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Help Haiti Blog Challenge - sequel

>> 28 January 2010

Dear readers,

Thank you for supporting the challenge and spreading the word.

The items you ordered are shipped and should be with you shortly.

I hope you liked them.

I have just donated 150 euros to both the Red Cross and Doctors without Borders.

Thank you for your generosity.



Help Haiti Blog Challenge

>> 18 January 2010

I have Haiti on my mind.

I read Aidan's blog post and surfed on over to the blog challenge that triggered her post.

I found the idea creative - and you know I like creative ideas, and especially the ones that have a link to charity.

Today I have decided to participate.

Until 31st January 2010:

I will match the amount of your order and donate it to 'Medecins sans Frontieres' in Luxembourg.

You can buy a simple card at 2,73 euros, prints or framed prints. Your order decides the amount I will donate. On top of that, you will soon be the owner of a fabulous piece of art.
  • Furthermore, whether you place an order or not, if you leave a comment to this post I will donate 2 euros to MSF.

If you want to participate yourself in the Help Haiti Challenge, please read instructions below and visit the site:
  1. Sign up for the Help Haiti Blog Challenge. Write about it on your blog and tag it “Help Haiti Blog Challenge“. Ask your people to join you and do the same.
  2. Add the Help Haiti Blog Challenge badge to your blog.
  3. Make your offer: I will donate ________ dollars to _________ on behalf of the next person who buys _________ from me.
  4. Make your donation and tell us how much you donated.
  5. Tweet about it using the hashtag #haitiblogchallenge. Update your facebook status with a request to pass on the message and the call to action. Send e-mails. Everywhere you are, online, talk about the Help Haiti Blog Challenge, tag it, and call your friends, family, colleagues – your people – to action.


15 ways to a happier you

How are those New Year resolutions coming along?

Have you given up smoking/eating cookies/gobbling ice cream/complaining yet?

Have you started exercising/eating healthier/being grateful for the small things/do one good deed a day?


Well, then this post if for you. Here are 15 easy ways to become a happier you without the strain of having to stick to objectives...

  1. Do one thing at a time

    We live in a fast-paced world. But some people, like Tal Ben Shahar, professor of positive psychology at Harvard, can be heard saying 'Stop multitasking!'
    Why? The fact of being constantly interrupted - especially at work - is psycho-toxic! The level of anxiety rises and the tendency for frustration also.
    So what to do if you have obviously too many things to deal with at the same time?
    You start with the most simple things: like switching off your phone for 2 hours a day, concentrating 4 hours in a row, consulting your emails only at certain times in a day and not every 5 minutes...

  2. Move

    Happiness is also chemical. According to Tal Ben Shahar, sports is as good as any anti depressant because it stimulates the secretion of dopamine, a carburator with effects similar to cocaine - the same substance one produces when being in love. The minimum rythm necessary: 3 times a week.
    'To not move is depressing for certain' says the master of happiness.

  3. Forgive instead of get even

    Happy with your loved ones? Yes, if you decide to forgive and move on instead of insisting on getting even. Instead of blaming everything on your parents, become a spectator of your own family, like in a theater, and develop some humor and compassion.
    Your mother has had her share of suffering, your dad has done what he could. In short, do not remain fixated on your infantile, hardheaded principles.

  4. Hugs, hugs, hugs

    According to neurobiologist Jean-Didier Vincent, touch starts a major secretion of oxytocin, the hormone of love and well being. How? As soon as you touch it, the body shivers and informs the brain of its well being via the sensitive nerves. 'With the great apes,' says the neurobiologist 'we call this grooming. Whether its hugs, or grooming touches, even animals know how to get their social well being.'

  5. Find your mantra

    This positive phrase, this affirmation, repeated again and again like a Leitmotiv, is a message, an injunction, sent to the brain.
    Buddhists call them 'auto-compassionate mantras': they protect us from our own monkey brain ruminating negative thoughts.
    'I am beautiful' - 'I am successful' - 'I am an artist' - 'I am loved'
    Such affirmations support your self esteem and also eliminate comparative thoughts such as 'he is better than me' - 'why does this work for her and not for me?'.
    It's a psychic force. Try it - repeat often. Stick it on your bathroom mirror.

  6. Stay objective

    Do you know the theory of the 'flat tire'? It means that in the face of a little mishap in life, you stay with what is real - without amplifying the problem like: 'I am crap' - 'These things only happen to me' - 'I wont' make it'. In fact, the flat tire is in itself not a big problem... but become huge if you add a psycho toxic reflection to it.
    How do you get the upper hand on this again? According to psychiatrist Christophe André, nothing is better than meditation. Close your eyes and domesticate your brain to remain present, here, now. Even if your monkey brain has the tendency to run off and anticipate, you have to catch it.
    How? Sit down in a quiet place, close your eyes, breathe deeply. Slowly, the negative thoughts appear and you let them go. Create a distance to them instead of letting yourself be carried away by them. A daily meditation of 10 to 15 minutes if sufficient. Meditation teaches us to identify our little problems and our habit to amplify them.
    Result: people who meditate activate their left prefrontal cortex more, the region of the brain associated with optimism, happiness and well being. Simultaneously, they reduce the left prefrontal cortex, associated with pessimism, depression and doubt.

  7. Dream:

    The more you let yourself dream, the better a picture of your existence you get. You take a step back, you look at the forest, not the tree. 'It is contrary to our autopilot that makes us unhappy' underlines psychiatrists Christophe André. If these instances of inactivity are precious, it is because they allow us to link up with ourselves. We go from the 'doing' mode to the 'being' mode. And that does a hell of good. By 'muscling' our 'being' we become stronger in the face of stress with the result that we are happier on a daily basis.

  8. Search for smells of the past

    Since Proust and the little madeleine, we know the emotional power of smells. Falling back, even for a little moment, into the security of childhood is source of joy. So go and by Parfumaster, a game where you have to identify scents. Not only fun for the kids. You will be able to tap into your olfactory hard disk.

  9. Eat shrimp

    Not the one's you usually buy, but KRILL. This mini-shrimp which the whales eat loads of is full of omega 3 fatty acids but also phospholipids and antioxidants (killing free radicals). What is the link on our mood? A study done at McGill university in Montreal as demonstrated the krill oil has a beneficiary effect on emotional and psychological symptoms. No need to go shrimp fishing, you can find krill oil in tablet form.

  10. Smile

    It may be nothing, but when you smile, you spread positive waves around you...that come back like a boomerang at some point or other.
    The effects of smiling are explained by an interpersonal effect (the social benefits that come back to us) and an intrapersonal (you smile to yourself and does you good). An American study has proven the importance of smiling in the resolution of grief. Women who had lost their partner but who spoke to friends about happy past moments with a smile, were able to put their grief behind them much faster than those who spoke about such moments with a sad face.
    source: facial expressions of emotion and the course of conjugal bereavement, journal of abnormal psychology 1997

  11. Welcome sadness

    Paradoxically sadness is not the contrary of happiness...sadness even fully participates in happiness. According to Christophe André, happiness is a mix of 'states of mind' (3/4 positive, 1/4 negative). As such, a sunset can be enjoyed fully if you associate with it the notions of finitude, of death. The problem is to welcome it without ceding to depression. One thing is sure thought: if we push those little 'gray' moments away, they will come back to haunt us.

  12. Invent an evening ritual (like the kids)

    These rituals become chambers of decrompression that allow a better passage from one place to another, or even one emotional state to another allow us to better evacuate the negative points of the day. Choose one, invent one: go for a walk before bedtime, take a relaxing bath, light candles, ... For more ideas check out the book Five Good Minutes in the Evening.

  13. Accept happiness

    ...but without chasing it. Don't become a 'euphoria maniac'. The very contemporary injunction to be happy and live life to the fullest is one of the principal enemies of happiness. 'One starts to see it as an obligation and that brings even more suffering when you can't get there.' says writer Pascal Bruckner. So welcome and accept happiness, but don't chase it.

  14. Cultivate your networks (the real ones)

    Facebook and Twitter have nothing to do with these networks. These are 'real' people. Those you meet physically. Seeing your friends does you good - that's not a scoop. But a recent study shows that when our friends are happy, so are we. The researchers calculated that a friend of a happy person living less than 1 km away has a 25% chance to become happy - the next door neighbor has even a 34% chance. The closer the friend lives, the stronger the contagion.
    source: british medical journal, 2008

  15. Be proud to be good

    In the book 'A la poursuite du bonheur', by Stéphane Osmont, neuro psychiatrist David Servan Schreiber affirms that the most happy people are teachers, psychologists, fire fighters... basically those who live a relation of helping others. Being good is not a Christian virtue: it helps to develop a pacifying sentiment, for the good reason that it awakes the sensation of 'connection with others', sine qua non condition to being happy.

Freely translated and adapted from Avantages Magazine.


All that is really necessary for survival of the fittest, it seems, is an interest in life, good, bad or peculiar -- Grace Paley

>> 12 January 2010

Do you like to travel?

Do you like to surround yourself with different cultures and surroundings that are completely unfamiliar to you?

Do you go on an 'all is taken care of'' trip or do you prefer to do it on your own and get some 'couleur locale'?

We recently went on a one week all inclusive and all taken care of trip to Egypt.

Usually we are not fans of group all inclusive tourism. But we wanted guaranteed sun (it hardly ever rains in Egypt), a not too long flight (4,5 hours direct), easy entertainment for the kids and some activities for the adults (aquapark, pools, beach, spa, diving school).

So we made an exception and chose a ready made package from the catalogue.

Of course you do not get to see anything of the local culture. You are bussed off to your hotel and don't come out of it until you leave again.

I did get a glimpse of the 'real thing' though by passing through the airport.

We arrived in a packed and hot arrival hall with many counters but no clear indication of who had to go where. The hall was filled with mainly Italians and their shouting and gestures.

The guide steered us through the crowd to the back of one counter shouting for our passports and the little papers we had filled out on the plane.

Big mess, heat, whiny kids. It wasn't a joy. And we just wanted to get this over with as soon as possible and get to our hotel.

Finally we get our visa and go to passport control. Our two boys have dual nationality and have both their own passport but are also in my passport. The passport control guy looked at us and asked to see the 3 kids.


Ah yes, the picture of our oldest is not the same in his passport than in mine. Confusion, clarification. We pass.

Next stop, another guy to check all the pages of all the passports for stamps or visa's. Why? No idea.

Finally we get to the bus and from there to the hotel.

On the way back the scenario was very similar. The intercom announces your flight at gate 4 and when you get there some guy tells you that of course you should not listen to it and go to gate 2, leading to some 300 people shoveling from one side of the hall to the other with luggage and screaming kids and confusion.

Over all this hang clouds of smoke because of course, they have never heard of any anti-smoke laws here yet.

I had to smile. I travel quite a bit for work and you get used to all sorts of situations that are beyond your control. So you just go with the flow and accept the things which you cannot change.

When you have two small kids though, it becomes a whole different ballgame.

It brings out the mother lion instinct in a woman.

Your kids are whiny, tired, hot, thirsty, need to pee, want to eat, run off to discover the other side of customs.

It makes you want to hit people.

It makes you push in front of people to get past passport control faster.

A kind of survival of the fittest comes to mind.

Funnily enough, I have only seen the women do that.

The men are either lost, or on the other side of the hall to get water/food/the kid to pee/a guy to get them through faster...

What behavior brings travel into foreign countries out in you?


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