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POSITIVE, WISE & LOVING LIFE

This is why money can actually bring you happiness - even if you're a spiritual person

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When you’re in your twenties, it’s fun to crash on the couch with your friends, swap clothes, get your furniture at the charity shop and have no idea whatsoever about how you’ll earn money in the future. But once you’re 35 or older, it feels a bit awkward to post another message on Facebook asking who can offer you a place to sleep. 

Money doesn’t bring happiness 

Money isn’t the most important thing in life, and money in itself doesn’t make you happy. Research shows that people who won the lottery, don’t feel significantly happier afterwards. However, we all need money to buy food, pay the rent or mortgage, and go to the occasional concert, play or movie. It also allows you to feed your children, buy their diapers and, later on, send them to college. In short: to play our part in society, we can’t live without money. 

Choose a life without money 

Of course you can choose to live in a monastery, or in a self-supporting community. You can live in Plum Village, or buy a small farm in Italy with your friends and grow your own food. But the problems you’ll encounter in small societies are often the same ones we encounter in society as a whole. And once you’ve chosen to leave society, but you don’t like your new life as much as you’d expected, it’s difficult to go back. 

Part of a whole 

Perhaps, if you want to live spiritually, you can think of money as part of the whole – as part of our eco system. If you decide not to wear a coat when it’s cold, you’ll get ill. But if you put on a coat and make sure others are warm by making a fire, that’s a far more social thing to do than protest society by getting cold. Yes, money causes lots of trouble. But don’t forget that, if you’re really poor, life is much more difficult. If you have to worry about money, your brain functions differently, and you tend to make decisions that –in the end- won’t benefit you. 

Collecting bank notes

So maybe you can think of it this way: money is a means to keep yourself healthy and fit, and to make sure your loved ones will lead a stable and safe life. This way of thinking ensures you don’t let money guide you, and your life doesn’t consist of collecting bank notes. Besides, if you have more money than you need, there are tons of charities that you could support – turning the world into a better place. 

Text: Marijn Baar - Photo: Christian Dubovan

How your relationship with your dad affects your love life - no matter what

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Fathers are among the most important men in our lives. Regardless of what your youth was like -whether you were close with your dad, or not - your relationship with him has an effect on your love life. 

‘Oh, but it’s fine, dad,’ I heard myself say airily, ‘Let me know if you change your mind, so I can make sure one of us will pick you up.’ After ending the phone call, tears were gathering in my eyes. He probably wouldn’t come to my son's fourth birthday. Would I ever learn not to have any expectations?

Could it be that the relationship women have with their father influences their love life, and that the relationship with their mother influences the way they see themselves and the world? It’s a theory of mine. With men, it would be the other way around, I thought.

Father wound

We all have a ‘father wound’, it’s unavoidable. During our youth, our well-intentioned or not so well-intentioned dads inflicted it, knowingly or unknowingly. Perhaps your dad catered to your every whim, creating your desire to be treated like a princess by every lover, or perhaps your father was emotionally absent, teaching you that men won’t bring you all that much. Not cool.

Avoiding pain

If you had a bad relationship with your father, it might feel unsafe to receive love in your relationships, because you’re scared of being disappointed. In order to ward off the pain you’re expecting, unconsciously you teach yourself not to expect anything from your partner, or you tell yourself you don’t have a desire for love. You can look for ‘safe’ relationships, unknowingly: casual affairs with men who are committed to someone else or inavailable in another way, or relationships with people who love you more than you love them. You can try too hard, because you think you have to deserve love, or pretend that you’re better than you are, because you’re afraid you’re not good enough. They’re all lousy tactics to avoid pain. 

Armored heart

In all cases, there’s a lack of trust in romantic love and a tendency to avoid it, control it or sabotage it. We block all love that comes our way. Our heart is closed off – except when we’ve fallen in love head over heels. Then the heart opens, everything seems to be possible, fantastic and perfect, until the first bump in the road appears and distrust surfaces. The old wound is torn open (See? You can’t trust love!) and we get even more disappointed. Result: a big, strong armour around your heart.

Clear about desires 

I know how to write about it, but still, when my beloved is absent for a moment, I tend to airily say ‘It’s OK, no problem, I’ll do it myself’ and secretly draw conclusions. To heal my own father wound, I will have to learn how to make my needs and desires clear, and not to cancel my trust in people too quickly. My beloved will be there at the party. He already bought a present (a big yellow tow truck, if you can keep a secret), he’ll help me decorate the room and tidy up afterwards. I'm bold enough to expect that. 

Text: Susan Smit

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Why you can stop looking for more, different or better - just memorize three words

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‘It will be OK,’ those four words sound nice, they comfort us. But there are three words that sound even better: ‘It is OK.' 

The phone call was about finding a new car, and when we closed it off, I said: ‘Oh well, it’ll be OK.’ 

‘It is OK,’ the acquaintance who helped me said. Huh, I thought, after we hung up. ‘What does he mean, it is OK?’ I kept thinking about it. It was a simple sentence, but its beauty and truth needed some time to sink in. It’s OK. 

Now. This moment. 

I allowed it to cross my mind, at several random moments. When I was working, on the train. On the phone with my mom. With one of my children, watching TV. Brushing my teath. It’s already OK. And every time I thought: yes, he’s right. It had a strange effect. By thinking ‘It’s already OK’, random moments became beautiful. But why was that? 

1. It helps to be ‘in the moment’ 

The sentence gets you into the moment. It’s a quick and simple way to focus on the present. All the things around you, the people you talk to, your own worries, that’s life, right here and now. 

2. It helps to stop judging 

There’s a difference between ‘it’ll be OK’ and ‘it is OK’. The first contains of trust in the future, but it also means that, apparently, things aren’t OK yet. By thinking ‘it is OK’, you accept the present for what it is. Without judgment. 

3. It brings you gratitude 

The sentence ‘It’s OK already’ adds a little glow to the little moments – the ones when you don’t realize how special they are. The little moments when nothing special happens. You’re in the garden and notice swifts. You’re at work, a colleague passes by. On the phone, talking to someone you care about. What you’re telling yourself is: this is a pleasant moment. That’s what makes you grateful. 

But does it make sense?

Resisting 

At the same time, after a while, I noticed I wanted to resist it. Because, after all, life isn’t always OK, right? There are times when life is unpleasant, or painful, or sad. When you hit your finger with a hammer, you said something you regret. Moments when things don’t go the way you’d want them to.

‘So we just leave it at this?’ I texted to the wise acquaintance, obstinately. 

‘Well, of course you can do something about things, but it’s more pleasant to do so from a starting point of acceptance – in my experience,’ he replied. And again, I was silent. Because in the end, that’s what it’s all about: acceptance. Saying ‘It’s OK’, doesn’t mean you necessarily agree with what happens. All it means, is that you let go of the idea things should be different. That you no longer resist what the situation is. 

It means accepting you’re here right now, in this situation. Not fighting what is. It’s as if you’re sending a cosmic message of comfort into the world – which, in fact, only helps you to remain calm. Which makes it easier to see what you could do to improve things. 

Little things… 

Here we go again 

Yes, it sounds wonderful, but then you want to write a little article about the sentence ‘It’s OK already’ and suddenly your mouse is empty, and the cable to charge it is nowhere to be found. So annoying! Especially on a day like this, when everything seems to go wrong. Here we go again! 

Wait. Be quiet. 

‘It’s OK already’, I said. I breathed and looked for the cable once more, and found it in its right place. Where I didn’t look. Where I would never have found it if I had kept frustrating about things that don’t go as I planned, and kept looking in hundreds of places, except for where it was, ready for me. 

That’s not just how it works with cables, but also with happiness.  

Text: Anne Wesseling - Photo: Ben White

If you want someone to fall in love with you, start living like this

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Imagine this. You’re out dancing, and on the dance floor you see two guys (or girls, whatever floats your boat). One of them dances like they just don’t care. They are feeling the music, and their body moves before they can think about it. With the other one, it’s different. It seems like they are calculating their moves, and wondering what it looks like. 

Then ask yourself: which one of the dancing people is most attractive to you. The one who’s dancing without thinking, or their friend? 

Most of us will probably pick the dancer who’s just moving intuitively, who’s feeling the flow. Why is it that we feel most attracted to a person who’s acting intuitively? And how can you be more like them? 

 1. Don't mind the others

Intuition is difficult to define, yet most people recognize it when they see it. People who are acting intuitively walk smoothly, don’t make awkward movements, they’re not limited in their communication. They don’t think about other people’s opinions. That’s what we find attractive: the spontaneity, the nonchalance and the lack of shame. 

Oftentimes, it’s the notion that other people are judging you or watching you, bothering you. How do you get over that feeling? By doing things that embarrass you and scare you. Start with a little thing. Go out wearing no make up, go to a spa if you fear being naked. Speech at a birthday, take salsa lessons, book yourself a ticket for a solo trip. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as it takes you out of your comfort zone. You’ll see: it’ll feel liberating. 

2. Relax!

If you’re tense, it’s difficult to connect to your intuition. You tend to calculate things and focus on the world around you. So whatever you do, try to relax. Have a massage, go to your yoga class, meditate. The more you meditate, the more you’ll lose your tension. 

3. Do what makes you you 

It’s a strange phenomenon, but we can’t deny it: when people get married, they often stop doing the things they enjoy. Riding their bikes on a Sunday, playing the violin, building furniture, embroidery, climbing… The things you enjoy, the things you’re good at, are part of your sex appeal. They increase your chances of finding love. So don’t stop doing what you love, intuitively, because it’s what makes you you – and attractive.  

Text: Marijn Baar - Photo: Bảo-Quân Nguyễn

Want to improve your concentration and attention? Find your personal focus zone

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If you find yourself staring in the distance while you wanted to work. If you’ve read one paragraph four times and still have no idea what it says. If everything around you seems to distract you. Then you probably haven’t found it yet: your focus zone. The good news is: everybody has one, so do you. 

Good start

If your mind starts wandering, simply acknowledge it. Don’t spend hours waiting for it to change (which probably won’t happen), just tell yourself: OK, I lost focus. Then you can make a conscious decision to activate yourself, or to unwind. 

Discover your focus zone 

According to Lucy Jo Palladino, clinical psychologist and author of Find Your Focus Zone, it’s important to find out what causes your lack of concentration. It has to do with the relation between attention and stimuli. You can think of the two as a u-shaped chart. On the one end of the ‘u’, there’s lack of stimulation, on the other end, there’s overstimulation. On both ends, your attention is weak. There are too many, or too little stimuli. 

But if the amount of stimulus is just right –and it comes to you evenly, without extreme highs and lows- you feel fine. You’re relaxed and alert, you have enough energy, you listen to other people or read words without your mind wandering and organizing things goes easily. Then you’re in the focus zone, in the middle of the u turn. Sounds great, right? 

How do you get into the zone? According to Palladino, there are eight ‘key rings’ with skills you can use to retrieve your concentration. Five of them: 

1. Observe yourself 

If you hear a nice colleague entering, you may tend to jump up and start a conversation with them. Listen to your observing self. What’s most useful to you now: having a nice chat that will help you to activate yourself, or staying on the job and finishing it as quickly as possible? Make a conscious choice, so that the distracting voice will stop nagging. 

2. Change your mood 

If you’re bored or tense, you can use a technique to change your mood. The power break is one of them. Plan regular breaks and use them to do whatever you like – the possibilities are endless. Watch a nice short video, meditate, walk the dog, take a nap. And then get back to work. If your work doesn’t stimulate you enough, it may be helpful to put on lively music, move your hands and feet or nibble at something healthy (fruit, nuts). 

3. Fight procrastionation

If you’re a procrastinator, it helps to explore what causes your procrastination. Are you afraid to fail? Do you feel reluctant towards the person who gave you this assignment? Or are you actually afraid to be successful, because people might expect more things from you then? If you know the answer, you can work on this, for instance by increasing your self esteem. Set realistic goals, divide your work into steps and appreciate yourself for your effort – not for the result. 

4. Battle stress 

Nerves make it difficult to remain focused. A reality check is helpful. Ask yourself whether your fear is realistic. Do your nerves give a trustworthy message, or are they disproportionate to reality? Oftentimes, the latter is the case. Try to relax, for instance by doing a breathing exercise. 

5. Motivate yourself 

How do you stay motivated? By setting goals you really want to reach. It reminds Palladino of runners: pick the runs you really want to do, ignore other marathons, and divide your runs into manageable parts. And never forget about your dreams, not even if they seem impossible right now. 

All about the focus zone

Lucy Jo Palladino,  Find Your Focus Zone.

Text: Dorien Vrieling - Photo: Sergio Souza

This is how you can introduce mindfulness in your sex life

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With an attentive and conscious approach, you can enrich a stale sex life to no end. Discover these three insights and do the companion exercises, to focus on the sensual present. 

Be where you are 

London-based masseuse and writer Claudia Blake advises turning the place where you have sex into a sort of sacred room. Light some candles, use scents and calming background music (no complicated lyrics or melodies, because these will distract you). Put out a few "sacred" objects that represent special things for you. If you have a TV in your room, cover it with a sheet like you'd cover a birdcage to silence a talkative parrot.

These are all possibilities, but you don't have to make it complicated. People manage to have the most memorable sex in the weirdest and most uncomfortable places (among rolls of wallpaper! In the garden shed!) just because they want each other right that minute. 

Exercise

When you're about to make love, take a moment to let the room you are in have an effect on you. Notice the size of the room, the light from the windows, the way it smells and feels. Listen to your partner's breathing. Even if it's a mess, with laundry piled up in a corner and dirty windows, this is where you are right at this moment in your life. There is no better place. 

Shelve your expectations 

Obviously, it would be nice if sex were always perfect, but it can be very refreshing to realize that, often, it simply isn't. In his recent book, How to Think More about Sex, philosopher Alain De Botton writes: "For most of us, it's not about how we can have even better sex with our lover who is already keen to try out new positions with us on the sofa with the scent of jasmine and the sound of singing hummingbirds all around us. We're much more troubled by the fact that sex with our steady partner has become so problematic due to fights about how to raise the children or about money."

You could ask yourself, says De Botton, how often you may reasonably expect the sex to be satisfactory. "Like happiness in general, terrific sex may be the fantastic, sublime exception." 

Exercise

Put away all expectations about how great sex should be. Say to each other, "We're going to have really dull sex!" and see what happens. Meanwhile, practice your "inner smile" by looking at yourself without judgment and with kindness. Be receptive. Be light about the whole thing. 

Play with habits

As Claudia Blake writes in The Joy of Mindful Sex, "If you can't lose yourself in kissing your partner's neck, you can't lose yourself in sex." She recommends regarding every sensual experience you have with your lover as a sexual experience. Don't stick to a fixed pattern with an orgasm at the end as a "logical conclusion." It would be better to think of everything that gives your partner enjoyment as a form of mindful sex. If you really make love attentively, it won't become routine in a hurry because you approach every moment as a new one. 

Exercise

Staring exercise: all you have to do for this exercise is look each other in the eye. You will probably want to look away after a few moments, but don't. Keep looking each other in the eye and do it for five minutes. Then slowly sink into an embrace and hold each other. Blake says, "This is a fantastic way to further strengthen your emotional bond. The exercise works perfectly as the beginning or the end of an intense experience." 

Text: Anne Wesseling

 

 

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

 

This is how your family influences you and your relationships

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Why your family is always present in your life – even if you never see them.

Ah, family. You live your own life, but they are always in the background, even if you rarely see the, even if you don’t know them or don’t want to know them anymore. They are there, self-evidently, or they are self-evidently not there. And, no doubt, it influences the way you live your life. But how does that work exactly?

We play the roles of father and daughter

My dad and I didn’t have regular contact until I was 21 years old, and still, it doesn’t occur to him that I might need him, not spontaneously.

The key words are 'spontaneously’, here. We play the roles of father and daughter, and sometimes it seems real. But self-evident? No, it never is. Every once in a while, we forget about each other’s existence. Simply because we’re busy with other things.

He’s still your dad

By the way, as a child, I felt very normal. I didn’t miss out on anything. At the same time, I always felt like I had to defend myself. Why? In ‘complete’ families things weren’t all fun and games, were they?

When I was in my twenties, I lived in Paris for a while. I had a Dutch friend there whose father was a drinker. She had to pick him up from the pub drunk, again and again, him whining in her arms that he really loved her. What a mess.

‘Yeah well,’ she said acquiescing, and then she spoke the words I never forgot, because they are still the wisest thing I ever heard anyone say about this matter: ‘He is still my dad. And there’s only one of him. It is what it is, you deal with it.’

You deal with it

At the same time, there is an aspect to family that makes me tend to avoid the topic. If I’m truly honest, I think: I did miss out on something as a child. For instance all the times I lied awake when I had to do hold a speech at school.

You deal with it. In another situation you would have done the same. But how would that have turned out? Would I have made different choices? Had different relationships? Sometimes I feel like telling my dad alla bout it. If he had just been there, my life would have been different. I would have been a better person. Much better! 

There is an end date for reproach

There is an end date for reproaching your parents how your life went, said J.K. Rowling – because even Harry Potter is about the role and influence of family. It’s not about what it could have been like, but about how you relate to what it ís like. That’s difficult. But it also means you keep getting new chances to look at the relationship. As you move on your time line, your perspective on your parents and grandparents changes.

A father who didn’t help out when you had to speech at school, turns out to be a good help when you have to give a lecture, simply because he turns out to have a self-evident faith in you. And for some reason, it compensates for all his absence you didn’t even know you felt.

What do you pass on?

Then the wheel turns again. You have your own family now, and you are on the other side of the line. What do you pass on?

My children do have a father, one who was always there and cooked and took them to soccer games, so in the cosmic wheel of things, that’s a great step forward. And there’s something beautiful about that. That every time, there’s a new round, and that each round is a bit better. Or not. But eat least there’s always a new generation taking over. You do the best you can to pass on something good. Sometimes you succeed, sometimes you don’t. But they deal wit hit, the way you dealt wit hit.

What do I inherit from my dad, I wondered recently, apart from the blue eyes and a load of books? Perhaps it’s this: being able to accept you make mistakes, and being willing to fill the holes where you dropped some stitches. Perhaps that’s the most important lesson you learn in the family school: being kind towards your parents makes you kinder towards yourself.

Text: Anne Wesseling - Photo: Tim Mossholder

You think you know everything about your partner? Ask them these questions

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If you’ve been together with someone for a long time, it seems like you know everything about eachother. But if you ask the right questions, you’ll find there’s always more to find out. This list contains more than 30 questions – some of them airy, others serious, but all of them great conversation starters. 

32 questions to start an open conversation 

1. What would your life be like if you had the job you wanted when you were a child?

2. What food is an absolute no go for you? And what’s the grossest thing you ever tasted?

3. What was your favorite year in high school and why?

4. What do you think happens to a person when someone dies? 

5. What was the most important lesson you learned from a previous relationship?

6. Which invention would you have liked to do? 

7. Which celebrity is living your dream life? 

8. Which actor or actress would you like to play you in a film about your life? And who would play me? 

9. Can you share a situation that was very embarrassing at the time, but makes you laugh now? 

10. What’s the biggest conflict you ever had with a family member? 

11. If you could be in two places at the same time, where would you go now?

12. Which question would you like people to ask you more often?

13. Which holiday we had together is your favorite and why? 

14. Which word should be added to the dictionary? 

15. If you had to make a phonecall to apologize to someone right now, who would it be? 

16. Which activity would you like to have more time for? 

17.  What’s the most impulsive thing you’ve ever done?

18. Which present you gave to someone are you the most proud of? 

19. Who was your favorite teacher and why?

20. How do you think you’ll change when you get older? 

21. Which age do you look forward to reach? 

22. What surprises you the most when you think about where you are in life right now?

23. Describe your ideal day in no more than ten words. 

24. Have you ever been bullied? Or did you know anyone who got bullied? 

25. What makes you feel strong? 

26. Where do you find peace and quiet? 

27. What did you learn from me? 

28. What do you think I learned from you? 

29. Who’s the person you can have the best conversations with?

30. Name something you were really afraid of, but you did it anyway? 

31. Which character from a TV series resembles you the most? 

32. Which birthday was your favorite? 

Text: Joanne Wienen – Photo: Alex Holyoake

This is why we should start being kind to ourselves - right here, right now

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‘Story catcher’ and researcher Brené Brown looks for themes and patterns in the people who intrigue her. She found out that the things they struggle with - shame and fear - are the same things she struggles with herself. She explains how she handled this wake up call. 

Her TED Talk about the gifts of imperfection became one of the most popular TED Talks ever. In her work as a sociologist and a writer, she unravels deeply human emotions like shame, vulnerability and wanting to belong.

It took you quite a while to realize that you were struggling with feelings of shame and fear yourself.

Yes, it took me a long time, remarkably enough. When I do research, I’m completely focused on describing what I’ve heard in other people’s stories. I don’t take too much time thinking about what it’s like for me. I like to investigate, but for a long time, I didn’t investigate my own life. It felt better to ignore how much shame I felt. It changed in 2006, after making a two-column list of things that do and do not help when you want to live an inspired life. In the column with helpful things, were concepts like self worth, playing, resting, trust, authenticity. In the column with unhelpful things were things like muting your feelings, perfectionism, comparing yourself to others. When I looked at these columns from a distance, I was shocked. I had to sit down for a moment. It turned out that I was living completely according to the ‘shit list’.

How did you handle this wake up call?

I’m a pragmatic, so I looked for a therapist that could help me work on it. During the first session, I told her that I needed more things from the ‘helpful’ list, and I asked her to help me. I also asked her not to make it too complicated with digging up trauma from my youth and everything (she laughs heartily). In the end, I’ve been meeting her for a year and a half and it wasn’t easy, but very much worth the while. I had a complete breakdown, although you might think of it as a spiritual awakening. The cosmos woke me up and I was ready to make some changes.

What did you learn?

To worry less about what others might think of me, for instance, to be less of a pleaser and especially to let go of the need to be perfect. It was time to work on my selfcriticism. If you want to take a good look at your own story, with all your shortcomings and weaknesses, it’s crucial to do this with a mild perspective. If you want to get to know yourself without being nice to yourself, it will only make you more judgmental towards yourself. Whether we like it or not, we are imperfect beings. It’s important not to judge the weak and vulnerable side of you, but to learn to handle it better. Your strengths can help you to do that.

Your new book is about our desire for connection, for belonging to something. That’s a theme in your work.

As humans we’re made for connection, for being part of a group. That’s simply how we’re wired. From the moment we’re born, we need a connection to be able to grow – emotionally, physically, intellectually and spiritually. Whether we feel connected to our environment influences the development and the functioning of our brain.

Brené Brown, Braving the Wilderness.  Ebury Publishing

Text: Susan Smit - Photo: Savs

 

 

Did you fail? Congratulations. This is how you can use it to your advantage

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Sometimes in life, things don’t turn out the way we had planned. We tend to see that as failure. But we forget to see the lessons the failure brings. Five tricks that might help you to look at failure differently. 

1. Love what you're doing

Who doesn’t dream of thinking up this brilliant idea that places you between Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg? But why do we want to do something brilliant? We don’t need to do something outstanding to be happy. Loving what we do is much more important than success. If you love what you do, and it fulfills you, you’re more likely to try something new after failing – and that’s usually when the best ideas come to mind. 

2. Fall in love with the process

Try to think of the entire process as a challenge – don’t just focus on the top of the mountain. Give every step your love and attention, as if it’s a little plant. Who’s helping you while you’re walking up that mountain? It’s the people who matter in your life. The ones who respect you for the effort you’re putting into it. 

3. Challenge yourself

If you’re afraid of failure, and things don’t go the way you planned, you might think ‘I knew it, I failed’. But ‘failure’ can be a good thing. A new direction can bring a fresh perspective. Being open and not blaming yourself when things go differently, can help you to improve your situation. 

4. Think of a special mantra for yourself

Sometimes it helps to have a mantra. The power of it is in the repetition, and it helps to link it to a positive affirmation. For instance: ‘I am strong. I believe in myself, even if things go wrong. I believe I’m able to get up again, and persevere with renewed courage.’ It helps to cherish the little victories after a mistake, and to be proud of yourself. 

5. Lose, learn and learn again

Be realistic when it comes to expectations. Whatever you start, you’ll find obstacles on your way. There’s nothing wrong with that: failing teaches you new things. Everyone fails. We repeat: everyone fails. It’s about how you get up again after you’ve fallen, and try again, until you succeed. 

Photo: Gabriel Sanchez
 

 

Why we-time with your kid is the new gold (and how to make time for it)

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You could call it holy time: ‘we-time’, a cocoon of love and attention. Philosopher Anne discovers that these days, it’s the new gold. And if you look closely, it’s there for the taking.

A fixed moment

‘We-time, you have to consciously make time for it,’ says Jan Derksen, clinical psychologist and professor at the Dutch Radboud University. He researches children’s education and their emotional development. ‘Our attention is extremely divided. We-time is time when you talk about what truly matters to you.’

How to make sure there’s we-time

Derksen is very much in favor of eating together. ‘Especially when it’s without a mobile phone! Don’t even put it near the table. Eating is the ultimate time for talking, for sharing what your day was like. Big and small things, just sharing experiences.’ It should be a fixed moment, every day. Because: ‘It’s about making it a habit. If there’s a tradition of we-conversations at the table, there’s trust.’

From ‘me’ to ‘we’

For a long time, we thought me-time was the most important thing. It was important to make time for yourself, in order to get through the week. ‘It doesn’t work,’ Derksen says. ‘Sure, you can make plans to do something for yourself Saturdays at three o’clock, but life gets in between. The phone rings, there’s groceries to be done. Besides: small children tend to want your attention especially when you’re busy. And the other way around: when you’re ready to do something fun together, they just started playing together. Part of we-time is really; being conscious about social media and the smartphone.’

Little buddhas

If you see ‘we-time’ as something you have to do, something is off. Somewhere in the back of our minds, there’s the idea that we have to sacrifice ourselves for our children and that children cost us energy. Perhaps we should see them as little buddhas, whose simple presence enables us to gain more chi. You can see we-time as a continuous source of mindfulness, that you can tune into whenever you like. If you do, we-time isn’t an item on your to-do-list, but a place you want to be as often as possible, because it makes you happy.

Text: Anne Wesseling - Photo: Micah Hallanan

Do you feel anxious sometimes? Try taking a walk - it may have a miraculous effect

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Some things in life seem too good to be true. Taking a walk to get rid of your anxiety, does that really work? For journalist and health expert Sarah Wilson, it sure did. She suffered from heavy anxiety – at some point, she even feared going to sleep, let alone leave her house. Then she discovered the therapeutic effect of walking. 

Wilson had been having trouble with anxiety all her life. In her latest book, First We Make The Beast Beautiful: A New Journey Through Anxiety, she tells alla bout what it’s like to live with mental issues. The book is filled with tips and tricks for people who suffer from anxiety. 

Wilson researched the several ways to handle anxiety problems. As it turns out, one of the best ways to find peace when feeling anxious, is by walking. Just put on your shoes, go into the forest or to the beach and just go with the flow. No destination. She discovered the fascinating facts behind this easy, accessible and free form of therapy. 

This is how it works in the brain 

The amygdala is the part of the brain involved in managing and processing several emotions. Fear is one of these emotions. It’s one of the eldest and most primitive parts of the brain, and it works relatively simple: it’s able to do one thing at a time. 

Research shows that with people who suffer from depression (which is often combined with heavy anxiety), the amygdala works at a much lower level. Walking activates the brain. It gives you new stimuli and other feelings, which helps to reactivates the connections in your body. The anxious part of the brain gets less attention. 

Interesting fact: the amygdala also enables us to make decisions. This means there’s a part of the brain where both our fears and our ability to decide are located. This makes it almost impossible to make decisions when you’re scared – and it’s the reason why taking many decisions at once can cause fear.

What does walking do for you?

It makes sense that more and more people do walking meetings for a brainstorm or to make plans. When you’re walking, your heart beats more quickly and your blood flow increases – towards your brain, too. It enables you to think more clearly, and to think deeply about one specific topic. 

The current pace of society and the way we’re supposed to live, isn’t suitable for complicated thoughts like this. Quick thoughts cumulate, there’s no time to really think about how you feel. Walking takes you into a rhythm that’s peaceful enough for you to focus on one thought at a time. 

The destination 

Japanese research acknowledges what you probably already suspected: nature is the best environment for your daily walk. Trees and plants spread little particles in the atmosphere that pacify your mind and have a big impact on your wellbeing. 

Besides, breathtakingly beautiful places with a great view or gorgeous light are great destinations for an intense walk. Enjoying beauty increases the level of oxytocin, which makes for a feeling of love and connection. 

Even if you don’t have a forest, a beach or another special location near you, walking is a good idea. Just try it and find out what a daily 20 minute walk does for you. 

Text: Eline Hoffman - Photo: Micah Hallahan

How do you express your anger? Why anger is such an important emotion

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Just like everyone else, you probably prefer being happy over being angry. Anger is an unpleasant feeling. Besides, others often don’t appreciate it if you express your anger. Should we ignore our anger then? No, never. Because anger is a helper. 

Clenched fists, a reddened face, a deep frown: in animations, it’s always very clear when a person is angry. But whatisanger, how can we define it? According to Dutch psychologist Steven Pont, who wrote the book ‘Goed kwaad!’ about it, anger is an emotional state. It’s a functional feeling, because anger tells you someone has crossed a line for you – it’s a signal that you have to do something about it. 

Guarding your boundaries

Some people get angry very quickly, others hardly ever do. People who hardly ever get angry, probably let others get away with everything. According to Pont, they ‘are so bad at guarding their boundaries, they have lost almost their entire territory.’ 

Anger in: bad idea

Why is it so hard for some people to experience their anger, let alone express it? That’s simple. Anger is functional, but there’s a risk in expressing it. If you get angry at someone, they might reject you. If you fear rejection, this might cause you to do whatever you can to get a hold of your anger. That’s what Steven Pont calls anger in: you bottle up your anger. 

The problem is: this doesn’t make your anger go away. Research shows that people who suppress their anger, feel it just as intensely –and unpleasantly- as people who do express it. Besides, chances are people are taking advantage of you – because, after all, you never complain, right?

The anger plan

Steven Pont created a step-by-step plan that helps you to express your anger in a controlled manner

Wait 

If you react immediately when you feel angry, you’re most likely to damage something – a piece of tableware or a relationship. The longer you wait, the more sensible your reaction will be. 

Explore

Think about what it is that makes you angry, and how you might respond to it. What do you want to achieve? What do you hope to change by expressing you ranger? Is there a pain behind your anger regarding something else – could it be that you’re not so much angry about what’s happening now, but rather about something that has happened before? 

Eliminate

According to Pont, exploring your anger (step 2) should help you to realize that there are different ways to react. There are responses that have a short-term effect, others have an effect in the long run, and some are more focused on a solution than others. Try to pick out the one that helps you to really solve your problem. 

Act

Now is the time to react. Despite taking the steps, you might still choose to react by getting really angry with someone. After all, you’re only human. Don’t blame yourself – just make sure you’ve made a conscious decision, because that’s how you take responsibility for your reaction. 

Evaluate

How do you feel about your reaction, and was it helpful? It’s always wise to evaluate for a minute, because it will help you the next time you get angry. 

Want to read more about anger? 

‘The Dance of Anger. A Woman’s Guide to Changing the Patterns of Intimate Relationships.’ Harriet G. Lerner, HarperCollins.  

Text: Dorien Vrieling - Photo: Eddy Kopp

 

Looking for motivation to go to the gym? After reading this, you'll want to go

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If you've been trying to find the motivation to go to the gym, this TED talk might do the trick. Neuro scientist Wendy Suzuki explains why exercising has a fantastic effect on the brain. 

Wendy Suzuki became her own test person – without her noticing it. Not long after she started exercising, she noticed that both her mind and body were doing much better. To find an explanation fort his effect, she started reading about it – and the more she read, the more the power of sports struck her. 

Her conclusion? The positive effects of exercise are almost immediately visible in your brain: you become more cheerful and your focus grows. In the long term, exercise is even powerful enough to protect your brain from Alzheimer’s and dementia. 

Choose the stairs

The good news is, you don’t have to be an athlete or get yourself an expensive subscription to a gym to benefit from this. However, you do need to make an effort: a powerful walk or taking the stairs makes for a health boost. 

The advantages: 

Your mood improves immediately
Every workout increases your focus, which will last for two hours
Your responsiveness increases

Photo: Matthew Kane

 

 

How to take good care of your body at work (you'll be much more productive)

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If you’re busy, you probably focus on what’s going on in your mind – and forget all about your body. That’s a shame, because if your body is in good condition, you’re more productive and you turn home feeling balanced. This is how you take good care of your body at work.

Eat mindfully

No matter how busy you are, eating is always a priority. If you eat mindfully, in a quiet place (never behind your desk – you deserve better than that), you recharge yourself. Pick food that brings you energy: lots of fresh vegetables, eggs, beans, nuts. Put a pitcher of water (lovely with some ice and raspberries, lemon or cucumber) on your desk, to make sure you stay hydrated. 

Let’s go outside

For many people, going for a walk is the first thing that’s crossed out on the list on a busy day. That’s while fresh air and some exercise are perfect ways to recharge. You can do it in less than fifteen minutes (which is a lot less time consuming than postponing an unpleasant chore or staring at your screen with a writer’s block). Other ways of getting a little extra exercise: take the stairs, walk up to your colleagues in stead of emailing them, go to get some groceries for later. Or, if you’re really serious about it, exercise with your colleagues. Research shows it has a miraculous effect on your motivation. 

Put the phone away

It might sound simple or stupid, but it actually works: put your phone out of arms reach. It will still allow you to take important phone calls, but you’ll reduce the endless distraction of texts. It will increase your energy level and especially your focus. 

Customize your working place

If you work at several desks, or even at multiple companies, you may not feel like adjusting your desk and chair every time. Try to invest the couple of minutes it takes to do so, because your back will thank you for it. 

Pay attention to your position

Try to look at yourself with a helicopter view: what’s your position? People who are stressed tend to have a convulsive position. If you know you tend to sit in a huddled position when you’re busy, try new positions every now and then. A simple aid like a sitting ball can be very helpful: it helps you to sit up straight. Even better: work while standing every once in a while. 

Meditate

Why not? Behind your desk, in the toilet, in the company restaurant or outside. Meditating can be done in just a few seconds. American meditation teacher davidji explains it like this. Breathe in through your nose for four seconds, hold this breath for four seconds, then breathe out slowly during four seconds. Now wait for four seconds, then do it again. No matter how quick, this meditation will distract you from your busy day for a moment. Meditating even helps you to get more and better ideas. 

Text: Dorien Vrieling - Photo: Ellyot

What's the best way to find happiness? Stop thinking that you need to be happy

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‘Could you tell us what makes you happy on video? You’ve got twelve seconds,’ the editors of a website asked me, after doing an interview with me. The ultimate existential question, answered in a soundbite – what was I waiting for? I took a breath and told them what makes me happy: realizing that I don’t have to be happy all the time. 

Extremely tiring 

If you see all the shitty moments and painful emotions in life as an obstacle for the happiness you deserve, you’re about to have a hard time. Escaping or erasing the things in life that are less pleasant, is a race you won’t win. Besides, it’s extremely tiresome. Instead, try to include everything in your definition of a happy existence. I accept the bitter with the sweet, boredom with ecstasy, pain with pleasure. And I try to do so without shame, remorse, victimization or rushing. 

Embrace it all 

The art of living is not about optimizing the circumstances for happiness, but embracing life under all circumstances. To put it boldly: sometimes it sucks. And that’s fine. You can still feel blessed, regardless of everything that bothers you. 

Stubborn fortune hunter 

Just be where you are. That’s what I would want to tell every stubborn fortune hunter. Don’t try to be better, happier, more optimistic, more balanced than you are right now. It allows you to relax and let go of everything that’s forced or fake in your attitude towards yourself and others. Your shoulders will lower. You don’t have to pretend anymore. Simply let go of the task to be happy and see what happens.

I need to be happy  

This ‘being where you are’ is an attitude that brings you more serenity than the ‘I need to be happy’ attitude. Life consists of inevitable heartbreaking setbacks, even if you’ve got your act together. It’s unpredictable. Without resistance and rejection, it’s better to handle it. You know you’re not a victim of life, you’re a participant of life. 

Struck by happiness 

Once you’re able to feel comfortable when you’re down, or when there’s a setback, you’re open to life. And as soon as you’re open to life, happiness will strike you in all kinds of big and little things.  

Text: Susan Smit - Photo: Kyle Loftus

Why we should all spend fifteen minutes a day singing - because it sets us free

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You don’t have to be a nightingale or know the lyrics to practice this form of mindfulness. If you take fifteen minutes every day to express your feelings by singing, takes you into a happy state. 

Singing takes you into a world that’s all about light, colour, vibration, movement, emotion. There are no boundaries there, no countries. It’s the world behind the words; the words that limit us, because they’ll never really be able to express how we feel. Singing does the trick. It takes us beyond the words and connects us to our body, the earth, the moment. 

Fifteen minutes a day

That’s what Will Hewett – transformation consultant, coach, vocalist and improviser – discovered when he decided to sing fifteen minutes a day for a whole year. According to Will, our bodies experience the world of self expression 24/7, but we have the tendency to cover it in words. He explains how that works in his inspiring TED talk.

Improvisation 

During his ‘challenge’, initially, he just sang at home. It was a safe environment where he was free to sing. But soon enough, he discovered the beauty and meaning of sounds in the street, in the woods. He started improvising to the sound of a scooter passing by, to animals around him, to the call for prayer in a mosque. He sang on a plane. When he didn’t feel like singing, he expressed his feelings in sounds of resistance and refusal. But he kept singing. 

The fifteen minutes became his central point of focus of each day, the center of the rest of his world. Time wasn’t dominant anymore. Listening to the sounds of the moment made him feel part of that very moment. He didn’t think about what he wanted to sing, he just listened to the sound his voice produced when he opened his mouth. 

Listen to the voice of your heart

Making sounds and using your voice frees your emotions. According to Karina Schelde, Danish expert in the field of voice work and founder of the SoulVoice method, our voice is the most powerful instrument we have. Producing sounds allows you to connect with your abdomen, where your power is. A voice can heal you and cause changes in your awareness. 

Karina’s Soul Voice method is all about being aware of the bigger perspective of your life. ‘There’s a voice in our hearts that calls us and wants to be heard. The possibilities of our voice frees us from who we are, and helps us to find the way to our source of creativity.’ 

Both Hewett and Schelde think of the voice as a connecting factor between a person and the bigger picture. 

In the car, in the shower or in the park: sing!

Wherever you are, whatever you’re singing, it doesn’t matter: as long as you sing. It’s about producing your personal sounds and expressing yourself, inspired by whatever is going on in your life. Why wouldn’t you try it? 

Text: Eline Hoffman - Photo: Mariana Vusiatytska

 

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

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

1. Girlfriends are mirrors

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

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

2. Friends are princesses in shining armour 

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

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

3. Friends are the perfect philosophers and therapists

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

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

4. Friends are a home you picked for yourself 

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

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

Text: Julia Maria Keers - Photo: Brooke Cagle

Need to recharge your battery? This simple yoga exercise will increase your energy

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Where can you find the energy to do everything you need and want to do? Kundalini yoga promises to provide this boost. By consistently doing the four U’s, a series of exercises, for 21 days, you can noticeably increase your energy and expand your consciousness. 

Kundalini yoga is creative energy, which according to Hindu philosophy, is asleep in our coccyx as a curled-up snake. The aim of Kundalini yoga is to stimulate this energy so that it can crawl up along the spine, activating the chakras along the way. This allows the energy to flow from the lower to the higher chakras, from our basic needs to values like love and solidarity, and it expands our consciousness. 

The four U’s are a series of Kundalini exercises that help you to increase your energy and expand your consciousness. 

The first U 

Lie on your back on a mat or a blanket, and put your arms and legs straight up. Keep your legs apart by the width of your hips, your arms by the width of your shoulders. Keep stretching your arms and legs (using your abdominal muscles), relax your shoulders and make sure to keep your (lower) back on the floor. Breathe from your abdomen and maintain the position for three to leven minutes. Then lower your arms and legs to the floor and relax for one minute. 

The second U

Carefully assume the Flow position. (Google: Halasana). Lie on your back, raise up your legs, put your fingertips squarely on the floor. Then lift your buttocks off the floor. Move your legs backward over your head until they are stretched horizontally. If you can, bring your arms all the way back against your ears. If this position is too difficult, put a chair behind you and let your legs rest on it. Make the best U-shape you can, keeping your back straight and breathing from your abdomen. Keep the position up for three to eleven minutes, then lie ack and relax. Roll back and forth on your back with your knees to your chest to ‘massage’ and relax your back muscles. 

Want to learn more about the history behind Kundalini yoga and the other two U’s? Read about it in Happinez – New Horizon. Order online or find a store near you

Text: Ingrid Melenberg - Photo: Avrielle Suleiman