The 6 Pillars of a Healthy Relationship

As a child, I actually preferred to spend time alone. I did not understand why I was bullied for wanting to spend time by myself. I was called ‘saddo’, ‘loner’ and ‘boring’. Of course it hurt, but I look back on those days and pat myself on the back for being so comfortable to be on my own. Why? Because I believe, at such a tender age, I spent a lot of time building a relationship with myself and getting accustomed to my own company. Therefore when I started to choose and form my own long-terms relationships in the form of friends and family, I felt more comfortable and it happened a lot easier than we all make it out to be.

I am not a relationship guru, but I have been through my fair share of experiences in different kinds of relationships to know what works and what does not. Now when I talk about relationships, it is not just isolated to romantic ones. When I talk about relationships, I mean every single relationship we form with every human being we encounter and bond with. This includes friendships, romantic partners, business partners, family, and work colleagues, to name a few.

Maintaining a positive and healthy relationship is just as much a test of you as it is the other person, so I want to talk about how we can and should be in a relationship to ensure it is beautiful, healthy and long-lasting.

1. Honesty, openness & trust. I never understand how any bond can form without being honest and open about yourself. The more honest and open we are, the more trust we will be able to build with the other party. I am a firm believer of being honest and open about our past experiences as much as our future; we need to know that the other party knows enough about us to understand where we come from and why we are the way we are, and exploring those past experiences is crucial in understanding each other. Let’s not dwell on the past however, but use it as a foundation to build the relationship.

2. Communication & intimacy. When I mean intimacy, I mean emotional and mental intimacy. Just knowing that we can comfortably drop our guard really does strengthen the relationship. It makes us value and appreciate how comfortable the other person makes us feel – this kind of intimacy is precious, and no amount of physical intimacy can replace that. To have that level of intimacy, we need to be able to communicate comfortably. If there is anything on our mind, we need to be able to communicate it in a respectful manner. If something bothers us, we need to voice it. If we feel judged by the other party, we know they are no longer worth being in our life. Period.

3. Kindness, love & respect. I think this is a basic human quality. It surprises me how little I see of this in society. Every relationship is built on genuine kindness, and a love for someone or something. From this kindness and love comes respect. When someone is kind, loving and respectful to themselves, they will naturally be able to shower those around them with the same kindness, love and respect.

4. Understanding, loyalty & humility. We are in no position to change the other person. Instead we need to invest our time into understanding them to their fullest. Let them be free and live their best life. We need to be humble and give space for each other to grow. When we understand an individual and why they are who they are, we are able to appreciate them better and love them even more for who they are. Yet none of this is worth it if we are not loyal. Our loyalty should always remain with that relationship; to go outside of that relationship and talk negatively about the other person makes us less of the humans we were born to be.

5. Friendship & laughter. No matter what kind of relationship you are working on, there needs to be a lot of friendship and laughter. Being a person who makes others laugh, or being around people who make us laugh, really elevates our frequency. We are driven to have even more fun, which in turn strengthens our relationship.

6. Having an identity of your own. We should not be defined by the relationship. We need to ensure we have an identity that goes beyond that relationship. This is how we can boost our self-confidence and therefore be the best version of ourselves for that relationship. Just knowing that we have our own life and goals, makes the relationship stronger because of how much more value and wisdom is added to that relationship.

Ultimately we need to feel comfortable being our true self. If we are not valued and cherished for the person we are, it is a sign that we need to bid that relationship farewell.

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.

Don’t take for granted freedom of speech

Words are so powerful. They have the ability to make or break any situation.

I’ve seen so many use words so powerfully to create such an impact in society. That is what I call inspirational.

In contrast, there are people who use the term ‘freedom of speech’ to talk bad about others and harm/hurt others. This is what I call an embarrassment to humanity.

If more and more individuals understood the power of their words and how to tailor it to meet the needs of society, we would all be growing at an exponential rate!

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

Medical School, Dance and everything else

‘Praveena, how do you manage Medical school, dance, blogging and everything else you do?!’

I am not going to give you the cliched ‘Time management’, ‘organisation’, ‘commitment’ talk. That is given in life regardless of what you want to pursue.

I am going to tell you how much I struggled. Honestly it was tough. Society prefers me to do one or the other, but not everything. This is because society does not believe that I can do all of it well.

I wanted to prove society wrong. I think it is completely okay to have a passion for multiple things. I think it is also okay to pursue it simultaneously with the right mindset.

Being a medical student (now doctor!), dancer/choreographer, having a small wedding choreo business and blogging sounds glamorous but it involved a lot of sacrifices at different stages of my life.

To pursue my medical studies, there were moments in my life that I had to stop dancing. To pursue dancing, there were moments when I had to put dance over medicine. When I wanted to establish my business, I had to sacrifice my health and well being and travel more between cities (driving two hours from Birmingham to London and back doesn’t sound as strenuous but imagine doing that nearly every weekend for the past year!). To blog, I had to invest so much more time into reading.

To pursue it all at the same time, I had to sacrifice my social life big time…and I still do. I couldn’t go out as much because I would have to be awake early the next day to drive back to London/Birmingham. I stopped watching TV shows for a whole year, because I genuinely did not have the time. The big reminder is, this is the CHOICE I made. Others may not be like that and that’s completely fine. Just remember to make a choice that is true to what you want.

During each stage of this process there were failures and disappointments I experienced. As a result I was constantly being judged for my choices. By several people, but I put that all to the side because I knew exactly what I was doing. It may have not been the way others may have done it, but that’s okay because I am slowly getting through it.

Sometimes the balance has tipped and I have made mistakes. It was not all as smooth as it looks. My health, my education, my dance career, business, blogging have all suffered at some point or another. Nonetheless, finding the drive to get through and find the light at the end of the tunnel was key.

Moral of the story – be ready to sacrifice. Be ready to commit. Be ready for criticism. Make the choices to pursue what you love. You do not need anyone’s permission except your own to do good. So just do it!

The journey has only just begun. Being a student did make it a lot easier to pursue everything I wanted to and establish a strong foundation for my passions. I will start working in a month and a half. Therefore, work life is going to present to me a whole new set of challenges, so I do not know what is going to happen and how difficult it is going be. That’s the perks of life though right…ready to take on the next set of challenges to further establish my profession, passion and everything else.

Your Lunch Break

I am sat in my hospital library having just finished a wonderfully refreshing book by Laura Archer called ‘Gone For Lunch – 52 Things to do in your lunch break’.

I have not started working yet but I know that when I do, I will do my level best to ensure I invest at least a good 10 to 15 minutes for lunch – (based on what my friends, who now work as doctors are saying, getting a 5 minute lunch break is a blessing; so let’s see what work life has in store for me!).

Reading this book made me really think about how important taking some time out to invest in ourselves is, especially during a long working day.

How many of us truly give ourselves a well-earned lunch break? We try to multi-task by doing admin jobs whilst eating, we scroll through our phones whilst we eat, or we do not give ourselves an opportunity to eat at all. We get so focused on having to finish work on time that we think working through our lunch break will enable us to do that.

The impact of not giving ourselves a lunch break can be negative on the quality of work and the quality of our health.

We are all entitled to a lunch break. I do not think there is any professional work-place that expects us to work for 8 to 12 hours constantly. So why do we expect that for ourselves?

For us to work productively, we need to have a break. Giving ourselves a fun activity to do during that break will make us look forward to the break and ensure we take it (even if it is for 15 minutes). It also means we return to work after our lunch break, with so much more energy and our productivity will increase. This in turn will make us enjoy work that much more, because we are not tired and we are not hungry.

Remember, we are humans. Not robots. We are entitled to a lunch break so why deprive ourselves of it?

Work. Break. Work – a cycle of full enjoyment!

What does marriage mean for me?

I have written a lot about marriage and the certain rituals of a Tamil Hindu Wedding which I have found very interesting.

This piece however was inspired by when I was sat waiting for the lecturer to begin the lecture. A girl in our year walked in; she got engaged over summer and I was extremely happy for her. I have spoken to her a few times, but do not know much about her otherwise. Basically a random girl is getting married soon and I am happy for her. Sounds like the very emotional me indeed!

I was sat in the lecture theatre for the next few minutes thinking hard about marriage and what it means for me. So yes, with minutes to spare for the lecture to begin, I started writing what you are reading right now.

I have seen and taken an active part in several weddings over the past few years; I have been a bridesmaid a few times as well. I have then had the pleasure to see how that marriage has progressed from starting off a grand wedding ceremony, to a real epitome of love. And so I begin…this is what marriage means for me:

1) Marriage should come out of real love and not convenience. What do I mean by this? Well I have come across several ‘marriages’ which have had to happen because of what society is apparently making of two individuals in a relationship. Families of the couple believe that it is ‘safer’ to get their children married off to avoid people talking badly about them.

We are living in the 21st century for heaven’s sake! If one is happily accepting and bragging about 21st century fashion and technology, why then can one not change their basic ideals of relationships and marriage?

2) I believe in myself a lot. I know myself very well as well. I am not going to get married for convenience. I am not going to get married just because I am a girl and apparently girls need to get married sooner. I am not going to get married to prove to anyone anything.

I am going to get married when I am ready – emotionally and financially – I am not saying that that will ever be the case to be honest, but I have vision about where I want to be in life before I even think about marriage and that is what I mean. So for all those aunties and uncles who keep asking me, when am I going to get married, here is your answer: NOT ANYTIME SOON (which means not for the next 3-4 years at least – unless some miracle happens in my life and I have gained all the stability I need), so please do not ask me anymore. Thanks.

3) I believe that marriages involve two families. I do not believe in running away from family to get married. That is absolutely cheap and totally crap! One has to earn to show respect to them first. It may take some time to convince parents but (now the soppy stuff is going to start), if there is real love then I’m sure it will be worth fighting for! (Meh, so emotionally soppy I cannot even deal with how it came out of my mouth but hey-ho it did).

Do not be a coward and hurt those who raised you. Be a fighter and stand up for what you believe in. If it is the right thing for you, it will work out perfectly…eventually.

Ultimately, marriage is a symbol of love, respect, trust and the ambition to work together and establish a life together – job, money, house, stability before marriage (there are so many perks to working your boyfriend/girlfriend/fiancé/spouse to create a life together than to just settle in with someone who has everything that the other has financially dreamt of – I guess it is a matter of opinion and intention so I shall leave it at that). If that means a girl is going to be a few years older than what society deems the acceptable age for a girl to get married – well sorry, I do me! I will wait and no one has any rights to question it, (except my parents – but I know they wouldn’t ask!).

Daily Musings

Social media has helped me a lot with my professional dance career. I do not of course depend on it, but it has for sure given me a portal through which I can interact with fellow lovers of dance which I never had before. 

I use my social media now not just to post about my dance work, but to also to use it as a way to convey my thoughts about general life, in the form of inspirational, motivational, thought-provoking quotes. Everything I post has a reason but I never share it so here goes with some of my favourites. 

‘Are you really happy or just really comfortable?’

This is the deepest question one can ask themselves. Do not settle for a life that looks good on the outside. Do not settle for a life where a roof over your head, financial security and everything materialistic are set out for you. Work for it. When you work for it and can say to yourself, ‘This is something I have built’, that is when you will feel truly happy and accomplished. Until then keep hustling. 

‘Success does not come from what you do occasionally; it comes from what you do consistently.’

Especially in the scene of performance arts I’ve come across many who pursue something for a short while and call that success. For me, success is a journey and there is no end point. You need to practice something consistently to really unleash your potential in it!

‘You can speak spiritual eloquence, pray in public, and maintain a holy appearance…but it is your behaviour that will reveal your true character.’

I call such people hypocrites. I say this very confidently because I used to be one myself. Until 2 years ago I realised I need to own up to what I really feel and act on it. It is no good saying that ‘I am this…I believe in this…’ when your actions say the complete opposite.

There are several people who just act in a way to seek public approval. With social media, the number of likes and followers seems to be used to quantify whether you are being approved by society or not.

How many of them will, including myself, actually practice what they preach?

‘Generally people like to bring up your past, when your present and future appears to be better than theirs.’

I dislike people who bring up another’s past. But now, the more they do it, the more I am like ‘Is that the only thing you have against them?’

Some people are so stuck in their bubble they refuse to accept another’s success in any way, shape or form. Therefore to bring another down they use their past.

Just think. If I did that to you? How would you feel? How ‘clean’ is your past? I can guarantee that those who act in such a way do not have the best of pasts. So if you believe you have changed, then give others the benefit of the doubt that they have changed as well. It’s that simple.

‘A private life is a happy life.’

Over the past few years I have become more and more aware of people who use social media to post about there private drama and unhappiness.

Question 1: Is posting on social media going to resolve that problem? Will it give happiness?

Question 2: Are you the only one in the world who is going through problems?

Question 3: What is the purpose of you posting your personal problems on social media? If you feel like that is giving your control over the situation, look at yourself and your attitude towards life.

Question 4: Do you actually think people care when each and everyone one of us is going through our own problems? I mean some may acknowledge by liking your post, but what does a ‘like’ mean? If a ‘like’ is the validation you need, then go ahead and keep posting. But I am secretly feeling sorry for you for reasons other than for the ones you wanted me to feel sorry for.

‘A lot of people want to make the institution of marriage a substitute for a real relationship.’

Marriage is not something which should not be a result of convenience.

Do not enter marriage because the current situation you are in warrants a marriage, so it is considered socially and culturally acceptable.

A marriage is a process which should occur at the right time, with the blessings of the right people, for the right reason which is nothing but true love!

Final thoughts:

Each of these thoughts are ones which I started to think more about based on the events which were taking place around me. I am not perfect, but I’m working on myself to think bigger and wiser so I can constantly reflect and grow myself. That is what life is about. Have a reason for every action and make sure you do not hurt anyone!

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.

The Unspoken Truth

Depression is a very touching topic and especially within our Tamil community it is quite a taboo.

My 4th year audit was on the identification and management of depression in type 2 diabetic patients at a local GP practice. I decided to do my project on this topic because evidence suggests that patients with a chronic health condition such a Diabetes are at an increased risk of developing depression. Therefore as part of National guidelines’ diabetes management plan, patients should be regularly screened for depression. I was hence able to explore the management of physical and mental illness side by side, which I surprisingly have never before had the opportunity to do.

I loved doing my audit and the results were shocking. However, I am not here to discuss my results and provide you with a summary of my study. I wanted to use this space to raise awareness for depression within our society, and in particular within my Tamil community.

Depression is real

I can be certain that when one of us goes to our parents, aunts or uncles saying that we may be depressed, they are likely to dismiss it completely by saying something along the lines of ‘Oh no, don’t be silly, it is all in your head’, ‘You can do this’, ‘Don’t come up with silly excuses’, etc.

There are so many unspoken truths in my community – depression, and other mental health problems, are some of them. All I can say is that depression is real and I have seen it amongst my patients, my family and friends, and myself.

The moment you see someone dear to you constantly having a low mood, reduced self-esteem, is isolating themselves from the world, has changed patterns of eating or changed sleeping patterns; do not be the one to neglect them and their emotions. Talk to them or try and ask for help. Do not push them away, and most importantly do not make them feel as if the depression they are suffering is not important enough or real enough.

Depression is one of many mental health conditions, which are all equally as important and as serious as physical health conditions.

There have already been many attempts to raise awareness about depression in our community, so let us all come together to do the same. Let us turn the taboo into a spoken truth.