bird, over time, has come to represent the powers of poetry.

The lion and tiger

Considered the vehicle of Hindu goddess Durga, a tiger symbolises unlimited power that the goddess uses to protect virtue and destroy evil. She also rides a lion which is a symbol of uncontrolled tendencies like anger, arrogance, selfishness, greed and jealousy. The goddess, through the lion reminds us to keep these vices in check.

Dionysus, the Greek god of wine, rides a chariot usually drawn by lions or tigers. Both these beasts symbolise chaos, danger and unexpected reactions.

The horse

One of the most beautiful and powerful creatures, the horse appears in quite a few mythologies. The Hindu sun god Surya rides a chariot drawn by seven of these majestic creatures. According to legend, the sun god’s seven horses represent seven sins and his control over them.

Predictably, the Greek mythology also has a powerful god linked to the horse. Poseidon, the god of the sea, is known to have created the horse in a bid to woo Demeter, the goddess of grain. While not exactly using it as a vehicle, Poseidon has been known to have taken the shape of a steed occasionally.

The bull

The next creature on our list, the bull is known as the ride of Lord Shiva. Called Nandi, the bull is also Shiva’s doorkeeper.

Ptah, the Egyptian god of craftsmen and architects, is said to have merged with Apis, a sacred bull. While not taking a form of the beast, the bull was instead, a kind of servant for Ptah. This bull was considered divine only when he would host the god.

The deer

From the raging bull, we move to one of the most gentle animals in the wild–the deer. In the Hindu mythology, the goddess of wisdom Saraswati takes the form of a red deer. In ancient times, scholars were known to wear deerskin and sit on deerskin mats when learning.

In ancient Greece, Artemis, the goddess of hunt, forests and hills, rode a chariot of four stags and the animal is sacred to her. According to one legend, two giant brothers called the Aloadae giants were feared even by the gods. Artemis discovered they could only be killed by each other. She took the form of a deer and jumped between the brothers when they were hunting. Both threw their spears at Artemis, but ended up killing each other.

The mouse

The Hindu god of wisdom, Ganesha rides a mouse. According to common belief, it’s because of this unique vehicle that lord Ganesha is able to go into nooks and corners and do his job as the destroyer of obstacles.

Meanwhile, the Greek god Apollo, the god of plagues, doesn’t really use the mouse as a vehicle, but he is associated with the rodent since he raised havoc during the Trojan War by unleashing arrows that turned into mice.

The cat

When we talk of the mouse, the cat can’t be far behind. According to the Hindu mythology, Shashthi is a folk goddess who is the protector of children and the deity of vegetation and reproduction. The black cat is considered sacred to her and she is often depicted riding a cat with eight infants in hand.

The Norse goddess Freyja, the deity of love, is known to have ridden in a chariot pulled by two giant grey cats given to her by the god Thor. Farmers are said to leave offerings for cats for a good harvest.

The dog

The Hindu god of death, Yama has two dogs with wide nostrils and four eyes guarding the road to his abode. The dogs are said to wander among people as Yama’s messengers. Anubis, the Greek god of mummification and afterlife, is represented by a black-coated dog. In many places, Anubis is also portrayed as a human with the face of a hound with erect ears.

Man has always been fascinated by the unique characteristics of birds and animals. The fact that animals are linked to gods and we look to them for guidance, clearly highlights their importance in our lives.

Can long-distance relationships work?

relationship

Valliammal was heart-broken when her beau Marappan accepted a new job offer in Chennai. She couldn’t imagine a day without seeing him. Marappan, too, wasn’t very keen to leave his family and beloved behind, but he knew it would be foolish to pass up such a lucrative job. It was the first time the couple would live apart in two different cities. Their first thought was how to keep in touch. They decided to write letters to each other every other day. Wondering why not call, WhatsApp or Skype? Well, that’s because this love story dates back to 40 years when lovers didn’t have the technology to bridge such a communication gap.

However, being a committed couple, Valliammal and Marappan were determined to make their long-distance relationship work. They started exchanging love notes to each other, which was “not easy” initially, but they got used to it slowly. The distance helped them uncover the true nature of their relationship that endured the test of time and separation. Valliammal says that the distance helped them identify the loopholes in their relationship and fix them. “When we were in the same city, there were times we would fight. But as he shifted, we started missing each other, understanding each other’s needs even better. It helped us work on our problems, in a way, we matured,” Valliamal says.

Forty years later, Valliammal and Marappan are happily married with children who are now married.  Like theirs, there are many such heart-melting love stories that have stood the test of time, despite the distances. However, the general perception these days is that long-distance relationships are doomed. Whereas some relationships, be it real-time or long-distance, are too weak to last long, the love between a couple living apart can survive under any difficult situation if there is commitment and determination to make the relationship work.

These days, unlike in the times of Valliammal and Marappan, long-distance is a misnomer. Distances have blurred as couples can keep in touch through texts, video chats, and phone calls. And, it is through these video calls that they evaluate and interpret mutual trust, patience and respect. Kadambari Seth, a corporate life coach, and counsellor, explains how her long-distance relationship with her then-boyfriend, now husband, has worked successfully and why she vouches for such relationships. “He was in Bangalore and I was in Delhi. Since he was not earning back then, the pact was, I give him a call every day, and he writes me letters. This was years back, we didn’t see each other for months but these letters and those phone calls kept us going,” Kadambari said.

It’s important to handle long-distance relationships with utmost maturity and care.

Seth further opines that a couple living apart gets to enjoy substantial personal space and independence, which keeps the spark alive in the relationship. Living apart builds excitement and curiosity in both partners until they meet each other. They appreciate and savour the ‘us’ time together, whether it comes after months, or years. It then becomes more about spending quality time and understanding each other better.

Couples in long-distance relationships share more profound and meaningful conversations, which can be “therapeutic” in many ways, as psychologist Amita Mani says. “First, due to the lack of proximity, there is a sense of subjectivity. A lot of times conversations between long-distance couples go to a deeper level, its more about how your partner feels or thinks, what are his/her beliefs, values,” says Amita. Secondly, living apart can help couples concentrate on their respective work and careers even better. There’s ample time to prioritise work, follow hobbies and socialise with friends. This can help in strengthening the social circle around them.

That being said, not everything is rosy in long-distance relationships. Sometimes, this very space, the individual life and career away from the partner can be detrimental to the relationship. Unless there’s a deep understanding, a mature commitment and complete dedication to the partner, the independence and space of living apart for too long can create a distance between the partners. This distance makes couples emotionally detached and look for emotional fulfilment in colleagues or friends, thus leading to work spouses. Given the emotional complexities, it’s important to handle long-distance relationships with utmost maturity and care.

It’s challenging, but doable when both partners are ready to invest in the relationship equally. Besides, as mentioned earlier in this article, technology has blurred distances these days. So, all it takes now is really understanding, mutual trust, loyalty and a deep sense of respect to make a long-distance relationship successful.

Travel wide, broaden your mind

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When Bilbo Baggins left Bag End to go off on an epic journey with Gandalf and the dwarves, he never thought he could be anything other than a comfort-loving hobbit. To his own surprise, he turned out to be a talented ‘burglar’, applying his wits and common sense in times of danger. And when he returned, he was no longer the same.

They say travel can change you profoundly. But it wasn’t until recently that I saw the truth of it. As a child, I didn’t get the chance to explore my country, let alone the world. I won’t bother you with the whys, because my parents might chase after me with a stick. In any case, I’m an introvert, and wanderlust doesn’t exactly run in my veins. The prospect of making a bucket list of countries-to-visit doesn’t excite me. But I love what travelling did for me, when I took up a master’s degree in the United Kingdom.

The first two weeks had me cringing at every pound I spent. Rupee-to-pound conversion isn’t pretty. Little did I know then that currency wasn’t the only thing being converted. In a month, I’d gotten adept at cleaning; my pampered self was in tears. In three months, I’d turned into a professional cook; six months later, I’d gained six kilos. In the year that followed, I made a few solo trips; the curfew-bound Indian girl in me had taken flight. When I returned home a year and a half later, all plump and independent, my mother couldn’t recognise me.

“Travel wallops my ethnocentricity, and I’m very thankful for that. It’s something to celebrate.”

It’s amazing what travel can do for us. The mere virtue of being in a new place, experiencing new cultures can trigger subtle tweaks in personality. Arunima Maji, an IT professional, travels a lot for work and leisure alike. In her opinion, it’s not necessarily a you-will-meet-new-people-make-new-friends scenario. She says, “I’ve always found it hard to talk to new people. But globe-trotting has forced me to open up. My travels didn’t make an extrovert out of me, but they certainly taught me to socialise better.”

Arunima has a point. Socialising truly is at the heart of thoughtful travelling. Guidebook author and travel TV host Rick Steves in his TEDx Talk The value of travel speaks about how important it is to interact with people while travelling. He admits that meeting people from different cultures during his travels has dispelled the idea that the world is a pyramid with westerners on top and the rest of the world trying to scramble up from the bottom. Experiencing new cultures has broadened his worldview. “Travel wallops my ethnocentricity, and I’m very thankful for that. It’s something to celebrate,” he says.

I’ve experienced something similar. While studying in London, I grew very fond of my Pakistani classmate. It was only then that I learnt of the many similarities and far fewer differences between India and Pakistan. Take this, for instance: Pakistanis too, like Indians, are fond of golgappa (a street food variety). Only, in Pakistan, it’s breakfast, whereas in India, it’s an evening snack. I’m sure many Indians would love this idea! If it weren’t for my friend, I would only ever know Pakistan as a country India shares a border with (or fights for it). Today though, her gift sits on my desk–a blue wooden box with ornate designs on it. It holds all my wishes, hopes and dreams on small pieces of paper–a kind of positivity trap. I fondly call it ‘Pak Box’.

Sure, we might need visas to travel the world, but we can let our minds transcend borders.

Travelling certainly prompts a reality check on beliefs and broadens perspectives. It also teaches us to manage our lives a little better. For some, it brings about discipline. Entrepreneur Abhishek Kumar is a vacation-monger. He believes travelling keeps him more organised. “Taking frequent vacation breaks has made me more responsible. I’ve learnt to plan and cater to both family and business needs while I’m away,” he says.

Of course, travelling isn’t always hunky-dory. It’s especially tricky if you’re a lone traveller. Safety is always a concern. Frequent solo travellers will tell you one thing: instincts make for a safe journey. It was certainly true of Swati Satyashankar, a language teacher, when she met a chatty eighteen-year-old boy, Namgay, in a shared taxi from Thimphu to Punakha in Bhutan. When Namgay asked Swati if she’d like to stay with his mother in his native village, she couldn’t refuse. Gets you worried, doesn’t it?

But an hour’s hike up the mountain and across the fields later, Swati found herself in a humble home nestled under tall, snow-covered Himalayan peaks. Her hosts were warm and cordial, and it turned out to be the most memorable trip for Swati. Her instinct paid off. She had no cause for worry. Swati observes, “Travelling has refined my social interaction and taught me to read people. I’ve learnt to strike a balance between my safety concerns and openness.”

Travelling needn’t result in an epiphany, but it opens doors we never knew existed. Mark Twain once wrote: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.” It’s true. Swati’s trusting nature, Abhishek’s well-organised mind, Arunima’s openness and my independent streak (and of course, the Pak Box) all stand testimony to the holistic perspective travel bestows. Sure, we might need visas to travel the world, but we can let our minds transcend borders.

A companion for life

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When you’ve stayed alone for a while, being by yourself, living by your own rules becomes second nature. Creating space for anything and anyone new seems a lot to ask. And when you are in your autumn years, it is a near impossibility to let someone in.

It was something like that with the 68-year-old Miss Sally.

Having lost her husband at a young age, she had created a simple, contented, and a well-organised life for herself. An English teacher until retirement, Miss Sally had chosen to live alone–she had her reasons. Despite her cherished independence, loneliness was a frequent intruder in her life of solitude. Yet, she was not open to the idea of living with her children or asking them to move closer.

As time passed, a gradual lack of purpose and loneliness seemed to get a stronger hold over her life. Often, she made mental lists of regrets, unanswered questions, and sometimes, complaints from life. On a still, a rather listless evening, she sat in the garden holding a hot cup of tea between both hands, lost in thoughts of the past. Something broke into her reverie… it was her next-door neighbour, holding a leash to the happiest dog she had ever seen. Her face lit up as the young man called out to her, “Miss Sally, meet Ollie… I named him after Oliver Twist!”

Ollie’s prompt display of affection put an effortless smile on Miss Sally’s face. A bundle of joy, her canine visitor wagged his tail, jumping and galloping across the garden. Before she knew it, he had licked her face twice. Miss Sally hadn’t laughed so much in years. There was a chuckle in her voice and sparkle in her ageing eyes as she invited the bouncy, clumsy mutt for a treat. Ollie followed Miss Sally all the way to the kitchen.

And, he never left.

From that day on, Miss Sally woke up with the sound of Ollie scratching on her kitchen door. Her compassionate neighbour let him out every morning so he could sprint off to her house. Ollie went everywhere with Miss Sally–to the farmer’s market, on morning walks, and to the post office. When she worked in the kitchen garden, he fetched her the water hose; he sat patiently by the kitchen door (silently waiting for his treats) when she fixed her meals; and when she took naps, he did too.

Happiness and laughter filled Miss Sally’s life. Her loneliness gave way to unconditional love from her constant companion. With his puppy eyes, the quintessential head tilt and the perpetually wagging tail, Ollie assured her he was there to stay. He had filled a hole in her life.

Until she had met Ollie, Miss Sally thought about the past, dreaded an even lonelier future and an eventual death. Ollie taught her to cherish the past, live in the present and not worry about the future. He showed the old-timer that life was a gift not to be squandered away. Even if the lesson came late in life.

Miss Sally passed away peacefully at the age of 73, with a hint of a smile on her face. She did not die alone, after all. Ollie sat beside her through her final days–every day, every moment until she breathed her last.

Power brings responsibilities

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All of us can recollect the ideas and ambitions we used to portray on being asked to write an essay, “If I were the prime minister of India” in our school days. We all used to imagine the utopian society if we were given an opportunity to run it. Smartly carving our solutions to the socio-economic, political, and security-related problems, we could write endlessly provided that if we had all the power of being the leader.

But is it easy to come in and remain in power? Is it secure and safe to remain at the top? Chanakya says about what kind of dangers a king has to face, “For the king, there is (danger of) revolt in the interior or in the outer regions.” (8.2.2)

The greatest danger for a king is of the revolt. This is what he has to be aware of and protect himself from. What does revolt mean to a leader in business? It means dissatisfaction of the employees, shareholders, and stakeholders who are the integral parts of the organisation. There are also external threats from suppliers, customers, and clients.

Even politicians are aware that if they do not rule properly and people are dissatisfied then the voters can overthrow them. How to keep everybody happy when you are in command of an organisation?

A good leader knows that only committed employees run an organisation.

Understand the needs of the market

As a leader, it is important to understand the needs of the people in the organisation as well as of the market and the industry. As long as you are fulfilling the needs of them, they will be loyal to you. But while doing the need’s analysis one should also be able to differentiate between need and greed.

Remember old clients while making new ones

Business is not a one-time deal but a collection of deals over a period of time which makes it a successful business. Hence, understanding the requirements of people around is a continuous process. You should be always on the move. Keep meeting your old clients regularly even when you are in the process of expanding the client base.

Solve the problem immediately

To curb any revolt, early action is a must. Similarly, it is necessary to curb the dissatisfaction of the employees and clients, the moment any such issue crops up. On sensing any threat in terms of market or labour unrest, pay attention to it and resolve as soon as possible before it prolongs.

A good leader knows that only committed employees run an organisation. They also are aware of the fact that only satisfied customers bring good business.

Maintaining the Benefits After TMS Treatment

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Self Care

It is important to take care of your own well being. Take some time for yourself, whether this be having a bubble bath in the evening, reading a book or painting your nails. Meditation is a useful way to improve self care, as it will allow for relaxation, reflection and self awareness. It has been suggested that self awareness is essential in the healing process, as it can lead to a deeper understanding and provide clarity on your own feelings. In addition to this, meditation can improve sleep, creativity and productivity.

Nutrition

What you put into your body has a significant impact on your mental health. Although foods high in sugar provide a transient burst of energy, this will wear off, resulting in fatigue and a low mood. Choosing fresh, healthy food over processed, sugary food reduces inflammation, and improves the immune system, in addition to improving your overall mental health.

Exercise

Research has found that exercise can reduce stress and have a beneficial impact on mental health.  So, good news if you love to exercise! Allow yourself some time to go to the gym or go for a run, and you may find that this simple activity improves your mood. If exercise hasn’t been your thing in the past, it may seem like a daunting prospect, but it doesn’t have to be a chore! Why not learn some easy stretches, go for a twenty-minute stroll every evening, or join a yoga class with a friend?

Maintaining a positive attitude

Disputing negative beliefs is important and can take practice. Learning to counter this negativity and replace these thoughts with positive ones is an essential step towards becoming resilient. Remember that you don’t have to be perfect at everything.

Talk

Make sure to keep your social support network around you. Discussing your feelings with family or friends can help to alleviate worries, as voicing your feelings can help to put them in perspective. This will also ensure that you feel connected to those around you and avoid a sense of isolation. If you don’t have a close support network, why not join a social club, or start volunteering for a local charity?

Continuous Care

mindfulTMS Neurocare has a continuous care program, which can help to maintain the benefits of treatment. For more information, write to us at connect@mindfultms.com

The healing touch of writing

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Writing is an age-old practice that has long been forgotten in the 21st century. People have stopped keeping journals and writing diaries, which used to be a literary tradition at one time. With the advent of ever-evolving technology, however, such as smartphones and the internet, one rarely writes, to the extent that people can’t even think of anything to write if asked to.

When confronted with such a situation, “Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on,” says American writer Louis L’Amour. When words begin to flow, they also bring with themselves the medicine for your physical and mental wellbeing. Countless experts from the around the globe prescribe writing for its therapeutic powers. From helping people overcome problems like traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, and substance abuse, to giving a new perspective on life, writing can heal holistically.

You can approach writing through five ways—write letters to yourself, write letters to others, pen a poem, free writing or journaling, and mind mapping. Free writing or journaling is jotting down every thought that comes to mind, while mind mapping is creating mind maps, with your problem in the middle, surrounded by different aspects of your problem such as interpersonal-relationships, career etc. Based on prompts and exercises, expressive or therapeutic writing (writing therapy) can be beneficial, comforting and helpful. Soulveda takes a look at the therapeutic nature of writing and what it means for you and your life.

Increases self-awareness

Writing can help you discover aspects about yourself that you otherwise did not know existed. The free flow of thoughts, apart from being cathartic, is also a creative instrument to discover the root cause of your emotional stress. The experience, sometimes, involves analysing events, memories, thoughts, feelings, and perspectives, giving them meaning through writing. In the long run, such self-awareness contributes to personal growth and mental wellbeing. Writing is “speaking to another consciousness—‘the reader’ or another part of the self. We come to know who we really are in the present moment,” says Elizabeth Sullivan, a San Francisco based counsellor, in an interview with PsychCentral.

Gives perspective

Ever imagined, how Stephen King comes out with such alluring and unique novels every single time? He has perspectives, to see things in a new light, and so can you. Writing essays or simply jotting down your thoughts freely can help you find a new perspective or a viewpoint. When you view things from a new perspective, you begin to find silver linings for the problematic issues you are faced with.

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Helps you learn and grasp things better

Writing can help you learn and grasp things better. The very act involves an exchange of signals between the hands and the brain. This helps in building motor memory which, in turn, enables you to retain information in an efficient way.

Acts as an outlet for anger and frustrations  

Writing can help you let off steam. When you write your expectations and disappointments, it enables you to vent your anger and frustration and find solutions to overcome the problems. It even helps you prioritise your challenges, fears, and concerns, and address them one by one.

Leads to spiritual wellbeing

The therapeutic touch of writing can help you find spiritual fulfilment. When you write, the mind, body, and spirit come together to produce a joyful and an uplifting experience. As you delve deeper into a conversation with yourself, you start feeling anew. Your whole emotional state can change when you write something positive or on a subject you like.

Writing Therapy

Heals your body and mind

Expressive writing or journaling can help you heal your body. A study titled, Emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing states, “lung functioning in asthma, disease severity in rheumatoid arthritis, pain and physical health in cancer, immune response in HIV infection, hospitalisations for cystic fibrosis, pain intensity in women with chronic pelvic pain, sleep-onset latency in poor sleepers, and post-operative course are a few medical conditions that might benefit from expressive writing programmes.” The heaps of benefits that come from writing is not limited to physical wellness but extends into mental wellbeing as well. Good mood, mindfulness, controlled stress levels, and reduced depressive symptoms are all linked with writing.

Makes you more expressive

Like painting, music, and photography, writing is an art that can be the voice of your emotions and thoughts. Penning your thoughts down can help you become more expressive. If you are struggling at work or your relationship is going through a rough patch, you can choose writing as a medium to express your feelings.

When it comes to writing, taking the first step is always the toughest. However, as poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” So, the best way to begin is to just dump your thoughts on a piece of paper, without paying much heed to sentences, grammar, syntax or style. Gradually, get into the discipline of writing everyday—whether it’s a letter, a poem or a short story. Writing cannot replace psychological therapy, but it can act as an enhancer. Even some of the most prolific authors, such as Haruki Murakami, spend a few hours at their desk to write daily, even if they don’t like doing so. In the long run, such a repetitive exercise becomes a “contemplative, even meditative act,” says Murakami.