The Joy Of Missing Out

Daily Thoughts

The ability to embrace the art of doing nothing allows us to appreciate periods of solitude and the presence of our own company. Social media has contributed to the rise of consumer culture and social pressures. These pressures can cause stress and a distraction from what is important in our lives. The concept of missing out is often labeled as a negative aspect, and it can often be perceived as antisocial. There is great beauty in taking quiet moments during the day to just be in your own presence. There is great love in giving yourself permission to take time to rest, reflect and reconnect with yourself. The joy of missing out is taking time to enjoy the quiet moments and to embrace being who you are.

The art of slow / Our lives can be filled with endless things one after the other, or a never-ending to-do list. Being able to say no to invitations can allow yourself to take it easy. We live in a society that praises a busy and productive lifestyle by labeling these aspects as the definition of success. But the truth is that we are really only able to experience true satisfaction in life in the moments where we feel a sense of flow. Those moments are appreciated when we aren’t rushing through the world.

Finding balance / We practice moderation through how much we consume. These include food, exercise, or technology. We can focus much more deeply when we take time to switch off, practice being mindful of our actions and become aware of where we are placing our attention and time. The joy of missing out on what is always happening in the world can also be beneficial for one’s mental health. Taking a break from technology can allow oneself to focus on being in the present.

Simplifying one’s life / When we let go of the need to chase excitement or fill our lives with things, we have more time to do all the things that make us truly happy. There is a false belief that we must always buy the latest thing, stay on top of trends or achieve something great to be happy. It’s truly the small and simple things in life that can give us the greatest joy. It can be the smallest things that can trigger a sad or happy memory.

Staying authentic to yourself / The joy of missing out means that we can spend more time doing things we enjoy. The time we spend alone is precious, as those moments are where we face our thoughts, feelings, memories and experiences. We have space to reflect and think about life. We can focus on change and growth and we can spend time doing our favourite hobbies. When we stay true to ourselves, we feel the greatest sense of freedom. It takes effort and energy to not be who you truly are.

Deeper connections / We only have so much time and the time we spend with people is the connections we are investing in. By surrounding yourself with people who truly care about you, you nurture a deeper connection. It takes time to really get to know someone, and it takes energy to be there for others. When we miss out on other things, we can spend time with the one’s we love. Relationships are beautiful things. The people we surround ourselves with and spend time with the most have a greater impact on us then we may consciously be aware of.

The path we’re meant to be on / Many things in life are a blessing in disguise. In the moment we might not understand why it happened or we might feel that it was unfair. There are aspects that may be a perception of failure but we are yet to realise that the best is yet to come. Sometimes we think something is a setback when it’s really pushing us forward to where we need to be. The joy of missing out on an opportunity can be the greatest blessing to discovering where you’re meant to be.

Art by Alja Horvat

How To Live With Less In A Consumer Culture

Daily Thoughts

We are all consumers in one way or another. Whether that may be in materials, books, films, art, food, electricity, water, social media, news, internet, advertisements and so forth. How much and how often we consume things over another varies depending on our behaviour, habits, lifestyle and interests. The power of marketing and advertising is immense as it creates the illusion of needing more. The need for intimacy and meaning in our lives is often clouded by the illusion that we need more stuff to be happy. When I browse thrift stores in an ocean of clothes, the reality sinks in that there is a vicious cycle of the production, consumption and disposal of clothes.

I strive to live by the philosophy and mentality that less is more. As we live in a consumer culture, we are encouraged to buy more, even when we have more than enough. Advertising sells us a lifestyle, status, and identity. In terms of clothing, it is one of the top polluters in the world. If we consume less, we also lessen our carbon footprint, and we contribute less waste towards the earth. However, the power of advertising covers it with the glamour of a certain lifestyle. But, the truth is, we don’t need a lot to be happy.

Fill your spaces with love and purpose. Living with less means only having materials that will be used for years to come. Advertising tells us that we are lacking in our lives and that we need to fill our spaces with materials to feel a sense of fulfilment. However, many of us have more than we need.

Buy good quality materials. Purchasing good quality clothing gives it longevity. Many things can last a long time. As I mentioned above, there are many second hand clothing that are good quality. But, the fast fashion industry is constantly moving in and out with trends that are having a heavy impact on the environment.

Money and materials cannot buy true happiness. Consumer culture means that we spend so much on material items that don’t bring us long term happiness. We live in a capitalist system that rewards us for our perceived efforts and productivity. Yet, the definition of success tells us that we are always in need of more. Living with less reminds us of what’s important.

Borrow more books. I must say that if I had my own house, I’d love to be able to fill it up with shelves of books. However, as someone who is always moving suitcases to somewhere every year or so, the library has been a blessing. I remember having to donate dozens of books over the years as they can take up a significant amount of space.

Saving money. If you are saving up for something, whether that be a car or a house, you can save money from the smallest things. For example, if you like to drink a cup of coffee everyday. You could start making your own at home everyday, and perhaps in one year you could save 365 x $3.50 = $1,277.50.

Do it for yourself and for the planet. Consumerism really costs the Earth. The more we buy, the more that is disposed of, and the more rubbish we create in the world. An example would be consuming less meat and dairy. Where we spend our money is essentially who we are supporting.

Living with less is not only in materials. In a consumer culture, we are told we need more friends, more money, more travel and more things. The focus is on having a better future, but it’s important to embrace the present and be grateful for everything you have. Advertising focuses too much on ourselves, whereas long term happiness focuses on aspects such as helping others and forming strong relationships.

What is my intention for buying this? I used to have handbags that end up only getting worn a few times during the year, whereas my black handbag would be worn every day. My trainers and school backpack are worn almost every single day. Minimalism may not be for everyone, but it really helps in having a clearer mind and appreciating what you already have.

What are some of your tips for buying less?

I highly recommend reading the article A Helpful Guide to Overcoming Consumerism

Art by Alessandra De Cristofaro

The Life We Lived Before Social Media

Culture

If you grew up before social media escalated and became increasingly popular, you’ll remember how interactions were far different to how they are now. We used the telephone at home to talk to friends, we mailed letters to our families overseas and we would go next door to play with the neighbours kids. Communication now has a sense of urgency, but the value in a conversation is the most important thing, no matter how convenient it is to reach someone. Social media has enabled us to connect with anyone online but there is a rarity in truly establishing an authentic conversation. Below are several observations of how social media has impacted our lives.

sharing / Sharing is a natural part of our daily conversations and interactions with friends and family. However, it’s increasingly common to share with strangers about intimate details of our lives. It’s good to share what you like, but it’s important to have moderation, because most of the simple memories are the ones we keep to ourselves.

privacy / There is less mystery now compared to when we wouldn’t know what someone is doing or where they are. It’s common to share more of our lives to the public. Every action we take online is not truly private from everything we view to what we read.

daydreaming / The art of people watching has been replaced with spending time on our phones. The days of sitting at the bus stop watching people walk by or staring out a window looking at the cars seemed to give us a sense of feeling present. Daydreaming gives us a whole universe into our imagination that a phone can’t replicate.

relationships / My close relationships with friends and family are often those that I see in person, or even those that I might not talk to for a while, but when you reconnect in person it feels just the same. It’s easy to be online friends with many people, but in-person contact definitely solidifies a deeper friendship.

follows / Before social media was what it is now, we tend to catch up, surround ourselves and make friends with people we feel good around. The concept of following means that many people are following the lives of people they don’t really know, rather than focusing on living their own lives.

daily routine / social media is a normal, regular part of many people’s everyday routine. I remember before social media, I spent a lot more time reading the newspaper while I was having breakfast, playing with puzzles, going to the library for an afternoon and being creative with my hands.

online personality / When I think of social media apps like Instagram, there can definitely be a narrow snapshot of what the person is like. We only get a tiny glimpse from a shot snapped in a second. We can choose what we want to show and we can show ourselves a certain way.

strangers / Do you remember walking down the neighbourhood streets and greeting people or talking to random people in the store? There was more of a mystery of not knowing what goes on in other’s lives but there was also a genuine kindness and connection that we would have.

news / We have more choices than ever before and we are able to choose which platforms we receive our news from. There is more fake news online and we are consuming news that has been specifically targeted towards us from what we’re already consuming, rather than challenging us with new ideas.

childhood / One of the most heart-breaking things is seeing how young children are already using phones and tablets. I would argue that this is not healthy for a child and even for adults using their phone when the child needs their attention. Play is a powerful part of childhood, as well as interacting with people or exploring the world around us.

boredom / How we spend our free time has changed. One of the most freeing things was when I stopped using Facebook. I think that social media can often be a way of filling our moments of boredom, yet those are the very moments that can be filled with something that can support our growth. Learning a new language, going out for a long walk or talking to a loved one.

special memories / When we were younger, there would be endless photo albums of memories that were captured. The moments were precious, natural and candid. They were just snapshots of the life we were living in, rather than photos of looking a certain way. Those special memories we hold dearly.

mental health / We live in a generation where many people have a smartphone addiction. The constant use of our phones are also a form of escapism of our real-life experiences. It creates avoidance in confronting issues and it has increased the rates of anxiety and depression. Minimizing our technology use is beneficial for having a balanced lifestyle.

in person / The best form of communication is always in person, even though it’s great that we can connect with people online, especially if we’re unable to see them often. However, I find that when we use our phones in the presence of others we lose a moment to connect with them. It’s the ability to be in the present that is important.

phone addiction / We pick up our phones numerous times a day to check our messages, watch a video, write an email or read an article. Before social media, our phone usage was far less. We would predominantly use it for texting and calling. We are constantly distracted by our phones.

surveillance capitalism / After watching The Social Dilemma, it makes one question how every part of our online activity is being followed and tracked. We are living in isolation bubbles from algorithms that expose us to repeated content that we are predicted to engage with.

sense of mystery / There would be an air of mystery. Now when you meet someone you can look at their social media profile and pretty much know most things about them.  Without social media sites, there would be more mystery and you would have to form your own opinion of them from your experiences.

over consumption / Over consumption is encouraged through the never-ending flow of information available online. It can be helpful to follow a small amount of accounts. I feel that then gives an added value, rather than joining the noise and mindlessly passing through many posts. It also saves time to minimize the amount of online content you consume.

ability to focus / How present are we in our day-to-day lives? We live in an attention economy where corporations earn profit from our attention and how long they can distract us. Seeing the world around us means consciously having no screen time and having time to be in our own thoughts. The moments where we get lost in reading a book or playing an instrument.

communication / The way we communicate has changed astronomically. We don’t talk on the phone as often, and most communication is done through messaging and emailing. We tend to use the self-check out aisles and we avoid more in-person communication. The true connection we have in the world can only be felt through in-person interactions.

the art of slow / I think of how our parents would go to the library to do all their research or how our grandparents would write letters to one another. There was no shopping online or instant messaging, and reading and research were all done offline. The ability to take a step back and take your time rather than rushing through life brings us back to the present.

Reflecting on life before social media causes us to confront the behaviours that have changed over time. Research says that social media is re-writing our brains and our behaviours are heavily influenced by technology. Social media has permeated many facets of our lives; breaking the boundaries of what is public and private. By consciously taking control and action to maintain balance in our life, we reclaim the time we may spend online, and we have the freedom of not being constraint to our devices.

“We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom. The world henceforth will be run by synthesizers, people able to put together the right information at the right time, think critically about it, and make important choices wisely.” ― E.O. Wilson

Art by Annya Marttinen

We Live In A Society That Praises Extroverts

Culture

Is freedom giving up the need to be understood by everyone? The exhausting part of our daily lives erupt when we feel the need for most people to understand. Every person is deeply complex. The greatest blessing can lie in feeling understood by those who truly care. I was reading the article Introverts are excluded unfairly in an extraverts’ world here, which was incredibly thought provoking and eye opening, as I spent many years thinking that there was something innately wrong with me.

Around seven years ago I discovered the term introvert and felt a greater understanding. We live in a society that praises extroverts. In the article it states that “The main cultural problem is that introverts are widely seen as not adapted to the environment, instead of it being acknowledged that the environment is designed to profit extraverts. Society’s praise and acceptance of extraversion as the norm has led many introverts, along with many ambiverts, to suppress different aspects of their personality, or to see them as flaws. This state of affairs is bad not only for introverts, but for society as a whole.”

Susan Caine cites studies which suggest that the majority of teachers think the ideal student is an extrovert, and more extroverts are groomed for leadership positions in the workplace. However, the level of introversion or extroversion does not equate to one’s level of competency. We need to live in a world that supports both introverts and extroverts in all environments. We need to create environments that allow both to shine through their positive traits.

Negative connotations tend to be associated with introversion and introverts can often be stereotyped as shy, socially anxious, awkward and quiet. However, shyness is not the same as introversion and being an introvert means that you need to spend time alone in order to recharge your batteries. The two important areas of our societies are schools and businesses. These are areas that individuals spend a significant amount of their lives in. These are designed largely for extroverts and the extrovert’s need for stimulation.

A person should not be measured by how well they can engage in small talk but in the ideas, values, character, opinions and empathy they express. The greatest freedom is being yourself. As children we are taught to play with other children, and isolating oneself is seen as an issue that needs to be resolved. In some cases there may be clear signs that the behaviour may be concerning, however it’s common a child may feel more stimulated through activities such as reading a book.

The implication that it’s a fault is created by societal expectations and norms. Social exclusion through not conforming to societal expectation can also increase feelings of isolation and rejection. The ending of the article beautifully says that “More importantly, we must remember that introversion is not something to be fixed – but a blessed source of human diversity that comes with many strengths. The way to advance our personal and collective growth is not by eliminating this diversity, but by embracing it.” Every person has the ability to create change and to contribute towards society.

Art by Lieke van der Vorst

Time Is How You Spend Your Love

Daily Thoughts

We can spend periods of our lives in a cycle that repeats itself if we don’t seek the desire to change. Nature is always changing and evolving. That is the beautiful part of nature, as it takes its time to achieve great change. How we spend our time is precious. When we break apart everything, time is really all that we have. Our lives are unpredictable, and no one can be completely sure of how long they are on this earth for.

Every moment counts. The moments we stand at the traffic lights, the moments we sit on the plane flying home and the moments we are there for a loved one. The beautiful words are from Zadie Smith. It also makes me acknowledge the sad reality that there is so much time spent on the things that we don’t truly love. We live in a world where people are deeply hurting or they are bounded to a life where they are helpless.

Thoughts and Feelings / What you focus on is how you will feel. The thoughts we feed ourselves and the feelings we have ultimately affect how we view the world, how we view ourselves, how we treat other people and how we spend our days. Our thoughts and feelings impact how we experience the world around us and the world within.

Precious time / How do you spend your time? What we spend our time builds us into the person we are. If we spend time doing more of what we love, it can only benefit us in the long run. It can enable us to have a healthy relationship with people and it can make us a whole lot happier.

Leisure / The Art of doing nothing. There is praise for always being switched on in a fast-paced digital age. Being productive and busy is seen as the definition of success, when in actuality good things take time, and our focus is heightened when we give ourselves conscious rest.

People / Who do you spend most of your time with? They say that the 5 people you spend the majority of time with can impact you as a person, from your world view, character, interests and behaviour. The environment we are in and the people we spend our time with can have a huge impact on our wellbeing.

Memories / What are the good memories you can think of? Remembering memories that make you smile can bring them alive. When we focus on a bad memory, it can evoke a strong negative emotional reaction. The time that we spend to create memories that are good are often built around the foundation of love.

Gratitude / What are you grateful for in your life? Gratitude is a practice that we can actively do each day. The moment we forget all the things we have in our lives is the moment we can feel empty and unhappy. Where we put our focus and intention is everything. Our wellbeing depends on it. Remember to cherish all that you have.

Change / In what ways have you changed over time? We are always changing every day. In everyday we are learning something new. Change is inevitable and people will change, but the important thing is to know your values. What is it that you want in life? What’s important to you?

Choices / The choices we make over time influence the person we are today. What you choose to do is your responsibility. How you treat others, the conversations you have, the products you buy, the food you consume and the activities that you do all impact who you are as a person. The choices we make and how we spend our time impacts who we are as a person. 

Creativity / What do you spend your time consuming and creating. We spend a lot of time consuming content from online articles to social media. We spend more time more than ever consuming digital content and buying materials. The time we spend creating is quite possibly one of the most precious moments.

The time we spend to practice something, create something or write something is valuable. When we do the things that we love and spend time with the people we love, then we must be doing something right. Our lives are meant to be enjoyed and the purpose of being here is more than we can understand. All that one can really know is that the existence of every being is precious.

No one is better than the other person. There is a false belief that by feeling superior to someone we can feel accomplished. Whether that is through materials, status or wealth. However, it is the biggest lie that we are sold in society. External things don’t add true value into our lives. It makes me think of The Little Prince quote that reads “What is Essential is Invisible to the Eye” all that is truly important in life can only be felt with the heart “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly”.

Art by Monica Barengo

The Handbook for Highly Sensitive People

Books

Humans are wired to connect and to have authentic conversations. Being sensitive, empathetic and vulnerable are traits that allow us to truly connect with people. A highly sensitive person (HSP) experiences the world through a heightened way through high sensory experiences. This may be through crowded places, strong scents or loud noises. It is said by the clinical psychologist Dr. Elaine Aron that 15-20% of the population are HSPs. HSPs process and feel emotions more deeply than others and they are highly empathic and tend to have rich inner lives. The emotions they may feel are very deep whether that may be positive or negative.

Growing up as a classical musician, I was deeply moved by music during a performance, a painting in an art gallery, reading a book or watching a movie. Taking actions such as surrounding myself in nature, sitting at a library or taking time to pray or meditate would bring peace and calm. Discovering that I am an HSP explained so many factors from my childhood, career and the unexplainable feeling that there was something wrong with me. The act of practicing loving yourself and being gentle with yourself is one of the most kindest and lifechanging things you can do for yourself.

I recently read The Handbook for Highly Sensitive People by Mel Collins, and felt touched by a lot of the ways she describes the experiences that HSP’s have during their lifetime. The book is separated into three sections. The first section expands on the term HSP. This includes the definition of an HSP, the Environmental and sensory triggers and the challenges HSP face. The second section looks at different strategies through processing emotions, practicing self-love and tapping. The third section talks about the spiritual perspective from exploring our past lives and maintaining inner balance.

The book is a great introduction for those who want to have a better understanding of being an HSP. The book reminds you that you are not alone in this journey, as it invites HSPs to recognize their strengths rather than look at themselves as flawed. Collins expands on the top ten challenges faced by HSP’s. These include being empathic sponges, deep emotional sensitivity, a feeling of not belonging, a difficult childhood, self-esteem and self-worth issues, relationship struggles , health issues, difficulty accepting the ‘inner darkness’, parenting parents or other family members and feeling unfulfilled.

Being empathic sponges can be draining due to the HSPs being kind-hearted and highly empathic by nature. When surrounded in a negative environment it can leave them feeling over-stimulated. Collins says that “HSPs often feel a need to withdraw from the outside world to release the energies absorbed and to recharge.” Deep emotional sensitivity is felt through the positive (joy, kindness and love) and negative emotions (guilt, shame, fear, hurt, loss, unworthiness, jealousy, anger and feelings of betrayal). A feeling of not belonging can start from a young age particularly for those who have experienced a difficult childhood.

Self-esteem and self-worth issues may arise due to the HSPs sensitive nature being criticized or judged from a young age, causing shame and embarrassment because of it. Relationship struggles can be common for HSPs such as nurturing friendships, as they are natural givers and good listeners. This can attract the friendship patterns that are one-sided. Health issues can be a problem as HSPs are extremely sensitive to pain. For example, they may experience disorders such as chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia or insomnia.

Difficulty accepting the ‘inner darkness’ is a common trait for many HSPs. HSPs tend to be kind-hearted people who want to be good to others. Collins states that “They often have difficulty accepting what is viewed as the ‘darker’ side of themselves. This can lead to them suppressing what they see as their more negative emotions.” The words Collins adds rings true “whatever you resist persists.” It’s important to find healthy and safe ways to release any suppressed emotions.

HSPs can grow up taking the role of the parent subconsciously. This is common for HSPs whose parents were emotionally unavailable. The final challenge Collins states is feeling unfulfilled. Collins states that “In my experience working with HSPs, many have a strong drive to feel they are making a difference in the world. As a result, many believe that if they don’t feel fulfilled in this way, they are in the wrong career.” Many may find that there is a long period where they may spend searching for what they are ‘supposed’ to be doing. However, she says that “In reality, however, any job has the capacity to reflect an aspect of themselves or meet an inner need […] Every job can be viewed in this way if you make a choice to do so – as a stepping stone towards a more fulfilling purpose.”

For many HSPs it can feel like you are spending a lifetime finding your purpose and understanding the depth and complexities of your emotions. Embracing your inner self and accepting that you feel deep emotions will free you from the chains. The pain was only extended through the deep fear of judgment and rejection for how I was feeling. Taking steps and finding specific ways that help you with your feelings is an important step to healing. I really hope in writing this, that it can help even one HSP know that you are not alone. I spent many years with depression and anxiety. I found methods such as meditating, praying, journaling, walking, being in nature and self-havening incredibly healing in the moments where I’ve felt helpless or overwhelmed.

Your sensitivity is your superpower. The ability to empathise towards others and deeply connect to animals, nature, music and the arts is a gift. The search for meaningful connections means that you give your all or nothing in friendships and relationships. Sensitivity is both a blessing and a challenge, but sensitivity is a strength, not a weakness. We live in a world that tells us that we need to be a certain way, but when we acknowledge the strength of being sensitive, it opens the door to understanding. The characteristics that you may have not seen as worthy are the very aspects that make you beautiful.

“By becoming conscious of what it is in the ‘darkness’ or ‘shadow, you are shining light into the darkness and encouraging it to dissolve.” – Mel Collins

Art by Kate Pugsley

The Masks We Wear

Culture

The complexities of the human condition are deeply reflected in the layers that we each have. The antidote to this are the authentic acts of vulnerability and empathy. The fear of judgment causes us to hide our childlike self under a hard shell, rather than allowing our true self to flourish. It takes energy to not be ourselves. The masks we wear can become definitions that we create for ourselves and the ways that we present ourselves to the world. Reflecting on my own masks, I thought about how the words we are told as a child are powerful and they can become deeply ingrained into us as facts throughout our whole lives. The powerful truth is recognizing that only you know who you are and only you are in control of changing who you are. No one can really define you, unless you let them.

Growing up, I was often told that I was shy, quiet and reserved. This was repeatedly said to me throughout my life to the degree that I thought that there was something wrong with me. As an Asian New Zealander, there have been many moments throughout my life where I felt an unexplainable invisibility. The stereotype of the ‘Quiet Asian Woman’ has followed me all my life, deeply affecting the way I previously saw myself. My experiences, though, have really helped me to understand the harm of minimising people through categorizing them. The undoing of a lifelong feeling of not fitting in a mould came through the development of self assurance within oneself despite external voices. You are the author of your novel and the beauty and freedom of this is that you can create whatever you desire.

Masks are an internalisation from how other people perceive us. It can make us succumb to the perception of the world to protect ourselves. The fear of vulnerability can hide our true self as we wear a false mask as a protection to feel safe from the world. The desire for acceptance leads to wearing a mask that society puts on us for fear that being your true self is not the way the world wants to see you. Our identities are constructed on how others perceive us, but the lack of vulnerability constrains the diversity of human nature and potential. Vulnerability openly invites us to talk about how we feel without judgment, builds trust and a sense of security and connection, the freedom to be ourselves and the deliberate act of being kind.

When we struggle with our mental health, we often cling to our masks even tighter. For example, when you have experienced depression, you may have fought to bear a smile on your face. We experience an inner battle when we hide our depression and anxiety; holding tightly on our masks can provide temporary relief, but never allow us to fully heal. The surface may not reflect the reality. The dangers of this comes in the deterioration of authentic connections when we create an appearance of perfection to the world that doesn’t exist. Perfection is a false façade to create an illusion of happiness to the world but it never achieves true happiness. True happiness is the freedom we feel when we are living in the world as the person that we were born to be.

Our true selves tend to shine when we let go of external pressures or validations. True understanding comes from taking the time to listen and see through different lenses. When we judge ourselves or other people, it comes from a deep rooted insecurity within ourselves and a desire to feel a false sense of superiority. Wearing masks are a learned practice that we have picked up as a survival tactic as a way of hiding what we are feeling. Masks are worn as a socially expected concept such as when we may have to keep a polite demeanour even if a situation is difficult. When we really unpeel everything, everyone wants to be understood and loved.

There is a beautiful photography series by Justin Rosenberg that you can view here that brings to light the reality of how we tend to perceive things through what we see rather than for what they are.

What are the masks that you wear?

Art by Marcel Dzama

The Year That Was

Personal

The most whirlwind year was filled with the most unpredictable turn of events. I never could have truly imagined as soon as the clock turned midnight that the year would be filled with all the crazy things that happened. The year gone by has taught me an immeasurable amount of lessons that I will take on for a life time. I learned that through all the hurt and pain something has to change, and I have this moment to change all those parts of myself that are deeply hurt. Healing takes time. The important thing is to allow yourself to truly feel those feelings. The more you try to escape how you’re feeling, the more those painful moments will consume you in the long run. God puts us in the most unlikeliest places in life and in moments where we don’t expect but when we look back we realise that they were some of the most beautiful and precious moments in our lives.

You are the author of your life. There are aspects of our lives that we cannot control and we have to accept them as they are. However, there are many aspects of our lives where we have a choice. We can decide our attitude regardless of the situation. Our mindset determines the kind of life we want to live, as you become what you think about all day long. The limitation we create often starts in the mind when we tell ourselves that we can’t do something or that we fear the chance of failure. If we don’t go for what we want in life, we may never discover if it’s what we truly wanted.

It takes energy to not be who you truly are. The greatest blessing of a lifetime is to live as the person you truly are. We can spend too much time caring about what others think who don’t truly care about us. There was a sense of relief in accepting that I’m an introvert, empath and HSP and that that’s not a complete definition of who I am but a part of myself. Our true self shines through our character, personality and actions. No one can define who you are and one of the greatest freedom is embracing completely who you are.

We don’t need a lot in life to be happy. In a consumer society we are encouraged to obtain more materials and possessions. The truth is we don’t need a lot in our lives to be truly happy. Happiness that is based on instant gratification is not sustainable. If you have a roof over your head, water to drink, food to eat, clothes to wear and electricity then you have much more than many people in the world have. If you lost everything tomorrow, what would you have left? We take on memories, experiences, relationships and love for the rest of our lives.

Be kind to yourself. We can often tear ourselves apart in our minds by saying words to ourselves that we’d never say to anyone else. Think of the moments when your friend tells you how upset they felt when something didn’t work out for them. We tend to feel a sense of hope for them. We tell them they can do it, we tell them that everything will be okay and yet often we can tell ourselves the exact opposite. We can be incredibly hard on ourselves. I highly recommend reading Kindness: The Little Thing that Matters Most by Jaime Thurston. The book reminds us that it takes the smallest actions to create a ripple effect of positive change.

Practice gratitude everyday. We become what we focus on all day long. Do you notice when your mind starts focus on everything that’s going wrong, it’s increasingly difficult to see all the beautiful things in life. Gratitude isn’t the denial that life can be incredibly hard at times but it is recognising that even in the midst of struggles there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Gratitude reminds us of what’s important in our lives and it allows us to remember that very often it is the small and simple things during our daily lives that can bring us the greatest joy.

When you judge yourself, you hurt yourself. When we judge ourselves, we are harming our selves. The times I felt the lowest in life were when I was constantly judging myself and magnifying every small perceived flaw. The deep fear of rejection, the fear of being vulnerable and the unrealistic high expectations I held for myself did not help support, reflect or allow my true self to shine. Cultivating empathy and kindness towards yourself invites your heart to let go and embrace all the beautiful parts that make up who you are.

Our society needs empathy and compassion. Everyone has the ability to be kind. We live in a broken world and we desperately need empathy and compassion more than ever. There are many broken souls in our world and hurt people hurt people. It’s heart breaking because pain can latch onto pain and create a cycle, but empathy and compassion comes from love. Empathy is putting yourselves in someone else’s shoes and really trying to understand what they have been through.

It takes time to heal. We must allow ourselves to feel instead of burying the pain and causing it to erupt later. The only way we can truly heal is when we allow ourselves to feel those feelings. We tell many lies during the day when we say that we’re okay, that nothing’s wrong or that everything will be alright when we completely ignore, deny and suppress that there are areas of our lives that need attending to.

Imagine if you had a broken leg but you still walked around as if you weren’t wounded. Over time your leg would collapse and become worse because you didn’t allow it to rest. When we allow our heart to heal we are pouring it with love and forgiveness and empathy. The trauma that we experience in our lives do not disappear on its own. We have to face them even though it can be the hardest battle we may ever fight.

There is nothing wrong with being who you truly are. The words that we are told as children are powerful and can etch in our hearts and minds for a lifetime. As a child you can feel as if the words are defining who you are as a person. Growing up I was often told that I was quiet and shy. Only you know who you are in every layer of your being and all the complexities that can come a long with it. Only you know what you have experienced in life.

Forgiveness is powerful, letting go is freeing for the soul and feeling is a part of healing. We have to forgive ourselves and forgive others. We will all make mistakes, we have all hurt someone or been hurt by someone and being human means that we will all experience pain or negative experiences. Forgiving frees your heart as holding onto things can weigh heavily on us. Letting go is letting the bird fly out of the cage to breathe and see the world. When we let go we set free all the past hurt. When we allow ourselves to feel, we invite our heart to heal.

Change is hard but it’s worth it. There are many things I reflect back on that I felt that I could have dealt with better or that I need to work on within myself. There were moments where I wish I spoke up or I had expressed what I was thinking. I was watching a video recently that quoted Ernest Hemingway ‘There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.’ The truth is that the grass is not always greener on the other side. True change comes from wanting to continuously grow.

Love can sometimes find us in the most unexpected ways. Life is unpredictable and the unknown can come with surprises. The most beautiful thing I will treasure was marrying my soul mate. It’s a rare moment in life where everything feels completely right in your heart when all the pieces of the puzzles connected together. Love is a choice you make each and every single day when you wake up in the morning and before you go to sleep. It’s a choice you make as you lay beside your loved one, it’s a choice you make as you both may experience a hard time yet you are still at each other’s side to support one another, it’s the choice you make knowing that you cannot change anyone but you want to grow together.

The way our present self looks back ultimately creates the past that we have experienced. Reflecting on the hard times that were experienced made me think about how much they pushed me to grow. Reflecting back on how in the moment it felt like it was the hardest year of my life makes me reflect back on how it was quite possibly one of the best years of my life. Through all the tears, pain and hurt there was an overwhelming amount of love, growth and healing. Every moment of pain experienced before was worth it to experience a tremendous push to change and grow as a person. Life isn’t a destination that we arrive to and receive a lifetime subscription of happiness. It’s an ongoing journey that we experience each and everyday.

Art by Monica Barengo

The Art Of Slow Consumption

Culture

The psychology of sales, discounts and promotions tend to convince the need to buy in order to feel a sense of satisfaction through saving. This is a powerful marketing tactic as it encourages consumers to buy and therefore increases production demands. The use of special offers and a strong favourable brand image deliver a lifestyle and a promise of happiness that is attainable through purchasing the product. The cycle boosts the long-term profitability and sales for the company, but it also comes at the price of feeding on our insecurities and telling us that we need materials in our lives to fill up the spaces to attain a certain status, appearance or lifestyle. However, the increase in mass production encourages mass consumption. The increasing consumption cycle is damaging to our environment, well being and mind set.

In our rapidly changing world, we are more impatient due to instant gratification and being bombarded with more choice and opportunities. The gamification of smart phones have also caused a change in socialising, communicating and interactions. The fast paced society has caused an increase in stress, depression and anxiety. It reminds us to take a moment to practice mindful consumption in buying, reading, exercising, cooking, socialising, eating and so forth. We can take time to have a more leisurely approach to life rather than conform to the rush of a busy life. Over-consumption presents an ecological threat to individual, social and global well-being. The ideology that should be shared is that buying less things that are better quality can help us lead a more fulfilled, less wasteful life.

In The stuff of life, Immig writes “What if you piled up all the stuff you’ve ever owned and consumed in your lifetime? Would it make a tall tower reaching into the sky like a high-rise building, or is it more of a discreet mound?” The article is fascinating and creates visualisations of the waste that we have contributed to in a lifetime. It seems as if we can obtain everything we could possibly imagine if we have the financial means to, yet large numbers of people remain deeply unhappy. The chase for personal status and material wealth is built from consumer culture which encourages extrinsic goals that bring an illusion of temporary happiness. We are increasingly obsessed with superficial ideals such as material possessions, wealth, fame and status which is a result of the declining care, empathy and concern for others and for our environment.

The garments we hold tend to lack meaning due to the idea that they’re instantly replaceable or out of trend through the fast-pace cycle of the fashion industry. Adopting the models of slow consumption creates more respect and value for what we have, rather than affording cheap clothing that creates a throwaway culture and encourages the cycle of fashion produced under exploitive work conditions and are environmentally unsustainable. A focus on environmental ethics would help bring the focus on a collective level on the impact and change that can be made for global well-being. If we strive to be conscious consumers, we make the first step in deliberately trying to minimise permanent footprints on the environment. We consider the difference between needs and desires and to purchase and consume slowly and accordingly.

Art by Renée Gouin

Nobody’s Life Is Perfect, No Matter What It Seems

Daily Thoughts

When we fill our hearts with gratitude, we realise how much we have. When you focus on what you have, you don’t spend time thinking about what you don’t have. The constant focus on wanting to accumulate materials or external validation can never result in true happiness. There is so much gratitude in meeting so many beautiful people this year, and there have been many thoughtful conversations and meaningful moments. It’s incredible to talk with people with such beautiful minds and souls. It’s important to remember that nobody’s life is perfect, no matter what it seems. A person could appear to have everything on the surface, but feel empty within, and vice versa. Everyone is walking on their own journey, similar to how each book has its own stories in each chapter.

When I was younger, I honestly felt that everyone seemed to have a normal life. This comes down to the way we are told to present ourselves in society. As you grow older, you realise that sometimes we all really don’t know what’s going on, and that’s okay. That’s the joy of life, because if every moment was predictable it would lose its excitement and adventure. I absolutely love to smile, but I also know how easy it is to hide behind a smile and how easy it is to appear happy through hard times. This is why we truly mustn’t judge things from the surface. As I spoke with friends, we talked about mental health, and how incredibly common it is. In a way, the pressure of appearing to have a perfect life, is not authentic and true to the self.

Comparison is the thief of joy, as it can create a feeling of inadequacy and lowering of self worth. On the other hand, it can be used to motivate oneself if you desire, but where we place the focus and intention is important. What we perceive as success and happiness can be vastly different to one another. However, I really do think that the relationships we have with ourselves, and those around us hold a lot of purpose in our lives. There are so many layers to every person. Nothing perfect is defined by the way things look. Not with materials, travel, clothing, makeup or career. Nobody is perfect. The long lasting happiness in life comes down to the way we’re feeling inside.

Photography by Sun Jun