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POSITIVE, WISE & LOVING LIFE

Are you an introvert? Think of it as your strength

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

What makes a person introverted?

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

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

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

Extraversion as an ideal

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

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

This is the power of introversy

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

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

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

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

Still, it's all about teamwork

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

 

Photo: Olly Joy

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

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

The upside of being the eldest child

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

The downside of being the eldest child 

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

Who’s your perfect partner?   

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

Typical eldest child features: 

You respect authority and stick to the rules 

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

You like to take the lead

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

You worked hard at school

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

You’re caring 

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

You’re self-critical 

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

Want to read more? 

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

Text: Dorien Vrieling - Photo: Kevin Gent

 

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

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

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

Physical emotion

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

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

You don't want to be jealous

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

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

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

1. What’s your desire?

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

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

2. How could you fulfill it?

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

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

3. Who might be able to help you? 

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

Use jealousy in a positive way 

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

Text: Anne Wesseling - Photo: Antonio Francisco

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

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

1. Girlfriends are mirrors

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

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

2. Friends are princesses in shining armour 

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

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

3. Friends are the perfect philosophers and therapists

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

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

4. Friends are a home you picked for yourself 

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

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

Text: Julia Maria Keers - Photo: Brooke Cagle

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have enough faith in your partner?

You lack faith in your partner if you:

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

6 ways to work on mutual trust

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

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

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

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

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

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

Text: Susan Smit - Photo: JD Mason

A letter to all the troublesome, lazy and lovable adolescents

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

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

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

Dare to have doubts

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

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

Be true to yourself

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

With love and respect for who you are,

Susan

 

Photo by Andrea Tummons

How to deal with negative people in a positive way

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

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

1. Distance yourself from them  

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

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

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

2. Do the opposite

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

3. Don’t take it personal 

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

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

4. Be in the present

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

5. Practice gratitude 

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

Photo: Joe Gardner

 

How to protect your love from everyday annoyances

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

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

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

Treat the space between you as a holy place

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

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

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

Try this love experiment

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

The positive effects

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

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

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

Text: Marte Kaan - Photo: Tom the Photographer

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

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

Food 

B.A.R.

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

Nytorget Urban Deli

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

Drop Coffee

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

Culture

Östermalm

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

Shopping 

Department store Åhléns

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

Brandstationen

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

Photo: Matias Larhag

 

This is how you bring back passion in your relationship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Make time for foreplay

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

3. Let yourself go

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

4. Dare to experiment (and to talk)

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

Seven ways to say no in a friendly way: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Dangtimô Thimô 

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

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If you’re the youngest child in your family, you’re probably the life of the party. You’re fun to be around, and you use your sense of humour and charm to get attention.

 The upside of being the youngest 

As the youngest child, you were probably cherished and cuddled longer than your siblings. Your parents knew you were the last ‘baby’, so they wanted to enjoy having a young child around as long as they could. They probably were less strict with you than they were with your siblings. Your brother or sister must have told you sometimes: ‘I didn’t get away with that!’ But, just like your parents, they grant you a lot. 

The downside of being the youngest 

Perhaps your siblings still tell you you were spoiled sometimes. While it’s not like you could help being the youngest – and it’s not all glitter and gold. You always had older siblings around you and the other members of your family –both parents and siblings- probably helped you with lots of things, making it more difficult to get on your own two feet. If you’re the youngest, you probably find it harder to be independent, according to Linda Blair. She’s a psychologist and author of ‘Birth Order’.  

Who’s your perfect partner? 

Usually, an eldest child is a great match with a youngest child, according to Blair. The eldest offers stability, likes to take care of their partner and likes the youngest’s quirkiness and rebelling. Being the youngest, you probably like being taken care of – although your partner can’t be too meddlesome. A middle child can be a good match, too, because they are often easygoing and they offer you the space you need. A youngest child with a youngest child is a dynamic combination, according to Blair, but it can also bring a lot of chaos. 

Character traits that are typical for youngest children: 

You’re a charmer

As a youngest child, you’ve probably grown up to be the clown in the family. You’ve been surrounded by people older than you, and knew how to charm them with your sense of humour. Even in your adult life, you might still take on that role. Your need for attention sometimes make your charm change into manipulative behavior (not the nicest trait, but hey, the oldest and middle child aren’t perfect either). 

You’re messy 

Growing up, your siblings and parents probably helped you with lots of things, simply because you were the youngest. This got you used to other people doing stuff for you, and that’s why you’re probably not much of an organizational talent. Planning isn’t your strong suit. 

You’re a daredevil

Youngest children, according to Blair, have less respect for authority than eldest children. They are less flexible than middle children. Breaking rules was less scary for you, because your parents had grown more indulgent and less strict when your older siblings grew up. 

You’re insecure

There’s a bit of a paradox here. On the one hand, youngest children are used to being cherished and complimented, and you might say that’s good for their self confidence. On the other hand, according to Blair, youngest children have looked up to their elder siblings from the start. That’s why they might feel like they’re not good enough, and this feeling will last during adulthood. 

You tend to get disappointed in others 

Your parents probably cherished your ‘childish’ side, because you were the last child. That’s why they pampered you more than your older siblings. Unconsciously, this may cause high expectations of other people. Possibly, you still get disappointed in others because you expect a lot of them (and find it hard to take responsibility for the relationship or friendship sometimes). 

Text: Dorien Vrieling - Photo: Joshua Clay

 

Why we don't need to be happy all the time

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Walk into the average bookstore, and you’ll find at least one department focused on happiness. The topic is on our minds a lot. Being happy is more important to most of us than having a great career or lots of money in the bank. But does this desire for happiness actually make us happy? 

It is often said that we need to create our own happiness, and how being sad is bad for energy. Spiritual people are positive all the time, right? Do you ever see a monk look sad, or even angry? Well, think again. In Buddhism, suffering is part of life. Pain, sadness, anger: they are all emotions that make us human. After all, without sadness, there can be no happiness. No rain, no flowers. William Breen, clinical psychologist, once put it like this: ‘There's this idea out there that our emotions are 'positive' or 'negative,' [but] I think all of our emotions are normal and adaptive and have a purpose or function. To use them all means we are living a rich, fulfilling life.’

Embrace your shitty day

Living a rich and fulfilling life, by simply allowing the emotions we experience as a human being to exist. That doesn’t sound too bad, does it? Acceptation is key. A monk bumps into a table every once in a while, and he probably doesn’t like it any more than you do. Sometimes you can’t control what happens in your life, and it makes you sad. But that’s OK, it’s part of life. 

It’s like Morgan Harper Nichols once said: ‘For the highs and lows, and moments in between, mountains and valleys, rivers and streams, for where you are now, and where you will go, for ‘I’ve always known’ and ‘I told you so’, for ‘nothing is happening’ and ‘all has gone wrong’, it’s here in this journey, you will learn to be strong, you will get where you’re going, landing where you belong’.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy 

Having a hard time embracing setbacks? American psychologist Steven C. Hayes developed the ACT method for that. ACT means Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, a new form of behavioral therapy. The ACT method helps to live a rich and meaningful life, teaching you how to handle setbacks that will inevitably cross your path. ACT uses six powerful principles that allow everybody to develop a skill that will enrich your life. It’s about:

*Acceptation: actively inviting unpleasant thoughts, feelings and situations

*Defusion: letting go of your thoughts, so they can’t hurt you anymore

*Yourself as a context: creating a new, more flexible relationship with yourself

*Here and now: being in touch with the present

*Values: discovering what’s really important to you

*Acting with devotion: taking actions based on your values. 

It’s in the little things 

Of course, you can still look for happiness. Just know that the things outside of you, will usually just make you happy for a short while. It’s the little things in life that make you really happy, according to happiness expert and sociologist Christine Carter in her book The Sweet Spot. Gratitude, she says, is like ‘the holy grail to happiness’. And you can teach yourself this gratitude. For instance by keeping a special diary. At the end of every day, you write down three things you’re grateful for. Your beautiful family, the fact that your fridge was filled – but also the least pleasant things, because they make you value the good things more. In everything, give thanks (even after your angry or sad mood). 

Text: Gabriëlle Koster - Photo: Ronaldo Oliveira

How do you know it’s time to let love go?

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What do we need to be truly happy? Thich Nhat Hanh says that freedom brings happiness. ‘If we hold onto something in our heart, we can’t be free.’ But how do you know it’s time to let go of love? Five signals that might bring clarity.

If little things annoy you

You love a person, so you feel like he or she deserves it that you work on the relationship. But when their smallest habits give you the creeps – does he really have to laugh so hard? Why can’t she stop tapping her feet while watching TV? – perhaps it’s time to take your irritation seriously.

If you haven’t had a relaxed conversation in ages

Every couple disagrees every once in a while, and a good argument can be a big relief that creates space between you. But if you find cause for a row in everything, and you say things to your lover you don’t want to say – and yet, don’t even know what it is you’re so angry about – something bigger might be bothering you.

If you keep defending them

Perhaps he’s just not feeling that great. Perhaps she’s too busy at work, or there’s something bothering her in her family situation. Perhaps, sure, it could be. But be honest to yourself. Don’t keep justifying that they’re not there for you, when deep inside you know that this isn’t a temporary thing. No matter how much you want them to stay – if the feeling has gone, you can’t put a spell on it to make it reappear. You deserve someone who wants you with all their heart.

If you don’t like your mirror image anymore

Through the years, people change, and of course, a relationship attributes to that changes. This can be a beautiful thing, because you help eachother grow. Compare the old you, the one you were before your relationship, with who you are now. Are you content, or do you feel you want to go in another direction? If the latter is the case, there are several possible causes. But you might want to think about it.

If it hurts to go on this way

Everyone who’s been in a relationship that lasted longer than a couple of months, knows that it’s impossible to be over the moon all the time. Sometimes, you have to abide, and go through a difficult patch in order to grow together. But if you feel like your relationship has been costing you more energy than it brings you for a long time, and that together, you won’t reach the place you want to go to, then perhaps it’s time to stop trying.

 

5 simple ways to increase your creativity (even if you think you're not creative)

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Do you have tons of great ideas, but hardly turn them into action? Or do you find it difficult to get new ideas? Even the most creative people in the world sometimes experience a phase like that. Lots of artists keep staring at a blank canvas now and then, and writers are all too familiar with the phenomenon of the writer’s block. 

 So: let’s praise simple tricks to channel your inner creative. These tricks also work if you don’t have a creative job, or if you think you lack any creative genes. 

1. Change your routines

By acting differently, you start thinking differently. Tomorrow morning, don’t start with a cup of coffee while you answer your email, but go outside for a walk. If you usually work on creative projects at night, try and see what happens if you start working earlier in the day. Change of scenery is also very beneficial for creativity. Try a new coffee place, a park or any other place that gets the juices flowing. 

2. Avoid digital distractions 

Internet is a valuable source of inspiration (where would we be without Pinterest?), but it’s also a continuous source of distraction. Which doesn’t benefit creativity at all. To be creative, you need to be able to focus on whatever it is you’re making or conceiving. The sounds of yet another email, text or Instagram-like don’t add to the creative process. Make sure you can’t be disturbed by digital distractors. Put off all notifications and, if you’re still tempted, put away your phone. 

3. Schedule deadlines 

Doesn’t sound like fun, but it works great. If you make an appointment with yourself, to finish the end product of your daydreaming at the end of the day (or week, or month), it pushes you to find inspiration in yourself and everything around you. And especially: to just get started. This tip works even better if you share the appointment with someone else. Tell your partner you’ll show them your concept tonight, or ask a friend to come and admire your new homemade patchwork blanket. A deadline helps you to focus. After all, you want to be ready by then…

4. Start (and finish) challenges

A 365 day project helps to do something creative every day, no matter how small or simple. Some ideas: photograph your cat every day, draw a different plant each day, make a new breakfast dish or write a small poem every day. You can also create a new challenge every month. Turn October into photography month, November into writhing month and December into macramé month. The only way to keep challenging and learn new things, is by doing. 

5. Get enough sleep

The image of artists making their best work at night is quite romantic. But a lack of sleep doesn’t make you any more creative. After a good night’s sleep you’re sharper, all charged up for a new day, and you just achieve more. Rest can be a big boost for creativity. And it helps to plan your days in a similar manner. Go to bed around the same time every night, and get up at the same time too. 

Text: Sanne Eva Dijkstra - Photo: Jed Villejo

 

When parenting is a struggle, this is how you find wisdom in yourself

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You can look for solutions, but learning to accept that there isn’t one yet, might be more helpful.

Question of conscience: what do you think when your kids are going at eachother’s throats? ‘What am I doing wrong?’, ‘Why me?’ Once you realize this happens in thousands of families, you can look at it more kindly. It’s only normal. Just put the kettle on, get yourself a cup of tea and be friendly towards yourself. Acceptance is key.

Learning to accept it

We’re so used to looking for solutions. If we’re cold, we put on a sweater, if we’re thirsty, we grab a drink. When it comes to raising children, it’s usually not that clear what we should do. You can look for a solution, but you can also learn to accept that there isn’t an ideal one yet. There’s something going on, you better learn to deal with it in stead of fight it. Just accept that you don’t always know what’s best. That’s how you find the wisdom in yourself.

Driving you crazy

Your own children know exactly which buttons to push to unleash the dragon inside you. They can drive you crazy. Do you know the feeling, when you lash out at them so hard you hardly recognize yourself? If a fight with your child stresses you out too much, you tend to go back to your earliest experiences: back to when you were raised. You stop reacting like a ‘healthy adult’, but you get in ‘vulnerable or angry child’ mode, feeling attacked, or you act like the ‘punishing or demanding parent’ you know from when you were young.

Like two angry children

Situation: my youngest comes up to me in the schoolyard, crying, saying his big brother and a friend kicked me. I ask my eldest and his friend to join us. The friend comes up to us, my eldest refuses to. He says something cheeky, I get frustrated because he doesn’t do as he’s told. Like two angry children, we lash out at eachother. In the end, he walks away and I decide to listen to the friend first. That’s how I find out that my eldest didn’t do anything, but that my youngest mentioned his name because it was hís friend and he was there too. After all, I realize that because of his aggressive behavior, I acted like the vulnerable child and then turned into the demanding parent. My eldest felt so cornered by me –his angry mother, in the middle of the schoolyard – that he immediately became defensive. A balanced grown up would probably have taken a few breath before talking to him… Fortunately, we’re never too old to learn.

Take some distance

Learning to recognize whether you are acting from your child position or from an adult from your youth, you can mention it to yourself: that’s right, I’m in this or that mode. It creates some distance, allowing you not to identify with the feeling and to take some time to react differently. We tend to push away these ‘old’ feelings, while the only way to change old patterns is by acknowledging them and allowing them to exist.

Anger is OK

That was the question of conscience asked by my mindfulness teacher about, too: can you endure your child’s emotions? Can your child be angry? When there’s anger or sadness, can you just allow it to be there, without reacting? Anger doesn’t have to be erased or solved immediately, as long as you are simply there. That makes your child feel safe to express themselves: I can be angry, mom won’t panic. You teach them all emotions are welcome: anger, fear, sadness. Acknowledge these feelings, that are often put away or hidden. Cherish them, they can teach you a lot of things (and if you tell your kids today, it saves them a lot of work later).

Whose pain is it, actually?

Feelings of not being seen, not being heard, are universal. Each of us sees others from their own upbringing, patterns and shortcomings. How you were raised becomes your second nature. It helps to ask yourself: do you react the way you do because you want to help your child, or because it touches something old in you? It all starts with acknowledging, enduring and regulating your own emotions. If you can welcome them, it can be healing. Not just for you, but also for your children.

The key to mindful parenting according to founding father Jon Kabat-Zinn:

1 Sovereignty – can you see the child the way they are, without wanting to change them from self-interest? Respect their autonomy; that’s how you allow them to show their true self and find their own way. Everyone wants to be who they really are, become who they can be.

2 Empathy – kids always know when we’re not connected to them. Be aware, not just physically, but with your mind and your heart. That’s how children feel the confidence they need to tell you about their struggles.

3 Acceptance – you don’t have to solve the problems a child brings up immediately, as long as you let them know you are there and listen to what’s going on, even if you can’t imagine precisely. Just by allowing it to be, you make confusion or insecurity bearable.

From: Everyday Blessings, the inner work of mindful parenting.

How to get through the week mindfully:

·      In situations that involve intense emotions, try to find out whether these are your emotions or your child’s. Do you feel sorry for them for being bullied, or are you thinking of your own youth?

·      Having an argument at home? Try to see a dispute with your child as a meditation. Breathe in, breathe out. They behave in a certain way, he aren’t their behavior. Can you see hem for who they really are?

·      Try a walking meditation. You can easily do it on the way to the coffee machine, to the supermarket or walking the dog. That’s how you learn to look at the world around you differently and everything feels refreshingly new.

Text: Nicole van Borkulo - Photo: Carolina Sanchez B

 

A message to all the worriers and pessimists: you are not your thoughts

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Negative thoughts can get the best of us and create a cage that’s difficult to get out of – until we realize that the bars of the cage are imaginary.

In his world famous poem ‘Invictus’, William Earnest Hernley wrote: ‘I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.’ These words gave Nelson Mandela the power to go on during his imprisonment in South-Africa. It’s like it often is with art: it has a different meaning to every individual.

Thoughts at the steering wheel

Personally, I read the famous poem as a manifesto for self awareness and faith in yourself. A nice and inspiring thought. Yet, I often find myself in situations where my thoughts are at the steering wheel – not me. I let my thoughts decide what I think, regardless of whether they are true.

At times when I'm feeling good, that’s fine. My thoughts are beautiful, cheery and positive. It’s more difficult at times when I don’t feel so great. Things can get dark and destructive in my mind. The nagging voice of self criticism keeps talking and before I know it, I’m in a downward thinking spiral.

Thoughts are just thoughts

Luckily, there are several ways to escape the negativity. Humans are not victims of their own thoughts and emotions. Our thoughts don’t have to decide the course of our lives nor our moods. Thoughts are just thoughts. If we let that insight really sink in, we no longer have to fight the thoughts. We can just allow them to be there.

Four questions

One of the originators of this theory is bestselling author Byron Katie. She created The Work, a method of finding negative thoughts and examining them by asking yourself four questions. Katie believes emotions such as sadness, anger and dissatisfaction come from our faith in our own negative, untrue thoughts.

Kind thoughts

The four simple questions from The Work help you to keep your thoughts from getting the best of you, and looking at them in a different light. This causes a distance that makes us kinder. Kinder towards ourselves and towards others around us. Or, as Katie would say: ‘I don’t let go of my thoughts. I encounter them with understanding, and then they let go of me.’

Destructive thoughts? Ask yourself these four questions (and write down your answers)

1. Is it true?

2. Can you be certain it’s true?

3. How do you react, what happens when you believe the thoughts?

4. Who would you be without these thoughts?

Text: Joanne Wienen - Photo: Marco Xu

Are you an introvert? Then these 7 things are probably very important to you

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An introvert is –in a really tiny nutshell – someone who gets energy out of being alone. Because society is mainly focused on extroverts, it’s really important that introverts’ boundaries and needs are respected. Of course all people are different, but in general, introverts really need these seven things.

1. Time to recover after a busy day

No, there’s nothing selfish or theatrical about wanting some me-time during, or after, a busy day. Introverts process stimuli and information on a very deep level. Because extroverts process it in a more superficial way, they can handle much more stimuli. For introverts, it’s really important to have enough time to recover.

2. Meaningful conversations

Of course, sometimes it’s nice to simply talk about what the day was like, but because introverts are often deep thinkers, they need conversations that go beyond that every once in a while. Introverts are conscientious and think a lot, about themselves and the world. That’s why, more then extroverts, they need conversations about these topics.

3. Just being silent together

Introverts’ batteries are charged in silence. That’s why they need to have people around them who are just as good at being silent as they are. Not because they don’t have anything to say, but because it can be really comfortable to embrace a good silence. By being quiet together, you allow thoughts and ideas to really get through to you. Silence is not something that needs to be eliminated, it can be beautiful.

4. A peaceful place of their own

A room or a spot where they can retreat, surrounded by their own stuff, even if it’s just for a minute. That’s where introverts find the space to recharge their batteries. It’s an essential part of a happy life. Being able to spend time alone is very healthy for an introvert.

5. The chance to think before they reply

For an introvert, an impatient partner or colleague can be extremely stressful. Whereas extroverts lean on their short-term memory, introverts turn inside. That’s why they need more time to find the right words. If people don’t pay them any mind, they miss out on beautiful ideas.

6. Friends who understand their absence

Introverts need friends who understand they can’t always be around. It’s not because they don’t like to spend time together, or hate parties, but it’s all about balance for them. When they get too busy, they get very tired. It’s nothing personal when they decide to stay in. They simply need it.

7. Personal attention

For extroverts, it can be hard to imagine what it’s like to be introvert (and vice versa, by the way). They think: who doesn’t like to go to a party? Introverts need social events, too, they just prefer to spend it one on one.

Text: Joanne Wienen - Photo: Neil Bates

 

Why there's nothing wrong with having regrets - we can't do without them

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Having regrets is useless – that’s a strong conviction in western culture. If an old person looks back on their life without regret, they’ve lived a beautiful life. But is it possible to avoid having regrets? And should we want to?

Kathryn Schulz hadn’t even left the tattoo parlor yet when she was already feeling regretful. She, the kind of person who always made her choices very consciously, impulsively had her body tattooed. And she could never undo it. The feeling was overwhelming, all she could think was: I wish I’d never done it. 

‘I want it to go away’

That’s how regrets work, she says in her TED Talk: they evoke denial. ‘I want it to go away’ isn’t a realistic thought, because the tattoo will never do just that. And yet, the feeling is very strong. You just don’t understand: how did I make this stupid mistake? You disapprove of your choice, may even feel the desire to punish yourself: ‘I could really hit myself.’ 

No one wants to have regrets. In our culture, the conviction that regrets have to be prevented is innate – at least, having regrets about things you haven’t done in your life. People who look back at their lives without regrets, have had a wonderful life – we often see that in movies. 

Learning to live with regrets 

But why do we disapprove regret? ‘It's almost impossible not to have regrets,’ Schulz says. ‘If you want to be a real human being, you have to learn to live with regrets.’ And she has some advice about how to do that: 

Tip 1: You’re not the only one

If you search for ‘regret’ and ‘tattoo’ on Google, you find millions of hits. 17 percent of American people regret their tattoos. It probably goes just as well for other choices. We all make decisions we regret later on – and knowing that can be very comforting. 

Tip 2: Laugh at yourself 

Laughing about ‘stupid’ jokes helps to put things in perspectives. Even in the most dreadful situations, when we’d do anything to turn back time. Schulz: ‘Everyone who’s felt pain and grief, knows black humor helps us to survive. It connects the positive and the negative.’ 

Tip 3: The lesson of the tattoo

She decided to have a tattoo –a compass- because she wanted to capture an important life lesson: the importance of discovering new things. She wanted to make herself remember. But the lesson she did remember, was a different one: if we want to have dreams in life, and to love, we have to feel pain when things go wrong. We have to learn how to love our imperfect actions, and forgive ourselves for the mistakes. 

Text: Dorien Vrieling - Photo: Liel Anapolsky

Is it hard for you to be kind to yourself? This is how you become your own best friend

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For some reason, it's much easier to be kind and understanding towards your friends than towards yourself. But why would you treat yourself any different? This is how you can work your way towards more self love. 

Just like your friends get into situations where they really need you, there are situations in which you really need yourself. For instance when you made a mistake at work, or when a quarrel with your partner made you feel restless. If a friend comes to you at times like these, you probably try to comfort them and to be understanding. Now try to remember a time when you were feeling bad. Did you use the same comforting words then?

Strict and critical 

If you are like most people, you probably didn’t. Most people find it easier to be kind to others than to themselves. At the times when we need friendly, kind words the most, we are often strict and very critical.

The key to happiness

Of course, deep down, we know a little kindness brings us much more than perfectionism and self criticism. Still, it’s often hard to practice that. In our society, the idea still prevails that happiness is to be found outside ourselves. A nice home, good relationship, nice kids, challenging job. We aim for perfection in everything we do. If we fail, if we’re having a hard time, we scold ourselves and struggle through the days – looking for the ultimate happiness we never really seem to find. That’s because the key to happiness is not outside ourselves, it’s in us.

Practice and patience

If things are peaceful and calm inside us, the world will be, too. Anyone who's aware of that fact, has taken the first step in the right direction, towards self compassion. Awareness is the first step towards change. But because we are conditioned to scold ourselves, the mind doesn’t change overnight. It requires lots of practice and patience. The journey towards self compassion is not an easy one, but it’s definitely worth your while.

This will help you to get started

1.   Awareness is the first step towards change

Try to challenge yourself each day to make your internal dialogue one of positive, encouraging words. We often don’t realize how we talk to ourselves. This exercise might help you to do just that. Write down what you would tell a good friend who made a big mistake. Which words would you use, and wat tone of voice? Once you’re done, do exactly the same, only address your words to yourself. The two texts are probably quite different.

2.   Be kind to yourself (and find out what you really need)

We’re all different and we all have our personal needs regarding positive thinking. Find out what’s important to you and turn it into positive mantras. Are you a real perfectionist at work? Remember that failing is OK. You don’t have to be perfect – being flawed probably makes you much more fun to be around. Another example: are you a sensitive person and do you fantasize about being immune to the power of other people’s words? Then resolve to let go of unpleasant words. It might help you to be a little kinder towards yourself.

3.   Practice makes perfect (so allow yourself some time)

If you’ve gotten aware of the way you talk to yourself, you can change it. It doesn’t happen overnight and it involves lots of practice. At first, it probably feels a bit awkward and it’s not easy. However, after a while you will find that friendly, kind words will take up more space in your vocabulary, and in the end, it will be your default setting. 

Source: ‘Hartvol’ – Marlous Kleve

Text: Joanne Wienen - Photo: Brooke Cagle