Tuesday, August 23, 2022

In Search of Wisdom

Book with open pages

References to wisdom and to the wise have been found in almost all ancient civilisations, mythologies, religions, and philosophy. Philosophy (philo-sophia) literally means the love of wisdom. It has often been referred to as the ‘father of all virtues’, suggesting that wisdom was considered to be the ideal of human development, even of divinity - attained only by a few. Many millennia later, we are yet to understand or even define wisdom. 

Wisdom is often assumed to be the sum of one’s knowledge and experience. Thinking patterns that are associated with wisdom - the ability to contemplate and think introspectively, to consider multiple perspectives and to have insight into individual and cultural differences develops only in late adulthood, as does practical knowledge of the world. However, age, by itself, does not bring wisdom – some studies have found that many of us tend to become more rigid and live more constricted lives as we grow older, while openness to learning and experience are essential to wisdom. 

Wisdom is therefore a multi-dimensional construct, comprising cognitive, emotional and personality attributes; as well as motivational factors. A look at some of the qualities in those we consider wise include:

  • Empathetic understanding of human behaviour. The ability to understand is deemed one of the most important aspects of wisdom. A Yiddish proverb says it all - “A wise man hears one word and understands two.” 
  • Tolerance for different opinions and perspectives. Essential to understanding is the ability to accept and respect differences. 
  • A rare degree of insight and judgment. The ability to consider the consequences of actions on the individual and on others, and to be able to see the bigger picture.
  • Acceptance of life’s uncertainties and the realisation that we must engage with life while knowing that the future can never be totally under our control.   
  • Humility to accept and be aware of the limits of one’s own knowledge. As the wise Socrates said “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing”.

The ability of an individual to find the right, or at least good answers to complex and important life questions; while balancing the needs of the individual, that of others and the wider society at large is the accepted definition of what we consider wisdom. 

Can wisdom be learnt? Do certain environments promote wisdom?

Certain environments can encourage the kind of thinking that characterises wisdom. A non-judgmental framework within which a child can question, voice doubts and is encouraged to respect the views of others fosters wisdom. Conversely, a dogmatic atmosphere in which things are seen as right or wrong may lead to self-centeredness and the inability to appreciate differences of opinions and values. Indeed, educationists, philosophers, and psychologists have suggested that schools should combine the pursuit of knowledge with a curriculum for teaching wisdom. Developing wisdom was indeed considered the aim of teaching and learning in many ancient cultures.

Learning comes, but wisdom lingers - Alfred Lord Tennyson



Saturday, March 19, 2022

The Importance of Routine

woman face with rows of clocks

Imagine if you have the freedom to wake up to a completely unstructured day, free from all constraints of time. To do whatever you want whenever you want all day long. This may sound like a dream; but try it for a few days and you will soon feel listless, dissatisfied and directionless. The feeling that life is passing you by and you have no control over it will overwhelm you, and you will long for the comfort of routine. 

Such is the power of routine and structure in our lives! It anchors us to our lives, gives it meaning and purpose. It is, undeniably, one of the most important aspects of our physical and mental well-being. As exciting as an unplanned day may appear, it can be very harmful for mental health and can exacerbate feelings of anxiety and distress.

Our lives involve constant interactions with our social and physical environment – at home, at work, in the neighbourhood and in the wider world around us. We have little or no control over most of these aspects of our lives and we know not when the unexpected may happen; therefore, it gives us a great sense of stability to have some things under our control. 

In a changing world, it is reassuring to realise that some things will be constant - the alarm that wakes us at a particular time, the morning cup of coffee, our daily walk, meals at particular times, getting dressed and reporting for work. This morning routine calms and prepares us for the day ahead and helps us cope during a crisis. 

The sense of normalcy that routine brings reduces stress and anxiety, which benefits us both physically and mentally, regulates the biological clock and enables better sleep; setting in a cycle of wellness and regularity.

Without structure, there is little motivation. Having a definite structure to the day also improves productivity and our sense of self-efficacy. By completing the routine tasks and chores which must be done, we get a sense of achievement, free ourselves of the nagging worry that incomplete tasks and procrastination inevitably bring and lets us focus on the more challenging tasks of the day.

How to start a routine

  • Keep it simple. 
  • Start with a sleep schedule. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. The very act of getting up and changing into fresh clothes can set us to feel refreshed and motivated. 
  • Build in the essentials – the things that must be done. This includes daily activities – such as meals, exercise, bath; and weekly chores such as buying groceries, laundry, house cleaning etc. 
  • Do daily activities at the same time every day. Choose a time that works for you. If you are rushed in the mornings, schedule your exercise and bath for the evening.
  • Always include some activities you enjoy – gardening, reading before bedtime, talking to friends or watching your favourite serial. 
  • Remember not to keep your schedule too rigid. Allow for flexibility when the situation demands.
  • Don’t be disheartened if you falter. According to one study, it took a minimum of 66 days to form a single new habit! 
  • Reward yourself when you stick to a schedule.

  1. https://adhdwellnesscenter.com/the-importance-of-structure-and-routine-for-your-mental-health/
  2. The Importance of Keeping a Routine During Stressful Times (verywellmind.com)


Wednesday, November 10, 2021


compact cassette with unspooled tape

Remember that sepia-tinted class photo someone posted in your social media group? The flurry of comments, the almost-audible laughter, the warm fuzzy feeling, and the wistfulness that followed? You were indulging in a spot of nostalgia – that bittersweet feeling of pleasure mixed with sadness as you think of happy times in the past.

Nostalgia, literally meaning ‘ache for home’, was described in the 17th century and was considered an illness - a form of melancholy. While it’s true that we tend to indulge in nostalgia when we are unhappy, lonely or anxious; and during times of change and uncertainty; we also know that this yearning for the past is a universal human experience. Across cultures, we experience and indulge in nostalgia, and researchers now understand that it can serve many useful purposes.

  • It helps us overcome negative emotions. 
  • The positive emotions evoked by our nostalgic memories help us overcome feelings of sadness or anxiety we may be experiencing currently. 
  • It helps us connect to our past and unifies our sense of identity. 
  • We see our own journey through life - as we were, as we changed and adapted to circumstances, right through to who we are today. 
  • It connects us to others and strengthens social bonds. Even when we are alone, our memories include and involve others, making us feel connected to them. This helps to dispel loneliness, especially in these difficult pandemic times. 
  • Nostalgia is a good coping mechanism. The knowledge that we have overcome difficult situations in the past helps us cope with current situations; and gives us the perspective that the present, like the past, is temporary. 
  • Nostalgia encourages feelings of empathy with others, even when they may not concern our own personal memories. It may serve to build bonds across generations and connect us our roots. 

However, there is a flip side too. Our forays into nostalgia may cause us to dwell on negative aspects of our past - the times when we were lonely, cold, hungry or rejected. Nostalgia may worsen feelings of sadness if we are depressed or going through a difficult phase in life. 

Nostalgia can alienate, rather than connect. Idealizing a particular time can cause resentment among those whose experiences were sharply divergent. Not everyone has had a happy childhood, and no period in history has been free of pain, anguish or injustice. 

It is also sobering to realise that nostalgia is often fuelled by dissatisfaction with the present, be it in our personal lives or in the wider socio-political climate. We tend to revert to memories of a simple, uncomplicated childhood, or to an imagined golden era in history to escape the demands of the present and anxieties relating to the future. 

‘Monetizing’ nostalgia 

Nostalgia can be deliberately triggered; and an entire industry cashes in on this very human frailty. While most of it is harmless and enjoyable, we must guard against the tendency to idealize and romanticise the past excessively. Nor should we allow ourselves to be manipulated by canny politicians who promise us ‘the good ol’ days’, in a bid to detract attention from current realities. 
You can’t have a better tomorrow if you are thinking about yesterday all the time
(Charles Kettering)


Monday, October 18, 2021


silhouette of man enjoying sunrise

What is happiness? 

Happiness is a state of subjective well-being which includes: 
  1. An affective component - A feeling of joy or pleasure
  2. A cognitive component - A sense of contentment and satisfaction of living a meaningful life
The Ancient Greeks knew them by the terms hedonia and eudaimonia respectively, and though distinct, the two strongly correlate in people who report being happy. Happiness is, therefore, not about jumping from one joy to another, but also a deeper sense of fulfilment. 
Each one of us is unique and is made happy by a different experience, yet some people tend to be happier than others even through hard times. Do happy people share some common traits? It does appear so. Those who report feeling happy are generally 
  1. Open to learning new things 
  2. Find joys in the small things in life. 
  3. Have healthy relationships. 
  4. Have fewer expectations and do not register small annoyances. 
  5. Tend to go with the flow. 
  6. Practice compassion, gratitude and patience. 
  7. Exercise self-care. 
Temperament, personality traits and even genetics may determine our ability to be happy, and external circumstances do play a part, but much is under our personal control. Being aware of small pleasures, maintaining strong and healthy relationships, immersing oneself in challenging activities and finding purpose in life beyond oneself are ways in which we can find and nurture happiness. 
According to Seligman, happiness results from people becoming aware of their own personal strengths, taking ownership of them and living as per these ‘signature strengths’. 

Why happiness is good for us

Happiness is the single-most desired outcome across cultures and a priority for people across the world. 
  • It makes for a higher quality of life
  • A positive affect tends to improve our problem-solving abilities
  • Improves physical health – better cardiovascular health and immune response
  • Increases longevity

Association of happiness and wealth 

Most of us tend to associate happiness with wealth, belongings, success and status. However, beyond a point that enables us to fulfil our basic needs (food, shelter, safety and security), money has little correlation with happiness. 
An increase in income is almost always associated with increasing needs and desires, leading to a situation known as the hedonic treadmill, with no resultant increase in happiness. Indeed, there is a theory that each of us have a ‘set point’ of happiness, and quickly adapt to good or bad circumstances, returning to our baseline levels of happiness! 
In conclusion is Immanuel Kant’s wonderful yet simple Rules for Happiness.

Monday, July 26, 2021


App Influencer Like Girl Popular Webcam Media

Popularity is neither fame nor greatness - William Hazlitt

Popularity is the quality of being well-liked, admired or supported by a number of people. But as we all know many popular people are not well-liked, and many well-liked people are not popular.

Psychologists therefore define two types of popularity which are related but distinct.
Sociometric popularity:
is how well-liked an individual is. This is strongly determined by who a person is – their personality and pro-social behaviours – empathy, kindness and helpful attitude towards others.
Perceived popularity:
is closer to the commonly understood concept of popularity and is dependent on what a person is – their looks, wealth, possessions. It is related to status within the social group.
Popularity also depends on the existing environment or social group one is currently a part of- a person can be popular among friends but not at work; at work among superiors but not among peers or subordinates.

Why do we crave popularity?

Social beings that we humans are, we need to belong. The desire to be part of a group, to be liked and to have status within it is innate. As children, these needs are mainly fulfilled by the family. In adolescence, we desire to be independent and free of parental control, so we seek belongingness in peer groups. Not all group members are equal, nor perceived equally. There is a hierarchy of interpersonal attraction, determined partly by personality traits (who we are) and a great deal by what we are (good-looking, highly visible, outspoken, having the latest gadgets, good in sports) which in turn determines popularity. Ironically, traits like aggression and dominance often increases status and perceived popularity within a peer group.

Adult outcomes 

Sociometric popularity or ‘likability’ often translates to better outcomes in adult life. Their ability to make a person feel valued and included makes for better relationships and makes them good team leaders at work. Those rated high on perceived popularity or ‘status’ are often not liked even as adults and may have a history of poor relationships, anxiety, addictions and aggression. 

To be part of a group and to be popular within the group is advantageous. There is acceptance, companionship, security and approval, which in turn increases our own sense of self-worth. However, there is a price to be paid for popularity. 
  • Popularity brings with it the pressure to conform: to always like, behave and believe in the same things as others in the group. 
  • Popularity requires pleasing others: when you fail to please you risk becoming unpopular.
  • Popularity breeds insincerity: you may have to pretend to be what you are not.
  • Popularity is precarious: there is always a chance that you may offend someone.
  • Popularity is competitive and is likely to invite jealousy, envy and ill-will.

In today’s world, pursuing status has become a normal activity determined by the number of likes, retweets and followers on social media platforms. This encourages people to voice opinions which gets them more likes or retweets, not what they believe in. Status or popularity becomes more important than friendships, and even more important than integrity and honesty.  

It is better to be true to yourself, to feel confident and secure enough to be able to express your own individuality and have your own opinions rather than aim to be popular. 

It is also good to remember that popularity is not about friendship. Popularity is more about rank and social status. Friendships are about caring, respecting and valuing others. It is better to be content with a few close friends,  companions you can have fun with and to develop the capacity to enjoy your own company.

  1. Speaking of Psychology: Why popularity matters (apa.org)
  2. Adolescence and the pursuit of popularity. | Psychology Today
  3. The Dark Side Of Adolescent Popularity -- ScienceDaily