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: Brittney Burnett

This is how you can help your child to connect to their body

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The body is an important instrument. It tells us how we’re really doing. Nevertheless, we teach our children to solve problems with their minds from an early age. Good news: it’s not difficult to reconnect to the wisdom of the belly.

It's cool to be bored

Make sure there are times when you don’t do anything. Is your child complaining about being bored? Praise them: keep it up! Boredom is the soil for new things. 

Breathe consciously

Your breath is your vitality – it connects you to the cosmos’ life energy. By teaching kids to breathe consciously, you teach them to pacify their own body and mind. Most people, kids too, have a high breath. Breathing from the stomach makes the body softer and more relaxed. A good exercise to do together: put your hands on your belly and try to expand it while breathing in. You can do this lying down with a small stone on your belly: notice how the stone goes up and down. Do this for a while and notice the difference.

To poop is to let go

You might think pooping is an active thing to do, but it’s the opposite: it’s about relaxing and letting go what you no longer need. Not doing something, but letting it happen. If your child has a lot of stool, or thin stool, he or she might be afraid of something. Children often have diarrhea when they have a test, or before they go on a camp. If they have trouble defecating, they probably have trouble letting go. Learning to relax can be helpful.

Guarding boundaries

It’s wise to teach young children that it’s okay to say ‘no’. Saying no is taking care of yourself.

The pause button

Everyone snaps every once in a while. Teach your kids that they have a ‘pause button’ that they can press when times get hard. Do they get to a point where they feel: I’m getting angry, sad or tense? Put your hand on your pause button. Everyone has a button, but we all have it in different places: it can be in your belly, in your heart or between your eyes.

Once you push the button, you reach the point where you stop. Breathe three times, and once you’ve breathed out, decide what to do or say. This is the way you learn not to react in a rush, but to make some space for what you feel inside.

Photo: Bruno Nascimento

It's easy on Facebook, but how do you defriend someone in real life?

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On Facebook, all you have to do is press a button. Simple. But what to do when you feel the need to ‘defriend’ a person you no longer feel connected to in real life? 

Some no-longer-wanted friendships just whirl from the tree like autumn leaves. You don’t call back a few times, you don’t respond to invitations, and sooner or later the other person takes the hint and leaves you alone. When you bump into each other in the street, a friendly nod or a wave is enough. It’s not the bravest method, but it works.

Telling some one to the face that you’re breaking it off is braver. But it’s also tricky. You don’t want to get into an argument. A conflict entangles you, while all you want is to let go, be free.

The secret to a goodbye conversation exists from three do’s: be present, stick to your own story, and be clear.

Be present

When you’re grounded, you’re in the here and now. Feel your feet on the floor, your bum on the chair. Feel your body and be aware of your feelings, of the cramp in your stomach, the lump in your throat, your tense muscles. This awareness increases the chance of you keeping track of the situation and prevents you from getting distracted or confused.

Stick to your own story

Avoid judging the other person. So instead of telling them about what they are doing wrong (in your opinion), explain what you want for yourself. The way you want to live, the way you want to be. Be as positive as you can. ‘I want to focus on inner peace.’ ‘Lately, I’ve been very focused on my own growth. I don’t get a lot of satisfaction out of talking about other people.’

The key is not to let others tempt you into judging. Everyone can lead the life they want to. Other people evidently need to do what they do, to go through their own process, to learn their own lessons. As swami Vivekananda said: Your path is good for you, but not for me. My path is good for me, but not for you. In other words: they don’t have to change or quicken their growth for you. You’re moving on without them and wish them the best on their path.

Be clear

Make sure your intentions are clear. Don’t expect excuses, compliments or peace offerings and don’t go into them. Of course, it’s possible that the other person is genuinely interested in what you’re telling them, and wants to grow with you. If you’re not sure whether to trust this, you can tell them you need some time and they’ll hear from you when you’re ready. But try to be open to the possibility that your brave action is an opening to another kind of friendship – deeper, wiser, more authentic. You never know.

Text: Lisette Thooft - Photo: Christoph Peich

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This is how you bring back passion in your relationship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Make time for foreplay

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

3. Let yourself go

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

4. Dare to experiment (and to talk)

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

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

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

Three ways to prepare your body and soul for spring

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The end of winter is near. The dead leaves on the ground have almost disappeared, spring is in the air and evokes a desire in us. Open the windows, sweep it all clean: not just your house and garden, but your body and soul also long for cleansing, for a new start.

The smell of clean sheets on a freshly made bed. A tidy closet. The relief after a good cry. The light feeling in your body after fasting. Out with the old, in with the new. It makes us happy!

Trick 1: Ice cold and clean

Ever tried one of these ice cold baths in the spa? For a moment, it feels like your heart stops, but immediately after, your skin starts glowing. It shows that your blood vessels are wide open, ready to warm up your body. Immediately, it starts burning fat. But cold water does so much more for us. It improves the immune system and helps the muscles to recover after exercising.

In order to master ice baths, you need to get some training. It teaches you to breathe in a way that stokes up the fire in your body (the fire breath). According to the yoga philosophy, this way of breathing contributes to a cleansing of the body. But you might as well start with a cold shower after your daily shower or bath. It takes some time to get used to it, but soon enough, you’ll get hooked, because afterwards you’ll feel fit as a fiddle.

Trick 2: The fresh smile

Oil pulling is a selfcare tradition from the Ayurveda. The idea is that oil doesn’t just cleanse your teeth, but also improves your health as a whole. It makes sense, because oil helps to prevent bacteria and has a good effect on the condition of your gums. Healthy gums have an influence on your defence against cardiovascular diseases. People who do oil pulling regularly, often have white teeth, pink gums and a fresh breath.

This is how it works: you take a tablespoon of coconut oil (or sesame oil), you let it melt in your mouth and use your cheeks to push the oil from left to right and from the front to the back. Let the oil swirl around everywhere in your mouth, in all the little nooks between your teeth. Do this daily for a while and experience how it affects your mouth’s condition.

Trick 3: Let it all out

If you keep repressing your emotions, it affects your system. You may even get ill, because body and soul are inevitably connected. So if you feel like you can’t take it anymore: yell, scream, cry! For instance during a walk on the beach on a stormy day. You can yell as loudly as you want to, nobody will hear you, there’s nothing to be ashamed about. We guarantee: you’ll feel better afterwards.

Photo: Larm Rmah


Are you planning on becoming a 'green queen'?

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You throw your bottles in the glass recycling bin, you walk or bike whenever you can: sure, you’re quite green. But you can make your life even more sustainable. It’s easy with these tricks.

Trick 1: Through the roof

The time of tiles seems to be in the past: in the city, we see more and more little gardens. It looks a lot nicer, it’s better for insects and birds – who find more food there than between the tiles – and the plants soak up CO2. If you don’t have a garden, think about a ‘green’ roof. It’s very profitable for biodiversity, it keeps your house nice and cool in the summer and during the winter, it brings isolation. It absorbs rain and, thus, helps to prevent flooding. Last but not least: it looks wonderful.

Trick 2: Keep it simple

It’s quite embarrassing how much food we throw away. Maybe it’s time for us to take a closer look at our cooking, eating and buying. It helps to be aware of all the seductions of the supermarket, where attractive deals –two for one – tempt you into buying things you didn’t plan to. What are you going to do with two colliflowers, four cucumbers or five pounds of apples? If you’re not planning to use them, you’re only doing the supermarket manager and your garbage bin a favor.  

Trick 3: Forget about trends

The side table fell apart after half a year, but oh well, it hardly cost a thing. Or did it? Somewhere in a far-away country (where CO2 emissions aren’t the biggest priority) a chimney spit out lots of smoke for the production of this table. Then a big ship sailed over the oceans and after that, a roaring truck transported it to the store. Green trick: just shrug at trends. When you buy something, ask yourself whether you want to live happily ever after with it.  

Trick 4: An eye for packaging

To inventorize how much plastic you ‘eat’, you can save all of it in a bag. A week’s harvest might surprise you. It’s a fun challenge to buy products with a minimal packaging.  

Trick 5: All your wishes fulfilled

A week before your birthday, people start inquiring: any birthday wishes? It’s a tough question, because it often makes us realize we don’t know – most of us already have lots of stuff. Family and friends try their best to find a suitable gift for you. But why not make life easier for them? Ask a friend to go for a walk together, go biking or spend a day at the beach. Just have fun together. A trip like that brings more happiness than a kitchen gadget or a cute little vase.

Trick 6: Focus on what you're thankful of 

People who are content don’t really feel the need for new stuff. Think of all the things you have and the things you are able to do, and don’t focus on all the other things you would want to have or be able to do. Write down what you’re thankful of and put the memo on the fridge. Do something that makes you happy every day and enjoy it. Skip the news for a day, and look around you to see what’s going well. Think of things you might contribute to make the world a better place. Starting with living more sustainably is a wonderful first step.

Things you can start doing immediately

-Collect your waste in one place. This makes it easier to separate it.
-Collect rainwater to water your plants.
-A desktop computer uses four times the energy of a laptop.
-Challenge yourself to reduce your time in the shower
-Use your bike for every ride under 5 km
-Replace your lamps for sustainable LED ones
-Only wore your clothes for a couple of hours? Air them out instead of washing them

Text: Annet Niterink - Photo: Jean Lakosnyk


You are perfect, just the way you are: these 4 insights help you to be more aware of that

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Are you feeling uncertain, or just a bit unstable? Don’t worry. These insights will help you to regain your power, especially when times are tough.

1. Know that you’re stronger than you think

Sometimes it feels like it’s impossible to trudge through the mud, when you’re experiencing adversity. What’s most helpful then, is to think back on a time when you turned out to be stronger or more inventive than you thought. Ask yourself the question: could this be a moment like that, will I surprise myself again?

2. You are loved

When the world seems to weigh a ton, it can be hard to ask for help. Think of the people who are close to you, and imagine they are surrounding you. Think of their warm smiles and soft touches, and you will feel a wave of love taking hold of you. Try to imagine how a friend or family member would see your situation. If you were in their position, you would probably want to comfort you, too.

3. Don’t be ashamed

Please know that it’s perfectly fine to struggle sometimes. Accept your insecurity and fear, it will help you to reduce the weight of the feelings. Allow yourself to be in the dark sometimes, allow yourself to fail, because it’s not about the failure, but about getting up again.

4. Discover the power of your breath

Did you know that the magic potion against stress is always with you? If you feel like your fears are getting the better of you, take a few deep breaths – the first one will probably have a strong effect already. By breathing in and out slowly and focusing your attention on your breath, you’ll calm down. Put your hand on your belly and breathe out through your mouth. Repeat it a few times and you’ll find that you’ve calmed down.

Photo: Brooke Cagle



Curious about detoxing? Find out what type of detox is good for you

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Detoxing is becoming popular. More and more detox programs are available that can be done at home or under supervision. They're often far less strict than rigorous traditional fasting. However, it's important to follow your own instincts when it comes to your body. What suits you? What makes you feel good?

What suits you? 

There's only one person who can feel exactly what's good for you and that's you. By asking yourself a number of questions, you can find out what kind of detoxing is right for you. 

1. Do you ever ask yourself if your eating pattern is good and do you lead a (too) busy and stressful life?

2. Do you eat healthy food, have no specific physical complaints but just want to give yourself an energy boost?

3. Would you love to drop a few kilos but you're otherwise healthy?

4. Have you suffered from physical and mental complaints such as insomnia, fatigue, headaches and flu-like symptoms for some time? 

If you answered questions 1 and 4 with 'yes', then it's sensible to opt for personal supervision when embarking on your detox adventure. Ask for advice from a holistic nutritionist, holistic doctor, a regular doctor specializing in nutrition or an Ayurvedic doctor or therapist. A good rule of thumb: those who know what they're talking about will listen closely to what you tell them about your body and eating habits. 

Want to know more about detoxing? In Happinez: Shine your light, there's a Detox File full of inspiration for detoxing at home - from ayurvedic detox juices to basic rules and the best ways to take care of your body and soul while detoxing.

Photo: Carli Jeen


How looking in the mirror can help you to embrace who you are

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Look deeply into your own eyes, and see who you really are. Through your eyes, you can see your soul, pure and honest.

It’s a technique that derives from Osho, the guru who started the Rajneesh movement : staring into a mirror. In a mirror meditation, you sit in front of a mirror for thirty to forty minutes a day, looking at yourself.

1. Look deeply into your eyes, try not to blink too much, and see what happens.

2. Are you actually able to look into your own eyes? Breathe carefully, let your thoughts fade away and see your mirror image.

3. How do you feel? Is it pleasant or uncomfortable?


Try to be aware of all the unpleasantness and judgement that you will encounter. In the end, you will look into your own eyes and accept what you see. Osho said that after looking at yourself in the mirror for three weeks, you won’t see anything anymore. You’ve come to to terms with yourself, just the way you are.

Photo: Septian Simon


Why happiness is in experiences, not in stuff

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Japanese tidying guru Marie Kondo helped us pick out the things we want to dispose of, trendwatcher James Wallman takes it a step further. In his book ‘Stuffocation’, he explains how we can resist the urge to buy more.

According to James, each and every one of us has too much stuff. He believes that, rather than material things, it's experiences that bring us happiness. 'It can be a revolution in our thinking.' 

Are you the type who never finishes things? These tricks help you to become a go getter

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The last time you finished something was at primary school, and only because your teacher was looking. Your resolutions fall to pieces after three days, exercising is no more than a plan to you and your house is filled with unfinished projects. Are you the type of person who never finishes anything? Pay attention, because there’s hope!

‘I never finish anything…’ Can you relate to that? Ouch, apparently, it’s even part of your self image that you’re not a go-getter. That’s difficult, because for you, it may seem like it’s a fixed, innate quality. And it’s not. Oftentimes, giving up is nothing but a habit, and habits are there for changing.

There’s just one thing left to do.

If you want to be a go getter, look at it as a quality that can be trained. It’s not about resolutions or beautiful thoughts and speeches in the mirror. Being a go getter is something you do not by thinking, but by doing. Now, don’t start muttering about ‘I can’t do that’. The following tricks will help you to teach yourself in small steps that pushing through is fun, and, more importantly: that you can do it.

1. Do it in five minutes a day (and be surprised of how much you achieve)

Divide your tasks into tiny portions. Small enough to finish them without putting too much of an effort into it. You will be surprised of how much you can do in just a couple of minutes. Playing an instrument for five minutes, cleaning out a drawer, walking around with a book on your head, calling your aunt, eating three carrots, learning five new words. The egg timer is your new best friend. Five minutes. Go! Hear the timer buzzing? Stop. Job done. New job tomorrow. Doing great!

This approach forces you to take baby steps. That’s a strategy that goes a long way.

2. Allow yourself time to reach personal goals (no, that’s not cheating)

Exercising ten times a month. Learning how to speak a new language within two months. Losing twenty pounds in three weeks. Cleaning out your whole house within a week. Oh well. People hardly ever make realistic estimates of how much time things take. Realize that it’s hard to estimate how much time you need until you are really doing it. If you can’t manage to do it in the time you set, allow yourself double the amount of time (tip: secretly keep this in mind from the start – start in time).

3. Who said that pushing through means putting yourself out? Turn it into fun!

Go to the gym with a friend once a week (or hiking, or taking a walk, or whatever you want), take a walk in the woods with your mom on saturdays or to a museum once a month. If you want to read more, join a book club. Want to learn how to play an instrument? Join a band or an orchestra. Want to exercise more, find the kind of sports you like!

4. Reward yourself (because, in the end, you’re a puppy)

Reward yourself for finishing things. Do something you like, buy something nice (and have it wrapped for you). Or give yourself an imaginary pat on the back. Another useful trick: do your ‘chore’ every day just before dinner. That way, dinner is your reward. (If you’re thinking ‘that’s how I train my puppy too… you’re right, it’s a bit like that.)

Does it seem all too logical and simple? It is. The thing is: you have to do it. That’s why the first trick is the most important one: start with baby steps. Make sure the tasks you have to do, are the ones you’re able to finish. Because your mind doesn’t realize it was a five minute chore. All it knows is: hey, something got finished!

Every time you persist in doing something for five minutes, you shake up your fixed self image a little bit. There will come a time when you look back and realize that ‘I never finish anything’ simply isn’t true anymore. Even more so: one day, you’ll find yourself thinking ‘I’m actually quite the go getter’.

Sure, you’ll just have to do it, first. But finishing the end of this article, is quite a good start.

Text: Anne Wesseling - Photo: Pablo Heimplatz

Four reasons to be an optimist, despite all the sadness in the world

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Sometimes, when you see the news, a feeling of powerlessness can take a hold of you. You don’t want to walk away from it, but at the same time, you want to remain optimistic – yet, not naïve. How do you keep the light inside you burning?

The world is not doing great, news anchors tell us every day. Many people are scared, feel powerless. Of course, we can close our eyes, stop reading the papers, stop watching the news and turn your back against the world. But shouldn’t it be possible to live spiritually and be up to date at the same time?  

Four reasons to remain optimistic:

1.   Realize that the news is never the whole story

News media are focused on bad news and sure, that’s their job, but realize that in every report, many sides of the story are unexposed. Everywhere, there are peaceful, helpful, benevolent people and organizations who try to make the best of it. There is good too, and it’s everywhere. Even if, sometimes, it’s only visible to the inner eye.

2.   Crisis means development

The crises -the loss of certainty and safety, the environmental crisis, the food crisis, the energy crisis – stimulate our inner transformation. Many people ask Charles Eisenstein, speaker and writer with a focus on the transformation of this day and age, what they should do when times get tough. But according to Eisenstein, they should wonder what would be the most beautiful thing to do. That’s giving, he says.

3.   What you contribute to the whole, is your life

Everything is connected to everything, everything you do influences life as a whole. Your inner development is the most important contribution to the world: every little bit of goodness, beauty and truth you allow to blossom in your life, in your house, your family, your work, your circle of friends, is added to mankind, to the world. Focus on what’s here and now, right before your eyes, in your house. Do the work your hands find, feel everything there is to feel now.

4.   Fear has a function

Where does all this fear come from? There are several spiritual answers to that question. Perhaps all the suffering in the world is there to test us, make us stronger, purify us in the fire. Or perhaps it’s there to wake us up, make us more aware of our own behavior, our thoughts and judgements and, in the end, the source of life that exceeds all of this.

Perhaps we can only strive for the good when we know the bad. ‘Fear is nothing more than the absence of love,’ the Indian philosopher Osho Rajneesh said. ‘Love is light, fear is dark. If you don’t want the dark, turn on the light. Everyone knows fear, but no one needs to dwell in it. Feel the pain behind the fear, and your fear transforms into love.’

Text: Lisette Thooft - Photo: Alex Vans Colina


Finding yourself is an endless process - why that's something to hold onto

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This is what writer Susan Sontag teaches us: we should know that we’re the writers of the story of our lives, and we can keep shaping who we really want to be for the rest of our days.

Sontag saw both her life and her personality as work in progress. She was addicted to New York City life. She didn’t just find herself there – she created herself.

Endless change

According to biographer Benjamin Moser, her posthumously published diaries show a touching side of Sontag: she was capricious and fell in love over and over again. Her true ‘self’ kept changing, and she embraced this inner instability to the fullest.

Even when cancer struck her, she refused to accept she was a terminally ill patient. In her essay ‘Illness as metaphor’ (1978), she fought conventional ideas about patients, and made her life into an art project.

You’re the writer of your own story

Many of us tend to get tangled into the spider webs of our history – the stories we spun about ourselves. We see our identities as an organically grown, fixed thing.

What can we learn from Sontag? Perhaps it is that our identity an illusion that we can transform with our own magic. And that, despite our worries or strange plot twists, we’re the directors of our own theater.

Shaping your identity

Sontag never let the world keep her from renewing who she was. With her pen –sharp as a knife – she kept shaping her identity. Because no matter in which way we grow, in the end, we’re all work in progress.

Text: Julia Maria Keers - Photo: Yoann Boyer

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

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You might call it holy time: ‘we-time’, a cocoon of love and attention. Philosopher Anne discovers that it’s the new gold, in this hectic time. And if you take a good look around you, it’s there for the taking.

A fixed moment

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

How to make sure there’s we-time

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

From ‘me’ to ‘we’

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

Little buddhas

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

Text: Anne Wesseling - Photo: Micah Hallanan

You're responsible for 50% of your relationship - the rest is up to your partner

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In a relationship, there's only so much you can do to make it work. No matter how much love you have to give, make sure your partner meets you halfway. 

Writer Isabel Allende told me, about fifteen years ago. Back then, I couldn’t really value her words, but I did write about it in one of my books and thought about it often. In the last few years, I started to appreciate the deep truth of it. In her study, she told me: ‘I can do all I can to make half of my marriage work. The rest is up to him. If he doesn’t do it, I can’t do 70 percent. It doesn’t work like that. You take care of your half and hand over the rest.’

You can only tend to your half of a relationship. In the long run, that’s all you can do, otherwise balance is destroyed and you’ll have to work too hard. ‘I love you so much, I have enough love in me for both of us’ is an unwholesome plan. The opposite is also true: you can’t do less than half of it and expect your partner to do the rest, because they will grow tired and disappointed.

Love is a bridge

Imagine a love relationship as a bridge over the water between the two of you. It’s a connection made of rope and board, you have to get on it on your way to them. You’ll never know whether they will walk your way, but every day, you get on the bridge. There’s trust, love, understanding and attention in your backpack and you’re walking from the shore to the middle of the gangway to meet them. When they are there, you’re able to exchange love. But some days, they’re not there, for whatever reason. You will keep coming, until they’ve stayed on their shore for too long and you’ve become more and more dispirited. At that point, you’ll have to give up. One day, there’ll be someone else who will head towards you.

Make sure to pack your bag

No one should have to convince their loved one to walk up to the middle of the bridge. No one should have to drag them along, no one should have to wait endlessly until they appear. You are responsible for your half of the bridge. You make sure you’ve packed your bag. You’re not responsible for their half and their backpack.

Leave the rest in their hands

I remember how Isabel Allende put her hand on my arm when I left. Her bracelets tingled. There was a sparkle in her eyes, but her tone was maternal. ‘Take care of your half and leave the rest in their hands.’ I nodded, but in the two relationships that followed, I would do exactly the opposite. Now I know that it’s impossible to save anybody, or teach them how to love you. I also know how wonderful it feels to step on that bridge every day, and meet the person you love halfway.

Text: Susan Smit - Photo: Justin Follis


How to be a better person? These 18 values will help you, every day

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If you apply the song of the 18 ities (written by swami and yogi Swami Sivananda) to your life, you will grow as a person. The words of the ities are like mantras.

The beauty of the ‘Song of the 18 ities’is also in the connection between the ities. You keep using the new insights you have gained. The one ity may be easy, the other one may be a challenge.

Living with the 18 ities

1. Serenity

A moment of serenity, that’s where it all starts. In a state of serenity, your mind is quiet, there’s nothing that disturbs your thoughts.

2. Regularity

Habits get into your system. It takes time to change.

3. Absence of vanity

What is beautiful and what isn’t? Saying goodbye to vanity also means: raising above your ego.

4. Sincerity

Be sincere, not just towards others, but also to yourself. Put off your mask, acknowledge your mistakes and oddities. Learn to accept who you are.

5. Simplicity

What’s the most important thing you want to do today? Do that. The rest will come. Keep things simple and manageable.

6. Veracity

Don’t exaggerate things, don’t change the facts, speak the truth, don’t contradict yourself. It is possible to be fair, yet friendly and respectful?

7. Equanimity

Every dark cloud has a silver lining – sadness is part of life, but so is joy.

8. Fixity

If you can keep your thoughts and emotions from playing pinball depending on what is happening around you, you’re able to focus your attention.

9. Non-irritability

There’s always something in the way between your plans and real life. But you know what the good news is? You know it will happen, so keep it in mind, make sure there’s time and space for it.

10. Flexibility

It’s about being able to adapt to every situation: what does this situation need, right now?

11. Humility

No one is worth less than you, and no one is worth more than you.

12. Tenacity

What’s your goal in life? If you’re able to keep it in mind, you will be steadfast.

13. Integrity

The things you do and say, are loving and trustworthy.

14. Nobility

Being willing to see the good in other people. Be friendly and respectful, motivate others and show your appreciation of what they do.

15. Magnanimity

It’s forgiving by giving. Judging actions, not the actor. It’s difficult, it takes time.

16. Charity

It’s about actions of love. Taking care of others. Helping.

17. Generosity

Look at yourself as a guardian of things, not as an owner. You can give stuff away to people who need them.

18. Purity

Your environment needs to be clean and pure. It’s a metaphore: if your windows are clean, you can have a clear look. Glass is like a mirror. Through yourself, you see the world.

Photo: Rocksana Rocksana


What will March bring for your mind, body and soul?

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This month of March will be intense, according to our astrologist. Never a dull moment with Venus and Mercury in Aries: conflicts may arise, it's also a time for new love. 

Saturn in Capricorn makes you aware of time

For the biggest part, in March the planets Venus and Mercury are in Aries. This makes all of us a bit more impulsive and more direct in love and relationships. It might lead to you meeting nice new people, but it can also cause agitation!

A planet of compromises

Venus is a planet that loves harmony and peace, compromising and getting closer to eachother, despite differences. For sustainable relationships, you need a little Venus, like the cement that keeps the masonry together. THat’s why Venus is referred to as the love planet.

Communication is every bit as important for relationship. It’s under the influence of Mercury. The words we pick, the things we say –and don’t say- touch other people’s hearts and form the tones to the melody of your relationships.  

No easy energy

In March, Venus and Mercury go out together. Starting March 7, they are in Aries. Especially for Venus, it’s not an easy energy. Aries thinks in black and white, is impulsive and straight forward, and also a bit egoistic. You are the most important. So get rid of the compromises, stop temporizing, it’s about choosing your own path now.

Mercury makes it even more intense, because communication gets more straightforward, too. We say what we think, and what we want to say, without reserve, regardless of who we’re talking to.

Because Mercury and Venus go together, we feel a stronger need for contact and talks. But when we’re together, conflicts may arise – that, or we fall in love!

How to make the best use out of the energy of Mercury and Venus in Aries

For all relationships, the month of March is like a small test. But if you are always the one giving, while the other one is taking, now is the time for you to restore the balance. You feel more articulate and you realize when the other person is asking unjust things of you. With the support of Mercury and Venus, it’s easier for you to say ‘no’, and –perhaps after some discussion- it will restore balance in your relationship.

Would you like to fall in love again, even if life is perfectly fine on your own? March is the time! Let people know you’re on the market. Apply fora n event or a dating site, ask a friend to set up a blind date for you. Hunting season is open. All you have to do is let nature do its job.

Realize that in March, we’re all a little more crude than we usually are. We all say things that may hit close to home. Try to look on the bright side, a Mercury quality. Just step back, put yourself and the situation in perspective, and you’ve gained a friend instead of an enemy

Text: Johanna Blok - Photo: Jeremy Thomas


Find your mojo: this is how you'll fall in love with life all over again

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Philosopher Lisette Thooft reveals the secret to lust for life in six steps

Lust for life is the thrilling enthusiasm and willingness to live your life. No human life was ever filled entirely with fun. There are always moments of stress, discomfort and frustration. There’s no avoiding that. And there’s nothing unnatural about nót feeling high-spirited all the time.

Lust for life is when you feel you’re in the middle of the stream, that you’re part of it. If nothing is streaming… you’ve lost your lust for life. Don’t despair. In order to feel free again, all you have to do is follow these steps.

Step 1: Breathe yourself free

Many people breathe too quickly. The result is a hurried, restless feeling. Holding your breath causes stress. Then there’s the non-breathers, who keep their breathing as silent as possible when times get difficult, just to keep themselves from feeling too much. Breathing quietly and consciously helps you to feel better, to be more present.

Step 2: Connect to nature

Go outside. In nature, everything aims to grow and blossom. Connect to it. Take a walk, work in the garden, look at the stars and feel part of nature.

Step 3: Avoid messes

Clean out things. It doesn’t matter what it is: a drawer, your entire desk, your handbag or the shed. The things you clarify in the material world, give you a clear feeling inside.

Step 4: Discover something new

Change a habit, do something new. If you’re righthanded, start doing things with your left hand. Or the other way around. Try a new route to work. Everything new stimulates your inner fountain.

Step 5: Be creative

Make something, create. Arrange a huge bouquet of flowers, bake pie or write a poem. Using your own creative abilities is an entrance to the source of all creativity.

Step 6: Count your blessings

Appreciate the little things. Doesn’t that cheese sandwich taste wonderful? I received such a nice e-mail. And all of a sudden you look up, to the blue sky filled with creamy clouds and birds frolicking around, filled with lust for life.

Photo: Brooke Cagle


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, 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.

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 you. Because there you find your lust for life, your creativity, your happiness and your freedom.

With love and respect for who you are,



Photo by Andrea Tummons

Feeling lonely sometimes? This is how you make new friends

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Friendships are incredibly important for our feeling of wellbeing and our health. If you look around you, do you feel like the circle of people surrounding you is a bit small? You can do something about it. Making new friends doesn't happen overnight, but if you follow these tips, you will definitely succeed. 

Do the things that make you happy

Having things in common is an important condition for friendship. That's why it's a good starting point to think about the things you like to do. If you love to go to the museum, look for a group of people who visit expositions together. Are you crazy about dancing, take salsa lessons and find kindred spirits there. If you're doing something you enjoy, you are having a good time anyway, regardless of the people around you. It makes it a lot easier to connect to them. 

Tell people you are looking 

'Looking', it might have a bit of a desperate ring to it, and of course, desperate is the last thing you want to be. The key is to let go of that thought (and your judgment about yourself). There's nothing wrong with wanting to increase your circle of friends. Friendship is important in a person's life, it even increases your health - just as much as quitting smoking! So tell your friends and family that you would like to meet new people. They will probably give you advice, invite you over when they're meeting other friends - who will probably be nice too, because otherwise they wouldn't be your friends' friends. 

Reconnect to old friends

That friend from college you used to have so much fun with, the friend you used to visit concerts with: simply send them a message and suggest to meet them over a cup of coffee. You'll know soon enough whether you guys still click. It might be a one time thing and yet it might be the start of a renewed friendship. Why not give it a try?

Don't focus on quantity

If you have just moved to a new town, you've broken up with your boyfriend or girlfriend or you're feeling lonely for another reason, there might be times when any form of company seems to be a relief. Try to keep in mind what you're looking for, though. Friendships only add something to your life if you really connect to people. Besides, you don't need to have tons of friends - quality is much more important than quantity. 

Get out of your comfort zone

If you're the kind of person who keeps balancing off their possibilities ('on the one hand... but on the other hand...'), dare yourself to say 'yes' to all appointments and events that pop up in your life for a while. Join your colleagues for a drink after work, even if you're tired or not sure whether they'd like you to join. Just go, and see what happens. 

Take it easy

Making new friends is like finding a new love: if you try too hard, it won't work. If you act like someone is your new best friend after just a couple of weeks, you might startle them. Take the time to know eachother, and don't aim too high. Go with the flow. Intend to meet new, fun people, not to find your new best BFF - friendships, like relationships, need time to grow.

Photo by Omar Lopez