Be More Dog Walker

Be More Dog Walker

Story time: One day, the house runs out of milk. I walk to the corner shop. It’s a short walk, peaceful too since the area is quiet. I like this route because I get to walk past a really pretty cherry blossom tree. When it’s windy, the blossom petals fall gracefully to the ground. Sometimes I pretend I’m in a dramatic scene from a Japanese anime as I walk through the falling petals because that’s not at all ridiculous– ahem… continuing on… :mrgreen:

As I’m walking, I cross paths with someone walking their dog. They say “good morning.” I say “good morning” back and we continue on our way. The end.

Okay, not quite the end. There is a point to this story :)

It was nothing major; just a simple hello. It’s a little silly but when things like this happen, I always feel warm and happy.

But it’s also a rare occurrence.

It shouldn’t be that strange to acknowledge each other if we walk past. Thinking about it, it’s strange that many of us don’t and we play “pretend-ignore.”

This wasn’t in a busy shopping centre. This was in the local neighbourhood. Why would it be so strange to greet our neighbours?

It’s a rare occurence normally. But it seems a lot more common when there’s a dog walker around. Whenever I’m out roaming the neighbourhood, 99% of the time I’ll come across a dog walker. And 99% of the time, they’ll greet me.

It brightens the day. It brightens my mood. It makes me feel a little more connected to the community.

We all live on the same Earth. We all have the ability to make this world a little more connected.

Conclusion: I think we should all be more like these dog walkers. :)

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Note: For those living outside the UK or anyone who hasn’t seen the advert, the title of this post is a reference to O2’s latest advertising campaign: Be More Dog.

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Strangers Are Just Friends You Haven’t Met Yet

Girl and Bricks

I have a secret,
I’ve been hiding,
Under my skin…

Not-really-needed-but-I-like-the-song Mr Roboto references aside…

Subconsciously, I have been a little afraid of people.

I don’t recall having always been this way. In first school, I talked to anyone. I loved to talk to other kids about Pokémon  and to teachers about the newest things I had learned from last night’s edu-tainment TV programme.

Somewhere during middle school, that changed. I don’t remember specifically why or what caused it – it kind of just happened. During high school, I started building barriers and experience had turned into a very wary person.

I got better over time. Sixth form and university were times where I met some great people who helped me to slowly pull those barriers away.

Today, I want to write about one more lesson I learned from my trip to China. A lesson which helped to finally demolish those walls.

One amazing thing about being miles away from home for a few weeks. You feel a little more free. A little more brave. More willing to try things.

So I tried speaking to strangers a little more.

I didn’t do anything huge, I didn’t launch myself into a deep conversation with the nearest bystander. Just small acts, casual conversation. The city I stayed in had a very close community. People talked to each other like they’d known them forever, even if it was really the first time.

Small talk didn’t feel obligatory. Jokes were shared and every laugh felt genuine. And you know what? I finally learned that people aren’t that scary.

Back home, I decided to be less afraid. I chose to become a little more open. My friends helped me to start tearing down these barriers – and now it was my turn to finish the job.

Every interaction I make has a little more heart. A little more eye contact, a little more sincerity. I don’t know how else to explain – there’s more “I-may-not-know-you-well-but-I’m-talking-to-you-like-I-mean it-anyway.” Not everyone is receptive to such behaviour, but I’ve found that the majority are.

All our friends were strangers at one point. Let’s think about that.

I think this was a case of catterpillar-cocoon-butterfly. I started out as a catterpillar, slowly cocooned myself away but eventually emerged into a almost-butterfly*. I don’t think I’m quite a butterfly just yet*. :mrgreen:

Admittedly, there are still a few bricks left… but I’m happy to say most of the wall is gone now :)

All that’s left to say is domo arigato!.. Thank you for allowing me to learn this lesson :)

(*But if we were talking Pokémon terms, then I’d totally be happy with calling myself a Butterfree. :mrgreen:)

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Three Weeks Away: Lessons From A Soul-Cleansing Adventure

ChinaIt’s been a while, hasn’t it? :)

I recently came back from a 3-week trip to China. It was one of the most exhilarating, rejuvenating experiences I’ve had in a long time. Being away in a completely different place, practically living an alternate life, has totally renewed my perspective on things.

Describing my time away has been an impossible task because I just have no idea where to begin. (You know when someone asks what your favourite book is and you suddenly forget every book you’ve ever read?) Even this post took me over a week to write – using words to form sentences which best express this explosion of feelings? Impossible!

Though it lasted just under three weeks, it felt like a lifetime. Being immersed in an entirely new world taught me a few lessons which I’ve taken back home with me. They aren’t exclusive to visiting China or even travelling in general; these can definitely apply to simply taking a break away from your usual routine!

Don’t Run Away From The Problem. Walk Away Then Come Back
We’re always told running away from the problem never solved anything, right? Not that I really had any serious problems, but we all have everyday life struggles and worries. Travelling to the other side of the world forced me to leave those worries behind. Being halfway across the planet, there wasn’t much I could do them – so I decided not to dwell on them. They weren’t going anywhere after all.

So for three weeks, I completely forgot about them. It wasn’t difficult since I had plenty of new distractions – delicious food, fantastic sights, a lot of new people and conversations. Without me realising, all the noise and buzz that used to be in my head was disappearing and being replaced with a sense of peace and quiet.

Surprisingly, when I returned home, those small worries didn’t seem so big anymore. After seeing a different side to the world, some worries no longer mattered. And any that did seemed to have relatively clear solutions. Or maybe I had a clearer mind to think of them.

Someone once said: it’s funny how some distance makes everything seem small… :mrgreen: Taking a break can help you think more clearly. Take some time to leave behind your problem and don’t think about it at all. A break is like our own little reset button – it allows us to start things over with a fresh canvas.

Focus On Now
A while ago I wrote this post about falling victim to working on autopilot and losing my connection to the present. While I was doing one thing, I was planning how to handle some other task that I needed to do later in the day. When it came to that task, I would then start thinking about the next thing… etc, etc. Whatever task I was meant to be doing, I ended up thinking of something else.

Being in a completely new place, my mind was forced to think about what I was doing now. I needed to be aware of what was happening in front of me – new people, new culture, new way of life – everything was new and demanded my attention.

Three weeks of only thinking in the present and it’s become like a habit. Everything seems a little happier and even ordinary everyday things give me a bit more joy now because I’m fully present for them. It’s a liberating feeling.

It Doesn’t Have To Be Perfect
As well as the fun, exciting parts of my holiday,  I like to describe the less glamorous parts too. Staying in an old-fashioned area, the local facilities were not quite the same as back home (be thankful for the standard of public washrooms here!). There was a lot of walking and trekking involved (which, as a walk-more-than-drive girl, I personally loved). Also a lot of stair climbing. Add to that a new set of attitudes and some slight culture shock during the first few days, I sometimes worry this takes away from the extraordinary picture I painted earlier.

“Oh, you had to do that? Didn’t that ruin your holiday?” Not one bit! It only added to the experience. The minor downsides made it more meaningful. It made it into a “full experience” where I was allowed to live an entirely different – but very real – life. Maybe it doesn’t fall under “perfect” in the traditional sense. But looking back, it certainly felt perfect to me.

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Phew! Do my words make sense? I’m having trouble finding the words to justify everything sufficiently :P

It sounds like a line out of a novel but it’s the absolute truth. My holiday experience was a completely soul-cleansing adventure and I came back home feeling completely in love with the world and everything about it. How’s that for the ultimate souvenir?

It’s not a feeling I’ll be letting go of very easily. From now, I’ll be making sure I apply everything I’ve learned to everyday life!

But now that I am back, I feel like my heart, heart, heart is so jet lagged.

Just kidding. Although I do miss it over there, there’s definitely no place like home! :)

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How To Tackle A Bad Day (or Days)

We all have them. We wake up feeling groggier than normal. We trip over a rogue pencil that we forgot about. The weatherman’s prediction yesterday was wrong and somehow our wardrobe has swallowed every weather-appropriate thing we’re looking for. Things aren’t starting out so good.

Before we know it, we’re more than a little annoyed.

For whatever reason, a bad day is a bad day. Today, I thought I’d share some little ideas which could help turn the day around or at least help you cope as well as can:

1. Breathe slowly

Yeah, okay. It doesn’t sound very exciting. But it really helps. Especially when you can’t escape from wherever you happen to be just yet (e.g. school, work). When you’re whole self is focused on something as simple as breathing, your mind has a chance to clear and you forget about any stresses. We all know the drill. Inhaaaaale. Aaaaaand. Exhaaaaale. Repeat. Do this for a minute or so. Feel that negative mood leaving you.

2. Focus on the task at hand

Again, if you’re not able to leave the environment, then maybe focus on what it is you’re meant to be doing. Like the above, focusing your mind on one single thing can help you forget about the external sources of stress. Unless of course, the task itself is the source of your bad day then perhaps think about skipping this one…

3. Listen to music

A classic solution. Music is a mysterious phenomenon that can whisk us away and make us connect with our feelings. So pick out some songs which best suit your mood right now. Relax with some slow piano, get happy with something upbeat, or vent your anger with something shouty and loud. There is no one-song-fits-all so go ahead and choose away!

4. Take a walk

When you eventually get the chance to escape, even if only for a little while, a little walk outdoors can do the trick. Fresh air and sunshine make for a clearer head. If you don’t mind a little rain, then don’t be afraid to take an umbrella and walk. Personally, I find a little light rain quite relaxing to walk in. :)

5. Distract yourself some other way

This means anything to stop yourself thinking about your bad day. Distract yourself with a funny film, a book or your favourite hobby. If you’re short on time, a quick youtube video could be just what you need. Something like Barack Obama “singing” Uptown Funk or Problem… or the Pokémon theme??

6. Talk to people

When having a not-so-good day, it’s tempting to just hide away. But talking to people can make you feel better. You don’t need to talk about your stresses (but you can if you want), people can be pretty surprising. There was an instance where the first person I spoke to had no idea of the bad morning I’d just had. And yet after speaking with them, I felt so much better. Their bright attitude alone was enough to brighten me up. These are the people I aspire to be like.

6. Tomorrow is a new day

If all else fails, remember tomorrow brings a fresh new start. New day, new beginnings. Yes, we’ve all heard it before but it’s most definitely true – well of course it is, who wouldn’t feel at least a tiny bit better after a nice sleep? :)

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Here’s To Truly Enjoying The Moment!

I’m a person who lives in their head a lot. Always thinking about something or another. I’ve also always been a huge daydreamer. There are numerous different worlds living in my head that I often visit everyday. The combination of all that is the reason why it’s hard for me to ever truly feel bored.

However, I have a confession. I’ve probably been doing that a little too much lately.

I think many of us can relate. Even if you don’t have an imaginary land in your head, everyone has thoughts.

Picture this. We’re walking to the shops. We start thinking about all the nice things we want to buy, like those shoes we saw online, they’d be perfect for work, oh work, I still have a mess of papers to organise, the desk is so messy, messy like my room, I have too many things I don’t use anymore, maybe I should give them to charity, yes I’ll sort through it all and put them in a box, I’ll do that right after dinner, dinner? what should I have for dinner, I think we’re almost out of milk, I should pick some up before I finish shopping…

Needless to say, the mind can be quite flighty. I know I’m guilty of that much.

This way of thinking is probably pretty normal. It isn’t as if we can really control where our thoughts go, they’re just kind of there and we don’t give them any… thought. :P

But wait a minute. That walk to the shops we just went on. We had so many thoughts during that time – do we remember what the path actually looked like? Wasn’t there a blossom tree somewhere along the way? I wonder if they’ve come full bloom yet. I used to see bird nests in that tree. I wonder if there are still some now. I’ll have to look on the way back. I should take a picture too!

Oh look, I’ve done it again. At this point, I’m probably at the shops and should really be focusing on what I’m buying.

While I’m busy doing on thing, my mind is elsewhere doing something else. And though it’s a completely natural thing for us to do,  if our minds are constantly thinking of something/somewhere else, ignoring what’s happening in front of us… it sort of closes us off from the world. We end up in our own bubble and it doesn’t look like we’re coming back out.

Maybe we’re not fully appreciating life if all we’re thinking about is what we want to do next.

So from now on: when we’re on that walk, let us truly enjoy this moment of walking. Let’s give it our full attention. Let the mind be fully aware that we are walking now and everything about it is wonderful.

That must be some walk, huh? :mrgreen:

To put our whole self into the moment, we give our minds a chance to relax. We give ourselves the time to appreciate our surroundings and the people around us. It’s a peaceful feeling… and one I hope to practice from now on!

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Be Yourself – Because It’s Much More Interesting

“Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.” – Bruce Lee

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One year in high school, my friends and I somehow wound up performing backing vocals for the Christmas Showcase. Part of the showcase included extracts of the musical Blood Brothers. I remember the leading girl being quite talented. Her portrayal of the main character, Mrs Johnstone, led me to think the character was a vulnerable type. She seemed gentle and delicate, like someone who would never look for trouble.

Towards the end of last year, I went to see a professional production of Blood Brothers. The lead, again, was very talented. But I was pleasantly surprised at how different her take on Mrs Johnstone was compared to the one I watched at high school. She seemed much tougher with a more hardened edge – a no-nonsense personality. This Mrs Johnstone was feisty and wasn’t afraid of a fight.

These two people played the same character but both were distinctly different. The story was the same but their interpretations of the lead role were different. Essentially, they weren’t being copies of what the character ‘should’ have been like. They had their own ideas and put them into their performance – and it was much more interesting that way.

And I believe it’s the same for life too. We all have traits we admire about other people and it’s natural that we aspire to be more them. It’s one way we grow in life. But we should never strive to be a complete copy. We shouldn’t be discouraged by our differences. Our differences are not always so bad – and you never know, it might be a trait that someone else admires about us.

We are our own person. We shouldn’t deny our unique qualities; they’re things which make us that little bit special. And that makes us infinitely more interesting.

Sure, it’s okay to say “I want to be more like that person”…

But let’s also remember to say “I want to be the best version of myself” :)

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10 Lessons of 2014

Time is never a waste if you take something away from those moments you spent.

As we soon bid farewell to 2014 and welcome a fresh new year, I compiled a little list of things I learned this year.

1. Only we can define ourselves. In January, I shared this post. If other people’s expectations weren’t there, would we be worrying over them?

2. Asking yourself “which is more important to me?” is a great way to combat procastination. Doesn’t work 100% and still requires your own willpower, but it’s a start. Which is more important – spending time writing my book or browsing Twitter for a few hours?

3. When it comes to telling jokes, it’s all in the delivery.

4. TV is not always a waste of time. Any form of media can be great in moderation. TV programmes are there to entertain, to inspire, to spark off your creative juices. Sometimes when I’m out of ideas, I find an inspirational TV show I like and feed off some inspiration.

5. Of course I love a hero, but I realised why I can be so captivated by a villain.

6. And it’s hard for me to not love the Doctor.

7. It’s okay to give up on something that isn’t truly for you. We all like the phrase “never give up” but if it’s not what really want, then there’s no shame in putting it aside. At the very least, you can say you tried it once – instead of you’ve always wanted to try it but never did.

8. There are good examples out there for why we should all keep our faith in humanity.

9. It’s a lovely atmosphere to sit in a coffee shop by yourself.

10. I thought I would perhaps outgrow this phase but apparently not. I will always have more fictional role models than real life ones.

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Happy New Year, dear readers! Let’s welcome 2015 with open arms!

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