There’s a dizzying amount of health information out there. Doctors, therapists, nutritionists and fitness gurus tell you to follow a Paleo, vegan or a Mediterranean diet, to meditate daily, do cardio or rather strength training. All that conflicting advice can be pretty confusing. But what does it actually mean to be healthy? And who’s the ultimate authority on your health? Does a doctor know what health is simply because they are a doctor?
The number one advice when you’re tense, frazzled and overwhelmed is to minimize your exposure to stress. But when life’s tragedies hit, that’s not an option.
Living with chronic illness comes with unavoidable stress. On top of unpredictable symptoms, pain and insomnia, you’re also faced with anxiety about the future, identity issues and new relationship dynamics. Even worse, you may have to deal with losing your job, financial problems or marital troubles. Not to mention the mountain of paperwork you have to sort through to keep track of medical records, insurances and social security benefits.
When stress can’t be prevented or escaped, there’s only one solution: finding effective ways to best deal with the uncontrollable stress.
Compassion is a admirable trait that forms the heart of our society, religions and humanistic views. Our minds and bodies seem to be wired to care. When you see somebody else suffer, your brain reacts to their pain as if it was your own. Not only do you instinctively empathize with others, the part of your brain that wants to alleviate their distress also lights up. Studies show that when you feel compassion, your heart rate slows down and the bonding hormone oxytocin is released.
Tuning into other people’s feelings in a kind manner doesn’t just help them – it makes you feel good too. Feeling compassion can improve your relationships, boost your resilience and give you a more optimistic outlook on life – all factors that are linked to a happier, healthier you.
And the good news is, you don’t have to become the next Mother Theresa or Gandhi to cultivate compassion. Simple things like looking for similarities between yourself and others or really listening to what someone’s saying also encourages feelings of compassion.
In the Dutch language, there’s an important distinction between ‘medelijden’ (compassion or pity; literal translation: co-suffering) and ‘medeleven’ (sympathy; literally: co-living). It’s a good thing when you genuinely want to understand what somebody’s going through and taking action to help them, but that doesn’t mean you should take on their suffering.
Because compassion is about being kind to yourself too. True self-compassion is not the same as a narcissistic self-love, being easy on yourself or making excuses. It’s about paying attention to your needs and taking a caring approach, instead of a self-critical one.
Have a look at these 12 heartwarming quotes to encourage compassion for others and yourself.
Do you secretly swear internally when someone cheerfully tells you you have so much to be thankful for?
When you’re going through dark times, practicing gratitude can feel more like a mandatory exercise than a genuine act. I mean, when you suffer excruciating pain every day, struggle to make ends meet or are grieving the loss of a loved one, it’s hard to feel grateful for the things that are going well.
“It’s not that happy people are grateful, it’s that grateful people are happier.” – Erik Barker
But how do you cultivate gratitude when you feel sick, sad, disconnected or cheated on by life?
Don’t just go through the motions. True thankfulness goes deeper than rattling off a list of things you know you’re supposed to feel grateful for, like having a roof over your head and food on the table. Practicing gratitude shouldn’t be a chore. You can only tap into a deeper experience of gratefulness when you sincerely like to make your life – and that of the people around you – better.
Here’s how you can feel thankful for the good things in life, even when life is hard.
Did you come back from your Summer break only to find yourself flooded with work mail?
Smartphone stress is real. Countless of studies have been published about the downsides of the latest technology – from stress and sleeping problems to anxiety, depression and disturbed body image.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed with email or keeping up with social media, the common advice is to consider a digital detox – taking a (radical) break from checking Instagram, WhatsApp and news feeds. Hey, I dedicated a blog post to it myself.
But recently I read something interesting in the Dutch Psychologie Magazine. Do we really need to force ourselves offline to find peace or is there a way to get the benefits from smartphones whilst avoiding the pitfalls?