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POSITIVE, WISE & LOVING LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have enough faith in your partner?

You lack faith in your partner if you:

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

6 ways to work on mutual trust

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

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

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

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

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

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

Text: Susan Smit - Photo: JD Mason

How to deal with negative people in a positive way

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

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

1. Distance yourself from them  

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

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

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

2. Do the opposite

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

3. Don’t take it personal 

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

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

4. Be in the present

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

5. Practice gratitude 

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

Photo: Joe Gardner

 

How to protect your love from everyday annoyances

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

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

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

Treat the space between you as a holy place

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

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

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

Try this love experiment

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

The positive effects

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

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

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

Text: Marte Kaan - Photo: Tom the Photographer

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

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

Food 

B.A.R.

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

Nytorget Urban Deli

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

Drop Coffee

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

Culture

Östermalm

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

Shopping 

Department store Åhléns

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

Brandstationen

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

Photo: Matias Larhag

 

This is how you bring back passion in your relationship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Make time for foreplay

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

3. Let yourself go

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

4. Dare to experiment (and to talk)

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

Seven ways to say no in a friendly way: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Dangtimô Thimô 

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

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

 The upside of being the youngest 

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

The downside of being the youngest 

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

Who’s your perfect partner? 

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

Character traits that are typical for youngest children: 

You’re a charmer

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

You’re messy 

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

You’re a daredevil

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

You’re insecure

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

You tend to get disappointed in others 

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

Text: Dorien Vrieling - Photo: Joshua Clay

 

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

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

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

Embrace your shitty day

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

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

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy 

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

*Acceptation: actively inviting unpleasant thoughts, feelings and situations

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

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

*Here and now: being in touch with the present

*Values: discovering what’s really important to you

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

It’s in the little things 

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

Text: Gabriëlle Koster - Photo: Ronaldo Oliveira

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

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

If little things annoy you

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

If you haven’t had a relaxed conversation in ages

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

If you keep defending them

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

If you don’t like your mirror image anymore

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

If it hurts to go on this way

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

 

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

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

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

1. Change your routines

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

2. Avoid digital distractions 

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

3. Schedule deadlines 

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

4. Start (and finish) challenges

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

5. Get enough sleep

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

Text: Sanne Eva Dijkstra - Photo: Jed Villejo

 

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

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

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

Learning to accept it

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

Driving you crazy

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

Like two angry children

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

Take some distance

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

Anger is OK

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

Whose pain is it, actually?

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to get through the week mindfully:

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

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

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

Text: Nicole van Borkulo - Photo: Carolina Sanchez B

 

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

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

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

Thoughts at the steering wheel

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

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

Thoughts are just thoughts

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

Four questions

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

Kind thoughts

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

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

1. Is it true?

2. Can you be certain it’s true?

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

4. Who would you be without these thoughts?

Text: Joanne Wienen - Photo: Marco Xu

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

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

1. Time to recover after a busy day

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

2. Meaningful conversations

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

3. Just being silent together

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

4. A peaceful place of their own

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

5. The chance to think before they reply

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

6. Friends who understand their absence

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

7. Personal attention

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

Text: Joanne Wienen - Photo: Neil Bates

 

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

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

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

‘I want it to go away’

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

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

Learning to live with regrets 

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

Tip 1: You’re not the only one

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

Tip 2: Laugh at yourself 

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

Tip 3: The lesson of the tattoo

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

Text: Dorien Vrieling - Photo: Liel Anapolsky

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

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

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

Strict and critical 

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

The key to happiness

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

Practice and patience

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

This will help you to get started

1.   Awareness is the first step towards change

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

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

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

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

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

Source: ‘Hartvol’ – Marlous Kleve

Text: Joanne Wienen - Photo: Brooke Cagle

How to find yourself again after a long relationship

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Just experienced a breakup? You haven’t lost anything, Susan Smit can tell you from experience. On the contrary. You'll be surprised how much you will retrieve.

Maybe you’ve been through it, just like me. Someone ended the relationship. And maybe, after the break up, you realized how this person had been disengaging for a while - in baby steps. You probably didn’t want to feel it at the time, but you noticed all of it. Every formal hug. Every dutiful ‘I love you’. Every strayed look. Every routine kiss. Every dull goodbye. Every soulless lovemaking. All of it.

Because you sense every imbalance in your relationship, you’re not mad. If a heart that is so important to you, remains locked to you more and more often, you notice. It feels as if you’re delightedly standing on their doorstep with a package, but the mailbox is nailed up. There you are, strolling with your package, going home eventually, planning on trying again tomorrow. 

On your toes 

You've worked harder and harder for less and less love. But the more you try to to delight the other person and the more you are on your toes, the less fun and attractive you are. At the same time, to you, your disengaging loved onebecomes more and more eligible (love’s economy is so unfair!). He or she isn’t entirely available, and a love you have to fight for becomes more and more important – to you.

Sometimes, you’re so crazy in love, so scared of losing your beloved, you don’t even notice what it is you’re throwing in the fire just to keep it burning. You throw in your self esteem, the comfortable jeans that he or she doesn’t like, your true opinion about the other’s project at work, your high heels –to make sure we don’t tower them-, your razors because she likes beards, your vulnerability, your morning mood, your exuberance that’s experienced as hysteria. Until all that is left is a sad pile of ashes.

You're still here 

And there you are, after it finally ended. On your own, gazing at everything that’s lost. That's OK - keep on gazing, for as long as you want to. But don’t forget you’re still here. You! And realize that all these things –from your strong opinions to your exuberance or your shyness – aren’t in that pile of ashes. They are still hidden inside you, and all they want is to appear again.

You haven’t lost anything, I can tell you from experience. On the contrary: there is so much you will retrieve. 

Text: Susan Smit - Photo: Christian Gertenbach

This is a letter to all the children of divorced parents

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Dear child of divorced parents,

You probably know the song, and its words may be recognizable to you: ‘Sometimes moms and dads fall out of love, sometimes two homes are better than one, some things you can’t tell your sister ‘cause she’s still too young, yeah you’ll understand, when you love someone.’

It’s for the better, they say. You will understand it when you’re older, they say. That’s how love can be, they say. But in the meantime, you’re the one who has to travel from one house to the other all the time. You’re the one who has to miss mom and dad – always one of them. You’re the one who sees other children in the street who are walking between their mom and dad, and who think it’s the most natural thing in the world.

It’s all on your plate

Maybe, you can’t even remember the time when your parents lived in the same house with you. Or maybe they have just told you they are splitting up. Either way, dear child, I feel for you. I would want to carry the ‘missing’ for you, take away all the restlessness and beseech your fears, just as I –a child of divorced parents myself – would want want to do for my two small children and my two ‘bonus’ teenage daughters. But it’s all on your plate, no matter how small or big you are.

You love your mom and dad equally, no matter who left, no matter who was unfaithful, no matter who is said to be ‘guilty’ of making the family fall apart. You hate how one of your parents rejects or criticizes the other, because you feel they are rejecting part of who you are. Your heart hurts when one of your parents doesn’t want the other to come over, so they don’t even know what your bedroom looks like – as if your life exists of two separate parts, and there is no glue in the world that could keep them together. Your heart jumps up and you feel safe when you hear one of them speak the words: ‘Your mom and I have discussed…’ or ‘You are just as skillful as your dad.’ 

Memories have become complicated

When everything changed, you probably saw sadness, anger or panic in your parents. Or perhaps they didn’t show it, but you could feel it. Slowly but surely, there was room for laughter again, the frown left your dad’s forehead and the sadness left your mom’s eyes and everyone seemed to get used to the new situation. It comforted you, but you don’t like them acting like things were never different. Why did the old photo albums disappear from the cupboard, why did they take away the picture of you as a baby with mom and dad and why do they act indifferently when you share a memory from the time you all lived together? It seems as if that time is no longer allowed to exist, because it wasn’t ‘real’, or one big mistake.

Don’t you hate it when one of your parents tries to get information from you about the other, or when you have to pass on messages between them? After all, you’re not a mailman, are you? And don’t you hate it when appointments about when you’ll be picked up or taken someplace are vague or keep changing. Or when your parents try to compete about who’s the nicest parent.

Know that you are loved

Dear child, even though your parents make mistakes and handle the situation awkwardly, know they never intend to hurt you. Know that your feelings matter. Know that you’re always missed, but that you don’t have to worry about the parent you’re not with at the moment. Know that your feelings are normal, and that you are always allowed to feel and express them. Know that you are allowed to miss the other parent, that you’re never betraying the parent you’re with. Know you are loved, and that your parents’ love for new partner or new bonus children will never ever change that.

Know that you were never a mistake, even if your mom or dad talks about their relationship as if it was a mistake. You’re the opposite: you’re the biggest gift they ever had.

With love and respect for who you are and how you’re handling all this,

Susan

Text: Susan Smit - Photo: Japheth Mast

 

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

Why we should embrace our mistakes - not just because we learn from them

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Sure, we’re only human, so we make mistakes. We all know that. So why do we prevent ourselves from making them? Kathryn Schulz advocates making mistakes – and embracing them. 

How does it feel to make a mistake? ‘Embarrassing’, some people in Kathryn Schulz’s audience say. ‘Unpleasant’, others say. But wait, says Schulz in her TED Talk – that’s not an answer to this question. It’s knowing you’re making a mistake that feels unpleasant – making the mistake itself usually makes you feel fine, because at the time, you usually don’t know you’re making it. We’re like Wile E. Coyote in Looney Tunes, running off a cliff: it’s not until he looks down, he knows he’s going to fall. Until that moment, he doesn’t have a clue. 

Convinced you’re right? That’s risky

Making mistakes without knowing it, feels like everything’s just going like it should. Unknowingly being wrong feels like being right. And that’s risky, says Schulz, who studied making mistakes for years and calls herself a ‘wrongologist’ now. People who are convinced of being right, can make very stupid choices, and they don’t care about criticism. The person who criticizes their point of view just doesn’t know a thing about the matter, or they are stupid, or even malicious. 

Doubt makes life more exciting

But once you start realizing that you just might be wrong, you make room for doubt. You’re open to the complexity of the world. And it makes life much more exciting, according to Schulz. We all see things differently, we can’t all be right all the time. That’s a good thing, because: ‘The whole idea of being human is that we experience things differently. The miracle of the mind is that we can see things the way they aren’t. Not just the present, but also the past and the future.’

Photo: Victor Dueñas Teixeira

 

 

Read this if you find it difficult to ask for help

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Could you help me with this? It’s a simple question that can be very hard to ask. Heavy domestic chores, a complicated project at work, getting lost in a foreign city: it’s all a lot easier with a little help. And you can get it, if you ask for it.

Many of us tend to think for someone else. We think they probably don’t feel like giving a hand, they’re probably busy, or there’s another reason why they can’t or won’t help us. And imagine they feel obligated to do so, or –even worse- say no… It would make you feel like an idiot, right? 

But why? Friends, acquaintances and colleagues –even strangers, by the way- are much more likely to help you than you might think. You may see your request as a burden; for them, it may be a compliment and a proof of confidence. Admitting that you can’t do it all by yourself, can give more depth to your relationships. 

These tips will help you to ask for help like a pro: 

Explain why you ask for it

The word ‘because’ can make a lot of difference. Don’t just ask ‘Could you go and get some groceries?’ but: ‘Could you go and get the groceries, because I have to prepare dinner and I’m short of time’. This way, you legitimate your question, which makes it easier for yourself. And if you explain why you need help, people are more likely to actually assist. This tip supposedly even works if your ‘because’ doesn’t actually make sense…

Be attentive yourself

Make it into a habit to help others, without asking for something in return. Don’t do it to make sure you have some ‘credit’ with them, but simply because it makes you feel good. Of course, you don’t have to do your colleague’s job for them or coordinate your neighbor’s entire relocation – don’t exaggerate – just try to do little things for others every once in a while. Offer to give them feedback on a project plan, make sure there’s coffee once all the boxes are out of the moving truck. Helping others makes you feel less burdened if you need someone to support you. 

Put your questions in perspective 

Turn the situation around and imagine someone would ask for your help. No doubt, you’ve recently held the door open for someone or cleaned the dishwasher because they asked you to. How did you feel about that? Annoyed? Forced? Overcharged? Probably not. I bet you didn’t think twice about it and it made you feel good. Why wouldn’t it work the same way for others? 

Text: Sanne Eva Dijkstra - Photo: Hao Ji