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

This is how your family influences you and your relationships

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Why your family is always present in your life - even if you don't see them anymore. 

Ah, family. You live your own life, but they are always in the background, even if you rarely see the, even if you don’t know them or don’t want to know them anymore. They are there, self-evidently, or they are self-evidently not there. And, no doubt, it influences the way you live your life. But how does that work exactly?

We play the roles of father and daughter

My dad and I didn’t have regular contact until I was 21 years old, and still, it doesn’t occur to him that I might need him, not spontaneously.

The key words are 'spontaneously’, here. We play the roles of father and daughter, and sometimes it seems real. But self-evident? No, it never is. Every once in a while, we forget about each other’s existence. Simply because we’re busy with other things.

He’s still your dad

By the way, as a child, I felt very normal. I didn’t miss out on anything. At the same time, I always felt like I had to defend myself. Why? In ‘complete’ families things weren’t all fun and games, were they?

When I was in my twenties, I lived in Paris for a while. I had a Dutch friend there whose father was a drinker. She had to pick him up from the pub drunk, again and again, him whining in her arms that he really loved her. What a mess.

‘Yeah well,’ she said acquiescing, and then she spoke the words I never forgot, because they are still the wisest thing I ever heard anyone say about this matter: ‘He is still my dad. And there’s only one of him. It is what it is, you deal with it.’

You deal with it

At the same time, there is an aspect to family that makes me tend to avoid the topic. If I’m truly honest, I think: I did miss out on something as a child. For instance all the times I lied awake when I had to do hold a speech at school.

You deal with it. In another situation you would have done the same. But how would that have turned out? Would I have made different choices? Had different relationships? Sometimes I feel like telling my dad alla bout it. If he had just been there, my life would have been different. I would have been a better person. Much better! 

There is an end date for reproach

There is an end date for reproaching your parents how your life went, said J.K. Rowling – because even Harry Potter is about the role and influence of family. It’s not about what it could have been like, but about how you relate to what it ís like. That’s difficult. But it also means you keep getting new chances to look at the relationship. As you move on your time line, your perspective on your parents and grandparents changes.

A father who didn’t help out when you had to speech at school, turns out to be a good help when you have to give a lecture, simply because he turns out to have a self-evident faith in you. And for some reason, it compensates for all his absence you didn’t even know you felt.

What do you pass on?

Then the wheel turns again. You have your own family now, and you are on the other side of the line. What do you pass on?

My children do have a father, one who was always there and cooked and took them to soccer games, so in the cosmic wheel of things, that’s a great step forward. And there’s something beautiful about that. That every time, there’s a new round, and that each round is a bit better. Or not. But eat least there’s always a new generation taking over. You do the best you can to pass on something good. Sometimes you succeed, sometimes you don’t. But they deal wit hit, the way you dealt wit hit.

What do I inherit from my dad, I wondered recently, apart from the blue eyes and a load of books? Perhaps it’s this: being able to accept you make mistakes, and being willing to fill the holes where you dropped some stitches. Perhaps that’s the most important lesson you learn in the family school: being kind towards your parents makes you kinder towards yourself.

Text: Anne Wesseling - Photo: Tim Mossholder

Boost your confidence - and six other ways to become even prettier

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Alright, so maybe looks are equally important as inner beauty, but where do we draw the line?  How essential is that expensive cream really, or those leather shoes while you just donated money to an animal protection organization? It's time for a makeover of the seven beauty ideals.

1.     Be grateful

Gratitude is a more potent beautifier than any cream on earth. Pausing to consider the miracle of your body will smooth out all the wrinkles of dissatisfaction. Be grateful for how your organs digest your food, how your muscles take you where you need to go, and how your mind, eyes and heart enable you to be in touch with the world. You could almost trip over your body – it is that close – so don’t take it for granted, even if it doesn’t always exactly do what you want.

2.     Be eco-fabulous

Being pretty at the expense of something or someone else is obviously not great. Choose products that are made with respect for humans, animals and nature.

3.     Experiment

The best way to find a balance between your so-called outer and inner appearance is by regularly going to extremes in one or the other. Give yourself a crew cut. Send a week meditating in the same jogging pants. Attend a party in a killer outfit. You are guaranteed to learn a few new steps in the tango of form and content.

4.     Boost your confidence

Self-confidence was beauty tip number one, psychologist Dr. Vivian Diller discovered in her study into what makes women beautiful from the inside. As a former top model, she could confirm this from personal experience: ‘Early on I learned that being the prettiest doesn’t determine the success of a model, because everyone was beautiful. Being perfect wouldn’t do it either, because nobody was perfect. Your success was determined by your behavior and confidence.

5.     Focus on what you have

Here’s another tip from Dr. Diller, taken from her book Face It: What Women Really Feel As Their Looks Change (highly recommended, incidentally). You may tend to be upset by the parts of your body you don’t like, but the key to confidence is to put emphasis on what you do like. Do you have good posture? Beautiful hair, radiant eyes? Build your outfits around them and focus on those parts. N.B. this also works in all other areas of life.

6.     Behave stylishly, even when you’re alone

One of my teachers emphasizes the importance of stylish behavior, even when being alone. To me, this was a life-changing lesson. Can you behave with as much dignity when you’re lying on the couch in a onesie as when you’re attending a posh dinner? How much self-respect do you show when you’re in the toilet? Act stylishly at all times, and see how it makes you feel.

7.     Like inwards, like outwards

This is the ultimate beauty tip. Approach your look with all the noble qualities that you also use for you inner hygiene: kindness, respect, creativity and compassion. Treat your skin, your heart, your home and your hair with the same joyful appreciation.

Text: Geertje Couwenbergh - Photo: Caroline Hernandez

The five best life lessons we learned from legendary TV chef Julia Stiles

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The kitchen is the place for many activities – not just for cooking. You can experiment all you want to – learning to control your fear of failure while stirring in pots and pans. And most of all: the kitchen is the place to have fun. Five life lessons from TV chef Julia Child. 

The kitchen is the place for many activities – not just for cooking. You can experiment all you want to – learning to control your fear of failure while stirring in pots and pans. And most of all: the kitchen is the place to have fun. Five life lessons from TV chef Julia Child. 

I, myself, come from a long line of women who thought eating was a waste of time, and often said things like ‘I wish there was a pill I could take every night, that contained everything I needed’ (my mom) or the sighed ‘what to eat tonight?’ (my grandma). For survival, our family has been dependent on men who knew how to handle a dipper and a skimmer. Oh, well, we had other talents. 

‘You need an awful lot of onions!’

Still, I love reading the books written by Julia Child (1912-2004) and since I rewatched the movie Julie and Julia with my daughter, I’m a true fan. Whenever my writing doesn’t go the way I want it to, I watch historical clips on YouTube with Julia. Julia stirring an onion soup (‘You just need an awful lot of onions!’) or hammering into a chicken (‘we’re doing some cosmetic surgery on the chicken’). And it works. Every time. 

Because what Julia makes you understand, is that cooking is much more than just preparing food. Cooking is about using your senses, about the art of living. Accepting a challenge without thinking twice, developing your preferences, understanding new techniques so you can experiment with them – and most of all, enjoying what you’ve prepared together. Julia Child’s quotes are worth printing, painting on a placemat and putting on the wall. Five lessons from ‘The French Chef’. 

1. ‘Find something you’re passionate about and remain tremendously interested in it.’ 

Julia Child was 37 when she discovered her passion for cooking. Too late? Not at all. Just start doing something that appeals to you, learn about it, discover new stuff. And prepare for a life long learning. ‘You’ll never know everything about something, especially if it’s something you love.’ And that’s fine, because the more you know, the more you’re able to create. ‘There is no end to imagination in the kitchen.’ 

2. ‘Be fearless and above all: have fun!’ 

Fantastic cooks aren’t born. To be a great chef, you need to love good quality ingredients, work hard and really love to make something, to create. Julia’s advice was always: ‘Learn to cook, try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless and above all: have fun.’ 

3. ‘The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking, you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.’ 

Fear of failure is the only thing that can stop you from learning to cook. ‘If you’re afraid of failing, you’ll never earn to cook,’ Julia Child said in one of the episodes of The French Chef. ‘Cooking means one failure following the other, and that’s how you learn.’ Isn’t cooking like life itself? 

4. Did you fail? ‘Don’t apologize!’ 

If your dish doesn’t turn out as pretty as you had in mind, don’t go out of your way to apologize (‘What a disaster!’ or ‘I always fail’). Don’t emphasize the things that didn’t work out. Your guests don’t want to keep reassuring you. So just act like nothing’s wrong. ‘Maybe the cat fell in the stew, the lettuce is frozen, or the cake collapsed – eh bien, tant pis!’. Most of the time, your dish won’t be all that bad, and if it’s really horrible – just smile!

5. ‘If you’re afraid of butter, use cream.’ 

I love this piece of advice. Cook with flair, and don’t make a fuss about some grams of fat. It’s not about that. Use great ingredients, eat with attention and joy. Enjoying your food means eating healthy. Eating disorders don’t exist in Julia’s universe: ‘Life itself is the proper binge,’ was her wise conclusion. Feast on life!

Dishes and memories 

One of the lessons Julia learned during her stay in Paris (where she learned to cook at the famous cooking school Le Cordon Bleu), is that you won’t forget a dish you made. Making something special isn’t just fun, it also brings memories. Julia quotes one of her teachers, chef Bugnard: ‘You never forget something beautiful you made. Even after you ate it, it’ll stay with you.’ 

I never thought of it that way, but it’s so true. I remember the duck I helped a friend prepare at New Year’s Eve in a French house in the woods, the gumglotters and pluche nuche from Roald Dahl’s cookbook I made with the kids when they were little. The first time I made mayonnaise myself (a miracle!) during the holidays in France. For someone like me, who always says she’s a ‘horrible cook’, that means something. 

Water, butter and flour

I bought Julia Child’s ‘The art of cooking’, and it hits close to home. Julia doesn’t just explain what you need to do, she elaborates about techniques and why one thing works and the other doesn’t. I love all that. The creations you can make with simple ingredients like water, butter and flour!

So why would we think of cooking as a nasty chore? This afternoon, I’m making eclairs with my daughter, just for fun. According to Julia, it’s easy peasy, and if we fail – tant pis. We’ll learn that lesson, no matter what. 

Bon appétit!

Text: Anne Wesseling - Photo: Alyson McPhee

Is your son or daughter an indigo child? This is how you guide them in life

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Indigo children are very sensitive: they feel, see, hear or know more than other children their age. How do you make sure a special child like yours taps into their power?

Psychologists and astrologists say indigo children prepare us for a new society, the new age, in which spiritual values are more and more important. These sensitive children see the world intuitively, and they are drawn to the spiritual. Some of them even see auras or angels, and they come up with astonishing insights.


From a young age, they strive for unity and harmony. Indigo children are less focused on themselves, they feel like they’re one with the world and with others. They often sense how other people are feeling and are very empathetic.


Do you recognize a lot of these qualities in yourself? Perhaps you’re an indigo parent: a sensitive adult, who has grown up in a time when there was less room for intuition and emotion.

Are you a parent to an indigo child? 5 tips

TIP 1:

Make sure there is ‘time to settle’: time to process new impressions. Indigo children need time to be outside. Away from the noise of the city is where they find their peace.

TIP 2:

Teach your child to visualize, to help them protect themselves in difficult situations. If he or she knows how to imagine there’s an egg of light around them, or a protective cloak, a magical girdle, a hedge of roses or a glass wall.

TIP 3:

Introduce them to meditation or yoga. Meditation can help them to distance themselves and process all stimuli.

TIP 4:

An indigo child has a hard time with lies and deceit, so it’s important to be honest and open.

TIP 5:

Make sure they have a creative outlet. Indigo children are often very visual and extremely creative. If you give them the time and space to discover their creativity, they’ll develop unique ideas and discover remarkable things.

Photo: Roberto Sanches Carvalho

Feeling down? This is why changing your thoughts can make you feel better

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When someone has been feeling down for a while, we say: he or she is feeling depressed. But according to the founding fathers of cognitive therapy, we might just as well say they are thinking themselves depressed. The way we think has a big influence on or emotional wellbeing. 

Distinguishing thoughts from reality

When young psychiatrist David Burns heard one of his teachers say ‘thinking differently leads to feeling differently’, he thought to himself: ‘that’s bullsh**.’ But the more patients he treated, the more he found out the truth in that quote. Even patients who were so depressed they didn’t want to live anymore, started feeling better when they learned how to distinguish their thoughts from reality. A woman with a severe depression he treated, was convinced her life had been worthless – until she made a simple list of her achievements. It opened her eyes. 

Burns wanted to help more people than he could see in real life, so he wrote the book Feeling Good – which became a huge best seller and made cognitive therapy a wide known, successful form of therapy. These days, it’s one of the most used treatments for depression. 

The power of thoughts

Did Burns find his treatment useful in his own life? In his TED Talk, he tells about the birth of his son. The young boy couldn’t breathe, so his breathing had to be stimulated artificially. Burns was in complete distress. He thought: no matter what I have been taught, this situation is so severe, it’s not about what I think

Yet, when he started writing down his thoughts, he discovered that even in this severe situation, his thoughts hadn’t been realistic. In his mind, he was thinking years ahead – convinced the future of his son was doomed, until he realised: I have to stop predicting the future and just be there for my son. The power of thoughts had proven to be just as strong for Burns as for his patients. 

Text: Dorien Vrieling - Photo: Action Vance


How to recognize a toxic friend: 9 warning signs your friendship isn't good for you

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If you’ve been friends with someone for a long time, it’s hard to imagine your life without them. However, it’s wise to take a close look at your friendship every once in a while. Does it still help you grow? 

If your friend stopped listening 

Sure, you’re willing to listen to their stories about the nagging new colleague, difficult family situation or physical discomfort. But if they hardly respond to the things you tell them, or immediately relate everything to themselves (no, my relationship isn’t exactly the same as yours), it might be time for change. Friendships have to be two-way streets. 

If they’re not there for you

Friendship comes in all shapes and sizes and there’s nothing wrong with friends you simply watch movies with or go to the gym with. But the best friends should be there for you. If they’re not, you might wonder what use the friendship is to you. 

If you feel relieved or tired after they’ve left

This is probably the #1 sign that something’s off in your friendship: if you’re happy they’re leaving again. One thing’s for sure: this friendship only costs you energy, it doesn’t give you any. 

If you fight over the most ridiculous things

Fighting doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. Just like in a relationship, the occasional explosion can clear the air. But this only happens when a fight is about something substantial. If you guys keep fussing about little things, all this negativity gets under your skin. 

If your friend can’t handle criticism 

Some people are sensitive. There’s nothing wrong with keeping that and mind and being careful with criticism. But in the end, good friends need to be able to tell eachother they are making a mistake – simply because they wish the best for eachother. 

If they can’t keep a secret 

‘Oh, by the way, me and that other friend talked about your relationship trouble.’ Wait a minute – did she just talk about this sensitive issue with someone else? Good friends know when to keep things a secret. 

If they don’t care about your family and other friends

Good friends care about you, and want to know about your background. If they meet your friends and family, they want to get to know them, because they are important to you too. If they don’t, they may be jealous or they simply don’t care. Which isn’t a good sign. 

If they don’t pay for things

It may seem like a small thing, but admit it: it does get annoying if your friend’s a cheapskate. (Of course, if they’re having money issues, it’s different. Although it’s always unpleasant if they keep letting you pay all the bills or ‘forgetting’ to pay you back). 

If they judge you

There are a few important elements in every friendship, and respect is probably the most important one. How can one ever feel safe with a friend if they don’t respect them? Many unpleasant aspects of a friendships are surmountable (no one is perfect), but this one means code red. 

Text: Dorien Vrieling - Photo: Greg Raines

What's your love style, and does it match your partner's love style?

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Do you love being surprised with love letters or red roses, but does your partner keep getting you domestic gifts, because they’re so ‘handy’? Or do you get jealous when they want to go to the pub with their friends again? 

Just because your partner has different priorities, doesn’t mean the end of the relationship is near. It does mean the two of you have a different love style. 

The 6 love styles 

According to American sociologist Terry Hatkoff, there are 6 different love styles. Each style represents a different outlook on love. You can find out your style here.

1. Romantic 

Love, to the romantic type, is based on passion and sexual attraction. 

2. Best friends 

If this is your love style, you look for deep affection. The feelings you have for your partner, are comparable to the feelings you have for your best friends. 

3. Logical

No matter how deeply in love you are, if your love style is the logical one, practical considerations are important for you. You prefer to share your life with someone who has the same values, beliefs or financial goals. 

4. Playful

Is your love style playful? Then you love to flirt and to be challenged by your partner. 

5. Possessive

A relationship in which the two of you lead your own lives? You’d rather not, if you have a possessive love style. You get jealous easily and your feelings for your loved one can even be a bit obsessive. 

6. Selfless

A selfless love style means you want to take care of your partner. You tend to put your own feelings and desires aside. 

Combined love styles

Usually, ones personal love style is a combination of two or three styles. Your dominant love style may be romantic, yet you find it important that your partner has the same plans and vision of the future. Or you’re looking for an unconditional buddy (best friend) with whom you can have adventures and whom you can take care of (selfless). That way, your partner may love to flirt, yet be extremely jealous if you do the same thing. 

Interesting! But what does it matter? 

Knowing what your love styles are, can be helpful to prevent arguments and learn to understand eachother better. If you know your partner has a logical love style, you also know they don’t just do all these chores around the house: they’re a gesture of love. Once your partner knows you’re a romantic, they may not see the next candle lit diner as ‘too much’, but appreciate it because it’s your way to show how important your relationship is to you.  

Text: Sanne Eva Dijkstra - Photo: Everton Vila

If you love travelling, but you love the planet more: how to do it sustainably

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It’s a dilemma for travellers with a green heart: you want to see the world, yet you know travelling isn’t pleasant for our planet. Especially if you travel by plane. 

Two weeks to Bali by plane, means a CO2 emission of about 4.000 kilos. And mass tourism also causes pollution of the oceans, animals in tourist places are often badly treated and from all the money we spend on holidays, only a small amount reaches the locals. 

What to do: stay at home? That’s an options – there’s a lot to discover in your own country – but of course, the rest of the world tempts us. With good preparation and a little extra research, you can make your holiday more sustainable. 

Choose your transportation wisely

Use the most sustainable means of transport, both to your destination and at your destination. For your next city trip or sunny holiday, go by train. That’s actually a very pleasant way to travel: you don’t have to check in and board, there’s more space, and you actually see the landscape change around you. 

Prefer a road trip? If you can, use the car to the fullest. Perhaps you can spend the holidays with friends or family. That way, you decrease the pollution per person. When you’re at your destination, walk or bike as much as you can. If the distance is too big, use public transportation – just like the locals!

Really have to fly? Compensate your CO2-emission 

Sometimes, you can’t reach your destination without flying. After all, taking the bus to South-Africa or the train to Thailand is a bit difficult. Choose the most sustainable airline: the one that makes an extra effort to be nice to the environment – even if it’s a bit more expensive. At your order, you can tick the box for extra co2 compensation – the costs depend on the length of your flight. Airlines use this money for investments in CO2 reductions. 

A more fun way to compensate CO2 emissions is planting trees. Trees, especially the growing ones, transform co2 into oxygen. Join in tree planting projects or donate to a forest project in the country you’re visiting. 

Sleep green 

Forget about big hotel deals and book your nights at small eco accommodations. It takes some time to find the best places, but once you’ve arrived, you’ll thank yourself. The owners are so proud of their place, they love to spoil you, and there places are often lovely. You could wake up in a tiny house, a tree house or a bedouine tent in the middle of nowhere. Not bad, right? 

Make sure your money ends up with the locals 

Booking at small accomodations means part of your holiday budget will contribute to the local economy. With everything you purchase, ask yourself: can we do this locally? Don’t plan excursions with big organisations, but with local initiatives. Eat at local lunch joints and restaurants, in stead of big chains. Buying souvenirs for friends or family? Get them at small stores, run by local entrepreneurs. At many destinations you’ll find souvenirs made by people in community projects. They’re often handmade, and always more authentic than your dime a dozen keepsakes bought at the airport. The profit that’s made, goes straight back to the community. Which makes both you and the store owner happy. 

Treat nature kindly

A nice mantra when going on a holiday is: take only pictures, leave only footprints. Nature is vulnerable, and nothing is as sad as garbage in a national park or a wild animal used for human entertainment. Prevent yourself from polluting the environment unnecessarily – use reusable water bottles, refrain from using plastic straws and throw any garbage in the bin. If you want to do more than just reduce your own waste, think about doing a couple of hours –or days- of voluntary work at your holiday destination. Help cleaning the beach, for instance. 

Watch wild animals in their natural habitat. If you want to go on a safari, see whales or make any other animal excursion, look for sustainable, animal and environmental friendly companies and use your common sense. Don’t buy products made of animals or protected plants. Coral is beautiful, but appreciate it where it grows – if its part of a jewel or a mantelpiece, it’ll lose its lustre.  

Text: Sanne Eva Dijkstra - Photo: Ivana Cajina

This is the best way to help a friend who's feeling depressed (hint: don't try to be Dr Phil)

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If someone close to you is feeling depressed, what is the best thing you can do? Are you able to help them? Or should you just leave them be? 

Comedian and expert Bill Bernat has a clear answer to the latter of these questions: no! For people who are depressed, social interaction with friends and family can be a complicated thing – but that doesn’t mean they don’t want it. On the contrary: people who suffer from depression really need to be in touch with other people. 

This is how you treat a person who is feeling depressed 

If your friend, sister or colleague is feeling depressed, you probably want to say or do something to help them, you just don’t know how. Bill Bernat is bipolar and knows from his own experience that many people don't know how to handle that. In his TEDtalk, he lists a couple of useful tips and tricks. 

You don’t have to be Dr Phil 

Of course you want to help them, but you don’t have to. If you do your best to offer a solution to your friend or family member’s problem, you might (unwantingly!) be pressuring them: they feel like it’s time they start feeling better now. By the way, it isn’t so much about what you say, according to Bernat. It’s about simply being there for them. 

Don’t worry, it’s not contagious

It might sound silly, but some people are afraid depression is contagious. They think they will get depressed if they hang around with a depressed person. It doesn’t work that way. Besides, apart from really heavy depression, we shouldn’t panic when someone is feeling sad or morose sometimes – it’s part of life. 

Don’t take ‘no’ personally

Even if you’re not trying to be Dr Phil, you probably give them some advice sometimes. Because you remember what was helpful to you when you were feeling bad. If your friend rejects your advice, don’t take it personally. We’re all different: the things that make you feel better, don’t necessarily help others, and vice versa. 

Jokes are OK

Bernat stresses the importance of being yourself. Just because your friend is feeling horrible, doesn’t mean you have to speak in a grave, worrisome voice and talk about serious stuff all the time. Being cheerful is fine. 

Go out together 

Spending time with a depressed person doesn’t have to mean sitting on the couch talking about Life. If it’s possible (which isn’t always the case, because depression can be paralyzing), go out and do things together. Let them be a part of your life, take up a chore together, go see a movie. 

Text: Dorien Vrieling - Photo: Christopher Campbell

Gratitude as a life style: this is how being thankful improves your life

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Gratitude, it seems so easy. ‘I’m thankful for… [fill in the blank].’ But you can take it a step further and make gratitude into a lifestyle. 

In their Dutch book ‘De kracht van dankbaarheid’ (The power of gratitude),  Ernst Bohlmeijer and Monique Hulsbergen distinguish eight aspects of gratitude. They all stem from the notion that anything you pay attention to, will grow. 

1. Gratitude as a personal feature 

Some people start the day feeling grateful and go to bed feeling the same way, without really making an effort for it. For others, it’s more complicated. Gratitude can be a personal feature, but it’s one you can train, by focusing on the good and pleasant things in life. 

2. Being happy with what you’ve got 

Clean water to drink, electricity, a roof over your head – the things we tend to take for granted, until we’ve made a trip to a different part of the world and had to do without it for a while. But you can also be happy with your friends and family. 

3. Room for awe and wonder 

A rainbow, a beautiful landscape, trees, the sea, the sky full of stars – all those times you look around you and say ‘wow’, are moments of gratitude. 

4. Being content with your life right now

Try to be aware of the experiences you’re having now, in this time of your life. A meal, sunset, a movie. Or simply being satisfied with life in general. 

5. Appreciating others 

Having friends and family is something to be grateful for. But what about ‘random’ people who do something nice for you, like the bus driver waiting when you arrive at the station late at night. 

6. Showing your gratitude

‘Feeling grateful without showing it, is like receiving a gift without unpacking it.’ By showing you’re grateful (telling a person, writing them a note), you make someone happy, and it increases your gratitude. 

7. Gratitude coming from the notion of transience 

Life is short and everything passes – realizing this, can give you an extra push to be grateful for everything that’s there in your life right now. 

8. Positive comparisons 

If you tend to look at people who have more than you do, you’ll be dissatisfied. Why not look the other way: at people who have less than you do? The comparison will give you peace of mind. 

And what does gratitude bring? 

Good question. Gratitude doesn’t pay the bills, nor does it cure a broken leg. But it helps you to live your life in a calm way, to enjoy it to the fullest and give relationships more meaning. It’s an ‘inner source that can help us and inspire us to blossom.’ 

By the way, a lot of scientific research is being done into the effects of gratitude. There are clear signs of gratitude being a medicine for worrying and anxiety, and it is even said to be good for your health. Gratitude is good for your heart, in all kinds of ways.

The best part? Gratitude doesn’t end. On the contrary, Bohlmeijer and Hulsbergen say: ‘By practicing gratitude, we’re drilling a well in a source that’s potentially endless in the world: love, simple happiness, the air, the seasons, playing, creativity, hospitality. And the miraculous thing is that anything we’re tapping into with gratitude, will multiply quickly.’ 

Magnifying glass 

For me, the best and clearest comparison was this one: gratitude is like a magnifying glass for the beautiful and pleasant things in life. Practicing gratitude doesn’t mean you’re denying the negative things, but it means you’re happy with the good things – and you’re aware of the things that seem natural, but aren’t. 

Text: Anne Wesseling - Diane Simumpande

Write your partner a thank you note - and other ways to feel butterflies again

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No matter how much you love each other, for most couples the ecstatic feeling of being in love slowly disappears after a few years. But that doesn’t mean you can’t feel sparks anymore. This is how you make the butterflies return. 

You don’t have to put a banner with a declaration of love behind a plane, tattoo your lover’s name on your body or fill the living room with thousands of candles to give romance a little push. These suggestions will do the trick too. 

1. Write a thank you note

We tend to take it for granted when our partner does something for us. That’s a real shame, because recent research from the University of Texas and the University of Chicago shows that a thank you note now and then has a very positive effect on the receiver. You bet they will appreciate it when you write them a thank you note – thanking them for the great food, the beautiful flowers or, even better, just for being there. 

Make it more special and send them a postcard, put your note in the pocket of their coat or lunch box. Showing your gratitude often doesn’t just make your partner feel better about your relationship, it also has a positive effect on you. Win-win, right?

2. Plan a date

Make something special out of date night. Don’t just mark it in your diary, but organize all of it, and keep it a secret to them. It makes you feel excited, because you’re curious what they’ll think – and it makes them excited, because they don’t know what the day or night will bring. 

3. Try something new

Going to the movies, having dinner at your favorite restaurant or doing a Netflix marathon is fun and good for your relationship. But exciting? Not really. Suggest to try something both of you haven’t done yet. If you guys have been talking about kite surfing, salsa dancing or sky diving, now is the time to do it. 

4. Touch them more often

Touching sends a signal to the brain that stimulates feelings of love. It has to do with a hormone: oxytocin. An intense cuddle of about 20 seconds creates a big dose of oxytocin. If you give your loved one a sincere cuddle a few times a day, it will make the two of you more connected in the long run.   

5. Flirt through text messages

Spending all the time you share on your phone, doesn’t have a great effect on your relationship. But why not use technology to your advantage? A sweet or naughty message can make a boring day into a special one. 

6. Make an effort with your looks

Of course, after a long day at work, track pants or yoga leggings are tempting. But did you even think about wearing that when you guys just met? Of course, love isn’t all about looks, but making an effort to look attractive every once in a while is a good idea. On an average Monday or Wednesday, put on your best clothes, wear some make up, do your hair, spray your favorite perfume and appear at the dinner table. Surprise!

7. Create little rituals

In the morning, turn on the coffee machine when your love is in the shower, make them their favorite breakfast on a Sunday: repeating certain little gestures makes them into rituals. Everytime you repeat it, you show you still love them as much as you ever did. 

Being in the here and now

It’s not a gesture, but a change of behavior. And it’s probably more of an effort than writing a thank you note or putting on your best dress. But it’s worth it, because living in the here and now can give your relationship a real boost. If you put the past and the future aside, you see your partner exactly the way they are right now and your perspective isn’t blurred by memories. Just like when you just met. Hello, butterflies! 

Text: Sanne Eva Dijkstra - Photo: Sweet Ice Cream Photography


Make yourself the highest priority: this is how you build self esteem

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According to psychologist Nathaniel Branden, the way you judge yourself is far more important than what others think of you. And your opinion of yourself becomes more loving if you live by your own principles.

Why do we feel like we’re not good, beautiful or smart enough sometimes? According to Nathaniel Branden, we are often insecure because we keep trying to meet other people’s expectations and conditions. That’s impossible and, more importantly, bad for our self image.

We all long for acceptation and love, and none of us are free from insecurities. That’s fine, as long as they don’t overshadow our wellbeing. But when, in the search for appraisal, you let your own values and wishes be obscured, your self esteem slowly crumble apart. Don’t worry: this doesn’t happen overnight. It’s the result of all the sacrifices we make, big and small. If you become aware of this, you can enforce your own values, and you won’t have to lean on others so much to feel good about yourself.

These four tips help you build a stronger self image


This doesn’t mean you have to live your life as an emotionless robot. It means you should see your emotions in a bigger perspective. Just because you feel them, doesn’t mean they are true.


If we’re insecure or frightened, this is a clear signal: our awareness needs more attention and love. Perhaps it’s time to have a critical look at your values. Or perhaps it’s even time to develop new ones.


Self love is a universal need, one you can’t satisfy with superficial means – it grows from the inside. See your self confidence as a muscle that will grow more powerful when you take a decision that fits your life philosophy. If you make choices because you support them (and not because someone else expects this from you), you’ll become stronger every day.


We see happiness as an emotion, but according to Branden, we have more control over it than we think. Try to live each day from your authentic self – with your own principles and values as signposts, because they will lead your way to happiness. If you protect this authenticity, you will learn to love yourself.  


Are you a pleaser? It helps to realize that there is actually nothing you have to do. The more you have to do in life (because it’s appropriate, because someone’s counting on you), the more you’ll have to justify your own actions to yourself. You forget what you need, you minimize yourself and your importance. But it’s only when you make yourself into a priority, that you can love yourself.

You and your sister: why she's both your biggest supporter and rival

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What makes the connection between sisters so special? Deborah Tannen, linguistics professor, was fascinated by the conversations she had with her sisters. She interviewed more than a hundred women about their relationship with their sisters. Her conclusion: this relationship is both very strong and complicated.

Why Deborah Tannen chose to research sisters – not siblings in general? Because it didn’t take her long to find out that sisters have different conversations. They talk more, and on a more personal level, than they do with their brothers. 

Intense relationship

The relationship of sisters is quite like a marriage, Tannen concludes. A woman told Tannen: ‘My sister and I, we work on our relationship, just like people work on their marriage.’ Sisters have a strong connection, they are each others biggest supporters, but they can also disappoint and hurt each other deeply. In a sense, sisterhood is an even stronger connection than a love relationship: married people can separate, but you can’t divorce your sister. You will share the same youth (even if you experienced it differently), the same parents, forever. 


Even the closest of sisters have an element of rivalry in their relationship. From the day you were born, you guys competed for your parents’ love. Which one of you is closest to mom and dad? Who got more attention, who got more stuff (toys, presents, etcetera)? Who had the most freedom to do what they wanted (often the youngest one)? 

Rivalry can resurface after years and years, when one of the parents passes away – because of the inheritance. It may sound superficial or childish, but, as Tannen puts it: ‘A friend of mine, who’s a brother, said: “It’s your last chance to collect your parents’ love.”’ An inheritance may cause trouble, but not necessarily, if you to understand each other. Tannen: ‘Rivalry between sisters doesn’t undermine the connection. It arises from it and contributes to it.’ 

Unsteady relationship 

Are there times when you see a lot of your sister, and times when you don’t see her at all? That’s a common thing, according to Tannen. Many women she interviewed, told her how close they were at one point, and then didn’t talk to them for a whole year. This unsteadiness is typical for many sisters’ relationships. We feel strongly connected, yet sometimes the relationship agitates us and makes us long for some air – so we distance ourselves for a while. 


Sisters compare themselves to one another endlessly, in order to decide their position towards each other (and their place in the family). Many women either see their sister as their spitting image, or as the exact opposite. Even if there are several sisters, the difference among them are enlarged – and exaggerated. Or there are several ‘groups’: sister 1 and 2 are said to be introverts, sister 3 and 4 said to be extroverts. This is while, Tannen says, the outside world often sees lots of similarities among all four. 

You Were Always Mom’s Favorite! Sisters In Conversation Throughout Their Lives. Deborah Tannen, Random House. 

Text: Dorien Vrieling - Photo: Daiga Ellaby


Having trouble making decisions? This is how you make it easier

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There's a choice you have to make: for a house, a new job, or perhaps a partner. You just can’t decide, because you keep thinking: what if I come across a better option tomorrow? This phenomenon has a name: FOBO, fear of better options. It causes restlessness – but the good news is: you can make it stop. 

It’s a bit like you’re in an old fashioned TV quiz, standing before a conveyor belt. On the belt, several beautiful prizes pass by, but you only see each of them once: as soon as you’ve picked a prize, you can’t change your mind. When do you take your pick? Do you choose the washing machine, or do you wait for the wash-and-dry combination? 

FOBO comes from the desire to make the perfect choice (and the fear of making the wrong one and regretting it). It’s a logical aim, but indecisiveness causes a feeling of restlessness – or paralysis. You’d wish you could finally get it over with and take a decision. But how to do that?

Focus on your feelings

If you’re the kind of person who just keeps making lists of pros and cons, try to focus more on what you feel. After all, choices aren’t all about science, you can’t calculate every little thing. The choice that will make you the happiest, is an emotional one for the biggest part. Did you know, by the way, that your dreams can also help you to make choices? 

Think of your best choices

Which choices of your life made you really happy? They can be big or little ones (for instance, those earrings you bought because you were really in love with them, even though they were too expensive). Were they rational choices, or impulsive ones? Did you think long and hard, or did you simply decide? Analyzing your choices will help you to find out what’s the best way for you to make a choice. 

Pick a good choice - not a 'perfect' one

Perfection doesn’t exist. And the more you focus on it, the harder it is to know how you actually feel about a choice. Try to focus on options that are ‘just fine’. Even if another option emerges later on, you know that your choice was a good one too – based on the information you had at the time. 

Let the universe decide

If you just keep thinking about two options, let the universe decide. Throw a coin, or learn from the person who made up the word FOBO: name the one half of the clock ‘option A’ and the other half ‘option B’, then look at the clock (or your watch) and see: what’s the current location of the big arrow of the clock? That location tells you what your choice should be. (There’s a chance you don’t like this outcome. Then there’s your answer: you should pick the other option). 

Welcome ‘mistakes’ 

Avoiding mistakes is impossible, and worthless: after all, you learn the most from your mistakes. So welcome failure, because it helps you to get to know yourself. Next time, it’ll be easier to know what the best choice is.   

Photo: Chungkuk Bae


How do you know you're ready for a new relationship? Four significant signs

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After a breakup, some people don’t need more than a couple of weeks to get ready for love. Others don’t feel like it at all for at least a year. But, if there’s no time schedule, how do you know you’re ready? 

Perhaps you’ve had an experience like this: your relationship had been over for a while now, and people were starting to ask ‘isn’t it time?’ Why not, you thought. You hooked up with someone a couple of times, it was nice, but after a few dates you knew: I’m just not ready yet, I’m still thinking about my ex. It was too early for you. 

You’re not looking for someone to fill a void 

Of course, it’s perfectly normal to miss having someone around to share your life with. But if you’re looking for a relationship because your life feels ‘empty’, you’re focusing too much on love. No matter how beautiful a relationship can be, a relationship can never bring fulfillment. It’s a valuable extra. 

You know what you’re looking for 

There’s nothing wrong with dating shortly after you broke up, but quickly getting in a new relationship can be too much. Especially if you don’t really know what you’re looking for. Is it someone who’s calm and thoughtful, or a lively person? Do you want to live together, do you want to have kids? Which elements in your past relationship were valuable to you, which one weren’t? The more you know about what you’re looking for, the higher the odds that you’ll find the right person for you. 

Your past relationship is really over 

Being friends with your ex is possible, especially if you guys broke up in a respectful manner. But pay close attention to your feelings: is it really friendship you’re looking for, or are you hoping to get together again? You can’t really be open to a new relationship unless you know you don’t want them back. 

You’re ready to share your life 

It may sound like an open door: of course you need to be willing to share your life with someone if you want to have a new relationship. But think about everything it entails: are you ready to share your history, your body, your home, and after a while your family and friends, to a new person? And are you open to all these things in this other person? The more ready you are, the better the start of this new love.   

Text: Dorien Vrieling - Photo: Julian Howard

Do you feel like you're not good enough? These are the 6 ingredients of self esteem

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Being confident in every situation, who wouldn’t want that? Living without insecurities sounds great. But how do you do that?

Self confidence is a bit like calcium. A lack of calcium isn’t deadly, but after a while it does weaken your body. If you could use an extra dose of power, Nathaniel Branden’s six pillars of self esteem might give you the right boost.

In his book, ‘The six pillars of self esteem’, Nathaniel Branden (AKA the originator of the self esteem movement) explains what he thinks are the most important elements that help you to strengthen your self esteem.

1.  Practice living in the moment

Improve the things you are able to change, and learn to accept the things you can’t. Live in the moment, without wishing you were somewhere else. If you focus completely on what you’re doing, you add meaning to your life.

2.  Practice self acceptation

Self acceptation means self improvement. Everyone has their good and less wonderful features, but if you keep comparing yourself to others who are better at the things you’re not so great at, you keep losing – all the time. There’s always someone who’s better at something than you are. But if you accept who you are, and if you’re willing to look your lesser qualities in the eye, you can make choices based on who you are – not who you would want to be.

3.  Practice responsibility

If you have a bad condition and eat unhealthy food, it affects how you feel. You get tired more easily, are less able to focus and you develop all kinds of afflictions. Is treating the symptoms the best solution? Or is it wiser to do something about the underlying problem?

4.  Practice assertiveness

If it’s your goal to be nice to people all the time, they will take advantage of you.

5.  Practice living with a purpose

Dreaming big is fine, but how do you reach the goal of your fantasy? Most of us have goals we would like to reach. But we tend to forget that we need to act in order to make them happen.

For instance, if you want to write a life changing book, how do you make sure you publish it in the end? Do you keep waiting fot The Big Idea? Or should you keep practicing in the meantime, and increasing the skills you need to make your dream come true?

6.  Practice integrity

When it comes to having self esteem, it’s all about learning how to listen to the voice in your own head. That’s not because you have to live according to the rules others impose on you, but because you want to live according to the rules you impose on yourself. Do you walk your talk? Do you lie to yourself and others, or do you do your best to speak the truth – even if a little white lie is much easier?

This is the most difficult pillar of all, but if you follow your own integrity, you’ll find you become much happier and more self confident.  

Photo: Autumn Goodman


What does your name say about you? Calculate your name number and find out

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Numerology is applicable to lots of things. You can even find out the meaning of your name: your name number offers insight in your personality. What’s the meaning of your name? 

Calculate your name number 

You calculate your name number for your entire name (first and last name). Calculate your name with and without your baptismal names (if you have any) and compare the meanings. In this table, you can find the figures that are connected to the letters in the alphabet. 

1 A J S
2 B K T
3 C L U
4 D M V
5 E N W
6 F O X
7 G P Y
8 H Q Z
9 I R

Write down the figures under the letters of your name and then add up. Keep counting the separate figures of this number, until you only have one. Unless you get 11, 22 or 33 as an answer: these are the master numbers, that represent a special life mission. 

Joyce van der Heijden
16735 415  459  8591455 = 87 (8+7) = 15 (1+5) = 6

Hidden features 

Do you want to know what your name tells you about your personality and self image? Then add up the vowels in your name. Do you want to know the impression you make on others? Only add up the consonants. And your hidden talent? To find out what that is, you add up the figures from the first letters of your first- and last name. 

Example vowels Joyce van der Heijden: 
65 1 5 5915 = 37 (3+7) = 1

Example consonants Joyce van der Heijden: 
173 45 49 845 = 50 (5+0) = 5

Example first letter of first and last name Joyce van der Heijden: 
1 8 = 9

The meaning of the figures 

Calculated all the name numbers? Find out what they mean. 

1 = Leader 

Ones are individualists. Brave people with lots of energy. They are sincere, lively, creative and persistent. Ones like to be in control, are often dominant and rarely take other people’s advice. 

2 = Helper 

Sensitive and intuitive, that’s what the two is. Twos are always ready to help people, they are loving, observing and diplomatic. They long for acknowledgement, and that’s how they sometimes lose sight of their own interests. 

3 = Romantic 

Threes are dreamers. Sensitive, empathetic people. They are communicative and experience life intensely. That sometimes makes them dramatic and moody. Three is nostalgic, holds on to the past and dreams of a beautiful future. 

4 = Disciplined 

Fours work hard. They’re serious and funny at the same time. People with name number four are disciplined, persistent, trustworthy, critical, perfectionists and sometimes very strict. 

5 = Hedonist 

Adventurers, innovative people. Fives are enthusiastic and care deeply about their freedom. They are optimistic, charismatic, sometimes restless people. For fives, it’s really important to learn that life can’t always be fun. Executing their numerous plans is important tot hem. 

6. Harmonious one 

Sixes are warm and loyal people. They are family persons, who strive for peace and harmony. They love esthetic things and being spoiled. The downside of this positive attitude is doubt, indecisiveness and jealousy.

7 = Philosopher

Intellectual and philosophical. The seven is a thinker. They are observing, analytical, mystical people with a sharp ability to observe. They can come across as distant, and are often soloists. 

8 = Successful 

Eight represents ambition, driven by a strong inner power. They are successful, dynamic and straightforward. An eight is a true workaholic, who tends to put their feelings aside if that makes things easier. 

9 = Giver 

Nines are versatile, open minded and peace loving. They are endlessly patient and focused on harmony and unconditional giving. They have to be aware of stubbornness and indecisiveness, because that can cause them to peter out. 

11 = Visionary 

Inspirator with a strong intuition and a spiritual mission. Elevens are often idealists and can truly touch others. They are excentric people, who tend to be unpractical. 

22 = Analytic 

Twenty-two looks at life, and the many projects they start, from a helicopter view. With their strong mind power, they are able to manage and motivate. They are efficient and good at analyzing, but pressure can make them scared or even desperate. 

33 = Healer 

Enlightened people with an ability to heal. Oftentimes, thirty three leads a tumultuous life. They really sense things and give them a spiritual meaning. Their pitfall? Acting like a victim. To avoid it, they have to really embrace life.  

Text: Fabienne Peters - Photo: Allef Vinicius

How to handle high temperatures - especially when you're highly sensitive

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Hot weather? For highly sensitive people, the summer heat can bring extra intense stimuli. The sunrays and high temperatures are intense triggers for them, that can lead to fatigue and other physical complaints. 

High sensitivity is often related to perfectionism, empathy and the tendency to get over stimulated. Highly sensitive people experience the world, with all its stimuli and triggers, more intensely than people who are not highly sensitive. On the one hand, this involves advantages. As a highly sensitive person (HSP), you connect to nature more, you’re more sensitive to other people’s feelings, you feel genuinely responsible and always strive for harmony. 

But leading an intense, sensitive life has its downsides, too. Especially if you’re not sure how to handle it. The huge antennas of a HSP make them vulnerable, they lose their balance more easily and when they get overstimulated, they can get angry or sad or react with panic. 

Besides, the stimuli don’t just come from other people’s behavior, but also from natural circumstances – like the weather. A heatwave, for instance, brings extra intensity for HSP’s. 

Set boundaries, drink water 

Femke de Grijs, HSP expert, explains how it works. ‘A highly sensitive person may enjoy stimuli like heat and sunrays more intensely, but they may also suffer more from it. Skin disorders, headaches, nausea, trouble concentrating or fainting. It depends on the person, though, we’re all different.’ 

If a highly sensitive person has physical, emotional and/or mental problems, an overdose of sunlight or heat may be the cause. Setting boundaries is very important regarding heat and sunlight. 

But: ‘For some highly sensitive people, that’s hard. They feel guilty when they say no, or they take it personally when someone is affected by their boundaries. For instance, some HSP’s don’t want other people to be disappointed, because they’ll feel disappointed themselves, too.’ 

Focus on your energy

‘In that case, it’s very important for a HSP to learn how to control their sensitivity and focus on themselves and their own energy,’ Femke advises. ‘That makes it easier to set your boundaries without feeling guilty, and leave other people’s problems at their plates.’ 

A good way to stay connected to your own feelings, is by being honest about what’s going on inside your mind and what you wish for. ‘For instance, say: “I’m having a hard time handling the heat, so I would like to go grocery shopping at night, when it’s colder.’ 

Highly sensitive persons tend to drink too little water. On hot days, we should drink at least two liters of water (at an ambient temperature) to hydrate the body. Femke: ‘The most important tip is to take good care of yourself. There’s no golden rule, every HSP is unique. The key for person A isn’t necessarily the key for person B. Taking good care of yourself is, especially as a HSP, always job number one.’ 

Text: Eline Hoffman - Photo: Bruno van der Kraan


We can't explain everything with our rational minds - and that's a good thing

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The only book about God that’s completely true, is a book with empty pages. After all, divinity surpasses our limited human imagination. 

If you focus on defining the divine, you will be fixated on the definition itself – and lose sight of the magnitude and depth of the thing you’re trying to define. It’s like trying to put the clouds in a box: sure, you’ll grab some air, but if you keep focusing on what’s in the box and stop looking at the ever changing clouds up there, you’ll miss more than you’ve got. And if you try to convince others that the cloud in your box is the only real cloud, you’ll move even further away from the truth. 

Let mystery be mystery

It would be wise of us if we just let mystery be mystery. If we would resist the tendency to look for theories and explanations and stop trying to understand, capture, describe. There are no formulas, no guarantees, no diplomas. Francis of Assisi, one of my favorite mystics, supposedly once asked an almond tree if he wanted to speak about God. The almond tree started blossoming. 

Experience the Higher

Divinity can’t be put into words. But we have our breath, our minds, our beating hearts and our soul driving us. We have two hands to grab the moment that the Higher makes us experience. We have two eyes to absorb everything the invisible has produced and to admire it. We have the silence in ourselves that connects to the incomprehensible and that puts a smile on our faces. 

The closest to the truth of the divine we can get, is when we let go of all ideas, and pave the way to a true experience. 

Text: Susan - Photo: Natalia Figueredo