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Athletic completed marathon and enjoying

Are You In A Social Dilemma?

Why physical activity beats social media activity in the quest for happiness

There’s no denying that physical activity has the power to improve your mood – scientifically proven by the rate at which the ‘happiness hormone’ dopamine is released when we are being physically active – so if there is one change you need to make right now, it’s ditching your social media habit in favour of more physical activity – and what better time to do it than as Dubai Fitness Challenge begins?

The onset of social media has undoubtedly connected people more, but some of the downsides are the increased risk of depression, anxiety, loneliness, and feelings of inadequacy. On top of that are the constant notifications – as highlighted in the new Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma – that detract you from reaching your goals.

WATCH THE SOCIAL DILEMMA TRAILER

If you’re serious about getting your mojo back after what has been a long and difficult year, follow my tips on swapping social media activity for physical activity to help you be the best human you can be. 

Discipline = results

First things first: understand that ditching the phone is going to take discipline. Why? Because you’re addicted to the instant gratification that you get from your phone. Don’t feel bad though; every one of us is addicted to something, to some extent, and kicking any kind of addiction requires discipline by the truckload. Start by setting ground rules for yourself and committing to following them. Create rules for when you can check emails, messages and social media – this ensures you aren’t mindlessly checking it every 30 seconds. Be warned that this in itself is not an easy process – it will get easier, but you need to be disciplined to see results. Put in the hard work and then you win.

Marcus ran 30 marathons in 30 days for the Dubai Fitness Challenge, 2018

Desire to change is the ultimate key

Change is key – and the desire to change is the ultimate key. If you don’t want to ditch your phone and get out and live an active and healthy life, then embarking on this journey is going to be tough. Check the point below about what you want your legacy to be and then reconsider if you truly have the desire to make some changes.

Check-in on your goals often

Here’s the thing – goals don’t need to be huge like we often hear. Instead, set two smaller goals; one related to physical activity, so there’s a reason to get up and get moving, then set another goal related to using your phone less often. To do this, record how much phone time you currently rack up in a week, and set a target for the following week to use it for less time. Achieving a goal sounds simple, but you must start with setting a goal first, which far too many people don’t do. Keep yourself on track by having your goals clearly written down with timelines and be committed to those timelines.

Take a Social Media Detox

Quitting technology cold turkey is unrealistic, but taking the odd day off can work wonders for your wellbeing. If this makes you anxious, leave your phone in a drawer for an hour, and build up the time from there. You’ll probably feel lost at first, but you’re able to fill this time with something fun and productive, and instead of documenting every moment of your weekend, you can enjoy each moment without the pressure of being constantly connected. There are countless activities you can replace your screen time with, so get creative about how you can move your body in a way that works for you. 

Switch Off Notifications

The rule is simple here: turn off notifications when it’s time to get your head down and work, or simply enjoy some you-time without distractions. Do you really need to be disturbed each time someone replies to your Facebook post or likes your picture on Instagram? While we’re not completely to blame – studies show that with every “like” or “follow,” the brain releases the neurotransmitter dopamine, effectively causing it to rewire itself to constantly crave social media –  ask yourself what value that brings to your life. A notification does not make you a better human being, so best to turn it off. I have another rule of thumb: unless it’s a call from your family or an important contact or a calendar reminder, then your phone should never light up. If you’re at work, your work deserves 100% focus. If you’re with family and friends, they deserve 100% of your attention. If you’re at the gym, your exercise deserves 100% of your effort.

Consider Your Legacy

Think about what you want to be remembered for. What do you want your legacy to be? Do you want to be remembered as the guy or girl that’s always on their phone, has poor social skills, and is not active at all? Sounds brutal, but if you do not put that device down then that’s all you will become. Your parents had bigger plans for you, you had bigger plans for yourself before you allowed technology to take over your life. Think about it and decide if putting your phone away or turning off notifications is worth the reward of becoming the person you want to be. 

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How to calm mind

If You’re an Overthinker, This One’s for You

Here are three ways to calm your mind.

Overthinking, also known as rumination, is when you repeatedly concentrate on the same thought or scenario to the point where it interferes with your everyday life. Overthinking is widespread and affects many of us. According to Forbes, 73% of people aged 25 to 35, as well as 52 percent of people aged 45 to 55, are regular overthinkers. 

There are two types of overthinking: dwelling on the past and fretting about the future. If we overthink everything in our life, it becomes a habit or self-soothing behaviour that we adopt in situations where a solution is required. Overthinking can even make things worse. You may feel ‘stuck’ or unable to take any action if you’re battling with your own thoughts. It can be hard to focus on anything else or remove certain thoughts from your mind. You may feel as if you’re trapped in a maze of thoughts, each one leading to the next – thus creating a chain of unpleasant thoughts.

It’s critical to recognise when you’re overthinking so that you can use the correct tools and techniques to combat negative thoughts and prevent an unhealthy pattern from forming. Interestingly, though, if used the right way, overthinking can help us manifest our biggest dreams. The way it’s normalised today, however, isn’t the best approach. 

While not always the case, overthinking has been connected to sadness. That being said, not all overthinking is unhealthy. In the short term, having many thoughts about an issue can actually motivate you to eliminate negatives and become prepared to overcome hurdles. When you’re apprehensive about a big work presentation, for example, the stress can motivate you to put your best foot forward. You may put in a lot of effort on the project and leave home a little early on the day of the presentation to make sure you arrive on time. 

However, overthinking becomes unhealthy when it keeps you from taking action or interferes with your daily life and well-being. Stress can also make it more difficult for you to focus and remember things, making work, housekeeping, and other daily duties more challenging. These duties will take longer if you are stressed, which might lead to even more stress.

How to calm your mind

Overthinking and Poor Sleep

Why do we stay up thinking all night? Overthinking at night happens primarily as the brain processes what occurred during the day at night. This happens as we don’t have the space to digest our ideas throughout the day because our days are now filled with several things that involve taking in large amounts of information.

In many cases, we spend hours overthinking at night about a situation we faced in the past or worrying about the future. It keeps us awake and disrupts our sleep cycle in the process. Thus, by interfering with our natural sleep cycle, overthinking can have a negative impact on our overall health and well-being, too.

Figuring Out the Cause of Overthinking

Many people believe that overthinking is a struggle, but most of the time, it’s not actually a struggle – rather one of the symptoms of a struggle that we are unwilling to address. It’s the fear of not resolving a problem that causes us to overthink things. 

This usually stems from not being used to resolving issues and lacking the courage to do it. We use overthinking as a coping mechanism to avoid dealing with the situation at hand and, as a result, when it comes to resolving the conflict, we tend to overthink it. 

Is It a Disease or a Symptom?

Overthinking can cause troubled mental health and, as such, must be treated right away to minimise its effects on our lives and physical health. It’s a warning sign that something’s awry, a signal that the underlying issue is lurking underneath the surface.

It can also be a symptom that can indicate depression, anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and other mental struggles. The best approach to combat it is to seek therapy and professional help, and acquire the necessary tools and techniques because if left untreated, it will begin to cause far more problems than anticipated.

A happy woman smiling.

Three Ways to Avoid Overthinking

1. Keep track of patterns and triggers.

A little mindfulness and focus can help you get a handle on your overthinking. Keep a journal and jot down particular instances where you found yourself overthinking or worrying. After some practice, you’ll start to see patterns and anticipate overthinking triggers. This will assist you in developing a coping strategy for when you know you may overthink.

2. Seek professional assistance.

When you overthink all the time to such an extent that it interferes with your everyday activities, you should seek expert help. As this usually indicates a mental struggle, professional assistance is required in order to be treated.

3. Make your thinking more challenging.

You don’t have to believe everything your mind tells you – even if it feels that way. Overthinking can be stifled by challenging fears and ruminations, and viewing them objectively. Evaluate if a thought is rational, reasonable, or useful. There are moments when I, too, begin to overthink and the negative thoughts begin to creep in. As humans, our default response is to be aware of the negative so as to protect ourselves from it. Being mindful of the fact that we have spotted it and can now work on it, rather than allowing it to take over our minds is the key.

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Ways to Destress in Dubai

Live in Dubai and Looking to Destress?

Help is here.


Considering May is Mental Health Awareness Month, the topic of stress – and how to tackle it – feels more timely than ever. But what if conventional solutions aren’t cutting it? After all, yoga isn’t for everyone, some people aren’t comfortable with the idea of therapy, and talking a long walk in scorching temperatures is hardly appealing. Enter: seven unique ways to destress in Dubai, one for each day of the week.

WHAT

Art psychotherapy

WHERE

 ATIC Psychological & Counselling Center

WHY

Artistic talent is not a prerequisite to give art psychotherapy a try – it’s the process of making the artwork, not the end result, that matters. And because therapy of this sort is carried out by a qualified art psychotherapist, it’s used for both diagnostic and treatment purposes. Not only does art psychotherapy alleviate stress and foster self-awareness, but it also addresses issues that verbal psychotherapy cannot reach.

WHAT

Drum therapy

WHERE

Dubai Drums

WHY

Like art psychotherapy, drum therapy entails no verbal communication, yet promotes healing and self-expression – especially when done in a drumming circle. This is because rhythmic activities readjust one’s focus and boost self-esteem, thereby calming the anxious mind. In fact, techniques of this sort have been employed for thousands of years to promote healing, especially as it’s safe and suited to all ages.

Dubai Drums

WHAT

Flotation therapy

WHERE

Point Zero Floatation Center

WHY

Don’t underestimate the stress-busting benefits of aquatic R&R, especially when it comes to floating in a highly concentrated solution of epsom salt (magnesium sulphate) in a private cabin or pod, with the water temperature set between 35.5°C and 35.8°C. As for why it works? Magnesium has been proven to reduce stress hormone – formally known as cortisol – levels, making sensory deprivation of this sort practically foolproof.

WHAT

Hypnosis

WHERE

UAE Hypnosis

WHY

Hypnosis is one of the least understood techniques when it comes to stress management, but don’t let that deter you from keeping an open mind towards this ancient practice. And if you’re not quite ready to give self-hypnosis a try, guided hypnosis comes highly recommended as a trained expert will walk you through a powerful visualisation exercise in order to both let go of stress and regain control.

WHAT

Rage rooms

WHERE

The Smash Room

WHY

Do you really need a reason for this one? Well, it’s cheaper than therapy, for starters. It’s also designed to help participants release pent-up rage by smashing everything in sight – vases, plates, old printers, and old-school TVs included – in a judgment-free space. Perhaps that explains why 60% of the customers at The Smash Room are women? And while experts continue to study this area for more conclusive evidence, several psychologists say the act of smashing releases endorphins (a.k.a. happy hormones), even steering their clients in this direction.

The Smash Room

WHAT

Sound healing

WHERE

Illuminations

WHY

Crunchy, new age-y techniques are admittedly not for everyone, but the ancient practice of sound healing certainly deserves a spot on this list. It brings together percussive instruments like gongs, triangles, tuning forks, and Tibetan singing bowls to help enter a theta state of very deep relaxation, thereby silencing the human mind through vibrations – a must-try if the stress is more chronic in nature.

WHAT

Watsu

WHERE

BMS Awakening and Healing Center

WHY

Combining water and shiatsu results in – you guessed it – watsu, a practice that has long been used in South America. Taking place in a pool generally set at a temperature of 31ºC, a therapist will gently cradle, rock, and stretch you in a series of rotational movements, all of which lead to fuller breathing and muscle relaxation. Translation: lower stress levels, less anxiety, and sleeping more soundly than you have in ages.

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tips for a men to open up

A Men’s Coach on Encouraging Your Man to Open Up  

Yes, you can be his safe space.

Us men can seem like a bit of an enigma at times, appearing stoic, emotionless, carefree, and perhaps even cold and indifferent. The keyword here though is ‘appearing’. The truth is that we feel more than you think. It’s just that we’ve been conditioned to believe that the expression of emotion equals weakness – unless it’s related to sports or video games, of course.

I write this as a man who has struggled to express his truth with women for many years – a man afraid of reaction, rejection, judgement, and the truth I might hear reflected back at me. So instead, I lied, suppressed my truth, and consequently caused a lot of pain to those close to me. The battle between the man who wants to express his truth and the woman who wants him to when they both lack trust in each other is ongoing. 

As you read this, you may think that it’s normal for a man to lie and hide the truth – and whilst I might agree with you, it does not make it okay. The reality is that men want to be honest. A man wants to unburden his troubles, but the conditions need to be psychologically safe. Most men fear that their truth will hurt the person they want to be honest with, so they decide to say nothing. They fear rejection, and their ego struggles to accept it, so they avoid being vulnerable altogether.

How To Get A Man To Open Up

Cultivating Safety 

To the women reading this: you are the conductors of this journey and the experts of emotional expression – and we need your help. It’s not easy for us to switch between our emotions, especially with some of the vulnerable ones. They don’t feel nice, and we don’t know what to do with them. Most men want to escape a negative state of mind as quickly as possible, which is why we try our hardest to block our emotions or numb them.

So where do we go from here? It might sound cliché, but communication really is key. I’d like to share with you some ways in which you can create psychological safety for the men in your life in order to encourage open and honest conversations together. Of course, there are many men who are comfortable being vulnerable, but this article is written with those who are emotionally closed off in mind. 

Before you read ahead, know that I fully understand there are times when the things I list will be difficult to do, perhaps because your own emotions may be heightened or the topic you wish to bring up has been on the table for quite some time. Every relationship is unique and relationship goals may vary. This is a journey and it will take time, but I promise that if you really work on creating safety, the man in your life will begin to open up.     

Is this the time or place?

He’s just come home from work or hanging out with his friends, and you’re ready to talk to him about something that’s been on your mind all day – after all, you’ve had all the time to go over it and now you want to let it all out. But this is not the time. This scenario does not create safety. As mentioned before, it is difficult for a man to switch between emotional states and after having just come home, he’s in no state to talk about his feelings, so give him time to truly settle.

Talking to him just before sleeping is also a bad idea. Most men just want to sleep once their head hits the pillow. I can fully appreciate that you may have something on your heart and mind – possibly something that’s been bothering you for a while – but if you really want to have the best shot at an open conversation, find the right time and place to do so.

Are you really ready to hear his truth?

Before embarking on a journey to create safety for him to open up, ask yourself if you feel safe with yourself to receive his truth. Are you ready to accept whatever he says with an open heart, to listen and not react? What is your intention for the conversation? What do you want to achieve together? Check in with yourself to recognise if there has ever been a time where he has attempted to express his truth and you mishandled the situation, emotionally hijacked the conversation, or even used his vulnerability against him. It doesn’t take a lot for a man to shut down and never attempt to speak his truth again. 

  1. Be patient with him. Understand that he won’t always know what he’s feeling, Many men have been conditioned not to feel and he may need time to find his words. Try not to jump in or finish his sentences and just listen. It may even be necessary for him to go away and reflect on the topic and come back to you, so be prepared to hit walls.
  2. Commit to holding space for him – even if his truth triggers you. 

This also means a commitment moving forward that you will not use his truth against him. It’s important that you work to ensure that safety is maintained within your relationship. Try your best to remain open and take your own time to process anything that triggers you. Be mindful of jumping in with advice or rebuttals. We already get a lot of advice from other men, so what we want from you is to feel seen, heard, and understood. Turn up the dial on empathy and approach with curiosity. Use phrases like ‘I hear you’ and ‘tell me more’ to encourage the flow.

Ways To Get A Person To Open Up

Approach with Loving-Kindness

Think ‘how can I open his heart?’ rather than “I want him to be more expressive’. Use physical touch to show affection, allow him to see and feel your presence, and reaffirm that he is safe. Use this as a moment to bond with him and build your connection. To foster more openness, you could even express your own truth and fears to show your vulnerability. I find that when working with men, they are far more likely to open up when I share a story about myself with them. 

Ask Better Questions

Avoid asking big questions like, “Where do you see this relationship going?” It’s a very direct and important question, but such questions can be incredibly daunting to a man who finds it difficult to open up. If your aim is to create safety and encourage openness, start by asking softer and more specific questions like, “When do you enjoy connecting with me most?” Be playful and ask questions that he can answer. If a man begins to feel pressured or overwhelmed, he is likely to close and retreat. Try not to let him feel that he can’t keep up with the conversation. 

  1. Catch him doing it right and reinforce the behaviour. When he is opening up, let him know that he’s heard, thank him for his vulnerability, and tell him that it makes you feel good when he opens up to you. Men love to feel that they’re doing a good job, and positive reinforcement will create new neuro-associations in the brain that will likely encourage him to continue opening up. 
  2. If you’re not quite getting the response you desire, do not punish him. Instead, speak from your heart and express how it makes you feel when he struggles to express himself – but do so in a calm and loving way. This is more likely to elicit a response from him, but also be prepared for no reaction. 

I know this can appear intense, but I cannot stress to you how hard it is for men to open up about their feelings. Real safety is so important in making a man feel comfortable. If we sense even the slightest bit of disingenuity or judgement, we’ll either stop talking altogether or get into our heads and begin disguising or playing down our truth.  

It’s a Journey, Not a Destination

I have an exercise for you to try. This is something I used to do on a weekly basis in my last relationship. We would have a ‘check-in’ every week on Thursday at 7pm with the intention of creating a safe space for us. We’d used it to share how we’re feeling in our lives, towards each other, and the relationship. By having it at the same time every week, it allows you both to mentally and emotionally prepare yourselves for the connection – this is especially important for men. Here’s my check-in guide:

  1. Pick a day and time that suits you both. Put it in a diary and honour it.
  2. Both of you must take ownership in creating a safe environment. This can mean lighting candles, putting some music on, opening a bottle of wine, or burning some incense – whatever works for you both.
  3. Sit facing each other and spend around five minutes looking into each other’s eyes (you can blink!) and settle yourself into the moment.
  4. Next, take turns expressing how you’re feeling, knowing that anything can be said. The one listening can only listen, and is then to repeat back everything that their partner said. Try your best not to paraphrase and use their words. The aim of this exercise is to make each other feel heard and seen. 
  5. After each share and reflection, say thanks for listening to each other and embrace.   
  6. If there is anything that needs further discussion, continue with loving kindness while taking care to maintain physical touch and openness throughout.

If you would like support or are curious to know more, follow Adil Hussain here.

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How to Move on from Victim Mentality

Is Your Mental Health Still on Victim Mode? 

Regain control of your life already.

What is victim mentality? The word ‘victim’ is thrown about a lot these days, but most people aren’t aware of how and when it should be used, and do not understand the impact it creates in our lives. Here, we’re going to delve into who a victim is to reduce all this confusion. 

A victim, in this context, is a person who is at the receiving end of a bad incident or emotion when it comes to mental health. Not everyone is a victim till they allow themselves to be. You would have likely seen people give advice to take responsibility for our actions, no matter what the situation is. But most of us don’t know how to do it and what impact it can have. 

How is this related to victim mentality? Consider this. Have you noticed that your life is circling the same path over and over again? Why is someone else always around you to trigger certain emotions – be it happiness or sadness? Why can’t you have a peaceful mind? Why is happiness always a short-term thing for you? If you have been thinking in this direction, congratulations! You are now one step closer to identifying the victim mentality in you and finding an answer to the problems that have been with you all your life. 

How can victim mentality take over your entire life?

Let’s start with an example of victim mentality and how it turns into a cycle. If a friend hurts you and you are upset about it, you are now feeling sad because of someone else’s actions. This can cause you to feel like you were the victim of that incident. With the rise of this feeling, you are now giving your power to someone else. It’s like allowing them to be a trigger in your life. You give the other person the power to control your life.

Being a trigger, they can control your unconscious mind and make you think, do, or act as they like. By giving the conscious mind and thinking power away, you are entering a very scary path where this process repeat and become a pattern. It means that you’ll come across similar people who will trigger you and make you sad because that’s all that you know and are familiar with.

Ways to Stop Feeling Like a Victim

This is where you need to take responsibility for your actions. You have to tell yourself that you cannot react to another person and you must maintain control of your conscious mind. Now that we have decoded victim mentality, the same thinking can be applied to happiness, too. If you start relying on others for your happiness or the outside environment to make you happy, you are letting yourself be dependent on it – and not learning to be truly happy. 

Whether it’s creating a cycle of sadness or depending externally for happiness, these habits can make life very difficult, very quickly. You cannot find long-term happiness or peace within yourself with such an approach as you’re letting yourself be a mere puppet. So what’s the solution? Believe that just as outside factors can control you, you can control the outside world, too.

If you can let your inner self control you – including your sadness, happiness, and all other emotions – then you will feel that the people around you cannot actually control your mood, especially with such intensity. You might still be sad or happy because of others, but they are no longer in control, and you know how to make yourself feel better.

Ways to Stop Feeling Like a Victim Once

How can you make yourself feel in control? 

Changing your attitude is not going to happen overnight. You’ll have to undertake a lot of learning, unlearning, decoding, and adopting new habits while dropping older ones. All of this effort will help you in personal development and identifying a path that you can follow. Once these things align in your life, they become what many call coincidences and opportunities – though in reality, they are simply the results of your effort.

You have to realise that you are the power centre in this change. If you give your power away as a result of victim mentality, you’ll lose everything. In comparison, if you learn to control it, you can manipulate how you feel, what happens in your life, and how things align in your life – all of it will be in your control. The condition to gaining this power is to let go of victim mentality.

Therapy is one way to approach this as it helps you analyse your behaviour and thinking patterns and gives you the tools and techniques to change and decode them. You have to fight the situation. Let the conscious mind take control and utilise its creative and logical parts to make you believe that you deserve a really happy life – and before you know it, you’ll create it. 

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 Quiet the Mind to Reap These Benefits

Let meditation calm your life.

Having been on a journey with meditation, I can hands down say that it’s a life-changing experience! I turned to meditation when I had nothing else left. My first experiences of ‘trying’ to meditate were around seven years ago. I had been living in Dubai for a year and fancied going on a yoga retreat in Sri Lanka. I’m a very talkative person, and I met a woman just like myself at the retreat. We both struggled to take meditation seriously and confessed that we simply couldn’t switch off, sit still, and control the thousands of thoughts racing in our minds. When I asked for advice, all I was told was that it was about the breath. Unable to progress any further, I ended up giving up.

Several years later, I found myself in Thailand after a breakdown and turned to meditation again. This time, I trained myself to meditate and the results spoke for themselves! The thing to remember here is that the brain is a muscle, and it needs training like any other muscle. The more it is exercised, the stronger it becomes. I started with five minutes and now meditate, without fail, at least six days a week for a minimum of 20 minutes. I assure my coaching clients that if I can do it, anyone can – after all, I have always been someone who can’t sit still, someone who’s always on the move.

Daily habits and rituals are crucial for a happy, fulfilled life. In my line of work, I interact closely with women who want to learn how to be confident leaders. From my experience, everyone wants to learn the skills to be a great leader, but it’s the inner work that makes us shine – I call this the inner hustle. We live in a culture that rewards hustling, hard work, and long hours to be successful. This is an outdated system that leads to burnout, stress, and ultimately feeling unfulfilled. But there is much more to life than hustling!

I believe the new way is the conscious way – doing less and attracting more. It’s all about being in flow and alignment. We often feel that unless we are pushing and controlling, we aren’t productive or successful. I’ve found that when I am in this state, I make mistakes, have the wrong vibe, and end up doing more damage than good. It is only when you’re in the right space that you can attract the right people at the right time – and it all stems from feeling good.

When I work with women, I often see the same patterns, so I start by delving deep into how they spend their mornings. You can set your day up for success with the right habits and rituals. More often than not, we jump out of bed, rush to get ready, swig a coffee, and leave for the office. “I just don’t have time,” women say to me. We have to carve out time specifically for our morning habits and rituals to be successful. I can assure you the results will be outstanding if you do so. It’s the small, daily steps that lead to big breakthroughs. Meditation results in you feeling happy, calm, and in sync, and contributes to your overall wellness.

Meditation doesn’t have to be spiritual or ‘woo woo’ either – there is lots of scientific research to back up its benefits. When we meditate, we access what is known as Alpha brainwaves, which ignites creativity, inspiration, solutions, and problem-solving. There have been countless times when I have meditated and come up with ideas for my work right after. The fact is that 95% of life is created from the subconscious mind, and we can access it through meditation.

Meditation also reduces stress, gives clarity, increases focus, and promotes happiness. It is normal for thoughts to keep entering our minds as we meditate. The key is to get into the present moment, the space where we aren’t thinking of anything at all. This takes practice and the easiest way is to count your breath. Two thoughts can’t co-exist, so by counting, you are present. Here are my three tips for fruitful meditation.

Tip 1: Daily habits and rituals can be life-changing. 

Set your alarm 30 minutes earlier each day and start with an inspiring podcast. Go to YouTube and look up ‘guided meditation videos’, especially ones that focus on positive energy. Pick one you like the sound of, lie back, and listen. I prefer to lie flat, though some people like to sit up. There is no right or wrong way, so do what works for you.

Relaxation Meditation KitThe Gaggler

Tip 2: Count your breathing. 

Count 1-2-3-4 as you inhale and 1-2-3-4 as you exhale. Remember to be patient with it. It’s called meditation practice as it takes practice – so stick with it. After some time, you’ll notice that you can do it for longer and longer.

Tip 3: Implement this daily, along with a gratitude journal. 

We all have things to be grateful for. Every day, start with, ‘I am so grateful for…’ Combine these two things to elevate your vibration or mood. There have been times when I have woken up irritable and groggy, only to feel like I had another 10 hours of sleep after meditation.

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This Is the True Power of Gratitude

Give a little to gain more.

How often do we really focus on the power of our thoughts when manifesting? We see daily reminders on social media, new age documentaries, and guided meditations, but do we really take the time to understand what it means and how it can affect us? 

If we really understood the power of the mind, we would place far more importance on being aware of the texture of our thoughts on a daily basis. This practice starts with mindfulness. It means being aware of the mind within the mind and observing the part of us that allows these thoughts to churn and revolve unconsciously and continuously. 

New neurobiological research has proposed that we have over 6,000 thoughts per day, and a staggering 95% of these thoughts are the same ones we had the day before. Out of this 95%, 80% of these repetitive thoughts are actually negative in nature. So what does this mean for us? This finding teaches us a lot about the essence of the amygdala, the part of the brain that is biologically programmed to keep us safe. We must understand that this part of the brain is not capable of judgment and rationale. It only understands one thing: that which is familiar is what has kept us alive thus far.

So, if these thoughts and behaviours have kept me alive this far, it makes sense to ensure that this consistency and repetitiveness continues to ensure lifelong safety. This is exactly why people find it very difficult to remove themselves from their comfort zone. The resistance is in-built! According to the law of attraction, if such a large number of our thoughts are inherently negative, then we will keep attracting the same situations that reinforce these negative thoughts, keeping us in a firm loop of manifesting the same things we are trying to change. So how do we change this process, and what role does gratitude play in it? 

Allow me to answer this through a personal story. 

It was about 4pm and I was traipsing through the sand as I took my regular afternoon walk right by the ocean. The day was bright and clear, and the sun’s heat was at that perfect balance between warming my skin and casting a beautiful orange glow. At that point, I had been consciously choosing my thoughts and emotions, tapping into abundance and reconnecting with my true self by relearning my purpose, my power, and my desires. In one way, it was a relearning. And in another way, it was a seamless unlearning of all of my programmes so that I could allow space to find my true essence of being.

True Power of Gratitude

I was feeling appreciative, hopeful, and grateful. And funnily enough, when I wrote about it in my journal that night, I accidentally wrote ‘gratefuel’. That was not a coincidence! It was just a subtle reminder from a universal source that gratitude is what fuels our manifestations and successes in life. That day, I felt so good during my long walk along the beach while I was breezing through my gratitude list.

I remember thinking, “Thank you for this beautiful day. Thank you for the water, for where I live. Thank you for the sun. Thank you for the moon…” And as I acknowledged the moon, I realised that it hadn’t even come up yet. It was nearing sunset, but it was not quite there. Then I thought, “I was a bit early there, but oh well. I’ll be thankful for the moon since it will be out soon anyway.” I stretched out my arms, turned my face to the sky in happiness and peace, and what did I see? A perfect silhouette of the moon. 

Let us never forget that universal energy has a way of making things abundantly clear to us when we cannot see it ourselves. This was just one way that the universe was able to demonstrate to me one of the greatest truths when it comes to manifestation: allow your desires into the present-day experience by being grateful for them now. This goes against the workings of our brain, which is wired to think negatively, but the awareness of that is your power.

You are always in control and you can always shift your thoughts. The trick is to become mindful of them through practice. Mindfulness is a muscle – when used right, it grows and strengthens every day. The more you practise, the less you will find yourself immersed in repetitive, negative thoughts and the quicker you’ll be able to shift to a new thought, emotion, frequency of energy, or a new possibility and way of living. 

“Gratitude is a powerful process for shifting your energy and bringing more of what you want in your life.”

– Rhonda Byrne 

There is a common idea stating that if you desire something, it is because you are meant to have it. Desire becomes the indicator of possibility and likelihood. Whether you actually end up receiving it is down to you, your choices, and the ability to follow intuitive guidance. But it is already yours. It is there, waiting for you to claim it. I tend to ascribe to this philosophy on the basis that time isn’t linear, so the past, present, and future are really happening at the same time. Therefore, when we are grateful for something that hasn’t happened yet, we aren’t just living out a false fantasy and tricking our brains into it. We truly are being grateful for something we already have!

Power of Gratitude

When we invite gratitude, joy, pleasure, and ease into our minds, we can see it and experience it in our lives. When I expressed my gratitude for the moon, it felt like the most natural thing in the world. I knew that it would show up at some point. At that moment, it was a completely relaxed certainty for me. There was no angst, doubt, or worry about whether or not the moon was going to come out. There was no impatience around it.

I could feel grateful for it now while enjoying the benefits of the last few hours of the sun until it arrived. There was no impatience for when it would happen because that thought becomes redundant when you trust universal timing. When you combine this with relaxation and complete faith, you will see the unfolding of this metaphysical law in action. It works for attracting our life partner, money, clarity – and really anything we can dream up!

“Be thankful for what you have, you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never ever have enough.”

Oprah Winfrey

The truth of the matter is, nothing and no one can get in the way of our manifestations except us. We create the experiences, circumstances, and relationships we want by staying in alignment by consciously choosing our thoughts and, by association, our emotions. When we choose to think through the lens of gratitude, we will feel grateful, thereby attracting more into our lives to be grateful about. In fact, make this your lifelong philosophy and you’ll never run out of things to be grateful for. If we choose to focus on what we lack, we will feel frustrated and therefore find more things we ‘lack’ in our lives to be frustrated about.

This is how the law works, and you have full control of it to utilise this law to your benefit. Ultimately, we deserve to live loving, prosperous, and purposeful lives. Creating is fun and the journey should feel good. When you give thanks for a little, you end up finding a whole lot more, so whenever you feel challenged by the concept of believing something before you can physically see it, take my experience as your own and just picture the moon. Picture it appearing in the midst of a sunset, feeling that sense of certainty and peace to the point where it’s almost impossible for you to imagine it not appearing. And in that moment, know that you are at your most pivotal manifesting point. Apply that feeling to anything you want, and it will be yours.

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Set Healthy Boundaries

Let’s Talk Healthy Boundaries – and How to Set Them

Benefits, myths, and more.

Have you ever felt uncomfortable and had a feeling that you were being pushed into a corner when interacting with someone? If so, chances are that the person in question violated a boundary that you considered sacred. As a practising therapist, I cannot emphasise enough the importance of establishing healthy boundaries in our journey of inner-growth and healing. Yet, this remains grossly misunderstood and judged. 

What Are Healthy Boundaries?

Healthy boundaries are a set of rules or guidelines that we set for ourselves, defining how we behave with others, respond to situations, and consequently a directive of how we expect others to treat us. Self-honesty and awareness are the two main pillars on which healthy boundaries are created. They are essential in identifying and practising personal integrity.

Healthy boundaries usually have these characteristics: 

  1. The limits set are clear and reasonable.
  2. Boundaries are based on your needs as well as the needs of others. 
  3. It comes from the intention of being authentic. 
  4. Boundaries are not based on other’s approval or from the feeling of being a victim. 
  5. The limits help channel any anger or frustration into positive action rather than aggressive behaviour or a shutdown. 
  6. Boundaries are not based on fear, guilt, or shame. 
  7. The boundaries are based on what reality is, not on expectations of what it should be. 

Talk Healthy Boundaries

Common Myths About Boundaries

The most common myth is that setting boundaries means being selfish or narcissistic. On the contrary, setting boundaries means ensuring role and identity clarity for ourselves and others. ‘Setting boundaries makes us lonely, unwanted, and isolated’ is another myth, and this comes from a deep fear of rejection and validation. Boundaries actually help us overcome this fear. They provide a haven to experiment, heal, and integrate lost parts of our own selves. 

Benefits of Establishing Healthy Boundaries

Healthy boundaries are certainly a very important ingredient for self-care and self-compassion. They help protect our sense of self and identity. They keep us safe and relaxed, both emotionally and physically. Boundaries also develop into a subtle yet firm way of speaking our truth, and it builds self-confidence and empowers our inner being paving the way for wellness in your life. 

Top Tips for Setting Healthy Boundaries

  • Take Baby Steps: If you are making a start, start small and choose easy goals. Begin by setting and practising simple boundaries and then move on to the more challenging ones. Build on your small successes, rather than trying to prove a point. 
  • Set an Intention and Follow Through: Don’t beat around the bush, and be direct instead. Define your boundaries and write them down, if required. Be crystal clear of your intention before you begin.  
  • Speak Up: Communicate and communicate more. Speaking out loud not only helps others, but also brings clarity to you. Choose to be assertive. 
  • Be Mindful: Honour other people’s boundaries. Be self-aware and build awareness of others’ boundaries.
  • Seek Professional Help: Contact a trusted mental health practitioner and let them assist you in your journey.

Boundaries are not a cue for healthy relationships – they are the foundation for self-love and self-respect, so give yourself permission to set boundaries and hold them in high regard.

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International Day of Happiness

7 Takeaways from Our Chat with a Happiness Researcher

Sarah El-Abd on the pursuit of happiness.

Happiness is fleeting. Happiness is an abstract concept. Happiness is a subjective experience. And the world has happiness on the brain. Following this year’s edition of International Day of Happiness, the global community was reminded that with mass suffering taking place in Yemen, Ukraine, and Palestine as we speak, we ought to spread happiness by sharing positive messages, connecting with people, and donating to those in need. But how does Sarah El-Abd, a researcher at the Happiness Research Institute in Denmark, define happiness? And how does she, as an expert, pursue it? Here, we share seven key takeaways from our conversation. 

On the definition of happiness:

“Happiness can be defined as the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile. Personally, I’m of the opinion that happiness means something different to every person, and I would therefore define happiness as the way that an individual really feels about his or her own life in that sense.”

On the pursuit of everlasting happiness: 

“We often answer the question, ‘Can we be happy all the time? And why?’ And of course, the short answer is ‘no’ – nor should we be. Happy people are happy the majority of the time, and this is perhaps because they have a positive outlook or they live their life in a positive context with well-founded structures. However, negative things can also happen to happy people, and it’s important to remain conscious of how life is treating us overall in that sense.”

Happiness Research Institute

On why some societies are happier than others:

The World Happiness Report usually explains the difference in happiness across countries through six factors: GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity, and the perceptions of corruption. In addition to these factors, each country has cross-cultural nuances that also contribute to differences in happiness, so it’s important to understand that some countries cannot push happiness forward with their GDP per capita, for example.

However, we can push happiness further through freedom to make life choices or generosity or perceptions of corruption because these don’t need to happen on an overall country level basis – as long as you feel them in your everyday life and local community. It’s one of those things where small changes create larger effects, so if we lower perceptions of corruption in local communities or even within our own circles, then that in itself is bound to potentially create a difference in happiness.”

On Nordic countries ranking high in happiness:

“It’s known that all of the five Nordic countries are consistently ranked within the top 10 of the happiest countries in the world, and I do believe that Denmark inspires other countries to increase the quality of life for their citizens. We are exceptionally good at decoupling wealth and well-being and, after our basic needs are met, we realise that more money is not conducive to more happiness – so we focus on other things that increase our quality of life instead. In other words, it is the small things that really matter. These include spending more quality time with friends and family, and enjoying the good things in life.”

On observations around happiness during the pandemic:

“It’s the small things that can help us find happiness when times get tough, and we found that there has been renewed interest in the Scandinavian concept of hygge during the pandemic. Hygge has been referred to as the perfect night in – it’s during this phase that we must spend an increased amount of time indoors, that practising hygge can help make the best of the conditions that we are living in.

It’s a very culturally significant concept to Danes, who have long used hygge as a survival strategy for winter, when it gets really dark and cold and gloomy here in Denmark. With the pandemic still presenting challenges, hygge has been – and continues to be – one of the ways that we seek comfort. And for happiness purposes, we hope that it continues to play a role in people’s lives because it really is very relevant.”

Happiness Researcher

On the debate around money buying happiness:

“There is an understanding that wealthier countries tend to rank higher in happiness. However, when we bring that down from a GDP per capita to GDP per person perspective, this isn’t necessarily the case. Look at the Easterlin Paradox, for example, which explored what happened to the happiness of a country’s citizens as the GDP per person increased. The two did not always go hand in hand, and it was therefore evident that correlation did not imply causation.

When we go back to GDP per capita, yes, some of the wealthiest countries are some of the happiest countries, but the wealthiest country is not necessarily the happiest. The likes of Finland and Denmark boast strong economies and have ranked high in recent years, but they certainly aren’t the wealthiest. Similarly, larger economies such as China and America simply don’t rank as high. Money is interesting to explore from a happiness perspective and, up to a certain point, it’s very relevant – but there is a threshold.”

On the happiness hacks that she swears by:

“With happiness, I think it’s important to always take a few steps back – you can sometimes get very focused on one of the six factors that make countries happy. For example, if you live in a country that’s ridden with corruption, you may question your ability to be happy. But it’s really about taking a step back and realising that there are other factors, perhaps shifting focus to the high levels of generosity instead.

Failing in one factor doesn’t necessarily mean failing in all six factors, right? Each carries a good amount of weight. Another happiness hack that I swear by is communication, especially after the pandemic. While relationships are at the core of our being and our happiness, a lot of us are reviewing and re-evaluating what these relationships are and how happy they make us.”

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UAE Women influencers

4 UAE Women on What Happiness Means for Them

What does being happy mean to you?

 As International Day of Happiness approaches on March 20, consider doing some deep introspection. Are you happy? What makes you happy? What do you do when you don’t feel too good? Here, we ask four influencers in the UAE such questions, learning more about what happiness means for them.

Sarah Bradshaw, UAE influencer

Sarah Bradshaw

How do you define the term ‘happiness’? What does it mean to you?

According to me, happiness is being satisfied with what you have and enjoying every minute of your journey – no matter what happens. We live in a world that makes us believe that happiness can be bought through material things and big goals, and that in order to be happy, you should keep trying to get more and more things instead of accepting your reality. Unfortunately, this only results in unhappiness and frustration. For me, simple things can bring about the most happiness. If you can just live in the moment with your family and friends, while being aware that every second is precious? That is happiness.

Are there any personal happiness hacks that you swear by when you’re feeling low?

As a Muslim woman, reading hadiths and Quranic verses is the most effective thing I can do when I feel low. In addition to that, I also believe that being in a positive environment with good people is important. So, when I feel low, I avoid any source of negativity and try to just concentrate on myself. I don’t let my bad feelings take control of my mind and heart. Just remember that there is always a good reason to be happy by pronouncing Alhamdulillah!

What about life in the UAE makes you happy? 

Ever since I moved to the UAE, I’ve been really happy. I used to live in Paris, but I’d started to lose myself there. I am generally a positive and enthusiastic person, but when you are surrounded by insecurity, bad weather, and angry and impolite people, you tend to get affected by the negativity and feel like you are not in the right place anymore. 

Coming to the UAE helped me to find tranquillity. I also appreciate how safe the UAE is, especially for women. In fact, I was once was walking outside around 3am during a Ramadan night to get some fresh air, and a man approached me. He wasn’t threatening or annoying – he’d just stopped next to me to say, “Salam aleykum”. Out of nowhere, a policeman approached me and asked if the man was bothering me. The whole incident made me feel much safer here as I realised how well the country looks after its women.

Learn more about Sarah Bradshaw at @sarahbradshaw.off.

Danielle Murnane

Danielle Murnane

How do you define the term ‘happiness’? What does it mean to you?

I define happiness as an inside job – it’s not something that can be found outside of myself. Anything we desire from the external world can easily be taken away from us as quickly as it may be found. The pandemic was a prime example of this, with so many people around the world suddenly losing their jobs and their livelihoods. In my case, as I work in the aviation industry, it was extremely stressful because my job was suddenly on the line. 

What I’ve learnt through my experience is to be deliberate about cultivating happiness. It means not focusing on what I can’t control, such as external events, and focusing on what I can control. What I can control is my breath, the peace that resides in my heart, and the thoughts that consume my head. It’s not always easy, especially when life is challenging, but there is a lot of power in optimism. 

Are there any personal happiness hacks that you swear by when you’re feeling low?

The key to cultivating a life of happiness is to keep it simple. Whenever I feel low, my number one hack is to practise gratitude. Since discovering the importance of gratitude, I have made it a daily habit to begin and end each day by saying thank you for the blessing that is today. I feel the simple act of being grateful for each day is commonly overlooked by people because society values focusing on the future as opposed to staying present in the moment. 

Another simple hack that I love to do when I have an off day is open a page of my journal and create a list of 20 things that I am thankful for in my life right now. It could be as simple as a warm cup of coffee in the morning, a phone call with a loved one, or the blue sky outside. It’s so easy to fill up my page with gratitude and, within a few minutes, my mind is focused on what’s going well in my life rather than what’s going wrong. 

What about life in the UAE makes you happy?

I love the consistent weather, especially during the winter season. I love warm weather, so to witness the sun shining most days is truly a gift. When the weather is pleasant, it motivates me to be more active outside. I love practising yoga on the beach, riding my bike, or hiking one of the beautiful trails around the UAE. In fact, last month, I travelled to Fujairah with a group of friends to embark on the Rainbow Valley Trek. 

It always brings me tremendous joy to participate in fun outdoor activities with like-minded people. When I’m outside, submerged in nature, it helps me to feel grounded and teaches me to let go and let be. Nature is beautiful and evokes happiness, yet it’s not trying or doing anything – it just is. It reminds me that I myself don’t need to try or do anything to be happy, instead, just being authentically me and anchoring onto my true essence will always bring me joy. 

Learn more about Danielle Murnane at @danimurnani.

Yumn Nanaa, a  UAE influencer

Yumn Nanaa

How do you define the term ‘happiness’? What does it mean to you?

Happiness is a state of mind. It’s a decision that you make to enjoy the moment and feel content with what you have and where you are.

Are there any personal happiness hacks that you swear by when you’re feeling low?

When I feel low, I don’t try to force myself to be happy and fake it. I spend some time alone at home or with my kids to analyse my feelings and the reasons behind them until I feel balanced and ready to face life’s obstacles again.

What about life in the UAE makes you happy? 

The UAE is a vibrant country, and it always keeps you busy and engaged. Whether you are interested in arts and culture, love shopping and fashion, or are a busy mom with toddlers to entertain, you can always find something to do. Being exposed to so many different cultures here can put things into perspective about how diverse people are, and how everyone has their own definitions of being happy and enjoying their time.

As an architect, I find that the design of buildings and communities here help in keeping up people’s spirits. The gyms, pools, and well-designed outdoor spaces make people want to mingle and move – and that’s crucial to leading a happy life.

Learn more about Yumn Nanaa at @_yammona_.

Eunice Wong

Eunice Wong

How do you define the term ‘happiness’? What does it mean to you?

Happiness can mean a lot of things. For me, it means always having or doing what gives me that feeling of fulfilment. It’s also about being around the people I love and helping them be the best version of themselves. Helping someone with something that’s troubling them – whether that’s by giving advice or just listening as a friend – makes me feel content. This is especially true when it comes to family, as nothing beats spending time with them and watching them enjoy life. Finally, happiness is also accepting myself as I am and appreciating what I have in my life – from my health to my career – and using that to support my needs and the needs of people around me, whether in big ways or small.

Are there any personal happiness hacks that you swear by when you’re feeling low?

I believe that emotion is energy in motion. If you feel down, your mood can instantly be changed with a shift in environment and physiology. When I feel blue, the first thing I do is indulge in self-love activities. I like to run a warm bubble bath, light a candle, play sounds of Tibetan bells in the background, relax, and turn inwards. 

Often, when people feel down, they may turn to unhealthy choices such as alcohol to numb the feeling, but that only reduces the pain temporarily. Turning inwards in a quiet place and starting to listen to yourself can have a more long-lasting effect. I like to reflect on the little things I’ve done and remind myself that plenty of other people still have it harder. After all, I still have food on the table and a roof over my head. I also try to reconnect with a friend or a family member. That always puts me in a good mood and fills my heart with love.

What about life in the UAE makes you happy? 

The UAE is a progressive country, and it’s still very much shaped by the friendly and welcoming Muslim/Arab culture. In fact, the first thing I noticed when I came here was how multicultural it is and how respectful people are of each other. I also love how people here seem to have a hunger and ambition for things, and how the country is constantly developing with new and exciting projects on the way. The opportunities are endless!

When I was younger, I dreamt of ‘making it’ in New York City, but today, I feel proud to have made a better choice by living in the UAE as I believe that this country is the future – it will have the next Silicon Valley, the next city that doesn’t sleep, and so much more!

Learn more about Eunice Wong at @euniwong.

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Woman crying and two men having a conversation

Why Divorce Isn’t the End of the World

And why your mental health during the process matters.

In certain cultures, divorce is one of the least accepted decisions a couple can make. People often expect two individuals to be in a relationship throughout their lives – even if they can’t cooperate enough to spend a day with their sanity intact. Deciding on getting a divorce is already a long and complicated decision, and the societal pressure around it makes it even more complex. Couples can feel burdened under this pressure, even though it is a decision that only concerns them and the family they’ve created.

The Grief Cycle

People might assume that the couple must be ‘okay’ if they’ve made the decision themselves, but the actual reality can be different and depends a lot on the level of emotional attachment they had. If two individuals had a close relationship, they would’ve likely developed an emotional attachment, too. This can cause some couples to wonder why they are even separating. Multiple factors could be responsible, with compatibility and adjustment being some of the common reasons we might have heard of.

Today, however, change is starting to become an even more important factor that we are now normalising. It can come in the shape of difference in career, goals, relationship choices, lifestyle – the list goes on. A couple going through a divorce could experience grief like that of a loss. The emotions of the individuals involved could swing from the passive to the active stage.

Getting a divorce

But one crucial thing to keep in mind here is that the two individuals must be emotionally attached at some level to go through the grief cycle. Even the intensity of emotions associated with each stage differs depending on their emotional attachment. The same is true with time. You cannot determine how much time a person will take in moving from one phase to the other or accepting the decision. It can vary from hours and days to months or even years.

Going from the shock stage to the acceptance stage requires patience and accepting reality. Besides, the timeline for reaching the acceptance stage is not the same for everyone – it ranges from individual to individual. Once you accept the divorce papers as reality, you are usually in a state of shock where you do not want to acknowledge things at first. People may be in denial and make excuses for each situation and circumstance, assuming that it must not be happening to them.

Once the realisation of the situation starts to set in, then comes the anger. This is usually rooted in how they feel cheated of the time and emotions they invested into the relationship. If children are involved, the anger stage might last longer as they feel obligated to fight for the ‘perfect family’.

Divorce counselling & advice

This then brings us to the bargaining stage, where they are willing to give away a few things in return for others. This stage can easily turn sour when both individuals try to deal with the reality of things by bargaining and realise that it’s simply not working. This stage can lead to depression – either acute or deep – where they feel they cannot change their situation.

Usually, after this stage, they start testing new alternatives like continuing their career, co-parenting methods, remarrying, or pursuing other priorities. Once they find out what works for them, they usually accept the situation and move on in life. All these processes are natural, and the pain people face is a sign to change and grow. This is the time when others need to show support. Help them understand the advantages of their situation and let them realise that it was the best decision that they could’ve made, given their circumstances.

Although such pain and emotional trauma is natural, the social pressure and lack of support from friends and family makes it worse. We, as a society, need to normalise divorce. If two people are not happy living together, then they shouldn’t be forced to be with each other anymore. Instead of pitying them, we should congratulate them for ending a relationship that was not meant for them.  

Working Through the Guilt

No matter what the emotional attachment was during the active relationship, one or both parties are often left with a certain amount of guilt. This guilt can make them doubt the right time to start enjoying their life again. The result? They get stuck in this emotional cycle and do not freely live a happy life. Loved ones of divorcees can be especially vital in such cases, helping them focus on the fact that the uncomfortable part is done and they’re now walking into happiness. 

Therapy to Cope

Things you should know about divorce

Therapy can be a great aid in helping people navigate their divorce. Therapy, in general, is great for adjusting to any change of state – be it big or small. We should normalise therapy as an essential part of life, not something to be ashamed of or something reserved for ‘broken’ people. Therapy can also help in maintaining and distancing oneself from their ex-partner. This is important, especially if you need to co-parent, as an ugly divorce can have adverse effects on children’s mental health.

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