4 Mindful Steps to Self-Love

In all my years practising meditation and self-love, I’ve discovered 4 essential steps to self-love.
Research on self-compassion and self-love show it is associated with less stress, less anxiety, more optimism, better recovery from stress, and it paves the way to a positive mindset, which helps you overcome obstacles or challenges more.
Instead of making it hard on yourself by judging yourself or thinking negatively, you switch to a positive state of mind. Just think about how much we can accomplish, by being kind towards ourselves instead of hard.

1. Set an intention

In order to focus our internal compass on our true North, we have to set an intention first: to see the good in ourselves, so we can see it in others too. To send love and appreciation and compassion in ourselves, so we ourselves become more happier, loved and healthy.
The power of an intention is strong, because it seeks into your daily life. Self-love is a practice, so whenever you notice yourself thinking negatively abut yourself, whether that’s a negative body imagine, judging or comparing yourself – simply return to the intention you set, to love yourself. It allows us to celebrate our wins, and, in hard times, be gentle with ourselves. It’s treating ourselves as we would treat a friend who needs our help.

2. Write yourself a love letter

A practice I’ve discovered last year by listening to a talk from Elizabeth Gilbert on Insight Timer, has changed the way I handle this pandemic, lockdown, loneliness and so much more. In this talk, she discusses how we can face fear with compassion, and how writing a love letter to herself has helped her throughout decades of healing.
Of course, you are free to write whatever you want to, but here’s a guideline: dear x, I love you, and I know you can get through this. You got through everything so far, and I know you are strong and capable. I believe in you. I love xxx about you. I love how you are so xxx. etc. When you begin writing, you’ll notice a sense of relief, comfort, and love coming over you.
In this letter, you’ll basically write a letter to yourself, expressing your appreciation for everything you do, and expressing love and compassion towards yourself.

3. Say it out loud

Another practice that requires minimum time and gives you maximum levels of love, is practice saying it out loud to yourself. Stand in front of a mirror, set a timer for 1 minute, look yourself in your eyes and repeat the affirmation: I love you. I love you. I love you. Notice what feelings or emotions might arise, and continue to say it the whole minute. Challenge yourself to do this for a week, or a month, or anytime you feel like you need an extra dose of love.

3. Self-love & loving-kindness meditations

Let’s shift to meditation practices that are perfect to soothe yourself with some self-love. What I love about these meditations, is that they not only calm your mind and body, lower your blood pressure, calm your heart rate, improve your mood, so overall improve your emotional and physical health, they also fill you up, and recharge you, on levels you never even thought to visit.
Whether you are religious or spiritual or not, meditation is a beautiful practice that can be done by anyone really. Plus, it costs nothing to close your eyes, watch your breath and repeat affirmations, or visualise a scenario, or repeat a mantra, or simply keep focusing on your breath – but the benefits and consequences of it are priceless.
A loving-kindness meditation go like this: take a comfortable seat or lay down. Start by taking some deep, purposeful breaths, Next, start watching your breath. Whenever your attention wanders off, gently smile and bring it back to your breath. Next, picture yourself as a child. Re-visit that memory and gently repeat to yourself: may I be happy. May I be healthy, May I be peaceful. May I be safe. You can also picture people you love, or even the entire world. and repeat these affirmations, in order to send love to everyone out there.
If you’d like to know how a self-love meditation goes, I invite you to meditate with me on Insight Timer, on my Soothing Self-Love Meditation, In this meditation, we’ll fill ourselves up with the high feelings of love and spread it out into our world.

6 Mindful Ways to Take Care During Winter Season

During winter, not only our bodies need some extra pampering & nourishment. Our souls & minds need it too. Especially during this season, as our energy levels are a bit lower, and even nature slows down. However, we all have our daily work & tasks to complete. Often, this constant running towards do-ing, and not giving our bodies our minds the change to be, leaves us tired, drained, burn out. Luckily, there’s ways to avoid this. Here are 6 mindful ways to take care during winter season.

1. Slow Down – Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness invites us to slow down and live in this present moment. It allows us to snap out of the auto-pilot mode and tune in with our reality by simply observing it and becoming aware of it.
This way, we can actually live in this moment, and not only enjoy it so much more, but also tune in more with our bodies & minds as we do so.
If you’re on auto-pilot mode all the time, rushing through your day, and not being aware of how you actually feel, the time flies by. The days, weeks and months fly by. And before you know it, you’ve actually spent so much time living on auto-pilot mode – doing things without thinking, without being aware that you are doing them.
You can practice mindfulness on many different ways. There are mindfulness meditations, breathing exercises, and actually you can turn any activity into a mindful activity. Lately, I love indulging myself into mindful cooking. Normally, as I don’t like cooking that much, I tend to rush it and get it over with quickly. I’ve noticed that taking my time and cooking slowly & mindfully, makes the whole process a lot more enjoyable.
If you’d like to learn more about mindfulness, download my free e-book, A Guide to Mindful Living, here, with lots of tips and written in a clear Q&A- format to answer the most asked questions & the easiest ways to practice it.
Check out my free mindfulness meditation in English & Dutch on Insight Timer here.

2. Mindful Eating & Moving

Let’s continue with the basics: during winter, or any season really, it’s important to get enough vitamins, minerals, fresh air & sunlight. Eat enough veggies & fruit, and maybe get creative on finding new ways to include them in your meals.
I’m normally not a huge fan of soups, but it has become my favourite meal in winter. You cannot rush eating soup, which is a great way to eat mindfully & slowly.
Smoothies on the other hand ensure I get my daily dose of fruits. Any hot beverages or meals are perfect to be enjoyed mindfully. The benefits of this? Less binge-eating, weight control, more enjoyment, better digestion and reduce of stress.
Moving your body will also help you in fighting winter blues or lockdown laziness – even if it’s a 10-minute stretch sessions, your body will thank you!
Next time you go on a walk, try to pay attention to everything you can feel & see around you. Mindful walking reduces stress, improves your mood, boosts your energy, and helps you connect more with your body.

3. Relax & Recharge Guilt-Free

As I mentioned earlier, this season is a season of introspection, of rest. When we look at nature – which is ultimately, our greatest teacher – we see that animals hold their winter hibernation, lakes freeze, trees lose their leaves and everything stops for a while and slows down.
There’s no denying that us humans are a part, a product of nature too. And as such, it’s important to honour mother nature and allows ourselves to follow its example.
Allow yourself to rest and relax. Let go of the need to do things, constantly. It’s okay to do absolutely nothing. Rest is also productive.

As SCL Health says: “When you turn off all distractions, it allows space for your subconscious to expand, ultimately boosting your creativity. When distracted, our mind jumps to the most obvious answers when trying to solve problems. But once you take the time to exhaust those options, you end up thinking of breakthrough, inventive answers that can lead to some life-changing ideas.”

SCL Health
So who knows, maybe that hour or day of putting all tasks aside will benefit you more than you think.
What helps me a lot is making a priority list – a list of things that need to get done first. This helps prevent burn out as you focus on only what’s important instead of being overwhelmed by a huge list of tasks.
Letting yourself rest and recharge is the ultimate gift you can give yourself. After all, nothing ever good comes from pushing through and not listening to our bodies.

4. Connect with your close ones

Whether you’re in lockdown as I am, or you’re as free as a bird: having enough contact with the people closest to you is important for your emotional health, with directly links to your overall health.
Whether it’s a simple text, a video call, or having digital dates (or real life dates if you’re one of the lucky!) cherish these times with your loved ones. Enjoy it.
Also here is mindfulness a beautiful way to improve your relationships and actually enjoy them even more by tapping into the present moment.

5. Dive Into Gratitude

If you’re feeling the winter blues, try this: write a friend or family member a letter or just a text, saying how much you appreciate having them in your life. Show gratitude for them. Research has shown that practising gratitude improves your levels of happiness and even boosts your health.
For me, saying my daily thanks has become a habit – one I love the most. We tend to look at what goes wrong or what we don’t have. Gratitude shows us the other side, a side I think we should all visit more often.
Express your thankfulness with me on this meditation on Insight Timer!

6. Rely on Rituals

If there’s anything I’ve learned the past years about habits, it’s that the right ones bring out the best benefits for you mental, emotional & physical health.
Setting a clear morning & evening ritual helps your body adjust to your daily rhythm and the upcoming day or night.
Instead of diving into your day as soon as you wake up, try taking some time for yourself to get into your day. Starting the day slowly without all the distractions is how you preserve more energy.
Here are some tips for a mindful morning:
On the other hand, closing down your nights calms down your mind & body, making the transition from always being on and awake, to allowing rest & relaxation lead the way.
Sleep experts say limiting your exposure to blue light (or any screen really) benefits your sleep, as well as keeping your bedroom dark & quiet. A mindfulness meditation to relax, a cup of calming tea, and a book to read until you drift off are some of my essentials this winter.
I genuinely hope these tips have helped you in taking care of yourself during winter (or any season, really). It’s so important to check in with ourselves. Your mental health is as important as your physical health. And yes, it comes before work. If you notice yourself tired, stressed or drained, stop. Come back to this moment. Take some deep breaths or whatever helps you in getting back into your day. Maybe it’s a power nap or a midday shower. Stay safe!
And if you’d like to learn more about mindfulness, I’ve now opened spots for private coaching. Schedule a free clarity call here and let’s connect!
Download my free e-book on Mindful Living here. 🤍✨

How to Make 2021 Your Year

1. Set a clear intention

First things first: let’s make a priority list of things that matter most to you, and you wish to work on this year. This can go from learning more recipes to meditating more to eating healthier to loving yourself more. (hack: the one you wrote first is probably the one that’s most important to you!)
Now you’ve got the basis of your New Year’s Intention. Now take a seat, take 3 of the deepest breaths you’ve taken today, put one hand on your hand and ask yourself: what do I need to focus on most this year?
Whatever pops up in your mind, write it down. Maybe it’s already on your list, maybe you can add it – on the top of your list.
This intention is something you can remind yourself of during your day, week, month, entire year. Carry this intention with you to know what matters most. If your intention was to love yourself more, and you catch yourself judging yourself or being yourself up, gently notice it, remind yourself of the promise you made to yourself and bring in some kindness to yourself.

2. Make it actionable

Next, take a look at this intention and ask yourself: how can I take action towards fulfilling this intention?
Maybe it’s checking in with yourself more, journalling your feelings to understand them better, making conscious choices at the supermarket or mindfully eating, or incorporating a self-love practice into your evening.
Think of at least 1 action you can take to make this intention happen.

3. Visualise the outcome

Next, close your eyes again, still sitting in a comfortable position, and picture + feel yourself living as if this intention were true. As if you were already eating healthier, loving yourself more, cooking new recipes, or meditating more.
Tune into the feelings of this reality, and come back to this quick visualisation exercise every day, or a much as you’d like to. Believe that from now on, you are on a new timeline. You made a new start, a new promise to yourself. You are already where you want to be. You are already doing the work and putting in the effort, time and energy into it.

4. Reward yourself & look back to the progress you’ve made along the way

Don’t forget to reward yourself, give yourself a big hug whenever you take conscious action and break the patterns that you so badly needed to break.
Do not take it for granted, but instead train yourself to keep going by rewarding yourself. I love to reward myself with a little piece of dark chocolate, knowing I love this as a treat + I’m actually nourishing my body with it.
Along your journey, no matter how hard it gets, or if you feel like forgetting this intention or stop putting in the work and effort, stop. Pause. Take a deep breath and go back to the meditation we did in the beginning. Put one hand on your heart and remind yourself of the promise you made. Remind yourself you are trying, and that is enough. You are on your way, and working on what you feel is best for you.

5. Stay grounded in practices that make you, your best self

What helps me in maintaining this journey of self-growth are small, inspired actions. This can be free flow- writing (I sit down and let myself write everything I want to write for 10 mins), doing yoga, a quick (or long) meditation, or simply taking action working on my dreams and goals, no matter how scary and uncertain the outcome may look like.
The truth is the future has always been uncertain, and always will be uncertain. One of my favourite quotes from Lao Tzu describes this perfectly:

“When you are sad, you are living in the past. When you are anxious, you are living in the future. When you are at peace, you are living in the present.”

Lao Tzu
Do yourself a favour, and ground yourself in the present moment as often as you can. Through practising mindfulness, you’ll notice that most of the worries that are circling around in your head, are simply made up: a fantasy, created by no one less than you yourself.
This year, step away from the monkey mind and ground yourself in the present moment, reminding yourself of what matters most (intention) and taking actions towards fulfilling this intention. Know that you are already on your way, you are already in the process of becoming who you want to be. Whether that’s a healthier you, a happier you, or a more kind and loving you.
Keep going, and once in a while, turn around and look at the progress you’ve made so far. Don’t be afraid to give yourself credit for it, and love yourself through it all.

The Power of Gratitude

Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not, we can all use a little bit more gratitude this year. Just because things didn’t go according to plan and we were faced with many challenges, tuning into thankfulness can strengthen us and remind us of what we do have in our lives right now.

So how do we tune into this state of gratitude?

Here are some ways on how to tap into gratitude and how to make it a habit in your life.

Gratitude list 

A gratitude list is a simple thing to write, yet it has the power to put us in such a good mood. Start with writing 3 or 5 things you can be grateful for while you’re reading the newspaper or you’re having your morning coffee or evening tea. You’ll notice that not only will you be more appreciative of the small things and the big things, you’ll also think about more and more things to put on that list. As it gets longer, your mornings and evenings get better. 

Gratitude meditation 

Ive done a little experiment this year: from January 1st, I have done a gratitude meditation every evening. 

Why evening? Because going to sleep with a feeling of gratitude allows you  to wake up happy and fulfilled. 

Here’s my thought on this experiment: although it was though – the more I felt down or sad, the furthest away I felt from doing a gratitude meditation. But right on those moments, the downs, is when we need something to uplift us. So, even if it was challenging, I did my meditation every evening and it always made me feel amazing. What changed from the version of me before the meditation vs after the meditation? Nothing but my mindset and perspective. I didn’t receive any news, nothing actually changed in my day or my life, but solely by putting myself in a gratitude mindset made me feel so calm, light and happy. 

So a gratitude meditation is a beautiful way to express your thankfulness, and I’ve created this daily gratitude meditation on Insight Timer. Try it out, for free, and notice how you feel before & afterwards.

Shifting your perspective

Instead of saying, I am sorry I am late, say: thank you for waiting. Shifting your words and thoughts when you catch them being passive, or negative, is your biggest challenge and teacher. When we notice our thoughts heading into a negative spiral, we can stop for a moment, smile at them, knowing they are not real, and instead bring in the positive side of it. It can be anything – from a random thought popping up or a certain situation that has happened and that you perceive to be negative.

Shifting your perspective can be very powerful. Here’s a small exercise I’d like you to try out: write down all the experiences in your life you first thought were absolutely catastrophic, but then turned out to have a positive influence on your life. For me, this was my biggest break-up, after being together for 4 years I got dumped. I was absolutely crushed. Heartbroken. I was a mess. But this breakup allowed me to grow, and go my own way, and when I look back now, I see I completely transformed in a good way. It brought me closer to myself.

This is just an example of how we can find unexpected blessings in what e first though to be curses. For this, we need to let go of the expectation and stop holding onto a certain outcome. 

We often take lots of things for granted, but when we stop for a moment and realise how much of a blessing it really is, we rewire our brains to see the positive side of things, and consequently, that means more happiness and less complaining. 

Scientific research has shown us that when we feel gratitude, we cannot experience negative feelings at the same time. Its gratitude, and gratitude only, that courses through our bodies. How amazing is that?

Another benefit of giving thanks might seem a bit more woo-woo to some, but nonetheless very powerful: we are energetic beings. Yes, we are. We are made out of millions of cells. When we put these cells under a microscope, we don’t see something vast, we see energy. So, if you zoom out of the picture, we are made out of energy!

What we think of, and what we feel, we attract more of in our lives. Tapping into gratitude puts you into a state of receiving: you evoke the feeling of how it is to already have something in your life. This feeling of abundance, of joy and happiness, will then allow you to attract more of that in your life. 

Giving thanks can uplift us and rewire our brains to see the positive in even challenging situations. Start with small habits such as writing a gratitude list, or trying out a gratitude meditation, to tune into this beautiful state of mind.

4 Mindful Practices to Recharge + Avoid Burnout

With winter around the corner + a new lockdown for some countries, many of us are not only facing those winter blues, but now there’s also a thing as lockdown blues. Days become shorter and nights become longer. Being separated from our loved ones and having limited time to spend outdoors takes its toll on our overall wellbeing.

To keep it short: there are many reasons for why this time can be challenging for you. On top of that, your work life probably keeps going on, and maybe you’ve got even more work on your hands. 

Here are 4 mindfulness practises that can come in handy during a season of low energy and feeling like the fire, that candle within you, is almost burn out. Let’s keep it lightened up!

1. Practising awareness 

Becoming aware of you doing something is step one. And it’s a big step. We live on auto-pilot most of the time – recent studies tell us mor ethan hal of the things we do happens without us realizing it. Mindfulness is all about shifting that auto-pilot mode and taking the wheel in our own hands. Become aware of what you do. Next time you brush your teeth, watch Netflix or start scrolling on Instagram, try to become aware of it.

Maybe you recognize this: you end up scrolling endelssly on social media without even realizing it, afterwards wishing you hadn’t spend that much time on it.  That is what happens when we stay on auto-pilot mode and are not really present. 

When we shift our attention to this moment, we become aware of what we are doing. The auto-pilot mode gets disrupted, and we can take control again. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying you should never again scroll on social media or watch Netflix for hours. Mindfulness simply asks us to bring our attention to what we are doing, without any judgment, instead bringing in kindess + curiosity. When you are bingewatching Netflix or scrolling through social media, notice how that feels like for you and what effect it has on you, try to be curious.

2. Recharging check-ins

When our phone is low on battery, we plug it in. When our computer is having issues, we restart it.

You deserve a recharge or a restart as much as your devices. 

Mindfulness is all about focusing our attention on the present moment. To notice our breath, how our bodies feel and the environment arround us.

And it all beings with your attention. Redirect your attention to your breath. How are you breathing right now? When we are focused, we tend to hold our breath. This causes our brains to receive less oxygen – and our brains desperately need oxygen to function properly. 

 If you’re a person who tends to push through work and hop on that treadmill everyday, regardless of how full your battery is, one thing you can start with is setting an alarm to take a break from a project every 2 hours. Go for a walk, do a meditation, take a nap, drink some water, eat a snack, do some stretches,…. taking a small moment for yourself will allow you to return to your day with a fresh mind and body.

3. Holding onto Purpose

Something I have heard clients struggle with the last few weeks, is a lack of motivation + purpose. What gets you up in the morning? What is your reason to own the day and shine brightly?

Setting an intention on a daily basis can help you navigate through the day. Whenever you feel lost, you can remind yourself of the intention you set for the day and take action. This intention can change on the daily, depending on the foucs of the day.

When you focus on this one intention, this purpose, you can see the impact and importance of the actions that you take.

Let’s say you have a big presentation coming up today, and you just woke up, and to be honest you already feel a bit anxious + stressed about it. Setting an intention to remain present + grounded and do your best can help you tackle the day. When you feel stressed, use your intention to come back to and say to yourself: I am present, grounded and I am doing my best. This will put you in the right mindspace but also lead you to take action on the next best thing you can do. 

Remember to stay kind to yourself – as I’ve said, mindfulnesss focuses on non-judgment, curiosity and kindness. 

4. Purposeful Breathing 

You’ll notice that when you take 3 deep breahts (maybe now would be a good time, go on) instantly relaxes you and releases some pressure of your kettle. 

Our breath gives us life. It gives us energy. The fact that you are reading this right now and breahting without even knowing it, is a miracle. 

What’s even better is that we can play with our breath and allow it to influence our state of being.

When you are tired, try to do an energising breathing exercise: the 6-2 method. Breathe in for 6 seconds, fully exhale for 2 seconds. Repeat until you feel energised + recharged again.

When you are feeling foggy in your mind, and in need of concentration and focus, try the box breathing method, used by many athletes to improve performance and attention. Breathe in for 4, hold for 4, breathe out for 4, hold for 4. Repeat until you feed more focused + relaxed.

When you are feeling energised and you want to relax and slow down, try the 4-7-8- method: breathe in for 4, hold for 7 and exhale for 8. The long exhales send signals to your brain to relax your nervous system and slow down. 

Burnout, as one of my favourite mentors Jay Shetty says, is continuously running, instead of walking. It’s like you’re living life on a threadmill, without stopping, and pushing through (mostly) work.  I hope these mindfulness practices and tips help you to check in more often with yourself and be mindful of the things you do, so you can stop running, and start walking at your own pace, in peace and with purpose.

⁠ ⁠If you want to start living a more mindful life, grab your free copy of my e-book, a guide to Mindful Living!⁠ Why for free? Because I deserve everyone deserves peace. And this year has been challenging enough. It’s a little gift to you, from me.

Another resource on Black Friday promotion right now is my 10-day mindfulness & self-growth course Flow. You’ll learn all about meditation, mindfulness, overcoming limiting beliefs, shifting your mindset, practising gratitude, developing healthy habits and so much more! Claim your 50% off before the price goes up again. ⏰⁠

How to Find Peace in the Chaos

There’s a lot going on in the world right now – and you’re not the only one who feels overwhelmed by it all.

Often, this un-ease we experience is because we are stressed, anxious or worried. When we are anxious, our mind & body are in survival mode. We have left the present moment, and we are preparing to either fight or flight. ⁠ ⁠ Our brains are wired to spot danger – whether that’s a hungry tiger standing in front of you, an email from an angry boss, or a pandemic that impacts your entire life.

So, how can we deal with modern-day stress & anxiety? ⁠ ⁠Come back to the present moment. Let your brain now you are safe right here, right now. ⁠ ⁠

1️⃣ Relax your body. Unclench your jaw. Often, we put our tension on a part of our body – that’s why we get headaches or stomachaches when we are anxious or stressed. Breathe into that place.⁠ ⁠

2️⃣ What are my thoughts telling me? Remember you are not your thoughts. Watch them float by like clouds and smile at them, knowing you are the awareness behind them.⁠ ⁠

3️⃣ Redirect your attention to your breath. How am I breathing right now? Am I hyperventilating, am I breathing shallow or fast? Am I holding my breath? Try the 4-7-8 breathing technique to calm down.⁠ ⁠

4️⃣ Focus your awareness to what you can feel, see, hear and taste. Name these things in your head.⁠ ⁠

5️⃣ Now that you have calmed down, you can dig deeper onto why you are feeling anxious. Often, it’s because we are thinking about what could, should or would happen – things that are outside of our control. So, write down 5 facts you can think of right now to ground yourself.⁠

These steps are small, but extremely powerful into calming down your body & mind, and guiding your attention back into this moment. When we are in survival mode, our bodies release this hormone you’ve probably heard out – adrenaline – to help us fight or flight. This hormone shuts down all of the major systems we need to function properly – our digestive system, growth hormones, the part of our brain that copes with logical thinking, planning and emotional regulation, and all the other things we don’t need when faced with danger.

However, the problem in modern-day society, is that small challenges trigger the same response in our bodies, and even our own thoughts can influence us so much that our bodies believe we are in actual danger.

Therefore, the importance of mindfulness cannot be underestimated. It has changed my life, and the lives of so many others.

Hope this helps. Know that I am here to guide you on your journey from mind full to mindful. Grab your spot in my online 10-day course on mindfulness and self-growth.