How to unwind and feel more peaceful


Just unwind: sounds so easy doesn’t it? But with all the stimuli that we encounter on a daily basis, it’s not always possible to do. Maaike Helmer of the Dutch online magazine tells us more about it and gives some handy tips.

Can you briefly explain why this topic started to play such a big role in your life?

“Like so many others, I was always looking for more inner peace and calm. Certain beliefs arise in our youth. For me—due to a history of being bullied—it was: ‘I am not good enough’. As a result, I first searched for my ‘peace’ by showing that I was good enough: I had a successful international modeling career and then I worked as a journalist. But my motivation destroyed me. I discovered, among other things due to a burn-out, that I mainly wanted to attain ‘the perfect picture’. Only when I realized that, did I dare to let that go. And to feel what really brought me peace.”

What do you think makes it so difficult nowadays to really relax?

“The fact that we are constantly challenged by our environment. Every moment there is something that we can be entertained with. And being entertained is addictive; we find it very difficult to be alone with our thoughts. When we find ourselves alone with our thoughts, we automatically start to mull and worry.”

What special things did you come across in your search for peace and tranquility?

“That peace lies in the small things in life. With a book on the couch, a funny conversation with your child, quietly watching the moon in the sky, walking on your own in the forest. That’s also what my book NIETS [‘Nothing’; in Dutch only -ed.] is about: the interim moments. We often overlook those, but they can be a source of peace. We have forgotten to stand still and wonder. The death of a friend was the reason I came to that insight. When he was sick, he focused on those small moments together, something that we normally overlook too often.”

Three tips from Maaike on how to unwind:

  1. Don’t just look for the big things.
    “Realize that peace and tranquility can often be found in small things. Not just on vacation, but also in the small moments when you pour your tea, smell a fine perfume, see lambs running outside.”
  1. Make time for it.
    “It seems to go against your intuition to make time for tranquility. And yet it is important.”
  1. Remember that things can arise from rest.
    “Rest is very underestimated. Did you know that certain parts of the brain only start working together if you don’t think (the default mode network, as it’s called)? The best ideas often arise at moments of rest.”

Photography: Oliver Pacas/

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