If someone you love is grieving: 7 ways to help them

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If someone you love is having a hard time, you want to help them. But how to do that? 

Being there for someone sounds easier than it is. If they’ve lost a loved one, if their heart is broken or if they have received other bad news, you might feel powerless. You want to help, but you don’t know how. Do they even want your sympathy? 

Supporting or comforting people who are suffering can be difficult. This short guidebook may help you. 

Get in touch 

When this person isn’t in your closest circle, you may not be sure whether to send a message – will they appreciate it? It’s usually better to get in touch, than to remain silent. It’s an easy thing to do and it might mean a lot to the other person. 

Don’t make it too complicated 

You don’t need to be an expert in the area of grief or broken hearts. If you don’t know what to say, just tell them: ‘I don’t know what to tell you, but I’m thinking of you.’ The most important thing is to make them feel seen and supported, it’s not about giving them the perfect answer or advice.  

Just listen 

If you’re talking to the sad person, make sure you’re really listening. You might feel a bit awkward and you might be searching for answers or solutions, for important insight. But usually, a sad person just wants to be heard. Allow them to tell their story, or just be together – that’s more supportive than unsolicited advice. 

Ask questions 

Maybe you don’t want to ask too many questions about their grief. Because you’re scared of what they’re going to say, or because you don’t want to remind them of a painful thing. However, they are probably perfectly able to tell you what they do and don’t want to talk about. Ask questions: it shows that you’re interested. Let them tell you what needs to be told. And respect them if they don’t want to answer. 

Bring them food 

When someone’s in a crisis, they probably don’t feel like eating. By bringing them a healthy home-made meal, you’re really helping and you show you care.  

Ask what they need 

Are there certain domestic chores that need to be done? People or organizations you can call for them? Or would they like you to get some groceries? Your practical help will be appreciated, especially if this person has a family (after all, children require time, care and attention). Because most people find it difficult to ask for help, it’s best to offer help in a specific, concrete way. Like: ‘I can pick up the kids from school tomorrow and take them to the playground, so you can have some time to yourself.’

Keep checking in

Life goes on, and it usually does before someone has processed the grief. Don’t forget about them; get in touch even after weeks and months. That’s how you show you haven’t forgotten about their grief, and they won’t feel alone.  

Text: Joanne Wienen - Photo: Priscilla Du Preez

7 signs that you're a highly empathetic person

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Do you feel intensely for people, animals and nature around you? Do you pick up other people’s emotions, does watching the news get to you sometimes? Then you’re probably a highly empathetic person. Cherish this ability!

As an empathetic person, you strongly feel for others. You experience other people’s emotions, mental state and physical pain as if they were your own. That’s why empathetic persons tend to be labeled ‘too emotional’ or even ‘weak’, while in fact, they’re very powerful. They know exactly what other people need and, unless they lose themselves, what their own boundaries are. Besides, they don’t just experience grief and anger on a deep level – they also experience happiness, enthusiasm and love strongly. 

Not sure whether you’re an empathetic person? Test yourself! 

1 You experience other people’s emotions as if they’re your own

 You’re able to feel what someone else is feeling – whether they’re family or complete strangers. If your brother’s having a job interview today, your body feels tense. If someone in the supermarket is frustrated, you may feel frustrated too, even if you haven’t even talked to them. 

 2 Emotions like anger and frustration drain you 

 Negative emotions exhaust you, even when they’re other people’s emotions. You need more time to recharge and get over them. 

 3 You can lose yourself in a relationship 

Failing to set boundaries, allowing your partner to drag you along and losing your sense of self: these are the dangers of relationships for empathetic people. By completely surrendering yourself to someone else, at some point, you don’t know which emotions are yours and which are your partner’s. 

 4 The news can really get to you 

 Tears when you’re watching a movie, a lump in your stomach while watching disturbing news or being touched by an impressive photograph. Even if all these things don’t affect your life, they have quite an impact on your mood. 

5 You feel before you understand 

Even though you don’t know where this uncanny feeling or gloomy state of mind come from, you just sense that something’s going on. It might be in your own life, or with someone you care about. Your sensitivity is quicker than your ratio, so before you know anything about a situation, your senses have picked it up. 

 6 You’re generous – sometimes at your own expense 

 People can count on you. They like to tell you their stories. You have a lot to give and strongly sympathize with others. That’s a beautiful quality, but it has a downside: sometimes, your care for others at the expense of care for yourself. Be sure to have an eye for your own needs. 

 7 You feel deeply connected to the world around you 

 The connection you feel to nature, people and animals is special. Sometimes it’s even a bit mystical. There are days when a flower in bloom, an old lady’s smile at the bakery or the sound of an enthusiastic donkey can genuinely touch you. Little things like these open your heart even further for all the beauty in the world. 

Text: Eline Hoffman - Photo: Barbora Polednová

Can anyone be like Gandhi? These are the lessons he taught his grandson

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As a twelve-year-old boy, Arun Gandhi lived in his famous grandfather’s ashram. What he learned there, changed his life. His lessons are valuable to everyone. 

He guided millions of people and made them improve their fate – or others’: the Indian spiritual leader and politician Mahatma Gandhi. With his strife for equality and world peace, he became a legend. After he died – Mahatma Gandhi survived several attacks, but was killed eventually – his family guarded his legacy, with grandson Arun as his primary representative. 

The grandson is 85 years old now, but he still works hard for the good cause. Arun travels around the world, giving lectures on how to handle anger and violence more constructively, and how to live together in peace and with compassion. 

Grandfather Gandhi’s life lessons   

In his book, Arun describes the loving, disarming and touching way in which his grandfather taught him. Mahatma Gandhi was patient, respectful, witty and decisive. Arun shares the 11 most important life lessons he learned from his grandfather. For instance, he learned how he could use his anger for a good cause, and why it’s important to be alone now and then. Mahatma also taught him about the five pillars of non-violence: respect, understanding, acceptation, appreciation and empathy.

If it was up to Arun, his grandfather’s lessons would have been published long ago, but no publisher was ever interested in the book. Until now. He laughs: ‘All of a sudden, seventeen publishers lined up.’ 

Is world peace possible?

‘Yes, world peace is possible, if we know what peace truly means. The biggest problem may be materialism. Every country aims at becoming a materialist society. Some already are one, and have reached great prosperity. The other countries want that, too. But materialism and morality are mutually exclusive.’ 

What do we need to change that? 

‘We need to be the change we want to see in the world. A peaceful world cannot be created or forced upon people top-down. In order to change, we need to make individual differences – we don’t need big organizations or institutions. I want to make people more aware of this. Right now, cultural violence affects every aspect of our lives. 

Our relationships and friendships have become violent, our religion is violent, entertainment and sports are mainly about violence. In this state of cultural violent, we can’t create peace. We have to conclude that the current level of prosperity is sufficient. We don’t need more, we need to invest in our families, friendships, relationships with others. In living a good life, with love and compassion. 

In his book, Arun Gandhi describes how his grandfather even forgives the man who planned an attack on him. Remembering his grandfather, this is Arun’s most important memory: how Bapuji was loving and understanding towards everyone. The notion of ‘family’ was limitless to him. He loved all people equally, regardless of whether they were rich or poor, or what their religion was. 

Which lesson of your grandfather is the most important one to you? 

‘The lesson that we should use anger in an intelligent and constructive way. You can’t learn that in a couple months’ time. It takes lifelong practice, because every day there are new situations that evoke anger. If you transform it into constructive action, it’s like fuel to a car. 

Anger is a useful power, but you need to know how to use it the right way. In order to find solutions and handle injustice – which isn’t about being right. Anger and compassion are opposites. You can’t be compassionate and angry at the same time. Compassion is rooted in love, while unrestrained anger can lead to passive or even physical violence.’

How can we learn to be compassionate, even in the most difficult situations? Can anyone become a ‘Gandhi’?

‘The most important way to develop compassion, is by realizing you have a role in society. Most people live for themselves, or maybe for their family. I often hear people say: I am who I am. They mean: everyone should accept me with all my weaknesses, I’m not going to do something about it. With an attitude like that, you’re not living – merely existing. 

When I lived in the ashram, my grandfather made me promise I would use every day to try and be a better person than I was the day before. It’s our job in society to improve ourselves, on a social, emotional, economical level and as a parent. We have to be balanced civilians. People are emotional beings, we react to everything in life with fear, anger, frustration, love, happiness, etcetera. We can allow life to blow us in all directions, like a weather vane, or we can take responsibility and learn how to reinforce the good reactions and control the negative ones. Simply because our behavior is not just important to ourselves, but to society as a whole.’ 

If you could talk to your grandfather now, what would you want to discuss? 

‘I would ask him how we can make rich people and nations see that, if we want to cure the world of its ailments, their attitudes and compassion are crucial. If we stop abusing each other and start to join forces, the world will be a much more peaceful place.’  

Mahatma Gandhi’s lessons 

The years in Mahatma Gandhi’s ashram changed Arun Gandhi’s life. Some of his insights: 

* Use your anger for the better.
* Anger motivates you to meet challenges and make changes.
* Don’t be afraid to speak up. 
* A convinced ‘no’ is better than saying yes to please others.
* Enjoy silence and being on your own. You need it to put experiences into perspective.
* Know your worth.
* Who you are and what you do, is worth just as much as what anyone else does.
* Lies are burdens.
* If you lie to others, you’re lying to yourself too, because you’re justifying your own behavior. 
* Waste is violence. It’s indifference towards the world and nature.
* Don’t chastice your children.
* Non-violent parenthood sets the right example for your children. 

Arun Gandhi, The Gift of Anger – And Other Lessons From My Grandfather Mahatma Gandhi.Penguin Books, 2017. 

Text: Vivian de Gier [edited] - Photo: Frank McKenna


Need a mood booster? This playlist will cheer you up

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Put on a cheerful tune in the morning, and wake up by dancing, jumping around and stretching – together with the kids. Spin around, make up fun new dance moves. It’s good for body and mind and it’ll immediately activate you. 

The tidying dance and the dressing up song 

It’s fun to have everyone pick their favorite song. You can link an activity to it: this is the dressing up song! The tidying dance! With a nice tune, every chore is fun. Or, if it’s a quiet song, do some yoga. 

This playlist will cheer you up immediately, guaranteed - from ‘Can’t stop the feeling’ to ‘Uptown Funk’ and ‘Hakuna Matata’.

Photo by Quan Nguyen

A butterfly on the wall: how to make shadow animals with your hands

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All you need is a wall and a dimlit room - and both your hands. With these tools, you can have lots of fun making your favorite animals: from butterflies to deers, wolves, rabbits and spiders.

Telling stories before bedtime can be the highlight of the day. And shadow animals, the ones you make on the wall in a dimlit bedroom, can be great illustrations of the stories. This is how you make them:

Photo: Martin Reininger

Kindness goes a long way: 15 friendly gestures you can make today

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Violence against caregivers, cashiers being completely ignored… Sometimes it seems like friendliness is a rare thing. And that’s while it’s so easy. These friendly gestures will make both others and yourself feel good. 

1 Send a kind message to a friend 

 Just to let them know you’re thinking about them. 

 2 Leave a note at your colleague’s desk 

 Today, don’t use your sticky notes for the umpteenth chores you really need to do today, but write down a friendly note for a colleague and stick it to their desk or screen. 

 3 Keep the door open for someone

 It’s so simple. 

 4 Send a postcard

 Who said postcards are just for birthdays or other special occasions? It’s so much fun to find an old-fashioned postcard in the mailbox, especially when it’s completely unexpected. 

 5 Give a compliment

 Did your neighbor get a new haircut, or are you impressed with your colleague’s great presentation? Don’t keep it to yourself, tell them. 

 6 Offer a homeless person a sandwich or a cup of coffee

 7 Do a chore for your partner or roommate

 If your partner or roommate usually takes out the garbage or cleans the bathroom, but they’re really busy today (or they simply hate domestic chores), just take up the task for the day. 

 8 Let someone else go first at the register 

 9 Hide a little note in a library book 

Write down what struck you about the book, or simply say ‘have fun reading’. 

 10 Donate clothes or other stuff

 If you have a wardrobe filled with clothes you never wear, or it’s time to get rid of all the kitchen utensils you never use, there’s probably someone who’ll be really happy with them. Charities usually welcome them, too. 

 11 Tell someone you love how happy they make you 

 12 Greet a stranger passing you by in the street

 It may feel a little bit awkward at first, but if we make it into a habit to wish other people ‘goodmorning’ or ‘good afternoon’, the world will start looking a lot friendlier. 

 13 Get your colleagues coffee   

 Yup, even if it’s not your turn. 

 14 Give your mom a call 

 Or your dad, grandma, grandpa or aunt: just to ask them how they’re doing. 

 15 Be kind to yourself 

 It’s just as important as being nice to others. Today, don’t curse at yourself for not being perfect, but stand in front of the mirror and give yourself a compliment. Out loud! 

Text: Sanne Eva Dijkstra - Photo: Veronika Homchis  

33 questions for a good conversation with your partner

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Relationships are special. They wouldn’t have existed if two people hadn’t met. Lealyn Papaya realized that, no matter how much she talked to her partner or how well they knew each other, there would always be some distance. 

Suddenly, she was aware of how the questions they used to ask eachother, were mostly about ‘you and me’, while speaking about ‘us’ would be much more interesting. That’s why she made a questionnaire of 33 questions that show how you and your partner think about what connects you: your relationship. 

Some of the questions will make you happy, others will surprise you. Sometimes the answer might make you insecure, or bring up other emotions you didn’t expect. The point is, Lealyn stresses, that there are no right or wrong answers. The questions are about truth, and truth can be pleasant or unpleasant. 

As long as you’re able to truly listen and you don’t draw premature conclusions, and as long as you’re in a mature, open and honest relationship, this experience will only make your connection stronger. 


Plan a night together, light some candles and pour yourselves a nice drink. Make this conversation a special moment. A night you remember with a warm feeling, because it brought you closer together. 

Celebrate love!

1 Which things I do or say make you feel loved?

2 Which things I say or do don’t make you feel loved?

3 What was the first thing that attracted you to me?

4 Which things I do in bed do you like?

5 Do I touch you enough?

6 Do I compliment you enough?

7 How or when do I make you feel special? 

8 Are you interested in certain activities in bed you haven’t told me about yet?

9 What scares you the most, regarding our relationship? 

10 What do you like the most about our relationship?

11 How can I help you to keep your individuality?

12 What’s changed since the first impression you had of me?

13 Is there anything you feel I’m not 100% honest about? 

14 If you could change a part of your body, what would it be?

15 What’s the most painful thing I’ve ever said or done during our relationship? 

16 Tell me what you would want me to do when making love. 

17 What’s your favorite part of my body? And of my mind?

18 Name a habit of mine that annoys you. 

19 What distinguishes me from other people?

20 When we met, how long did you think we’d be together? And how long do you think we’ll be together now? 

21 How do you feel when we’re not together?

22 What do I contribute to your life?

23 What was the first thing that attracted me in you? 

24 What do you think when you see me talking to an attractive person of my orientation?

25 How can I support you?

26 Have you ever worried about me cheating on you?

27 Have you ever considered cheating on me?

28 When do you admire me the most?

29 Are you content with how I feel about you?

30 Do you think we spend too much time together, or too little? 

31 Is our relationship less exciting now than when we first met? How? 

32 What’s your biggest fear?

33 When do you feel like you’re in the prime of your life?

 Text: Eline Hoffman - Photo: Julian Howard

How to say goodbye to friendships the Marie Kondo way

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Do you know Marie Kondo, the Japanese tidying guru? According to Marie, the question we should ask when tidying is: ‘Does it spark joy?’ This question might be applicable to more things in life. If you’re not sure about your friendship, the Marie Kondo way can be helpful. 

You probably know them, too: people you once were really close to, but not so much anymore. If it happens in a love relationship -you’re growing apart-, it usually results in a breakup. Friendships, however, are not monogamous, so you don’t really need to ‘end it’. The relationship keeps muddling through and before you know it, you’ve collected several friendships that hardly offer you anything anymore. 

Andrea Bonior wrote the book The Friendship Fix and recommends people to really think about what you want and expect of your friends. Someone who’s a good listener, someone who makes lots of fun with you, someone who shares your hobby? In an ideal world, your best friend has it all and all your friends bring out the best in you. In reality, it’s different. Because someone is really emotionally dependent. Or because they bring up the nasty, gossiping side of you. The more time you spend together, the more difficult it is to be the best version of you. 

Sounds like you? Then it’s time to unfriend people using the Marie Kondo method. This is how. 

Don’t end it overnight

Which friendships make you happy? These are the ones you should hold onto. With regard to the other ones, it’s quite simple: if they bring out a negative side in you, it’s better to end it. This might sound a bit harsh, but when push comes to shove, both you and your friend benefit from honesty. 

You don’t have to ‘break up’ overnight. Just get in touch less often and see how it feels and what happens. The other person may have noticed the same as you, and they may be fine with more distance. They may also ask you what’s going on. If they do, it’s best to explain in a friendly way that your life is going in a different direction than it used to, Bonior advises. 

If your friend asks questions, don’t leave them hanging, but take the time to explain how you feel about the friendship. You don’t owe them to be their friend, but you do owe them a fair answer. 

Remaining friends within a group or not? 

For some people, big groups of friends work really well and they don’t really mind if a one on one friendship disintegrates: within the group as a whole, the connection can still be there. However, this is about your needs. If you feel that it’s time to let go of the friendship, there’s your decision. If it’s fine with you to see eachother every once in a while when there are other friends around, that’s OK, too. 

When it comes to friendships, it’s pretty much the same thing as tidying up. Some people are fine with a bit of chaos. No problem, according to Marie Kondo herself: ‘There’s nothing wrong with a chaotic house if that is what you want. However, I would advise to create a spot for every belonging, and to have some sort of overview. That’s how you make sure your aware of the situation and that’s the most important thing.’ It works the same with friendships. 

Text: Eline Hoffman - Photo: Kalisa Veer

Always saying sorry when there's no need? 5 ways to stop apologizing

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If you think about it, it’s like saying ‘excuse me for living’ - literally: if you tend to apologize for every little thing, you devaluate yourself. And there’s no need to.

Are you the type of person who says ‘sorry!’ when a stranger bumps into you in the street, even it’s their fault? Do you apologize in advance when you’re asking your colleague to help you with something perfectly normal? Maybe you even apologize for things that you can’t control at all. You’re not the only one. 

 Many people, especially women, apologize all the time – while there’s no need. Most of us learn at a young age that they need to say sorry when they did something wrong. Of course that’s useful. If something went wrong because of you, it’s a powerful thing to acknowledge what you did and apologize. But when you say sorry all the time, there’s something wrong. 

 Excuse me for living 

 If you keep apologizing, in fact you’re saying ‘excuse me for living’ – literally, not ironically. This may undermine your selfesteem. The difficult thing is that excessive apologizing usually comes from very nice qualities. If you’re very empathetic, you probably tend to say sorry because you want to take other people’s feelings into account. However, when doing so, you don’t take your own feelings into account. If you try to avoid conflict, apologizing may be your way to do so. But apologizing a lot can also come from a strict upbringing, or difficulties related to fear. 

5 ways of reducing your ‘sorry’s’

1 Count to ten and think about it: did you actually do or say anything you need to apologize for? If you can’t think of anything, don’t say sorry. 

 2 Do you find it hard to express your emotions? Don’t say sorry. Your feelings deserve space, you don’t need to apologize for them. Want to let people know you empathize with them? Instead of ‘sorry’, you can tell them: ‘I understand it may be difficult to hear this’ or ‘please let me know if it upsets you.’ 

 3 Write down ten things you often apologize for, like bumping into a stranger, or asking a friend to help you. Think of an alternative for every situation and practice with it. 

4 If you’re asking a question or need someone to clarify something, don’t feel like there’s anything wrong with that. Instead of ‘sorry, I don’t understand’, you might say ‘Perhaps you can help me by giving an example’ or ‘Could you tell me a little bit more about this?’

5 Turn excuses into gratitude. If you asked a friend to do a chore for you, don’t say ‘sorry I had to ask you’ but: ‘I’m thankful you did it for me.’ It’s more pleasant for the other person, and it helps you to focus on positive things. 

 Text: Joanne Wienen - Photo: Allef Vinicius

Emotional eater? This is how you change your relationship to food

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Do you tend to grab a chocolate bar or a bag of crisps if you’re feeling bad, because it has a nice numbing effect – ignoring what your body really needs? 

According to diet coach Eve Lahijani, who has been an emotional eater for a long time, we need to change our relationship to food. After years of emotional eating, she wanted to get rid of her obsession with (unhealthy) food. She took several courses to get ‘better’ and made it her mission to help others do the same. 

According to Eve, you can change your own relationship to food following these three simple steps: 

1 Reconnect to hunger 

It’s lunch time, you’re watching a movie, you’re happy, you’re sad, you don’t want to throw away any leftovers: there are lots and lots of reasons to eat. At the same time, we tend to repress our hunger. Because we’re angry, because no one else is eating, because it’s too early, because we’re busy – etcetera. Lahijani encourages you to eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. Duh, you’re thinking? Sure, it sounds obvious. But you probably find yourself regularly eating things when you’re not really hungry.

To prevent yourself from doing that, you can rate your hunger or the extent to which you’re full. 0 means you’re starving, 10 means you’re stuffed. Eat something when you start feeling hungry – say, a 3 or 4. Stop eating when you’re full, but not too full – like a 6 or 7. Lahijani says you shouldn’t wait until you’re very hungry, because that’s when you tend to make unhealthy choices. Besides, if you’re a little bit hungry, you eat more slowly, you don’t tend to eat too much and you enjoy the food more. You eat more mindfully. 

2 Feed your body with what it’s craving 

If you’re dieting, you’re only feeding your body with nutritions that are ‘approved’. If you feel like snacking, you go for food that’s prohibited. If you want to change your relationship to food, you need to break this pattern. Lahijani says that’s only possible by feeding your body with the food it’s really craving. 

She discovered that most of the time, her body wasn’t craving junkfood. When she stopped feeling guilty about eating, and didn’t think about what was ‘approved’ or ‘forbidden’, she discovered she preferred nutritious foods like fruit and vegetables. 

3 Don’t use food as a reward or punishment 

If you’re good, you get candy. If you don’t finish your meal, you can’t have dessert. Many of us learned at a very young age that food serves as punishment or reward. There’s nothing wrong with having cake to celebrate, but you might want to study your association with food. A birthday with healthy snacks isn’t necessarily less fun, going to see a movie is very well possible without an XL popcorn and a big coke. 

Why self-compassion makes it easier to lose weight

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How can you be happy with your own body in an environment of perfection? Self-compassion is the answer, according to Buddhist and professor of psychology Kristin Neff: the ability to be kind and mild to yourself.

Does self-compassion start with the realization that we are all imperfect?

“The misconception is that ‘normal’ is the same thing as ‘perfect’. If there is something about us that we don’t like, something that’s not beautiful, we usually compare it to our image of what is normal. And that means: healthy, fit, slim, beautiful. Consciously or unconsciously, we believe that we are abnormal when something is wrong in that department. It is this feeling that makes you feel isolated and separate from others. It aggravates the discomfort you already feel because you don’t feel good about yourself.

Self-compassion is good for you in many ways. It’s good for your self-image and for the way you deal with your body. People with self-compassion look after themselves better, they exercise more and eat better. As it turns out, self-compassion has a positive effect on all sorts of neurological systems in the body, such as the production of oxytocin, also called the love hormone, the one that makes you feel good. It also helps alleviate chronic pain. A recent study showed that even the immune system shows a positive reaction to self-compassion.”


If you think you’re fat, for example, does self-compassion begin with acknowledging that it bothers you?

“Yes, that’s the start. Struggling against unwanted feelings only makes them stronger. But self-compassion is also about relieving unwanted feelings, so that takes it one step further than merely acknowledging them. It’s a strong need to look after yourself and to do what you can to alleviate your discomfort. Suppose you really are overweight, then you literally make life heavier for yourself.

Through self-compassion, you will do everything you can to become healthier and to lose weight, so you’ll be less of an impediment to yourself. Instead of telling yourself: ‘I am so fat, I am useless, I really must use weight…’ you say to yourself: ‘I would like to lose weight, because now I am not healthy, and I want to do something good for myself.’

It makes the motivation to change stronger: a sense of caring about yourself makes losing weight a greater success than when you scold yourself. You are less worried about failing and you will last longer. In other words, it’s a mistake to think that self-compassion means sitting back and not working on yourself anymore.” 

Text: Lisette Thooft - Photo: Jared Weiss





Always comparing yourself to others? This is how you change that habit

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If you compare your life to other people’s lives, how does it make you feel? Writer and Happinez Festival speaker Andrea Owen used to do it all the time, and she usually thought other people were much smarter / better / prettier. Until she looked at it differently. 

Friend A has a fantastic job. After she graduated, she made a great career for herself. While your job, well, let’s just say it pays the bills. Your colleagues are nice and everything, but you don’t feel you challenge yourself as much as you should. 

Friend B has a great, loving relationship with his partner, they have been together for fifteen years now. How do they do it? After your last serious relationship, you only had a couple of flings. Guess you’re not really a catch. 

And friend C. She has a busy life with three children, races from piano class to hockey training to ballet class, always cheerful as ever – while you, without any kids, crash in front of the TV every night feeling exhausted. 

Recognize this train of thought? Then you’re probably good at it, too: comparing yourself to others. Everybody does it. It’s almost impossible not to, Andrea Owen says in her book How To Stop Feeling Like Shit – 14 Habits That Are Holding You Back From Happiness. But it is possible to change how it makes you feel. 

Focus on the positive 

For some reason, comparing yourself to others often makes the other person seem ‘better’. Right? It’s like other people have better lives, better bodies, better homes, better relationships. And even if they don’t – and you feel like yours is better – this isn’t the best way of increasing your self-esteem. Because if your sense of self is dependent on how other people do it, life will always be a competition: in order to be happy about yourself, you have to do better than others. Tiresome, isn’t it? 

Train your pride 

Modesty is highly appreciated in our culture. Pride, not so much: it’s associated with bragging and arrogance. That’s why feeling proud isn’t always easy. You may tend to punish yourself for it (‘don’t think you’re all that’, ‘others are much better at this). A real shame. 

To train your pride, make a list of everything you’ve achieved in your life. Don’t just put your diplomas on it, or the jobs you’ve had, but also the skills you’ve developed (from typing with ten fingers to beautifully painting a wall, and from telling great stories to really listening to someone). And don’t forget about all the things that scared you, but you did them anyway: jumping off the highest diving board, giving a presentation, applying for that dream job). Finished the list? Now it’s time to applaud yourself for it. Or, as Andrea puts it: ‘Allow yourself to wallow in fulfillment about everything you’ve achieved.’ 

Pick your sources of inspiration 

There are probably things you do because they inspire you. Like following fitgirls on Instagram, like Andrea did for a long time. Or hanging out with a colleague you look up to – because you want to make a promotion, like she did twice, and because she stands up for herself. But do they truly inspire you? Take a good look at your sources of inspiration, and think about whether they motivate you or get you down. If someone makes you feel small, or like you’re a failure, they’re not a good source of inspiration. It’s better to find people who actually make you feel good about yourself and inspire you to challenge yourself more. 

Andrea Owen at the Happinez Festival 

Knowing your habits is one thing, changing them into something positive is another. At the Happinez Festival, Andrea Owen explains how to do it. She tells all about it in a personal manner, with empathy and mild self-irony. 

Text: Dorien Vrieling - Photo: Zoe Deal

This is how you bring back passion in your relationship

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What’s the secret to 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.

The 5 best ways to become a real daredevil

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Do you remember yourself standing there, on the edge of the diving board? Every inch of you resisted jumping, but at the same time you knew you didn’t want to quit – because you would regret it. As adults, we may not stand on edges of diving boards too often anymore, but we still come across similar situations.

Courage is like a muscle. You can challenge it by training every day, in all sorts of ways. 

1 Think of fear as a useful signal

As human beings, we get scared sometimes. And we should be glad about that, because if we didn’t know fear, we would’nt wait for a train crossing, or go for a picknick among wild animals. The trick is to distinguish among different kinds of fear. Are you scared for a reason – because you need to protect yourself – or is fear blocking your growth? If it’s the latter, it’s time for a challenge. You don’t need to go bungeejumping tomorrow, but the more often you do a scary thing, the more your self-esteem grows. And the more interesting your life gets. 

2 Dance like nobody’s watching 

Practice giving zero f***s about others’ opinions. Tune in on how you’re feeling (is this what you want? Is it good for you), not on what someone else might think of it. And remember: most of the times, you don’t even know what they’re thinking. So why worry about it? 

3 Make a bucketlist 

Set up a list of all the things you would love to do, but are too scared to. Pick one of the points on the list every month, and do it. One ‘small’ thing every month, one big thing every year (skydiving, rafting, singing on stage). 

4 Stretch your comfort zone 

Courage isn’t just about doing Very Scary Stuff. It’s also about finding the ‘awkward spot’. Doing things that make you feel uneasy, like chatting with this handsome person on the train, leading a meeting, speaking up about what you like in bed, getting up on the roof to fix the gutter when you’re afraid of hights, taking pole dancing lessons – everyday stuff you would rather avoid. 

5 Dare to make mistakes 

The fear of failure may stop you from doing scary stuff. But if you never make mistakes, this means you never take risks – and your life will be very dull. The more mistakes you make, the more you learn and the more you grow. 

Text: Dorien Vrieling - Photo: Todd Quackenbush












Do you hydrate enough? 7 signs you should drink more water

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Your body consists of lots of water, and many bodily functions depend on the fluid. How much you need, depends. For instance, if you exercise a lot or if you’re pregnant, you need to drink more. On average, it’s best to drink at least 1,5 to 2 liters a day.

If you don’t drink enough, your body has several ways of telling you so. Before you grab a painkiller when you feel a headache coming up, or before you think you’re having a snack attack: these signals suggest your body is simply longing for more water. 

1 Thirsty

Obviously: if you’re thirsty, you need to drink water. However, the body doesn’t always tell you you’re thirsty. The frequency of your toilet visits is telling. On average, you should go 4 to 10 times a day. If you go less frequently, you don’t drink enough.

2 Trouble focussing

If you don’t drink enough, your brain isn’t able to function optimally. This makes it harder to focus. A dose of cafeine may seem just what you need, but a simple glass of water is a better option. 

3 Hungry

Before you open the fridge for the xxth time today, just have a glass of water to find out if it’s really food you need. It might be thirst. Your brain isn’t always able to tell the difference, so it gives a hunger signal while all you need is some water. 

4 Headaches

If you often have a headache or even migraine, it might be a sign you’re not drinking enough water. Scientists aren’t sure what the connection between the two is, but for many people, headaches are less frequent when they start drinking more.

5 Bad breath

Sure, if you just had a pizza with extra garlic on it, it’s wise to chew on a leaf of mint to hide the intense smell. But if you’re having a bad breath for no reason, a lack of hydration may be the cause. The bacteria living in your mouth multiply more quickly in a dry environment. Having a few glasses of water helps to restore the natural balance of your saliva, which has an antibacterial effect.   

6 Lack of energy

Feeling listless? For almost every bodily function, water is needed. If you don’t drink enough, your energy level decreases. 

7 Constipation

Another ailment you can really, really do without: constipation. Water is like a lubricant for the bowels. If you hardly go for a number two – or you spend more time at the toilet than you’d like – drinking more water can really help. 

Text: Sanne Eva Dijkstra


This is who you should fall in love with, based on your moon sign

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Love is complicated, but your moon sign can help you to see if the two of you are made for eachother. The moon represents your emotions and how you respond to others in relationships. 

Your moon sign is determined by the position of the moon during your birth. To discover what the moon’s position was at the time, you can use this tool. If your signs aren’t complementary, but you're in a happy relationship anyway, you’re one of the (many!) cosmic exceptions. Just enjoy this match – it may not be in the stars, but it makes you happy, that's all that matters. 

Note that every sign referred to is a moon sign (less well-known than the star sign): Aries is someone with a moon in Aries, etc. 

The moon in Aries 

You’re straightforward. You like to think fast, cut to the chase and you’re confident when you’re talking – whether it’s about painful emotions or groceries. You’re evidently a fire sign, and you fancy… someone with the same sign. Aries matches Aries, because they need someone who has the same ease and charisma. You guys communicate in a playful way, and you don’t have to fear the other person will overrule you. There can be a spark with a Leo, too, but Scorpions or Cancers are a no go. 

The moon in Taurus

Taurus is known for being stubborn, especially when it comes to love. Luckily, love goddess Venus helps you. It would be nice if you could find another Taurus to enjoy the good things in life, but the two of you would probably clash. That’s why you’re a better match with someone who has a moon in Virgo or Capricorn. It’s wise to stay away from Libra – they find it hard to remain calm when they are teased. 

The moon in Gemini

You’re not the kind of person for long, stable relationships and you tend to flutter from one objet d’amour to the other. The planet that’s most important to you –passionate and talkative Mercury– prefers a sign like Libra or Aquarius for you, because you can have great conversations with them. The moons of the more serious Capricorn and Scorpio offer more of a challenge for you. Dating Pisces can be tempting, because flirty combined with volatile is a great combination for a fling.

The moon in Cancer 

You’re very in touch with your emotions. You know what you feel, you pay attention to other people’s feelings and love to talk about your spiritual world. With Pisces, you can have a dreamy relationship, and the more reserved Scorpio might be a good match too. Extrovert and loud Leo is probably too much for your sensitive personality. 

The moon in Leo 

You are the kind of person who loves perfection, and who would do anything to achieve it. You work hard, you love creating order out of chaos and you’re good at grabbing any chance that falls into your lap. You appreciate it if your partner recognizes that, and that’s why you’re a good match with action driven Aries or optimistic Sagittarius. Most important is that your partner is confident enough to keep up with you. That’s why stubborn Taurus and protective Scorpio are probably not the best choice for you. 

The moon in Virgo 

Did anyone say ‘self criticism’ and ‘analysis’? Those two words describe you in a relationship. You keep analyzing every situation and every conversation. You like perfection in relationships. A fellow Virgo or a down to earth Capricorn is a good match, but slackers like Aquarius and Sagittarius would clash with you. 

The moon in Libra 

The order of things, balance, that’s important to you. You’re a tactful partner, always looking for harmony. But you have an airy, creative side too. That’s why you’re a good match with Aquarius and Capricorn. Aries, however, might get you into trouble – they have a strong survival instinct that might make you want to escape. 

The moon in Scorpio

There’s no sign as profound and reserved as Scorpio. You look for what’s below the surface and see details and little pieces of information that others miss entirely. Your partner might think twice before they pull a prank on you. An intimate Taurus or intelligent Virgo could be a good match, because they understand your ambition and drive. An independent Aquarius, however, might dislike your tendency to see through depths. 

The moon in Sagittarius 

You find joy and enthusiasm in almost everything you do, and you have a strong faith in everything related to the matters of the heart. Whoever gets into a relationship with you has to be open minded. Gemini or Aquarius, who have an optimistic outlook on relationships, might be a good match with you, but an overly sensitive Cancer or stubborn Taurus are not the best choice. 

The moon in Capricorn

You’re always looking for the way up: you’re always climbing, always working hard to reach the best things. The strict planet Saturn reigns over your moon, and a serious Taurus or Virgo understand your ambition. A Cancer with a domestic side may help you to create a stable and disciplined home. Libra, however, will demand you to descend from your mountain, which might be a problem in the long run.

The moon in Aquarius

Calm, cool and collected, that’s what you are. You know how to approach situations in an independent way and you’re good at cooperating with a common goal. In a relationship, you’re a good match with someone spontaneous and courages. A Leo will challenge you to find your power and supports your individuality, but a stubborn Taurus or impatient Aries are less advisable. 

The moon in Pisces 

You’re a gentle hearted dreamer. In a relationship, you look for a person who’s less submissive than you are, which means a moon in Aries or Sagittarius isn’t a good idea. An intense Scorpio or efficient Virgo, however, can keep you down to earth. 

Photo: Niti K. 


Why self-love is healthy - and how to practice it

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Loving yourself and your body improves your health, research shows. But how do you go from being hard on yourself to kind and loving?

Scientists from Exeter and Oxford University divided participants into two several groups. Two groups heard positive affirmations, the other two groups heard a voice that was very critical towards them. After the session, the first two groups turned out to have more empathy towards themselves and others than the other two groups. They also perspirated less, and had a lower heartbeat. 

The research shows clearly: there’s all the reason in the world to be kind to yourself. These tricks make it easier to do so.  

1 Be your own best friend 

You probably want the best for your friends. When someone you love is grieving, or makes a big mistake, you don’t judge them: you’re there for them. So why would you judge yourself, instead of giving yourself the support you need? 

In a difficult situation, try to think about things you would say to a good friend in the same situation. Which loving, comforting words would you use? They are probably the words you would want to hear yourself, but instead, you’re tough on yourself. Being your own friend doesn’t happen overnight, but it will make you a warmer, more cheerful, healthier person. 

2 Listen to your inner critic 

If you’re living a busy life, you probably tend to switch to autopilot a lot. This makes us less conscious of our negative thoughts. If you listen to the voice in your head, and you’re aware of the daily monologue, you’ll find out soon enough whether it’s mostly positive or negative. 

During a regular day, write down most of the thoughts that come up in your head. Be alert when it comes to words like ‘should’ or ‘could’. They often contain judgment, and they’re nota bout self-love. Once you get a better notion of your inner voice on paper, you’ll know more about the way you address yourself. Not just in stressful or difficult times, but also in happy times. Is there a difference? Or do you always tend to be hard on yourself? This insight is valuable, because the next time you’re about to meet a challenge, you can choose the words and their meaning. Always ask yourself: what am I telling myself now, and does it work for me? Is it helpful? If the answer is ‘no’, try to switch to positive affirmations. They will make you stronger, both mentally and physically. 

Photo: Raychan

Listen and be inspired: John Lennon's most beautiful songs

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He sang and was a world peace activist, even as he searched for his own peace of mind. With his paradoxical personality, John Lennon bequeathed to the world a treasure of inspiring lyrics, culminating in the iconic song ‘Imagine’.  

IMAGINE (1971)
John Lennon’s folk song for a new, better world. Everything will change if you want it; first inside your head, later also in reality.

Upbeat, groovy plea for personal power. We are all stars and we shine like the sun, sings Lennon
in a song that he wrote and recorded in one day.

Powerful sequel to Imagine and almost as beautiful. The dream is now a practical proposal: love is the answer. 

What to do if it feels like love is out of reach for you

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There’s something strange about love outside our reach. Once you can’t touch it, it becomes very important, attractive and valuable. 

After years and years of brief affairs, of falling in love (nerve wrecking times), and being in serious relationships, something started to strike me. It’s something I wish I had known twenty years before. When love is out of reach, something strange happens: all of a sudden, it becomes very important, attractive and valuable. We want to have it, because we can’t have it. 


This inconvenient mechanism works this way in all forms and shapes of love. An unanswered love can become an obsession, because you tend to project every desirable, almost superhuman quality to the unwilling person. If you’re having a brief affair with someone who’s not completely available, this person will be like a jackpot you just can’t win, no matter how much money you spend on lottery tickets. And in a serious relationship, you’re screwed even more, because if your partner doesn’t give you love and dedication on a structural basis, after a while you probably won’t even admit it – simply because it’s so clever and so painful. 

Just one more step 

In a relationship where your partner doesn’t really commit, you feel like you’re not good enough – and at the same time, it seems possible to make them happy. Your partner’s appreciation and dedication are within reach, all you have to do is take one more stap, do your best a little bit more, and then you will succeed. Just dress a little bit better, say the right things at the right time, please them a little more in bed – and they will really love you. 

However, a person can dedicate their whole life to this, I tell you -unfortunately, from my own experience- without ever succeeding. 

Scoring points 

If you find yourself completely trying to prove your worth to someone, you have lost touch with your worth. If you’re unconsciously trying to score points in order to earn love, you will never win. It’s addictive, because every time you do score a point and find some proof of their love for you, you feel powerful and strong. You will work even harder to feel it again. That’s how this other person has a hold of you. 

People show who they are, what they have to offer and which place they give you in their lives, quite quickly. We tend to forget about that, because something has replaced this knowledge: our desires and needs. Fulfillment is so close it seems achievable, all they have to do is give it to you. But there’s a chance they were never actually able to give it. We have started to see it, because we wanted to see it. Because we darn deserve it. Because they have it in them, you’re certain. 

We’re the ones who have to remove the veil in front of our own eyes, in order to see that there’s nothing to find her – nothing, except an illusion that we’ve carefully built ourselves. 

Text: Susan Smit - Photo: Sweet Ice Cream Photography

What's your spirit animal? It reminds you of your inner wisdom

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Have you found your spirit animal yet? This animal is on your side at a specific point in your life, and gives you the strength you need. The spider encourages you to weave your own web, the crocodile motivates you to be patient. 

All fifty spirit animals are divided into three categories in David Carson’s book How To Find Your Spirit Animal: inner qualities, inner wisdom and inner beauty. The five spirit animals of inner wisdom are: horse, coyote, seal, hare and octopus. 

Horse: retrieve your power 

Shamans and horses are originally a good match. The noble animals are honored for their power and their gracious appearance. The legends around them are numerous: the universe as a horse, horses hidden in pumpkins, shaman drums that turn into horses during rituals. Physical horse power has been a valuable thing for people for centuries, and the power is symbolically connected to the horse, too. Are you in need of some power, after a rough time or with a new adventure ahead of you? The horse as a spirit animal helps you to increase your inner power.  

Coyote: order instead of chaos

A survivor, that’s the coyote. It ambushes its prey all by itself, it chases a deer, survives at the North Pole or in Mexico – wherever it is, the coyote will find its way. The animal is flexible and smart, but also untrustworthy and hard to follow. It’s a valuable spirit animal if you’re in a chaotic situation, because it challenges you to find your path again. It may also appear when you do have everything in order. Ask yourself: is this structure enough for me? The coyote confronts and challenges. 

Seal: dare to change

The sea represents emotion, mystery, endlessness and connection. In initiation rituals, the symbolic meaning of water is our everchanging reality. Life isn’t right or left, black or white, it’s all of it. The seal, living under water for the most part, knows it. Do you find yourself having old habits, fixed thoughts or fear of change? The seal may be your spirit animal. It offers flexibility and suppleness because it moves along to the rhythm of the sea. 

Hare: be true to yourself 

Hares are prey animals with very sharp hearing. Like no other, they are able to distinguish between sounds and decide whether the coast is clear. They are masters when it comes to maneuvers, deceiving their pursuers. Hares are sensitive, ingenious animals. As a spirit animal, the hare helps you to stay true to your path. Do you find it difficult to keep your balance and be true to yourself? The hare will help you – just as the rabbit, by the way. 

Octopus: reduce stress 

The octopus has eight tentacles. This number represents balance and completion. The animal is smart, flexible and solitary. When it’s in danger, it makes itself invisible or starts a poison attack. The octopus is focused on solutions and reaching its goal. It motivates you to succeed at several points at the same time, to reduce stress, not to stand out too much and be skillful when it comes to handling difficult situations. With the octopus as a spirit animal, you go through inner growth that strengthens you deeply. 

Want to know more? 

Read all about spirit animals in David Carson’s book How To Find Your Spirit Animal. 

Text: Fabienne Peters - Photo: Jason Leung