The Power of Labels

Labels have become a normal part of our lives. We check labels to know the ingredients of the food we eat and find out how much fats, carbs, and proteins they have. We read labels to know how to care for our clothes, what substances are in our shampoos and other grooming products, and where the things we buy are manufactured.

But the power of labels go beyond the things around us. It can also be used to lift ourselves up or put others down.

Labels can be harmful if we use them to put people in a box and/or make fun of them. Stupid, dumb, retarded — these are the adjectives we use on those who have ADD, ADHD, dyslexia, and other conditions that make learning difficult. Slut, whore, bitch — these are the slurs we use on women who are confident enough to express themselves and embrace their sexuality. Homo, fag, abnormal — these are the words we use to describe people who don’t adhere to gender norms.

Labeling others is hurtful and useless. It doesn’t really accomplish anything. Some people might argue that labels help them understand others much better; for instance, knowing that someone has ADHD or has experienced sexual abuse might help his friends and family understand why he behaves in a certain way. While this might be true, I think it would be better for us to go beyond the labels. We tend to be focused too much labeling others and putting them in a box; it’s time to get these things out of the way and take the time to really know the person behind all the terms and legalities.

I don’t think labels are entirely bad, though. In fact, I think they can be a useful tool in helping us learn more about ourselves and eventually accept our strengths and weaknesses.

I experienced the positive effect of labels a couple of months ago. For years, I struggled to define myself: I look and feel like a woman, and I know I am a woman inside and out, but I’m attracted to men and masculine-presenting women. My friends told me I was bisexual (because I liked males and technically females), but I argued that I was straight (since I wasn’t attracted to “traditional” girls, i.e. feminine women like me).

It wasn’t until early this year when I stumbled across the term “cisgender and bisexual”. When I learned what it meant, I immediately knew that this was it. My reaction was, “Holy shit. This is ME. This is who I am.”

It might not be a big deal for you, but it sure was (and still am) for me. I’ve solved the mystery of one of the aspects of my life, and I now have another label to add to the list of terms that I use to describe myself. Minimalist. Bookworm. Introvert. INFJ. Coffee addict. Writer. Dog lover.

Cisgender and bisexual.

I’ve accepted my sexuality a long time ago, but it wasn’t until now that I have a label for it. A label that I can proudly use to describe myself. A label that helps me become more comfortable in my skin.

I can now stop asking, “Who am I? What am I?” I no longer have to wonder if I’m a freak of nature because I now know that there are others like me. All I have to do is to do a Google search with the words “cisgender and bisexual”, and I’ll find a list of pages full of stories from people who have labeled themselves the same way. People who are like me, who have gone through similar experiences and understand how tough and beautiful the journey is.

Of course, the positive effect of labels doesn’t just apply to gender and sexuality.

The acronym “INFJ”, for example, has helped me understand why I’m weirder than other people and why I’ve always felt alone and out place since I was a child. The term “minimalist” has helped me connect with other people who share my outlook on consumption and ownership and want to build more meaningful lives. The label “writer” has given me the confidence to pursue what I love to do, continue improving my writing skills, and work towards my goal of publishing a book that’s worth reading.

What are YOUR self-labels?

You’ve probably already started giving labeling yourself. If not, why not give it a try? Acknowledging your hobbies is a good place to start since it transforms you from a “doer” to a “being”. Instead of saying “I love baking”, for example, you might say “I’m a baker”; instead of stating “I like to surf”, you can claim “I’m a surfer”. It doesn’t really matter if you’re not a professional baker or if you don’t join (or win) any surfing contests. The transformation from passive “doing” to active “being” is usually enough to boost your confidence and make you feel great about yourself.

Even the simplest of labels have the power to transform your life if you take the time to understand their true meaning. Calling yourself a mother or a father means you’re blessed to have your own children, either biologically or through adoption. Calling yourself a son, a daughter, a brother, or a sister means you’re lucky enough to have a family who’s there for you through thick and thin. Calling yourself a pet owner or a pet parent means you have a dog, a cat, or any other pet who loves you unconditionally. Calling yourself a homeowner or a renter means you have a house, an apartment, or even a room that provides you with shelter and keeps you safe and warm.

Self-labeling is a powerful tool, and using positive labels for ourselves can lead to a more positive outlook in life.

Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus (aka The Minimalists) once said that we shouldn’t define ourselves based on our job titles, and I completely agree. It’s not advisable to base our self-worth on the impact of our job titles — or on the kind of car we drive, the type of house we own, the amount of money in our bank accounts, and other external factors. However, it can be helpful to use the power of labels on our inner selves. By properly labeling ourselves, we’ll get to know who we truly are, appreciate our blessings, and love ourselves more than ever.

6 Reasons Why I Quit Facebook

6 Reasons Why I Quit Facebook

It’s been more than a month since I deleted my Facebook account. I’d love to tell you that taking this step completely changed my life and made me a better person, but it hasn’t. I’m still the same old me, albeit a lighter and less-stressed version.

What I did might seem novel, extreme, or even downright weird to many people, and I don’t really expect everybody to understand. With the constant connectedness that has become normal in today’s digital age, wanting to unplug can come across as strange and even rude. After all, why would you cut the lifeline that connects you to your friends and family? Why would you want to stop looking at pictures and videos of your loved ones?

In my case, though, quitting Facebook was the most logical step to take because it allowed me to:

1. Avoid relying on others for self-esteem

If you don’t get an ego boost from having numerous Likes, Shares, and Comments, I applaud you. You have a healthy self-esteem, which I unfortunately don’t have. I enjoyed the rush that came from posting a status or photo that my friends liked and commented on. In fact, I enjoyed it too much that I was constantly thinking of how I could duplicate the experience and come up with another well-liked and well-commented post. I also became sad when my posts didn’t garner as much attention as I wanted.

These might seem normal reactions. After all, isn’t that why most people are on social media to create content that would make our friends and family smile or laugh? But I have come to realise that I don’t like it. I don’t want my self-esteem to fluctuate based on the number of Facebook likes and comments I got. I don’t want my happiness to be based on the popularity of my Facebook posts. It’s time to look into myself and find happiness and confidence from within me.

2. Escape FOMO

You’ve probably heard of the Fear of Missing Out or FOMO. Hundreds of articles have already been written about this topic, and I’m here to tell you that FOMO is real. You may feel it, too, when you scroll through the fabulous OOTDs or breathtaking holiday photos of your friends and you look at your life and wonder why you’re not enjoying the same things.

FOMO can be great in small doses because it forces you to assess the way you live, determine what you want to change in your life, and take steps to improve your existence as a whole. But, when you’re exposed to FOMO every single day, it can make you sad and even depressed because you’re constantly comparing yourself to other people. You begin to hate yourself and your life because you’re missing out on a lot of things. You begin to forget that most of the things posted on social media are well-curated and that what you’re seeing are only little perfect snapshots into your friends’ imperfect lives.

So I try to stay away from FOMO as much as possible. I’m not trying to escape the fact that my life kind of sucks compared to my friends, former classmates, and old co-workers who are having the time of their lives. But I want to fix my life at my own pace. I want to fix my life because I want to, not because I feel like I have to because So-and-So are taking a Europe trip/going to Disneyland/buying a condominium unit and I’m not.

3. Create relationships in the real world

Facebook is great for finding your old friends, classmates, and colleagues and catching up with each other. But how many of these digital catch-ups have turned into real-world meetings? If you’re like me, the answer is probably “Zero”.

It’s easy to touch-base with other people on Facebook and think you’re doing enough to keep friendships alive. But remember: nothing can really replace face-to-face meetings with your friends. If you find yourself relying on Facebook to make new friends and maintain the old ones, it’s time to re-think your strategy.

4. Tune out online negativity

Here’s the thing: everyone has the right to post whatever they want on their Facebook accounts. If you want to complain about a restaurant’s poor service, you can. If you want to rant and rave about the bad day you’re having, you can. If you want to throw shade at another person’s outfit or love life, you can.

This doesn’t mean that other people will love reading what you have to say, though.

I don’t want to stop people from posting whatever they want on Facebook because it’s their choice. But I also have to make my own choice: get sucked in by other people’s negativity, or surround myself with positivity.

I choose the latter.

5. Avoid annoying people with my own negativity

Negativity is a two-way street. I’m only human, so I’m also prone to posting senseless drivel on Facebook without realising that I’m annoying those who read my posts. It might seem like a natural part of being on Facebook, but I realised that I wasn’t giving any value to anyone through my status updates. I was only unloading my fears, anger, and disappointment on my friends, who’d have to suffer the torment of reading my posts on their news feed.

So I’ve resolved to stop doing so. If I have anything valuable to share, I’d write about it here in my blog. If I just wanted to complain, I’d keep it to myself.

6. Have more control over my time

Have you ever promised yourself that you’d just peek at Facebook for two minutes, but you end up scrolling through your news feed for two hours?

I have.

A few months before I completely quit Facebook, I experimented with not opening my FB account for weeks, but I always felt the urge to log in to see if anybody had sent me any private messages. I guess I’m a stickler for staying on top of messages; I always read my e-mails first thing in the morning (so I have zero unread emails), and I can’t stand not knowing if anyone has sent me a message or not. This trait does help me stay on top of things, but it also caused me to waste my time because I’d always get sidetracked with the temptations on my Facebook news feed. As a result, I became less productive and usually worked until 3:00 A.M. just to keep up with deadlines.

So I decided to quit Facebook. Now that they can’t reach me through FB, my friends have no choice but to text me or send me an email. This hits two birds with one stone: my friends know they can always reach me since my phone and email are always on, while I no longer have to open Facebook (and face its time-consuming temptations) just to check for private messages. I’ve also noticed that exchanging e-mails with my friends leads to deeper and more thoughtful conversations. This usually didn’t happen with our Facebook chats, which usually were harried as if we were just stopping to yell “Hi! Bye!” to each other.

So that’s it. These are the reasons why I deleted my Facebook account. I’d like to point out, though, that I’m not completely Facebook-free since I’ve created a new FB account. It might sound contradictory to everything I’ve mentioned above, but I’ve found out that there are really times when I need to be on Facebook. In my case, I use my new account to get news and updates from The Minimalists, from my favourite charity Island Rescue Organization, and from our utilities providers (which post updates about upcoming blackouts and water service interruptions). I haven’t added any friends to this new account, though, so I’m still able to have more control over my time, focus on my real-world relationships, and keep negativity at a minimum.

Quitting Facebook isn’t for everybody. If Facebook isn’t your only source of self-esteem, and if it isn’t messing with your schedule and making you feel FOMO, there’s no reason to give it up. But, if you want to simplify your life, you might want to experiment with quitting Facebook for a short amount of time, like a week or two. Who knows? You might discover that you don’t really need it and that giving it up allows you to have more time for more meaningful things.

My Online Shopping Experience, Part 2: AMAZON and MYSHOPPING BOX

amazon and my shopping box graphic

After creating my GCash Amex account and putting money in it, I was ready to buy the books I wanted on Amazon. But wait: what are these books, and why am I so hung up on them?

The books I wanted to have were “Everything That Remains”, “Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life”, and “Essential: Essays by the Minimalists” — all written by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, the duo behind the popular website TheMinimalists.com. I’ve wanted to read these books ever since I stumbled upon The Minimalists’ site around two years ago, because I believe they can help me learn what it means to be a minimalist and figure out what my own flavor of minimalism should be like. But, as I mentioned in my last post, I couldn’t find these books anywhere in the country, so I had no choice but to buy them online.

Fortunately, I could now buy them with my GCash Amex account. I went to Amazon, ordered the three books, and entered the California address that GCash and MyShopping Box had given me as both my shipping address and billing address. Amazon’s final price was only around PHP1,860 (including tax), but I ended up paying PHP1,913.43 for the entire order because GCash Amex charged me an additional amount. According to its website, “American Express charges a standard 1.5% above the tagged market rate, while GCash charges a standard 1.5% on top of American Express’ rates”.

I admit — I was nervous because it was my first time doing an online transaction with a sort-of credit card, and I wasn’t sure it would go through! I was scared that my hard-earned PHP1,900 would go drifting off into cyberspace, never to be seen again. Fortunately, my paranoid fears didn’t come true; I did everything correctly and my order pushed through.

I placed my order with Amazon on May 14, and the books arrived at MyShopping Box’s California address on May 18. MyShopping Box offers two shipping options for books: by sea (which costs USD2.99 per pound and takes 45 to 60 days), and by air (which costs USD5.99 per pound and takes 10 to 12 days). I chose the latter and ended up paying almost PHP600, still through my GCash Amex account. (The books weigh almost 2 pounds as a whole, BTW.)

I paid the shipping fee on May 18 and expected my books to arrive 10 to 12 days after, which would fall on May 28, 29, and 30. But these days came and went without the package arriving, so I emailed MyShopping Box’s customer service and asked when I would get my order. The customer service agent reminded me that it was actually 10 to 12 business days, which meant that I’d receive my order on June 1 to 3. He also informed me that my order was expected to arrive in Manila on June 2 and that I would receive it a few days after that because I live in a provincial address (I’m in Cebu) and it takes them an additional four days to deliver to provincial addresses.

That was okay with me; at least I already had a date to look forward to. Imagine my surprise when I received a call from MyShopping Box’s delivery man on the morning of June 2, informing me that he was in the neighborhood looking for my house! I happily ran out to meet him and sign some delivery receipts and stuff, and I ecstatically received my long-awaited books.

minimalist books delivery

So that’s my experience. All in all, I had to wait 19 calendar days from the time I placed my order on Amazon to the time I received my books, and I spent around PHP2,600 in total. If you’re planning to use GCash Amex and MyShopping Box to buy books and other things from Amazon, here are some tips you can use:

1. Calculate the weight and volume of the products you’ll buy. Having this information can help you estimate your shipping costs and figure out how much you’ll pay. In my case, I checked the Product Details section in Amazon, which provides information about books’ shipping weight as well as their dimensions.

2. Always account for GCash Amex’s additional charges to ensure that you have enough money in your account to pay for your order. Amazon charged me USD39.72 or around PHP1,860, but GCash Amex took PHP1,913.43 out of my balance.

3. When placing your order on Amazon, remember that your billing address and shipping address should be the same. Use the address that Globe and MyShopping Box would send you through email when you sign up for GCash Amex. If you lose this address, don’t worry since you can retrieve it by dialing *143#, choosing GCash >> GCash Amex >> View Account Details then entering your four-digit PIN. Globe will send your account details through SMS.

4. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with MyShopping Box if you have questions. You can contact them here.

5. Don’t get carried away with online shopping! Whether you’re a minimalist or not, it’s important to think your purchases through. Sleep on it before placing your order, and ask yourself: Why do I want to buy this thing? Will it add value to my life? Do I really need it? Asking these questions will help you determine if you should proceed with your order or not.

This is my experience with buying books online. Every experience is different, but I hope this article will help you buy books and other things that will add meaning to your life and even encourage you to pursue minimalism.

My Online Shopping Experience, Part 1

My Online Shopping Experience Part I GCASH AMEX

Since I’ve incorporated minimalist principles into my life, I no longer go shopping as much as I used to. But I’m just a human with needs and wants, so there are times when I really, really have to buy something.

Unlike other people my age, though, I’m not really much of an online shopper. I’m the kind of person who wants to touch and feel a product before I buy it, so I stick mostly to brick-and-mortar shopping. I also don’t have a credit card, so my only experience with online shopping has been with Lazada and Fully Booked — both of which allowed me to pay for my items in cash and in person.

This used to be enough for me but, for several months now, I’ve been wanting to read certain books on minimalism that I couldn’t get here in the Philippines. (Filipino book lovers with no credit cards to their name will understand my plight and know just how frustrating this situation can be). I’ve scoured numerous bookshops here in Cebu but couldn’t find the books I wanted anywhere. I’ve asked Fully Booked if I could order the books from them but was told by their representative that they can’t get the titles for me.

So I had no choice but to take matters into my own hands. Fortunately, a few months ago, I stumbled into a solution: Globe’s GCash Amex.

Before I proceed, I just want to make things clear: I AM NOT AFFILIATED with Globe and the other companies that would be mentioned below and won’t earn anything from mentioning their brands. I’m writing this blog post not to earn money but to help Filipinos like me who want to buy something online.

CREATING MY GCASH AMEX ACCOUNT

Okay, so I learned about GCash Amex when I was on Google and searching for ways to buy products on Amazon without using a credit card. I can’t remember what URL I clicked, but the website mentioned GCash Amex and talked about how easy it was to use.

So I did further research and found this out: GCash Amex is a part of Globe’s GCash service and acts as a virtual credit card. Users won’t receive a physical card, but they can put funds into their GCash Amex account and use it like a regular credit card to buy products on online stores.

I have postpaid and prepaid accounts with Globe and am generally satisfied with their service (apart from their data caps, mysteriously disappearing prepaid loads, etc.), so I decided to give it a try. I didn’t have an existing GCash account account, but Globe’s website said it was fine, so I signed up right away. I guess I was lucky: I signed up on March 31, 2016, which was the last day that Globe was waiving the subscription fee for GCash Amex, so I didn’t have to pay the fee.

After I completed the enrollment, GCash sent me an email that confirmed my registration and gave me my GCash Amex card number details. They also gave me my MyShoppingBox details, which include my username and password and the California address that I should use as my shipping and billing address.

For those who aren’t familiar with it, MyShoppingBox is a logistics company that GCash Amex is affiliated with, and they deliver people’s online purchases from U.S. sites to the Philippines. (I guess you can compare them with Johnny Air Cargo.) All the purchases that you make with your GCash Amex card will automatically be shipped by MyShoppingBox, (although I’ve read somewhere that you also have the option to choose another logistics company). So if I’d buy books on Amazon, for instance, I’d input the MyShoppingBox California address both as my shipping address and billing address, and Amazon will ship my books to it. MyShoppingBox will then ship the books from California to the Philippines.

PUTTING FUNDS INTO MY GCASH AMEX ACCOUNT

I calculated the price of the books that I wanted to buy on Amazon as well as the possible shipping fees that I’d have to pay to MyShoppingBox, and I found out that I had to have around Php3,000 in my account. But I waited for a few months before I put money into my GCash Amex account because 1) I was anxious about putting cash in a service that I haven’t tried and tested yet and 2) I didn’t have enough money in the first place.

But I earned a few extra pesos from my writing gigs and ultimately saved enough cash. Once I had the money, I went to the nearest Globe store, told the clerk that I wanted to put funds into my GCash, and was given a form to fill up. My advice for you is this: make sure to fill out the form with all the necessary details, and don’t forget to write clearly. This is particularly true when you write down the mobile phone number that’s connected to your GCash account. You don’t want your money to go to another person’s account.

Once it was my turn, I gave the cashier the form and my money and was asked to present a valid ID (thankfully I carry one around anywhere I go). But I ran into a little problem: the cashier asked me to check my phone because she sent a message to my mobile number and I had to reply to it with my GCash MPIN. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring the SIM card that my GCash account is tied to (and I couldn’t remember my MPIN, anyway).

The cashier told me that we could still proceed by doing a self-to-peer transaction — which basically like me sending money to another person, although the money would still be placed in my account. Self-to-peer transactions cost a certain amount (while self-to-self transactions are free), so I had to pay another Php60 on top of my Php3,000. All because I forgot to bring my Globe SIM.

So, when you’re ready to put money into your GCash AMEX, here’s my advice: bring a valid ID as well as the SIM that’s tied to your GCash AMEX account. And don’t forget your MPIN, too, since you’ll need to send it to the cashier before she can complete your transaction. If you forget your MPIN, you can dial 2882 to reset it (which I haven’t done yet, TBH).

END OF PART 1

So that’s it! This is how I opened my GCash AMEX account and put money in it. In my next blog post, I’ll discuss how I used my virtual credit card to buy books online. I just want to remind everyone, though: I’m not advocating using GCash AMEX to go on an online shopping spree. In my case, I used it to buy books on minimalism that I have been wanting to read for almost two years. I’m also planning to use it to buy a copy of the Minimalism Film, a documentary about minimalism that’s created by Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Millburn (aka The Minimalists). And I hope that’s what you’ll do, too: use GCash AMEX not to buy items that would end up getting stuck in the back of your closet, but to purchase books, films, and other things that add value and meaning to your life.

4 Things I’ve Learned from The 100 Thing Challenge

The 100 Thing Challenge title page

I recently bought and read The 100 Thing Challenge by Dave Bruno (you can read my review about it here). It’s an interesting book, and I recommend it to everybody who has a bad shopping habit or just wants to live a simpler, more improved life. The book is packed with many nuggets of wisdom from Dave, all of which are helpful for people like me who want to adopt the minimalist lifestyle. Here’s a list of some of the things I learned:

1. People usually don’t know (or admit) that they have consumerism problems.

Dave mentions in his book that he ran a blog about consumerism but didn’t really recognised that he had a problem with shopping and having too much stuff. It was only when he took a long look around his home that he realised that he had issues with buying and consuming more than he needed.

The same thing happened to me. Until I read The 100 Thing Challenge, I had thought that I didn’t have a problem with consumerism. I even felt smug about myself because I was an underbuyer and wasn’t into shopping as other people my age. But I was so wrong. Yes, I didn’t buy as many things as other folks did, but I still placed a lot of expectations on the stuff that I did buy (more on that later). And that is a sign of consumerism.

2. People always want more and more.

Dave points out in his book that “American-style consumerism” propagates the thought that more is always better and prevents people from being contented with what they have. He also discusses how this principle translates into business, with many entrepreneurs giving into the pressure of growing their ventures and achieving more success every year.

I think this is true. In my case, the consumerist principle of “more and more” has entered my life as a freelancer. I want to accept more and more writing assignments, even when my schedule can no longer accommodate them. I want to keep on writing and writing, even when my body says that I should stop and sleep and get enough rest. I want to earn more so I’d have enough money in case my parents (who are in their 60s) get sick and need to be hospitalised. I want to earn more so I can prepare for my retirement as well as for rainy days. But should I risk my health just to achieve all that?

I know the answer should be “No”. But, sometimes, it’s hard to resist the temptation of “more and more”.

3. People associate things with happiness and/or contentment.

Dave talks about how he bought toy trains, adventure gear, and woodworking tools to achieve his childhood dreams and become the “ideal” man. He discusses how he placed high expectations on these items and turned to them to heal childhood wounds and become the person he wasn’t meant to be.

I can certainly relate; I’ve bought a lot of things in the past that I thought would help me transform into a better person. One time, I figured that running would help me lose weight, so I bought a Habagat gym bag and a book titled “Run Less, Run Faster: Become a Faster, Stronger Runner with the Revolutionary 3-Run-a-Week Training Program”. I also bought two boxes of Nestle low-fat milk because they came with a free pedometer.

I bought all of these things partly because I figured I’d need them to make running easier, but also partly because I thought they’d help me love running. They didn’t. I still don’t like to run.

So I’ve learned a lesson: never put a lot of expectations on your things. Use them to make your life easier and enjoy your hobbies more, but never expect them to transform you into the person you want to become.

4. People need to redefine “prosperity”

Habitual shopping has become the measure of affluence for individuals as well as whole regions,” Dave writes in The 100 Thing Challenge. “Prosperity must be displayed or else it will be in doubt.”

I’ve mentioned in my book review that I have many favourite quotes in the book, but these are the two sentences that grabbed my attention. Why? Because I can definitely relate to them. And maybe you can, too. Displayed prosperity is easy to spot, especially in the Philippine society: rich people flaunting their riches and middle-class people trying to keep up (and even ending up in debt because of all their keeping up).

Now, as Dave has said, I don’t want to deny anyone their right to buy and own stuff. And I certainly don’t think that I can change the mindset of everyone in the world. But what I hope is that, someday, people will realise that having lots of material things isn’t the only measurement of prosperity. Having inner peace, enjoying strong relationships with our loved ones, living a contented life — these are the signs of prosperity of the soul, and these are what we should be striving for.

Early Christmas Gift!

Merry Christmas

People all over the world are looking forward to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. But, for many minimalists, Christmas has come a day early because The Minimalists (aka Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus) are giving away a free copy of their book, Minimalists: Live a Meaningful Life!

Personally, I am SO FREAKING AWED by this news because I’ve been wanting to get my hands on their books, and now I can have a copy of their every first book! It’s actually the second edition, but the gist is still there. I’m excited to learn about the Five Values!

You can get your own copy, too, by going to Gumroad.com. You’ll only need to provide your email address, and the PDF will be delivered right to your inbox. Of course, if you want to buy a print copy of the book (or any of their books, for that matter), you can grab a copy on Amazon or order one from Fully Booked.

Gift-giving goes both ways so, if you want to thank Joshua and Ryan for the free book and give them a Christmas present, you can leave a review for Minimalists: Live a Meaningful Life on Amazon and help improve its overall rating.

Merry Christmas, everybody!!!

**Disclaimer: The Minimalists, Amazon, and Gumroad aren’t paying me anything. I’m just writing this post to share the good news and bring good tidings for Christmas! 🙂

3 Things I’ve Learned from Adult Colouring Books

I’m not exactly a newbie to this colouring craze. After I graduated from college, I bought myself a set of 48 colour pencils and four Looney Tunes colouring books. I got these out whenever I was bored and coloured Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Tweety Bird, Sylvester the Cat and the Tasmanian Devil to life.

But eventually I got tired of them. Some time this year I decided I was too old for Looney Tunes ― I mean, come on, I’m 27 freaking years old ― so I gave away my four colouring books (which still had hundreds of empty pages) to my nieces and nephews. I kept my 48 colour pencils, though.

It was lucky I did, because I received two adult colouring books as a good-bye gift from my colleagues when I resigned from work. I never expected to receive them; I had been planning to buy one colouring book in the near future, so imagine how happy I was to receive two! (Special thanks to Jona and Ganda for them. ^_^ )

Colorig Books from Ganda and Jona
New colouring books!

So, since I’m now unemployed, I’ve spent some time colouring my new colouring books. I love picking out a colour to use, sharpening the pencils using my brand-new sharpener and making sure I colour inside the lines (a feat I haven’t mastered yet even though I graduated from kindergarten 21 years ago). I love leaving my problems behind and just focus on adding life and colour to a black-and-white page.

Along the way, I also learned three important lessons, which I’m sharing below:

1. You must enjoy the journey

I’m naturally an impatient person and a constant worrier. With my OCD tendencies, I can’t really relax until I’ve solved a problem, ironed out the kinks in a plan and generally made sure that everything is okay. I get fretful and jittery when something goes wrong, when I’m faced with uncertainties, when I don’t have full control over everything.

So, naturally, I got a bit antsy when I started colouring a page. Everything was so blank, so white, and I wanted to fill the entire page with bright colours right away. The rational part of my brain told me this wasn’t possible, but the little OCD corner of my mind fretted anyway. What if I couldn’t make the page beautiful? What if I couldn’t finish the page and leave it half-coloured, half-white? What if it wasn’t perfect?

Colouring book page
An unfinished page — the white spaces are anxiety-inducing!

But, as I slogged on and continued colouring, I realised one thing: finishing the picture wasn’t the most important part. Sure, it’s nice to look at a fully coloured page and admire your handiwork, but it’s more important to enjoy the journey towards creating that fully coloured page. Immerse yourself in the process. Concentrate on deciding which pencil to use. Try to colour inside the lines. Have fun as you turn a white ribbon to red, a white grape to violet, a white lollipop to swirls of pink and turquoise and purple.

Enjoy the process and let it soothe you. It’s not called “art therapy” for nothing.

2. You need to learn to spend out

“Spend out”. This is one of the Twelve Commandments of one of my favourite authors, Gretchen Rubin. Like me, Gretchen is an underbuyer and has a “miserly nature” (her own words). According to her blog, she finds herself “saving things, even when it makes no sense” ― and I can fully relate. I try to purge myself of this tendency (in fact, it’s one of the reasons why I created this blog), but it’s too ingrained in my personality that getting rid of it is no walk in the park.

This tendency reared its head when I first held my colour pencils and colouring books (and it still does every now and then). Should I really colour these brand-spanking-new books? Shouldn’t I store them away to preserve their newness? Should I really use my colour pencils? Should I really sharpen them? Shouldn’t I just enjoy looking at their almost-new lengths?

Colour pencils
Favorite colouring pencils

But then I realised: Gretchen is right. I need to “spend out”. There’s no sense in saving colour pencils and colouring books because being used is their purpose. They need to be used and sharpened and coloured on for them to fulfil their purpose.

So I try to follow this advice and use not just my colouring stuff but other items as well. Spend out: don’t waste things just by letting them rot away in a corner.

3. You’re never too old for anything

I am too old for Looney Tunes, but I’m not too old for colouring books. Colouring is for everybody, and it is especially helpful to people who are stressed since it helps them forget their worries and anxieties at least for a few minutes.

Colouring, for me, is therapeutic. As I’ve mentioned above, it lets me set aside my problems as I focus on giving life to a black-and-white illustration. It helps me forget the responsibilities of the adult world as I focus on less stressful choices, like choosing a colour and deciding which picture I should colour first. It gives me a small sense of satisfaction as I finish colouring a picture and see the final, technicolour result.

Colouring, as I’ve mentioned, is for everybody, but not everyone might enjoy it. Still, for those who do, keep it up and let your crayons, colour pencils and colouring books inspire you.