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POSITIVE, WISE & LOVING LIFE

Why the holidays tend to disappoint us a little - and how to handle that

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December is the month of expectations – and unfortunately, events do not always meet up to them. Guess what: there’s a lot of beauty in that.

Chances are that one of these days you’ll get disappointed. And if you do, here’s your consolation: you’re not the only one. December is the month of high expectations. Not just for our kids, who are hoping for presents and want to stay up late, for whom the stories are exciting, and who are having a hard time processing all the stimuli – for us, adults, too. December is one big promise that almost makes you expect some disappointment from the start, because real days always turn out different than the days of your dreams.

This time… will it be different?

It’s darker than the rest of the year. It’s the month of contemplation, the month before your new year’s resolutions, in which you wonder: did I live up to the last ones? Did I ever live up to resolutions? It’s the month in which you read your annual horoscope and wonder if things will ever be that good. More than in other months, you long for warmth and togetherness, but the togetherness seldom is as harmonious as you hoped. There always is at least one family member who gives you trouble, before or during the Christmas dinner. It’s the month when you realize, more than ever, that you’re alone, or that you’re together with the wrong people. Or perhaps, you’re missing some one – or you’re missing no one, but still feeling this vague pain inside your heart. It’s the month in which you’ll get presents, that might not be what you were hoping for, but admitting to that feeling would be childish.

Expectations are useless

If you recognize one of these things this month, you’re not the only one. I think, that if we could measure it, December is the ultimate month of disappointment. Spiritual lesson #1 is: expectations are useless. But practicing what you preach is something else.

I’ve done my best to keep the holidays simple this year, and still I know things will be different than I imagine them to be. Because it’s December. Spiritual lesson #2: all feelings are OK, and they will disappear sooner or later – they blow away, as suddenly as they came. Allow yourself to be disappointed, and the feeling will change into happiness. Or at least, into something else. When expectations have gone, and disappointment too, life is fine. Even in December. It can actually be very good.

Text: Pauline Bijster - Photo: Josh Boot

Single during the holidays? Why it's OK to long for love

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The desire for a relationship can be strong during the holidays. That's nothing to be ashamed of: love and connection are universal human needs.

Even if you don’t think about your single status all that much, in December, there’s always a family member, colleague or touching commercial that makes you aware of it. Having a relationship is often seen as the highest ideal. That makes (some) sense, because having a relationship is great. Someone’s arm around you, a warm body next to you in bed, a loyal ally who tells you they love you on a regular basis. Being able to share your life, with all its ups-and-downs, feels good. So there’s nothing wrong about a strong wish for connection,

Desperate or honest?

We need to be reminded of that every once in a while, though – because in our society, relationships are put on a pedestal; sometimes it feels like you’re failing when you don’t have a partner. In December, this feeling can be stronger than ever. For instance, when you’re the only single person at a christmas dinner. Or when everyone around you has plans – as couples- for New Year’s Eve. Of course, these situations can make you feel shitty for a moment. But we hardly talk about that. If you speak up about feeling lonely, or wanting to have a partner, you risk being called ‘desperate’. And nobody likes to be pitied.

Denial is not a solution

That’s why many people suppress the nagging feeling of loneliness in December. Instead of sharing how they feel, they just focus on surviving Christmas and keep answering patiently how they ‘just haven’t found the right person’, when the third person asks them about their relational status. Feelings of sadness or loneliness are suppressed. And when they do get the best of us, destructive and judgmental feelings follow. These are unnecessary. Not having a relationship is not failure, and longing for love doesn’t mean your desperate. Love is one of the most universal needs. Besides, suppressing difficult emotions doesn’t make them go away. They keep slumbering and make all the happy energy disappear. The trick is to embrace your own desires.

Embrace your needs

Accept every emotion – both the happy ones and the sad ones. Just allow them to exist, and if you want to, share them with someone around you. By being aware of these thoughts, you prevent them from taking over.  Be sure not to fantasize too much about what life would be like if you had a partner, because fantasies like that cause a distance between you and the world, and make you forget about all the loving, interested, thoughtful people you can enjoy life with right now.

There are many single people for whom the holidays are just a nice period, and good for them. The point is: we shouldn’t punish ourselves for having certain feelings. Once we accept them, we treat ourselves like a good friend would: kindly and loving, without judgment.

Text: Joanne Wienen - Photo: Neven Krcmarek

 

How to experience a spiritual December (even if you're not religious)

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The last days of the year are the perfect time to focus on what's going on inside of you. These are the days to look for depth, inspiration and new things. But how to do that if you’re not religious?

The last weeks of the year are a time of extremes. On the one hand, there’s the darkness that makes you yearn for silence, peace and slowing down. You become more and more aware that the year is ending. On the other hand, there’s the Christmas parties, the family get togethers and the to-do’s –at home and at the job- that we would like to tick before the new year starts.

Experience holy days

How tempting is it to be in ‘action mode’ all the time during the last weeks of the year? And how pleasant would that be? Of course, there’s nothing wrong with being active, but by constantly doing things you risk missing the wealth of the period that’s lying in front of you. Originally, they are holy days, there’s a reason why we call them holidays.

The return of the light

Long before Christianity made its entrance, the time between December 24 to January 6 was regarded as magical. German and Celtic people celebrated midwinter, after the winter solstice on December 21. The celebration sometimes took eleven days and twelve nights. After the shortest day, they celebrated the victory of light on darkness. In a time without artificial light, people had no other option but wait faithfully for the return of the light and the lengthening of the days. 

The seasons appear through us

Nowadays, the natural elements hardly have an impact on our daily lives. The influence of the seasons, however, is tangible for many people, even if it is unconsciously. In his (Dutch) book about I Tjing, Jaap Voigt remembers readers about how we’re all part of nature. ‘There’s an ongoing life stream, that’s always existent; that can take hold of us and that we can choose to listen to,’ he writes. ‘The seasons appear, as it were, through us. (…) And our physical and mental state is an expression of the seasons.’

December 21: yin at its peak

Voigt uses an energetic division of seasons, based on the ancient wisdom of the I Tjing. By being aware of this natural rhythm, and living and working by it, you create more balance in your life. Winter, for instance, that starts on November 6 and ends on 4 February according to the energetic calendar, is the time of retiring and becoming silent. On December 21, it’s at its peak, and the influence of the yin energy is the most tangible. 

Exercise: reviewing your plans

Take some time, before Christmas starts, to reflect on your diary for the next two weeks. Oftentimes, we tend to plan lots of dates, fun activities and chores in the days between Christmas and New Year’s. It turns out that in reality, it’s hard to do all of that. That’s no wonder, if you realize that the energy of this time asks for silence, rest and reflection. If you need to, cancel a few appointments or postpone them into the new year. It will only enable you to enjoy the activities you will do this week more.

Text: Janita Naaijer - Photo: Josh Boot

 

Looking for love? Five ways to make room for it

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You long for a lover, a partner to share your life with. But how do you manage to be yourself in the process of searching and finding?

 If ‘the one’ doesn’t appear on your doorstep all too quickly, it can be difficult to remain the person you are. Fears pop up: will I meet expectations this time? Or will he leave me in no time? If you think like that, you risk changing your behavior into something you think they want to see. Are you so focused on capturing the prize that you forget what you’re feeling? Then you’ll lose yourself before the relationship has even started. Writer and psychotherapist Charlotte Kasl looked for help with the Buddha: suppose he had dated, what would his approach be?

 Tip 1. Tell the universe about your desire for love

Wouldn’t it be great if you could send some sort of cosmic contact ad into the air, and all you had to do was wait until the prince (or princess) would show up? It may sound crazy, but there’s some truth to that concept. Without knowing it, all of us are electromagnetic fields who send signals through words, body language and hundreds of non-verbal clues. All of these have an influence on the interaction in our relationships. Suppose you feel like you are destined to be alone – then you radiate a vibe that doesn’t match what you really want: to be together with someone.

Tip 2. Clean up unfinished business

A fight with your brother, a grudge against an ex lover, fear holding you down. All this unprocessed pain takes in more space than you might realize – space you could use for a new, light and loving kind of contact. By leaving old wounds behind and expressing your gratitude, your energy can flow freely and you let go of the tension in your body. So: write your brother a letter and try to clear the air. Offer your apologies if necessary.

Another thing that’s good for a new relationship, is to come to terms with your parents.  Or in Charlotte Kasl’s words: ‘In order to find an intimate partner, we have to “move out”.’ According to the psychotherapist, we need to examine the values and mentality we learned in our youth. We let go of everything that stands in our way.

Apart from that, it’s important to liberate ourselves from the apodictic stories we’ve made up about ourselves, based on the way we were brought up and our parents’ behavior. If we don’t, we’ll project all of it on a new partner: ‘Honey, I can’t see you tonight, because I have to work.’ ‘I see, so work is more important to you than I am…’

Tip 3. Let your higher self guide you – not your ego

There are tons of books about dating that tell you what to do and when to start dating. On the spiritual path, rules are simple, Kasl writes. Ask yourself if you are guided by your higher self or by your ego. The ego says: ‘I want someone who fills my void.’ The higher self says: ‘I want someone who helps me to be aware, who points out my blind spots to me and who will be a companion and a playmate on my journey.’ Oftentimes, fear is the root of behavior that comes from ego. It’s a fear of being spontaneous, of behaving naturally and trusting your instincts, in other words: a fear of being yourself. It’s important to take a quiet and loving look at what’s below this ego-driven behavior. You don’t have to fear these human feelings, it’s better to accept them than to lose the way to yourself.

The more you dedicate yourself to self knowledge and self acceptance, the more you will be able to dedicate yourself to loving another person, because you have nothing to hide or to be ashamed of. By letting people see the real you, you’ll find out if your new lover is ready to join you on your journey. And the more aspects of yourself you accept –and feel empathetic for-, the more you will be able to appreciate others the way they are.

Tip 4. Prepare your bedroom

You can literally make room for a lover with a little feng shui. The ancient Chinese interior art can make you translate your desire for a lover in your home, especially in your bedroom.

One method is to walk through your house and look at it as if you’re seeing it for the first time. Is there room for energy to flow freely, and make room for a loved one? Or do you need to replace things or tidy up? If your belongings don’t help you to progress, put them away, feng shui says. Clean out your closets: when they are full, a possible partner may unconsciously feel that there’s no place for them. Remove keepsakes of former lovers.

Symbolically invite someone to your bed by putting two pillows there or putting a bedside lamp at both sides. Remove electronics from the bedroom, all they do is distract you. Think about what symbolizes love and marriage for you. Translate your wish to be part of a couple by putting pairs of applicable objects in your room: two candles, two roses or two beautiful sculptures.

Tip 5. Accept transience

If you want to be able to love, you will need to accept that change, loss and sadness are inevitable parts of life. If you manage to do that, it will be less scary to you. We suffer less when we acknowledge suffering as part of life, Buddha says. A lot of suffering comes from the unrest we create when we demand life to be ‘fair’. In love, things change and end too. We say hello and goodbye. One moment we are connected, the next one we’re not. Tender moments are always different. Happiness and sadness exist together, they even belong together.

If we follow the spiritual path, Charlotte Kasl writes, we let things be the way they are, we look at them and see how they go by, like a breeze. Our partner will not be the same forever and we shouldn’t want them to be. We should look at eachother with a fresh look every day, with clear eyes and an open mind, so we can see the person who’s standing there today – not an image from the past.   

Text: Astrid Marlies Kieft - Photo: Pablo Heimplatz

 

 

 

Why spirituality is not a quick fix, but a matter of life long learning

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Taking an occasional yoga or meditation class? According to Buddhist teacher and psychotherapist Miles Neale, if you really want to achieve your full potential, there is so much more to discover about spirituality. He opposes what he calls ‘McMindfulness’, and advocates lifelong learning. 

It strikes Miles Neale how many people are seeking refuge in new, secular forms of spirituality. Unlike fifteen -let alone thirty- years ago, mindfulness, meditation and yoga are accessible to everyone now. You can take a yoga class at the gym, or do a YouTube meditation that only takes a few minutes. You ask if there’s anything wrong with that? 

Mindfulness is not enough

Well, there is, according to Miles, who’s a psychotherapist and Buddhist psychologist teacher. He named the fast, easy forms of spirituality ‘McMindfulness’ – yes, inspired by the fast food chain. Miles, a friendly, open guy, tells all about it through Skype. ‘The thing is: in our western world, it often seems like mindfulness is a panacea to cure all our modern maladies. But mindfulness is only one of the pillars of the Buddhist path to freedom. The other two are virtuous activities and the wisdom of interconnectivity. Mindfulness practice, to develop awareness, is a good start, but it’s not enough. ‘We have to develop a more accurate worldview that appreciates how we are all connected and then live more harmoniously with each other and the planet’, says Miles.

To him, McMindfulness means spirituality as a ‘quick fix’, that instantly makes you feel better. In the moment, it’s fine, but what does it bring in the long term, especially for our societies and the environment? ‘Life isn’t always fun, and growth doesn’t always come fast. Some processes take years, and growth continues throughout your life.’ He knows what he’s talking about. Miles has been studying Tibetan Buddhism since he was twenty (in 1996), he visited India and Nepal many times, and took courses with various teachers, including Geshe Tenzin Zopa

  Buddhist nuns at Kopan Nunnery in Kathmandu (Nepal). Proceeds of Miles’ book go to the nunnery

Buddhist nuns at Kopan Nunnery in Kathmandu (Nepal). Proceeds of Miles’ book go to the nunnery

Make the world a better place

Miles' book 'Gradual Awakening - The Tibetan Buddhist Path of Becoming Fully Human' is a handbook consisting of thirty spiritual themes and contemplative practices. The author guides his readers on the Gradual Path to Enlightenment, which originated thousands of years ago in Tibetan Buddhism. The message: we can all develop into exceptional human beings, given the training, support and enough time. Miles says, authentic spiritual practice is not only for this life, but the next. Not only for oneself, but for others. Not only for temporary happiness, but for complete liberation. 'If everyone starts working more deeply on themselves throughout their life-span, the world will be a much better place. Solutions for the political, economic and environmental challenges are all within reach if we cultivate our natural capacity for wisdom and compassion, with as much determination as we seek wealth, fame and success.’

Not for everyone

A book filled with ways to discover your innate qualities and purpose, is probably not likely to be a bestseller. Miles is fully aware of that. ‘This book is not for everyone,’ he says. 'It’s for mature people who already know a little about mindfulness and spiritual growth, who are a little skeptical of or disappointed with the shallow promises of modern materialism, and who are ready to take things a step further than ‘McMindfulness', but don’t relate to the complicated, ancient Buddhist classics.’ Miles’ book uses neuroscience, psychotherapy and modern examples to make ancient wisdom more accessible to our current mindset. ‘And it's a book refer to for the rest of your life – not a book to work through in a few days.’ 

Miles says he had to write it, regardless of how many people would read it. Simply because he wants to convey his message - an alternative to quick, bite-sized forms of spirituality, which provides direction and depth. But of course he’s hoping many people will read it, if only because the proceeds have a special destination: Kopan Nunnery in Kathmandu (Nepal), one of the largest Buddhist women's monasteries in the world. That’s where he presented his book, in October this year. 

The future is female

‘For centuries, women could not pursue the full course to receive the equivalent of their doctorate in Buddhist studies - until the Dalai Lama insisted that nuns should have the same opportunities as monks. Many of the  Kopan nuns have experienced unimaginable hardships – cultural genocide, displacement, poverty, and being orphaned. And yet they find the perseverance, grace, compassion and humor to keep pursuing their dreams, studying for twenty-five years to become Geshe-ma, or masters of Buddhist philosophy and practice.

They are a great inspiration to me. They show how we can all overcome tremendous difficulties if we have the right motivation and goal in mind. And the fact that the women in Nepal and throughout the Himalayan region are now able to study, shows that something is changing. Women are empowering themselves all over the world, their era has come. The future is female.’

Text: Dorien Vrieling - Photography: Phil O’Leary

Feeling restless? This might calm you down

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If your mind keeps racing, or your body feels restless, there's a simple trick: change your breathing. You will be surprised of the effects, especially if you do a breathing exercise every day. 

We all know what restlessness feels like. Your breathing moves from your belly to your ribs or higher, your breathing speeds up. You tell yourself to breathe slowly. Breathe in, keep it for three seconds, breathe out slowly. If this works for you, it feels good. But perhaps it doesn’t do the trick for you. Breathing therapy might be worth the try for you. 

Breathing is easy, right? 

We can do without food for about six weeks, we can do without water for a couple of days. But we can do without breathing for no more than a few minutes. We breathe about 12 times a minute and during a day, our lungs let in and out about 8000 litres of air. For most of us, breathing is an automatic process. And thankfully so: imagine we would have to think about every breath of air our lungs welcomed. 

However, in some situations, it’s useful to be aware of your breath. The beauty of breathing carefully, is that you can decide yourself what you want to do with it. 

Breathing therapy: how, what and why

If you’re experiencing stress for a long time, your body gets disturbed. The same goes for your breathing: continuous tension may lead to a less efficient way of breathing. It costs a lot of energy and may cause unpleasant stress. 

Breathing therapy teaches you how to use different ways of breathing: from your belly, from your side and from your chest. An important aspect of the therapy is learning to recognize, and handle stress signals of your body. It makes breathing therapy a useful thing for every person. 

Many people who use breathing therapy, struggle with anxiety, depression, burn out or sleeping problems. However, problems with physical causes such as chronic pain, voice problems, and back problems can be a good reason to visit a breathing therapist. 

The variety among these problems shows how functional a healthy, regulated breathing is in many aspects. Curious as to what focusing on your breathing may bring you? Try it and allow yourself a moment of peace with the following exercise. 

Catch your breath 

A nice set of lungs and a quiet place, that’s all you need for this simple but effective exercise. This exercise helps you to focus on your belly breath and, if you repeat it regularly, it allows you to relax during the day. 

Ready? Here we go

Stand, sit down or lie down in a comfortable way (whichever you prefer, or whichever is possible in the space you’re in) and put both hands on your body. One at your chest, the other at your belly. Take a deep breath through your nose, hold your breath for a few seconds and breathe out through your mouth. Breathing in, you will feel your lungs expanding. Focus on nothing else but your body during ten minutes, while you keep breathing in and out. Do you feel it? The tension will decrease with every breath. 

If you really want the effect to last, make sure you do this exercise every day, for a couple of weeks. It will bring more peace and quiet in your mind, your body and, in the end, your whole life. 

Text: Eline Hoffman - Photo: Natalia Figueredo

5 reasons why you're feeling lonely in your relationship - and what to do about it

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Are you in a relationship, and feeling lonely sometimes – even though you love your partner to bits? According to clinical psychologist Jennifer Taitz, author of How to be Single and Happy, being in a relationship doesn’t necessarily mean being emotionally connected. 

Just like being on your own doesn’t necessarily mean you’re feeling lonely. Nor does feeling lonely in a relationship mean there’s something wrong with your relationship. 

These 5 things may cause your feeling, even if you’re in a healthy relationship. 

1.   You expect your partner to fulfill all your needs

According to Taitz, many people believe their partner should be everything to them. But even if you’re in a relationship, you need a bigger social life. It’s healthy to have your own life, apart from everything you do and share together. Nobody can be everything to you. Your love may be a great listener, but he may not understand why you’re so insecure about your looks. So why not discuss that with a friend or family member? Don’t expect your partner to give you everything you need, but make sure you have a bigger network, and several people you can trust. 

2.   The thrill has gone 

You may not realize you’ve neglected your friendships until you’ve been together for a few months (or even years) and the overwhelming feeling of being in love has gone. Once the butterflies have calmed down, you may start feeling lonely – perhaps because you’re missing your friends. There’s nothing wrong with putting your relationship first, but remember friendships are important too. Invest in them, even when the butterflies are raging and you can’t think of anyone else than that one person.

3.   You don’t explain what you need 

Sometimes you just want to blow off steam, but your partner gets in ‘solution mode’. Or they keep asking what’s going on, because they think you want to talk about it, while all you really need is a hug. No one can read your mind: if you’re unclear about what you need, your partner can only guess. Just tell them you need an arm around your shoulder, or if you do want to talk. 

4.   Your mindset makes you feel lonely

Your thoughts have a bigger impact on loneliness than the amount of people around you, according to Taitz. If you keep thinking no one understands you, or you keep stressing how different the two of you are, you start feeling more lonely than you need to. Change your mindset and instead, think: ‘I have to be clear about what I need’. It doesn’t mean you have to ignore the downsides of your relationship. Reflecting on yourself gives you the opportunity to change things if you’re feeling unhappy. 

5.   You need self-compassion

The most important relationship is the one you have with yourself. If you keep telling yourself you’re not good enough, or you don’t deserve love, you’ll start believing it. The negative approach has an impact on how you experience your relationship. Meditation and positive affirmations can help you to be more kind to yourself. That’s how you create room for more love: for yourself and your significant other. 

Text: Sanne Eva Dijkstra - Photo: Matheus Lira  

Setting a good example - and other things Nelson Mandela taught us about raising children

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It takes a village to raise a child, is how the saying goes. But where can we find that village? As a parent, you can use all the advice on raising children in the world. Especially if it’s Nelson Mandela’s advice.

About Mandela

Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) was a South African anti-apartheid  activist and politician. He was involved in the battle against the South African apartheid regime. In 1963, he was sentenced with a lifelong emprisonment, and he spent 27 years in prison. In 1993, he received the Nobel Peace Prize. He stood up for equality by means of non-violent revolutions, and he firmly believed that dignity and love could change the world – not anger.

Trick 1: A good example will be keenly followed

Setting a good example is supposed to have a bigger influence on children, than answering their yelling with your own. One of the mantras of non-violent resistence is: don’t make hay when the sun shines, but wait until everyone has calmed down. Then you speak your mind about what bothered you. Teach children to channel their anger by doing so yourself.

By the way, this has an equally positive effect on grown ups. Increasing your self control, anger management. Taking a good look at your own behavior, instead of other people’s flaws, might be the solution in all kinds of relationships. In the end, that’s what non-violent resistence comes down to.

Trick 2: Take full responsibility

It’s important for the world, for society, for our families: taking full responsibility for our own anger, our discomfort, our own actions. Becoming better people and setting the right example. ‘One of the most difficult things is not to change society - but to change yourself,’ Nelson Mandela spoke shortly before the end of his presidency.

Text: Pauline Bijster - Photo: Janko Ferlic

Are you an introvert? Think of it as your strength

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Bestselling author Susan Cain pays homage to the introvert. Because in a world where no one is ever silent, we need to make room for the introvert.

What makes a person introverted?

According to author Susan Cain, it’s all related to our nervous system. An introverted person is far more sensitive to (social) stimuli.

Do you feel like you’re more of an introvert than an extrovert? You probably feel a panic attack coming when you see a big crowd of people. And after a few hours partying, you probably prefer to hide under a blanket. In social situations, you often feel tired – and you recharge when you’re alone.

You perform better when there’s peace and quiet around you, because it makes you feel comfortable. That’s why, according to Susan Cain, it’s essential for all of us to create an environment that works for us – whether that’s a quiet place, or a place full of stimuli.

Extraversion as an ideal

Unfortunately, society is mostly focused on the needs of the extrovert. Cain says extroverted people are considered perfect people: ‘Charismatic, persuasive smooth talkers are often very successful in their careers, due to modern society’s values.’

It’s clear in our companies and schools – there are open bull pen offices everywhere and for young students, working in groups is obligatory. That’s a shame, because most ingenious ideas are born in isolation. ‘Being on our own is a crucial ingredient for creativity. Theodor Geissel, known as Dr Seuss, invented his amazing stories in a bell tower, and Darwin took endless walks in the woods,’ says Cain.

This is the power of introversy

Because of this lack of room to work (and think) independently, the introvert doesn’t use all of their potential. Which is a shame, because there’s a power hidden inside them.

Psychological research shows that most creative people like to be alone: they are good at sharing and developing innovative ideas and have a lot of introverted features.

But when it comes to leadership, an introvert is hardly the first choice. And that’s a pity. Because according to research, introverted people are better leaders. They are thorough, less likely to take big risks, and their results are better. Because the introvert tends to avoid the spotlights, there’s room for every employee to bring their own ideas.   

Some of the biggest world leaders were introverted: Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks and Gandhi. All three are inspiring leaders who had big impact on the world, who described themselves as timid and even shy.

Still, it's all about teamwork

Cain ends her talk with a plea for a new balance – a yin-yang division between extraversion and introversion. Because in the end, she says, it’s about teamwork. The problems we face as a society, are so immense and complex, that we need every indual (and their talents). When introverted people know they’re allowed to be who they are, a brilliant idea might just pop up – one that helps us all forward. 

 

Photo: Olly Joy

Had a bad night's sleep again? This video might help you to sleep

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There are days when you wake up nice and well-rested, and other mornings you just keep pressing the snooze button. Getting enough sleep is complicated, but also extremely important. This TED talk explains why.

We all know it’s important to get enough rest. But we’re busy, and there are smartphones to check and TV shows to watch, so we find ourselves going to bed too late. 

As a grownup, it’s very important to sleep seven to eight hours a night. Because if you get less sleep, you’ll notice soon enough. It’s more difficult to memorize things, you get annoyed easily, it’s harder to study.

Check this video, it might just help you to hit the sack nice and early tonight.

Photo: Rodolfo Sanches Carvalho

Are you the eldest child in your family? This is what that tells you about your personality

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If you’re the eldest child, you’re probably a responsible person. You like taking care of others, stick to the rules and strive for perfection. Your perfect partner might well be a youngest child - because opposites attract. 

The upside of being the eldest child

Looking at the pictures in your photo album, you probably see two radiant young people with their little prince or princess. You were the first child, so your parents didn’t have any parenting experience yet. There are probably more pictures in your album than in your siblings’ albums. During the first years of your life, your parents focused completely on you, and they probably conversed the most with you: simply because there was no competition of other children. You were cherished. 

The downside of being the eldest child 

The fact that your parents were inexperienced, has its downside, too. According to Linda Blair, British psychologist and author of ‘Birth Order’, says eldest children often feel their parents’ nervousness. In their first years –depending on how old you were when your sibling was born- you were probably mainly around older people. You compared yourself to them, causing you to set high standards for yourself and longing for other people’s approval. 

Who’s your perfect partner?   

Of course, your ideal match depends on several factors. However, according to Linda Blair, psychology tells us some things about it. Opposites often attract, so chances are you fall for a youngest child. Other eldest children, or only children, are too much like you, especially if both of you like to take the lead. 

Typical eldest child features: 

You respect authority and stick to the rules 

As a young child, you were used to having adults around you. That’s why you tend to look up to people who are older than you, or who are in a powerful position. 

You like to take the lead

According to research, eldest children often have a leading position in their jobs. That’s probably because they learned to be responsible at a very young age: they were the eldest, so they had to be the wisest (and you could act bossy with your younger siblings). 

You worked hard at school

As an eldest child, you probably did your best to please your parents and teacher. Perhaps you even let them decide what to study for you. As an adult, you might be focused on pleasing your boss, too. Do you have a good sense of language? That might also be due to your place in the birth order, according to Linda Blair. You started developing language very soon, because your parents talked to you a lot. 

You’re caring 

Parents don’t do it on purpose, but they tend to give their eldest children a lot of responsibility, more than their youngest children. This taught you to take care of others at a young age, and you’re probably still very caring. 

You’re self-critical 

If you were very young when you had a brother or sister, you are probably highly self-critical. According to Linda Blair, when a sibling is born, young children draw a conclusion: mommy and daddy don’t like them as much as they used to, so they wanted a new baby. As an adult, you may still feel like you’re not enough sometimes. 

Want to read more? 

Linda Blair, ‘Birth Order. What Your Position In The Family Really Tells You About Your Character.’ Little Brown UK, 2013. 

Text: Dorien Vrieling - Photo: Kevin Gent

 

Are you jealous? This is how you turn jealousy into something useful (and get what you want)

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Jealousy is an unpleasant emotion, but believe it or not: it really has its upside. What does your jealousy mean? Ask yourself these three questions and you’ll find out. 

Jealousy at a friend who gets the job you wanted. It's a simple example of someone who has something you would really want to have, too. Even if you think you’re not jealous at all, it may suddenly hit you. They have something you don’t, and it doesn’t seem fair. You don’t want to, but admit it: you’re jealous. 

Physical emotion

It’s a physical emotion, that’s what makes it difficult to be jealous. It can truly feel like a stab, it can make you nauseous. The most plausible solution is to turn away from the person you’re jealous of. 

But that’s a shame. Especially if it’s someone you love, or who’s important to you. Jalousy can turn into envy, making you point your arrows at the one who has what you don’t have – arrows that can poison a relationship, and in the end will hit you, and fill you with resentment and other emotional unpleasantness. 

You don't want to be jealous

You don’t want to go there. But what do you want to do? The difficulty is that you'd probably prefer to deny all of it. You don’t want to be jealous. All you want is to be filled with the emotion Buddhists named murdita, the feeling you have when you enjoy other people’s joy and prosperity – straight from your noble heart. 

But you can’t force that. Denying jealousy doesn’t work, it only makes things worse.  In fact, the solution is: don’t deny it, but dig into it and find out what causes your jealousy, and then use that to increase your own joy and prosperity. 

What does jealousy mean? Ask these questions, and you’ll find the answer.

1. What’s your desire?

If you are jealous, you have a desire for something. You want something you don’t have right now. So the first question is: what are you jealous of? 

If you’re jealous of a colleague who just found a new job, what is it in the job that causes your jealousy? Is it the job itself (and what’s so special about it)? Or is it the simple fact that she has the guts to take new steps, to chase her dreams? Think about it, and try to describe it as precisely as possible. 

2. How could you fulfill it?

This is a valuable insight: jealousy is usually about something that’s within your reach. Something you might have had, too. (Think about it: if you’re not athletic at all, you’re not jealous of an athlete.) 

You might think of jealousy as a signal of inequality and an impulse to change it, make it equal. Jealousy, to put it bluntly, kicks your ass. It urges you to take action and go after your goal – a goal that, apparently, is within your reach. So ask yourself: how could you reach the goal you want to reach? Which steps do you need to take? 

3. Who might be able to help you? 

The person who might help you, might very well be the very person you’re jealous of. Just admit that you’re jealous (it makes it so much easier!) and ask this person: what did they do to reach the point where they are? Could she share some tips and tricks? Then, look around you. Are there others who might help you – a coach, friends? In short: ask for help, and get into action. 

Use jealousy in a positive way 

The latter, getting into action, is the start of a solution. You might even think of it as the very meaning of jealousy – when you get into action, and try to get closer to your goal, jealousy disappears. It might be too much to be content with your jealousy from now on, because it will never be a pleasant. But, if you want to, you can turn it into something positive and use it to reach your goals. That’s a whole different story! 

Text: Anne Wesseling - Photo: Antonio Francisco

Pass it on to your girlfriends: this is an ode to women's intense friendships

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What is it that makes women’s friendships beautiful and special? Good friends are important for our spirit. The loving connections between women are more powerful than you might think. This is an ode to female friendship. 

1. Girlfriends are mirrors

Friends don’t just choose each other randomly. In the first phase of a friendship is about a certain attraction – comparable to the physical attraction in the beginning of a relationship. When I just started at college, I sat next to a girl with bright blue eyes. She had struck me before, because of her love of coffee and the swinging way she walked. We sat in the room, a collection of poetry in front of us, I remember the teacher had an impressive moustache. 

The girl smelled like a rose garden, freckles were visible beneath her make-up. When the teacher told us how the poet was reviewed both positively and negatively in his days, the girl and I got into a discussion. I felt like hitting her and at the same time, I wanted to marry her. That afternoon, during another class, we shared a book. ‘From day one, it was clear that you were meant for each other,’ one of our classmates told us later. ‘We couldn’t even tell your voices apart.’ 

2. Friends are princesses in shining armour 

My female friends are part of the first generation of women who earned their own money. The result is the phenomenon of the gentlewoman. We tell eachother about the films we’ve seen, we take eachother to nice restaurants and spoil eachother with poems, presents and flowers. This mutual gallantry adds a certain romantic touch to my friendships. It’s never phony, but serene and genuinely romantic. 

Sometimes I cuddle up with a glass of wine on the couch, get all rosy and talk with my friend while the sun goes down. My friends are sensitive enough to know when I like to be touched (and when I don’t), when I deserve a kiss, need me-time. I don’t know how they’ve become so intertwined with my mind, but they have, they know exactly what I need. We even move in the same organic, self-evident way, that’s how adjusted we are to each other. 

3. Friends are the perfect philosophers and therapists

Friends see everything (‘You have a sunburn’), know everything (‘back then, you were a lot more introverted’), understand everything (‘this man would’ve intrigued me too’). And they’re not afraid to share their feelings and thoughts with you, regardless of how big or small they are. Light and dark thoughts, good and bad times, philosophical ramblings and complaint. I have voice memos with monologues of friends about the wellbeing of their cats and suggestions for world peace. Friends are the perfect philosophers and therapists, for whom no subject is prohibited. There’s room for angry, resentful, sad feelings. Unexpected changes in the plot you caused, are put into a narrative. And because there’s room for everything, your connection is strong. 

With friends, you meet up to phrase what you really think. The stories I wouldn’t share with my partner or family –because they’re embarrassing-, I share with my friends.

4. Friends are a home you picked for yourself 

Things I don’t remember: my upcoming dental appointment, my deadline for taxes, passwords I created four days ago. Things I do remember: N. wearing awesome gold sneakers, hanging in the garden with P. when giant dragonflies flew by. Meeting my friend R.’s cat for the first time. I have an impressive memory when it comes to friends, and an eye to the telescope. And it still amazes me how much my friends remember about me. 

The intensity of women’s friendships didn’t really strike me until a good friend passed away. Our friendship seemed casual and simple, airy and nonchalant – hanging around at the cinema, exchanging poems, talking about boys, skating. Looking back, I know we got very close. In my dreams, we still chat, sitting on our well-known bench. As if death was only a temporary break in our friendship. We create the most profound, loving connection with our friends. Friends can arouse extreme homesickness in your heart, simply because the two of you have created a home together. That’s something special. 

Text: Julia Maria Keers - Photo: Brooke Cagle

Want to work on more trust in your relationship? This piece of advice will help you

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Trust is the very essence of a healthy relationship. Without trust, there is no room for true intimacy, love and fulfillment. But how do you build trust?

The sentence ‘The essence of a healthy relationship is trust’ has been said often. We hardly even question what it means anymore. It sounds beautiful and plausible, and no one would want to admit that there’s something off about that foundation of trust in their relationship. Still, it’s not easy to have blind faith in a partner.

The thing is, that it’s all or nothing: you trust someone entirely, or you don’t. You can’t trust your partner a little. That’s why a breach of trust is so hard to repair. If our trust in someone turns out to be unjust, the consequences for the relation –and our peace of mind- are endless. The trust, that was slowly built, has fallen to pieces.

How do we trust, and earn trust, again, even if it was betrayed?

Do you have enough faith in your partner?

You lack faith in your partner if you:

1. Check personal e-mail and texts, search through pockets and handbags
2. Want to know where the other person is at, every hour of the day
3. Keep asking for compliments and confirmation
4. Refuse to talk about a future thing
5. Ask the other person to take care of something and then supervise them, or make an arrangement for just-in-case they fail
6. Give them the benefit of the doubt and draw premature conclusions when there’s a misunderstanding

6 ways to work on mutual trust

1.   Be conscientious about your responsibilities. Don’t allow yourself to take the easy way out

2.   Keep your promises, even if the timing isn’t great or there are risks involved

3.   Be consistent, hold on to your beliefs, don’t be impulsive

4.   Keep secrets, and if you don’t know how to, don’t promise to do so

5.   Be honest. Share how you feel and what you think, without a hidden agenda

6.   Know yourself and the weaknesses you have to be careful for

Text: Susan Smit - Photo: JD Mason

A letter to all the troublesome, lazy and lovable adolescents

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You’re trying so hard to understand the world. Trying to see through it, in order to feel safe and determine your position. You’re in such a hurry to get all your questions answered.

You want to do everything so well. You’re exploring, looking for right and wrong, for beautiful and ugly, for how it’s supposed to be and how it’s not. ‘Good’ and ‘bad’ are not the absolute concepts the people who talk about them want you to believe. And how it’s supposed to be, dear, that’s even more of an invention. More important than finding good and evil is the boundary between true and untrue. If you feel something is true, you’ll experience a small shock. You may not know the One Truth, but at least you’ve come closer to your own truth.

Loving the truth also means being critical, letting go of what you think you know, acknowledging your own part in things, debunking illusions, seeing things for what they are and not what they’re made to be. It also means being willing to adjust your truths when you need to, and being open to other possibilities.

Dare to have doubts

Dare to have doubts, is something I would keep whispering in your ear the next few years. The ability to be unsure may be your most important instrument. Have the guts to not know. Dare to wait before you judge. Dare to change your opinion. Being certain and sure is regarded as strong and reliable in this world, having doubts is supposed to be for the faint hearted and the fidgety. That’s while doubt is the starting point of all knowledge. If you don’t allow yourself to have doubts, you think you know the truth all too soon and judge based upon this truth, you’re putting on blindfolds.

The world of high school you’ve entered, holds so many chances for you to connect to your peers. You will make friends, some of them will remain with you your whole life. You will share experiences, have fun, fight and close alliances. Sometimes you’ll be on your own, other times you’ll feel like it’s the two of you against the world. Having a laughter attack, feeling butterflies in your stomach and feeble knees, you’ll be able to face new situations, simply because you’re together.

Be true to yourself

In all these commitments to friends, it’s important to be who you are and never renounce yourself, no matter how much you long for a connection and acceptation. Remember: being liked is only worth something if people like you for who you are, who you really are. It’s about empathizing with others, connecting to some of them with an open heart and still being true to yourself. Because there you find your lust for life, your creativity, your happiness and your freedom.

With love and respect for who you are,

Susan

 

Photo by Andrea Tummons

How to deal with negative people in a positive way

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We all have one or two negative people around us: a friend who loves to complain, or a colleague who responds to every idea with ‘no’. It can be quite the challenge to remain positive in a cloud of negativity, but it’s possible. 

These tips help you to handle ‘Negative Nancy’ optimistically.

1. Distance yourself from them  

We can’t control other people’s thoughts or actions, but we can control how we respond to them. This can be an uplifting thought. If it feels like you’re absorbed by other people’s negativity, ask yourself the following questions: 

How do I respond to this situation?
How can I make my response more positive? 

By asking yourself these questions, you focus on your own possibilities. It makes it easier to distance yourself from the negative person emotionally. 

2. Do the opposite

When people show negative body language (crossing arms, stamping their feet) or perform a whining monologue, do the opposite. It works. 

3. Don’t take it personal 

We often take in negativity unconsciously, and unfortunately, it can have a long lasting effect. Try to keep in mind that other people’s bad moods don’t have anything to do with you. You never know what’s going on in their lives – there can be all sorts of reasons for it. But it’s probably not about you. 

Realize that what was said, probably has to do with the person themselves. Visualize a magical protection suit that keeps negativity on the outside. Or put on your favourite song.

4. Be in the present

One of the best tricks to be more positive is living in the now. Nasty remarks have a tendency to keep nagging in our mind. That’s exactly what you don’t want to happen. But if you focus on what’s going on right now, it’s easier to see the bright side. 

5. Practice gratitude 

Of course you don’t have to be thankful when other people curse at you. But you can learn from it. It challenges your positivity, and it teaches you to deal with negative people. Which is a useful skill 

Photo: Joe Gardner

 

How to protect your love from everyday annoyances

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‘The space between two lovers is holy, you have to honor it,’ says relationship builder Hedy Schleifer. You can see it as a light, clean oasis, that you want to protect from the annoyances of everyday life. But the big question is: how do you keep this space pure?

Sometimes it seems as if love is withdrawing from a couple’s life. Intense infatuation has changed into a common, sustainable form of loving. It’s as if love has gone, or has dozed off, but that’s a facade.

We tend to have an unrealistic idea of love. We think of the dream couples on screen, and trust that everything will be alright in the end – as long as you holde ach other tight. But real life is different. 

Treat the space between you as a holy place

According to Israeli – American psychologist Hedy Schleifer, it’s important to draw from the love between two people. She says you have to treat eachother carefully – which is something entirely different than holding eachother tight, and suffocating one another. And she says that love is costly, and –even though it’s powerful – that it’s easily covered up by the daily pursuit.

‘The space between two lovers is holy, you have to honor it’, she says. You can keep it clean by protecting it from ‘relational pollution’: an irritated look or remark, silence, a sigh.

Even small collisions set the tone: in the space of our relation, you can make a mess. And just as people are more likely to throw their garbage on the floor in a filthy environment, we’re more likely to pollute our relational space if we don’t treat it as a holy, important place.

Try this love experiment

You can put this to the test, by reducing your polluting behaviour. This means: no useless discussions just to prove someone wrong in unimportant matters, no mumbling last words, no irritated remarks about things your lover does or doesn’t do. If something’s really bothering you, pick a quiet moment to talk about it, in a respectful, loving manner.

The positive effects

You’ll see that the effect of this ‘experiment’ is impressive. You hardly change anything, and still, you’ll notice big changes that bring cheer and relax the both of you. Even if there is tension, it’ll disappear if you respond to it in a positive way.

In the beginning, it might feel a bit artificial, but it’ll become more and more natural to treat eachother this way. You’ll find that your new attitude is contagious: after a while, your partner will stop reacting in a polluting way, too.

Oftentimes, this attitude is more powerful than ‘working on your relationship’, because this can lead to focusing on the problems – and forgetting about love.

Text: Marte Kaan - Photo: Tom the Photographer

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Going to Stockholm? You don't want to miss these hotspots

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If you just booked a trip to Stockholm – or you’re considering doing so - : these are the loveliest restaurants, most special stores and best places to explore Stockholm culture. 

Food 

B.A.R.

District: Östermalm
This funky restaurant is the place to bef or fish lovers. The smoked shrimps and mussels are lovely and there are lots of other sea foods on the menu. 

Nytorget Urban Deli

District: Södermalm
This is a great place for foodies. You can try the best olives and cheeses, there’s a bar and restaurant. Before you know it, you’ve spent a whole afternoon or evening here. 

Drop Coffee

District: Södermalm
At Drop Coffee, you find the best coffee. It’s made the old school way: with a filter. Apart from coffee, Drop is a good place for breakfast, lunch or a bowl of soup. 

Culture

Östermalm

You like art and design? Take a look in Östermalm. You’ll find lots of galleries, museums and theatres. Intrigued with the Vikings? Go to the Historika Museet. There’s a collection of Viking relics and a beautiful department with medieval art. Prefer minimalist Scandinavian design? Take a look at the Designhouse Stockholm.

Shopping 

Department store Åhléns

Åhléns Stockholm City is located at the place where Drottninggatan and Hamngatan cross.  The store sells almost everything: from a piece of soap to costly design glasswork. Don’t forget to visit the household items department: the house brand products are nice and fairly priced. 

Brandstationen

We’re positive: this place will inspire you to redo your interior. There is restored furniture, cushions, lamps, plants and jewelry. (Hornsgatan 64).

Photo: Matias Larhag

 

This is how you bring back passion in your relationship

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What’s the secret of desire and temptation in a long-term relationship? Relationship expert Esther Perel knows all about it.

In an ideal relationship, we expect our partner to be both our best friend and an irresistible bed partner. The ideal lover tempts us, understands us and brings stability. But according to relationship therapist Esther Perel, this list of demands often brings us trouble.

She says great sex fulfills two opposite needs: our desire for safety and our desire for ‘the unknown’ – and we look for both these components in one person. ‘In the paradox between love and desire, the ingredients that fuel love –reprocity, safety, care, responsibility for the other – are sometimes the very ingredients that suffocate desire,’ Perel says.

But what is the secret to desire and temptation in a long-term relationship? Perel’s book ‘Erotic intelligence’ is all about this question. She says a great sex life doesn’t come automatically with a healthy relationship; you have to keep working on it as a couple.

These 5 rules of the game help you to fan the passion:

1. Look at your relationship as the starting point of romance and excitement

An aching desire for eachother doesn’t just appear from nowhere. According to Perel, time, attention and dedication are necessary for a good sex life. Try to block a night for sex, just like you would for a night out.

2. Make time for foreplay

Couples with a healthy sex life know that foreplay has nothing to do with the five minutes of ‘playing time’ before the real action: ‘Foreplay starts at the end of the last orgasm.’

3. Let yourself go

‘Create a space where you leave your job, stop being a good citizen who takes care of things and who’s responsible. Responsibility and desire collide. They don’t go well together.’

4. Dare to experiment (and to talk)

According to Perel, the safety of a relationship is the ideal place to experiment. Because you trust your partner completely, you feel free to experiment together, express your desires and talk openly about your sex life.  

5. Know that desire comes in waves (and hardly ever wells up spontaneously)

‘Erotic couples know that passion increases and decreases. It’s like the moon, every once in a while, there’s an eclipse. But they know how to revive it, because they have broken through a big myth: the myth of spontaneity, that told us desire comes falling out of the sky while you’re folding laundry,’ Perel says.

 

 

 

 

 

Seven ways to say no in a clear, but friendly way

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It may seem like a contradiction: being friendly and kind, yet guarding your boundaries. But saying no and remaining friendly is perfectly possible. In fact, it's a way of practicing loving kindness. Towards yourself, and others.

Loving kindness doesn’t mean you have to be limitless in your efforts to help other people, or to be liked. Metta, the form of Buddhism in which loving kindness is key, means wishing another person to be happy, to find their way towards a lighter way of living. It’s an attitude that you can practice without saying things you don’t mean. 

The first part of the metta meditation is: ‘may I be happy, may I be well, may I be safe.’ In the second part, you wish the same to someone else. In the third part, you wish the same to everyone. That’s why metta is about wholeness and unity. You wish for the wellbeing of every living creature, including yourself. Loving kindness can be: no, I can’t help you right now, but I wish for you that your needs will be fulfilled.  

Seven ways to say no in a friendly way: 

1. Look the person in the eye, stand firmly and speak clearly. Make contact. 

2. If you know immediately that your answer will be ‘no’, act right away. By waiting and replying later, you leave them ‘hanging’ and you carry the decision with you. If you haven’t decided yet, ask for some time to think.

3. Don’t use words like ‘maybe’ or ‘later’ when all you want to say, is no. 

4. Oftentimes, you can phrase the reason for saying no in a positive way, by letting them know what you will be focusing your time and attention on. If you want, you can thank them for the trust they put in you by asking you this question. 

5. Give one reason for saying no, and stick with that. Keep it short and simple. 

6. If someone keeps pressing, explain to them in a friendly manner that this makes you feel uncomfortable. 

7. Leave room for this person’s possible disappointment, by acknowledging it and not judging – but don’t turn it into your problem. 

Photo: Dangtimô Thimô