To all those all-night binge watchers

Show of hands, how many of you spend more than three hours a day watching TV series? In my case three hours a day is considered a slow day.
Netflix analysed viewers of more than 20 shows from 16 countries; the data revealed at which episode the viewers fell down the rabbit hole. None of the viewers were ever hooked on the pilot episode. Dramas like ‘Breaking Bad’ and ‘The Killing’ took the viewer two episodes to get them hooked, while ‘Arrow’ and ‘How I met your mother’ took up to eight episodes. Essentially, the ‘hooked’ episode pinpoints the episode that got viewers to start binge watching.

Earlier this year, a survey was conducted at the University of Texas to study the connection between binge TV watchers and depression. The research revealed that “the more lonely and depressed the study participants were, the more likely they were to binge-watch TV”. Watchers use their shows as a getaway from reality, however; it becomes unhealthy when it interrupts daily schedules.

Watching one episode of ‘Homeland’ or ‘The Walking Dead’ can offer you the mental break you were looking for. While ‘normal’ functioning people spend an hour but what about the rest of the people, like myself, who get too comfortable and end up watching the entire series of ‘Office’ in a month? Moderation is incomprehensible. A fun break from reality can easily be abused and turned into an addiction.

The sedentary lifestyle commonly known as the ‘potato couch’ syndrome is almost always allied with an all-night marathon TV session. Not to neglect mentioning the late-night snacks combined with sitting or laying down for hours has its toll on the body fat accumulating. It can then result in obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases. Other noticeable health symptoms are the undeniable headaches and eye strains from staring at the blue screen for hours.

Side effects of pulling off an all-nighter emerge the next day when the level of productivity decreases, accompanied by the short attention span and irritability from lack of sleep.

I cannot count on the number of times I postponed or cancelled a social gathering. An iPad next to me, a cup of tea in one hand and the other holding a chocolate bar will always win over dressing up and leaving the house for a girls night out.

The first step to recovery, as the saying goes, is admitting you have a problem. What worked for me is setting a time and sticking to it. Have a plan for the next day.

My original article is posted in Gulf news your views page
Sara. H

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Adoption: the good and the bad

Growing up I gave as little information as I could about my family. I always felt this immense shame that I am adopted. That people will find out and will treat me inferiorly, because I am not meant to live in this lavish lifestyle. I needed to feel grateful no matter what.

Later on I realized part of my shame was that I believed I was less. I struggled with my inner contradictions; I had enormous ego and so little self worth. Part of me always believed there is an end game that it was bigger than this. The other part knew there was nothing special here. On a manic day I think I’ll have a reunion with my biological parents, they will be separated because they couldn’t live with eachother without me, until I come along and we all live happily ever after in a big mansion in a green land right by the river. My Cinderella story was never about a prince it was always about parents. However, in my days of depression I imagined a scenario where my mother is mentally unstable she probably lives until this day in a psych ward; my dad wants nothing to do with me. 

I often ponder why all that search, why waste all these hours thinking, day dreaming of that day. I live a good life, I may have lost my parents but I have an aunt that trumps all of my family put together. I never had to work a day in my life to support myself; I never was hungry or cold. I got to live among a family, unlike orphans who lived in an orphanage or foster kids who moved from one family to another. What is wrong with me? Is it possible that I am the only ungrateful adoptee who feels this pain? After long nights reading about adoption I confidently  can answer no. we all think we are ungrateful because that is just part of the adoptees DNA but we all crave deep down that reunion, we are all scared to confront our fear, our abandonment issues and our loneliness.

I live in Abu Dhabi; it’s the capital of the United Arab Emirates. Here we don’t really talk about it. Adoptees act like it never happened but and mostly because I am one I can identify the acts and behavior of my fellow adoptees which some are: people pleasing, not wanting to be different, we want so badly to be accepted, included. Some can swallow their pride to get a few laughs at their expense. We would embody the person you want us to be. I know I never wanted to be spotted out. I couldn’t help it, I was, I was that black duck following the yellow ducks.

Adoptees get discriminated against. I have noticed this common biasness over the years. Like the term ‘pure’ gets thrown around a lot. Being adopted right away throws you out of their pure Arab breed category. The other term ‘my flesh and blood’ that throws you more further away from your adoptive family. Growing up knowing the importance of these two aspects then realizing you don’t have them, alienates you internally and that feeling usually festers to anger and resentment.

Where you came from usually puts you in a category.  People treat you prejudicially the further your origins get away from the gulf area. I find myself fortunate that I have that common face no one suspected me for being nothing else but Emirati growing up. But I am not from the GCC, I come from Morocco. Finding out this aspect of me recently convinced me that I needed to do this. Why hide that, why not proudly lay it all out?

Its 2015 and I will soon turn 29 according to my fake birth certificate. I wasn’t born on the 29th of july, can I ever talk about it without being crippled by anxiety. Are there any adoptees in my region who feel the way I do? Do they feel alone and different but feel like they can’t speak out? Is the stigma that follows adoption something adoptees have to hide or carry around all their lives?

You grow up not knowing who you look like, what behavioral pattern you got from your father. If you have siblings, if your parents had to give you away, if they are dead, if they are poor and need your help, if.. if.. if..

A life filled -too early- with unanswered questions and never-ending ifs.

Love and peace to all.

Sara H.

@sarahumbleblog

Disney princess Syndrome

I often wonder when do kids start to notice what is beautiful and what is not. Parents, obviously, have an effect on a child’s view. Just last week a 9 and 7 year old girls mention who they find pretty and how they wish they were her. So I asked what is so beautiful about her and they replied with excitement she is white and has long straight hair. Now mind you these two girls are quite beautiful with an olive/tan skin tone which is common in the Middle East. But they hear since childhood how fair complexion makes a girl beautiful. I was once that little girl, I looked at the mirror and felt ugly because I didn’t have the right skin tone to be accepted as beautiful in my community, I tried starting from the age of 12 to look for ways to brighten my complexion. During my university days, i was complimented for my looks and i almost always shut them down because I thought this must be a pity compliment.

The first time I realized I wasn’t so bad looking was at the age of 23. What happened at that age? Not sure exactly but I have finally noticed not all girls shared the same features that I used to hold as perfect. Some were very tall, short, white, brown, black, thin, and thick and I always find something beautiful about them. Also, started to look at the most beautiful or sexiest female countdown at E! and some were Latin’s or Mexicans or black, they were not all white with long straight hair. I finally acknowledge I have a low self esteem but I also acknowledge and I hope I don’t sound obnoxious I’m not bad looking at all.

When taking a family picture, kids are often instructed in how to smile and which way to face and what or how to act, it is rarely ever natural or spontaneous.  Then people wonder where did the duck face phenomena come from.  Following what is fashionable to be accepted, regardless if it felt right. I started recently to take pictures of my nieces and nephews while they are unaware and show them how pretty they looked, at the beginning they strongly disagreed with me, some still do. But I hope in time they believe they don’t have to look a certain way and to relax and have anxiety free confident full life.

The last point I like to bring up is the Disney princesses’ unrealistically beautifully angelic looks.  Young girls spend an hour and a half watching a movie of this girl of terrible beauty who gets subjected to abuse or neglect and then finally meets her prince charming and the rest is rainbows and butterflies. This dare I say Disney princess Syndrome, starts by watching a Disney princess movie. Then by imitating these characters in order for society to view us as these characters. Then daydreaming and waiting for the moment that someday this will be us. Afterwards, realizing how unattainable these looks are. Some grow up to idolize celebrities, some resort to plastic surgery, some just never leave their parents basement and you will find them yearly in a Disney like comic-con.

It gives me great anguish to see parents or society put their kids in this self esteem roller-coaster and in such a young, fragile age.  Kids, nowadays, follow fashion and trends. They hardly ever leave their houses without accessorizing. Kids are teenagers and teenagers have become adults, it is sad to see the carefree look in their eyes disappear and to be replaced by the look of insecurity.

Love and peace to all.

Sara H.

@sarahumbleblog

Dubai New Year’s Eve celebrations and why i disapprove.

The cost of last New Year’s Eve celebration in Dubai was $6 million. This year according to Anadolu Agency half a billion was spent on the celebration. Foreigners’ population in the United Arab Emirates exceeds 70%, considering this statistic it warms my heart to see my country be this welcoming and generous toward our expat residents. There are two other reasons behind the stunning fireworks display. One, is to break the Guinness World Record second year in a row; which they successfully did. Second, was to generate more tourists, Colonel Abdullah Khalifa Al Marri, head of the Event Security Committee and deputy director of the Department of Protective Security, said, “We are expecting around 1.5 million residents and tourists at Shaikh Mohammed Boulevard, The Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa to watch the fireworks at Burj Khalifa and seven other venues.”

That being said, I have to point out the sense of disappointment I felt that no celebration of this magnitude was ever done to celebrate our religion holidays. I have been struggling whether I should voice my opinion about this topic. Does it make me less patriotic? I pray not. You can love a person but still disagree with some of their choices and the same goes to a country.

From my religion aspect, Islam allows other religions to celebrate their holidays in an Islamic country but Muslims shouldn’t part take. Now to most people (Muslims or non) this may sound like an extremist, conservative and ‘why we seem too scary to other people’ point of view.  However, if you take London or New York as an example, there are no Islamic holiday’s celebrations. The reason why maybe some Muslims don’t agree is because I don’t think they realize New Year is the celebration of the early life of Jesus: the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God; the Feast of the Circumcision; and the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus.

As I mentioned above, we do have our holidays. Why not celebrate our religion and attract the rest of the world to how beautiful it is?  it can be done when it’s announced that the next day is Eid Al-Fitr(that celebrates the end of Ramadan a holy month of fasting ) , it can be in Eid el-Adha ( which tributes the obedience of Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son Ismail (Ishmael) submitting to God’s will, before God through Jibra’il (Gabriel) discloses his sacrifice has previously been accepted.) or in the Hijri New Year (it’s called Hijri because of the emigration of prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Medina) also known as Islamic New Year.

The other reason was the amount spent to celebrate the New Year. Religiously wasting this much money is frowned upon when there are this much poverty and illnesses worldwide. Half a billion was spent for few minutes of joy for not more than 10 minutes. I couldn’t help but wonder what Syrian, Palestinian, African people thought of us if they ever heard. I wouldn’t be able to look them in the eye. I am no saint, I enjoy celebration. I just believe there should be a limit to how much we spend and consideration to the less fortunate. I wish in every coming holiday we spend less on fireworks and more competing on who donated more money and aid to counties in need. What a better world that would be.Less looking up and more looking down.

Love and peace to all.

Sara H.

New Year and it’s just in time for what?

In few hours lights will light up the sky and we will know 2015 has arrived. As you can see in all the social media sites, people started to talk about their New Year resolutions.  These last few days of every year always reminded me of coming back to school, I always had this dream of being an A student, so in the first week I will sit right there in front of the teacher taking notes, highlighting everything that matter. IT IS ON school, teachers, supervisors, I have arrived. Then I notice this cool girl to my right who is throwing chalk at the fan just to see it fly across the classroom, and think this is fun.  Another girl to my left was taking her morning nap. The distraction was tempting, I wanted to take a nap, throw chalks and jump on the table. Regardless to say, the good me has left the building.

All of you are now wondering; where is she going with this? I will gladly tell you in this coming sentence. There are a large number of us around the globe, who set unrealistic expectations for ourselves and say ‘will do this in the next year’. Just like dieting and working out, we say ‘we will start tomorrow’. It usually never starts tomorrow or at times it starts tomorrow and ends there.

We lack the will, so instead of facing our limits we look around and say I will be this and that. I have tried to be the size zero girl, tried to be the smartest or the prettiest. I failed in all; I failed because I can’t be all and also because this is what my generation wanted. I never sat long enough to write down in a piece of paper what I am good at and what I wanted to accomplish and see if they have any chance of crossing paths.

New Year resolution never last, they are wishful thinking and unrealistic at times. I don’t mean for all of you to start the New Year with this morbid thought. Instead I want you all to realize every day is a new day and every minute is a new minute. If you really want the change and it’s your calling start this second.

Sara H.

Wired kids

Nick Bilton is a prominent author and a journalist, in a recent New York Times article Mr. Bilton reveals that he once asked Steve Jobs “your kids must love the iPad?”, and to my astonishment Mr. Jobs replies “They haven’t used it. We limit how much technology our kids use at home.”

At some point in our lives we all uttered these words: “Kids nowadays are different than us when we were at their age.” I wonder at times when should we take these differences seriously. Could this reliability on gadgets actually cripple them in the future? Technology is so accessible and cheap nowadays that everyone can get their hands on it, and have their minds and eyes fixed on it. But in the long run, will it affect their scope of creativity? Will it increase health problems whether it was physical or mental? Questions that trigger my concern.

A new language was introduced to us in the recent years called texting language, majority of kids and teenagers use abbreviations (e.i. lol, omg) or what some view as cool and edgy saying da instead of the. I watched firsthand how this new language made me a lazy writer, so I am not here pointing fingers at everyone. I live in this wired world as the rest of you so I am not conservative technologically. However, keeping at it or not noticing at an early age could have a strong impact on children’s literacy growth.

Text language is not the only reason why most kids writing skills are either weak or deteriorating. Most kids rather watch movies, anything that has a visual effect and is fast paced. This consequently effects the children’s imagination. Reading helped me build my imagination, I used to image how the characters looked like, their expression, how their houses looked like, the weather, etc.

Kids in this day and age won’t be bother using their hands to create arts and crafts. You can ask kids to draw something most would ask you what and in my case kids at times ask me to google an image so they can copy it. In this previous example we are facing two problems, first they require us to find a game for them to play, second problem is they can’t think of something to draw without an a assistance. Pre-internet kids didn’t face this difficulty; they used their imagination not only in drawing but in other fields of creativity.

Another noticeable changes are in children’s and adolescents health and personality. Studies have mentioned in the last decade how technology could cause obesity. However, in the recent years parents, psychologists have observed and talked about the psychological effect of technology on kids. Children’s mentality in the resent years is all ready set and go, they don’t break things down and build them one step at a time. I noticed frustration and impatience when things take time, you might notice how easily they give up the task. In the short or long run if not restricted can cause anger issues.

According to GuardChild Kids are exposed to “29% of unwanted exposure to sexual materials.”( http://www.guardchild.com/statistics/#sthash.CNSwtBEt.dpuf) To my knowledge Parental guideless can only do so much, nowadays children are more technology savvy than their parents. This puts them at risk of making them vulnerable to inappropriate sites or topics. Take youtube for example a child could innocently watch a funny animal video but find on the sidebar other options that are supposedly related to animals, when in fact they are x-rated.

It’s hard to find a household that doesn’t own some form of technology. Therefore, educating children in how to use one is a positive move since the future demands more time facing the screen whether it was for academic reasons or work related.

Sara H.

Here i go

Writing has always been a source of comfort to me, it all started when I was 10 years old. I struggled growing up in getting my thoughts out verbally, but somehow holding a pen in one hand and a page on another felt safe. I’ve much improved since then, communication wise; however, writing is still my number one form of therapy.

If you are reading this you would expect me to major or work in media or in a creative field. But what I did was major in accounting, I never thought then it was a mistake. When I started my job as an accountant the fear settled in. I felt like it’s the end of the world, I can’t start all over again. Friends  who sat next to me in class are steps ahead of me now. So I convinced myself I needed time to settle in, maybe once I adjust to the work environment I will like it. Almost one year later, those feelings festered I had to leave but I didn’t want to feel like a failure. I then took some time off for personal reasons and never went back.

The anxiety of working as an accountant left and ‘what’s next?’ came to replace it. I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life, I felt very lost for a year. Until last week, the revelation came to me while showering as to be expected. What I finally realized is that not only did I have a journal growing up. I used to enjoy writing essays and projects; I even wrote and co-wrote some of my friends writing papers. It gave me great pleasure, I might not be a fluent writer, you could read this and find mistakes or ways you would articulate this better, and that feeling of pleasure and satisfaction won’t leave me.  I enjoy it.

I am truly fortunate to finally at the age of 28 find what brings me joy. I used to look at the years that past filled with regret and shame, I never dared to choose what I wanted. But now it all makes sense, I’ve stumbled along the way and now I arrived and it doesn’t matter if I’m late.

I’m here and ready to start this journey.

Love and peace to all.

Sara H.