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POSITIVE, WISE & LOVING LIFE

How to reach the state of mind where everything is possible

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The Beginner’s Mind is a state of mind where you experience everything like it’s the first time. It’s a wonderful way to start afresh.

Living from a Beginner’s Mind is the #1 sign of wisdom. This notion from Zen Buddhism might sound contradictory, but it isn’t. Forget what you think you know, and you’ll remember the most important things.

Living life uninhibitedly

Hypnotized I watch my fourteen-month-old niece. She has been playing with a packet of handkerchiefs for twenty minutes. I envy her undivided attention. Fidgeting with handkerchiefs is not something I would regard as the highlight of the day. The things that are new and surprising to kids, are often boring or unimportant to me.

I don’t know when I lost that open mind. The zillionth day, the zillionth care, the zillionth person or the zillionth packet of handkerchiefs probably replaced it, somewhere on the way to adulthood. That’s not just a bad thing. I think a combination of both would be ideal: my niece’s uninhibited, open mind, combined with some experience of life. I always imagined something like that when I read about the notion of the Beginner’s Mind, from Zen Buddhism. It’s a state of being where everything is possible, where you experience everything like it’s the first time and you don’t get caught up in the illusion that you know it all.

Keep practicing

The way out of a stale attitude to life, is becoming a beginner allover again. You can do so by replacing ‘it’s like that’ (period) by ‘what is it like’ (question mark). By saying ‘I don’t know’ if you don’t know. By asking for help. By allowing yourself to be surprised and being curious. But being a beginner isn’t something you learn overnight, you have to practice it.

With these exercises, you practice letting go and starting again, and train your astonishment and gratitude.  

1.     Fresh eyes

Today, look at your spouse, child, pet or colleague as if you’re seeing them for the first time. Forget the idea that you know who they are. Study their faces, the color of their eyes, the lines in their faces, as if it’s a unique rendez-vous. Which it is! There is no moment in your life that you experienced before, nor will any moment ever return.

2.     Hello Air. Hello Tree. Hello Dirty Laundry.

Terminally ill people often experience their lives much more intensely. They tend to get surprised about how much they took for granted in life. The color of sunrise, the feeling of someone touching you, the scent of a cup of tea. Don’t wait for your last moments, try to look around you this intense now. Start today.

3.     Forget about you

Forget the story you have about yourself, the ‘this is me’ and ‘it’s like this’ we keep wriggling ourselves into.  Turn loose the screws of the things you need – the bath before bed time, that cigarette or even the yoga session in the morning. See what happens.

4.     See the abundance

The Beginner’s Mind is, just like loving someone, not something you do but something you allow to happen. Turn your urge to perform down a little today. Lean back and let the abundance of it all impress you. In other words: relax.

5.     Do something else

Lie in bed upside down, see the first movie that’s playing in the cinema, wear your most festive underwear on a rainy Monday or hit the swing on the playground you pass by: success guaranteed. Do at least one of these things today.

6.     Ask for help

A beginner needs help, but for most of us, asking for it is difficult. However, asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of self-assessment. Besides, you’ll be doing others a favor if you let them help you. Today, explicitly ask someone for help at least once.

7.     Have no idea

One of the biggest illusions of the boarded up expert mind is knowing it all. Meeting a know-it-all is like walking into a cement wall. Most wise people know that the wiser you become, the less you know. So today, be sure to have no idea at all about something.

8.     No plan

From early morning ‘til late at night, most of us are busy ticking the boxes of what a Buddhist teacher calls the ‘I-plan’. A plan like that can make you walk through life with blinders. Letting go of your I-plan, your strategy, your life mission every once in a while, means inviting the world as an unexpected visitor. Let go of your plan at least once today, and set the table for your guest. Wander. Stare. Listen.  

Text: Geertje Couwenbergh - Photo: Kevin Bluer

Are the holidays complicated in your family? You will survive - here's how

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What is it that makes family ties so different from other relationships? Where does our endless loyalty come from, and is it possible to repair broken ties?

Your family supports you through thick and thin, it is said to be some sort of law of nature. Reality can be quite different, but the feelings we have for our family members go deep. There is a loyalty towards the people you’ve grown up with, whatever happened. Perhaps you are different from the rest, perhaps you’ve left, gone your own way, perhaps you’ve found values that suit you better than the ones you learned when you were young – but still, it’s hard to lose the feeling of connectedness underneath it all. Your family is a source of power and inspiration, of warmth, safety and harmony. No matter how hard you work on your career, coming home to your family, all that seems irrelevant. Suddenly, you’re the little sister again, with her own place in the group.  

Wait until it’s Christmas

We all know that there’s a negative side, too. Your family is your first shell, your first love experience, but also your first source of pain. Wait ‘til you go home for Christmas – it’s a therapists’ joke. You take a seat at the Christmas dinner table feeling all serene and peaceful, but when dessert arrives, you’re agitated and annoyed – perhaps without knowing why or by whom.

Sometimes, it’s as if the family jacket has become too small, and still you’re sitting there in that tight jacket. The neurological paths in your brain are so deep, they’ve become four-lane roads. If you want to do things differently, you have to carve out your own road in the jungle of all things new. That’s a lot of work.

Look for the middle-ground

If your parents are divorced, you may already start worrying about Christmas in August. If you visit your mother, your father will be angry, and vice versa. It’s tempting to turn your back on the both of them, but there are always consequences. Still, doing nothing is often more dangerous than making a choice. Christmas is a holiday to remember, and your family colors the memories. Try to find middle-ground: celebrate New Year’s eve with your mom, or ask her to come over for dinner during the weekend before Christmas. It’s like the famous painter Marc Chagall said: ‘In my soul, I always carry my parents’ landscape with me.’ If you choose to stop seeing your family, it influences your other relationships, they’ll have to make up for it.

Good things to carry with you

Your family brings you positive and negative values. Find out which things suit you, and which don’t. Realize that you are not just on the receiving end: you pass on the values you carry along to your children and grandchildren. 

Shake off the cocoon

Every baby is born in total openness and without judgment. But you end up with two parents and the open-mindedness gets lost. You discover values: you can do this, you can’t do that, this is normal, this isn’t, chairs made out of oak are dowdy, velvet curtains are tacky. You can’t do without these values: you need some structure to be able to function, and it’s the parents’ task to turn the baby’s shapelessness into shape. When you go into the world, the restrictions from your youth become obsolete, like a cocoon you shake off. For instance, friends of you own oak chairs that are perfectly fine. The function of the family structure disappears. You are now part of a different community – the one at work, for instance, or the spiritual community you belong to, your nationality. Your sex, your race. It gives you power, but it excludes other groups, because they are different.

The unmentionable

Families, just like individuals, have a consciousness and a subconscious. Things that are difficult, that can’t be mentioned, that are shameful – suicide, a mental disease, a black sheep, etcetera- disappear into the subconscious. But it will not disappear altogether, it wants to be known, so it often appears in later generations – in the shape of inexplicable behavioral patterns.

The power of your ancestors

It’s impossible to change how your family works all by yourself, but you can contribute. You can make the family healthier, by looking at the stories that everyone chose not to see. Perhaps someone sacrificed something, without people knowing. Perhaps something wasn’t properly digested. A family constellation can be a beneficial form of therapy. But you can do a lot of good on your own, too.

A ritual

For instance, you can practice a ritual in which you speak to your ancestors. The parents who raised you, grandparents and other family members that had a strong influence on you, but also ancestors whom you haven’t even known. You can make a circle of tiny rocks, or flowers, or puppets. For every stone, you mention the name of a family member and make a wish. ‘You are our mother and I wish you the best on your soul’s journey. May you receive the power you need to bear what burdens you, so you don’t have to live on others’ power.’ By doing that, you hand the whole system over to something bigger, to powers you don’t even know. It has a relaxing effect, because you were able to do something.

The family soul stretches into the past, through your ancestors, and into the future, through your children. You are the link between what was and what will be. With your warmth, your love and your inspired power, you can contribute to the family soul.

Text: Lisette Thooft - Photo: Denise Johnson

Why we're so much harder on ourselves than on others (and how to change that)

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If your child does something wrong, it feels as if you are the one who’s failing. But if you are able to look at yourself just as compassionately as you look at others, it benefits your child too.

It was just another morning. While biking to school, my eight-year old was on the sidewalk. From the bicycle path, I instruct him: ‘You see that car?’ He sees it, rides alongside it and… gets in front of it. I yell a cuss word from my bike. Several parents we know turn their heads and look at me. I blush. I bike towards my son and yell: ‘What was that?!’ ‘The direction indicator light was on!’ he says, his eyes open wide. ‘But you saw it heading towards you, right?’ ‘But the light was on!’ He starts crying. He’s startled, of course, and so am I. But now, we have to hurry to get to school in time. I drop them off, still feeling the stress inside my body.

I have zero patience for this

I feel agitated. Right, and now I have to relax at my class? I hurry to get there. We start with a body scan – we have to lie down and follow our own body, from toe to head, to see where we feel tension. I have zero patience for this. I lie down and listen to the voice that tells me I should feel the toes on my left foot. For some reason, I don’t fall asleep. Slowly, we check the entire body, and once I get to my head, I notice I don’t feel anything in my body anymore. Nothing. No arms, no legs, but most surprisingly: no stress! Just a minute ago, I felt a tension in my breast, but right now, I feel emptiness. It is literally a relief. So that’s what thoughts can do to you: they cause fear, convulsion. Interestingly, relaxing can make all that go away. It might sound logical, but for me it’s a true insight. Now all I have to do is integrate it into my daily routine…

Compassion for… yourself!

We visualize a situation: it’s morning and you just dropped your kid off at school. You see a mother running up to you. Clearly, she has been crying and her angry kid is running after her, yelling. How do you respond? It’s funny how the people at my class react. One of them says: oh, that annoys me so much, one of those people who are always late. I hold my tongue. During the visualization, I identified with the woman. That was me. After a while, tough, I managed to find some distance. I became the both of them: the observer and the victim. I was able to put my arm around myself. In the end, that’s what it’s all about: experiencing emotions and being friendly towards them. Why feel compassion for someone else, but not for yourself? I think of a beautiful zenkoan that I read a while ago:

What’s the sound of one hand clapping?

The sound of a hand clapping is the sound of a hand clapping.

What’s the sound of a child that’s misbehaving?

The sound of a child misbehaving is the sound of a child misbehaving.

What’s the sound of my child misbehaving?

The sound of my child misbehaving is the sound of my failure, of ‘I can’t do this’, of ‘I’m a bad parent…’

One to think about.

How to get through the week mindfully

*Practice a routine activity with attention, together with your child. Reading them a story, brushing teeth, putting them to bed, waking them up, washing their hair, whatever you want.

*Do a breathing meditation each day. This means sitting down and focusing on your breath for ten minutes, on the rising and dropping of your stomach. There are no demands you have to meet, you don’t have to control anything. When thoughts pass, be kind: there’s nothing wrong with the thought, it’s just how the mind works. Quietly lead your attention back to your breath, until ten minutes have passed.  

*This is a fun one: get a diary for happy moments. Every day, you write down something that made you happy. Probably, these are small things: someone’s smile, a good cup of coffee, listening to a child’s explanation about their drawing. Writing them down makes you aware of thoughts, emotions and feelings around a happy situation. I use it as a question at dinnertime. Asking my children what made them laugh today, what made them happy or what the best moment in the day was, I dodge the routine question ‘what did you do today’ – one that I hardly ever got an answer to anyway.

Text: Nicole van Borkulo - Photo: Camila Cordeiro

 

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

Kindness calendar: how to share some happiness every day of December

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Let the Christmas spirit be an inspiration to you this December. It’s a wonderful time of the year to be grateful and friendly. Happiness is the best when it’s shared – and sharing can be simple.

Look up which gesture is on the calendar today, and cheer up your friend, lover or family member.

December 8: Wake up your loved one with breakfast in bed

December 9: Try to listen to someone attentively today, with genuine attention, without stopping them or thinking about yourself.

December 10: Smile at someone in the street

December 11: Write a friendly reply to a nice article / blog / photo you’ve seen online.

December 12: Stop the elevator for someone else.

December 13: Send someone a text, wishing them a nice day

December 14: Give someone a big, long bear hug

December 15: Plant a tree

December 16: Offer to come over and babysit

December 17: Organize a cleaning session in a park near you

December 18: Get an empty jam jar and fill it with notes, with cheerful quotes and thoughts, and give it to someone who needs it

December 19: Visit someone who’s lonely

December 20: Buy a small gift, label it with ‘take me’ and leave it in the subway

December 21: Prepare two lunchboxes and hand one out to a colleague

December 22: Give to charity

December 23: Send a voice memo with a song to a friend

December 24 Tell someone you love why they are so important to you

December 25 Write a letter, a real one, on paper, and post it

December 26 Bake a cake for your neighbors

December 27 Buy a balloon and give it to the first child you walk into

December 28 Write down compliments on notes and hand them out in the street

December 29 Forgive someone and focus on their positive traits

December 30: Send a postcard to your grandma / mother in law / parents

December 31: Make a kindness calendar for 2018 

Photo: Brannon Naito

Did your friendship fade? This is how you break the silence

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Why is it so hard to start afresh after an argument? Perhaps the problem is how badly we want to break it.

The faded friendships. The loaded silence after an argument, when you are both too stubborn to talk again – the silence of closing off, of excluding, silence as a punishment. The silence of pouting. Of not solving anything, because it feels nice top out. Silence as a means of power.

Nothing is more difficult than breaking a silence when you think (or know) someone is angry with you. Nothing is more difficult than breaking the silence when you have withdrawn into your own righteousness. There you are, on both sides of the wall. Nothing changes.

The silence before the big bang.

And how was it broken?

With a vibration. At some point, you have to cause a vibration. That’s how every new story starts. In the beginning, there was the Word. In the beginning of creation, there was a sound. Ohm. Somewhere, with one of the two silent ones, a vibration starts. A thought, and another thought. The fixed muscles in your face have to soften before you move your lips. After that, you can break the silence.

Not with big, heavy words, but with small, light ones.

Perhaps we can use the American environmental activist John Francis as an example. He was silent for seventeen years (!). Not because he was angry, but because he felt that not talking was so informative. When he came back, he greeted friends and family with a simple ‘Thank you for being there’.

Thank you for being there. It’s accepting the other, just the way they are. No matter their anger, the grudge, the silence. Accepting yourself, the way you are, no matter your anger, your grudge, your stubborn silence. Just a little thought, a vibration, is how it starts. Not much later, it’s time to break the silence. ‘Coffee?’

Photo: Sam Manns

 

7 signs your relationship might be ending

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After years of love research, psychologist John Gottman knows how to predict whether a relationship is ending. In 90% of the cases, he is right. All he does, is signal these 7 signs.

According to the famous relation therapist, relationships don’t end because couples fight a lot – it’s about the way you fight. If you fight the wrong way, the scenario ‘happily ever after’ probably isn’t in the stars for the two of you.

These seven signs are bad for love

In his University of Washington laboratory, that he lovingly calls the Love Lab, Gottman observed hundreds of couples. His research brought him the success formula of a good relationship, but it also taught him a lot about bad relationships.

1. Conflicts always turn hostile

If couples start a disagreement or argument with contempt, criticism or sarcasm, Gottman says you make a ‘false start’. And things that start on the wrong foot, usually don’t end well.

2. You give (or receive) personal criticism

Of course it’s OK to criticize eachothers behavior. But if you talk critically and disdainful about your partner as a person, it damages the love connection.

3. You deliberately give them a bad feeling

Making fun of someone, using cuss words, rolling your eyes or projecting your irritation on them – it’s all disdain. None of these things contributes to a constructive fight, they are simply used to ‘score’.

4. One of you has a defensive attitude

There are few problems in a relationship that only one of you is responsible for. Acting like it’s all their fault, like you don’t have a part in this, never contributes to a solution.

5. You’ve ‘closed off’ from eachother

If you or your partner regularly closes off from the other, a blockage arises and love no longer flows. According to Gottman, this is usually the result of frequent criticism and contempt.

6. Arguments escalate

In an intense argument, with lots of verbal accusations, your heartbeat rises and adrenaline increases. Emotions get the better of you and you feel unsafe. But if this happens often, we tend to avoid this kind of collisions and we estrange from our partner.

7. Making up is difficult

Unhappy couples, according to Gottman, find it hard to press the ‘pause button’ during an argument.

Photo: Elizabeth Tsung

 

 

 

This is what's written in the stars for you in December

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The stars help you to know what to do if you fall in love, and how you can grow in love.

In December, Venus is in Sagittarius. It’s a beautiful position, that helps us to enlighten the dark month with forgiveness and other loving gestures.

Venus is often seen as the planet that shapes our love relationships. But it’s influence is a lot broader. It determines our friendships, the way we relate to one another. Even our relation with matter is influenced by Venus.

Sagittarius is the sign that makes us both royal and voracious. It’s an issue when it comes to matter (no sign earns nor spends as easily as Sagittarius, because it’s so confident in life’s abundance). It likes to give. It’s no surprise that the month of Sagittarius, December, is the month when we overwhelm eachother with gifts. Sagittarius is also generous when it comes to all things spiritual: it likes to serve out hope, faith and ideals and thus inspires others to live happily.

With Venus in Sagittarius (from December 2 to December 25), this energy will influence all of us. Our heart is open wide during this period. We give and receive royally from the copious love that’s all around us. All we have to do is invite love in our life, whether it’s the love of our partner, our best friend or our children. That’s why we go the extra mile during the holidays. We can also do investments that benefit us a lot – a house, a piece of art, but more importantly: emotional investments. Giving our love to others, even if we’re not sure about the outcome or their reaction. Trusting that there’s enough, and there’s nothing to lose.

This is how you grow with Venus in Sagittarius

If someone did something to you last year that you’re still angry about, there’s no better time to forgive them than this December. Get in touch with them, even if your pride is in the way. Let them know it’s OK, even if you don’t want to remain friends. Forgive yourself for your grudge and anger. Perhaps, the two of you can start on a clean slate. Is it hard for you to talk face to face? Write down how you feel. There is no bigger present than forgiveness.

Were you the one who made a mistake? The cosmos will help you to be forgiven, too. Write a letter with your sincere regrets, in which you acknowledge the other one’s pain and hurt, without ‘buts’ or apologies for your behavior. Don’t demand they will forgive you, but hope for the best.

Venus in Sagittarius is a good planet position for your financial situation, but it’s important not to get overconfident, because Sagittarius can make you a bit greedy. Follow your heart when you’re investing, but check your bank account first. After Sagittarius comes Capricorn, which means you’ll have to pay the bill eventually, no matter how confident you are.

Are you in love? Dare to gamble. There’s no better time to declare your love than in romantic December and Venus helps you. There are no guarantees for mutual love, but if you see your love as a gift to the other without obligations, you’ll understand it’s rejection nor defeat if the other doesn’t want you – it’s simply a honest answer. Honesty and openness are gifts of Venus in Sagittarius. If love is reciprocal, you’ll notice that there’s no holding back. There is trust and optimism, you can believe in it together.
Buy a nice gift for your best friend, give her beautiful flowers, take her out or simply tell her how important she is to you. December, above all, is a time to celebrate friendship.  

Text: Johanna Blok - Photo: Almos Bechtold

 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – this is how you help your kid handle the excitement

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Let’s be honest: December is the most stressful time of the year. Sure, it’s a lot of fun, with all the lights along the dark streets, the moon shining through the trees. It’s a month with the most holidays, a time to meet family, enjoy the best food, give lots of presents. But it’s a lot of stimuli. How can you help your children to handle all of that?

Nothing to give

One: admittedly, it’s a bit of a boring tip: don’t give them too many gifts. An interviewee once gave me her grandma’s golden tip: give them ‘something they want, something they need, something to eat and something to read.’ That’s helpful. At my eldest son’s school they are fundraising for charity, especially this month. We can teach our kids that it’s not just about getting things, but also about giving. In December many foodbanks collect extra snacks, for children in less fortunate families.

Off to bed early

Two, even duller: send them off to bed early. In our family, a story goes around about a girl who was punished: for a week, she had to go to bed at seven. After a week, she told her parents that the lessons in school had gotten much easier. When it’s dark outside, we all should go to bed earlier. The darkness makes your body produce more sleep hormones. 

Real attention

Three: give them real attention. You know, attention without a smartphone. This tip is just as beneficial for you as it is for your kids. Last weekend, I spent a whole Saturday helping to do handicrafts for surprises (visiting the DIY shop, sawing, sanding, cutting, painting). Bake Christmas cookies with them, or decorate the tree together. It’s difficult to give them attention when you’re busy, but that’s exactly why it’s so good (for you).

Meaningful moments

Four: think of rituals you can introduce in the family, meaningful moments. Visiting the church together can be one. Taking a walk through the woods, making a fire in the open air. Making a list of things you are grateful for. Tell stories, light candles. Make sure it’s not all about consuming, but about meaning. At school, the advent period starts: in the morning, the lights are off and there are candles in class, in the hallroom, someone’s playing the violin. It’s about the atmosphere, not about the stuff.

Feel it

Five: meditate everywhere. Even in the New York subway people meditate – especially at the most busy times it can be helpful. Every time my children get really upset about reasons that don’t make sense, and I don’t know what to do, I yell: ‘Breathe! Breathe in, breathe out.’ Perhaps, I’m actually yelling at myself. Perhaps they don’t learn from it at all, my two eldest children often make sarcastic jokes when I say ‘feel the feeling inside your belly’. But who knows, they just might remember those moments when they’re older.  

Text: Pauline Bijster - Photo: Mike Arney

Want to have a better taste of your chocolate (or apple, or wine...)? Try this

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How often do you eat your food consciously, paying close attention to every bite? Most of us tend to eat quickly. That’s a shame, especially when we’re having food we actually love, like chocolate. But mindful eating, how does that work?

It’s weird: if you listen to music, you hear all kinds of instruments, some of them loud, others more gentle, you hear the various melodies – but when it comes to flavors and scents, we tend to summarize them as ‘good!’. However, if you want to enjoy your food attentively, it’s quite hard to describe all the things you taste. It seems like you have to be an expert to, for instance, taste wine the right way, but that’s not the case. 

Science journalist Bob Holmes recently published an entire book on taste, called ‘Flavor’. If there’s one thing he’d like his readers to know, it’s that everyone can improve their skills in appointing and recognizing flavors. If you can taste the difference between wines or apples, and you can tell a strawberry apart from a raspberry, you’ll be fine. The rest is a matter of practice and attention.

A few fun, playful exercises to start with:

1.   Have some chocolate, and enjoy it attentively

The next time you’re having chocolate, eat it attentively and try to appoint what you smell and taste. Start with the looks of the bar. What does the chocolate look like, how does it smell? Then have a bite. What does it taste like? How creamy is the chocolate?

Once you’ve finished the bar: have an apple each day, buy several kinds of apples. What does it look like, what does it smell like? How crisp is the apple? Would you call the taste sweet, or rather sour? Does the peel have a bitter taste? You can rate the apple too. Rating it helps you to pay attention more and it enables you to compare the next apple to this one.

2.   A fun taste experiment with jelly beans

An experiment that’s a lot of fun to do with kids: buy a packet of jelly beans (yes, they are very sugary, but we’re not making a fuss about it this time). Pinch your nose, close your eyes, and put a jelly bean in your mouth (let someone else check the color). What do you taste? A little sweet, perhaps some salt or sour, but that’s about it. After about five seconds, let go of your nose, so you can smell again. You’ll experience a taste explosion. And immediately, you will know how much the scent of your food influences the taste.

3.   Throw wine in the food processor (for science!)

It’s a common thing to do before having a sip of wine: turning your glass around. This adds oxygen to the wine, which gives more expression to the aroma. But there’s a more stringent way: throw a glass of wine in the food processor and let it turn around on the highest volume. A mediocre wine will produce an extremely intense scent. (The taste evaporates quickly, though. If you want to enjoy your wine slowly, this is not the right experiment for you.)

Starting to enjoy it? Try the more serious approach. Oftentimes, it’s quite difficult to really grasp a scent or flavor. That’s why for several products, a ‘flavor wheel’ was developed. In the wheel, you can see the several tastes you might come across. Flavor wheels for wine are quite well known, but there are also wheels for beer, coffee, honey, chocolate and apples. Simply reading a taste wheel raises your awareness of the big variety of tastes.

Another bit of trivia: salt neutralizes the dominant bitter taste of, for instance, beer. That’s why the combination ‘beer and crisps’ is so common: with a bowl of crisps or peanuts, the different flavors in the beer are more expressive. But it also works for bitter vegetables and fruit. Is your grapefruit very bitter? Put some salt on it, and suddenly, you’ll taste a lot more.

Want to know more about tasting?

Bob Holmes, ‘Flavor, the science of our most neglected sense’ (W.W. Norton & Company, 2017). 

Text: Anne Wesseling

This is how you can build your self esteem

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According to psychologist Nathaniel Branden, the way you judge yourself is far more important than what others think of you. And your opinion of yourself becomes more loving if you live by your own principles.

Why do we feel like we’re not good, beautiful or smart enough sometimes? According to Branden, we are often insecure because we keep trying to meet other people’s expectations and conditions. That’s impossible, and therefore bad for our self image.

We all long for acceptation and love, and none of us are free from insecurities. That’s fine, as long as they don’t overshadow our wellbeing. But when, in the search for appraisal, you let your own values and wishes be obscured, your self esteem slowly crumble apart. Don’t worry: this doesn’t happen overnight. It’s the result of all the sacrifices we make, big and small. If you become aware of this, you can enforce your own values, and you won’t have to lean on others so much to feel good about yourself.

These four tips help you build a stronger self image
 

1.     Try to look at your insecurities in a rational way

This doesn’t mean you have to live your life as an emotionless robot. It means you should see your emotions in a bigger perspective. Just because you feel them, doesn’t mean they are true.

2.     But take your emotions seriously too

If we’re insecure or frightened, this is a clear signal: our awareness needs more attention and love. Perhaps it’s time to have a critical look at your values. Or perhaps it’s even time to develop new ones.

3.     Practice  self conscience

Self love is a universal need, one you can’t satisfy with superficial means – it grows from the inside. See your self confidence as a muscle that will grow more powerful when you take a decision that fits your life philosophy. If you make choices because you support them (and not because someone else expects this from you), you’ll become stronger every day.

4.     Protect what’s valuable to you

We see happiness as an emotion, but according to Branden, we have more control over it than we think. Try to live each day from your authentic self – with your own principles and values as signposts, because they will lead your way to happiness. If you protect this authenticity, you will learn to love yourself.  

5.     The end of ‘I have to’

Are you a pleaser? It helps to realize that there is nothing you have to do. The more you have to do in life (because it’s appropriate, because someone’s counting on you), the more you’ll have to justify your own actions to yourself. You forget what you need, you minimize yourself and your importance. But it’s only when you make yourself into a priority, that you can love yourself.

 

 

Need to relax for a minute? Time for a mini break!

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By being in the here and now, you immediately get what you were looking for while running through life: rest. This ‘micro break’ helps you to remain fit, alert and relaxed.

‘I don’t have any time for me anymore’. Recognize this? It seems that, while we get more spare time, we have less time for the things that are actually important to us. What we want is quite simple: we want to have more rest and to appreciate the little things in life more, it’s just that right now, we don’t have the time… And after this lamentation, we walk into the 'as soon as… then' – trap: as soon as it’s the weekend, I will have time to rest; as soon as I have enough financial space, I will be able to enjoy the good things… et cetera.

The solution is simple

The desire to enjoy things can easily drive us in the direction of all kinds of addiction: coffee, alcohol, smoking, excessive exercise, snacking, TV. Consciously or unconsciously you realize that this is nothing more than a surrogate. It’s a temporary fulfillment of an unsatisfied feeling. Micro breaks make sure that you focus on yourself. You don’t get drawn into the issues of the day. Your body becomes your anchorage, the safe harbor that you can always return to.  

Work that feet magic

What’s special about mini breaks, is that you can take them any time of the day. These moments of recovery are simple to integrate in your everyday activities, at work, at home, in the car or in public transport.

Have a seat in a chair, with your shoulders relaxed, your back straightened and separated from the back-rest, feet flat on the ground, hands on your upper legs.

Bow your head to the back, but not too far – make sure it feels comfortable, don’t force anything. Look straight up and ‘mark’ this point on the ceiling with your eyes.

Bring back your head in the starting position and put your right foot forward, with your heel on the ground. Bow your toes down (you don’t have to put your shoes off). Put back the same foot, until it rests on the ball of your foot and your heel is lifted off the ground. Curl your toes. Put the foot forward again, resting on the heel, and bow your toes. Put back the foot, resting on the ball of the foot, heel off the ground – etcetera. Keep moving your right foot like this for 10 times in a row.

Put your right foot flat on the ground again and do the same exercise with your left foot for 10 times.

Be seated in the starting position, with your feet flat on the ground, and bow your head back again, as far as feels comfortable for you. Look for the marked point on the ceiling. What do you notice?

Remarkably, this feet exercise relaxes the neck- and shoulder muscles within two minutes.

Photo: James Forbes

 

Why it's good to have a fresh perspective on your child every now and then

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Lately, Happinez-editor Nicole had been short-tempered more often than she'd want to be. That’s why she took Mindful Parenting classes, hoping that her whole family will benefit.

‘Look at everything always as though you were seeing it for the first or the last time’

- Betty Smith

In my Mindful Parenting class, there are several others –mainly mothers- who suffer it too: stress. Perhaps they suffer it even more than ‘average’ parents: one woman’s daughter has an anxiety disorder, another woman’s son has anger issues, another one suffers panic attacks herself. All of a sudden, my own family seems to be quite normal.

Beaten track

No matter what your children are like, the teacher comforts us: most of us react to stress in the same way. We’re more impulsive, get angry and act snappy more easily, we’re worried more often. We act on autopilot, which is the opposite of consciously being in the here and now. And if we reply in the same way often, these replies pave their way in your brain – like a bicycle tire in loose sand. When you’re angry or stressed, you can’t think clearly anymore and you take the most popular path. The next bike (reaction) will use the same furrow.

What’s your stress reply?

But there’s hope: reacting differently is something you can learn. You create new connections in your brain, new paths to take. But how? It has to do with awareness – getting to know your stress replies. The ‘triangle of awareness’ will help. Think of a situation (a fight with your child, a conflict with your partner) and observe what you feel inside your body, which emotion is connected to this, which thought comes to mind and what you tend to do next. Important, we learn, is to look at it without judging. This is simply what the mind does, what we’re programmed to do. Once you see your automatic patterns, you can choose to react differently. And the more often you do so, the easier it gets.

Open your eyes (and stop talking!)

An example. When my son grabs the tablet, I usually reply with an automatic ‘No, we’re not playing Minecraft / Subway Surf / Angry Birds.’ But last week, I shut up and let him do what he wanted to do (I had taken a sneak peek in the textbook already). As it turned out, he didn’t want to play a ‘stupid game’, he started a drawing programme and made a beautiful drawing – which gave way to a nice conversation. Such a hopeful perspective: if you reply differently, different things happen.

Beginners mind

The first class ends with another eye opener: because of your history with someone (your child, your partner, friends, even yourself), you’ve created an image, and that image influences the way you are around a person. Labels we’ve given them –we all do that: ‘he gets angry / sad quickly’, ‘she is very smart / shy’- cause us to focus on behavior that reestablishes this label. This narrows our attention, so we don’t see everything else. If you try to have a beginners mind, you’ll be more open, making room for change – in your child and in your relationship. So please take a look around you this week, just as if you’re an alien, and enjoy the surprises!

Mindful tips:

*See your child with fresh eyes, as if you have never seen them before. This helps you to make new connections

*Pick a routine activity to do every day –brush your teeth, bike to work, have a shower, get dressed – and try to focus on the activity entirely

*Do a short meditation each day: for instance by mindfully drinking your coffee.

*And pay close attention to each bite of your dinner: try to taste the best you can. This is a fun thing to do together with your children. It helps you to start eating quietly and gives you an immediate subject to talk about: where does this food come from, how did it arrive on your plate? You teach them a little mindfulness too. 

Text: Nicole van Borkulo - Photo: Bekah Russom

Want more intimacy in your relationship? Try this

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Your intimate relationship is probably where you’d expect to have the most intimacy. Still this close familiarity can be hard to reach. The difficulty of finding true intimacy has to do with revealing yourself. The less ego you have as an armour, the more intimacy you find.

Sometimes you can have a warm and confidential conversation with a stranger, just like that. You carelessly talk about feelings, fears and desires, and then you part again, slightly moved and happy. It’s often easier to be confidential with someone you don’t know, to be completely honest and true to yourself, than with the people you know. Strange, but true: intimate moments are rare in many ‘intimate’ relationships. How is that possible?

It has to do with the masks we’re used to wearing, with the social games we play, consciously, but mostly unconsciously. But to put off the masks, we have to trust that we won’t get hurt.

Why we’re afraid of intimacy

‘People are afraid of intimacy,’ Indian spiritual teacher Osho said, ‘because they fear the other person will discover the black hole inside them if they allow them to come close.’

The word intimacy comes from Latin intimum, which means the inside of you, your inner core. If you don’t know who you are, essentially, you can never really become intimate with anyone. The other person will feel that you don’t know where you’re going, that you have never heard your own song, that your life is not a cosmos but a chaos. Hence the fear of intimacy.

Who are we below our masks?

But even if you do know where you’re going, it can be difficult to let your lover see the intimate inside of you. Intimacy is closeness, in every way. But it only originates when you are yourself completely, the way we really are, below our ego, the anger, the misery or the indifferent mask.

Why intimacy in a relationship is so hard to reach

So, intimacy and ego do not go well together. And our ego is probably the most present in our intimate relationships. Even if we like eachother a lot and we’re happy together, under the surface, there’s often a struggle going on.  In part, that struggle is about ego. I want my partner to acknowledge me in everything I do, I want to win. But there’s more. At the same time I don’t want to win, because a docile partner who agrees with me all the time and does as I say, is no use to me.

Perhaps, our relationships are the place to fight this battle. There’s no place where your ego bumps into another one’s ego as hard as at home, with your partner. There’s no other place where every sliver of egoism is as unwelcome as in an intimate relationship. We fight because of our desire for intimacy.

The point is…

During an intimate relationship you keep learning, because you will always long for egoless moments together. And to have these moments, you need to go deep. You have to face your dark sides, fearlessly confront the black hole deep within, your fears, your doubts – to find your shadow and unveil it.

The point is: you can only become intimate with your loved ones, if you know yourself intimately. To meet yourself intimately, you have to descend into your deepest core, all by yourself. That’s when you’ll get to know your not-so-elegant features. They have come to show.

That means that you know how unpleasant you can be, how stubborn, what a control freaky you are sometimes, how rude or unsportsmanlike, how self-interested or stuck up. From that moment on, you don’t have to project your shadow side on the other person. Moreover: your loved ones are allowed to know what you are really like. You don’t have to hide it anymore. 

How to be intimate together

If your partner has taken the same brave journey to the inner darkness, the two of you can become real, intimate friends. Whatever happens, you don’t have to hide behind a protective mask anymore. Every time you accidentally snap at them, say: ‘There she was again, the angry teacher inside my soul.’ Your partner will probably nod understandingly. When it comes to love making, things will also change when the two of you are true friends who don’t have to pretend. The arousing game you guys played in the beginning of the relationship might not return, but the new intimacy is every bit as precious.

Text: Lisette Thooft (edited) - Photo: Almos Bechtold

 

This is how you escape the downward spiral of negative thinking (even after 3 AM)

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Futile things become bigger and bigger in your mind, until you end up in a downward spiral that convinces you the the apocalypse is near. Sounds familiar? There’s something you can do about it. These tips will help you to rise again.

You have control over the things you think and the questions you ask yourself. If you notice you’re ending up in a downward spiral of negative thinking, it helps to think about these seven strategies.

1.    Admit you’ve ended up in a negative spiral

It probably sounds like 1 and 1 is 2, but it is more difficult than you might think. Perhaps you feel like you’re thinking very rationally, but chances are you’re way beyond that point. Take a step back and genuinely ask yourself: am I blowing things out of proportion? Realize that it’s highly improbably for you to come up with a brilliant solution in the middle of the night.

2.    Distance yourself from your negative thoughts

Thinking spirals are not reflective and not healthy, but thank goodness they can be recognized – often, because they take certain shapes in your brain. To be able to see them more clearly, it helps to write them down, or to tell someone about them. This makes it easier for you to look at them objectively, and to decide whether you can distance yourself from them.

3.    Look for the root of your fears

This is a hard one, but it helps you to decide what it is you’re so afraid of. For starters, you rate yourself between 1 and 10 for how well you are able to handle your fear (tolerance). Keep this figure in mind. Then, rate your feelings of fear (intensity). If your first figure is higher than your second, it means you’re perfectly able to fix this particular problem.

If you have to set up a big project at work, it can be so stressful that you don’t know where to start, causing the figure for intensity to be higher than the figure for tolerance. But if you divide this event in smaller tasks, ones that you can handle, (for instance: looking for a location, sending the invitations, selecting speakers), you’re making things a lot easier for yourself.

4.    Practice mental discipline

The exercise mentioned above can be very useful to make a big problem more manageable, but sometimes you’re caught up so deep in your spiral that this doesn’t help any longer. The only solution that’s left then, is mental discipline: don’t allow yourself to think about it any more. Not even a bit. Admit to yourself that avoiding the subject in your mind is a lot more useful at this point than going over it again and again, while you’re no longer able to think clearly.

5.    Get to know your way of thinking

If you know how your mind works, it’s a lot easier to adjust to it. This helps you to embrace the idea that your brain isn’t infallible, it makes mistakes sometimes. It also teaches you that if you have been thinking about a certain subject in a certain manner for a while, it doesn’t necessarily mean that’s true.

If you know there are triggers that can make you end up in a downward spiral of negative thinking, you can try to avoid them next time. That’s how you learn to rewrite wrongly programmed ideas in your head, and if that doesn’t work, to at least avoid them.

6.    Take external factors into account

If mental discipline fails, think of physical things you can do. For instance, you can put a rubber band around your wrist, to pull when you feel an unhealthy urge coming up. Mow your lawn, or go for a walk. These physical actions have the same effect as writing down or speaking out your problems: they bring some distance between you and your fears, so it’s easier to assess them and handle them. Singing a silly song works fine, too. As long as you do it out loud – yes, even if it’s the middle of the night.

7.    Teach your brain how to relax

Knowing how to relax, or even how to meditate when your thoughts are giving you a hard time, is a great help. If you can remember how to find this relaxed mode, and what it feels like, you’ll know how to use it when you need it the most. Think of your brain as a kind of muscle, that can be trained, a muscle that’s better at handling stress if you remain strong by practicing often.

This relaxation in your mind can be practiced and reached in many ways: by practicing yoga, by reading, by getting to know more about spirituality or by knitting, embroidery or drawing.

Keep in mind: feelings of fear don’t have to be your normal state. Stress can be a powerful means to personal growth, but finding yourself in downward spirals of negative thinking isn’t useful for anyone. You can fight it by learning how to handle it in a good and healthy way.

Photo: Andrew Dong

 

 

How to bake gorgeous chakra cookies in seven colors

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Have you ever seen cookies as gorgeous as these? They're not just a lot of fun to make -especially the icing in the colors of all the 7 chakras - but if you put them in a nice bag, they also make a beautiful, personal gift. 

Mix 150 g butter, 100 g caster sugar, a pinch of salt and 6 g lemon zest until you have a smooth mass. Sift in 250 g flour and knead. Flatten the dough a little - to make it cool faster - then cover with plastic foil and leave to set in the refrigerator for an hour. Preheat the oven to 180 *C. 

Roll the dough with a little flour until it is 1/2 cm thick. Cut out circles with a cookie cutter and bake them in about 18 minutes. Make the icing using 2 egg whites and 200 g powdered sugar. Beat the egg whites with a mixer, adding small amounts of the sugar until you have a firm mass.

Distribute the icing across seven containers, color them with the seven chakra colors (see below) and spread the icing on the cookies using a spatula or knife. To get the marbled effect, add a few drops of another color to the icing and mix the colors with a thin stick or toothpick. Put the cookies back into the oven at 50 *C until the icing is shiny and hard. After cooling, sprinkle on some more powdered sugar to taste. 

About the coloring 

Some cookie recipes call for a coloring agent. They're available in tiny bottles from Asian food stores and big supermarkets. Most of them are chemical, but you can also get natural alternatives, available from cake decoration stores or online. The colors may be less vivid, but they're healthier. You can also make your own colorings to be absolutely sure about what you're putting in your mouth. 

Red: pomegranate juice
Pink: beetroot juice
Orange: reduced (boiled down) carrot juice
Yellow: turmeric powder
Green: wheat grass or reduced spinach juice
Purple: reduced red cabbage juice
Blue: see purple, but add a little baking soda
Brown: instant coffee, or tea

Photo: Jeroen van der Spek

Feel like baking cookies, or do you have a party coming up? In Happinez - Being in the here and now, you can find several more recipes for equally good looking (and tasty) cookies. 

Sleep your way to a healthier, slimmer body

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Sleep is a powerful thing. The only way to let your body recover from everyday activity and stress, is by getting enough sleep.

Sleep is beneficial. It’s like food, for both your body and your mind. People who suffer from stress, often also suffer from lack of sleep. And people who feel good, often sleep very well.

The power of sleep

During sleep, numerous recovery processes take place that are important for our health. All through the night, our brain produces big amounts of somatotropine, a growth hormone. This hormone helps with recovery and the replacement of tissue and bones.

When you’re in a lot of stress, you produce more of the stress hormone cortisol, that slows down the production of the growth hormone. Therefore, it’s wise to go to bed as relaxed as possible (so turn off that exciting thriller on the TV). The amount of sleep that statistically corresponds to the longest life expectancy is between five and nine hours a night.

Exercise 1

Shortly before you go to bed, sit down in a quiet place where you can be alone with your thoughts. 5 or 10 minutes is enough for this. Imagine this day was a journey that started the moment you woke up. Start with how you felt when you got up. Were you relaxed and well-rested, or did you get up hurried, immediately thinking of all kinds of problems? How did the rest of your day go? What went well, what would you want to do differently next time? Try to look at the less pleasant moments of the day in a constructive way. What did you control and how could you do better next time? Try to accept it the way it is for now, because there is nothing you can change about it any more. Be grateful for everything you have and for what went well today. Remain seated for a moment, while you breathe in slowly and deeply.

Exercise 2

The very relaxed state of being you experience shortly before you fall asleep, is called the alfa awareness. In this state, your brain is very receptive to certain messages. That’s why it’s a good idea to visualize the following thing when you go to sleep.

Imagine yourself as the slimmer version of you that you would like to be. You’re running on the beach, swimming in the sea in your new bikini. Try to imagine everything as detailed as possible. Feel the wind in your hair, the sun on your skin. Hear the waves of the sea and smell your sun block. The more vivid the situation you create in your mind, the more strongly your body will respond to it.

Photo: Amy Treasure

 

 

This is how you will fall in love in 2018, based on your month of birth

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Love is written in the stars next year. But this magical mix of stardust is different for everyone. This is what will make your heart beat faster in 2018.

January

Were you born in the cold winter months? Then find someone who can show you that there is more to life than work. Someone who makes you feel the world can keep turning without you walking in the first position, and who can pull you into a parallel universe that only consists of the two of you. Enjoying each others company is much more important and will bring you more than you dared to hope for.

February

Look for someone who’s caring, and who will be there for you when you need them to. Someone who buys you lemons and goes to the drugstore for coughing syrup when your throat hurts, who cleans up the room without you having to ask for it, who makes your bed when you’ve slept together for the first time and who sends you ‘safe travels’ messages when you have to go abroad for work. Someone who doesn’t just think about the happiness you can bring them, but whose goal is to make you happy. If you find a person like this, you will fall in love, hard, quickly and unconditionally.

March

Suddenly you notice someone who never really made an impression on you before. Someone who won your trust slowly, who can make you relax in a new way. Someone who feels so trustworthy, that all you can do is let yourself go.

April

The person you fall for, challenges you. They poke you a little, and perhaps the two of you will have a small argument before you feel the sparks between you. But this will be an argument in which your boundaries are respected, while slowly, they are stretched a bit. This makes you see the world in a whole new, refreshing way.

May

If you are looking for someone with a two-page to-do list, who sets a hundred coffee dates every weekend and who wants to visit every country in the world twice, the chances for your relationship to hold are few. But if you look for someone who can let you sleep in without you feeling guilty, who is passionate about what they do but doesn’t underestimate the importance of rest, then the two of you can realize more than you could ever dream of.

June

Look for someone who’s sensitive and who understands your emotions. Someone who sends you songs that touch you so much you want to listen to them again and again. You will be surprised of how beautiful the world can be with someone beside you who loves amber colored autumn leaves just as much as you do, or the scent of fresh linen, or a line in the newspaper that changes your view on the world.

July

This year, you will fall for someone who shows you life can’t be predicted from excel sheets and predicted plans. Someone who shows you that your gut feeling can tell you a lot of the things you’re trying to confirm with those excel sheets. Who shows you you are much more creative than you thought, and who lets you rediscover the beauty of creativity. You will be the quiet counter balance, while they put you slightly off balance – which feels extremely liberating.

August

It’s not easy for you, but you’ll finally fall in love with someone who has the guts to oppose you every now and then. Someone who dares to tell you you’re wrong, and who can explain to you in a calm manner that your world view isn’t always the only one. Once you’ll start accepting that, you’ll grow and enjoy a relationship that is truly equal.

September

You’ll see: it’s a relief to finally be together with someone who isn’t scared of your dark shadows. Someone who is curious about your bad sides, and who wants to look at the qualities you’ve been trying to sweep under the rug for so many years. Someone who grabs your hand and tells you that you’re perfect, just the way you are.

October

Pablo Neruda once wrote: I want to do to you what spring does to cherry trees, and this is exactly what the person you’ll fall in love with does to you this year. He or she will make you bloom, and be yourself in a way you’ve never known.

November

This year, you will finally fall for someone who is every bit as fast a thinker as you are, and who challenges in every possible way. You will send them a link to an article that made you think, and a few minutes later you’ll receive another one that conveys a slightly different, but equally relevant vision to the same topic. You guys find each other so easily and so quickly, love will be unstoppable in a few weeks time.

December

Love, that’s a phenomenon that can be explained from logic. Something you can rationalize. Or so you thought. Until, this year, you start looking for someone who shows you some things in life are not logical, but magical. Things that can turn your life upside down, in the best possible way.

 

 

This is the secret to success in your life (and it's not money, IQ or happiness)

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Why is one person more successful in life than the other? Angela Lee Duckworth discovered that there's an important indicator for success, and it's not your looks, the money you own or your health. 

As it turned out, there is another common factor that decides how successful you are. Curious? Then take a look at her TED talk, in which she explains what she discovered.

Photo: Soroush Karimi

 

Stop looking for the knight in shining armor - become the heroine in your own fairytale

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The odds of finding Colin Firth or Hugh Grant at your doorstep, holding a box of chocolates and declaring his love, are small – we all know that. The good news is: you don’t need that ‘tall, dark and handsome stranger’. This is how you take responsibility for your own happiness.

Life can be unbearably unfair, and in times like these, a big dose of self love is essential. But when you find yourself seeking for comfort in food, romantic comedies or meaningless friendships, you need to be strict with yourself. Author and publisher Erin Klassen struggled with this too and wrote a book about it: You Care Too Much. According to Erin, it’s all about finding the right balance between being nice and strict with yourself – and about seeing self care in a holistic, emotional way.

Taking care of yourself is important. Learning how to prepare a healthy meal, to keep your home clean and tidy so you have a nice place to live, how to be loyal to friends and how to spoil yourselves in the times you need it.

Leave the band-aids

But eating a box of chocolates on the couch or lying in the bathtub for hours, while you’re avoiding the thing you need to do – in the end, it makes you feel worse. You’re putting band-aids on the wound, instead of looking for the thing that caused the injury in the first place. So: decide for yourself what you need, don’t escape what you need to do.

Live a life you don’t have to escape

And it’s hard. Because sometimes all you need is that long bath. And sometimes you need to ignore your exploded kitchen. But according to Klassen, taking real good care of yourself is making choices that bring you a life you don’t have to escape.

Learn to recognize your excuses

It’s important to learn how to be honest towards yourself. What do you really need? Do you need to have a difficult conversation and are you convincing yourself it’s better not to, because it will put pressure on your relationship, or because you don’t have the time for it? That you need to be perfectly OK with yourself before you get to it? Make sure you recognize your own excuses.

The heroine of your own fairytale

Take a good look at where your fear and stress comes from. Is it rooted in the actions of others, or in the fact that you’re not using your vitality to the fullest? If you learn to do just that, you don’t need a knight in shining armor anymore – you can take care of your own happiness.

Text: Marijn Baar - Photo: Rob Potter

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