Online happiness

The other day, I had a chat with a friend about mentioning on Facebook when things are not going so well in our lives. It seems as though people are quick to update their status with happy photos, lovely travelling and holiday news, children, friends, funny situations they go through or fun things that they do in their daily lives. We all want the world to know how happy we are.

Why is that? Is it because we don’t want to burden people with our troubles? Is it because Facebook is supposed to be a platform to share happy things and happy things only? Is it because we all just want to show off and tell the whole wide world how happy and perfect and fun our lives are? Or is it because we just don’t like talking about what isn’t going so well?

It’s easy to post a happy picture, to share with others that we are visiting a nice place or to broadcast that we are having the time of our lives. Not so easy to disclose things that make us sad, such as ilnesses, scares, break ups or arguments.

I’m just as guilty as the next person (just hours earlier I posted a happy picture of me and my boyfriend walking in a beautiful park). I only really infect the online world with my happiness (or the occasional little moaning session). But why is that? Why don’t we give the happy and the unhappy equal importance online?

The ones close to us, the really close ones, will know all about our ups and downs. But there is something about sharing sad news with your school friend from 20 years ago, the same one we haven’t spoken to in 20 years, but is still a Facebook friend. It’s almost like we give them the right to witness our happiness, but not the right to share our difficulties. Even if we do post something not to be celebrated as a happy moment as such, there isn’t even an ‘unlike’ button right there for us to commiserate with our so called ‘friends’. In other words, Facebook doesn’t really encourage us to share bad news, only what’s ‘likeable’ matters.

It appears that sad things are far too close to home to be on the internet. We somehow and for some reason have been conditioned to show our brighter side, our fabulous news and our fantastic lives online, but does that glittering profile represent real life? When did we begin to lose touch with our own realities? Possibly when we began to convince ourselves that everything is ok, as long as we’ve posted that photo of us smiling wide.

A recent study said that a person is only truly 100% authentic when no one is observing them. However, nowadays we seem to need to have our actions examined and interpreted so we can believe that what we do (whatever that is) is important. We need validation, we need to be recognised, we need approval. Would it be right to say, then, that the reason why we don’t share bad news or sad aspects of our lives on Facebook is because we don’t like to shout about what we do wrong? It makes sense, doesn’t it? Who likes to tell everyone that they were told off at work, had an argument with their brother, got into debt or were truly mean to a friend? Yeah, thought so. This kind of ‘update’ would perhaps say much more about ourselves than a happy smiley picture. That kind of sharing provoques many more questions about our lives than the usual ‘ah, she is doing well’ reaction that a happy picture does.

If we look back to the time when we were kids, we were also after approval. We wanted to be loved by our families, and a ‘well done’, a smile or even just an approving nod went a long way. That made us carry on. I suppose nothing has changed, then. On Facebook, we want the same, which comes in the form of likes, comments and shares.

I’m not saying that Facebook is bad. I like it myself. I live very far from my home country and I take full advantage of it to keep in touch with the people I love on the other side of the Atlantic. However, we must establish a healthy limit, so we are not living our lives though it and depending on it to feel worthy.

I’ll still keep the sad and the miserable news out of Facebook, though. It works for me and I guess the most important thing is for people to be comfortable with what they share. For me, for example, saying something personal and not very ‘happy’ on Facebook feels like I’m exposing myself. I’m giving too much away. I’m trespassing the main boundary when it comes to sharing information: intimacy.

I guess that the main issue with Facebook, no matter if we share happy or sad news, is that it can cause heartache. For the ones that like to compare themselves with other people (and we all do that to some degree), it can become very tiring and very frustrating to realise that there is always someone happier, always someone with a wider smile, going to a nicer place, fully enjoying the Saturday night that you are spending on the sofa eating ice cream. It’s just as Montesquieu said: “If we only wanted to be happy it would be easy; but we want to be happier than other people, and that is almost always difficult, since we think them happier than they are.”

Categories: Facebook, Friendship, Happiness, Personality traits, Relationships | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Colours in the sky

Every July now brings something very special to my neck of the woods. They are colourful, they are floaty, they are fun, they are beautiful! The kites of the St Annes Kite Festival make the sky a colourful place, full of bouncing and colourful fun.

Supported by the local council and local businesses, the event gathers hundreds of families from the area and a number of them that come to St Annes especially to see the array of colours in the sky. And the event doesn’t disappoint! In the shapes of dragons, octopuses (including a 30-metre long one!), teddy bears, planes and even hippos, the kites fly high and catch attention from far away.

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You can also bring your teddy bear to take part in the teddy parachure drop, which celebrates each brave teddy with a certificate of achievement. And with face painting, market stalls and even an army assault course, the day is not only for the kids. Best of all, the festival is free and the beach welcomes whole families that want to watch the kites and have a picnic.

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I am fortunate enough that my little flat is opposite the beach, so I can watch the whole thing from my balcony, and I can say that the only thing I witness is hapiness all round. I see families pointing to the kites, people smiling at their movements and kids dropping their jaws at the size of them all. It’s fantastic to be part of such a fantastic event that brings so much happiness, colour and a great family spirit to the whole town. Can’t wait for 2014!

Categories: Relaxation, St Annes living, The Good Life, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Chasing dreams

Today I watched the Wimbledon men’s singles final and saw a very controlled Andy Murray play a fantastic game that gave him a well deserved victory. The whole tennis thing is quite magnetic, you can’t stop watching it and you can almost feel the tension and the players’ strategies changing with each point that is won or lost. It’s an individual game, you are there on your own and your decisions alone can make it or break it.

I couldn’t help it but relate this to life. We analyse everything in so much detail sometimes that I think we miss the window to actually do something in some cases. It’s all good and well to analyse everything to be able to make the best decision, but sometimes life throws you a challenge that requires a quick response. Like a tennis ball that needs to be caught by a racket with no delay, or the point is lost.

In a competition, we can be winners or losers, but what makes us winner in life? If we relate the approach a player would have to a tennis match to our approach to life and what we want to achieve, here is what I think makes us win every time:

1. You’ve got to have a dream

You need to aspire to something, be something, have something, start something that you feel passionate about. Then, you’ve got to put this into action.

2. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

The second step is to get your act together and make a plan – a route that will take you from where you are to your dream.

3. Think NOW

Winners have the ability to think about the ‘right now’ and not focus too much on the long road ahead. They overcome every challenge and slowly build up victories that put them closer to their ultimate dream. They don’t spend time thinking about how difficult things might get, they focus on the NOW and just go with the flow.

4. LOVE it

Whatever your dream is in life, you’ve got to love it. This passion is what will drive you forward and what will make your journey worthwhile. Achieving a dream that isn’t yours will not feel like victory, it’ll feel like hard work and no pleasure. If you love the final destination, every step of the way will feel like a step forward to getting there, which is pleasurable too.

5. Work it

Oh yes, hard work is required, of course. A dream that is easy to achieve doesn’t feel like it’s worthy. You’ve got to put the time and effort in, to make sure you are taking yourself steadily through the journey that will lead to a deserved victory.

6. Own it

You have to take responsibility for all you do, either to achieve your dream or if you let things slip. You can’t just blame others, blame situations and find excuses. You have to own it. It’s your dream, after all.

7. Set goals

Any dream will not be achieved without milestones conquered on the way. These need to be set in advance and carefully and you need to commit to them. It’s a bit like losing weight. You won’t lose 40 kg in 2 weeks, but you can lose 2 kg. As long as you commit to each step of the way, you are moving into the right direction.

8. Carry on, always

Don’t give up. Achieving a dream isn’t an easy task. But think about achieving it. How would it feel? How would YOU feel? Carry on to find out. You won’t be disappointed, I’m sure.

9. Deal with it

Some people say that we are always in one of three positions: we’ve just come out of a storm, we’re in a storm, or we’re headed into a storm. Be prepared for any of these 3 situations and you’ll always come out on top. You might get drenched, but you’ll have learnt invaluable lessons.

10. Be positive

You get to pick your attitude, it’s the one thing you always have control over. So, choose to pick a good one. There’s no reason to be grumpy (like Andy Murray is sometimes! hehe). Enjoy the ride and have faith in the fact that the end of the road will feel amazing.

There you have it. Some inspirational words that I reckon I wrote to inspire myself, more than anything. I would like to start a project that will lead to a dream of mine being accomplished and I guess I just needed to get myself in the zone. It’ll be a long road (and many words!), I know, but milestones is my new favourite word from now on – as is word count! I shall do it. Because it’s my dream. It has been for a long time and I would be stupid if I didn’t chase it.

I hope you feel slightly inspired to chase your own dreams too.

Categories: Dreams, Energy | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Dubrovnik – a “Wow!” on each corner…

In our more than relaxed way of travelling, we found out in Split that the only way to go from Split to Dubrovnik was by bus, on a trip that takes 5 hours. Oh, dear… 5 hours on a bus? Mmmmm, I even quickly considered not going at all for a second, but our flight back was from there, so there really was no choice.

I couldn’t have been more mistaken by a bus trip, though, and I can safely say that this was probably the most beautiful bus journey I have ever been on. With an amazing skyline and blue waters everywhere you look, each corner is a new opportunity to let your jaw drop that little bit more whilst you slowly say ‘WOW!’.

The bus also goes through Bosnia, which I heard is an amazing place to visit (maybe next time, eh?). The trip is so amazing that you don’t even realise how long you have been on it.


On the way to Dubrovnik


Scenery seen from the bus

When we arrived in Dubrovnik, the first thing we did was to go to the hotel. This time, since it was the last leg of the holiday, we went for a nicer one, as one of the intentions was to just chill by the lovely torquise waters. Now when I say ‘nicer’ I never imagined it was going to be as nice as it was. From our room, we had a fantastic sea view and the hotel had its own access to the sea, with lots of sun loungers by the rocks. So I don’t even have to tell you that we quickly decided to give our feet a deserved rest from walking and just enjoy the day by the sun. And there were no regrets.

At night, all relaxed and sun-kissed, we went to the Old Town, which was about 15 minutes from the hotel by bus. When we arrived, another ‘WOW!’ Completely iluminated, the place is magnificent and almost hipnotizing. The Old Town is surrounded by the City Walls, which were extremely important during various wars. Today, the walls are part of the UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. The preservation of the site is impecable, even after the damage caused in 1991, when the city was bombarded by military forces, in the process of Yugoslavia’s fragmentation.


City Walls


View from the top of the City Walls

On our second day, we went all the way up the stairs and then allll the way around (no, it’s not free, it costs about £10, but I would highly reccommend it). It took us about 2 and a half hours to walk the whole thing. The highest point is almost 2 metres high (oh, yes, you go a bit dizzy if you look down!), and the views are magnificent! Me and my friend were even joking that it was so beautiful that we found ourselves taking it for granted, so we were not even noticing it that much anymore. That was until we realised it and then started stopping at every corner again.

The best bit for me, though, was to be able to observe the people within the city walls. A lot of people live in many buildings in that area and you can get a pretty good idea of what life is like over there. In fact, you can even get a bit too much information, judging by the pic I took, below. Hehe… You can witness the daily life, you can feel the place breathing and you can gauge people’s habits by just looking around. To me, this is the best bit of travelling:  to see how people go about their lives in a place that is unfamiliar to me.


Local life… literally

Dubrovnik is on the east coast of the Adriatic sea and one of Croatia’s most popular tourist destinations. It’s also a harbour and the most important city of the Dubrovnik-Neretva county. For its natural and urban beauty, Dubrovnik is called ‘the pearl of the Adriatic’.


Harbour


View from the top of the City Walls

It can’t be denied that Dubrovnik has already been ‘discovered’, though. And by that I mean discovered by the tourists. They are everywhere! And lots and lots of them! The place is nothing like peaceful Vis, with its calmness, silence and lots of space to walk around without bumping into anyone. No, no. Dubrovnik is busy, busy, busy.  You see people taking photographs from any angle you can imagine, you get grabbed by the waiter by the hand so he can show you the restaurant menu, you can hardly talk to your friend right next to you as the place is full of noise coming from everywhere. If I was to spend a full week’s holiday in Dubrovnik, I’d probably come home wanting another holiday after that, but I guess this is part of the places’ charm. The place is so nice it’s no wonder it’s full of people all the time.


View from the top of the City Walls


Old Town from the top of the City Walls

One of the advantadges of being in a busy place is to be able to people watch, one of my favourite past times. Just pick one of the many cafés and forget about the time. Look at everyone… the ones in a rush to go to the next site, the loved-up couples, the groups of teenagers, the older couples re-discovering the beauty of travelling on their own again… they all have a story to tell if you look close enough. And surrounded by the medieval, renascentist and baroque architecture, you have the perfect seeting for your story already!

The Irish author and journalist George Bernard Shaw once referred to Dubrovnik as the ‘paradise on Earth’. Mmmm… I’m still to decide if Dubrovnik is my favourite place in Croacia but, regardless of my opinion, you can’t deny that the place is magical and a feast for the eyes. The architecture is great, the city is fantastic at night, the beaches are beautiful and the sea… ah, the sea… I would definitely visit again, I’d just have to find out first which is the month that all the other tourists don’t have the same idea.

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Fall in love in a ‘Split’ second

My recent trip to Croacia was fantastic. I have already blogged about the island of Vis but, during the week I was in Croatia, I also visited Split and Dubrovnik. So, here is a bit about Split…

Split is situated in the Mediterranean Basin of the Adriatic sea, and it was where I spent the first few days of the trip. It was also the place that gave me those valuable first impressions of a country. With its palm trees on the Riva Harbor and water everywhere you look, I’d say it’s easy to fall in love already on the first day of visit. I’m usually one of those that fall in love with a place pretty quickly and I immediately know if I like a location or not. It was different with Split, however. And this is because Split is one of those places that reveals itself slowly, presenting you with little surprises around each corner, almost like people in love that want to retain the attention of their loved ones when they have just started dating. It didn’t take long for me, though. In 3 days, I was head over heels in love.


Riva Harbor -perfect place to have a coffee and just watch the world go by…


Riva Harbor at night

One of the oldest cities of the region, Split  has a population of nearly 180,000, who in their majority work in commerce, in tourism or in the food industry, selling fish, olive oil and wine. Since 1998, Split hosts the Annual Croatian Boat Show. During my vist, the show was on and I could see how many visitors it attracts to the place.


Boats everywhere!

Split’s main attraction is the old town, where you can find the buildings that still stand from the former Diocletian’s Palace, which dates back to 300 D.C. Diocletian lived in the palace until he died and, to this day, the place is home to a considerable number of families (even though a local told me that this number reduces by the year, mainly because of the age of the building and the problems that come with this). The remaining buildings of the entire old town are classed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Diocletian’s Palace – old and new together

Deocletian’s Palace is a beautiful landmark of Split. You can get lost within its walls and its narrow cobbled streets, the cul de sacs and its long corridors that you just follow without knowing where you are going to get to exactly. Today, the historic space is also full of quirky and cool shops and restaurants. Don’t think that it’s all modern, though. The planning was done so well that you notice a perfect balance between the old and the new, making the place rich for its history and interesting for the additions of modern life. On the night that I arrived, I went to the palace for a stroll and was drawn to a part of the building that was beautifully iluminated and where I could hear live music. There, sat by the rocks and steps of the old palace, a group of young people enjoyed the warm night and the music coming from one of the bars. I couldn’t help but join them. I noticed throughout my stay in Split that the local people really take advantage of the location and really appreciate the beauty of it.


Palácio de Deoclécio

The next day, when we were again walking around the palace (remember I said you can get lost in there? Exactly. One visit is not enough!), we stopped for a chat with the owner of the restaurant where we had had dinner the night before (a scrumptious sea food risotto, by the way). I asked him about the little dog that was always around the restaurant but that we had also seen around other places within the palace. He then told us that the dog was called Rocky but no one owned him, he belonged to everyone that worked in the palace and they all looked after him. Awww…


Rocky

On this second day, our mission was to find the beach, of course. On the way, we went past many groups of men, either sitting on the benches at the squares or just standing around. They were either playing dominos, cards or were just standing there, observing the passers-by. Some local people told us that there is a shortage of work, which explains the amount of men not doing a lot. They all seemed really friendly, though, and loyal friends to each other.

Everywhere you look in Croatia there is water. It’s just so beautiful. However, the Croatian’s concept of beach is a little different to the Brazilians’. This is possibly due to the fact that the shores are quite small, so our little dream of lying in the sun by the beach all day didn’t quite come to life. Having said that, the beaches are absolutely beautiful, with blue and green water, sunshine and happy people. The only pity was the water being so cold (this was end of April). So we learned the lesson that the best time to visit Croatia is in September, which is when all the tourists have gone away, but the climate is great and the water is still warm. Mental note for next time.


Groups of men: they are on every corner!


One of the beaches of Split

One night, we went for dinner at a restaurant called Fife, near the harbour, but also far enough to be a little hidden secret of the place. Many local people visit the restaurant and the food is just to die for! I had a pasticada, a typical Croatian dish made with beef and red wine sauce, served with gnocchi. Check out my ‘not-at-all-generous’ serving below (!) – I just couldn’t help it, it was sooo delicious! Fife is a restaurant I’d definitely recommend on a visit to Split. It has a very relaxed atmosphere, with its long tables that are usually shared by more than one group. The cook is obviously extremely skilled and the staff is helpful and patient – even when we asked them to explain almost every dish on the menu!


Pasticada – Yum!

On our last day, on a stroll by the Riva harbour, we met a local man that had two dogs. He told us that one of them was Italian and the other Croatian, but even so they got along really well, which is quite funny. He also explained that many Croatian people don’t have jobs and that in the calm months, the place can be quite empty. He also said that fishing is a big thing in Split, and this is obvious by the number of boats that can be seen everywhere. On this same day, we went past a groups of fishing men that seemed to be celebrating something at their HQ. They were drinking and singing with lots of energy. A few hours later, on our way back, we went past the same place and heard the same fishing men singing, but this time the words were slurred because of the alcohol. Funny and real.


Dogs – the Croatian and the Italian (left to right, don’t get confused!)


Sea, the beautiful sea…

Split is a place where you see families everywhere. If not complete families, pregnant women and their partners. I don’t think I have ever seen that many pregnant women in one place! Split has its own energy, people are very warm and they seem to live a colourful life. I would recommend Split to anyone that visits Croatia. It’s a place where you see life through rose-tinted glasses. And who doesn’t fancy a bit of that once in a while?

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Vis – the island of tranquility

From the catamaran, you already get the feeling that there is no such thing as high speed in this island. People walk in no rush at all, car drivers don’t even think about going over the speed limits, the water is calm and serene. Even the birds translate the tranquility of the island into their long and lazy singing.

View of the island from the catamaran

The hugs of the people who are meeting after the journey are long and sincere, with no time limit, with no reservations. People seem to have time for one another. They seem to appreciate their time together. No running, no rushing.

Early morning in Vis

On our arrival, we meet our host. Yes, she went to pick us up to take us to the house we booked for two nights. My friend and I prefer to stay in actual local houses whenever possible instead of big hotels. Of course, this depends on each person’s travelling style, but come on… how many times have you been picked up by your host to be taken to the place you booked over the internet with no added charges and with a big smile on their face? Exactly.

Komiza’s local woman

Komiza’s streets

Vis island is about 100 Kilometres from the Italian coast and has an average of 3,000 inhabitants. They work in agriculture, they fish, they make wine or they work in tourism. The island has magnificent beaches, 3 restaurants, a couple of bars, many boats and not many people. Ideal to relax.

Scenery of wars and disputes along he years, Vis started being populated by the Croatians in the 7th century. The island belonged, over the years, to Italy, Austria, France, England and Yugoslavia. In the years of socialist Yugoslavia, Vis became its army base because of its strategic position and Tito, the Yugoslavian leader, hid in the island with all his army for a long time. Vis only started to be inhabited again in 1989.

This isolation, however difficult it was for the inhabitants of the island, placed Vis amongst some of the favourite destinations of the entire Mediterranean when Croatia  became independent. Vis’ beautiful beaches, preserved nature, ecological agriculture and preserved traditional architecture bring more and more visitors to the island each year. It’s still considered a ‘best kept secret’, though, as many people are just not ready to take things slow – and, believe me, this is a requirement when you visit Vis.

On my first day on the island, I witnessed a magnificent sunset. The skies went orange, then red, then pink, until purple slowly took over and covered the entire sky, like a blanket. In a sacred silence I took pictures, looked at the many boats and appreciated the singing of the birds. My friend and I didn’t even speak much, as if breaking the silence would be like committing a sin. A sin against nature.

The most amazing sunset

On our second day, we ‘hired’ a tour guide and his taxi to explore the island for a few hours. Ideally we would have done this by foot, since the entire island is marked for trekking, but our short time didn’t allow us to do so. Our tour guide was a sweet and talkative local and my friend and I came to the conclusion that people in the island must get lonely sometimes – he wouldn’t stop talking, even for one full minute.

Having said that, he gave us a pretty god picture of what life is like in the island. He told us about the relations between people and how sometimes people just need to get out of the island or they might go insane (his own words!). I can only imagine, though. Think about being in one place that is quite remote for a long period of time. I’d probably go crazy too. Don’t get me wrong, I really appreciate peace and quiet, but all the time? Nah, thanks.

One of Vis’ beaches

The tour took us to the highest point of the island, called Hum. There, you’ll find a tiny church where you would only fit about 10 people, if that many. We also went to Komiza, an island of fishermen with shiny sea and weird stuff up on the walls.

Komiza’s walls – what IS that?

Tiny church

Komiza

We visited the beaches (all with pebbles – no sand. Boo!)  and also stopped by a bar to appreciate the sea. Our guide, with his cheeks going slightly red and a big smile on his face, told us then that right there, at that bar, he met his wife, years ago. Sweet.

Where Harry met Sally (haha, where our guide met his wife)

Walking around Vis is the equivalent of stopping in time for a few hours or for a day or two. Everything slows down. The mind starts thinking slower, ideas find their slots within our usually hurried thinking, as if all that was necessary for this to happen was to get out of the rush of real life. Visiting Vis is like putting all the stress you may be going through inside a bottle and then letting the sea take it away, slowly. A luxury I certainly recommend.

* Pictures: Marilia Spindler

Categories: Croatia, Relaxation, Travel tips | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Happiness, where the blooming hell are ya?

Last night I went to bed earlier than usual, as I have had a busy couple of weeks and have been very tired. Tired ‘to have my eyes closing when I’m on the sofa’ tired. But then I woke up, feeling completely awake and uneasy. I couldn’t find a comfortable position, I couldn’t get back to sleep. Because I went to bed early, I wasn’t tired anymore, as this was about 6 in the morning. So I just stayed there, lying in bed, thinking about how I didn’t want to sleep, but how I didn’t feel like getting up either.

Why are there days like this? Am I the only one? I’m not depressed or sad or anything like that – as far as I know!  – and, still, some days, I just can’t get going. I then picked up my phone and went on the internet. I typed in ‘happiness’ and found some excellend stuff that calmed my spirits. And so I decided to share it with you.

Apparently, there are 4 mistakes we make when we are pursuing happiness. 4, that’s it. And here they are:

1. Let it flow.

When we are thinking about happiness and trying to establish if we are happy, we end up comparing current experiences to past ones. We don’t notice when we do this, exactly, but this alone blocks a happy moment. The minute you start making comparisons, you shift from experiencing mode to evaluating mode. Think of the days when you are enjoying your work so much that when you look again it’s 5pm. Think of the holidays in the sunshine that go so quickly. Think of being immersed in a book that you are really enjoying. Think of savouring  some nice food. Think of having great sex. Think of ice cream, think of a good movie, think of admiring the sunset, think of cold beer when you are really really thirsty.Yes, you’re in the zone. You’re so immersed in the task that you lose track of time and the outside world. This is happiness.

2. Get real.

The second thing that we do that makes us dodge happiness is to overestimate the emotional impact of positive life events. We think that a major promotion, a new partner, a new house or a new car will make us happier, overlooking the fact that we’ll adapt to the new circumstances. Each time something changes for the better in our lives, we get happy… and so we should. However, that something won’t change our lives forever. We will get used to things again and will probably question again if we should be pursuing something or someone else that will bring us happiness. So I guess it’s not about the what, but more about the how.

3. It’s everywhere.

Happiness is an individual state, so we tend to look for it in ourselves. However, in a recent study, the greater the value people placed on happiness, the more lonely they felt every day for the next two weeks. I think the clue here is to get involved with other people, to let them be in our lives and let us be in theirs too. I’m guilty of this myself. Lately, I have found that I like my own company and I like being at home, so I don’t do much socialising. I’m lazy for it, that’s the honest truth. In fact, I’m just like my dad. He is not a person to do much small talk and I’m the same. If it won’t be meaningful, I’d rather read a book, thanks. I don’t do it on purpose, though, I guess I have just learned how to say no when I want to. However, it doesn’t look like this is the right approach. We need contact to be happy. We need to interact. Hermits like me can only get depressed, so I’ll have to sart being really careful and getting my bum off the sofa and out the door. Soon.

4. Mild is fine, thanks very much.

The fourth and last mistake we make is to look for intense happiness. When we want to be happy, we look for strong positive emotions like joy, elation, enthusiasm, and excitement. Research shows, however, that this isn’t the best path to happiness. Apparently, happiness is driven by the frequency, not the intensity, of positive emotions. When we aim for intense positive emotions, we evaluate our experiences against a higher standard, which makes it easier to be disappointed, since an intense positive experience can only lead us to frame ordinary experiences as less positive. So, this one is a given, right? Again, it’s the little things. Receiving a smile from a stranger on the street, finding parking space on a busy road, being driven somewhere by your mum whilst having a nice chat, achieving something before the microwave pings (ha! I knew you’d identify with this one!), lying on the grass on a sunny day. That’s it. No mater how small, happiness is in everything. And if we think about it, there are many more small opportunities that can bring us happiness than massive ones. So mild happiness can become ‘big time’ happiness. If you give it a chance.

So, overall, I think that if we change our actions, and not our circumstances, we have a much better chance to let happiness be in our lives. And then, we probably won’t even notice it, as it will be part of our day, every day, every minute of it.

By the way, I did get up. I also went to work, went to a shop and returned an item that I no longer wanted, came back home, made my dinner and I’m now about to watch a movie with my partner Lee, so I guess the day went fairly well after all. Sometimes all you need is to just get up and get out, without thinking too much.

By the way (2), the source for this post is here.

 

Categories: Happiness | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Take it all in

It was my birthday this week. I’m not as excited as I used to be about my birthday for whatever reason, but it’s always something to celebrate all the same. I didn’t think about my birthday until the day before, really, so it was with great surprise that I ended up having a magnificent day.

There is a programme on at the moment on BBC. It’s called The Voice, and I’m sure lots of countries around the world have done their own version of it (through a costly franchise, that is). Yes, I’m a sucker for singing programmes. I just watch them all. Yes, yes, yes, you can think whatever you want. I just like it.

The judges in the UK always say something to the contestants when they finish a song and the audience is going mad. They say: “Take it in, take it all in”. I, for some reason, remembered this on my birthday. I had such an amazing day and just kept thinking to myself: “Take it in, Marilia, take it all in, you deserve it!”. I felt so good about myself and, literally, felt the love in all the messages I received and in all the celebrations: at work, with my boyfriend, with my family, with my friends. It was a superb day and the best of it was that none of it was planned. It was a spontaneous day, full of joy and love.

birthday

Alternatively, birthdays can be planned and filled with quirky things to do. Here’s a list to get you inspired (if your birthday hasn’t come up yet this year):

1. Buy gifts for other people and wish them happy birthday.

2. Wear a cape!

3. Make people sing the Happy Birthday song to you. (backwards)

4. Tell people your new age + 10 years, just to watch their jaw drop.

5. Randomly scream “It’s my birthday!!! Woohoo!” at odd moments (be creative).

6. Ask stangers what they got you for your birthday. If they respond in any way, run and scream, “Ahhhhh, I’m not suposed to talk to people!”

7. Hum (or whistle) the birthday song all day.

8. Take a picture of yourself (and do the same every year after that). You can check out your wrinkles. (nooooo!)

9. Make yourself a birthday cake. And eat it all on your own.

10. Throw a proper party (maybe I’ll do this one next year).

So there you have it. A few tips about what to do on your birthday and an overview of what made me happy on mine. Getting older is not so bad after all…

Categories: Birthday, Creativity, Love matters, Quirky thoughts | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

The Dutch

Since my first visit to Amsterdam, in 2000, I have developed some kind of fascination with the Dutch people. They seem to speak right to me and I seem to understand what they are all about – and deeply admire it.

Over the years, I visited Amsterdam four times and I plan to go there again and again and again. The place is magic – and, believe me, magic is a word I definitely use sparingly when describing a place that I like.

To start with, I like the place because it’s beautiful. And my apologies that I can’t speak for the whole of the Netherlands as I have only been to Amsterdam, but I’m sure I’d be just as fascinated had I travelled further within the country.

Amsterdam has a charm that is even hard to explain. The best thing about it is to get lost (and by that I don’t necessarily mean getting lost by a drug high you can achieve legally over there). I’m talking about walking and walking and walking so much that all of a sudden you start recognising that you have been going round in circles a little bit and took a long time to notice. It doesn’t matter one bit, though. The place is so beautiful and so majestic that you simply won’t mind seeing the same sights over and over again.

Lee and I went to spend Easter in Amsterdam a week ago and, once again, the place amazed me. So, with everything fresh in my mind, I compiled a bit of a list of my favourite things about Amsterdam and the Dutch people.

Please note: I’m not an expert and my travels consisted of 4 visits, so please forgive me for not being extremely thorough, I’m only mentioning the things that strike a chord with me.

So here goes…

1. The way of life

The Dutch seem to live a very balanced life style. They cycle everywhere, they all look healthy and fit and, most importantly, they seem to really enjoy life. A recent study said that 75% of  the Dutch women work part-time and are perfectly happy with their decision. In fact, the Dutch don’t work very much at all, when compared to their European fellow countries. They work an average of 30.6 hours a week, which is nearly one day less than in any other European country. Even so, they still manage to be at the top of the list for productivity, so we could say that working less hours seem to make people more productive. It makes sense: if you have a good work-life balance, you will be happier and, in turn, you will have more enthusiasm to do your work. Clever people .

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Life is good, eh?

2. The Food

The supermarkets contribute, in my opinion, to the Dutch being so healthy. Lee and I were amazed, in our last visit, at how beautifully the fruit and veg are displayed on the shelves. They get placed on shelves with these glass doors, making the whole fruit and veg section look like a shop window. It makes everything look so fresh and yummy. Having said that, nothing beats a good stroopwafel with a steamy cup of coffee. Or the marvellous cheese and brown bread they make. Or the most amazing apple pie I’ve ever had (to be found on Winkel 43 – Noordemarkt). Not so healthy, perhaps, but all true Dutch national treasures.

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Stroopwafel and apple pie. Yum!

3. The bikes

The thing you have to get used to quickly in Amsterdam is the bikes. They are everywhere. With over 880,000 bikes in a city where 790,000 people live, no wonder they are seen on every space available on the streets, on top of one another sometimes, and all around the city, with all the Ducth people riding them. And the reason you have to get used to it quick is because the cyclists may run over you if you’re not careful. They do tell you if you are in their way by ringing their bell a bit in advance, but sometimes just before they are about to hit you. Eeek!

The bikes add to the charm of the city and are certainly a major photo opportunity on every corner. And the most curious thing about this bike-obsessed life is that the Dutch really don’t seem to care for really fancy bikes. They prefer theirs to be gearless and rusted, with the odd exception when they paint them in cool colours (see photo). The Dutch don’t thrive on spending money where not necessary – and the bikes, although a main mean of transport, don’t make top of the list for them to spend their (not so hard-earned) money on.

The most amazing thing, though, is what you get to see the Dutch doing on their bikes. They carry their children on it, they carry heavy objects (such as the massive mirror Lee and I saw this guy carrying on our last visit), they eat, they talk on the phone, they have a full conversation with the fellow biker next to them. It looks extremely easy, but I bet it takes years and years of practice.

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Family day out on the left, a very cool bike in the middle and a busy mum on the right

4. The bluntness

I like blunt people. I like when you know where you stand with others. I tend to be like this – which sometimes doesn’t go that well with my polite British fellow colleagues and friends. But hey. I admire it. And the Ducth are just the same.

If you ask them a stupid question, they will look at you like you are, ermm… stupid. And when they stop looking at you that way and decide to help you out by answering your question, expect the answer to be short and sweet. They are straight-forward people and hanging around doesn’t seem like a productive use of their time. However, I may be speaking from a ‘tourist’ point of view here, and they might show a lot more tact with people they actually know. Still, I admire this ‘black and white’ approach (it’s even on the street signs!).

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Lots of the famous Dutch orange on everything, of course – even when they’re being blunt!

5. The houses

Oh my God, they all look so amazing. Outside and inside. And I can say that about the inside because one of my favourite things to do in Amsterdam is to let my inner voyeur out and look inside every single house I have the opportunity to. I think they are amazing. The Dutch have this ability to group things together, but nothing ever looks too matchy-matchy. Everything they seem to own has a purpose to be where it is and the colours they put together sometimes don’t go (in theory), but in practice they just work. They certainly have a gift for making a place look effortlessly welcoming, cosy and modern at the same time. Hats off.

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6. The flowers

They are in almost every house, in restaurants, cafes, stations – pretty much everywhere. And boy do they make the place look colourful, inviting and fresh! I just love how they use flowers for decoration. You see all kinds and they are quite cheap. I wish they were that cheap here in the UK, so my home could have more of it. Flower power.

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7. The 3 kisses

This is something we do in Brazil and, during my few visits to Amsterdam, I noticed a lot of people doing the same. The tradition works in the same way as it does in Brazil: 3 kisses on the cheek (more like ‘blown in the air’ kisses) that start on the right, then left, then right cheek again. The kisses are for family and friends only, though – like in Brazil. It’s just so refreshing to see that, when here in the UK people have this barrier and this personal space that the other person shouldn’t even dare trespass. Refreshing and closer to home.

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Ok, maybe not on the mouth!

 8. The airport

I just love Schiphol Airport – it’s definitely my favourite. Arriving there gives a pretty good picture of what is to come. It’s straight-forward to find where you have to go (very Dutch-like), modern and, to me, the most important thing: it’s colourful. It’s an airport I usually choose for flight connections to Brazil, if I can, and it’s definitely a bonus to be able to buy some stroopwafel on your stopover.

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Vibrant and colourful features make Schiphol special.

9. The passion for life

The Dutch seem to have a special passion for life. They seem to have this eagerness to enjoy every single second, even if it’s by doing nothing. I remember seeing many people just sat at their door step soaking in the sunshine and doing nothing else. They have this ability to enjoy the moment, to relax, to just ‘be’. They don’t seem to be a worried nation, they take life as it comes and cross bridges when they come to them. They don’t get stressed. These are characteristics I really admire, as I can be a stress-head sometimes. We have a lot to learn with the Dutch and their quirky approach to life, me thinks.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA… and relax!

Overall, the Dutch seem to be very happy people and I think this is what fascinates me. Nothing seems to phase them too much. They eat well, they exercise, they are friendly, they don’t mess about, they are proud of who they are. They just seem to go through life in a very well-established manner, like they have all read this secret amazing book of ‘how to live life in the best way’ (but shhh, please don’t tell anyone).

When Lee and I were at the airport, coming back to the UK after our last visit, we were having a chat about how great it would be to live in Amsterdam. We would work less, we would be more relaxed, we would be fitter. We then started talking about how and if this would even be an option for us. I was voting yes, and so was Lee, but then we thought again and found a major obstacle: we’re just not cool enough.

Categories: Amsterdam, Coolness, Dutch People, Living away from home, The Good Life | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Brazil x England – (Ding Ding!)

It’s now been over two months since I arrived back in the UK from my holiday in Brazil. I’ve had enough time to analyse how the trip went, although when you go to see family and friends it’s bound to be good anyway. In fact, it seems like it happened ages ago and I miss he place and everyone already!

As you may/may not know, I live in the UK and all my family and childhood/teenage years friends live in Brazil, so every time I go I try to see as many people as I can to make sure that the bonds that are so important to me stay as they are: strong.

This time, there was a difference, though. I took the boyfriend with me. I was a little anxious as to what he would think of Brazil… but let the trip run its course without asking him a million times whether he was having a good time or not. I could actually see for myself that he was happy, but I didn’t want to keep on asking the question and annoying the hell out of him.

It turns out that he loves it, which is fantastic! It was funny to watch him around my family and friends. Lee is a naturally quiet person and he’ll only really let go when he has known the person for a little while (or if he is drunk, ha!). Even so, it seemed like he felt pretty comfortable being around everyone, which was a relief. At the end of the holiday, I left Brazil with my parents and friends telling me what a catch he is (and because he now knows what they think, I’ll have to look at his smug face forever!).

Anyway, this post is not about that, really, it’s about me thinking of Brazil and REALLY thinking about the reasons why I chose not to live there. I have written about this here before, mainly about not being able to explain why I chose to live in England over Brazil.

Now here’s the truth: these are two completely different countries in so many ways… age, politics, society, culture, economy, etc. Even so, I find that a few of my top reasons for not living in Brazil are quite shallow considering other issues that could well tip the balance in England’s or Brazil’s favour.

So here they are:

1. Hay fever

Who suffers from this sneezing-evil condition will know what I’m talking about. In Brazil, I am ALWAYS sneezing, my nose is always running and I find that this has a massive impact on my quality of life. In England, I only suffer from hay fever for a couple of months during spring, if that.

England 1 x Brazil 0

2. Security

In England, Lee and I go out at night and walk back home, no matter the distance or the time. I do not worry and I am not scared walking around in England. In Brazil, as everyone knows, the story is very different. Lately, it seems to have been getting  even worse.

England 1 x Brazil 0

3. Food

In England, a much smaller country than Brazil, there seems to be so much more food variety. And although the fruit and veg do taste a lot better in Brazil, England’s selections of cheese make up for it in one go.

England 1 x Brazil 0

4. Travel

In Brazil, the airports can be quite disorganised and the air fares are not always the most friendly on the pocket. In fact, it can be cheaper to travel abroad than it is travelling within the country! England, on the other hand, proves to be a fantastic connection to the world and the amazing places out there.

England 1 x Brazil 0

5. Salary

This was always a positive about England. Not anymore. 13 years ago, I remember working in a restaurant in London, paying for all my bills whilst renting a room in a house with other friends, going out and still being able to save to go travelling. Now, the same recession that seems to have impulsed growth in Brazil, hit England in a bad way. Having a job is a bonus and saving any money can be compared to performing a small miracle. Having said that, I recently read that the cost of living in Brazil has skyrocketed, leaving people with no choice but to swallow hard and carry on.

Brazil 1 x England 0

6. Organisation

For as long as I remember, getting any kind of document in Brazil is a very good reason for a headache. The queues are never-ending, the forms are not straight-forward and there are always obscure rules that no one knows about. In England, everything is so black and white it can even get embarrassing if you don’t understand how things work. They make it easy for everyone and usually things are done pretty quickly.

England 1 x Brazil 0

7. Politics

In Brazil, we all know how messy this scenario is. Year after year, the same corrupt politicians are still part of the government (how?) and most people still seem to sell their votes to the highest bidder. In England, the majority seems to take much more of an interest in politics. They recognise how it affects daily life and make sure they have their say.

England 1 x Brazil 0

8. The climate

Yes, ok, call me crazy, but I prefer to be in the cold than in the scalding hot weather of Brazil. It drives me absolutely mad to be sweating all day every day, to sleep unfomfortably and not be able to function properly if not in the mercy of an air con. I like the cold weather England has to offer which, funnily enough, is what the English try to run away from at any given opportunity. Yes, I like sunny days, but by the beach. For city living and a working life, I’m happy where I am, thank you.

England 1 x Brazil 0

So, if you have done the maths, England wins 7×1. But it’s not just about this list. There is something else. Still, unfortunately, it’s that something I can’t explain. There must be something in the air. Or I might have past connections with this place – yes, I do believe this is possible! I don’t know what it is. I love Brazil to bits and it will always be my favourite country where a lot of people I love are but, to me,  nowhere else says HOME as England does. For now. (ha!)

Categories: Brazil, Home, Living away from home, London, My home, St Annes living, Winter | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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