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5 Books That Teach Empathy And Kindness

We’ve got a mix of world literature, Pulitzer-Prize winning novels, a non-fiction recommendation, and even something for kids. Take your pick! 

  1. Wonder by R.J. Palacio

What it’s about: 10-year-old Auggie Pullman has a facial disfigurement that makes him the target of bullying when he attends school for the first time.

Why we recommend it: “Wonder” is packaged as a children’s book but the situations presented are things that even grown-ups can relate to, such as the  anxieties that come with trying to fit in and the desire to be accepted for our differences.

Quotable quote: “We carry with us, as human beings, not just the capacity to be kind, but the very choice of kindness.”

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

What it’s about: An African-American man is wrongly accused of a crime, and his Caucasian neighbor steps up to defend him despite opposition from all fronts

Why we recommend it: The themes and lessons of this book are as important today as they were when the story was first published in 1960. We need to be reminded that despite increasing awareness and belonging to a “woke” generation, racial and class discrimination continue to affect many people around the world today.  

Quotable quote: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view.”

  1. The Road by Cormac McCarthy

What it’s about: A father and son travel on foot across a post-apocalyptic land and in the process encounter a variety of people — some good, many bad. 

Why we recommend it: At first glance, killing, stealing, and committing acts of unspeakable cruelty seem to be the only ways one can survive in a cruel world. But the father constantly reminds his son to “carry the fire” — to act with kindness, compassion, and decency no matter how terrible things are. 

Quotable quote: “All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one’s heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”

  1. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

What it’s about: This is the first Afghan novel written in English. The main character, Amir, seeks atonement for betraying a friend. 

Why we recommend it: Amir spends much of the novel plagued by guilt, and it is only through empathy that he finds redemption and self-forgiveness.

Quotable quote: “Not a word passes between us, not because we have nothing to say, but because we don’t have to say anything.”

  1. Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About The People We Don’t Know by Malcolm Gladwell

What it’s about: Studies the miscommunication, interactions, and assumptions people make when dealing with those that they don’t know. 

Why we recommend it: How many times have we avoided talking to people who think and act differently from us, resulting in conflicts or misunderstanding? By using real-life examples, Gladwell teaches us how we can bridge this divide and avoid failure of communication.
Quotable quotes: “The first set of mistakes we make with strangers…has to do with our inability to make sense of the stranger as an individual.”

Do you have your own book recommendations? Share them in the comments below!

— Written by Jaclyn Lutanco-Chua of MindNation

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Get Inspired Mental Health 101 Self Help

8 Things To Do When Someone Is Mad At You

Being face to face with an angry person can be scary or frustrating, but there are ways to soothe the situation. 

Despite your best intentions, there will be times when you come across someone who is upset, frustrated, or angry with you. If you do not know how to handle this situation, you may end up feeling stressed, anxious, depressed, or angry as well. On the other hand, when you respond to anger in the right manner, you quickly restore normalcy, reduce tension and stress, and, in some cases, even make the relationship stronger. 

Below are 8 things you can do when someone is mad at you:

  1. Listen, listen, and listen. In his book “Anger: Taming A Powerful Emotion,” Dr. Gary Chapman, a well-known marriage counselor and author of the bestselling book “The Five Love Languages,” lists down three important steps for dealing with an angry person. “First, listen. Second, listen. Third, listen,” he writes. “The best thing you can do for an angry person is to listen to his story. Having heard it, ask him to repeat it. Having heard it a second time, ask additional questions to clarify the situation. Listen at least three times before you give a response.” By having the angry person retell his or her reason for being upset, you are making them realize that you are taking their concerns seriously as well as giving them ample time to calm down. 
  1. Don’t dismiss their feelings or concerns. “Seeking to put a cap on another person’s anger is perhaps the worst way to respond to an angry person,” states Dr.Chapman. “We may not like the way the angry person is speaking to us, but the fact that he is sharing his anger is positive. The anger cannot be processed positively if it is held inside. It needs to be expressed, even if it is expressed with a loud voice.”
  1. Be calm but assertive. Even if the other person is already shouting expletives or throwing things around, do not respond with a raised voice or physical violence. “When the angry person is spewing out words and you engage in argument with him, it is like throwing gasoline on the fire,” says Dr. Chapman. “An angry person can burn all night if you continue to throw gasoline. But when you listen as the anger burns, eventually the fuel of his anger will burn out.” 

So when talking to an angry person, keep your tone even but maintain assertive body language like standing straight and maintaining eye contact. Don’t slouch or cross your arms because these convey that you are bored or not open to the communication. Don’t stand too close either; leave about a 3-foot distance between you and the other person so that you do not come across as too aggressive. 

  1. Acknowledge the other person’s anger. Anger is often a response to feeling misunderstood or ignored, so even if it’s the last thing you want to do, let the person know that you get that he or she is upset. “Put yourself in her shoes and try to view the world through her eyes.,”Dr. Chapman advises. “Ask yourself, ‘Would I be angry in the same situation?’” This is called empathy. It doesn’t matter if the person was the one at fault or if the reason for the anger is irrational. Whether one’s interpretation of the situation is correct is not the issue at this point. “This is not the stage in which to argue with the person about his interpretation. What you are trying to do is to understand his anger so that you might help him process it,” Dr. Chapman advises. 
  1. Be an active listener. Show that you are engaged with the other person by making eye contact, nodding, and using phrases like “uh-huh” and “mm-hmm.” Also, avoid using the word “but” (i.e. “I understand what you are saying BUT___”) When people hear “but,” they tend to get angry again because all they hear is “You’re wrong, I’m right.” Instead, use “and” statements like “I see your point AND I think we can fix this by ___.”
  1. Accept responsibility and offer a solution.  “If you realize that the angry person’s anger is definitive; that is, you have genuinely wronged her—intentionally or unintentionally, what you did or said was unfair and hurt her deeply—then it is time for your confession and efforts to make right the wrong you have committed,” Dr. Chapman advises. “Ask for forgiveness .”
  1. Try to find common ground between you and the angry person to help redirect the hostile situation into an amicable solution. For example, you can say something like “I understand fairness is important to you. It is to me as well. May I suggest we try ___.” This helps communicate to the other party that you are working towards the same goal. 
  1. Thank the other person. If you have been able to resolve the conflict, wrap up the conversation with a word of thanks. You can tell a customer “Thank you for allowing me to make this problem right” while you can tell a loved one “Thank you for sharing your problem with me, I now know what to do and not to do next time.”

As a final word: If you constantly find yourself fighting with a significant person in your life (i.e. a spouse, parent, sibling, or child), or he/she constantly flies off the handle at the slightest provocation, you may need to seek the services of a therapist or psychologist. Not only can these professionals mediate the situation, they can also teach both of you effective problem-solving and communication skills including how to overcome  angry feelings, strategies for expressing emotions, ways to recognize negative thought patterns that cause anger, and ways to relax and handle stress. 

Anger is a universal emotion, so no matter what you do or where you are, it is important to know how to deal with angry people calmly and firmly. Be empathetic, and always remember to stay composed and rational so that you can resolve the problem as smoothly and efficiently as possible. 

— Written by Jaclyn Lutanco-Chua of MindNation

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Employee Wellness Get Inspired Mental Health 101 Self Help Work in the New Normal

Shake It Off: How To Properly Let Go At The End Of The Day

One of the reasons people struggle to achieve work-life balance is because they find it difficult to disengage from their jobs at the end of the workday, such as eating dinner while sitting in front of the laptop or continuing to reply to emails or texts while having conversations with family members. And even if they don’t do physical work, they might end up spending the evening in bed thinking about all the work-related tasks they need to accomplish the next day. This can lead to what MindNation WellBeing Coach Nicole Fabian, RPm, calls “anticipatory stress” — or any stress that you experience concerning the future. All of these negatively impact one’s physical and mental well-being, as well as affect quality time with family members. “This is why it’s important to make a clean break from work at the end of the day; when you mentally unplug from work, you reduce stress and protect your mental health,” she advises. 

If you are one of those who find it difficult to take a break between your professional and personal times, below are some end-of-day routines that can help: 

Before leaving the office:

  • As much as possible, always end work at the same time. “Set an alarm if possible,” Nicole advises. “This sends a signal to your brain that work is over, and when you do it often enough, it will become a habit.” Don’t worry if it will look to others as if you can’t wait to go home; on the contrary, doing it this way will even make you a better employee. “You will actually become more productive and improve your time management skills because you know that you have to get all the important tasks done within your work time,” she assures.
  • Do one more small task. Whether it’s making a short phone call, signing a document, or responding to an email — these help end your work day on a positive note and leave you feeling pleased and gratified that you have one less thing to do the following day.
  • Make a to-do list. Write down all the tasks that you need to accomplish tomorrow, in order of importance. That way you can go to bed without worrying that you might forget to do something the next day. 
  • Straighten up your work area.  Clean out your email as well. Block off a few minutes to delete unnecessary CCs or spam invitations. Emails can stack up fast in the morning, so decluttering your inbox the night before makes sure you don’t miss out on the important ones the next day.
  • Have something to look forward to at the end of the work day. Whether it’s working out or catching up on your favorite tv show, have a relaxing activity that will keep your mind occupied. “Not only is it a form of self-care, it also ensures that your thoughts won’t be tempted to stray towards thoughts of work,” Nicole says. 

Outside of work: 

Turn off your email notifications or put work-related apps on mute. “If it’s really an emergency, your colleagues can call you,” Nicole points out. Remember that part of good mental health is establishing and communicating boundaries, so be sure to let colleagues know from the start that your time after work is your own. 

How you end your day has an effect on the level of stress and happiness that you carry home, which in turn can impact your health, relationships, and your overall level of happiness. Closing out your work day in an orderly and positive note makes a clean psychological transition into the personal side of life.  

–Written by Jaclyn Lutanco-Chua of MindNation

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Featured

6 Ways To Build Better Boundaries

Boundaries are basic guidelines that people create to establish how others should behave around them, including what actions are okay, what are not, and how to respond if someone breaches those limitations. Whether you are interacting with a work colleague or a romantic partner, boundaries ensure that the relationship progresses smoothly and safely. 

However, there will always be instances when you encounter people who will make you feel that your boundaries are being violated. It may be a stranger who stands too close to you or touches you (physical boundary). Or a family member who constantly pressures you to do favors for them (emotional boundary). Perhaps you experience bullying at school or in the workplace (mental boundary). These disregard for your boundaries can leave you feeling confused, anxious, drained, and stressed. We asked psychologist Ria Tirazona, RPsy, of Psych Consult Inc. to suggest ways you can build better boundaries and maintain them:

  1. Know yourself. “When setting boundaries, it’s important to know what you’re capable of,” Ria says. This means taking the time to identify your physical, emotional, and mental thresholds. What actions can you tolerate? What makes you feel uncomfortable or stressed?

Also note that while some thresholds need to be clearly defined (i.e. those that align with your core values and beliefs), Ria assures that boundaries are allowed to be fluid in other circumstances. “It may depend on your capacity at the moment, the resources that you have, or how much you’ve evolved since you’ve set that first boundary.” For example, you may have made it a policy not to ‘friend’ co-workers on social media when you are new to the company; but once time passes and you develop a better relationship with them, it’s okay to deviate from your original limit.

  1. Communicate honestly, openly, and mindfully with others. When someone does something that makes you uncomfortable, let them know right away by using “I” statements, such as “I feel __ when you do ____.” “This way, you are responding and not reacting to the emotions that you feel when your boundaries are pushed,” she explains. Doing this does not put the other party on the defensive, and will hopefully lead to a conversation on what both of you can do to create a healthier boundary. 

If all attempts at communication fail, a simple but firm “No” is always an option anytime someone does something to you that you don’t like. If you are being abused or harassed, report the incident right away to the relevant authorities. 

  1. Make your boundaries known from the very start. “This can be especially difficult to do when you are in the honeymoon stage of a romantic relationship, or when you are new to a workplace and want to fit in,” Ria points out. “But if we don’t communicate our boundaries right away, it sets the stage for miscommunication down the line.” 
  1. Don’t be concerned with what others will think. Remember that you are not responsible for the other person’s response. Know that if you break your own boundaries because you are scared of the other person’s reaction (especially that of a romantic partner), that is a HUGE red flag and deserves another topic of discussion altogether. In a healthy relationship, you should never feel afraid of the reactions of the other person.
  1. “Train” people to behave in the way you want them to treat you. “If you are always saying ‘yes,’ you are letting others know they have permission to walk all over you,” Ria points out. In the same way, don’t text people about work matters late at night if you don’t want the same to be done to you. “When you respect and reinforce other people’s boundaries, it will be easier for you to respect and reinforce your own,” Ria adds.
  1. Be patient. Establishing boundaries (and communicating these to others) takes time. In the same way that we don’t develop unhealthy boundaries overnight, we don’t develop healthy ones right away either. “Make sure to practice self-care,” Ria advises. “If you are rested, your thinking mind is clear and you can communicate better.” Also, building better boundaries is a process that requires a willingness to learn and grow. “Be creative and curious about the world around you, because those will contribute to the flexibility and openness that you will need to adjust your boundaries when circumstances call for it,” she says. 

Good boundaries not only show emotional health and self-respect, they also ensure that the relationships we are in are mutually respectful, supportive, and caring.”

Written by Jac of MindNation

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Self Help

Hold your Ground: How to Stop Saying “Yes” When You Want to Say “No”

Are you what others would call a “people pleaser?” Do you say “Yes” to every favor or request that is asked of you? Or do you spend a great deal of time doing things for other people, making all the plans, and always being there for them — all on top of (and at the expense of) your own needs and work? 

You may think that being always helpful and accommodating makes you a good person, but in reality it is an unhealthy pattern of behavior. Podcaster Danah Gutierrez of “R & R with Danah and Stacy” (@thedanahsoars) even describes the behavior as “dangerous.” “There are many negative effects from saying ‘yes’ all the time,” she says. “You will be more tired, stressed, and irritable, and increase your risk of getting burned out. But more importantly, you will resent the person asking you for the favor, which will damage your relationship in the long run.”

But many of us fear saying “No” because we worry that the other person will be disappointed or angry with us, or think we are rude or unkind. In such cases, Danah reminds us that while there is nothing wrong with wanting to maintain amicable relationships, we should not do so at the expense of our own mental health. “Saying ‘no’ also means saying ‘yes’ to yourself,” she points out. When done right, “No” can help you build better relationships and free you up to do the things that matter to you, like spending more time with your family or focusing on self-care. 

If saying “No” is a struggle, Danah recommends some ways you can start trying: 

  1. Accept that you cannot do everything. Even Superman cannot be in two places at once. If you take on multiple tasks, especially at the request of other people, you will only end up stretching yourself too thin and unable to give your best to any of your commitments. 

Also, If you find yourself saying “yes” all the time, especially when it comes to work, Danah says it could be a sign that you do not trust other people, which is also not a good trait to have. 

  1. Enforce your boundaries. Boundaries are defined as the emotional and mental space between you and another person. In order to establish boundaries in a relationship, you need to be clear with the other person about who you are, what you want, your beliefs and values, and especially your limits. “It’s your responsibility to communicate these limits to others because people are not mind readers,” Danah points out. “So if someone asks something of you but your plate is full at the moment, then say so; and if you really value the relationship, say what you can do for them the next time you are more available.” 

Danah also recounts an experience involving a friend whose boss wanted to pile more work on her; what the friend did was present an Excel chart to the boss detailing the amount of work that she was already doing. “When the boss was faced with such measurable facts, he backed off and asked someone else to do it,” she says. 

3. Be polite but direct. Say “No” in a friendly and respectful way. Do you want to decline an invitation to a party? Just reply with a simple “Thank you for the invitation but I’m afraid I already have plans.” Is a co-worker expecting you to take on extra work? You can say “Thank you for the opportunity but I don’t think it’s something I can take on right now.” “There’s no need to make the conversation dramatic, just get straight to the point,” Danah advises.  

4. Don’t make excuses or apologize. Don’t say “I’ll think about it” if you don’t really want to do it. This will just prolong the situation and make you feel even more stressed. Neither should you say sorry because all the more it will reinforce the feeling that you did something wrong by saying “No.”

5. Know that you can’t please everyone. Trying to make everyone happy is literally impossible and only guarantees that you will experience stress, frustration, and guilt. You may worry that people will be angry or disappointed in you, but odds are the majority will be fine with your decision. 

And if the other person DOES get mad at you for saying “no,” Danah suggests you respond by gently saying “I trust/love you enough to express my boundaries and I was hoping you would respect them. When you react this way, it lessens my trust in you.” “If the other person reacts badly, it’s time to assess the relationship,” Danah says. “Is it even healthy for you to continue to be in a relationship with a person who keeps pushing your boundaries even if you are communicating it nicely?” 

Like all other skills, knowing when to say “No” and having the courage to say it will take time to learn. Keep practicing it, starting with people whom you know to be understanding and trustworthy, so that you are able to say it more comfortably in other situations. Remember that once you stop saying “Yes” to every little request made of you, you prioritize more effectively, become more efficient, save time, and decrease stress. In saying “No,” you are modelling good self-care to those around you.

Written by Jac of MindNation

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Featured

Finding Ikigai

In Japanese, iki means “life” while gai means “value” or “worth.” So ikigai (pronounced “eye-ka-guy”) is about finding your life’s purpose so that everything you do becomes satisfying, worthwhile, and balanced.  

In their best-selling book Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, authors Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles interviewed the residents of Ogimi, Okinawa, a Japanese village with the highest percentage of 100-year-olds. They discovered that ikigai is one of the reasons for these villagers’ longevity.

“Research into the causes of premature aging has shown that stress has a lot to do with it,” Garcia and Miralles write. “[But] being in a hurry is inversely proportional to quality of life. As the old saying goes, ‘Walk slowly and you’ll go far.’ When we leave urgency behind, life and time take on new meaning.​ Looking back, our days in Ogimi were intense but relaxed—sort of like the lifestyle of the locals, who always seemed to be busy with important tasks but who, upon closer inspection, did everything with a sense of calm. They were always pursuing their ikigai, but they were never in a rush.”

Practicing ikigai will not guarantee that you will live up to 100, but it can certainly help make your life happy and purposeful. If you want to find your ikigai, take time to answer the questions below: 

  1. What do I love?

The question speaks to your PASSION. Answers can be concrete (i.e. photography, community service) or intangible (i.e. inspiring others, appreciating beautiful things).  

  1. What am I good at?

This refers to your PROFESSION. Sometimes the things you love (#1) will also be the things you are good at, although it’s not always the case. If you are struggling to define what you are good at, ask family and close friends for their inputs. 

  1. What does the world need from me?

This is your MISSION in life. Create a list of things you can offer the world if you are called upon. 

  1. What can I get paid for?

This question is focused on your VOCATION. What do you do that will pay the bills? List everything – planning, teaching, marketing, writing, cooking, etc. 

After you have answered all these questions start to look for commonalities. Are there obvious intersections among the four categories? If yes, then congratulations, that is your ikigai. The next step is to find a way to express ikigai in your work and home; once you have done so, you will feel happy, enthusiastic, and satisfied with the rest of your life.

Written by Jac of MindNation

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Get Inspired Mental Health 101 Self Help

A Holistic Approach To Mental Health And Wellness

There are many factors that can affect a person’s mental wellbeing. These include their physical health, personal relationships, work life, lifestyle habits, and even whether or not they feel aligned with their perceived purpose in life. This week, we will show tips on how you can acquire positive mental health by also aiming for physical, emotional, behavioral, intellectual, social, and spiritual wellness. 

Follow this blog and our social media accounts for tips on how to sleep better, maintain an exercise routine, stimulate your brain, and find meaning in your work and personal lives. And as always, if you are feeling lost, isolated, or overwhelmed, our psychologists are available for teletherapy sessions 24/7 thru bit.ly/mn-chat