Friday, 4 November 2016

100 Ideas for Self Care!

Recently, I have compiled a long list of ideas for my own self-care during Uni exams period (which is now really). I will share them with you today, some of them have been modified to suit most people. 

1. Take a few deep breaths
2. Take a 10 minute walk
3. Make yourself a cup of hot drink 
4. Practise gratitude
5. Be compassionate / kind towards yourself
6. Take a break
7. When stressed out, brainstorm alternative ways to solve the problem
8. Accept uncertainty as part of life
9. Allow yourself to feel your emotions, don't shut them out. 
10. Love all parts of yourself: the good, bad and the ugly
11. Focus on just one thing that you have to do for the day.
12. Talk to someone you trust
13. Write a letter to yourself
14. Embrace surprises, unexpected turns and failures in life
15. Go to the beach and the ocean
16. Tell yourself: "It's hard, but I can do this"
17. Go back to the basics: Nutrition, Rest, Sleep, Leisure, Water, Cut down on sugars and caffeine
18. Be present in the moment
19. Practise meditation exercises
20. Listen to some relaxing music
21. Look for the positives in every situation (especially during adversities)
22. Don't compare yourself with others. There are 7.5 billion people in this world, you can't top them all. 
23. Hit the gym or run around your residential area
24. Smile to someone else
25. Help someone else
26. Avoid catastrophising (i.e., making things bigger or more serious than they actually are)
27. Have some comfort food
28. Recall happy times with friends and family
29. Call or text a friend to catch up
30. Open up
31. Read a book
32. Watch a movie you like
33. Hugs
34. Colour
35. Journal
36. Volunteer 
37. Visit a local exhibition / museum / or some other artsy stuff
38. Cry
39. Do yoga 
40. Hyperfocus on something
41. Laugh about problems
42. Accept what you can't change, and change those that you can. 
43. Learn a new language / craft / recipe / whatever you like
44. Surround yourself with nature for a day
45. Practise being. 
46. Do nothing, literally. 
47. Solve a puzzle
48. Visit a bookstore 
49. Go to an art gallery
50. Paint
51. Take a mental health day, or schedule it into your week.
52. Spend time with people who empower you
53. Avoid toxic people
54. Remind yourself why you are doing what you are doing, this keeps you motivated. 
55. Appreciate the beauty of this world
56. Play video games / iOS / Android games
57. Put on makeup, or put on a suit
58. Join social events
59. Share your knowledge with others
60. Work limited hours
61. Set boundaries by saying "no" to things
62. Be brave and do something you are fearful of
63. Go shopping
64. Accept your painful / unpleasant emotions.
65. Go for a massage
66. Try aromatherapy / essential oils
67. Eat healthily
68. Sleep at appropriate times
69. Set a positive intention at the start of your day
70. Don't let petty things get to you. Ask yourself: Would this matter in 5 or 10 years time?
71. Try a new hobby
72. People watching
73. Get a pet or many pets
74. Eat ice-cream
75. Pamper yourself
76. Create a list of 10 things you like about yourself
77. Fail, but fail happily, because you can learn something each time you fail
78. Go to your favourite cafe
79. Party with friends
80. Lose yourself momentarily in a good book or movie
81. Go on an adventure
82. Create a bucket list
83. Read inspirational quotes
84. Spend quality time with your significant other
85. Smile even when you feel horrible
86. Creative expression
87. Go to a garden, watch the flowers, the trees, the grass
88. Watch funny videos
89. Attend a musical or theatre performance
90. Go for a buffet
91. Take naps
92. Look at yourself in the mirror and say "I love you"
93. Experience life as it comes, as it is. 
94. Go on a roadtrip
95. Sleep in for that day
96. Educate yourself on wellbeing and self-improvement
97. Travel
98. Help someone who is less fortunate than you.
99. Meet new people
100. Learn to forgive yourself and others

How did you find this list? Did any of them helped you? If you have any tips that are not listed here. Please share them in the comments below. 

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Flourishing in the 21st Century: Learnings from Dr Alan Wallace's Public Lecture

Photo from Pinterest 


Guys, apologies here. I meant to publish this post more than a month ago, but my perfectionistic tendencies hindered me from finishing what I started. I am working on it! So, here it is.

I went to a public lecture at Melbourne University on the 27th August. It was a talk by Dr Alan Wallace titled, "Flourishing in the 21st Century: The Rise of Contemplative Science", presented by the Center of Positive Psychology at the Graduate School of Education at the university. The talk inspired not just me, but many among the audience as well, to think more deeply about what is it that we are pursuing in life, are we actually flourishing, and how do we get there to where we want to be?

I aim to provide some key nuggets of wisdom I think everyone to have a think about at this very moment of your life. Are you happy? Do you think that you will be happy after you have achieved some goal, like work achievement, or marriage, or obtaining wealth and prestige? Dr Wallace invites us to really rethink our pursuit in life.

I have typed detailed notes on my computer during the lecture, but I wish to present several essential points. I will start with the definition of happiness.

Two types of happiness

The first type of happiness is the hedonic pleasure. This type of pleasure is characterised by seeking pleasant stimuli and avoiding unpleasant stimuli. In other words, if we are having hedonic pleasure, what we mainly do is seeking pleasure and avoiding pain on a daily basis. This is also called the hunter-gatherer approach.

The second type of happiness is genuine wellbeing. This is defined as "wellbeing derived from an ethical way of life, mental balance and wisdom." Genuine wellbeing is also called the "cultivator approach".

Disadvantages of pursuing hedonic pleasure
- Constantly flourishing = something wrong 
Dr Wallace explains that the by the nature of us pursuing hedonic pleasure, such as the chasing for status, wealth, prestige, we are competing with others. Because we are trying to constantly seek pleasure and avoid pain, we may want to constantly flourish. And if we see people who seem to be constantly flourishing, there may be something really wrong going on there. Think about it, is it possible that our lives be always filled with joy, happiness, excitement etc, and not even a brief moment of negative emotions, such as fear, disgust, sadness, grief, frustration?

Also, flourishing does not come from a technique, like mindfulness or meditation. Only people in the West enjoy going to retreats for meditation when meditation in and of itself can be incorporated in our day-to-day lives.

- Hedonism leads to exhaustion of the Earth's resources
If everyone in the world is focused on hedonic pleasure, we will all exhaust the planet, i.e., digging all the mines, using up every resource we can to generate wealth, inventing more nuclear weapons etc. These all do damage to the environment. There may be no more efforts invested in conservation for the environment, because everyone is so obsessed with increasing wealth, improving "Quality of Life" by earning more and more, even though they may have more than sufficient amount of money to get by. The rich become richer, the poor become poorer. What good does this bring?

The ethical way of life
The ethical way of life, Dr Wallace explains, is rooted in non-violence, and this form of life does not stem from self-centeredness for "no wars have been fought on the basis of non-violence". The flip side of violence is benevolence. When we practise benevolence, we give ourselves more opportunity to bring something good to the world.

Displeasure - Genuine unhappiness

Genuine unhappiness is when we are unhappy within ourselves, and when we get out there in the world, we bring to the world unhappiness as well. It is my personal view that sometimes this is not very much controllable for many who are less aware or reflective of their inner world, that they may be unable to see the unhappiness they are bringing to the world.

Dimensions of human flourishing 

Now, from the realm of unhappiness, we will move to the three dimensions of human flourishing. They are ethics, mental balance, and wisdom. I will discuss each of them in detail.


1. Ethics (social, environmental flourishing)

Ethics is divided into social and environmental flourishing. If we summarise the concept into one word, it's harmony - harmony within one's own communities, family, country and internationally; with the environment (or ecosphere), maintaining a sustainable economy, without environment destruction.


2. Mental Balance (psychological flourishing)

Psychological flourishing or mental balance is "a sense of wellbeing not contingent on external or internal stimuli, and is qualified by serenity, joy, and contentment, rather than excitement and arousal". It is a state of conative balance. We can of course stimulate ourselves in many ways, such as excitement, food, movies, relationships etc, but it's still hedonic. And the problem about hedonic pleasure is that when we stop doing it, or stop having those stimuli, the wellbeing vanishes. This is the core issue of all addictions. I would venture to say it's a never-ending cycle for those addicted unless they find something healthy to replace the excitement or dopamine surge that their addicted substance (beyond drugs) are giving them.

Dr Wallace points out that the notion that happiness must relate to excitement, arousal and stimulation is essentially a Western concept. He gives an example of how young people in Western cultures these days equate doing fun things as being happy. It's equating exciting activities as happiness. On the flipside, Eastern perspectives will say otherwise. More often than not, the eastern world also value things like serenity and solitude, meaning that excitement is not necessary for one to be happy or feel a sense of wellbeing.

Mental balance has four components: conative, attentional, cognitive, and emotional. It is when these four components are somewhat imbalance in an individual that problems start to occur.

1. Conative Imbalances
Conative Intelligence: "Do you have the intelligence of not eating the third dessert?" if you are wanting to keep fit. This form of intelligence guides us in adopting goals and desires which cultivates wellbeing.
-Conative deficit: A state where we are have an apathetic loss of desire for happiness (Too little desire). When we experience conative deficit, it's when we say to ourselves, "I don't know". There is no vision in our lives. This signifies lack of mental health.
-Conative hyperactivity: A state where we have an obsessive desire that causes the reality of the present to be blurred (Too much desire). When we experience conative hyperactivity, it is not an indication of mental balance according to Dr Wallace. It's a state where we are obsessive, fixated or addicted to something. Anything.
-Conative dysfunction: A state where our desire for something is not conducive (or helpful) for our own and others' wellbeing. An example of this is when we are addicted to something.

Resolving conative imbalances - Use the Fourfold Vision Quest

Upon explaining what conative imbalances are, Dr Wallace challenged us (the audience) to ask ourselves these four questions:

  • What would make you truly happy? 
  • What would you love to receive from the world to help you find such well-being? 
  • How would you love to transform and mature inwardly in order to realize such well-being? 
  • In order to lead the most meaningful life possible, what would you love to offer to the world? 

He also shared that we can't really do anything entirely alone. We need people in our lives. As death is the natural endpoint, perhaps it's important to reflect from time to time that as time passes, do answers to these questions change or flatline?

2. Attentional Imbalances
-Attentional deficit (Laxity): This is when we lose clarity and the vividness of our attention. In other words, distracted.
-Attentional hyperactivity (Excitation): This is when we are involuntarily agitated and distracted by compulsive desire. We could use an example of drinking alcohol. If you are reaching for a bottle everytime you feel stressed out and unable to stop yourself and focus on what's most important, then you could be suffering from attentional imbalance. ADHD is also an example.
-Attentional dysfunction: This is when we attend to things in a dysfunctional way.

Resolving attentional imbalances - Use two faculties to refine your attention

-Mindfulness: The buzz word nowadays in psychology. "This is the faculty of our mind to sustain voluntary attention continuously on a familiar object, without forgetfulness or distraction." Being mindful about what we are doing when we are doing it can reduce our tendency to mind-wander.
-Introspection: This is the faculty of monitoring the mind, recognizing the occurrence of excitation and laxity.

The result: Relaxation, stability, and vividness of attention.

How do we then cultivate this? Dr Wallace suggested that we attend intelligently to everything we are currently doing. Being present is key. How often do we attend to human beings and human beings? Not as preys or something to be beaten down? It's learning how we can change from "I x It" --> "I x You"

3. Cognitive Imbalances
-Cognitive deficit: This is when we fail to perceive what is present in the six fields of experience. For example, Dr Wallace used an example of women voting and the idea that women cannot vote because if they do they are going to vote the same candidate as their husbands anyway, so what's the point?
-Cognitive hyperactivity: A conflation of conceptual projections with perceptual experience. Hyperactivity in cognition results in what we think we see with the reality. 
This happens in paranoia (being too concerned about others having malicious intent), schizophrenia (having hallucinations and delusions), bipolar (swinging between extremes of mania and depression).
In all these conditions, people are too absorbed in a local reality.-Cognitive dysfunction: This is when one have distorted perceptual and conceptual experience of reality.

4. Emotional Imbalances
-Emotional deficit: This is when one feel dead within and have a cold indifference to other people and events.
-Emotional hyperactivity: Examples of this is Elation - Depression, Hope - Fear, Adultation - Contempt, and Attachment - Anger. This is when we experience too much of an emotion and do not have balance within ourselves.
-Emotional dysfunction: This is when one have inappropriate responses to situations.

The materialistic worldview, Dr Wallace added, is that "only matter exists, and we are only matter, and we have really no control over things". If one is materialistic, how will one get more eudaimonia? This materialistic worldview, hedonic way of life is very destructive and it is making mental health worse. There is lesser kindness, more hatred.

Remedying emotional imbalances - Four ways 
-Hedonism: Learn to use loving-kindness.
-Aloof indifference: Be compassionate.
-Depression: Empathetic joy
-Self-centered attachment (fixation on "I, me, mine") and aversion: Use equanimity (i.e., composure).

3. Wisdom (spiritual flourishing)

Finally, is wisdom or spiritual flourishing. This is a quality of wellbeing that carries one through all the ups and downs of life and till death. When we flourish spiritually, whatever way you prefer, whether through meditation, yoga, mindfulness, religions, philosophies, we find that we can make it through.

As a close, genuine happiness is cultivated by way of ethics, mental balance and wisdom. Mental health is cultivated by having conative, attentional, cognitive and affective (emotional) balance. And finally, exceptional mental balance is the basis of knowing reality as it is. Not wanting more in the moment, or wishing more, but accepting the current reality as it is.

Disclaimer: 99% of the content here are notes I have taken from Dr Alan Wallace's talk, except for my brief comments here and there. I am just summarising them to benefit those that didn't manage to go to the talk and for public learning. 

Monday, 1 August 2016

Update: Semester 2 Starts and My Next Postings

I am finally back on this blog again!

As I have started the semester in Uni, I thought it would be better to set a schedule for my blog postings. For the next half a year, I hope to publish a post by every Saturday night. If I can I will publish more during the week, but it depends on how busy I am during the week.

Just a sneak peek on what I have planned for the next few weeks!

- Semester 1, 2016 Subject Reviews
- My Trip to Central Australia
- My much delayed AIESEC trip experience
- Maybe a Pokemon Go Review?
- Food reviews
- Book reviews (Hint: I will be reviewing a fiction book and some self help books)

This semester will be a tough one, as I am taking three third-year subjects all at once. I have managed to get a reduced load this semester, so hopefully that will give me more time to work on my assignments.







Sunday, 19 June 2016

Food Review #5: Mork Chocolate Brew House

My sister stumbled on a video from INSIDER Food Facebook page which showcased Mörk Chocolate Brew House’s Campfire Chocolate dessert. Since it’s holidays for me, and she could use a sweet break from her exam revision, we decided to pay a visit.



Mörk Chocolate Brew House (simply Mörk) is on Errol street, a specialty café for chocolates, cakes, and hot chocolate drinks.


Even before I stepped into the store, the minimalist logo on the side door / letter box caught my eye.


Overview of the store
Upon entering the store, I was quite surprised because the store is quite small. Four tables, three small tables which can fit 2 to 4 people, and a rectangular table which can fit about 10 people. Just doing the math, it means that the maximum number of people they can cater is 19 – 20.


 Minimalist, gives an artistic kind of feel and design.



Look closer… I can’t help but to admire the fantastic font that they used. As you can see from the Menu, their chocolates have different concentration or cocoa, 50%, 65%, 70% and 85%.





In the left corner of the store are their merchandises. The majority of them are cocoa (all of the concentration listed above), and they also sell ceramic mugs and cups that are locally made, titanium-plated milk jugs, and amber-coloured bottles on the top rack.


Both of us ordered a Campfire Chocolate (AUD8), she ordered an extra Chocolate Ganache and Burnt Caramel cake (AUD7).


For the Campfire Chocolate that I ordered, it comes with four things and you can prepare the drink yourself! There a glass placed upside down as it has beechwood smoke in it; then on the right there is the ceramic mini-jug with hot chocolate; between those two things, there are the small sprinkles of chocolate salt and a toasted marshmallow.
The waitress explained how to prepare it when she served them to us. First, you will turn the glass filled with smoke upright, then you pour the hot chocolate into it. I suggest you do it slowly so you can smell the smoke, it gives you the atmosphere of being beside a campfire, hence the name. After pouring you can take the chocolate sprinkles and put it into the hot chocolate. Finally, you dip your toasted marshmallow into it. Voilà! 

What I like about this hot chocolate is mainly the fun of the customer being able to do something hands-on with their drink. Another plus point of the smoke is that the hot chocolate has an added smoky flavour to it, not the usual AUD3 hot chocolate you get in other places of Melbourne.

The Verdict
Taste: 4.5/5
Originality: 5/5
Would I recommend it: Definitely

For the Chocolate Ganache and Burnt Caramel cake, I tasted a little bit but I thought it would be good to get my sister’s opinion on it. It’s a dark chocolate cake with salted caramel cake. It was really good quality chocolate, but one downside to it was that it’s not very special compared to the other choices in the Menu.  

The Verdict
Taste: 4.7/5
Originality: 3/5
Would I recommend it: Nah…

Who should definitely visit Mörk?
-People who would like a break from usual food and try something different in a really fantastic, minimalist atmosphere.
-People who have a sweet tooth and some spare cash to spend on pure chocolate dessert.
-People who want to try something kinda-new in town!

A video you might wanna check out that teaches you how to make Mork chocolatehttps://vimeo.com/67855327 

Mörk Chocolate Brew House
Opening Hours: Monday – Closed; Tuesday to Sunday 9am – 5pm
Address: 150 Errol St, North Melbourne VIC 3051.

Tel No: +61 (03) 9328 1386    

Links:

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Review: Analyze.AcademicHelp.net

Have you ever thought about proofreading your essay to improve your structure, argument, and quality?

Today I will be reviewing Analyze.AcademicHelp.net that examines your essay, analyses it, and provide feedback on it.

I have used their website and found it helpful for my assignment. I will review their service in a few sections: 1. Layout of the website, 2. Review of "Analyze My Paper" service, and 3. Recommendations for users

1. Layout



 As you can see above, the layout of the website is very clear and free of distractions. The tabs at the top of the website make it really easy to navigate.

Let's look further scrolling down the website.


This analysis provided in this website includes:
1. Grammar
2. Organization
3. Style
4. Content 
5. Research

These aspects are essential to an excellent piece of essay, no matter the year level, whether one is in primary, secondary or tertiary education. 




You can also look at their testimonials section to see what other customers have to say. 

2. Review of "Analyze My Paper" service


What really attracted me to consider using the service was its cheap pricing. Where can you get $1 / page? The market price is usually much higher, do a Google search and you will find out. Another plus point of Analyze.AcademicHelp.net is that they provide different levels of service: Grade My Paper and Analyze My Paper while other sites often only have one option. This gives users the option of trying out Grade My Paper first before deciding to go for Analyze My Paper. 

I decided to submit my Cultural Studies subject assignment for their service.


The above picture is the feedback given by Jaquelyn. 

As you can see, for a 1000 words essay, it's only 10 dollars. For the comments, I have counted that they gave at least 2-3 comments every paragraph and in total I had at least 15 comments in my paper.

As I needed to submit my assignment by the 15 April, I requested for my paper to be proofread by the same day I submitted my paper to this site. Despite it being a Friday, and they had a policy of 48 hours, my marker was still able to help me finish the proofreading by the time I needed them. 

That, to me, was a 5-stars plus point. 

So, how did my assignment go? I managed to get a H2A, 78/100 for this assignment. This shows that with some quality feedback, one can boost their marks which might possibly improve a grade. 

3. Recommendations for users

Definitely, try this service because of its cheap pricing. You can just save on a meal and you will be able to afford proofreading a 1000-word paper. It's that affordable! 

Head over to the website, and read more about it and judge for yourself. I gave an overview of their site here just to get you started if you are interested. 

Let me know what you think about me doing reviews like this. I might possibly make more reviews about things I use, books I read, cafes I go to, among other things. 

If you like this review or would want to know more, drop me a comment! 

Cheers,
Amy


[Sponsored post] 

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Three Things I did to Move Past Grief and Out of An Existential Crisis




Losing a loved one can trigger an existential crisis. If you search the term on Google, you will get numerous definitions. How I define mine is the "questioning of one's purpose and meaning in life, of the existence of a higher power, and the existence of life after death".

This post reveals personal aspects of my life. I decided to write about it because grief is something commonly experienced, but hardly spoken or discussed. Someone dies, but after the passing and the funeral, no one seems to talk about it. Everyone seems to move on. The keyword here is "seems", because do we really know if everyone affected did move on?

Recently, a relative of mine passed away, I found myself recalling past griefs that I had not fully move past. It's quite amazing how the mind can suppress certain memories that it refuses to deal with at that moment in order to move on in life. And I did that for 2.5 years before it crept up to me and caught me off-guard.

Effects of Unresolved Grief
1. Disconnection from the present

What do I mean by disconnection? For the past 3 - 4 weeks, I didn't feel like the present moment was important, all I wanted was to just keep ruminating about:

  • Why didn't I do more things for her before her demise?
  • Did I pray enough to God?
  • Where is she now?
  • Is she in heaven, or hell, or has been reborn?
This affected my ability to be focused in class and also in conversations with people. Often, I drifted off thinking about my loved one who passed on. Doing the things I needed to do each day no longer take as much priority as "processing" the why of someone's death.

2. Decline in Productivity

Overfocusing on the grief really drained almost all of my energy. My productivity declined, I get exhausted really easily, I felt that I was in part losing control of my very being.

3. Isolation from others

In an existential crisis that arose due to the loss of a loved one, I didn't see the need to socialise or talk to people. For a whole 2 weeks, I barely spoke to people unless I absolutely needed to.

The Process of Moving on
There are three steps that I took to move on. 


1. Accepting the fact that there was nothing I could do to bring my loved one back into this world

Upon realising I still didn't process the grief, I read up as much as I can (about at least 20 articles online) on the subject matter. Many suggested great ideas, but it wasn't until I decided to move on that I started to take action. Coincidentally, my Creative Non-Fiction subject had a few compulsory readings that talked about loss. Reading them, I appreciate their honesty in revealing such personal stories about their lives, about the loss of their loved ones. These readings inspired me to write about it precisely because we often avoid talking about it and it can sometimes make things worse. 

It took me a while to realise no amount of disconnection with the present moment, avoidance of my assignments or doing what I needed to do as a student, or social isolation will bring my loved one back. It's impossible. What I could do was just to move on - even if I am unsure how I was going to do that - I needed to, in order to go on living my life.


2. Using my knowledge of some Psychology, I started doing what I needed to do to move past it. 

Resuming my routine
This meant doing my assignments, going for lectures, meet-up with friends, making sure I eat regularly and sleep well

Expressing grief in a healthy way
I don't often talk to people about it, so I found that journalling was the best way for me. Sometimes, as weird as it sounds, I sometimes write letters about things I want to tell my loved one if she was still here. Obviously, this is not realisable in actuality, but it's better than staying indoors and avoiding human contact.

Allowing myself to cry if I want to
I think I only cried once upon her death. That's actually pretty terrible from the psychology point of view. Now I will just cry when I am sad that she's gone, that all I am left with are chunks of memories I spent with her.

Cherishing the memories that I have left
All that is left for us is the memories. Memories fade, they sometimes alter. But perhaps what matters in the times of grief is to just remind myself of what my loved one would want me to do in the situation, and honour that, in hopes that if she had a consciousness after death, or if she was watching over me, she can see that. 


3. About discovering the meaning of my life or the existential part of my story, I gave myself some time.

Everyone has his/her own answers as to which God or Gods, if any, that he/she believes in. Frankly speaking, I have not found my answer yet. The purpose of my life is not immediately apparent at this point, and the best I can do now is to just resume my routine, hoping that through some exploration or adventures, I can discover my life purpose, something that keeps me excited, something that makes me happy. 

I am no expert, but I write from my experiences, in hopes to de-stigmatise the topic and more people would talk about it, if they need to, with their family members or trusted friends. Because it really does help. Finally, if you find my post helpful to anyone you know, kindly share it so that they may benefit from it. 

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Writing and Well-being

Recently, I have been writing a lot. Working on a 3000 words essay for my Creative Non Fiction subject, and just journalling random thoughts down. I may seem a bit quiet on the outside (it depends actually, on who I am with), but if you really want to know me, I guess you can read my writing (some of them are of course on this blog), then you will know a whole lot about me.

Writing is beyond just making a point, or trying to persuade the audience to agree with something you want to put forward. I think writing, essentially is quite therapeutic.

In my Creative Non Fiction class, many of my classmates write about deeply personal topics for their piece. I will not disclose any of the topics here due to confidentiality reasons, but what I will ask is: "Why do a class of 15 students want to write about deeply personal, emotional content, to be workshopped by a bunch of stranger classmates in the class?"

Tara DaPra's Writing Memoir and Writing for Therapy: An Inquiry on the Functions of Reflection tells us more about this. In this piece, she mentioned that research has shown writing about emotionally charged topics correlate with the writer's good health.

My experience was consistent with the research. Writing, for me, helps me release tension and stress, and sometimes, it gives me ideas for other writings. It acts as a catalyst for more flow and peace in life.

Currently, I am reading a memoir called "An Unquiet Mind" by Dr Kay Redfield Jamison, and "Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction" by Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd. They are quite popular books in the market. Cool stuff.

That's all for you. If you like to write, try writing more and see if it improves your well-being.

I will catch you guys soon with my next post, hopefully in a few days. :)

Thursday, 3 March 2016

MUCS Welcome Rehearsal & Free Wine and Cheese Night

This semester, I decided to join the Melbourne University Choral Society (MUCS) to use singing as a form of stress relief and meet new friends. The membership is only $2 for a year, so it's pretty worth it! It has also been one year since I sang for The Canticle Singers (TCS), based in Malaysia, hence I thought picking up some form of singing in the community would be great.

During Week 1, MUCS had a Welcome Rehearsal & Free Wine and Cheese Night, which took place two days ago, on Wednesday at the Harold Woodruff Lecture Theatre in Melbourne Uni. It was kind of an adventure looking for the venue as I have not been to the Microbiology and Immunology Building on campus before. Took me a good 10 minutes to find the place.

Anyways, we had an attendance of about 150-200 people based on my rough estimate. We filled up the whole lecture theatre. We then practised a few songs like Alleluia, Ave Maria, Set Me as a Seal, and Ave Verum Corpus.

After the rehearsal, the director introduced us to the European Tour in January 2017. But unfortunately, it costs at least $8000 to travel to Europe for 24 days / 23 nights, which was something I cannot afford as a student. Well, this means I have more time to pursue my professional development!

After the announcements etc, we proceeded to North Court at Union House to have our wine and cheese! They are so much better than the barbies often organised by Sciences or Arts students' society.

Here are some snapshots!

Some AWESOME cheese, grapes, carrots and biscuits
A closer look
Love-shaped chocolates!
I managed to talk to a few people, some locals, some from China and Chile. Super awesome time with these people, there are youngsters and seniors, of different ages and from all walks of life. How fascinating!

Can't wait to attend rehearsals in future weeks. Should be a fun time!



Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Becoming a Pescitarian

Hi readers,

I am currently a big food lover, especially meat lover. I love eating pork, chicken and fish/seafood. But, of recent months, I realised that there is a lot of animal cruelty around the world and that animals are  living creatures. And I felt it was not right (for me) to consume them just for my own appetite.

So I have been thinking of becoming a vegetarian for a while. I mean, I don't eat beef because my family doesn't, sort of a Buddhist culture thing (even though I am not a Buddhist), so it's easier I guess for me to try to become a vegetarian. However, there are some hurdles, namely, I absolutely LOVE eating pork, like the chinese ChaSiu, or XiuYuk (Roasted pork) among others. And I don't like eating vegetables that much except lettuce and carrots really. And I possibly could handle eating fruits like tomatoes, bananas, oranges and apples. Becoming vegetarian will probably take a while longer (perhaps in a few years time), so I am good with just reaching my goal of becoming a pescitarian soon.

As I decide to become pescitarian eventually, I need to cut down meat in my diet, slowly at least.

Maybe starting with the easiest, chicken. Then I could eliminate pork. Then I am left with fish/seafood. I could be selective and only eat fish (salmon, freshwater fish, sardine etc) and other seafood like oysters, crab and prawn. I know it's not considered totally vegetarian, but that's my aim, to be achieved in the next one year.

Basically, ideally, I should be able to choose to only eat:
1) Fish
2) Oysters
3) Crab
4) Prawn
5) Milk
6) Cheese
7) Honey
by the end of Feb 2017.

I really don't know if I can achieve this. But for the sake of the animals in the world, I will try. This means that I will eat more vegetables and fruits that I like and avoid any meat possible other than seafood.

I will update on my journey / quest to become a Pescitarian every month here. :)

P.S.: I will be straightforward here. You are free to disagree with me on the ethics of eating animals. We will just agree to disagree. This choice is my personal preference to live my
life from now on. I hope you can respect my decision and not question it other than as an attempt to understand me. Thank you in advance.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Subject Reviews: UniMelb Sem 2, 2015



So, Semester 2 was over in a blink of an eye. Here are the subject reviews for the subjects I completed in the semester.

I have put all the handbook links above. You can just click on it and it will bring you to the latest 2016 handbook entry.

Let's get straight to it.

Net Communications

Difficulty: 3/5

My Grade: H2A (77)

Reading materials: Only a reader is needed. It is sold in Co-op.

Assessments: Students are required to finish 3 components of assessments to complete the subject, plus a hurdle req. for 75% attendance for tutorials.

(i) Annotated Bibliography (15%), up to 750 words +/- 10%. We were required to summarise, analyse and critique 3 articles from the reader or outside sources. My experience was that it is not easy, I unfortunately did not do very well on this.

(ii) Essay (25%), 1500 words +/- 10%. There are I think 9 topics to choose from based on each week's material. To score, it's better to read up the readings as best as you can well in advance so that you are prepared to write straight away. This essay also requires additional academic research (meaning from journal articles where you have to search for yourself).

(iii) Online Project (60%) which was amazing. This is the only practical hands-on component of this subject. I enjoyed doing the online project very much compared to the other assessments.

Teaching Staff:  My lecturer and tutor were both Dr Bjorn Nansen. He is quite friendly and helpful. I always appreciate his punctuality in classes. I also enjoyed the guest lecture about website building (a little about programming) done by one of the teaching staff from another faculty.

Would I recommend taking this subject?
I personally do not like this subject. I took a total of 5 subjects in media and communications including those from Monash (such as journalism and media studies etc). At first I thought I liked it but after a while I think the communication theories are just not for me. So, I have decided as of 2016 Semester 1, I am switching the remaining of my subjects to 2 Creative Writing, 1 Philosophy and 1 Cultural Studies subject. So, not much of a recommendation, it's not a very challenging subject, so go ahead if you want to take it.

Representation
Difficulty: 5/5

My Grade: H2B (70)

Reading materials: Only a reader is needed. It is sold in Co-op.

Assessments:  Students are required to finish 3 components of assessments to complete the subject, plus a hurdle req. for 9 out of 12 tutorials and 3 out of 3 skills workshops.

(i) Annotated Bibliography (15%), up to 500 words +/- 10%. We were required to provide a description of one of the topics learned in lectures and tutorials so far, and then summarise, analyse and critique 4 articles from the reader or outside sources. This was not as easy as I thought it would be.

(ii) Essay (45%), 2000 words +/- 10%. We get to choose from the materials we studied throughout the semester, such as Bicycle Thieves by Vittorio De Sica, Mother Courage and Her Children by Bertolt Brecht , Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee. 

(iii) Take Home Exam (40%) which was amazing. This is the only practical hands-on component of this subject. I enjoyed doing the online project very much compared to the other assessments.

Teaching Staff: There are many teaching staff for this subject. The main ones are Sarah Balkin and Mark Nicholls (I am dropping the formalities here because it would just be repetitive if everyone has a doctorate here). Then there are some guest lecturers such as Elena Bentaus, Sarah Comyn, Paul Rae, Adam Goatley, Rachel Fensham and Deirdre Coleman. My tutor was Adam. He is a really lively person and is the first tutor/teaching staff who swears every 10 minutes or so in tutorials. He says it's his way of feeling passionate about the subject (I chuckled when he said that).

What did I enjoy the most about this subject?

I think the coolest thing was being able to learn from many different media, like books, dance, film, paintings etc.. I particularly enjoyed writing about Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee in my essay. I did okay for it but it was challenging but at the same time really fun. For dance, we watched Le Sacre du Printemps and Afternoon of the Faun, which were both kind of sick. You have to watch it to know what I am saying. For my Take Home Exam, I analysed a painting on The Crucifixion and a dance called Le Sacre du Printemps (version directed by Pina Bausch). I also liked that there are academic support available for undergraduate students. This was not available when I was back in Monash Malaysia. Of course I utilised it quite a few times. They actually have senior students (3rd year or PhD level) to help you check your assignments.

Would I recommend taking this subject?
Definitely, if you like the arts, and learning about stuff like film, novel, dance, paintings, art forms etc.. I would say this is one of the hardest Arts Foundations subjects among the six. It's pretty hectic and hard for me as an international student who hasn't done much literature before. But certainly very interesting and fun.
Cognitive Psychology
Difficulty: 3/5

My Grade: H2B (71)

Reading materials: Generally no compulsory textbook, just the lecture and tutorial content is tested in exam. Cognitive Psychology by Bruce Goldstein is recommended resource.

Assessments:  Students are required to finish 3 components of assessments to complete the subject, plus three hurdle req. of completed weekly quiz questions on LMS, Quantitative Methods (QM) modules online and also attending 80% of lab classes.

(i) Lab Report (40%) 1500 words +/- 10%.

(ii) Oral Presentation (10%) 15 minutes on a topic chosen from a list. Content is not examinable in exam. We were required to work in teams of 5-6 people.

(iii) Final Exam (50%)
90 questions

Teaching Staff: The lecturers were Meredith Mckague, Phillip Smith, Geoff Saw, Daniel Little and tutor was Ms Frances Lewis. The lecturers each teach a few weeks in a specific area. For example, Phillip taught Attention lectures, Geoff took Judgement, Decision and Reasoning lectures and Meredith taught  quite a number of weeks. I especially liked the one on Cognition and Emotion (the final lecture)

Would I recommend taking this subject?
I had to take this subject as part of the core subject for my major. It's kinda technical and a tad bit boring. But it's certainly a doable subject. Nothing too difficult that one cannot handle. So, if you want to take as a breadth, go ahead if you like the topics.

Personality and Social Psychology
Difficulty: 3/5

My Grade: H2A (75)

Reading materials: Journal articles provided on LMS.
Assessments:  Students are required to finish 2 components of assessments to complete the subject, plus two hurdle req. of attending 80% of lab classes and a debate.

(i) Lab Report (40%) 2000 words +/- 10%.

(ii) Debate (hurdle) 15 minutes on a topic assigned. Content is not examinable in exam. We were required to work in teams of 3-4 people. Quite a significant amount of research is required for one to be able to do well in this.

(iii) Final Exam (55%)
I am not gonna lie. The final exam was so hard. There were even questions that were not in the lecture slides and according to a friend of mine, the answer was said by the lecturer, meaning you would have to write that down to know the answer.

Teaching Staff: My lecturers were Simon Laham, Jennifer Boldero, Luke Smillie and Garry Robins. Same as Cog. Psych,

Would I recommend taking this subject?

As a breadth, yes. It's interesting, very relatable to everyday life. Lectures on topics like Moral Psychology, Relationships and Evolutionary Psychology are quite eye-opening for me. One negative point is that the tutorials are a bit longer than necessary for me and sometimes can be quite boring.


So that's the end of my reviews. I hope you enjoy it and this will benefit in some way towards your subjects selection. I will see you soon in my next post!

Saturday, 16 January 2016

My 2015 in Review and 2016 Resolutions

Hello everyone! HAPPNEW YEAR!!

While I was scrolling down my blog to see the number of posts I have published in 2015, I was shocked that I only wrote 9 posts last year! From the first year I started this blog, which was 2013, I had 24 posts, then in 2014 it increased to 38 posts. In 2015, it drop to a unbelievable low, nine!! This is unacceptable. At this point, I realised I need to set a goal for the frequency of my blog postings, and monitor it, so that I can achieve something that I will be proud of by the end of the year.

I reflected and realised the main reason I was not posting as often last year on this blog was because I was considering if I should move my sharing and postings else where, like on a different platform, such as Youtube (by doing Vlogs instead of Blog posts) or move to a new domain. This is because the site traffic on my blog here is quite low and I don't think I have significant amount of followers and that kinda dampens my spirit to continue writing here. Honestly, I can say this about most bloggers. What's the point of writing articles and sharing stuff when you've got few to no readers following?

Now, it's time for my review for year 2015!

Highlights
1) I got into The University of Melbourne!

As many of you know, I posted an article about me being accepted into Melbourne Uni in July 2015, which you can read about it here if you haven't already done so. So, that was an amazing and happy news for me at that time, to be able to get in to one of the top universities in Australia and in the world.

2) Joining some fantastic student organisations in Melbourne

While in Uni, I joined societies like Melbourne University Toastmasters Club (MUTM) and a non-profit organisation called the Australian Federation of International Students Inc. (AFIS)

In MUTM, I was really excited and happy to have won First place for the internal Table Topics Contest and able to represent the club to compete in the Area contest in RMIT University. I should have blogged about them, unfortunately I couldn't find the time due to a packed study schedule. Sadly, I did not win any places for the Area contest. But as always, it means there is room for improvement. I also learned many new things from my fellow competitors.

In the semester, I went up for several Table Topics sessions and completed my CC#6.

As of Nov 2015, I was elected as the Secretary for the 2016 MUTM Committee which is fantastic because this means I can serve my fellow Toastmasters community with my very best. 

                                                               *************
I first joined AFIS in August 2015. I loved every part of it. I joined initially as a Projects Officer, working in the Projects Department to help organise events, contact potential speakers or instructors and manage casual volunteers. In October 2015, I applied to be the Projects Director for the department for the 2016 term. Unfortunately I did not get the position, instead I was offered the Deputy Projects Director position, which is still awesome. Indeed, the current director who I am working with is much more experienced than I am, and I am super fortunate and pleased to work with her.

During the few months in AFIS thus far, I have already helped out in several fun and interesting projects, such as I Am FIT 2.0 and Spring Bazaar.

3) Starting my own body scrub line
During the Spring Bazaar, I tried selling the handmade body scrubs I made, 30 jars with 6 different scents. I did everything from scratch, such as sourcing for ingredients, buying the jars, asking my friend to design the label for me, printing the labels and also making the different scents. It was not very hard to do all of the above. I did all that in a week. But what is really really tough was Marketing the Product! After this experience selling at the bazaar, I finally understood why it takes a lot of hardwork and excellent strategy to launch a business and make it successful. I sold a few at the bazaar (not very happy with it) but it is exciting to know that I have tried and actually meet my goal of making a product. Right now, my products are selling on Etsy, feel free to visit my site and purchase if you are interested. 

4) AIESEC exchange in Hanoi, Vietnam for 5 weeks
Final awesome highlight of the year was my volunteering trip to Hanoi, Vietnam on a sex education project called SEXPRESS Winter 2015. It was a fabulous experience flying alone to another country for the first time, staying there for the longest time ever besides going to Australia to study. My team and I conducted three workshops on topics like safe sex, contraceptions, STDs, gender, sexuality and #TaketheWheel. The final project was particularly memorable but I won't tell you why now because "My AIESEC Experience in Hanoi Vietnam" series is coming up soon and when you read it, you will know!

Setbacks
Well, not everything is smooth-sailing throughout the year. I also faced difficulties too. People who know me personally will know that I don't deal with academic-related stress that well. So this year has been 30-40% difficult because of that. So number one on the list is of course:

1) Stress
In the beginning of the year, I was aiming to transfer my undergraduate degree to continue in Australia. I applied for Monash University and Unimelb. Thankfully, I have a lot of support from my family to help me pull through some stressful times during the first semester. 

During the second semester of the year, I was already in Melbourne. Surprisingly, anxiety episodes didn't come by so often. Perhaps it was because the situation forces me to be independent and take good care of myself, so I believe my coping skills have improved because of me moving to Melbourne.

Anyways, all were good eventually so I put a smile on my face again!

2) Rejected applications for jobs and volunteer roles
I applied for many jobs in Melbourne throughout the semester. Sadly, among 20+ applications, I was accepted for only two roles, which are AFIS and MUTM. I wanted to volunteer in Lifeline Australia to help man the suicide helpline but unfortunately the staff asked me not to apply because they require my visa to be at least two years which I do not have.

I learned from this experience of being rejected many times that it is in fact very difficult to find a job in Australia if you are not a Permanent Resident. But still, I will not give up. I will continue seeking for opportunities and apply even though it takes me hours to write up a revised Cover Letter and Resume because I know I have the ability and passion to work for the jobs that I apply for. So, for all International students studying abroad, don't give up if you can't find a part-time job yet. Keep searching, the right company will hire you and you will be able to contribute for what you love and be paid for it!

What's up for 2016?

My Resolutions

1) To see some results of my effort on this blog
This includes actions such as:
*Being consistent in posting (twice a week during vacations, and at least one a fortnight during semester)
*Expand the blog's visibility - either by hosting in my own domain, diversify into Vlogging on Youtube and/or Guest posting on other people's blogs
*Expand the blog's reach to benefit more people, students in particular.

2) Improve my studies' grades
I want to do extremely well in this year's subjects because it is a crucial year for me. It will determine whether or not I enter into Honours year in Psychology

3) Build up my day-to-day discipline
With discipline, I can do many things efficiently, I will use my time more wisely. Some things I will start to do are:
*Sleep and wake up at around the same times everyday
*Doing my assignments a few weeks earlier

****************

So, What was your 2015 like? What are you going to change this year?

As I write my post, it's a process of reflecting what you were your experiences in the previous year. If you have not done a reflection in writing before, I encourage you to do it and really implement the changes you say you are going to. This is how we all can improve ourselves and move forward to greater heights in life.