Learning is a lifelong process: it doesn’t stop when we leave school or university, nor does it stop when we are married with children or when we retire. Tag style posts like this one have been circling around for some time now, and I always considered them to be pointless due to people not necessarily having drastic changes or a major growth in knowledge between one or two birthdays.
However, I think documenting relefections is a beneficial way to look back and contemplate the hurdles we have overcome with maturity, age or through life experiences; especially during times when we feel like we are stuck in a never changing repetitive lifestyle. Big or small achievements are still achievements. Just because we may not have climbed the career ladder in between birthdays, it doesn’t mean we haven’t learnt anything or have been unsuccessful.
Instead of sharing what I have learnt since my 23 birthday last year (my 24th birthday was May 5th by the way), I want to use a 24 year span to compose a list of at least the things that have resonated most with me.
- Don’t let people control you – Some people genuinely voice constructive criticism, give advice and instruction as that may be their role; whereas others either intervene in order to live their dreams vicariously or are outright spiteful beings. The important thing is you should never let someone have an influence in your decisions, particularly choices that lead to major decisions. It’s your life, no one elses.
- Listen well to others – Whether they be a family member, friend, girlfriend/boyfriend, life partner, colleague, acquaintance or a complete stanger, you should listen to them well if they come to you to vent their feelings or concerns. For many it takes alot of confidence and courage to open-up to confide in another. Bad listening stills does nothing but make the person, who has come to you for guidance, feel like a burden or taken not seriously.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions – I was always too afraid to ask questions in the classroom and for sometime during my first job, because I was overly worried about the opinions of others. ‘Will they think I’m stupid?’ … ‘Am I being bothering by asking such a simple question?’. It turns out that almost everyone feels awkward at some stage when asking questions, but asking questions enables us to learn at a good pace without regretting we had turned to someone for answers because we find it difficult to work out the answer alone. Even if its a small question about how the photocopier works in the work office, or directions to a place you haven’t been to before or even how to cook a dish: Ask. There’s no harm in trying.
- Have hobbies – Reading, crafting, drawing/painting, writing, sports exercise, collecting something, whatever it may be having a hobby is great for mental health. Partaking in your hobby won’t make the anxiety, depression, etc disappear but it can help relax your and cast your thoughts away into a dream world of creation or concentration.
- Read as much as possible – From the age of 9, I began to realise that reading is essential for learning at least a little about multiple topics that we possibly don’t hear about in school or through daily conversation. It maintains our language skills and prevents us from being narrow-minded.
- Having your ‘5 a day’ really does make a difference – I’m by far not the best example of promoting a clean-eating lifestyle, but having a balanced diet containing 5 or more portions of fruit and vegetables per day truly makes our brains and digestive systems work well with less chances of diet related illness/conditions.
- Keep your friendship group small – It’s hard to deeply connect with many people at once: there simply isn’t enough time per week to keep in touch with everyone and listen to them when required. Like I said earlier, poor communication leads to poor quality relationships. Friendships can turn sour rather quickly when we can’t dedicate our time to maintaining them. Trust me, you don’t want a large group of friends who can switch at any moment and become sheep to stab you in the back.
- People will disappoint you – Sometimes people have to put themselves as first priority: not that there is anything wrong with that. Just in some cases people have an issue with commitment; I don’t mean they cancel plans all the time, moreso it’s about not paying attention to your needs in addition to their own when they have repeatedly reassured you that they will stay by your side through the thick and thin. Trust people, but have some consciousness to the fact that promises aren’t always promises.
- Pets are good for mental health – I think this one doesn’t need much explanation. Having a pet, especially one capable of showing affection, serves purpose i.e. You need them, they need you. Simple. If you want to think about this more scientifically, think about the act of pheromones.
- Coffee and tea are your best friends – In moderation, coffee keeps our brains stimulated at times during the day when our brain function and attentiveness might not be at it’s peak. Tea on the other had, herbal teas specifically, provide us with vitamins and natural active ingredients that can aid relaxation and the healthy functions of our immune and digestive systems. Even if you don’t like the taste, I can’t see why anyone wouldn’t want to consume these beverages.
- Forgive & even if you can’t forget – Nothing is more troubling for the mind that feeling like there isn’t something finished. Forgiveness is closure in most instances, without it our thoughts can be overtaken by that one thing in particular hanging over us like a grey cloud.
- No one is perfect – Even your most favourite actor or singer have insecurities and have made mistakes. It’s about time that we stop idolising celebrities and social media ‘influencers’ with the mind-set that they live perfect lives that are free from troubles, just because they have great eyelashes and a kitchen with a marble-top Island.
- It’s normal to be anxious about uncertainties – We can’t predict the future, so it can’t be prepared for down to a tee: we are bound to feel anxious because of this. Just be aware that its normal to feel such an emotion, just some of us experience it at different levels thus needing more help than others (and guess what?… this is also unshameful).
- Your appearance isn’t to please others – Wear what you want: trendy or off-trend. As long as you aren’t hurting anyone, dress your body as you want.
- Some people’s pain is invisible – There is a stigma that all disabilities are physical, that mental health issues are suffered only by those who have been admitted to a psychiatric ward. Please be mindful of others as we don’t know what’s going on, on the inside.
- Don’t apologise for your misunderstandings or mistakes – Unless you have caused anyone physical or emotional pain, don’t apologise for doing something wrong. Especially if its your first experience of doing something. Mistakes are part of learning curves. It’s all natural.
- Everyone should learn to cook – Even if you don’t find it therapeutic, cooking and eating is a part of daily life whether you like it or not. As our diets have such a impact on our health, we can’t rely on convenience foods every day of the week.
- Take plenty of photos – Our memories can become less vivid with age, and some people who enter our lives may not have been around when moments happened. Simply, photos help share happiness or remember the good times. Don’t regret no capturing those moments if you ever lose someone special or get something as debilitating as Dementia.
- Spend time with the elderly – Nowadays it’s common to live into our 80s, meaning the people we grew up with most likely will not have lived alongside us until our last years. If they aren’t even your blood relative, and just a neighbour, I encourage you to spend time with the elderly. No one should be made to feel lonely.
- Ignore gender/age roles and expectations – A father can be a stay at home parent if he can, a woman can wear a suit is she wishes to. What should be on our minds is not which is the superior gender, who biologically has more physical strength or pain tolerance, its equality.
- Save money – A balance between indulging and planning for a stable financial future exists. You must live with the word ‘moderation’ in mind.
- Cheese and chilli are soul mates – Now come on! You can deny this, and you can’t expect me to be serious throughout the whole list.
- Bullies don’t always stay as bullies – Don’t be suprised to find that the girl/boy who used to bring you down on a daily basis at school, hasn’t got their life sorted out by the time they turn 25 and comment on your Facebook posts with positive comments as if you have stayed best friends since childhood. Then again, don’t be disappointed to find that some bullies never change, or will continue to ignore you because they feel guilty for what they did in the past.
- It’s essential to learn about other cultures – I continuously mentioned about being open-minded because you can without a doubt better yourself as a person if you willingly observe and take part in new experiences and cultures. We develop some bad habits from the societies we live in: incorrect connotations, racist slurs, misconceptions and limited perspectives. Learning about other cultures doesn’t mean you are disrespecting, forgetting or replacing your own: take on board as you desire.
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