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10 ways you can CHOOSE THE LIFE YOU WANT

A compilation of tips by Tal Ben-Shahar, PhD, lecturer at Harvard University for positive psychology from his book CHOOSE THE LIFE YOU WANT.

1.Choose to choose 
Feeling trapped? Ask yourself these questions:

  • What do I have to do for my life to be the way I want it to be?
  • Where do I want to go?
  • How do I intend to get there?
  • Write about your options, discuss your situation with those you trust.
  • Refuse to accept, “I have no choice” as an answer.

Choosing to choose is not easy. It requires not only effort but also courage. It is about being deliberate and strategic instead of just going with the flow. It is about charting unknown paths instead of resigning yourself to the road already taken. It is about being willing to struggle and fail.

2.Be mindful of the wonder

  • Mindfulness is a choice, and it is something we can practice.
  • Read Helen Keller’s essay, “Three Days to See.”

What are everyday things that you overlook?

  • The sunrise
  • The song of the birds
  • The sunshine on your skin
  • The wind in your hair
  • The beauty of the sea
  • The gift of sight, hearing, feeling, touching, tasting


3. Reach in anger or take a step back
Psychologist George Loewenstein has conducted research on “hot” and “cold” states. A hot state is when emotions are at a high intensity and we feel a strong urge to do something or refrain from something; a cold state is when the intensity of the emotions is low and our rational mind is more dominant in the decision-making process.

Awareness of the state makes us more likely to take the necessary precautions when in a sexual encounter, or decide to take some time to cool off when in the throes of anger.

4.Think and act purposefully

  • Psychologist Mark Williams and his colleagues say, “Rumination is part of the problem, not part of the solution.”
  • Expressing your emotions will help you. Writing them down or verbalising them to a friend.

5.Carry yourself with confidence and pride

The way we hold our body sends a message not only to others but also to ourselves.

6.Make a difference

You can start by doing 3 good deeds for others. Write gratitude letters by highlighting how they have added value to your life.

7.Procrastinate or Just Do It

Feeling stuck, take five-minutes off. Do something fun, and get back to the task at hand.

8.Hold a grudge or forgive

Holding a grudge is like continuously pulling on the knot, and it becomes tighter; letting go of a grudge is like loosening our grip, and the knot becomes easier to untie.

9.Actively learn the lessons of hardship (Loss and grief)

  • Through hardship you learn: humbleness
  • Empathy
  • Patience
  • Resilience

Mind and body are interconnected. What we do with our body impacts our thoughts and feelings, and in turn, these influence our psychological reactions. Research into what psychologists call the “facial feedback hypothesis” shows that we can affect our own mood through our facial expressions – a smile will bring about a more positive feeling, whereas a frown will make us feel worse.

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Acne prevented me from performing my best in exams!

A 20-something recounts his school days when acne on his face affected his self-esteem. Read on!
Snigdha Teentalkindia Counsellor

I was always the happy types. Approaching people and making plans with them to go for movies or playing cricket. Small pimples on my face weren’t a big deal for me. Little did I know that they were a serious deal for the people around me!

Some of my friends started making fun of the rapidly increasing acne on my face. They would call the red boils “tomatoes.” In grade 8, I had a fight with a senior from my school. He threatened to punch me on my face and burst all the pimples on it. That was a great blow to my self-esteem. Some other boys would call it feminine to have many pimples on my face. As I entered grade 9, I thought the situation would improve. I was soo wrong!

In our school, there is a custom for all 9th graders to organise a party for 10th graders to celebrate the success of their board exams. I was part of the prize distribution team. We were supposed to pair up with a person from the opposite sex. I started approaching some of my female friends. And to my surprise, all of them said a blatant “no.” Initially I could not understand the reason. Why wouldn’t anybody not want to be seen with me?

I started blaming myself. First, I thought that there is something wrong in the way I am talking to girls. But soon realised that was not the case. Then I thought maybe I should try to act aloof. That will get attention from girls. After a couple of days of trying this tactic, I realised it has backfired. The girls who used to talk to me, now do not even bother to look at me. It was only after this that I realised that it must be the growing acne on my face that could repel others. The date of the final event was approaching and I still did not have a partner. I felt worthless and helpless. Finally, the teacher asked one of the girls to stand with me during the event, which was the final blow to my self-esteem. Why? The reason being that I could see the utter disgust on her face while standing with me. Her body language said that she didn’t want to be seen with me.

After this incident, I started spending time alone. I did not feel like making conversation with anyone, not even some of my close male friends. I stopped posing for pictures since I was extremely sceptical about the way I looked. Furthermore, I lost all interest in talking with girls. I lost the few female friends I had. I experienced a phase of loneliness and sadness. Thoughts about my appearance such as “I am ugly”, “I will never have a girlfriend” and “I am a loser” spun inside my head on loop. Soon, my focus towards academics started dwindling. Scoring low marks further decreased my self-confidence. I realised I need to find a solution. First, I tried to burst the pimples. This method proved to be a disaster as more of the same popped up. Left with no other option, I told my mother of the embarrassment I was facing in school and how acne has affected my life.

She emphathised with me and offered to take me to the doctor. He prescribed creams for a month. I started taking treatment for it. Though it took almost six months for the acne to clear off, it was an extremely difficult phase for me. But I am glad it is over. For anyone who is facing acne-related issues, it is always a good option to take treatment and accept the way you look. If you cannot accept yourself, you also cannot expect others to accept you in entirety.

If you have a query, write to expert@teentalkindia.com.



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