5 tips for a happy and balanced life

Do you recognize the feeling? When you lost balance? I think it happens to the best of us. Sometimes we forget what keeps us on track and makes us happy. A healthy balance is key to our happiness. So how can you achieve this? Or get it back?

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you have a busy period at work or a lot of events in your private life. Perhaps some hardly lose their balance, but for me it can be a challenge to not fall one way or the other. I guess I have a sensitive soul that needs to be nourished with care and somewhat of a routine.

Over time I’ve noticed that when I follow a certain set of ‘rules’ I feel much better and I can keep my balance. Although literally keeping my balance is still difficult, since I’m quite clumsy. By the way these rules or guidelines are personal, so you might need to adjust them to your own needs. Want to know how I do it? Here they come:

1. Enough ‘me-time’: some might not need this as much, but I need some time alone to think, recharge, analyze and breath. Every morning I wake up extra early so I can start my day relaxed and even practice some meditation and yoga.

2. A healthy diet: I feel more energized when I nourish my body with the right ingredients. I need a lot of vegetables and fruits, but I happen to like them a lot too. When I’m busier and skip investing time in a good meal my immune system drops and I feel more tired and less like myself.

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3. Focus on what’s important: what I mean by this is that you should focus on the positive things happening. Every day something goes wrong, but every day something goes right too. Don’t sweat the small stuff, but at the same time focus on the positive details every day can bring you. For example the other day my train was delayed which sucked, but now I had time to get a coffee and that is something I enjoyed.

4. Be active: Nobody gets energy from sitting on the couch an entire day. You’ll probably feel more tired and lazy. Don’t get me wrong a lazy day once in a while can be wonderful. However in general our bodies need to move. When we move and are active you actually produce endorphins which make you feel happy. So, move that body!

5. Connect with nature: this might sound cheesy, but breathing in the fresh air when you’re in the mountains, at a lake, in a forest or wherever will help you stay grounded and therefore in balance. Walking in the forest is one of my favorite things to do. It’s easy to forget about nature living in such a digital world. That’s why I strongly advise to forget about your phone and enjoy the view, the fresh air and the sound of the wind. Trust me, you’ll feel recharged and more relaxed afterwards.

I have one more bonus tip for a happy and balanced life. Get enough sleep. Without a proper night of sleep you won’t be able to process your day the same, so make sure you get the hours of rest that you need.

So those are some of my tips for a happy balanced life. Of course there are many more ways, but these things work for me and I hope it can help you too. Just give it a shot and try it for a while. I’d love to hear if it made a positive change to your life. If you have other tips let me know. Remember listen to what your mind, body and soul need and you’ll find the balance you’re looking for.

 

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Being a day ‘offline’

Nowadays it’s hard to imagine being without your phone. What would happen if you willingly turned your phone off for an entire day? I thought it was worth the try. So last Sunday I had a day ‘offline’. How did it go?

At first I wondered how I had to organize my day. Even though I don’t organize my days a lot. I wanted to try being without a phone for a while, but every time ‘something’ stopped me from doing it. How would I communicate? What if plans would change? How will I be informed? Can we even do this without our phone? Despite all these questions I still wanted to put it to the test.

I must admit I made one phone call on my phone-less Sunday. I went to the dog park around 8:15 am and informed my mom about my plan. Just so she wouldn’t panic if she tried to reach me. So I figured that this was a valid enough reason for the call to not really count on my day offline.

A happy coincidence is that something on my phone had to be fixed. I turned it off and gave it to my boyfriend, so he could bring it to his work to fix it. This way I couldn’t even be tempted to turn it back one. I was literally offline and if someone needed me they had to find another way to reach me.

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The immediate benefit that I encountered was that I had so much time. Normally you check your phone every now and then. While you do this you just ‘quickly’ go through Facebook, Instagram and watch of course just one video on YouTube. Suddenly half and hour or longer has past and you’re still cyberstalking some celebrity. Since I didn’t do any of that I had all my chores done before noon! My meal prepping was done, laundry was done, dishes were done and the bed was made. It was wonderful!

The chores part obviously wasn’t that wonderful, but the feeling of having a ‘free’ day the rest of my day was great. I drove with the doggies to my grandmother and after that to my moms house. Once in a while I noticed I wanted to grab my purse to get my phone. However seconds after I realized that I couldn’t do that, since I didn’t bring it. And why did I need it? Once I wanted to check the weather forecast, once to look at a picture and once to see if I had messages. None of these times I really needed my phone.

When I left my moms I got into the car and for a moment it seemed it wouldn’t start. That was the only time that I thought that I should’ve brought my phone. Maybe in future cases I can bring it turned completely off, just in case there is a real emergency. Other than that I really didn’t need my phone. Honestly it felt really good to not check social media all day long or check any messages. In some way it felt freeing to be offline.

So would I do it again? Definitely yes! I just have to decide how I will do it. At this moment I think it might be good to have my phone in my purse but turned off. Or perhaps I can switch it to flight mode or maybe even better just turn off internet. If you have any tips feel free to share! And my tip? If you haven’t tried it already you really should. You literally have more time on your hands, since you’re not using them to hold your phone.

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Meal Prep Sunday

Sometimes it’s nice to be lazy, but it’s also good to be prepared. If you want to eat healthy for example. In that case meal prepping is the way to go. It’s usually more budget friendly and healthier. So how and why should you meal prep?

I started meal prepping about one and a half year ago. It was when I moved back to the Netherlands and my commute to work had changed. In Spain I used to walk ten minutes to work and had an hour lunch break, so I ate lunch at home. Suddenly I only had half an hour to eat and travelled almost an hour. My shortage of time forced my lunch routine to change too.

Of course I had the option to buy my lunch at work, but I decided not to do that. Why? Well it’s quite expensive in an office to buy lunch. It’s about six euro average in my office for something simple. The second reason is you don’t know how many additives are in your food. I figured it was better if (on most days) I would bring my own food.

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In the beginning I got back to a typical Dutch lunch. What is that? Well, bread with cheese for example. I also had some healthy snacks for the morning and afternoon but that was it. When I decided I wanted to get “fit” my diet needed an upgrade. I started cooking twice a day. Once for my dinner and then after dinner again for my lunch for the next day. But this wasn’t working either. Why? Too much cooking and too little time to relax.

When I started my meal-prepping journey I looked for inspiration online. I saw on YouTube and Instagram people also meal prepped, but first I didn’t know how to approach it. Like do I eat the same thing the whole week? Or do I make five different meals? Can I make one thing and just switch up the sauces? Luckily I have a smart and practical boyfriend and together we figured it out.

So what do we do? Well since I’m mainly a vegetarian (some days pescetarian) I actually eat a lot of veggies. I also really like them and it fits my “get fit” diet. Anyway we just buy a lot of different types, then chop them and put them in the oven for about 45 minutes. At the same time I prepare some tofu in a pan. Once it’s all done we divide it in five different glass jars. I usually add some hummus to some as a topping, avocado to others or another sauce if I feel like it.

As you can tell I’m still quite lazy with meal prepping. Every Sunday we follow this routine, but it’s often a mix of vegetables with tofu. When we have leftovers I use those and once in a while I look for new recipes or add something extra like wraps.

In the end meal prepping doesn’t have to be difficult or time consuming. Since you’re the one adding all the ingredients you know exactly how healthy it is. You can also make it as expensive as you want. In case you’re meal prepping together, like I’m doing, it can be fun and used as bonding time as well.

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Relax and Unwind

Do you love going on vacation? I think it’s safe to say most people enjoy some time off. Perhaps even exploring a new destination. But why is going on a vacation also very healthy for you?

For starters it’s good to get some mental rest and clarity. How can you do that? Do you remember those (video) games or any other machine with a reset button? When it’s overloaded, there is too much information and not working properly? So what did you do then, you hit the reset button. Magically it worked perfectly after doing that.

As people we obviously don’t have such a button. After all we’re not robots, but wouldn’t it be good if you can get rid of the excess information in your head? Start over and feeling all fresh and new. I think taking time off (from work) is like hitting the reset button. Especially when you’re going away and visit new places.

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I’ve had a few busy months at work. I work at an office with a computer all day long and at the end, right before my holidays, I ran out of fuel. I had processed too much information, worked long and intense hours and was tired. Very tired. And when I’m tired I’m also very emotional. So I really needed to hit that reset button. I could hardly bring myself to feel positive, when I’m always positive, which made me even more emotional. Luckily my trip to Turkey was already planned.

So there we went to Turkey and visit the grand city of Istanbul and a little town at the coast. It was my first time there so I had a lot of first impressions. Maybe because I received so much new information, the old (and excess) information was pushed away. I couldn’t think about anything else than what we’re doing at that moment. Living in the now and taking it all in. And of course taking a lot of pictures.

I didn’t realize it would work this way before going on vacation, but perhaps I never needed a break as much as I did now. Being away and seeing all the beauty of Turkey erased the stress and negativity I was feeling before. I was so happy to have that experience with my boyfriend. Side note it was our first vacation together. And as I wrote in the previous blog, snorkeling in the turquoise water made me feel so relaxed.

When did I know the reset button of going away had worked? When I was back home actually. During my holidays I also decided to change some things in my daily routine. For example not oblige myself to “have to do” everything in one day. I also decided not to say “yes” to all events, birthdays and activities. Simply because after work I need some more me-time to recharge.

So when we got back I knew what I was going to change. I felt so relaxed from the trip that luckily I felt positive again too. I still have to be careful not to run around in circles, but it’s a step in the right direction. Now when I wake up and start my day I’m looking forward to see what will happen. I’m re energized and it feels so good.

How to recharge yourself? Well even if you can’t go on a trip, you can enjoy some time off at home and do the same too. Relax in your backyard and read a book. Or try something new and open yourself up to a new experience. When it’s been a little too much we can hit that reset button in all different ways. My favorite though is on a tropical beach with sand between my feet. Just don’t forget to hold on to your newfound happiness when you’re back home.

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Overcoming your fears

Ever since a little girl I was afraid of swimming in open water. Ironically I was and am a good swimmer. However it was the thought of ‘fish’ swimming there too that scared me. Or even worse an unknown underwater monster. Yet I went snorkeling in Turkey last week. How did that happen?

I must admit that I’ve been trying to overcome my fear of swimming in open water since a while. When I was living in Spain I often went to the beach and strangely enough I loved to swim in the sea. The clear blue water with a sandy white beach is just mesmerizing to me.

So bit by bit I tried to swim further and further. In Spain I even made it to the floating raft, which was quite a swim. The first time swimming that far my heart was beating and if my hands could’ve gotten clammy they would’ve been. After a while however it was fun and I enjoyed the swim. My fear wasn’t based on an actual threat. There was no danger in what I was doing. So slowly my subconscious mind started to catch up with my conscious mind that already knew I was safe.

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I think often we feel afraid even though there is no actual need for the fear. Of course fear can keep us alive and prevent us from making life-threatening decisions. However if we climb up high stairs we should be careful, but it probably isn’t a dangerous situation that justifies the fear of heights.

The same goes for my fear of open water. Apart from snakes I saw in an Italian lake when I was three, I’ve never encountered a situation in which my life was in danger in open water. Yet I’ve had a fear of it all my life. Obviously it would be dangerous entering a part where there are sharks or crocodiles or anything that puts your life at risk.

But the waters I enter were always safe. You can imagine though that I’d never put myself in the situation to see the fish swimming around me. Better to not know if they’re there right? Well that’s not the case actually. When the water is clear and I can see what’s going on I already feel better. But now being in Turkey I wanted to take a real close look at the world underneath me. That part was new to me.

Of course my strong boyfriend was there to protect me, just in case. We got snorkeling gear and I was amazed. Now you might think I saw all these colorful fish. Unfortunately not, but the sandy colored fish and the way they moved was already breathtaking. Strangely enough it was also very relaxing.

We later even took a boat trip and it was so beautiful. We saw more fish, actually a lot of fish. The water changed from a dark blue to a bright turquoise. I jumped of the boat (another thing that scared me) and we snorkeled. What is my lesson learned? That sometimes the one thing that scares you most can be the most beautiful thing you’ll ever do. Honestly I can’t wait to fly to an even more tropical destination and see what the ocean is hiding there for me.

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Spinning Buddies

Lately I wanted to try out some new cardio activities. And it’s not just to stay in shape physically, but also mentally. Since a while I’ve been going to spinning classes. However I’m not attending those alone, because I’m going with my stepfather. How is that working out?

Well I attended spinning classes in the past. It had been a while though and the last classes were not with an actual teacher, but with a video of a teacher giving instructions. I liked it, but it’s not the same as having a real person there telling you what to do. Mainly because with a video you could “cheat” with an actual instructor you can’t. Not that I would want to cheat my exercise routine, obviously.

This time around I convinced my stepfather to join the gym and join me in the spinning class. He’s 62 years old, but quite active and the spinning instructor is quite impressed with him. Of course he’s dripping in sweat after our workout and I’m not. Ok, I’ll be fair. The AC is on way too hard for me to break a sweat, but sometimes they leave it turned off and then I really notice the difference.

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But why do I love spinning? I’ve been going twice a week lately and therefore stopped running (for now). First of all I like doing it together with a buddy. It motivates you to keep going, even when you’re tired and stressed or just feeling lazy. But it’s also a great workout to relax mentally.

Because when I focus on spinning it’s the only thing I can focus on. Yes my mind wanders off, but I always get back to my focus point, spinning. My legs need to keep on moving and I literally can’t sit still. So that’s why I love it so much. It helps me to relax my mind. And this actually goes for any sport, especially cardio activities, at least in my case.

Sometimes I also glance to the side and see my stepfather giving it his all. I see his legs moving so fast he looks like one of those cartoon figures. You know that image of Road Runner going so fast his legs turn into a spinning circle? That’s what it reminds me of and I just start laughing so hard. So yes, even when I’m tired and especially when I’m stressed this is a great work out for me and it wouldn’t be the same without my buddy.

Being the Bridesmaid

About two weeks ago one of my best friends got married. I got to be one of her bridesmaids and be present on this beautiful day.  What does it really mean to be a bridesmaid and witness your friend on her special day?

One year ago my friend got the cutest puppy. Of course I had to meet the little fur-baby, so after getting him she and her boyfriend came over. She then randomly showed me her phone with a video of how they got him. And then I saw it! It wasn’t about her holding  puppy in the video, but about her boyfriend getting on one knee!

I was so thrilled for her and of course I cried some happy tears. Soon after we went wedding dress shopping with her mom and her bridesmaid. At that time we actually didn’t know we were going to be bridesmaids. After the dress shopping we all went for dinner and she handed us a card in which she asked ‘Will you be my bridesmaid?’. It was so cute and of course we said yes.

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But let’s not forget about the dress. It such a special moment when you see one on your best friends in a gorgeous wedding dress. After all the years of dating, heartache, finding the right one, moving in together to then finally saying I do. She was glowing and looked happy and I couldn’t wait until she could wear it again for real.

Obviously we also organized her bachelorette party. Living in the Netherlands the place to go is Amsterdam. So that’s what we did. We made her do ‘not too’ embarrassing assignments, went to a museum (ok, the sex-museum), got dinner, sang a song in the karaokebar and then went dancing for one more time. We laughed, we drank and we danced.

Our bridesmaids chores continued on the day itself. In the meantime we got our own dresses, the right shoes, a purse and our dates. And then it was time. The day had arrived. My friend picked me and the other bridesmaid up. In the car our fun started and at the location we got glammed up. We even wore special robes with ‘Bride’ and ‘Bridesmaid’ on it. What followed was a beautiful ceremony (of course I cried again), a lovely dinner and then it was time to dance again.

Our dates arrived and we did the last things we had to do as bridesmaids. After that we all went dancing and it was amazing to see my friend that happy. The whole day went perfect. After months of preparation it was the most perfect day she deserved. Everyone seemed happy and smiling. To top it off their opening dance was the best thing ever. They even practiced it together beforehand, how cute is that!

It seems a lot of time and effort to invest in one day. However after a day like that it doesn’t seem like just a day. It really is a day you’ll never forget. With words of love, all smiles, kindness in their eyes and their hearts filled with hope for a beautiful future. It was the perfect start of a life together or to continue their journey with a huge milestone in between. I’m glad and grateful I got to witness it all up close.