Mental Well-being During Lockdown

I wish there was less negativity around lockdown. I am so happy at the moment. I have so much control over my life, and I feel so in touch with my inner self. I really want more people to feel this way. This feeling is truly addictive, and the moment we figure out ways to feel so, there is no turning back.

I’m going to get straight to the point and describe ways in which we can help improve our mental well-being during lockdown.

1. Keep a gratitude journal. I have been reading about having a gratitude journal for years, but I only started practicing it one month ago. Every morning, I spend 10-15 minutes writing about what I am grateful for. There is no better way to start my day and I am so happy to have finally got into the habit of doing so. (If you do not like writing, then voice note it to yourself and listen back to it at the end of the day!).

2. Learn to breathe. As a human beings we are terrible at breathing in a nourishing way. This only worsens our states of anxiety. I personally have been focusing on breathing more regularly throughout the day. Every time I feel my mind wonder, I try and focus it back on my breathing. It is making me realise that our breath is the only real thing at any moment in time. By taking control of our breathing we are claiming control over how we respond to the external situations.

3. Be present. Being sat at home is apparently ‘brain numbing’ and ‘boring’. I think the complete opposite. We can add value to every moment of our life if we are present. We need to focus on what is. We need to focus on the now. We may never get such an opportunity to spend again with our family. We need to relish it and use it to reconnect with our loved ones. We need to learn to be present in each of our endeavors big or small, throughout our day.

4. Learn to do things on your own. Workout alone. Dance alone. Cook alone. Clean alone. Sing alone. Enjoy your own company. Enjoy getting to know yourself. The reality is, not many of us know who we really are. Our understanding of ourself has unfortunately become what we think society thinks we are. This is the prime time to change that. When we get comfortable being alone, we are unstoppable.

5. Take a break from social media. This is potentially the hardest. Everyone is bored at home and using social media to entertain themselves (thanks Instagram and TikTok). It is just proving how much we are seeking for external validation to define our happiness. Such happiness is short-lived. This applies to any distractions we may have. We need to break free from this escapism culture and face our real self. Take a few days off, maybe a few weeks – I took a month off! I stripped away everything I thought I was, to find out I am just a human like anyone else.

I have said this before and I say it again. I honestly believe we have been blessed with lockdown. We have come to realise how much our excitement and joy has always relied on external factors/events, rather than from within. This is the time for us to make peace with our inner selves and just enjoy being, instead of complaining about everything that we could have been doing if lockdown was not in place.

Stay home. Stay safe. Learn about yourself.

So damn proud of myself

I am going to keep this short.

I’m so proud of myself!

Today I went to cinema on my own, for the first time in my life, and watched Aladdin (2019).

Now you may be thinking, seriously is that all Praveena?! Actually this is big deal for me. I have always done things with other people. If there are things I want to do, and no one else is on board, I have not pursued it. I decided a few weeks ago that this needs to change. If I want to do something, however big or small it is, I just need to do it.

I have always been the person to get a little anxious when I have to do things on my own. When I found out Aladdin was coming out today, I literally booked a ticket for myself without a second thought. I just couldn’t be bothered to ask around and wait to go with other people. I wanted to go so I booked it. However, today at work, the thought of going on my own got me very anxious. I was so close to not going to the cinema. I spoke to my boyfriend who said, ‘Praveena, you are going.’ (Gosh I do love him for his tough love). So I came back from work, showered, and then left to go to the cinema. I bought popcorn for myself, went to the theatre and queued outside on my own and sat on my own.

Literally it was the best decision ever!

May this be the beginning of a journey or self-love and self-development, where I grow more and more courage to do things and be present as much as I can. If I have a burning desire to do something, I don’t need to wait for anyone. I should just do it! Even if that means I am on my own.

By the way, the movie was so epic!! It reminded me of my childhood dreams of wanting to become a princess!

Cosmetic Surgery – A hindrance to self-confidence?

I had a very interesting conversation with my sister today about celebrities who have done cosmetic surgery and how it may have changed their appearance.

Celebrities have a huge following which means they have the possibility of creating huge social change a lot easier than others. Yet there are some who have fallen victim to the pressure of it all and started changing their appearance to gain more ‘acceptance’ (this may be self-acceptance and/or that from others). As a result they have added fuel to a whole new culture of cosmetic surgery. Obviously they are not the only ones responsible but they have created this notion that having certain facial features is what makes one beautiful. This, in turn, means more of the general population have resorted to such means more easily. Shouldn’t such celebrities be encouraging everyone to embrace themselves for who and how they are? I’ve seen it all being said, but again actions speak louder than words.

Everyone is entitled to have insecurities. However insecurities, in the spiritual sense, represent a bigger problem. It means one is not accepting themselves for who they are and how they look. Cosmetic surgery (unless it has a medical purpose) fixes the ‘effect’ but not the ‘cause’. We need to work on figuring out the cause of this insecurity. Surprisingly, in most cases, the ‘cause’ of this insecurity is down to ‘what others do/think’ or ‘what we define as beautiful’. If it’s a former, it shows that we are not living for ourselves but for others. If it is the latter, we need to question what made us define beauty the way we do.

Confidence is an inside job, so if we are relying on the external appearance to give us confidence, which is an internal trait, where does the problem lie?

Think about it,
Praveena

The Gold Complex

I decided to write the piece after being inspired by a conversation I had with my friends when I met up with them yesterday about the role of gold in our Tamil community. I am not sure whether this is applicable to any of the other cultural groups, but as a Tamil girl, I thought to address some issues which are very evident in my community.

Before I move on to my main arguments, let me take a moment to address some apparent benefits of gold – and by this I am talking about the benefits of wearing gold jewellery.

1) Wearing gold is thought to improve overall well-being because of its healing and relaxing properties.

2) Gold can apparently improve blood circulation and regulate one’s body temperature.

3) Gold also is thought to help alleviate symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

4) It is also a fashion statement to wear gold jewellery, and this dates back decades to centuries.

Okay, so I know what you will be thinking now – Gold is great! Yes, apparently it is. However, I am here to talk about issues which extend beyond health and fashion. I want to use this space to talk about an issue which highlights flaws in our society’s thinking.

The Thaali (The Sacred Thread)

The Thaali is the sacred thread which is tied by the Groom on the Bride’s neck, to mark the ultimate union of the two souls. It is the main aspect of the Tamil Hindu Wedding ceremony and is honestly my favourite and most awaited moment because of how many emotions are felt by the Bride, the Groom and all their family and friends.

How many of you, however, know that there may be a huge social drama associated with the making of the ‘Thaali Kodi’ (the actual thread/chain on which the thaali sits) in particular?

Let me explain. The ‘Thaali Kodi’ is something which the groom’s side provide. Therefore to prove their financial worth, they will always strive to get as thick of a ‘kodi’ and as expensive of a ‘kodi’ as possible. I understand that families want to stick to cultural norms, but we are living in a society where girls, and even women married for decades, hardly wear their ‘thaali’ around. So all I want to ask is, is it worth investing so much into something which is not even worn so much, or is it better to invest that in something which will be more useful for the couple – like a house maybe?

Now, I might have a whole heap of individuals who disagree with me, and of course they are entitled to because I am now questioning a belief which this culture has held for centuries. Now however, practical living has become more important than a ‘show-off’ one. Therefore, I am putting out there right now in front of everyone – if and when I get married, I would like a yellow thread to be tied (none of this chain screwing business). Then, if and when I do decide to change the yellow thread to a chain, I will make sure the chain is the thinnest it can be.

Ultimately, I do not want to be suffering from a chronic neck pain which doctors find difficult to identify the cause of! (This is real talk).

The Bride’s worth

Asking for dowry is not allowed anymore, yet I know the bride’s family feel obliged to give whatever they can to their daughter once she is married. Obviously the reason for this is because they want to do whatever they can for their daughter and this comes from pure love. On the hand other, there is an element of pressure they may feel from relatives’ who may talk about how much the bride’s parents did for her daughter.

In many cases, this comes in the form of gold jewellery.

So here is my biggest worry, which is something further addressed below. Why is a bride’s worth dependent so much on how much gold she wears and other materialistic matters? Why do we live in a society where the bride’s family feel obliged to ‘send’ their daughter off with some gold?

Again, this dates back to centuries ago. Nonetheless, in the same way that each and every one of us appreciates fashion and car trends, we should be respecting the more open-minded society in which we live in.

One day I may be a bride. That day, I want my worth to be defined by my personality, my education, my talent outside of just studies, my hobbies, to name a few – all of which my parents worked day and night for to ensure I excelled in.

When you are not the bride nor the groom

Just when I was thinking such a gold-obsessed culture only exists in the wedding scene, I started noticing it more often in day-to-day life.

I went through a whole phase as a teenager when I went to weddings and I had aunties ask me ‘Why aren’t you wearing any gold?’. They would then take this further by questioning my mum and making statements along the lines of, ‘You should be wearing gold, only then does it look nice.’

Firstly, I am worth a lot more than gold. Therefore, I do not need to wear gold to prove my worth. If anyone is of the opinion that the amount of gold they wear is what proves their worth, then this is a sign that they need a MAJOR life check!!!

I guess the only reason this has all toned down and women have cut down wearing gold jewellery as much is because of the horrific stories we hear of very scary thefts which happen on the streets. Sad but true.

To conclude

I am glad we see these issues crop up less so nowadays, but it still exists; even if not so much in this country, it may be more common in other countries. I am not saying ‘Do not wear gold’. I am saying that no one should be judging anyone’s worth based on how much gold they wear or own. It is a matter of getting to grips with the idea that some like gold and some do not. That does not mean one person is more superior than the other.

I can tell you all straight up that I am not a massive fan of wearing and having gold. I would prefer to invest that money into buying books! Yes, many of you at this point may find me bizarre, but I am very happy about my preferences. For me, books are a more worthwhile investment than gold jewellery for example, only because I hardly wear any accessories as it is, let alone more pricey things.

It is interesting to note that this blog started off being about the value of gold in my community. Through this small discussion, I have managed to identify deeper issues which need to be addressed – understanding ours and our family’s worth and protecting it.

If there is anything I have learnt from writing this piece, it is that I will try not to ever fall victim to other people defining my worth based on material matters – whether that be through money, gold, houses, cars or gifts. I know my worth, and I believe that my worth is something which cannot be defined by a price-tag.

My Biggest Insecurity – My Body

I was never, as people liked to call it, a ‘lean’ child. I mean as a baby and a toddler I was the chubbiest kid you could ever find. See below for some of those badass poses I pulled off back then.

As I started to grow up, however, things started to change. This was the root of all that insecurity. I had every relative of mine compared me and my body to my super skinny sister and cousins and made remarks which went along the lines of, ‘Praveena is the chubbiest of them all isn’t it?’, ‘If she loses some weight and her belly, it will be perfect’. Some of my male uncles even went to extent of poking fun out of my weight. I remember one of my uncles came to our house a day or two after my Arangetram (my debut Bharathanatya performance) and was comparing me to my slimmer cousins and said, ‘Praveena you are fat aren’t you?’ – if you think this sounds bad in English, then it sounds 100 times worse in Tamil. See my arangetram photos below and you tell me if I was in anyway overweight, because honestly speaking, I think I looked sickly skinny.

At this point I want to remind you of a few things. Even if you are joking, do not make such remarks to anyone, let alone a child or teenager. It is horrible to say such things and you are horrible to think and say such things. It is so easy for anyone to make these remarks without any thought about what the consequences are – you are indirectly helping them to feel more insecure. So who is the bad person? YOU.

Anyway, back onto what this blog is about. Me. Well, I went through bad phases when I starved myself because I wanted to prove a point that I can be ‘skinny’ too. This was particularly the case when I started university and my mum was not there to make me food.

Do you know when things started to change for me? When I started taking dance more seriously in 2nd and 3rd year of university. For me at the time, I started to realise that starving myself was extremely harmful for my body, and jeopardised my ability to dance. During this whole realisation, I found out that if I want to build up my stamina and have ample energy to dance, I need to eat plenty and healthy. That is when things started to change. People thought that I was losing weight in the past 2 years, but in fact I have remained the same weight for the past 3/4 years. The difference is, I have started to tone up.

Here is my second point I want to remind you about. Your weight should not be defined by a numerical value, but by how healthy and happy you feel. This is different for each person. So when people ask me why I love dance so much, aside from the fact that I love dancing, I actually learnt to respect my body. I learnt to love my body. Weird right, that dance has made me feel all these things. Well it has, which is why I put dance at a very high place when it comes to my mental well-being.

Yes, I still do go through ups and down when it comes to my body. Even recently, I went through a whole phase where I started feeling very insecure about my body. The reason for this was because I was eating so unhealthily, so two weeks ago I started to cut down. I started: cutting down on white carbs, eating more fruits, drinking more water and hula-hooping more. The result of it is I FEEL amazing. I do not know whether by body has changed, but I do not care. When I feel my healthier body, my mind naturally is happier and healthier.

For me diet and exercise is not about losing, but about toning and most importantly feeling happy and healthy.