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POSITIVE, WISE & LOVING LIFE

Why self-compassion makes it easier to lose weight

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How can you be happy with your own body in an environment of perfection? Self-compassion is the answer, according to Buddhist and professor of psychology Kristin Neff: the ability to be kind and mild to yourself.

Does self-compassion start with the realization that we are all imperfect?

“The misconception is that ‘normal’ is the same thing as ‘perfect’. If there is something about us that we don’t like, something that’s not beautiful, we usually compare it to our image of what is normal. And that means: healthy, fit, slim, beautiful. Consciously or unconsciously, we believe that we are abnormal when something is wrong in that department. It is this feeling that makes you feel isolated and separate from others. It aggravates the discomfort you already feel because you don’t feel good about yourself.

Self-compassion is good for you in many ways. It’s good for your self-image and for the way you deal with your body. People with self-compassion look after themselves better, they exercise more and eat better. As it turns out, self-compassion has a positive effect on all sorts of neurological systems in the body, such as the production of oxytocin, also called the love hormone, the one that makes you feel good. It also helps alleviate chronic pain. A recent study showed that even the immune system shows a positive reaction to self-compassion.”

[…]

If you think you’re fat, for example, does self-compassion begin with acknowledging that it bothers you?

“Yes, that’s the start. Struggling against unwanted feelings only makes them stronger. But self-compassion is also about relieving unwanted feelings, so that takes it one step further than merely acknowledging them. It’s a strong need to look after yourself and to do what you can to alleviate your discomfort. Suppose you really are overweight, then you literally make life heavier for yourself.

Through self-compassion, you will do everything you can to become healthier and to lose weight, so you’ll be less of an impediment to yourself. Instead of telling yourself: ‘I am so fat, I am useless, I really must use weight…’ you say to yourself: ‘I would like to lose weight, because now I am not healthy, and I want to do something good for myself.’

It makes the motivation to change stronger: a sense of caring about yourself makes losing weight a greater success than when you scold yourself. You are less worried about failing and you will last longer. In other words, it’s a mistake to think that self-compassion means sitting back and not working on yourself anymore.” 

Text: Lisette Thooft - Photo: Jared Weiss

 

 

 

 

Always comparing yourself to others? This is how you change that habit

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If you compare your life to other people’s lives, how does it make you feel? Writer and Happinez Festival speaker Andrea Owen used to do it all the time, and she usually thought other people were much smarter / better / prettier. Until she looked at it differently. 

Friend A has a fantastic job. After she graduated, she made a great career for herself. While your job, well, let’s just say it pays the bills. Your colleagues are nice and everything, but you don’t feel you challenge yourself as much as you should. 

Friend B has a great, loving relationship with his partner, they have been together for fifteen years now. How do they do it? After your last serious relationship, you only had a couple of flings. Guess you’re not really a catch. 

And friend C. She has a busy life with three children, races from piano class to hockey training to ballet class, always cheerful as ever – while you, without any kids, crash in front of the TV every night feeling exhausted. 

Recognize this train of thought? Then you’re probably good at it, too: comparing yourself to others. Everybody does it. It’s almost impossible not to, Andrea Owen says in her book How To Stop Feeling Like Shit – 14 Habits That Are Holding You Back From Happiness. But it is possible to change how it makes you feel. 

Focus on the positive 

For some reason, comparing yourself to others often makes the other person seem ‘better’. Right? It’s like other people have better lives, better bodies, better homes, better relationships. And even if they don’t – and you feel like yours is better – this isn’t the best way of increasing your self-esteem. Because if your sense of self is dependent on how other people do it, life will always be a competition: in order to be happy about yourself, you have to do better than others. Tiresome, isn’t it? 

Train your pride 

Modesty is highly appreciated in our culture. Pride, not so much: it’s associated with bragging and arrogance. That’s why feeling proud isn’t always easy. You may tend to punish yourself for it (‘don’t think you’re all that’, ‘others are much better at this). A real shame. 

To train your pride, make a list of everything you’ve achieved in your life. Don’t just put your diplomas on it, or the jobs you’ve had, but also the skills you’ve developed (from typing with ten fingers to beautifully painting a wall, and from telling great stories to really listening to someone). And don’t forget about all the things that scared you, but you did them anyway: jumping off the highest diving board, giving a presentation, applying for that dream job). Finished the list? Now it’s time to applaud yourself for it. Or, as Andrea puts it: ‘Allow yourself to wallow in fulfillment about everything you’ve achieved.’ 

Pick your sources of inspiration 

There are probably things you do because they inspire you. Like following fitgirls on Instagram, like Andrea did for a long time. Or hanging out with a colleague you look up to – because you want to make a promotion, like she did twice, and because she stands up for herself. But do they truly inspire you? Take a good look at your sources of inspiration, and think about whether they motivate you or get you down. If someone makes you feel small, or like you’re a failure, they’re not a good source of inspiration. It’s better to find people who actually make you feel good about yourself and inspire you to challenge yourself more. 

Andrea Owen at the Happinez Festival 

Knowing your habits is one thing, changing them into something positive is another. At the Happinez Festival, Andrea Owen explains how to do it. She tells all about it in a personal manner, with empathy and mild self-irony. 

Text: Dorien Vrieling - Photo: Zoe Deal

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.

The 5 best ways to become a real daredevil

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Do you remember yourself standing there, on the edge of the diving board? Every inch of you resisted jumping, but at the same time you knew you didn’t want to quit – because you would regret it. As adults, we may not stand on edges of diving boards too often anymore, but we still come across similar situations.

Courage is like a muscle. You can challenge it by training every day, in all sorts of ways. 

1 Think of fear as a useful signal

As human beings, we get scared sometimes. And we should be glad about that, because if we didn’t know fear, we would’nt wait for a train crossing, or go for a picknick among wild animals. The trick is to distinguish among different kinds of fear. Are you scared for a reason – because you need to protect yourself – or is fear blocking your growth? If it’s the latter, it’s time for a challenge. You don’t need to go bungeejumping tomorrow, but the more often you do a scary thing, the more your self-esteem grows. And the more interesting your life gets. 

2 Dance like nobody’s watching 

Practice giving zero f***s about others’ opinions. Tune in on how you’re feeling (is this what you want? Is it good for you), not on what someone else might think of it. And remember: most of the times, you don’t even know what they’re thinking. So why worry about it? 

3 Make a bucketlist 

Set up a list of all the things you would love to do, but are too scared to. Pick one of the points on the list every month, and do it. One ‘small’ thing every month, one big thing every year (skydiving, rafting, singing on stage). 

4 Stretch your comfort zone 

Courage isn’t just about doing Very Scary Stuff. It’s also about finding the ‘awkward spot’. Doing things that make you feel uneasy, like chatting with this handsome person on the train, leading a meeting, speaking up about what you like in bed, getting up on the roof to fix the gutter when you’re afraid of hights, taking pole dancing lessons – everyday stuff you would rather avoid. 

5 Dare to make mistakes 

The fear of failure may stop you from doing scary stuff. But if you never make mistakes, this means you never take risks – and your life will be very dull. The more mistakes you make, the more you learn and the more you grow. 

Text: Dorien Vrieling - Photo: Todd Quackenbush

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you hydrate enough? 7 signs you should drink more water

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Your body consists of lots of water, and many bodily functions depend on the fluid. How much you need, depends. For instance, if you exercise a lot or if you’re pregnant, you need to drink more. On average, it’s best to drink at least 1,5 to 2 liters a day.

If you don’t drink enough, your body has several ways of telling you so. Before you grab a painkiller when you feel a headache coming up, or before you think you’re having a snack attack: these signals suggest your body is simply longing for more water. 

1 Thirsty

Obviously: if you’re thirsty, you need to drink water. However, the body doesn’t always tell you you’re thirsty. The frequency of your toilet visits is telling. On average, you should go 4 to 10 times a day. If you go less frequently, you don’t drink enough.

2 Trouble focussing

If you don’t drink enough, your brain isn’t able to function optimally. This makes it harder to focus. A dose of cafeine may seem just what you need, but a simple glass of water is a better option. 

3 Hungry

Before you open the fridge for the xxth time today, just have a glass of water to find out if it’s really food you need. It might be thirst. Your brain isn’t always able to tell the difference, so it gives a hunger signal while all you need is some water. 

4 Headaches

If you often have a headache or even migraine, it might be a sign you’re not drinking enough water. Scientists aren’t sure what the connection between the two is, but for many people, headaches are less frequent when they start drinking more.

5 Bad breath

Sure, if you just had a pizza with extra garlic on it, it’s wise to chew on a leaf of mint to hide the intense smell. But if you’re having a bad breath for no reason, a lack of hydration may be the cause. The bacteria living in your mouth multiply more quickly in a dry environment. Having a few glasses of water helps to restore the natural balance of your saliva, which has an antibacterial effect.   

6 Lack of energy

Feeling listless? For almost every bodily function, water is needed. If you don’t drink enough, your energy level decreases. 

7 Constipation

Another ailment you can really, really do without: constipation. Water is like a lubricant for the bowels. If you hardly go for a number two – or you spend more time at the toilet than you’d like – drinking more water can really help. 

Text: Sanne Eva Dijkstra

 

This is who you should fall in love with, based on your moon sign

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Love is complicated, but your moon sign can help you to see if the two of you are made for eachother. The moon represents your emotions and how you respond to others in relationships. 

Your moon sign is determined by the position of the moon during your birth. To discover what the moon’s position was at the time, you can use this tool. If your signs aren’t complementary, but you're in a happy relationship anyway, you’re one of the (many!) cosmic exceptions. Just enjoy this match – it may not be in the stars, but it makes you happy, that's all that matters. 

Note that every sign referred to is a moon sign (less well-known than the star sign): Aries is someone with a moon in Aries, etc. 

The moon in Aries 

You’re straightforward. You like to think fast, cut to the chase and you’re confident when you’re talking – whether it’s about painful emotions or groceries. You’re evidently a fire sign, and you fancy… someone with the same sign. Aries matches Aries, because they need someone who has the same ease and charisma. You guys communicate in a playful way, and you don’t have to fear the other person will overrule you. There can be a spark with a Leo, too, but Scorpions or Cancers are a no go. 

The moon in Taurus

Taurus is known for being stubborn, especially when it comes to love. Luckily, love goddess Venus helps you. It would be nice if you could find another Taurus to enjoy the good things in life, but the two of you would probably clash. That’s why you’re a better match with someone who has a moon in Virgo or Capricorn. It’s wise to stay away from Libra – they find it hard to remain calm when they are teased. 

The moon in Gemini

You’re not the kind of person for long, stable relationships and you tend to flutter from one objet d’amour to the other. The planet that’s most important to you –passionate and talkative Mercury– prefers a sign like Libra or Aquarius for you, because you can have great conversations with them. The moons of the more serious Capricorn and Scorpio offer more of a challenge for you. Dating Pisces can be tempting, because flirty combined with volatile is a great combination for a fling.

The moon in Cancer 

You’re very in touch with your emotions. You know what you feel, you pay attention to other people’s feelings and love to talk about your spiritual world. With Pisces, you can have a dreamy relationship, and the more reserved Scorpio might be a good match too. Extrovert and loud Leo is probably too much for your sensitive personality. 

The moon in Leo 

You are the kind of person who loves perfection, and who would do anything to achieve it. You work hard, you love creating order out of chaos and you’re good at grabbing any chance that falls into your lap. You appreciate it if your partner recognizes that, and that’s why you’re a good match with action driven Aries or optimistic Sagittarius. Most important is that your partner is confident enough to keep up with you. That’s why stubborn Taurus and protective Scorpio are probably not the best choice for you. 

The moon in Virgo 

Did anyone say ‘self criticism’ and ‘analysis’? Those two words describe you in a relationship. You keep analyzing every situation and every conversation. You like perfection in relationships. A fellow Virgo or a down to earth Capricorn is a good match, but slackers like Aquarius and Sagittarius would clash with you. 

The moon in Libra 

The order of things, balance, that’s important to you. You’re a tactful partner, always looking for harmony. But you have an airy, creative side too. That’s why you’re a good match with Aquarius and Capricorn. Aries, however, might get you into trouble – they have a strong survival instinct that might make you want to escape. 

The moon in Scorpio

There’s no sign as profound and reserved as Scorpio. You look for what’s below the surface and see details and little pieces of information that others miss entirely. Your partner might think twice before they pull a prank on you. An intimate Taurus or intelligent Virgo could be a good match, because they understand your ambition and drive. An independent Aquarius, however, might dislike your tendency to see through depths. 

The moon in Sagittarius 

You find joy and enthusiasm in almost everything you do, and you have a strong faith in everything related to the matters of the heart. Whoever gets into a relationship with you has to be open minded. Gemini or Aquarius, who have an optimistic outlook on relationships, might be a good match with you, but an overly sensitive Cancer or stubborn Taurus are not the best choice. 

The moon in Capricorn

You’re always looking for the way up: you’re always climbing, always working hard to reach the best things. The strict planet Saturn reigns over your moon, and a serious Taurus or Virgo understand your ambition. A Cancer with a domestic side may help you to create a stable and disciplined home. Libra, however, will demand you to descend from your mountain, which might be a problem in the long run.

The moon in Aquarius

Calm, cool and collected, that’s what you are. You know how to approach situations in an independent way and you’re good at cooperating with a common goal. In a relationship, you’re a good match with someone spontaneous and courages. A Leo will challenge you to find your power and supports your individuality, but a stubborn Taurus or impatient Aries are less advisable. 

The moon in Pisces 

You’re a gentle hearted dreamer. In a relationship, you look for a person who’s less submissive than you are, which means a moon in Aries or Sagittarius isn’t a good idea. An intense Scorpio or efficient Virgo, however, can keep you down to earth. 

Photo: Niti K. 

 

Why self-love is healthy - and how to practice it

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Loving yourself and your body improves your health, research shows. But how do you go from being hard on yourself to kind and loving?

Scientists from Exeter and Oxford University divided participants into two several groups. Two groups heard positive affirmations, the other two groups heard a voice that was very critical towards them. After the session, the first two groups turned out to have more empathy towards themselves and others than the other two groups. They also perspirated less, and had a lower heartbeat. 

The research shows clearly: there’s all the reason in the world to be kind to yourself. These tricks make it easier to do so.  

1 Be your own best friend 

You probably want the best for your friends. When someone you love is grieving, or makes a big mistake, you don’t judge them: you’re there for them. So why would you judge yourself, instead of giving yourself the support you need? 

In a difficult situation, try to think about things you would say to a good friend in the same situation. Which loving, comforting words would you use? They are probably the words you would want to hear yourself, but instead, you’re tough on yourself. Being your own friend doesn’t happen overnight, but it will make you a warmer, more cheerful, healthier person. 

2 Listen to your inner critic 

If you’re living a busy life, you probably tend to switch to autopilot a lot. This makes us less conscious of our negative thoughts. If you listen to the voice in your head, and you’re aware of the daily monologue, you’ll find out soon enough whether it’s mostly positive or negative. 

During a regular day, write down most of the thoughts that come up in your head. Be alert when it comes to words like ‘should’ or ‘could’. They often contain judgment, and they’re nota bout self-love. Once you get a better notion of your inner voice on paper, you’ll know more about the way you address yourself. Not just in stressful or difficult times, but also in happy times. Is there a difference? Or do you always tend to be hard on yourself? This insight is valuable, because the next time you’re about to meet a challenge, you can choose the words and their meaning. Always ask yourself: what am I telling myself now, and does it work for me? Is it helpful? If the answer is ‘no’, try to switch to positive affirmations. They will make you stronger, both mentally and physically. 

Photo: Raychan

Listen and be inspired: John Lennon's most beautiful songs

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He sang and was a world peace activist, even as he searched for his own peace of mind. With his paradoxical personality, John Lennon bequeathed to the world a treasure of inspiring lyrics, culminating in the iconic song ‘Imagine’.  

IMAGINE (1971)
John Lennon’s folk song for a new, better world. Everything will change if you want it; first inside your head, later also in reality.

INSTANT KARMA (1970)
Upbeat, groovy plea for personal power. We are all stars and we shine like the sun, sings Lennon
in a song that he wrote and recorded in one day.

MIND GAMES (1973)
Powerful sequel to Imagine and almost as beautiful. The dream is now a practical proposal: love is the answer. 

What to do if it feels like love is out of reach for you

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There’s something strange about love outside our reach. Once you can’t touch it, it becomes very important, attractive and valuable. 

After years and years of brief affairs, of falling in love (nerve wrecking times), and being in serious relationships, something started to strike me. It’s something I wish I had known twenty years before. When love is out of reach, something strange happens: all of a sudden, it becomes very important, attractive and valuable. We want to have it, because we can’t have it. 

Jackpot 

This inconvenient mechanism works this way in all forms and shapes of love. An unanswered love can become an obsession, because you tend to project every desirable, almost superhuman quality to the unwilling person. If you’re having a brief affair with someone who’s not completely available, this person will be like a jackpot you just can’t win, no matter how much money you spend on lottery tickets. And in a serious relationship, you’re screwed even more, because if your partner doesn’t give you love and dedication on a structural basis, after a while you probably won’t even admit it – simply because it’s so clever and so painful. 

Just one more step 

In a relationship where your partner doesn’t really commit, you feel like you’re not good enough – and at the same time, it seems possible to make them happy. Your partner’s appreciation and dedication are within reach, all you have to do is take one more stap, do your best a little bit more, and then you will succeed. Just dress a little bit better, say the right things at the right time, please them a little more in bed – and they will really love you. 

However, a person can dedicate their whole life to this, I tell you -unfortunately, from my own experience- without ever succeeding. 

Scoring points 

If you find yourself completely trying to prove your worth to someone, you have lost touch with your worth. If you’re unconsciously trying to score points in order to earn love, you will never win. It’s addictive, because every time you do score a point and find some proof of their love for you, you feel powerful and strong. You will work even harder to feel it again. That’s how this other person has a hold of you. 

People show who they are, what they have to offer and which place they give you in their lives, quite quickly. We tend to forget about that, because something has replaced this knowledge: our desires and needs. Fulfillment is so close it seems achievable, all they have to do is give it to you. But there’s a chance they were never actually able to give it. We have started to see it, because we wanted to see it. Because we darn deserve it. Because they have it in them, you’re certain. 

We’re the ones who have to remove the veil in front of our own eyes, in order to see that there’s nothing to find her – nothing, except an illusion that we’ve carefully built ourselves. 

Text: Susan Smit - Photo: Sweet Ice Cream Photography

What's your spirit animal? It reminds you of your inner wisdom

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Have you found your spirit animal yet? This animal is on your side at a specific point in your life, and gives you the strength you need. The spider encourages you to weave your own web, the crocodile motivates you to be patient. 

All fifty spirit animals are divided into three categories in David Carson’s book How To Find Your Spirit Animal: inner qualities, inner wisdom and inner beauty. The five spirit animals of inner wisdom are: horse, coyote, seal, hare and octopus. 

Horse: retrieve your power 

Shamans and horses are originally a good match. The noble animals are honored for their power and their gracious appearance. The legends around them are numerous: the universe as a horse, horses hidden in pumpkins, shaman drums that turn into horses during rituals. Physical horse power has been a valuable thing for people for centuries, and the power is symbolically connected to the horse, too. Are you in need of some power, after a rough time or with a new adventure ahead of you? The horse as a spirit animal helps you to increase your inner power.  

Coyote: order instead of chaos

A survivor, that’s the coyote. It ambushes its prey all by itself, it chases a deer, survives at the North Pole or in Mexico – wherever it is, the coyote will find its way. The animal is flexible and smart, but also untrustworthy and hard to follow. It’s a valuable spirit animal if you’re in a chaotic situation, because it challenges you to find your path again. It may also appear when you do have everything in order. Ask yourself: is this structure enough for me? The coyote confronts and challenges. 

Seal: dare to change

The sea represents emotion, mystery, endlessness and connection. In initiation rituals, the symbolic meaning of water is our everchanging reality. Life isn’t right or left, black or white, it’s all of it. The seal, living under water for the most part, knows it. Do you find yourself having old habits, fixed thoughts or fear of change? The seal may be your spirit animal. It offers flexibility and suppleness because it moves along to the rhythm of the sea. 

Hare: be true to yourself 

Hares are prey animals with very sharp hearing. Like no other, they are able to distinguish between sounds and decide whether the coast is clear. They are masters when it comes to maneuvers, deceiving their pursuers. Hares are sensitive, ingenious animals. As a spirit animal, the hare helps you to stay true to your path. Do you find it difficult to keep your balance and be true to yourself? The hare will help you – just as the rabbit, by the way. 

Octopus: reduce stress 

The octopus has eight tentacles. This number represents balance and completion. The animal is smart, flexible and solitary. When it’s in danger, it makes itself invisible or starts a poison attack. The octopus is focused on solutions and reaching its goal. It motivates you to succeed at several points at the same time, to reduce stress, not to stand out too much and be skillful when it comes to handling difficult situations. With the octopus as a spirit animal, you go through inner growth that strengthens you deeply. 

Want to know more? 

Read all about spirit animals in David Carson’s book How To Find Your Spirit Animal. 

Text: Fabienne Peters - Photo: Jason Leung

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

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

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

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

 1. Don't mind the others

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

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

2. Relax!

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

3. Do what makes you you 

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

Text: Marijn Baar - Photo: Bảo-Quân Nguyễn

Indulge yourself: ten self care ideas that are easy to stick to

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Sure, treating yourself to a retreat in the Italian mountains or in Bali is the summum of self love, but it doesn’t have tob e nearly as luxurious (and costly). On the contrary: simple is very effective. Especially if you make it a habit to pay attention to yourself, at home, for free. 

1.     Go for a walk 

Walking outside in the fresh air every day, helps you to connect with nature and empty your mind. The exercise will improve your mood and give you energy, even if you only go outside for ten minutes. 

2.     Take a hot bath 

Bathing for half an hour has a miraculous effect on your wellbeing. There’s not much you can do while soaking – besides, perhaps, reading a book. And that’s why it’s so good. If you want to relax a little more, add some magnesium, Epsom salt or lavender oil tot he water. Don’t own a bath tub? A warm shower helps, too. 

3.     Treat yourself to a hot drink 

A warming cup of tea or matcha latte means a conscious short break. Have a seat, take a deep breath, slow down and enjoy. 

4.     Throw your legs in the air 

The Broken Candle yoga position improves the blood supply to your upper body and your head after a long day. This position relaxes and calms you down: it’s perfect if you’re stressed. Sit close tot he wall (with your face towards the wall), ‘walk’ up the wall with your feet and lie down on your back. Your body is shaped in a L-like shape now. Put your arms next to your body, with the palms of your hands turned upwards. Keep this position for at least five minutes, breathing slowly in and out. Do you tend to lie awake at night, going over all sorts of things? Then the Broken Candle can be a pleasant asana(position) before you go to sleep. 

5.     Call a friend 

Do you mostly stay in touch with your besties or family via WhatsApp? It’s a good idea to call them no wand then. Hearing the voice of someone you love can have quite a therapeutic effect. It makes the two of you happier: win-win situation!

6.     Keep a diary 

Writing down your thoughts, cares and experiences is the ultimate way to empty your mind. Writing helps you to gain insight and clarity and allows you to let go of feelings and problems. Don’t overthink it, just let your thoughts and feelings wander.

7.     Put your phone in ‘do not disturb’ mode 

Allow yourself to be in the present and enjoy the moment, without being distracted by the continuous stream of messages. They can wait!

8.     Organize your life 

Especially if you’re busy, it’s important to have a peaceful place to come home to. In an organized home, it’s much easier to relax. Regularly take fifteen minutes to clean out (part of) a room in your house: the countertop, the kitchen drawer filled with small things, your wardrobe, etcetera. 

9.     Put some music on 

Listening to good music makes you disappear into another world. Put on your favorite album and blow of some steam. Dancing is allowed! 

10.  Get up half an hour earlier (or go to bed half an hour earlier) 

It may not look like a lot, but 30 minutes can make a lot of difference. If you’re tired, just go to bed half an hour earlier than you’re used to. Your body and mind will thank you. Have a long day ahead of you? Get up half an hour earlier than you normally do. Don’t press snooze, but take this time to get started with a nice breakfast or a meditation. You’ll be surprised of the difference: a conscious morning ritual has a real effect on your productivity. 

 Text: Sanne Eva Dijkstra - Photo: Hanna Postova

 

Just moved into a new house and feeling homesick? This is how you handle it

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Moving means a lot more than just replacing your belongings from one place to another. It means new surroundings, new sounds, new neighbors, lots of boxes and leaving everything you knew. All these things can make you feel a bit lost and homesick.

Let’s start with something obvious: homesickness is nothing to be ashamed of. Leaving a place you loved – no matter for how long or how short – is difficult and getting used to a new thing takes time. And if you’re feeling homesick during a holiday, you know you’ll get back home again, but that’s different after moving. The new place is home, and after a while you’ll start longing for it when you’re away for a while. You will, it just takes time. 

But before you do – while you’re in the middle of the process of change, and your new home doesn’t feel all that homely yet – the following insights can help you to handle your homesickness. 

Moving consciously 

Moving means lots of paper work and chores. If you start doing them in time – making sure everyone has your new address, sorting your stuff, tossing out things you don’t want to keep – it saves you a lot of thinking in the middle of the move. Moving consciously: you can get used to your new place easily. 

Of course, a mess is part of the deal. Even the most organized mover is looking for one or two things now and then. By preparing in time, you allow yourself the time to focus on your feelings and all the changes in your life. That way, once you’ve moved, you don’t have to immediately think about administration and things like that. 

Take your time  

It works the same for all the changes in your life: getting used to new situations takes time. Are you aware of the fact that it takes time to let go of the old, and start with the new? Then don’t expect yourself to feel completely ‘normal’ after two weeks in your new home. By having high expectations, you only make things difficult for yourself, because you don’t pay attention to the emotions and needs you’re feeling right now. 

If you’re feeling sad or empty in your new home, so you just don’t know where you should put this vase (in the bedroom or in the living room?) don’t push yourself to make a choice. You don’t have to decide right now, and you can always change things. Allow yourself to experience unpleasant feelings during this transition. Accepting these feelings will make them soften.  

See opportunities 

Don’t forget you’re in an entirely new surrounding filled with chances. You may find a friend for life here, you may meet people who share your hobbies or find out the best pizzeria ever is just around the corner. Change keeps things interesting, even if it’s difficult sometimes.  

Tekst: Eline Hoffman  - Photo: Anthony Tran

Did your love leave you? Then this is a letter for you

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You feel abandoned. Thrown away like a garbage bag. Maybe even humiliated and betrayed. The future you dreamt of, is not the future they dreamt of: that was clear the moment they told you: ‘I don’t want you anymore’. The one who’s the kindest, cutest and most beautiful to you, wants to look for a better match or –even worse- already met them. 

Dumped

It’s a punch that unsettles and undermines, dear lovesick one, and nothing less. Everything you thought was certain, everything you built your life around and based your future on, was broken down. Your basic safety is shaking. At first, maybe you escaped into all kinds of thoughts, just to keep the panic away. You still hoped the mistake would be put right, or got into the super positive ‘it’s for the best, for all of us’ mode. Your mind protected itself by taking the news in bit by bit. 

Anger, sadness and tears

You probably got angry too – with yourself, showing destructive self-reproach (you did it all wrong, no wonder they wanted to leave) and with them (what an incredible douchebag / tart, you were always out of their league). You may have tried to analyse the relationship, yourself and your ex, obsessively, as if there was a code you needed to crack that would explain the break-up and, thus, would make it possible to undo it. 

And then came grief. The heavy, pitch black grief about a loved one and everything you had together – maybe even a family. In the deepest abandonment, you feel a loneliness that –how inconvenient- can only be changed by the one who left. Grief pushes you to the ground, makes you broken-winged and deeply sad. Say it out loud. Say it in front of the mirror. ‘It’s over.’ And cry. 

Cry, knowing that the pain you let in, and allow to move through you, will never come back. All the tears you cry, can’t be cried again. It’s like having contractions: every contraction brings labor closer, every twinge of pain brings liberation. You’re not exaggerating, dear heartbroken one. Heartache leaves the same tracks in the mind as the flu, depression and addiction. The withdrawal symptoms can make you sick, literally sick. So be sick, and take good care of yourself. 

This time has something to offer you

You may not believe it now, but this time of pain has something to offer – if you’re willing to fully experience it all. This time will help you to learn about yourself, your attitude in love and the lovers you pick. It will motivate you to dig deeper, look closely at your life, get rid of old garbage and discover new aspects of you. You will turn grief into power, and gain courage from fear and disappointment. Believe me, I’m a survivor of heartache. 

Let yourself fall ill

‘If you desire healing, let yourself fall ill, let yourself fall ill’, are the words of poet Rumi that my co writer Marion Pauw and I chose for our book about heartache. Let yourself fall, and you’ll find yourself at a foundation that’s stronger than the ground of supposed certainty you were standing on. It’s your own foundation, you can’t fall through. 

The reward for letting yourself fall is that your heart will be open. You’re not putting a bandage on your broken heart, you’re taking care of the wound until it heals. It’s unnecessary to armor your heart and prevent it from getting hurt again. 

Dare to fly

Don’t rush looking for a new love, dear left one. The new love will appear, life will take care of that. It’s far more important that you’ll find the courage to love again – yourself, and, one day, someone else. With an open heart, more than ever. No longer uninhibitedly, because you’ve learned romantic love keeps changing and ends sometimes. 

Mark my words: you’ll have the courage to fly, because you’re prepared to fall. Falling is OK. After all, now you know how to get up again. 

With love and respect for how you’re handling this painful experience, 

Susan

Text: Susan Smit - Photo: Kinga Cichewicz

 

Want to get more done? Working fewer hours is the key

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Perhaps the thought makes you frown, but it’s true: if you want to be more productive, it’s wise to cut down your working hours. During a sabbatical, futurologist Alex Pang learned he got far more done when he took more time off – and drew a clear line between work and spare time.

The importance of rest

“Work is hugely overrated. We see stress and working overtime as something heroic, as proof of our ambition or dedication to our work. From that perspective, a lot of people see resting as something suspicious or even sinful. And, at least as striking, they see rest as uninteresting, as a negative space defined by the absence of work. Whereas it should be an activity with its own goals and values.

Resting is what you do when you stop working. But these days, the problem for most working people is not knowing when to stop working. It’s never done, right? Especially since we’re all connected 24/7 wherever we go, it’s harder than ever to find rest. And we, our employers and our loved ones are paying the price.”

Enough is enough

“Nowadays I draw a clear line between work and spare time. It’s the one or the other, not a mix of both. No one has ever had a creative breakthrough or a massive epiphany while they were doing a thousand other things.

The voice of God can only be heard in silence, as any monk will tell you. I work until I feel it’s enough – that’s also something you need to learn: sense when it’s enough for one day and it’s time to do something else. I distinguish better between what’s really important and what isn’t. I hope my book, ‘Why You Get More Done When You Work Less’, will help people realize that work and rest are complementary. If you want to be successful, you need to balance them. Stick to that and your life will change.”

Text: Liddie Austin

In Happinez - Find your balance, you can read the whole interview with Alex Pang. Check out our store finder, or order your copy here

New Year's resolutions? This is why you might not want to start in January

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Did you make a list of new year’s resolutions, because you always do? Then you might be way too early, because there’s a much better time to start. 

Lose a couple of pounds, enjoy life more, spend more time with the family, quit smoking: every year, lots of people start with new year’s resolutions. It’s an ancient tradition: 4000 years ago, the Babylonians already made promises to their gods at the beginning of a new year. 

January seems like a perfect, logical time to start changing your life for the better. While the last days of the year go by, you look back on the past year and decide about the things you want to change. With high expectations you look forward to the new year. But the busy holidays, the christmas get-togethers, dinners and other social obligations make it difficult to actually prepare for it. 

What would be a better time to start with new year’s resolutions? August or September! 

New season, new opportunities 

Just after the Summer holidays, a new season starts. School and studying begins again, you go back to work, back to the gym, with a relaxed summer time behind you. The summer holidays give you more than enough time to reflect on your life. Time to zoom out, and to realize in a sunny place what it is you’re really longing for. It bubbles up, you don’t have to actively think about it. 

In August and September, people feel more relaxed and have more energy – important if you want to make a change. After the holidays, we’ve detached from the normal, the every day life. It makes it easier to really change what we want to change. 

What do you really want?

The notion of ‘new year’s resolutions’ is often linked to restrictions. You have to improve your fitness, so from now on, you have to go for a run every day. You can’t eat delicious cake anymore; from now on, you say no to every treat. 

 With this approach, most people are likely to throw in the towel after a week or three. Unrealistic goals are impossible to reach, and besides, they often don’t spring from your deepest desires. If you really want to work on your condition, you know it’s better to start with a daily walk than a daily bootcamp. Especially if you’re just not the type for that kind of thing. 

So don’t put the bar too high. If you ask too much of yourself all at once, it will reduce your will power. It’s better to divide your resolutions into small steps. That way, you can be proud of yourself with every step you take. 

New year’s resolutions

Did you already make a list of resolutions for 2019? You may want to check your list again, just to find out how they make you feel. Do they make you feel genuinely enthusiastic, or do they make you feel tired and stressed? There’s still time for a change of plans – if you want, you can wait until August. 

 Text: Eline Hoffman - Photo: Amy Shemblen

 

20 questions to ask yourself at the end of the year

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You can start incorporating good habits any time you want to, you don’t need the start of a new year for it. However, this is a great time to reflect. Even if you’re not into new year’s resolutions, it’s useful to look back and make new plans. What went well, and what do you want to change in 2019? 

If you’re a perfectionist, you probably focus on the things you don’t cherish from last year. That’s a shame, because you must have experienced lots of small and bigger positive things too. Along the way, you’ve become an even better of yourself. If you focus solely on what could have gone better, you tend to miss these little victories. 

Ask yourself these questions 

This questionnaire made by psychologist and author Alice Boyes can help you to focus on the little successes. Answer all of the questions, or pick the ones you like. Don’t make it complicated, don’t worry if there’s a question you don’t know the answer to. The most important thing is to have fun, and enjoy the beautiful, funny, surprising and educational memories they evoke. 

* What’s the best discovery you made last year?
* What was the biggest surprise?
* What’s your favorite purchase?
* Which new routine or habit brings more efficiency, at home or at work?
* Which difficult challenges did you meet, in stead of walking away from them?
* At which point did you ask for help? 
* Which relationship surprised you in a positive way?
* Who should you thank for what they did for you last year?
* What did you learn or develop?
* Which dream or goal did you give up – to your satisfaction?
* Is there a quality or skill you’ve become more certain about?
* Which simple pleasures made you happy last year?
* Which goal did you work on, or reach?
* Which technological tool made your life easier?
* What did you change your mind about?
* What did you try without success, although it did teach you something?
* Did you start thinking about yourself in a different way? How?
* Is there a bias you had, that you’ve become aware of last year?
* Are there new things that make you feel good, or that you love?

Or ask someone else…

Asking the questions to someone else is just as interesting as asking yourself. Pick the questions you find most interesting and give them to your partner / family member / friend, and ask them to do the same for you. Interesting conversation guaranteed!

Text: Sanne Eva Dijkstra - Photo: Chinh Le Duc

 

This is how you make the best bucket list for 2019

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What made you happy last year, and can you take all that with you into 2018? Reflecting on the moments that made an impression last year, makes it easy to compose a bucket list for the new year.

By reliving the most beautiful, most special moments of 2018, and taking the time to write them down, you think of all the things you would want to do in the new year. What makes you tick? What brings you happiness?  

Meditate and find peace

Pick a day that feels good, and choose a place where you’re comfortable. Browse through the year using your diary and your photos. Once you’ve done that, do a mini meditation.

Think about the best times

Sit down in cross-legged position, and meditate holding a gem in your hands. The rest you find after meditating is the perfect starting position for making a scheme for the next twelve months. Add a word for each month. Jot down the best moments, and try to connect them in your mind: what do they have in common? 

Write your bucket list

Once you’ve done this, get a new, empty piece of paper on which you make your bucket list for 2019. Use the best moments of 2017 as a guideline. There it is: your own bucket list, a guide all through 2019.

Photo: Rawpixel

 

25 small acts of kindness to perform during the holidays

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year… Wouldn’t it be great if you could help others to have a wonderful time, too? It’s in the little things. 25 small acts of Christmass kindness. 

1.   Put up notes with a kind message in the elevator or at an ATM 

2.   Just chat with someone while waiting at the bus stop. 

3.   Bring a box of non-perishable foods to the food bank. 

4.   Take flowers to the nurses at the hospital. 

5.   Drop a book you enjoyed in someone’s mailbox. 

6.   Bring people who work outside coffee: the welfare worker, the person selling papers at the stall. 

7.   Help an elderly person packing groceries at the supermarket.

8.   Smile at the mother with the crying child at the train. 

9.   Drop a pair of gloves at a bench in the park, for people who can use them. 

10. Ask your single neighbor to come over for dinner. 

11. Give a small present to the mailman.

12. Donate to a small local charity.

13. Offer someone to go first when you’re waiting in line. 

14. Bring a Christmas decoration to an elderly person. 

15. Call your uncle or aunt, just to have a chat. 

16. Put up bird-seed in the garden. 

17. Take some toys to the children’s charity.

18. Donate blood at the blood bank. 

19. Send someone a message to wish them a nice day. 

20. Take some extra lunch to work and treat your colleagues to a nice salad. 

21. Send someone you love a postcard. 

22. Clean up garbage in your street or in the park. 

23. Volunteer at the food bank, the homeless shelter, the animal shelter…

24. Give an extra tip at the restaurant: working during the holidays is hard labor. 

25. Give away stuff you don’t use anymore. 

 

 

Why raising children means showing them, not telling them

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‘What’s she doing?’ my partner asked. Our baby daughter opened her mouth wide, kept it open for a while, and then shut her mouth again. 

‘I think she’s imitating us,’ I smiled, and I reminded me of how we had been playing with her that morning, after a night out, and how we both yawned every five minutes. Our daughter had been looking at us, fascinatedly. And now she was doing it, too. That day, her imitation yawns sometimes changed into a real yawn, and then we laughed. 

The situation made me realize something big and very scary: my child would imitate everything (everything!) we did. In fact, she was already doing it. If we were eating, then she wanted to eat; if we laughed about a joke, she laughed along with us; if daddy watched his phone, she wanted to take a look and if I was reading the newspaper, she wanted to have it (in order to eat the paper). I realized the following years would mainly be shaped by what we did, when we were with her, more than what we actually said. And that might be quite a confrontation. 

Focus on you 

I think raising children well, might be about focusing as much on your child as on yourself. I failed marvelously, that first year. I knew exactly when and how much she had eaten, prepared the most nutritive meals for her, but I needed my stomach to start rumbling to wonder: how about me, did I even have lunch? And then I’d quickly prepare a cheese sandwich and stuff it in my mouth, standing at the kitchen counter. Oh so wrong. 

I knew: for the following eighteen years, I will have to be as strict and as kind to myself as I am to her. It meant filling in the tax forms as if it was homework, getting to bed early, never being unreasonable, not eating too much candy. It also meant, that if I motivated her to go for her dreams and ideals, I could focus on my passions. And it meant that if I told her to believe in herself, I couldn’t do anything else. 

Showing them how to live 

Seven years later, it’s still number one in my ‘mission statement’ as a mom: I will not tell my children how to live, I will show them. 

Text: Susan Smit - Photo: Tanja Heffner