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POSITIVE, WISE & LOVING LIFE

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

 

Why it's OK to say f*** it every now and then - it has a remarkable effect

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Worrying, stress, fretting about hundreds of things. We all do it. According to bestselling author John Parkin it’s perfectly fine to say fuck it! to everything that’s important to you, because it helps you to find inner peace. 

Life is like a computer game, consisting of several levels. That’s how John Parkin presents it in his book F*** it. It’s typical for Parkin: he is the kind of person who thinks deeply about things, yet values fun and lightness in his life. 

Following the levels

Life as a game? Yes, and it’s not that farfetched. In your life you gain insights and experiences, you get past obstacles and learn all sorts of things on your way to the next level – just like in a game. For instance regarding finding inner peace. 

You’re in Level 1 if you think peace of mind depends on what happens in the outside world. It’s the thought starting from ‘I find peace in myself when…’ and you can fill in the blank with all sorts of things. When I’ve finished college. When I’ve lost weight. When the holidays are over. Anything. 

In Level 2, you learn how to relax right now (for instance through meditation). But still, there are things disturbing your inner peace. Thoughts about mortality, your family, climate change, war… Level 3 is: finding peace in life as it is. 

Fuck it! – Why it helps

A few years ago, I interviewed John Parkin, when his first book was published. He then explained why he chose the phrase ‘Fuck it’. Parkin said: ‘It’s an exclamation people understand immediately,’ he said. ‘I can’t think of any other exclamation that expresses so clearly how most of the things we worry about, don’t really matter in the end. Saying ‘Fuck it!’ actually means: this makes me unhappy, this hurts me, but goodness me, is it really that important?’

Fuck it sounds as if you don’t care at all, but in fact, it’s most helpful for people who care too much. ‘The more we start to love life, the more we get attached to it, the more unbearable it is to think how everything will end eventually. So how can we love life as much as we can, without clinging to it? That’s the lesson we all need to learn.’ 

It made me think of three things that occupy our minds a lot, while in the end, they don’t really matter. 

Authenticity

‘Being authentic’ is the new ‘being righteous’, John Parkin writes in his new book. There are hundreds of reasons – some of them noble, others not so noble – for not being authentic all the time. Parkin: ‘If it’s not the time to be authentic, don’t worry about it.’ So fuck it to being authentic. 

Loving yourself 

Of course it’s important to try and love yourself more. Most of us are more demanding towards ourselves than we are to others. But in the end, it also means loving the fact that you dón’t love yourself sometimes. Not loving yourself isn’t wrong. It can be OK, too. So fuck it to always loving yourself. 

Positivity

Having a positive attitude feels better than having a negative one. But there’s nothing wrong with being negative and pessimistic sometimes. ‘Give in to your inner grumbling, your hidden Eeyore, just welcome it and see how much better you’ll feel. It’s more real, it’s more honest.’ 

It is what it is

The list of things to say fuck it to is long. But the funny thing is: beneath all the cool words and funny metaphors, Parkin has a deeply spiritual notion of this ‘game’ of life. The notion that, in the end, when you’re forced to let go everything, you’ll know everything will be OK – and that your soul, your mind, or whatever you want to call it, will find peace. 

That’s why it doesn’t matter whether you’re spiritual or not, or whether you say ‘fuck it’ often. Just saying it about things you worry about, can help to put things in perspective, and that’s very refreshing now and then. 

For instance when you keep editing an article forever, because you feel it still needs improvement. 

Fuck it – it is what it is! 

Text: Anne Wesseling

Let's all embrace our bodies - because every body is a beach body

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Spring is the season of body awareness. We’re going out, showing our bare skin, hitting the streets, parks and beaches full of human shapes. That makes our bodies the topic of the day, we can’t avoid it. 

Judging by my Instagram feed, everyone else was thinking about it, too. I saw posts about being fat, at least ten hints about being ‘bikini proof’ and ‘ready for summer’ and I even read about ‘the ultimate festival body’ (what does that even mean?). 

I can’t help it, it makes me more aware of my body than I’d like to be. I always pay attention to the signals of my body – a tingle pointing me at a good idea, a muscle alarming me in a subtle way. But my usual kind look at my body changed into a somewhat critical look in the mirror, lately, and sometimes I poked my belly or butt for no reason. Perhaps I hoped they would answer: ‘we’re fine!’ Or, worse: ‘help us!’ 

Beauty isn’t only on the inside

A few weeks ago, I wrote on Instagram about taking care of my looks. In my job, I sometimes get a full make-up, and I enjoy that: the fussing about, the playing. In every day life, I colour my hair, use make up, I exercise and all these things don’t undo my spiritual practice. It’s all part of my life, it co-exists. In spiritual scenes, taking care of your looks is sometimes regarded as superficial. That’s nonsense. There’s nothing wrong with paying attention to beauty. It would be nonsense to say that true beauty is only on the inside, just as ridiculous it is to say that it’s only on the outside. It’s all about balance, about loving kindness, for your body.

Time for a peace offering

That’s why this is my suggestion: make peace with your body the way it is, and celebrate your body. Show it if you want to. Make sure your inner and outer world are balanced. Strengthen it, make it a resilient and safe place. Your body deserves 365 days of full attention a year. It doesn’t matter how other people feel about your body: if people don’t like to watch you when you're wearing a bikini, they’re free to look at something else. Be kind to yourself. You don’t have to frustrate your body with exercises that cost energy rather than give you any; you don’t have to buy extreme products with ingredients that belong in a chemistry lab. Don’t let the outside world make you insecure, nourish your self esteem from the inside.  

You’re perfect the way you are. And your body is every inch a beach body. 

A living miracle

i reduced my body to aesthetics

forgot the work it did to keep me alive

with every beat and breath

declared it a grand failure for not looking like theirs

searched everywhere for a miracle

foolish enough to not realize

i was already living in one

rupi kaur

Text: Eveline Helmink 

 

 

7 very successful ways to destroy your relationship (want to keep it? Do the opposite)

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There are countless self help books full of advice, tips and insights for ‘the best relationship of your life’. But sometimes, the best advice is an example of how not to do it. 

That’s why psychotherapist Jay Haley decided to write the only essay on love that didn’t exist yet: ‘How to have an awful marriage’. In a humorous way, he shares the keys to ‘unhappily ever after’. In case you do have plans for the future with your love, you might see his hilarious list as a reverse advice on love. 

Step 1: start a relationship with the wrong person, or for the wrong reason 

This step is probably the best guarantee for an unhappy life together. The best (meaning, in fact, the worst) reason to hurry into a relationship is because you want to avoid something else – loneliness, social pressure or your biological clock. Wanting the wrong person is a great one too – like the kind of person you want to change during the course of the relationship. 

Of course, your partner doesn’t have to be a copy of you, but sharing the same values and having the same plans for the futures turns out to be an important key to success. 

Step 2: have impossible expectations from your lover 

Another catapult towards a breakup: expecting your partner to fulfill all your hopes and dreams, being your lover, teacher, father figure, best friend and personal cheerleader at the same time. Admit it: if your partner would expect all that from you, you would be scared, too. 

Jay Haley’s advice? Remember happiness is always your own responsibility. You can’t expect anyone else to ‘complete’ you and your life. Get rid of the ideal picture, and you’ve avoided yet another boobytrap. 

Step 3: don’t communicate 

Bad communication is key to every failed relationship. Not sharing your feelings and thoughts or asking about your partner’s, is a perfect love killer.

In the first phase of a relationship, being in love, we think the other person understands every aspect of us, in a way no one ever could. If you’re lucky, your partner is actually good at this – but it’s unlikely they’re a mind reader. It means you’ll have to let them know what’s going on inside your head, even if they’re your soul mate. 

Step 4: Look for conflict (and never admit your mistakes) 

Do you have the talent to turn every little quarrel into a conflict that lasts for days? Congratulations! You have exactly the right qualities to make your relationship end miserably. Jay Haley’s point is: not every disagreement is worth a big discussion. It might be a good idea to look for the middle ground sometimes. 

If you’re really furious, and yelled some horrible remarks at your significant other, you can keep acting like the victim and refusing to admit you were wrong – to really destroy things. Or, just an option: apologize. 

Step 5: use sex as a means to an end

Intimacy is like love glue. It doesn’t mean you have to tear eachother’s clothes off all day, but it does mean making love is holy. A great way to dissolve the glue is by using it as a weapon or leverage. 

Do you aim for a breakup? Initiate sex at the most impossible times. For instance, when your partner is obviously not into it. Or do the opposite: focus on the ceiling, the TV or twittering birds while doing it – and not on your partner. A more passive way to do it: watching 28 old episodes of Friends late at night, long after your lover has gone to bed. 

A better approach for long term love: keep investing in your love and your intimacy. Let mindful sex inspire you, or find other ways to keep your sex life interesting. 

Step 6: Make a (financial) mess 

According to research, 39 percent of conflicts in a relationship is about money. Financial infidelity offers a great chance of divorce. 

If your partner is extremely cheap, take on the role of big spender and spend lots of money on things you really don’t need (using, of course, your shared account). This strategy works even better if you keep the purchases hidden for as long as possible, making the credit card bill a hell of a surprise. 

Step 7: Have an affair with your mobile phone

Always being connected to your phone and feeling little connection to your partner was never this easy. In the information era you can escape your partner without even leaving the house. 

So if you guys finally have time for each other, spend it on social media and texting, and you’ll never have to talk to eachother again. Sure, you can communicate with texts during the day, as long as you avoid real contact. 

Text: Alies Verstegen - Photo: Kristina Litvjak

Do you feel like a fraud sometimes? How to handle imposter syndrome spiritually

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Perhaps you know the feeling: everything is going smooth, your boss is happy with your work, and your career is going A-OK. And still this feeling keeps haunting you. The feeling that you’re just messing around, and got away with it so far – but that some day, this will change. 

You can keep feeling like this, but you can also try to let go of the feeling and accept that, perhaps, you’re really good at what you do. But how do you let go? 

1. Write about it 

Every time you start doubting yourself, grab a pen and paper and write down how you’re feeling. It’s a way of being more aware of your (negative) feelings. If you do it often enough, you’ll recognize the pattern and will be able to shrug and think ‘whatever’. Writing it down makes it easier to look at your thoughts objectively and put them in perspective. 

2. You’re more than this feeling

Once you start doubting yourself, it’s wise to take a good look at your whole ‘being’. This feeling, does it define you? Or is it just a little part of who you really are? You’re so much more than your doubts about yourself.  

3. You’re not weird

Just in case you wondered: you’re not weird. Many people feel this way, so don’t worry. 

4. Make a list of your achievements

What are the things you achieved in your life? What are the things you actually did yourself, without other people’s help? In no time, you’ve probably made a whole list of successes that were your own achievement. Congratulations, you’re not just messing around. 

5. Mini mantra 

Instead of telling yourself you’re not able of much, tell yourself the opposite: ‘I’m able of lots of things’ and ‘I’m good enough.’

6. Your feelings are real, not true

Alright, you’re experiencing imposter syndrome. That doesn’t mean you are an imposter. If we would believe everything we thought or felt, we would be emotional wrecks. Learn how to recognize the feeling as a story you’re telling yourself. It’s just a story, nothing more. 

7. Let go 

Life goes on, there’s nothing you can change about that. Punishing yourself and telling yourself you’re not worth it, or you’re fooling everyone, doesn’t make anyone happier. Especially yourself. So let go, and just start living. 

8. Laugh 

Sometimes having a good laugh (about yourself) is the best solution. Look at you, trying to make life so much harder than it needs to be. 

9. Remember positive remarks 

Save every e-mail from your boss (or anyone else) telling you you did a good job. When you’re doubting yourself again, you can take a look at it. A nice message from a friend works just fine, too. As long as it makes you see you’re worth it, and you’re good at what you’re doing (not just at work, but also in friendships). 

10. Stop comparing 

You are you, and no one else. Stop comparing yourself to others. Your colleague may be a better writer, but you’re great with numbers. Just own your own qualities. Admitting you’re good at things doesn’t make you smug. You should be proud! 

Photo: Allef Vinicius

This is for everyone who makes up difficult conversations in their mind

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Suppose you know you have to face this person who’s been bothering you for a while. You have to tell them what’s on your mind, but you don’t know how to put it yet. Do you find yourself imagining the whole conversation in your mind? Then this is a piece of advice for you – coming from an experienced 'mental fighter'. 

Do you have conversations in your mind sometimes? I’m very good at it, especially when I’m really angry or frustrated. I sharply make my point, tackle my opponent’s arguments, I’m on a winning streak. In the end, I come up with the ultimate point. The other person says passively: ‘Yes, of course you’re right. I’m an idiot.’ 

Wired up 

After I have won in this very elegant and effective way, I feel as wired up as if I’ve really been in an argument. What happens in my mind, feels very real to my body. Everything responds to it: my heartbeat, my level of adrenaline, my muscle tension and facial expression. The body can’t tell fantasy from reality. In the meantime, reality hasn’t changed a bit: the disagreement or injustice keeps going. 

After an internal discussion, there’s nothing I can do but actually start the conversation I’d already experienced in my mind. I confront the other person, only to find out that conversations are always so much different in real life than in my mind. It frustrates me even more: no matter how much I ‘practice’, it’s useless. 

Daydreams and mental fighting 

The only thing that’s helpful is to be my own witness during all this furious day dreaming and ‘mental fighting’.   If I start a serious discussion in my mind, I put a step back and observe. I observe myself standing, sitting or biking (for some reason I always do this on my bike), caught up in a proficient mental fight. I might continue my brilliant inner word game for a while, but soon enough it’ll feel ridiculous and it makes me laugh. 

Write it down

Instead, what I do nowadays is this: I write down what I want to achieve with a negotiation or discussion and put some arguments under it in key words. I also resolve to listen to what the other person has to say. Because instead of firing arguments – no matter how brilliant and well rehearsed they are – that’s what turns out to be most helpful in the resolution of a dispute. 

And I could never have thought of that. 

Text: Susan Smit - Photo: Nick Karvounis

Why every parent should look at their child with fresh eyes now and then

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

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

- Betty Smith

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

Beaten track

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

What’s your stress reply?

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

Open your eyes (and stop talking!)

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

Beginners mind

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

Mindful tips:

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

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

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

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

Text: Nicole van Borkulo - Photo: Tara Evans

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Hey you, there's nothing wrong with you: why you're perfect the way you are

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A conviction we’ve taught ourselves when we were young, will stay with us during our lives as an adult. Unfortunately, it’s hardly ever a positive idea about ourselves. 

Imagine your best friends comes up to you one day. She’s been criticized by her boss, and feeling sad about it. She’s worried she might not be good enough for her job, that everyone might wonder why she got it, that she’s simply not good enough. What would you tell her? 

You would probably be kind to her. Tell her she’s perfectly able to do this, that there’s nothing wrong with her. And it would feel like the right thing to do, a very normal thing to do. Why is it that it seems weird to tell ourselves this? That we tend to come up with at least ten reasons why there’s something wrong with us? 

Never perfect 

Possibly, the feeling you’re not good enough has originated in your youth. Perhaps you felt like you had to perform all the time, in order to make other people happy. Or like others would only like you if you behaved the way they wanted you to. There’s nothing wrong with aiming for nice goals and behaving nicely. But if you felt like it was the only way to get affection, it’s a different story. 

It’s also possible that things you experienced later on made you critical about yourself. A remark an ex boyfriend made about your body, or a quarrel with a family member can seem small for one person, but another person absorbs it like a sponge and won’t forget about it. We carry these patterns, convictions and scars with us. 

If people learn –consciously or consciously- at a young age that other people’s love is conditional, they may have a hard time ever feeling like they’re good enough when they’re older. As soon as something bad happens, even if it’s a small thing, they experience it all over again: ‘I knew it, there’s something wrong with me.’ 

What does your intuition tell you?  

To escape from this feeling, we try lots of things. We go to yoga class. We work on a toned body in the gym. We go shopping to look charming. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with all these things, but if we keep looking for a solution outside ourselves, it gets harder and harder to hear the call of intuition. While it’s that call that can point you in the right direction. 

Now this doesn’t mean you can’t work on features you don’t like about yourself, or that you can’t look for new ways to live and grow. But there’s a difference between taking care of yourself because you won’t feel good enough otherwise, and taking care of yourself because you treat yourself kindly – the way you would treat a friend. 

There’s nothing wrong with you

Even if we do stupid or unkind things sometimes, our body isn’t in top shape and we’re not super people who have every aspect of our lives under control, there’s nothing wrong with us. It’s not until we really see we’re perfect the way we are, that we can really take care of ourselves. Not because we want to be someone else, but because we want to be exactly who we are. 

Text: Joanne Wienen - Photo: Juja Han

Ever felt like a horse really understood you? This is why horses are great listeners

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When you're around horses, magical things can happen. It connects you to the person you really are, deep down. More and more people realise that horses are able to ‘mirror’ us, and make us aware of how we’re living our lives. ‘Horse coach’ is a relatively new profession that’s becoming more and more popular: the horses are the teachers, the human coach simply translates what’s happening. 

A mirror on four legs 

In a workshop with horse coach Piet Nibbelink, journalist Roos Tesselaar found out how deeply some people are connected to horses. Piet says horses know exactly what we’re feeling: ‘They’re able to see right through pretences, they know what’s beneath. You can’t fool a horse, it knows from a distance how you’re doing. A horse responds to your emotions, mirrors them. If you’re uncertain, the horse will be uncertain. If you’re afraid, the horse will be afraid. But if you can be rash like a child, the horse will frolic like a colt.’ 

In Piets lessons and courses, he invites people to really see the ‘mirrors on four legs’. The horses walk freely around you, without a rope, without a saddle. They can be themselves, and that’s why they’re able to show us a realistic mirror: one without scratches or cracks, that doesn’t transform us, nor flatters us. Piet: ‘A horse confronts you with everything you’re taking with you, and it’s not always pleasant. A psychologist once told me: I need quite a couple of sessions to find out how a person is doing, the horse clarifies it in a few hours.’ 

How the ancient horse language works

How is it possible that horses feel what we feel? A horse has antennas that reach for meters. We’re used to them living in a stable, but in their genes, horses are still prey animals – and vulnerable. If the vegetarians wanted to survive in nature, they had to be extremely alert and sensitive. The smallest signal could be of vital importance. Even now that horses have been domesticated for thousands of years, their emotional antennas are just as strong. 

They don’t fall for sweet talk, it doesn’t mean a thing to them. There’s only one language they understand, and it’s body language – a language we’re don’t master well, according to coach Piet, because we’re unaware of what our bodies are expressing. We don’t listen to our trembling hearts, ignore a cramp in our necks and shoulders and don’t realize we’re staring at others with a blank eye. Our breathing, heartbeat, posture and muscle tension, however, tell horses everything they need to know. 

Are you a leader or a follower?

‘We can’t lie to horses, nor can they lie to us. If a horse feels unsafe with you, he’ll keep a distance. He’ll only come up to you if he feels you’ll treat him well, if he trusts you. He sees you as a leader: someone who’s insightful, is able to look past the horizon, has a natural authority. A good leader is essential for the herd’s wellbeing. Horses know immediately who’s able to lead,’ Piet says. 

Living in the now 

The beauty of it is: horses keep giving you a new chance. ‘They live in the now. They take a honest look at you, without any knowledge, without judgment. No matter how difficult it is to be with them, as soon as you change your approach, they react on it. They see you the way you are then, it doesn’t matter what you were like before. Besides, they’re very forgiving: they forgive you for your mistakes and accept your apology. That’s why they’re such great teachers. They can handle a lot, as long as the intention is good.’ 

How to get to the essence

‘Horses give us an experience that makes us grow, makes us become more of a person,’ is Piets conviction. ‘They show who you are – at least, if you’re ready to take a look in the mirror. I often say: people help you de-velop yourself. In the course of live, you’ve grown lots of layers, starting as a baby: with diapers, clothing, rules, values, your parents’ issues and so on. If you peel off all the layers, you’ll get to your essence.’ 

If you walk away from your issues, from your feelings, the horse will walk away, too. That’s because your signals are mixed. The horse wants a simple, clear message. ‘It’s about acknowledging your feelings, being congruent. If you pretend to be different than you are, it’s confusing – to you, and to the horse.’ 

Text: Roos Tesselaar - Photo: Lisa Lyne Blevins

Does your belly or head ache when you're tense? This is how to relax your body

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If your body starts aching when you’re stressed, you’re not the only one. For many people, stress or anxiousness isn’t just a mental thing, but also something physical. 

If tension makes your belly ache

Perhaps it’s hard for you to eat when you’re tense, or your belly aches so much you have to run for the toilet. It’s perfectly explainable: stress makes your body get into an ancient reflex: fight or flight mode. The rush of adrenalin in your body changes your bloodstream and distribution of water, causing your bowels to contract. 

So, what to do about it? 

Focus on your breathing

Breathing exercises are a great method for handling tension. Once you’re able to relax, your belly will calm down. Breathe from your stomach, and teach your mind and body to relax. 

Distract yourself

Research shows that focusing on pain isn’t helpful. It’s better to distract yourself, for instance by reading – anything goes, sometimes the words on a shampoo bottle work perfectly. 

Eat healthy

Eating lots of fiber and drinking lots of water is always a good idea. In stressful times it’s better to forget about dairy products, coffee and alcohol for a while. 

Exercise

Tension may make you freeze. Besides, the thought of yet another help-I’ve-got-to-run-moment doesn’t make it tempting to leave the house. But it’s a shame if you let your belly keep you from doing the things you want. More importantly, exercise (walking, cycling, anything) makes your body and mind relax. 

If tension causes headaches

Headaches caused by tension are a very common thing. For most people, the pain starts from the neck and moves its way to their head. You feel a pressing pain, often on both sides of your head. Scientists aren’t sure what causes it – some say tension headaches have to do with a convulsive position of your neck and shoulders, but lack of sleep can also contribute to it. 

Meditate

Mental relaxation is very important for people who suffer tension headaches. Meditation can be very helpful: it allows you to empty your mind. 

Sniff lavender or mint

Scents can be very effective. Lavender is known for its relaxing effect, but mint can also be helpful (peppermint oil is a natural antidote to headaches – a few drips on the forehead can bring relief). 

Go out

The outside is beneficial when you’re having a headache. Taking a walk can help to stretch and release your muscles. 

Keep it cool

Put a wet cloth or a cold compress on your forehead and lie down for a while. 

Other tricks for tense bodies 

If you often suffer belly aches or headaches caused by stress (or if your body expresses it in another way, for instance with palpitations or a back ache), it’s wise to check the cause. What is it that causes this tension, and what can you do to handle it differently? 

Exercise and sleep are always beneficial when you’re tense. Sitting a lot makes your body tight, lack of sleep will increase the tension. Plan breaks to take a walk, take time to rest.  

If tension expresses itself in physical problems, the painful feeling can even increase the tension. ‘Oh no, a head ache, not again…’ Perhaps you start feeling angry with yourself, or you’re trying to fight the pain – only to find out it’s not helpful. It’s wise to try and accept the ways your body expresses stress, and to treat it kindly. 

Text: Dorien Vrieling - Photo: Alexander Mils

This is how you make your working life more meaningful

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It doesn’t matter if you’re an accountant or a cleaner: everyone can make their job meaningful. That’s what writer and blogger John Coleman found out after years of research. These four tricks can help you to find more purpose in your job.

Think about who it is you’re serving

In the end, who is it that you’re serving? Connect to these people, invite the ultimate consumer, get to know them and let them inspire you.

Shape and refine your work

It’s satisfying to do your job in the most meaningful way possible and, at the same time, dedicating yourself to perfecting the skills you need for it.

Invest in positive relationships

Who you work with, is just as important as what you’re doing. When you’re striving to improve the relationships with your colleagues and customers, you add meaning to your work.

Know what you’re working for

Your work enables you to spend money on things that contribute to other people’s happiness. Your daughter gets the chance to play the piano and by treating your friend to a day out, you’re making her happy.  

Photo: Christin Hume

 

 

Why we need to hug our loved ones more often - scientists are positive

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A loving touch isn’t just pleasant, it’s also very healthy. It’s the perfect medicine for both physical and mental complaints, and makes you feel good. Scientific advice: make time for hugging!

It reduces stress and gives you a peaceful and relaxed feeling. It works like a painkiller and advances healing processes and growth. Increase your ability to learn. Helps your digestion. Makes you more social, more friendly, less aggressive. More loving. More peaceful. Besides, it has no negative side-effects and is 100 percent natural.

But the best thing is the hormone named oxytocine is available for everyone, for free. Day and night. All we have to do is touch each other in a loving manner. Simple as that.

This is how it works

The more often and the more intensely we hug and caress eachother, the more powerful the effects and the longer they last. Pleasant skin to skin contact puts your oxytocine factory to work. While your arm is caressed or your back is being massaged, millions of nerve ends in the skin tell your brain: time to start producing!

Through an ingenious system, this miracle stuff gets into your blood. Blood pressure and heart beat go slower, the stress hormone in your body decreases drastically. A big, content smile is likely to appear on your face.

No time to relax?

Oxytocine, the royal supplier of rest and togetherness, is literally within arms reach. Still, in our hectic western society, we don’t make maximal use of its services, Kerstin Moberg concludes in her book ‘The oxytocine factor’. We are all so busy. We go from here to there, have to perform and produce and desperately try to tick all the boxes on our endless to do lists. We’re all about stress hormones.

Why hugging is a necessity of life

In our diaries, it never says: ’11.00, give big hug to best friend’. Or: ‘8.30 – 8.45, give partner huge kiss’. That’s while touching is a necessity of life. According to some scientists, physical contact is just as important as food.

Without warm physical contact, we risk becoming cold inside. Babies that don’t get hugged a lot, evolve less quickly. It is as if they lack a battery that charges them. They don’t grow as quickly, have trouble learning, get ill more often and when they grow up, they are less empathetic.  

Hugs are an antidote to stress

The less time and energy we have for rest and intimacy, the less oxytocine we produce. While our body is longing to relax, we deny ourselves a portion of ‘natural healing nectar’, as Kerstin Moberg calls the hugging hormone. ‘It’s an antidote to the negative effects of our hasty way of life.’

So: embrace more often, caress more intensely and make sure you are touched. Especially when you don’t have the time. The oxytocine boost will come, guaranteed.

Photo: Priscilla DuPreez

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Tears are not a sign of weakness - and four other things you didn't know about crying

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Tears. You cry them because you’re sad, happy, touched, or because you’re cutting onions. They are a self evident part of life, you probably never think about them. American photographer Rose-Lynn Fisher did, and her photos of tears under the microscope aren’t just beautiful, but also comforting. 

Rose-Lynn Fisher came up with the idea during a time when she cried a lot. In a short period of time, she had lost several loved ones. It was a time of sadness and change. After a day she spent crying almost continuously, she suddenly wondered what tears would look like under a microscope. Would a sad tear look different than a happy tear? 

Hundreds of tears

Well, it sure did. In the end, she photographed hundreds of tears. Not just happy tears and sad tears, but also tears of frustration, forgiveness, compassion. Birth tears, tears of mourning. 

‘Topography of tears’, is what Fisher called her book. It’s a beautiful title, because indeed it seems like you’re looking at a landscape from a plane. The emotions behind the tear are coagulated in ice, rivers, crystals. 

Bottle of tears

What it is that makes the photos so fascinating: they don’t just show beauty (tears consist of enzymes, hormones, protein – ah, the beauty of our anatomy), they also show something that’s intangible. 

It made me think of the little glass ‘bottles of tears’ I once saw in a museum in Cyprus. In Greek ancient history, the bottles were used by women when their wives went to battle. They collected their tears and gave it to their husband when he arrived back home, showing how much they missed him. 

Distance

Looking at tears under a microscope, or collecting them in a bottle, helps to create some distance. The same way you let your thoughts pass by during meditation. It allows you to look at your feelings from a distance. Because the difficult thing about emotions, especially sadness, is that you can lose yourself so much it seems like it will never end. 

You might not own a microscope, but a bottle for your tears is easy to come by. You can even use a plastic travelling bottle you use for shampoo. If you’re having an uncontrollable cry, you can collect your tears so you can see the size of your sadness. It makes emotion become visible and tangible. To me, that seems like a beautiful and comforting thing. All we need now is a measuring cup for love!

5 things you probably didn’t know about tears

There are three sorts of tears. Basic tears keep your eyes moist, reflex tears clean your eyes (for instance when you’re cutting onions) and emotional tears have a psychological cause. 

Emotional tears are only seen in people, animals don’t cry. Emotional tears have a social function: they show other people something is going on, alerting them to comfort you. 

Tears consist of enzymes, protein, minerals, hormones – substances your body produces in a reaction to stress. Crying can help you to get rid of these substances and restore the balance in your body, but it hasn’t really been researched. (However, most people know the effect of a good cry: the relieve). 

Boys cry more than girls, but eventually, this changes: woman cry on average two to four times a month, men cry once every two months. This may be because women go through more emotional situations and watch more sad movies. 

Scientists say people who cry easily, have a big dose of the hormone prolactin. This may explain the phenomenon of weepiness after giving birth: women who just gave birth, have a lot of prolactin in their blood. 

(Source: Ad Vingerhoets, ‘Tranen. Waarom mensen huilen’, Uitgeverij Bert Bakker). 

Text: Anne Wesseling - Photo: Cristian Newman

Follow your curiosity - it will take you where you want to go in life

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Children learn about the world in a quick, playful way, driven by curiosity. Once we get older, we lose that ability. But if you let curiosity lead the way in your adult life, it can make life much more fun, more challenging and more meaningful. 

Curiosity is something special. It’s a bit like being in love: it’s a powerful source. If you let curiosity guide you, you’ll go places, because there’s an invisible thread pulling you further. 

It even helps robots 

Robots that are guided by curiosity, learn to play a game more quickly, than robots that just follow a random path. It’s the same for people. Curiosity helps you to remember things, or to get involved in something you didn’t know anything about. 

What am I curious about? 

Ask yourself: what am I curious about? Do I want to know everything about embroidery, about the life of deap sea octopuses, about the moss growing on the arctic tundra or about football? Whatever it is: go for it. Learn about it, without feeling ashamed. It doesn’t matter if it’s odd. It’s your curiosity taking you places. And why would you restrain from something that interests you, because other people might have an opinion about it? 

Protecting and cultivating 

Curiosity is a character trait you have to protect and cultivate. If you don’t pay enough attention to the things that make you curious, they lose their glow. But if you look closely at them, your enthusiasm will grow. And life will get better and better. 

So just send your inner child into the world and ask yourself: what makes me tick? Which things intrigue me, and make me want to get to the bottom of it, what keeps me going? 

Go for it, you won’t regret it. 

Text: Marijn Baar - Photo: Nine Köpfer

Do you keep getting headaches, or other physical discomfort? This is what it means

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Our mental state influences our physical wellbeing – that’s nothing new. Yoga, meditation and mindfulness are based on that principle. But why does that headache keep bothering you? How do you get rid of the stress-induced pain in your throat? And what about the menstrual trouble?

Psychosomatics offers a better understanding of your physical complaints. Don’t expect everything to heal spontaneously, or to come across truths that are set in stone, just use the knowledge to explore the symbolism of your physical symptoms. These are a couple of the most common physical problems and what they mean, according to the book Krankheit als Symbol(Illness as a Symbol) by Margit Dahlke. 

Urinary infection 

Psychological pressure and the challenge of letting go, that’s what Dahlke links to an urinary infection. You’re letting go of something that was essential to you, and that’s painful. An urinary infection symbolizes letting go. The challenge is to just let it happen. 

Throat ache 

Throat ache is known as a herald for the flu, but sometimes there’s no flu involved. It’s often related to problems in the area of communication and expression: matters of the throat chakra. A throat ache represents defending the way to your inner world: not swallowing everything anymore. A recurring throat ache challenges you to find out what it is you don’t want to swallow anymore. 

Raucousness 

When your voice is raucous, it doesn’t show its full potential. It’s the voice of someone who can’t stand for what they’re saying yet. Illness, yelling and smoking can make a voice more raucous, but the source of it is that the voice isn’t fully supported by the abdomen. People with a raucous voice, according to Dahlke, should learn to be silent and turn inwards. 

Headache 

A misbalance between the heart and the mind causes a headache. According to Dahlke’s book, it represents a heavy head: perfectionism and will power can be obstacles. You need both qualities, but sometimes they cross a line, causing your headache. Dance, go outside, paint. Empty your mind by being and thinking playfully. 

Menstrual disorders 

Menstrual disorders, in the most broad sense, are connected to sexuality and a complicated mother-daughter relationship. On a deeper level, the fear of a new life or death, the circle of life, can be a cause.  

Hay fever

Hay fever can be a symbol for fear of impulsiveness and love. Especially spring, with all its plants and flowers in bloom and pollen flying around, make patients’ noses stuffy. It’s a reaction to a time that represents new life and reproduction, that’s why it’s linked to love.  

Text: Fabienne Peters - Photo: Asdrubal Luna

Are you a perfectionist? This is why you don't have to prove yourself anymore

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If you’re a perfectionist, you’re in for a life long battle. No matter how hard you try, it’s never good enough. But Dominique found out she doesn’t have to prove herself anymore.

Dying my hair in the right color. Calling my mom. Being there in time. Paying the bills. Finally scheduling that appointment with friends. Answering every e-mail. Eating vegetables. Exercising. And there are so many other things I have to do, and I have to do well. Does reading this make you feel tired? The list is endless, and it only seems to get longer every year. The body asks for more and more maintenance and time is scarce.

Women’s magazines suggest that it’s possible: being a person – or becoming a person- with a sparkling personality, the perfect body, a loving relationship or a casually-eclectic decorated home. In my gym, in the early morning, I meet women with perfectly styled hair and make up wearing trendy sports outfits working on their ‘trembling upper arms’, according to the instructor, because after all: ‘We all want to be in shape for our bikinis next summer, don’t we?’

You’re doing the best you can

We’re nuts. That much is clear to me. I reached my lowest point when one day, I took part in a detox week in France for work. Women paid a lot of money not to eat for a week. Every day, we listened to stories about the poison in our food and all the things we were doing wrong. After two days I quit, hired a bike, explored the surroundings and had a glass of wine in a bay. The next day, the others wondered what I had been doing. I looked so much better, did I have an extra lavage? Um, no. I had simply had a day of uninhibited fun. The organizer protested: it didn’t work like that, I couldn’t just do as I pleased. ‘I’m not mad, just disappointed.’ And there it was: the feeling of guilt.

Perfectionism is the feeling that something’s broken, I read in an interview. The feeling that you’re broken. You try to repair the brokenness: you work hard, eat responsibly, get your diplomas. Oh, and you don’t forget to be mindful and relax. All the attempts to enforce our self worth are doomed, because in fact they confirm your inferiority. You keep spinning around like a hamster in a wheel, without getting one step further.

Self worth

When, some time ago, I was overworked and exhausted, I joined in a yoga weekend. Well, not a weekend. I had time for a couple of hours. And in these hours, I had to do all of it: a series of postures, breathing exercises, standing on my head. In the break, the teachers came to see me. They looked worried. ‘You’re not doing great, are you?’ I didn’t understand what they meant. I was working on the exercises, wasn’t I? What was wrong this time?

One of the teachers looked at me with affectionate eyes. ‘Stop doing what it is you’re doing. You don’t have to prove yourself anymore. It’s enough.’ It hit me, right in the heart. Suddenly, I saw myself as the child that lacked self confidence, and now, as the grown woman who keeps fighting and doesn’t realize she’s her own biggest enemy. Who keeps longing for things that others can’t give her.

I don’t have to let someone else, or my achievements, define me. I can determine my own self worth. Don’t repair anything that’s not broken. Just enjoy life.

Text: Dominique Haijtema

Who do you see when you look in the mirror? How to get closer to the real you

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Looking in the mirror, you see a reflection of yourself. You notice how your left eye squints a little bit, and that your red shirt is just a little too tight. You take another look and a weird feeling gets a hold of you: you don’t recognize yourself. It doesn’t have anything to do with your shirt – it’s just like you’ve estranged from the real you. But how do you find out who you really are? 

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Do you know that moment when your colleague says: ‘Looking good!’ but you don’t feel like that at all? When you know you have a good hair day, but deep down, you’re not happy at all? This lack of balance between the way the world sees you, and the way you feel, can be frustrating. You can’t blame anyone for it, because it’s how you feel and it’s not written on your forehead. 

The best version of you 

The way you present yourself to the rest of the world, is often a polished version of who you really are. The way people act on social media is the perfect example. Everyone is looking picture perfect, every sentence that accompanies the photograph has been carefully composed. People who don’t stick to the Instagram etiquette, usually don’t have lots of followers. There are few people who want to look at pictures that are out of focus. You want to be inspired by people who, in your perspective, have life sorted out – better than you do. And before you know it, you play a part in this play. 

 If you’re thinking: hey, I never do that! – think about how you behave at work. Do you act exactly the same as you do at home? If you feel bad, do you cry the way you would if you were sitting on the couch all by yourself? Or if you’re having a meeting with your boss about a salary negotiation, do you go there unprepared and laidback, or do you try your best to settle the deal? Unconsciously, we’re constantly pretending to be something we’re not. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if you keep doing it, you might lose sight of who you really are. 

Time for reflection

That’s why it’s wise to break this circle every now and then, put your foot on the brake and reflect on yourself. Ask yourself: why don’t you recognize the person in the mirror? Why do you feel like you’re out of balance? Did you stop liking your job, or do your friends ask too much of you? Do you feel like you’re not living your best life? 

By asking yourself questions, you can get to the heart of this lack of balance. Perhaps you want to do something for the world, so it’s time to start volunteering. Or perhaps you’re missing your family and it would be wise to spend more time with them. 

Every once in a while, turn off every device. Step back, take a long walk, or spend a night on the couch with a glass of wine. Let go of your thoughts and see what happens. Chances are things will fall in place now. Most importantly, allow yourself this time to reflect. It’s something you have to do consciously. 

Once you take more time to really look at yourself and listen to yourself, to find out what makes you happy and work on that, you will start recognizing that person in the mirror again. 

Text: Josephine Kay - Photo: Septian Simon

 

Do you prefer animals over people? This is what it's like to live like one

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Sometimes people say: ‘I’m better with animals than with people.’ What would it be like to really experience life the way an animal does? 

British Charles Foster tried it, and learned a lot about the way he behaves around people. But more about that later – let’s focus on what he actually did. Charles started to live like an animal, literally. He swam like an otter in the river at night. He rummaged through London garbage bins like a fox. He slept in a hole in the woods like a badger, and crawled through the grass looking for food. If you think this is weird, wait until you’ve read how Charles describes his ‘animal life’ in his fascinating book ‘Being a Beast.’ 

Living like a badger

If you crawl through the woods like a badger, you experience the woods in a completely different way. Grass and ferns brush your face, creating a new path, ‘every step is like a birth’. ‘You don’t just absorb the world, you create it.’ Badgers have their noses on the ground, they smell the citrusy smell of mice’ pee, or the salty odor of a snail trail, the laurel smell of a frog, the musk of a weasel. They smell the earth. The wood is much more intimate like this, than if you cross it as a human being. 

Life as an otter is an entirely different experience. It’s like being on speed. ‘A bit like staying up for a couple of nights, drinking a double espresso every hour, taking a cold bath, having sushi, taking a nap and moving on. An otter has to eat a lot to keep their metabolism going and he sleeps three quarters of the day – it’s the equivalent of having a Big Mac every four hours. No wonder otters look like they never take the time to think.’ 

Shamans try to become an animal in a spiritual manner – Charles Foster really lived it. In the meantime, he learned a lot about animals. For instance, how foxes use magnetism to determine where they are. I loved Charles’ book, it really got me thinking. This is what it made me realize:

1. Your world gets bigger 

I don’t know about you, but I for one, won’t start sleeping in a hole in the woods, or eat a worm (simply writing this makes me shiver). But Charles Foster did it, and by describing it in his sensational way, I’m able to imagine what it’s like. Somewhere in your comfort zone a window opens, enabling you to look outside. 

2. You look at animals differently 

Since I’ve read Living like an animal, I regularly find myself looking at animals more attentively. A bird scurrying through the grass, a dog running through the woods – if you try to imagine you’re the animal, it’s not just a moment of mindfulness, but also a great thought experiment. It makes you see the world around you in a different light. 

3. It connects you to people

Would a book about animals teach us anything about people? Yes, it does. At the end of the book, Foster describes how he sometimes worries that he might be alone in the world. He feels like it’s impossible to really connect to other people, even his own children. ‘It’s like I don’t understand anyone, and no one understands me.’ 

This feeling of being estranged is recognizable. And when you’re feeling like that, imagining you’re an animal might help. Sometimes it’s easier to connect to animals, because the connection isn’t blurred by emotions. At the same time, animals live in a completely different world – which makes it easier to put yourself in other people’s shoes. And to believe others can actually put themselves in your shoes, if you share your experiences with them. That you actually understand them, and they understand you. 

The comfort nature brings

Isn’t it a miracle: the feeling that no one understands you, is probably understood by every living being. And if people get the best of you, just listen to Charles Foster and go outside more. You don’t have to live in a hole or swim in a cold river at night. Just take a long walk by the beach, listen to the birds in the forest for half an hour, or paddle with your feet in a stream. Sometimes, looking at an animal attentively, is enough to feel connected to the world around you. 

It’s experiences like this that you can fall back on when you’re in situations or places ‘full of stress, emission and ambition,’ Foster writes. In traffic, in a crowded store, during a long meeting, ‘it’s comforting to know the badgers are asleep on a Welsh hill, the otter is sniffing clefts and holes near Rockford, a fox is looking into the same sun that makes me sweat in my tweed coat…’ 

And if you can feel this connected to animals, you can feel this connected to people. Right? 

Text: Anne Wesseling - Photo: Francisco Moreno

Do you need more hours in your weekend? This is how you make your days seem longer

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Theoretically, the days of your weekend are days without obligations. But in reality, before you know it, they are filled with all sorts of things – from having coffee with friends, to going to the gym and cleaning up. In the blink of an eye, it’s Sunday night. Good news: it’s possible to change your perspective of time – and enjoy that true, relaxed, weekend feeling. 

1. Are you doing what you really like? 

Take a good look at your calendar. Are there any appointments you really don’t feel like, such as visiting your parents in law, or going to the gym with your friend? ‘Clean up’ your diary, and then focus on something you really like: whether it’s taking the dog for a walk, or playing your guitar, or updating your diary. 

2. Take it easy

Try to do the things you want to do in a slower pace than usual. That’s how you enjoy the moment and focus on your own life. Take a detour to the supermarket, spell out the newspaper and pay attention to the ladybug that’s walking up your window sill. Slowing down means having a more intense experience. Reading a nice book is a good example: it’s nice to have finished it, but it’s also nice to reread the best lines a few times. 

3. Use your mind as a time machine 

Are you experiencing something you’d like to remember, and keep it as a memory? If you think of ways to share this experience with others, you’ll increase your focus. It makes you think of how it smells, what it feels like. If you really looked forward to something, think about the feeling in your belly you had beforehand. Try to be more alert by breathing in and out, and by telling someone else how happy you are and how much you value what happened. 

4. Every day holiday 

Are you happier during a holiday than on an average day? Try to take pieces of your holiday into your daily routine. Sit outside with a cup of tea, to enjoy the sun and your surroundings. Let sunset amaze you. Take a walk during your lunch break and walk into a nice shop, or visit the park nearby. 

5. Ignore distractions

On a holiday, you don’t allow your mobile phone to distract you as much as on a 'normal' day. So why don’t you put it on flight mode every once in a while? It makes it much easier to just enjoy the moment and focus on whatever it is you’re doing. 

Text: Sophie Spanjer - Photo: Rachael Crowe

What do you know about your family? Why understanding them will help you understand yourself

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The family you were born in, shaped you. But did you know that, by asking the right questions about your family history –even about your grandparents and their parents- you can find out lots of things about yourself? 

Your family is unique

Even if you can’t stand your parents or siblings at times, and even if you don’t even see them anymore, it’s a plain fact: you’re part of a unique group of people. This group has its own rules, preferences, memories and strange habits. And all of these have made you the person you are now. 

In her book ‘Das bleibt in der Familie’ (‘It stays in the family’), German psychologist and family therapist Sandra Konrad explains why your family history has such an impact on who you are. This impact goes way back: up to your grand grandparents, and their parents. If you’re hurting over things that have happened in your family, let this be of comfort to you: ‘There’s no such thing as an undamaged family,’ according to Konrad. 

A journey into the past

If, however, you want to understand what it is that connects you to your family (or why you want to keep them at a distance), what shaped you, what your parents expected from you and why, and what your sensitivities are, the family therapist recommends you to go on a journey into the past. 

You are the starting point of the journey, and you take it from there. What’s important in your life, what are your values? Which rules caused you to make big decisions (moving, jobs, partners)? What are the things that make your parents proud of you? Do you see any common ground in the way you live your life and one of your parents does or did? Is there something you’re struggling with, and how does this relate to your past and your family? ‘Collect as much information as you can get,’ Konrad writes, ‘because the answers will die with your predecessors.’ 

Your life's assignment 

Once you’re able to determine your family’s values, you’ll find out what they expected of you. Unconsciously, they might have given you an assignment. Perhaps one of your parents wanted you to become something they wanted to be when they were younger, or to fulfill a certain role in the family (the clown, or the responsible one). 

If you find it hard to process all this information, get a piece of paper and draw a family diagram. Note the name of every family member (or draw their pictures, if you like) and add a few sentences about who they are, what they dream of, what their convictions are, what their biggest hardship in life is and their biggest joy. The more you know, the clearlier your idea of your ‘family pattern’ becomes. It might involve tears, possibly even lots of them. But after years of counselling and doing research, Konrad is convinced of it: all the information you have about your family and yourself will help you to grow. 

Sandra Konrad, Das bleibt in der Familie. Von Liebe, Loyalität und uralten Lasten. Piper (2013). 

Text: Dorien Vrieling - Photo: Laura Fuhrmann