Naila Qazi

Taking care of your mental health during COVID !

New hobbies and new learning, especially during COVID, are very topical due to the enormous rise in depression and mental health issues. There are healing impacts of hobbies on our brains and the psychological and biological benefits to our lives.

In the past nine months, I started a new hobby in COVID, and I have surprised myself. I have changed a dump of a backyard into a garden, and it feels great!

It is learning something new and appreciating myself, a positive self-regard about what I could do, starting with absolutely no skills in something. The brain-boosting impacts of hobbies and new learnings have scientific evidence, and the results are both emotional and mental. 

 I am still working on my gardening skills. I never thought gardening will help so much keeping my sanity in isolation and under remote working conditions of COVID.

Hobbies are not equally ranked regarding their brain-boosting impacts. I was reading Dr. John Randolph’s article on ‘The Benefits of Brain-Boosting Hobbies.‘ he cites that people who engage in specific activities—such as playing a musical instrument, doing crossword puzzles, or playing games—tend to have better memory and executive functioning skills and a reduced risk of dementia. These are long term benefits. But these activities are quick mood changers as well.

To understand the human brain and brain-boosting hobbies, Dr. Daniel Amen’s book ‘Change your Brain, Change your Life‘ is my go-to book. Some of the hobbies that heal our brains are fun, and I am sure anyone of us can start anytime, even when we are alone.

Some of the brain-boosting fun hobbies include:


‘Sing whenever, wherever you can,’ says Dr. Amen. It has a healing effect on the temporal lobes (parts of the brain that deal with memory and mood).

Several studies support that healing music, for example, Mozart, “warms up” the brain. Research at the University of California and later, a study conducted by Frances H. Rauscher demonstrated that listening to Mozart —‘listening to complex, high-quality music facilitates the same neuronal patterns as doing math or playing chess.’ The Mozart Effect, an experiment conducted by Don Campbell, describes the positive impact of music on learning and mood stability.

In East Asian cultures, singing is a very common form of storytelling. I remember, growing up as a curious kid, I would sit with my grandpa and listen to a guy who would come in summer evenings; we would all sit in an open backyard and sing the messages of inclusion, humanity and celebration of life. He would sing Sufi Kalam (verses of Sufi poets). I still remember what I have learned through the rhythm; I think it stimulated my temporal lobes forever!


Chanting along with rhythmic movements has been found to bring tranquillity, peace and openness of mind. Some studies have shown that religious chanting and praying alleviate negative emotions of fear and stress.


Dancing and other forms of rhythmic body movements boost cerebellum activity – a part of the brain involved with physical and thought coordination.

Table Tennis    

Some studies regard table tennis as the world’s best brain sport. In a Japanese study, people went through a brain imaging exercise after playing table tennis for just ten minutes. It was fascinating to observe an increase in the prefrontal cortex (part of the brain involved in executive functions such as focus, thinking and planning, etc.)

Humming and toning 

Voice enhances moods and has a positive impact on memory. Dr. Amen describes that toning balances brain waves, reduces the heart rate, and increases a general sense of well-being. Certain sounds, for example, Ahhh, Ee or Ay and oh or Om, have a positive effect on the body and mood. Humming and toning lift the mood, and I enjoy it!

To learn more about other hobbies and new learning you want to start during COVID, look at these resources.

Let’s Combat Limiting Beliefs

Are you an entrepreneur looking to reach the top, but something is holding you back? Or are you a professional in a corporate setting where you think you cannot have any career growth? I have been there, and after two decades of success and failures, I now believe that there is nothing that a strong, independent, and confident woman cannot achieve.

Looking back at my low self-esteem and self-confidence, I have come to understand that the above-stated problems were deep-rooted in my own limiting beliefs about myself. The problem was never the circumstances; it was in the way I have perceived them. Limiting beliefs paralyzed my progress both as an entrepreneur and later as a corporate woman. 

The truth is, I could have achieved whatever I wanted if I had dealt with the negative ideas that blabbered in my mind all day long. Every voice that told me that I am not competent enough to achieve my goals was a foe. It was this negative self-talk that painted the canvas around me with damaging paint. But, once I learnt to fight that voice, all my dreams started manifesting themselves in my life.


You can be excellent at what you do, everyone envies your success story, but that is not what you want. You have a notion about your career growth. However, the voice in your mind tells you that you are not good enough to achieve those milestones. Therefore, you find giving up easier than striving for something so difficult. That is what we call limiting beliefs. You are undermining your brilliance, and that is unfair to your potential. Hampering the boundary of your potential eventually leads to very severe implications. Other than having a strong impact on your mental health, it can cause some real damage in your professional life. For example, you have a splendid idea that you want to pitch to your boss, but you do not pitch the idea to her due to lower self-confidence. Someone else pitches the same idea, and it turns out to be a hit. What refrained you from becoming the superstar in this situation is that one minute of disbelief in your potential. If you had the positive mindset, and the correct strategies to step up, you would have achieved something spectacular. This small example is the primary reason behind many female professionals’ career lag. 

“We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we stop to look fear in the face…We must do that which we think we can’t.” — Eleanor Roosevelt.


Sometimes, limiting beliefs can interrupt your self-defence mechanism against a toxic situation in the workplace. It is not about growth all the time; it is crucial to protect your integrity and self-esteem at times. Limiting beliefs about your strength can lead you to suffer in an unbearable dilemma. You may be stuck in a dilemma that doesn’t like, or you may be compromising at a lower position within an organization and still feel that you are not good enough to move away from these toxic circumstances. It does not prevent you from achieving your set goals but also bruises your confidence.

Let’s combat your limiting beliefs together 

The mind is a powerful organ, and your thoughts can do wonders. Taking control of your thoughts can help you take control of your life and career. A positive change in your mindset can put you on the path to achieving your ultimate goals. Whenever you undermine your capabilities, understand that you are highly influenced by a negative thought pattern that deters you from reaching the top. How to tackle limiting beliefs and achieve your goals? First, you need to have a roadmap, a plan to set you on track. There’s nothing wrong with accepting that you need assistance. You are capable; all you need is the proper, holistic approach that will help you to move forward and achieve your vision. Whether you are an entrepreneur or a professional, we are here to help you gain the momentum you seek. Tell us about yourself, book a free session to explore options. Get on a journey to achieve everything you have ever wished for.

Tulips and Roses – A Reflection of My Life Journey

Last year, when I was working on my backyard, I decided to plant some tulips as they complemented the entire feel of the place. A lot of effort went into finding the perfect spot for the Tulips, planting and, nourishing them. The result was spectacular. They adorned the place this year, in March. However, little did I know that the life of tulips is as little as four weeks. All the effort and energy invested in the Tulips subsided as they wilted after finishing their course. It was depressing to see them going and creating empty space, but soon enough, beautiful roses and all other colorful annuals replaced the Tulips and looked stunning in my backyard. Being closely affiliated with the whole process, I found it so inspiring. Everything gets replaced by something better in life. Whatever circumstances that we go through pave the way for something better. We need to keep an eye on all possibilities and options. There is no dead-end if we have the motivation to move forward. All we need is the right attitude, and actions follow the attitude.

There was a time in my life when I thought I had reached a dead-end. I lived in Australia at the time. All my financial stability, personal life, and career jolted. I heard people telling me that it was time to give up on hope, live a mediocre life as it was unrealistic to expect something extraordinary out of such a bad-looking situation. But I didn’t want to give up. Something in me was not willing to surrender. Therefore, I decided to explore other possibilities, I moved to Canada and took a fresh start. It wasn’t easy, and nothing was fascinating about it. Starting life all over again is a huge challenge, but I was willing to work through it. Years of working, experience, and here I am living the dream. Professionally, personally, and in all other aspects of life, I have thrived.  It further emphasizes the point of roses replacing the Tulips. Doesn’t it?

Losing and gaining is a part of life. We have to embrace the loss to gain something good in life. You might be feeling suffocated in your professional life, you don’t see any growth in your career, the dissatisfaction of underperformance might be making you angry, your financial state might be unsatisfactory, or the work-life balance might be stressing you out; remember one thing: Nothing is permanent.

My summer reading this year!

With the Covid situation, lockdown, and remote work, this summer was perfect to revisit some of the books I had read but still enjoyed several times. Here are five books that I read this summer, and some are still on my nightstand.

  • Madhur Jeffery’s Ultimate Curry Bible

I have a never-ending love for Soth East Asian cuisine and delicate curries. This book perfectly covers the art of making curries comprehensively. The far-fetched reach of curries inspired many cuisines, including Sri Lankan, Thai, Burmese, etc. I loved reading about the history, recipes, tips, and tricks of curries. With more than a hundred Asian, European, and French curries recipes, the author has interjected some unique ideas to master the art of curry cooking. The book also extends some mouth-watering side dishes’ recipes that go best with the curries. All in all, it is an exciting read.

  • The Five Choices- the Path to Extraordinary Productivity by Franklin Covey Co.

This book provides insight into a 5-choices method that is compelling and simple. The book is well-researched and recommends a reliable way to manage work-life balance and increase personal and organizational productivity. As most people get stuck in a loop and never find their extraordinary potential, the researchers at Franklin Covey have worked out this 5-choices system that was truly helpful in stabler decision-making and improving our focus as individuals and organizations.

  • ADKAR: A Model for Change in Business, Government, and Our Community by Jeffery M. Hiatt

ADAKR (Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, Reinforcement) is a well-known change management model. I like this book because it explains the model at personal and organizational levels and lays out practical and step-by-step approaches and tactics to manage change.

The most impressive part is how the author has sketched the framework, easy to understand even if you are not a ‘change practitioner. It’s a must-read if you are looking to manage or influence change.

  • Change your Brain, Change your Life by Daniel G. Amen

The book is all about healing the brain to transform our lives. It was fascinating and astounding how we can manage anxiety, depression, anger, or impulsiveness with the help of ‘brain prescriptions’ by Dr. Amen that can help to heal our brain and change our life. It gives you a deeper dive into optimizing your brain with the help of simple habits, natural techniques and daily life routines.

  • A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

Fiction is the perfect escape from reality, and this book gives nothing but a fantastic story with some brilliant insights into the lives of lovers stuck in a war-torn epoch. It is the love story of a nurse and an American ambulance driver amid the dark shadows of war. The novel is based on actual events, making the reading experience much more gripping and exciting. I’ve read this book several times. Every time I get blown away by the writing style of the author and the exceptional storyline. It’s a classic by the maestro, Hemingway, and it’s nothing short of brilliant. If you are looking for a sweeping story, go for this one!

Bikini or Shorts: Let the Women Choose!

It is absurd and inappropriate that the women still have to face the patriarchal implications despite so much awareness. The recent incident is no different. Why should the Norwegian women’s beach handball team wear bikini bottoms against their will? I don’t see any reasoning because there isn’t any. It’s another fragment of sexualizing women despite their capabilities and accomplishments.

The Norwegian women’s beach handball team was imposed a heavy fine by the European Handball Association’s Disciplinary Commission for ‘improper dressing’ during Euro 2021 tournament. The female athletes were directed to wear bikini bottoms, and as a protest, the team decided to wear thigh-length elastic shorts during their match against Spain on Sunday. It is unfair to force athletes to wear something they are not comfortable in, and it is yet another example of how female athletes are still treated differently. The sexualization of female athletes is a commonly accepted practice among major international sports events. Through bizarre statutes like these, chauvinistic ideas are widely facilitated.  The female athletes are already struggling to break the glass ceiling, which triggers more imbalances. The Norwegian women’s team rightly pointed out that with the body-shaming issues floating around, it is only fair for them to play in shorts instead of bikini bottoms. I feel the emphasis on wearing such revealing clothes is another fragment of the objectification and sexualization of female athletes in global events. Despite the accomplishments of female athletes, they are still objectified through such restrictions. It’s high time that both male and female athletes should be treated equally, and such ridiculous regulations should be terminated. The sexist fine that was imposed upon the Norwegian women’s handball team is highly condemnable and should be reviewed by the federation. Speaking of discrimination, recently, the Afro swim caps were banned from being used in the Tokyo Olympics. The caps were considered unsuitable by FINA. This is another treatment of ridiculous regulations restricting the potential of the athletes. This ban is shockingly insensitive, shows a lack of respect for inclusion and diversity and has rightly forged an uproar. My daughter has curly, thick hair, and the size of a swimming cap had been an issue all along with her swimming tenure. Sometimes she would wear two caps which was uncomfortable. I always wished if there were caps for long and voluminous hair for swimmers.

The international swimming federation is disregarding the significance of representation, and it is outrageously insensitive to sideline the black swimmers. I sincerely hope that both committees consider and understand the importance of diverse and inclusive representation at Olympics.