Happinez

POSITIVE, WISE & LOVING LIFE

Soulful sexuality: why the power of sexuality is all about involving your heart

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Some people see sex as an obligation, while others treat it like a wild adventure. What lies between these two extremes? In the new issue of Happinez Magazine, Susan Smit explores the idea of sacred sexuality. 

Let’s talk about sex. For some people it’s their favorite subject, for others it’s a taboo or something to joke about. This is revealing, because sexuality is often either overrated or underrated. Sex is either a duty or a lifestyle. After many centuries of selfcontrol and demureness, with sex portrayed as suspect, dangerous and sinful, we’re now seeing the opposite: soulless sex depicted in the media, in advertising, in movies and in real life.

Deeper meaning

It seems as if people in love relationships as well as outside of them either go for the excitement of extremes or settle for a practiced exercise. There are people who try to block sex through rules or strict morals; and there are people who focus entirely on their sexuality, and indulge every sensory pleasure. Where is the deeper meaning? Where is the grace? Where is the middle ground? 

Involve your heart

The middle ground is the heart. The fathomless power of sexuality reveals itself when you find the courage to involve your heart. When sex is no more than an exercise, a compulsive embrace only intended to release tension, it may give temporary satisfaction, but it will never be uplifting. The true power of sexuality remains hidden that way. But when we show ourselves and surrender ourselves with more than just our bodies, sex becomes one of the most important ways for the soul to speak to us.

 Want to read more? In Happinez 16 – Find your sparkle, you can read the whole article ‘Soulful Sexuality’. You can buy it here.

Text: Susan Smit - Photo: Christiana Rivers

If your heart got broken - four things that will make you feel better

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If your heart is broken, all you probably want to do is stay in – hidden under a blanket, playing Sinead O’Connor’s ‘Nothing compares 2 u’ over and over again. There are things that will help you more, though. 

Heartbreak is one of the worst things in the world, and unfortunately there’s no magical pill that can solve it. There are no quick fixes, no standard protocols you can follow to make the nagging feeling disappear. If you could, you would stay under a blanket for the next couple of years. It seems impossible that you will ever be happy again (on your own or with another partner). 

The most painful thing about this is missing someone who used to play such an important part in your life. It seems like there’s a hole where they once were. A hole that can’t be filled easily, a hole that makes you feel cold. What to do now, how to handle the feeling? Here’s a few options.  

Welcome the feeling

One of the most important, yet most difficult things in times of heartbreak is simply acknowledging and accepting your feelings. Don’t push loneliness or sadness away, but feel them (and express yourself). Call someone you trust to talk about it, yell or scream. Everything beats running away from it and drinking, eating or smoking too much. 

Pick up your life, but don’t overdo it

No matter how much you want to stay in, don’t. It’s unlikely to make you feel better. Just go to work and meet friends, but don’t push yourself into biting off more than you can chew. Distraction is fine, but too much of it means walking away from your feelings. 

Do things that require a mental or physical effort

Scrolling through Instagram endlessly or hanging on the couch isn’t the best thing you can do right now. Pick activities that require a mental or physical effort. It doesn’t matter what – from reading books to making a puzzle to exercising to taking a yoga class or going for a walk. Whatever you pick, make sure it’s an activity you actually enjoy. It makes it easier to turn off the ‘I miss them’ thoughts, because your brain needs the focus for other things. At the same time, it’s a reminder that you can enjoy things without them. 

Challenge yourself by learning to do new things 

Is there something you’ve been wanting to do for months, but didn’t have the guts to do? This is the time to take action. Don’t have a plan? It’s still a good idea to take up something new. Buy new clothes or paint a wall in your home. Introducing new things in your life will bring renewed energy. It will make you see that life is still worthwhile. 

 Text: Joanne Wienen - Photo: Brooke Cagle

Put on your shoes and go: why running gives a mental boost

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Does the sunny spring weather get you in the mood for running? Go for it! Your mind will thank you for it: running gives a mental boost. 

We can’t repeat it often enough: exercise and sports is just as good for your mind as it is for your body. This goes for running too. Whether you go for a quick round, run for an hour or pick an interval training: running benefits your mental health. 

Journalist and runner Scott Douglas found out himself. In his book Running Is My Therapy, he tells all about the positive impact running has on a life filled with fear, gloomy thoughts and psychological problems. According to Douglas, there are a few rules to think of when you use running to give yourself a mental booth. They’re quite simple. 

It’s not all or nothing

You can give yourself quite a hard time if you decide you can’t feel satisfied before you’ve walked at least three miles. But think about it: isn’t fifteen minutes running more beneficial than fifteen minutes of hanging on the couch? 

Douglas’ point is: don’t let minutes, speed, miles or your heartrate distract you and just go. The first step is the most important one, the rest will follow. Tip: pick a flexible route that allows you to change plans half way. That’s how you prevent yourself from putting too much pressure on it. You can decide how far you want to go based on how you feel during the walk. Same goes for your speed. 

Go outside 

A treadmill may seem convenient, but running outside makes you feel so much better. Choose places where there is little traffic and where nature treats you on beautiful views. Running outside isn’t for everybody, but even if you live in the city central, there are possibilities. 

Decide when to go 

Having a fixed rhythm is an important step if you’re not feeling great. For many people, taking a walk in the morning works well. It doesn’t just give your day a fresh start, but it also boosts productivity. Running at night, to let go of built up tension, can also be very pleasant. You decide what works for you.  

However, it’s wise to pick a fixed moment. That way, you’ll know when to put on your running shoes. 

Together or by yourself? Whatever you feel like 

Some people have a running buddy who motivates them to get off the couch (and the other way around). It can be very successful, especially if you guys have a similar speed and level of energy. However, sometimes it’s a good idea to go out on your own, for instance if you don’t want to decide how far you want to go before you leave. After a busy day, it can be great to find the peace and calm you need – on your own. 

So let your running session depend on what you feel like and what you need. No matter how quick, slow, long, short, early or late you run: you are running, that’s what counts. 

Text: Eline Hoffman - Photo: Bruno Nascimento

 

 

We grow by losing - and other wise lessons of the Dalai Lama

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The Dalai Lama, spiritual leader to the Tibetans, spreads Buddhist values all over the world. Discover the first nine of his eighteen rules. 

1 Love and success come with risk

The first of the Dalai Lama’s rules is a warning. It doesn’t mean you should avoid love and success, but it encourages you to be realistic about it. Don’t romanticize what you don’t have, but make sure you’re ready when it crosses your path. It will probably bring sorrow, too (like loss, or the fear of loss). 

2 If you lose, don’t lose the lesson 

Losing is more important to personal growth than winning, no matter what it’s about. Don’t let your head down when you lose, and try to discover what the experience may bring: skills, for instance, or knowledge about how you react to the fact that you’ve lost. Do you blame yourself for losing? Why is that? Ask yourself questions and gain knowledge about who you are. 

3 Live with respect to yourself and others and take responsibility for your actions 

This rule may seem obvious, but it isn’t. Think about it: do you really respect yourself? Do you respect how you look, your thoughts, emotions, actions, the way you live your life? As long as you don’t fully respect yourself, you can’t really respect others, nor can you take responsibility for your actions. No matter how hard you try. In others, you see a blow-up of the things about you that you’re not embracing. 

4 Not getting what you want is a powerful life lesson 

You put your mind to something: enrolling in an education, getting a new job, getting pregnant, a new home. And then it doesn’t happen. It hurts, because your desire for this new step has become a part of your life. You’ve made room for it in your mind and your heart, and the fact you’re not getting what you want, means you need to mourn. It’s about letting go something you don’t want to let go. That’s when you know more than ever whether this is really what you want, and why you want it so badly. The more reason to work even harder for it – or not? 

5 Know the rules and bend them

Going against the rules is easy. Breaking them in a careful way is something else. The Dalai Lama doesn’t mean you should do things secretly. He means: rules are there for a reason, so if you break them, do it carefully, take responsibility and don’t cause others damage. 

6 Don’t let small things damage an important friendship 

Having a fight with your best friend? You know each other through and through, go through changes together, but you don’t always follow each other. You’re a mirror to them and they’re a mirror to you. That’s not always pleasant. Think about why you’re feeling hurt or why you don’t understand, and consider how much this connection is worth to you. Don’t be too proud to take the first step to an open, respectful conversation. 

7 Once you realize you’ve made a mistake, make it right

Making mistakes is important, just like losing. It brings so many lessons, at least, if you realize you’re making a mistake and allow yourself to admit it and make it right. Sometimes you realize yourself, sometimes others tell you. Don’t be afraid to admit you were wrong – it’s the most powerful and sincere thing you can do. 

8 Spend time alone daily

Reading, going for a walk, meditating, making music, shopping, being in the sun, visiting a museum or the market: enjoy your time alone. Being busy all the time is not a status symbol. What’s interesting about you is not your agenda or your network, it’s who you are. Being on your own can be both wonderful and painful. On the one hand you experience peace and quiet, on the other hand your inner critic takes its chance to scold you. However, you’ll find that the more time you consciously spend alone, the kinder the critic becomes.

9 Embrace change, but remember your values 

This is a very essential rule, especially in a time when everything is possible and every day may change your life. We all have our own philosophies and opinions, and we can share them whenever we want. Be open to new insight, be curious, but be true to yourself. 

Text: Fabienne Peters - Photo Nichole Tumbaga

Painful emotions: this is how you welcome them (because it will make them leave much sooner)

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We all have our ways of muffling painful emotions. Some of us try to find distraction (in company, endlessly watching tv shows, comfort food), others use positive thinking to turn pain into something beautiful, or simply deny them. Do you tend to avoid emotional pain? Then Susan Smit wants to tell you something. 

Long ago, we created a toolbox that could help us overcome anything that could happen to us. If we want to, we can keep using the tools for the rest of our lives. That costs a lot of energy, though, and we won’t pick up on what the emotions want to tell us. Besides, we store them somewhere in our body anyway – they don’t disappear. We survive, but we don’t solve anything. 

Humility

I suggest something else. I suggest to simply feel, experience emotions. To undergo them and allow them to find their way through you. There’s a beautiful word for it: humility. 

Emotions are visitors

If you move towards difficult emotions and stop fighting them as if they’re enemies, you’ll find that you can take them. It’s not necessarily pleasant, you’d rather hang in a bar having a laugh, but you’ll find that it’s possible to keep breathing. You’ll also find that even the most intense emotions will leave you again, sooner or later. They are visitors, they’re not coming to stay. And you know they’ll leave more quickly if you welcome them generously and bravely and say goodbye with relief. You are big and strong enough to accept them as part of you, and as part of life, without fearing they will crush you. 

Part of life

This will be so useful to you. Because in your life, you will experience so many heavy emotional reactions to things, especially after a short night’s sleep, when you’re having a bad day or simply a terrible mood. Even when you’re 84. These emotions will keep coming and the causes for the emotions, too. It doesn’t make you a bad, weak or less spiritual person. It’s part of being alive. 

If you’re having a painful emotion, this is what you can do: 

* Feel how the emotion takes you by surprise. That’s all. Experience how your body responds to it (knot in your belly, pressure on the heart, clasping around the neck). 
* Don’t act, don’t express it, don’t put it away.
* Don’t attach any value to your thoughts, and don’t pay attention to what you’re thinking about the emotion, or about what causes it.
* Allow the emotion to be there and co-exist with it.
* Breathe through it. Follow your breathing and make it deep and calm.
* Observe what happens. Is the emotion getting more powerful, or less powerful? Do you feel calmer now?
* If you want to, express yourself or act, from this quiet place. 

How it works

This is how it works: something evokes an emotion inside you. Your body responds to it (and to the thoughts that come along with it) and does what it needs to do: it gets in a flight-, fight- or freeze mode. By deepening your breathing and slowing down, you give a signal to your body: it’s okay. There’s nothing life threatening about this. A deep belly breath is part of a relaxed situation. As a result, the physical reaction to your emotion will decrease. Then the emotion itself will decrease, in a natural way. Emotions want to move through you, come and go, they don’t want to stick with you. 

 Text: Susan Smit - Photo: Amy Treasure

Brittle or rough nails? This is what they tell you about your health

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Shiny hair and glowing skin are not just beautiful features, they also tell us something about how we’re feeling inside. The same goes for nails. 

Would you like your nails to be a little stronger, more shiny or more pink? If they don’t look as beautiful as they have before, this may say something about your health. For instance, pay attention to: 

1 The texture 

Healthy nails have a strong, smooth surface. Do you notice strange little dents in your nails? They may be linked to psoriasis, a chronical skin condition that comes with itchiness. For some people who suffer from this condition, the first sign is a change in the nails. 

Deep, horizontal ridges or grooves in the nails are sometimes called ‘lines of Beau’. They are caused by a little wound or other damage on your cuticles. Usually, the ridges disappear naturally. But horizontal ridges may also have an underlying physical cause such as syphilis, a metabolic disease or diabetes. And some people get ridges after chemo or the use of certain medication. 

Vertical ridges are nothing to worry about. Your nails are mostly made out of keratine. This is a protein that hair and skin are also made of. As we get older, most of us have dryer skin that feels less soft and our hair gets dryer. This is simply because of a decrease of keratine. In the nails, this decrease shows in innocent vertical ridges. 

2 The colour 

If you suddenly notice blue or black discoloration in your nails, it’s best to head to the doctor. Possibly, there’s nothing wrong – you may have hurt yourself without noticing – but the discoloration *may* be caused by a melanoma. It’s always wise to see the doctor, just to be certain. 

Yellow nails usually occur because of the products you use, such as nailpolish or remover. Always allow your nails to ‘breathe’ in between manicures and nourish them extra well, for instance with some tea tree oil or vitamin E oil.  If you don’t use any products, yellow nails may be caused by a yeast infection. 

White spots on your nails? They are usually nothing to worry about. They appear after bumping your nails into something, and disappear automatically. If you always have white spots on your nails, without knowing where they came from, it might be a good idea to see a doctor. It could be a signal of a lack of vitamin, calcium or zinc. 

3 Strength 

If your nails break or flake easily, this may be due to anemia or problems with the thyroid gland. Splitting nails may be a sign of a lack of hypoferremia. 

Soft, thin and bendable nails can usually be strengthened by giving your nails some rest and not using nailpolish for a while and using products that help to restore your nails. 

Text: Sanne Eva Dijkstra - Photo: Daiga Ellaby

 

Being vulnerable takes guts - do you have the courage?

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Thanks to author and vulnerability ambassador Brené Brown, we know vulnerability can enrich our lives. But what does it really mean to be vulnerable? 

In the last couple of years, a lot of attention has been drawn to the concept vulnerability. The word used to be linked to weakness and shame, but Brené Brown changed all that. According to her, vulnerability wasn’t something that should be avoided. On the contrary: it was something to aim for. Vulnerability, Brown said, can enrich your life. 

No more shame 

The radical notion that it’s okay – or even desirable – to be vulnerable, was hopeful for many people. For too long, we had been listening to our inner critic telling us we should be ashamed after being vulnerable. That’s while shame is the biggest obstacle when it comes to connecting to people. It stops us from telling things, sometimes even from feeling things.

 What is vulnerability? 

 Brown’s message was clear: no more shame, let’s make room for vulnerability. But what is vulnerability? Many people think they’re vulnerable, but they’re not. Telling people all about your problems may seem vulnerable, but it can be a distraction from what it’s really about. It’s talking about vulnerable, instead of actually being vulnerable. Telling someone about the sadness you felt when you’re already feeling better, seems vulnerable, but true vulnerability means reaching out to someone while you’re actually still feeling it. And that’s not easy. 

Hard work 

Vulnerability isn’t easy. It’s simple to hear Brown’s message and accept it, without really walking the talk. Theoretically, you totally agree with her, but it’s hard to actually practice it. Especially if you’ve taught yourself not to be vulnerable for years. Vulnerability is hard work. It means pushing yourself to reach out every day. To choose to show both your beautiful and your ugly features. To accept being imperfect and making mistakes.  

Dare to take risks 

Vulnerability also means taking risks. It’s saying ‘I love you’ without knowing what the answer will be. It’s apologizing without knowing whether the other person will accept it, it’s admitting you’ve made a big mistake at work, even if you have no idea how your boss may respond. 

Four ways of being more vulnerable 

 * Don’t judge. Accept yourself the way you are. Speak in friendly, positive terms about and to yourself. 

* Allow all emotions to exist. Oppressing shame, fear or anger makes it difficult to open up to love and happiness, too. 

* Failure is an option. No person ever lived without making mistakes. Imperfection is beautiful. 

* Be daring. Dare to open up to others, to love, to take risks. Even (or especially) if there are no certainties. 

 Text: Joanne Wienen - Photo: Natalia Figueredo



 

 

Going through a rough patch? Perhaps you're grieving - not over someone, but something

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When we think about grieving, we usually think about what we feel after we’ve lost a loved one. But there are many situations in life that may evoke feelings of grief. 

1 Loss of identity 

Losing an important ‘role’ in life means losing part of your identity. You’re mourning the loss of a part of yourself. In some cases, it may feel like your identity was stolen – for instance, when you lost a breast due to breast cancer and your body has changed, when your partner broke up with you and you’re no longer ‘X’s girlfriend or boyfriend’ or after getting fired. Feelings of grief get even stronger because it feels like you’re not in control. But the same feelings may arise when you chose to leave part of your identity behind – by choosing another career or deciding to quit your marriage. It may feel like you don’t have the ‘right’ to grieve, because the change was your own choice. 

2 Loss of safety 

Normally, we trust a certain amount of safety in our existence. We feel safe in our own home, in our own society and in our relationship. When suddenly you don’t feel safe anymore – physically, emotionally or mentally – for instance after a burglary or after abuse, your whole world may feel unsafe. It makes one very alert, even if there’s no danger anymore. In very serious cases, you may even suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSS). Losing sense of safety means learning how to handle trauma, and also mourning this lost sense of safety.  

3 Loss of autonomy 

Loss of autonomy happens, for instance, when illness or old age limits your abilities, or when financial problems make you dependent on other people’s help. Especially when it’s illness or old age, you feel the loss of autonomy in almost every part of your daily life. Things that were once self-evident, like going to the supermarket, getting a shower or getting dressed, are suddenly not so self-evident anymore. And if you’re having trouble making ends meet, you may feel like you’re failing and you may despair. You’re not just grieving because of your lack of autonomy; you also need to reshape your self-image.  

4 Loss of dreams or expectations 

If your desire to have children doesn’t result in becoming a parent, if you’ve studied hard for years but can’t find a job, or if your career isn’t what you expected of it, you need to change your expectations of the future. Life may turn out differently from what you hoped, and it’s not always fair. Grieving over the loss of dreams? A sense of failure may add to it, just like comparisons (continuously comparing yourself to others). 

You’re allowed to grieve 

When we think about mourning, we think about death. That’s why we feel like we’re only allowed to grieve when someone we love has passed away. However, we’re allowed to grieve the loss of other things, too: identity, safety, autonomy or dreams. Accept your feelings of anger, sadness and denial. And, just as importantly, allow other people to feel them, too. Grieving helps to get through a difficult part of life, no matter what we’re grieving about. 

 Text: Sanne Eva Dijkstra - Photo: Kinga Cichewicz

What if there's nothing wrong with you?

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Impulsive, messy, moody, a perfectionist, overly ambitious, lazy, naïve, distrustful… On a scale from 0 to 10: how easy do you find it to name all the things that are wrong with you? It probably takes you just a couple of minutes. 

Susan Henkels has been working as a psychotherapist for 45 years. Year after year, she heard people telling her about all the aspects of their personalities that really needed to be fixed. When one day she was listening to another patient summing up what was wrong with them, she suddenly thought: ‘There’s nothing wrong with her at all.’ Henkels realized how powerful it would be to let people ask themselves: ‘What if there’s nothing wrong with me at all?’

Now, she doesn’t mean we’re all perfect. Sure, most of us could improve their diet a little, or exercise a bit more. But Henkels’ mantra means we can finally stop worrying about all our shortcomings. Imagine how much better our lives would be if we didn’t constantly doubt and criticize ourselves. ‘We create a list of things that are wrong about us, and create an entire life around it,’ Henkels says. 

Nothing wrong with you 

The properties we see as ‘problematic’ or ‘wrong’, can be our strong suit, Henkels thinks. In her TED talk, she remembers the time she talked to a movie director. When Henkels told him she was working on a book titled What If There Is Nothing Wrong With You?, she said he could easily sum up eight things about him that needed improvement. 

Henkels asked him to name one, and the man said he suffered from ODD (oppositional defiant disorder). ‘What’s wrong with that?’ Henkels asked him. He answered: ‘I always opposed my parents and teachers.’ Henkels asked again: ‘What’s wrong with that?’ The director: ‘I didn’t stick to the rules in school, and didn’t do what I had to do at home.’ Again, Henkels asked the question. ‘I always had a bad temper, constantly fought my parents, didn’t have any friends and preferred to be alone,’ the man said. 

Problems or chances? 

Henkels kept repeating her question, until finally the director answered how he loved being on his own, because it allowed him to think up stories and filmscripts. ‘Thinking about it now, I think the ODD made me into the person I am today,’ he said. 

The next day, the man told Henkels he had had a good night sleep for the first time in years. He was free from self-doubt and worries about what he should or shouldn’t do. His next step? Examine the other 7 attributes he labeled ‘bad’. 

Acceptance

The question ‘What if there’s nothing wrong with you?’ is about developing acceptance. If you get better at accepting things, it may reduce stress and worries in (and about) your life. It’s not a magical question, asking yourself doesn’t instantly make your life perfect. However, it allows you shut up your inner critic – that nagging, judgmental voice that keeps blabbering all the time – and let go of all the things you judged about yourself. It helps to create a place of peace and quiet in your busy, chaotic life and thoughts. That’s a place where new promises and possibilities emerge. 

Text: Sanne Eva Dijkstra - Photo: Eye for Ebony

If someone you love is grieving: 7 ways to help them

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If someone you love is having a hard time, you want to help them. But how to do that? 

Being there for someone sounds easier than it is. If they’ve lost a loved one, if their heart is broken or if they have received other bad news, you might feel powerless. You want to help, but you don’t know how. Do they even want your sympathy? 

Supporting or comforting people who are suffering can be difficult. This short guidebook may help you. 

Get in touch 

When this person isn’t in your closest circle, you may not be sure whether to send a message – will they appreciate it? It’s usually better to get in touch, than to remain silent. It’s an easy thing to do and it might mean a lot to the other person. 

Don’t make it too complicated 

You don’t need to be an expert in the area of grief or broken hearts. If you don’t know what to say, just tell them: ‘I don’t know what to tell you, but I’m thinking of you.’ The most important thing is to make them feel seen and supported, it’s not about giving them the perfect answer or advice.  

Just listen 

If you’re talking to the sad person, make sure you’re really listening. You might feel a bit awkward and you might be searching for answers or solutions, for important insight. But usually, a sad person just wants to be heard. Allow them to tell their story, or just be together – that’s more supportive than unsolicited advice. 

Ask questions 

Maybe you don’t want to ask too many questions about their grief. Because you’re scared of what they’re going to say, or because you don’t want to remind them of a painful thing. However, they are probably perfectly able to tell you what they do and don’t want to talk about. Ask questions: it shows that you’re interested. Let them tell you what needs to be told. And respect them if they don’t want to answer. 

Bring them food 

When someone’s in a crisis, they probably don’t feel like eating. By bringing them a healthy home-made meal, you’re really helping and you show you care.  

Ask what they need 

Are there certain domestic chores that need to be done? People or organizations you can call for them? Or would they like you to get some groceries? Your practical help will be appreciated, especially if this person has a family (after all, children require time, care and attention). Because most people find it difficult to ask for help, it’s best to offer help in a specific, concrete way. Like: ‘I can pick up the kids from school tomorrow and take them to the playground, so you can have some time to yourself.’

Keep checking in

Life goes on, and it usually does before someone has processed the grief. Don’t forget about them; get in touch even after weeks and months. That’s how you show you haven’t forgotten about their grief, and they won’t feel alone.  

Text: Joanne Wienen - Photo: Priscilla Du Preez

7 signs that you're a highly empathetic person

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Do you feel intensely for people, animals and nature around you? Do you pick up other people’s emotions, does watching the news get to you sometimes? Then you’re probably a highly empathetic person. Cherish this ability!

As an empathetic person, you strongly feel for others. You experience other people’s emotions, mental state and physical pain as if they were your own. That’s why empathetic persons tend to be labeled ‘too emotional’ or even ‘weak’, while in fact, they’re very powerful. They know exactly what other people need and, unless they lose themselves, what their own boundaries are. Besides, they don’t just experience grief and anger on a deep level – they also experience happiness, enthusiasm and love strongly. 

Not sure whether you’re an empathetic person? Test yourself! 

1 You experience other people’s emotions as if they’re your own

 You’re able to feel what someone else is feeling – whether they’re family or complete strangers. If your brother’s having a job interview today, your body feels tense. If someone in the supermarket is frustrated, you may feel frustrated too, even if you haven’t even talked to them. 

 2 Emotions like anger and frustration drain you 

 Negative emotions exhaust you, even when they’re other people’s emotions. You need more time to recharge and get over them. 

 3 You can lose yourself in a relationship 

Failing to set boundaries, allowing your partner to drag you along and losing your sense of self: these are the dangers of relationships for empathetic people. By completely surrendering yourself to someone else, at some point, you don’t know which emotions are yours and which are your partner’s. 

 4 The news can really get to you 

 Tears when you’re watching a movie, a lump in your stomach while watching disturbing news or being touched by an impressive photograph. Even if all these things don’t affect your life, they have quite an impact on your mood. 

5 You feel before you understand 

Even though you don’t know where this uncanny feeling or gloomy state of mind come from, you just sense that something’s going on. It might be in your own life, or with someone you care about. Your sensitivity is quicker than your ratio, so before you know anything about a situation, your senses have picked it up. 

 6 You’re generous – sometimes at your own expense 

 People can count on you. They like to tell you their stories. You have a lot to give and strongly sympathize with others. That’s a beautiful quality, but it has a downside: sometimes, your care for others at the expense of care for yourself. Be sure to have an eye for your own needs. 

 7 You feel deeply connected to the world around you 

 The connection you feel to nature, people and animals is special. Sometimes it’s even a bit mystical. There are days when a flower in bloom, an old lady’s smile at the bakery or the sound of an enthusiastic donkey can genuinely touch you. Little things like these open your heart even further for all the beauty in the world. 

Text: Eline Hoffman - Photo: Barbora Polednová

Can anyone be like Gandhi? These are the lessons he taught his grandson

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As a twelve-year-old boy, Arun Gandhi lived in his famous grandfather’s ashram. What he learned there, changed his life. His lessons are valuable to everyone. 

He guided millions of people and made them improve their fate – or others’: the Indian spiritual leader and politician Mahatma Gandhi. With his strife for equality and world peace, he became a legend. After he died – Mahatma Gandhi survived several attacks, but was killed eventually – his family guarded his legacy, with grandson Arun as his primary representative. 

The grandson is 85 years old now, but he still works hard for the good cause. Arun travels around the world, giving lectures on how to handle anger and violence more constructively, and how to live together in peace and with compassion. 

Grandfather Gandhi’s life lessons   

In his book, Arun describes the loving, disarming and touching way in which his grandfather taught him. Mahatma Gandhi was patient, respectful, witty and decisive. Arun shares the 11 most important life lessons he learned from his grandfather. For instance, he learned how he could use his anger for a good cause, and why it’s important to be alone now and then. Mahatma also taught him about the five pillars of non-violence: respect, understanding, acceptation, appreciation and empathy.

If it was up to Arun, his grandfather’s lessons would have been published long ago, but no publisher was ever interested in the book. Until now. He laughs: ‘All of a sudden, seventeen publishers lined up.’ 

Is world peace possible?

‘Yes, world peace is possible, if we know what peace truly means. The biggest problem may be materialism. Every country aims at becoming a materialist society. Some already are one, and have reached great prosperity. The other countries want that, too. But materialism and morality are mutually exclusive.’ 

What do we need to change that? 

‘We need to be the change we want to see in the world. A peaceful world cannot be created or forced upon people top-down. In order to change, we need to make individual differences – we don’t need big organizations or institutions. I want to make people more aware of this. Right now, cultural violence affects every aspect of our lives. 

Our relationships and friendships have become violent, our religion is violent, entertainment and sports are mainly about violence. In this state of cultural violent, we can’t create peace. We have to conclude that the current level of prosperity is sufficient. We don’t need more, we need to invest in our families, friendships, relationships with others. In living a good life, with love and compassion. 

In his book, Arun Gandhi describes how his grandfather even forgives the man who planned an attack on him. Remembering his grandfather, this is Arun’s most important memory: how Bapuji was loving and understanding towards everyone. The notion of ‘family’ was limitless to him. He loved all people equally, regardless of whether they were rich or poor, or what their religion was. 

Which lesson of your grandfather is the most important one to you? 

‘The lesson that we should use anger in an intelligent and constructive way. You can’t learn that in a couple months’ time. It takes lifelong practice, because every day there are new situations that evoke anger. If you transform it into constructive action, it’s like fuel to a car. 

Anger is a useful power, but you need to know how to use it the right way. In order to find solutions and handle injustice – which isn’t about being right. Anger and compassion are opposites. You can’t be compassionate and angry at the same time. Compassion is rooted in love, while unrestrained anger can lead to passive or even physical violence.’

How can we learn to be compassionate, even in the most difficult situations? Can anyone become a ‘Gandhi’?

‘The most important way to develop compassion, is by realizing you have a role in society. Most people live for themselves, or maybe for their family. I often hear people say: I am who I am. They mean: everyone should accept me with all my weaknesses, I’m not going to do something about it. With an attitude like that, you’re not living – merely existing. 

When I lived in the ashram, my grandfather made me promise I would use every day to try and be a better person than I was the day before. It’s our job in society to improve ourselves, on a social, emotional, economical level and as a parent. We have to be balanced civilians. People are emotional beings, we react to everything in life with fear, anger, frustration, love, happiness, etcetera. We can allow life to blow us in all directions, like a weather vane, or we can take responsibility and learn how to reinforce the good reactions and control the negative ones. Simply because our behavior is not just important to ourselves, but to society as a whole.’ 

If you could talk to your grandfather now, what would you want to discuss? 

‘I would ask him how we can make rich people and nations see that, if we want to cure the world of its ailments, their attitudes and compassion are crucial. If we stop abusing each other and start to join forces, the world will be a much more peaceful place.’  

Mahatma Gandhi’s lessons 

The years in Mahatma Gandhi’s ashram changed Arun Gandhi’s life. Some of his insights: 

* Use your anger for the better.
* Anger motivates you to meet challenges and make changes.
* Don’t be afraid to speak up. 
* A convinced ‘no’ is better than saying yes to please others.
* Enjoy silence and being on your own. You need it to put experiences into perspective.
* Know your worth.
* Who you are and what you do, is worth just as much as what anyone else does.
* Lies are burdens.
* If you lie to others, you’re lying to yourself too, because you’re justifying your own behavior. 
* Waste is violence. It’s indifference towards the world and nature.
* Don’t chastice your children.
* Non-violent parenthood sets the right example for your children. 

Arun Gandhi, The Gift of Anger – And Other Lessons From My Grandfather Mahatma Gandhi.Penguin Books, 2017. 

Text: Vivian de Gier [edited] - Photo: Frank McKenna

 

Need a mood booster? This playlist will cheer you up

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Put on a cheerful tune in the morning, and wake up by dancing, jumping around and stretching – together with the kids. Spin around, make up fun new dance moves. It’s good for body and mind and it’ll immediately activate you. 

The tidying dance and the dressing up song 

It’s fun to have everyone pick their favorite song. You can link an activity to it: this is the dressing up song! The tidying dance! With a nice tune, every chore is fun. Or, if it’s a quiet song, do some yoga. 

This playlist will cheer you up immediately, guaranteed - from ‘Can’t stop the feeling’ to ‘Uptown Funk’ and ‘Hakuna Matata’.



Photo by Quan Nguyen













A butterfly on the wall: how to make shadow animals with your hands

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All you need is a wall and a dimlit room - and both your hands. With these tools, you can have lots of fun making your favorite animals: from butterflies to deers, wolves, rabbits and spiders.

Telling stories before bedtime can be the highlight of the day. And shadow animals, the ones you make on the wall in a dimlit bedroom, can be great illustrations of the stories. This is how you make them:

Photo: Martin Reininger

Kindness goes a long way: 15 friendly gestures you can make today

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Violence against caregivers, cashiers being completely ignored… Sometimes it seems like friendliness is a rare thing. And that’s while it’s so easy. These friendly gestures will make both others and yourself feel good. 

1 Send a kind message to a friend 

 Just to let them know you’re thinking about them. 

 2 Leave a note at your colleague’s desk 

 Today, don’t use your sticky notes for the umpteenth chores you really need to do today, but write down a friendly note for a colleague and stick it to their desk or screen. 

 3 Keep the door open for someone

 It’s so simple. 

 4 Send a postcard

 Who said postcards are just for birthdays or other special occasions? It’s so much fun to find an old-fashioned postcard in the mailbox, especially when it’s completely unexpected. 

 5 Give a compliment

 Did your neighbor get a new haircut, or are you impressed with your colleague’s great presentation? Don’t keep it to yourself, tell them. 

 6 Offer a homeless person a sandwich or a cup of coffee

 7 Do a chore for your partner or roommate

 If your partner or roommate usually takes out the garbage or cleans the bathroom, but they’re really busy today (or they simply hate domestic chores), just take up the task for the day. 

 8 Let someone else go first at the register 

 9 Hide a little note in a library book 

Write down what struck you about the book, or simply say ‘have fun reading’. 

 10 Donate clothes or other stuff

 If you have a wardrobe filled with clothes you never wear, or it’s time to get rid of all the kitchen utensils you never use, there’s probably someone who’ll be really happy with them. Charities usually welcome them, too. 

 11 Tell someone you love how happy they make you 

 12 Greet a stranger passing you by in the street

 It may feel a little bit awkward at first, but if we make it into a habit to wish other people ‘goodmorning’ or ‘good afternoon’, the world will start looking a lot friendlier. 

 13 Get your colleagues coffee   

 Yup, even if it’s not your turn. 

 14 Give your mom a call 

 Or your dad, grandma, grandpa or aunt: just to ask them how they’re doing. 

 15 Be kind to yourself 

 It’s just as important as being nice to others. Today, don’t curse at yourself for not being perfect, but stand in front of the mirror and give yourself a compliment. Out loud! 

Text: Sanne Eva Dijkstra - Photo: Veronika Homchis  

33 questions for a good conversation with your partner

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Relationships are special. They wouldn’t have existed if two people hadn’t met. Lealyn Papaya realized that, no matter how much she talked to her partner or how well they knew each other, there would always be some distance. 

Suddenly, she was aware of how the questions they used to ask eachother, were mostly about ‘you and me’, while speaking about ‘us’ would be much more interesting. That’s why she made a questionnaire of 33 questions that show how you and your partner think about what connects you: your relationship. 

Some of the questions will make you happy, others will surprise you. Sometimes the answer might make you insecure, or bring up other emotions you didn’t expect. The point is, Lealyn stresses, that there are no right or wrong answers. The questions are about truth, and truth can be pleasant or unpleasant. 

As long as you’re able to truly listen and you don’t draw premature conclusions, and as long as you’re in a mature, open and honest relationship, this experience will only make your connection stronger. 

Ready? 

Plan a night together, light some candles and pour yourselves a nice drink. Make this conversation a special moment. A night you remember with a warm feeling, because it brought you closer together. 

Celebrate love!

1 Which things I do or say make you feel loved?

2 Which things I say or do don’t make you feel loved?

3 What was the first thing that attracted you to me?

4 Which things I do in bed do you like?

5 Do I touch you enough?

6 Do I compliment you enough?

7 How or when do I make you feel special? 

8 Are you interested in certain activities in bed you haven’t told me about yet?

9 What scares you the most, regarding our relationship? 

10 What do you like the most about our relationship?

11 How can I help you to keep your individuality?

12 What’s changed since the first impression you had of me?

13 Is there anything you feel I’m not 100% honest about? 

14 If you could change a part of your body, what would it be?

15 What’s the most painful thing I’ve ever said or done during our relationship? 

16 Tell me what you would want me to do when making love. 

17 What’s your favorite part of my body? And of my mind?

18 Name a habit of mine that annoys you. 

19 What distinguishes me from other people?

20 When we met, how long did you think we’d be together? And how long do you think we’ll be together now? 

21 How do you feel when we’re not together?

22 What do I contribute to your life?

23 What was the first thing that attracted me in you? 

24 What do you think when you see me talking to an attractive person of my orientation?

25 How can I support you?

26 Have you ever worried about me cheating on you?

27 Have you ever considered cheating on me?

28 When do you admire me the most?

29 Are you content with how I feel about you?

30 Do you think we spend too much time together, or too little? 

31 Is our relationship less exciting now than when we first met? How? 

32 What’s your biggest fear?

33 When do you feel like you’re in the prime of your life?

 Text: Eline Hoffman - Photo: Julian Howard

How to say goodbye to friendships the Marie Kondo way

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Do you know Marie Kondo, the Japanese tidying guru? According to Marie, the question we should ask when tidying is: ‘Does it spark joy?’ This question might be applicable to more things in life. If you’re not sure about your friendship, the Marie Kondo way can be helpful. 

You probably know them, too: people you once were really close to, but not so much anymore. If it happens in a love relationship -you’re growing apart-, it usually results in a breakup. Friendships, however, are not monogamous, so you don’t really need to ‘end it’. The relationship keeps muddling through and before you know it, you’ve collected several friendships that hardly offer you anything anymore. 

Andrea Bonior wrote the book The Friendship Fix and recommends people to really think about what you want and expect of your friends. Someone who’s a good listener, someone who makes lots of fun with you, someone who shares your hobby? In an ideal world, your best friend has it all and all your friends bring out the best in you. In reality, it’s different. Because someone is really emotionally dependent. Or because they bring up the nasty, gossiping side of you. The more time you spend together, the more difficult it is to be the best version of you. 

Sounds like you? Then it’s time to unfriend people using the Marie Kondo method. This is how. 

Don’t end it overnight

Which friendships make you happy? These are the ones you should hold onto. With regard to the other ones, it’s quite simple: if they bring out a negative side in you, it’s better to end it. This might sound a bit harsh, but when push comes to shove, both you and your friend benefit from honesty. 

You don’t have to ‘break up’ overnight. Just get in touch less often and see how it feels and what happens. The other person may have noticed the same as you, and they may be fine with more distance. They may also ask you what’s going on. If they do, it’s best to explain in a friendly way that your life is going in a different direction than it used to, Bonior advises. 

If your friend asks questions, don’t leave them hanging, but take the time to explain how you feel about the friendship. You don’t owe them to be their friend, but you do owe them a fair answer. 

Remaining friends within a group or not? 

For some people, big groups of friends work really well and they don’t really mind if a one on one friendship disintegrates: within the group as a whole, the connection can still be there. However, this is about your needs. If you feel that it’s time to let go of the friendship, there’s your decision. If it’s fine with you to see eachother every once in a while when there are other friends around, that’s OK, too. 

When it comes to friendships, it’s pretty much the same thing as tidying up. Some people are fine with a bit of chaos. No problem, according to Marie Kondo herself: ‘There’s nothing wrong with a chaotic house if that is what you want. However, I would advise to create a spot for every belonging, and to have some sort of overview. That’s how you make sure your aware of the situation and that’s the most important thing.’ It works the same with friendships. 

Text: Eline Hoffman - Photo: Kalisa Veer

Always saying sorry when there's no need? 5 ways to stop apologizing

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If you think about it, it’s like saying ‘excuse me for living’ - literally: if you tend to apologize for every little thing, you devaluate yourself. And there’s no need to.

Are you the type of person who says ‘sorry!’ when a stranger bumps into you in the street, even it’s their fault? Do you apologize in advance when you’re asking your colleague to help you with something perfectly normal? Maybe you even apologize for things that you can’t control at all. You’re not the only one. 

 Many people, especially women, apologize all the time – while there’s no need. Most of us learn at a young age that they need to say sorry when they did something wrong. Of course that’s useful. If something went wrong because of you, it’s a powerful thing to acknowledge what you did and apologize. But when you say sorry all the time, there’s something wrong. 

 Excuse me for living 

 If you keep apologizing, in fact you’re saying ‘excuse me for living’ – literally, not ironically. This may undermine your selfesteem. The difficult thing is that excessive apologizing usually comes from very nice qualities. If you’re very empathetic, you probably tend to say sorry because you want to take other people’s feelings into account. However, when doing so, you don’t take your own feelings into account. If you try to avoid conflict, apologizing may be your way to do so. But apologizing a lot can also come from a strict upbringing, or difficulties related to fear. 

5 ways of reducing your ‘sorry’s’

1 Count to ten and think about it: did you actually do or say anything you need to apologize for? If you can’t think of anything, don’t say sorry. 

 2 Do you find it hard to express your emotions? Don’t say sorry. Your feelings deserve space, you don’t need to apologize for them. Want to let people know you empathize with them? Instead of ‘sorry’, you can tell them: ‘I understand it may be difficult to hear this’ or ‘please let me know if it upsets you.’ 

 3 Write down ten things you often apologize for, like bumping into a stranger, or asking a friend to help you. Think of an alternative for every situation and practice with it. 

4 If you’re asking a question or need someone to clarify something, don’t feel like there’s anything wrong with that. Instead of ‘sorry, I don’t understand’, you might say ‘Perhaps you can help me by giving an example’ or ‘Could you tell me a little bit more about this?’

5 Turn excuses into gratitude. If you asked a friend to do a chore for you, don’t say ‘sorry I had to ask you’ but: ‘I’m thankful you did it for me.’ It’s more pleasant for the other person, and it helps you to focus on positive things. 

 Text: Joanne Wienen - Photo: Allef Vinicius

Emotional eater? This is how you change your relationship to food

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Do you tend to grab a chocolate bar or a bag of crisps if you’re feeling bad, because it has a nice numbing effect – ignoring what your body really needs? 

According to diet coach Eve Lahijani, who has been an emotional eater for a long time, we need to change our relationship to food. After years of emotional eating, she wanted to get rid of her obsession with (unhealthy) food. She took several courses to get ‘better’ and made it her mission to help others do the same. 

According to Eve, you can change your own relationship to food following these three simple steps: 

1 Reconnect to hunger 

It’s lunch time, you’re watching a movie, you’re happy, you’re sad, you don’t want to throw away any leftovers: there are lots and lots of reasons to eat. At the same time, we tend to repress our hunger. Because we’re angry, because no one else is eating, because it’s too early, because we’re busy – etcetera. Lahijani encourages you to eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. Duh, you’re thinking? Sure, it sounds obvious. But you probably find yourself regularly eating things when you’re not really hungry.

To prevent yourself from doing that, you can rate your hunger or the extent to which you’re full. 0 means you’re starving, 10 means you’re stuffed. Eat something when you start feeling hungry – say, a 3 or 4. Stop eating when you’re full, but not too full – like a 6 or 7. Lahijani says you shouldn’t wait until you’re very hungry, because that’s when you tend to make unhealthy choices. Besides, if you’re a little bit hungry, you eat more slowly, you don’t tend to eat too much and you enjoy the food more. You eat more mindfully. 

2 Feed your body with what it’s craving 

If you’re dieting, you’re only feeding your body with nutritions that are ‘approved’. If you feel like snacking, you go for food that’s prohibited. If you want to change your relationship to food, you need to break this pattern. Lahijani says that’s only possible by feeding your body with the food it’s really craving. 

She discovered that most of the time, her body wasn’t craving junkfood. When she stopped feeling guilty about eating, and didn’t think about what was ‘approved’ or ‘forbidden’, she discovered she preferred nutritious foods like fruit and vegetables. 

3 Don’t use food as a reward or punishment 

If you’re good, you get candy. If you don’t finish your meal, you can’t have dessert. Many of us learned at a very young age that food serves as punishment or reward. There’s nothing wrong with having cake to celebrate, but you might want to study your association with food. A birthday with healthy snacks isn’t necessarily less fun, going to see a movie is very well possible without an XL popcorn and a big coke. 

Why self-compassion makes it easier to lose weight

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

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

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

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

[…]

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

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

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

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

Text: Lisette Thooft - Photo: Jared Weiss