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8 Things the World Can Learn from Europe

8 Things the World Can Learn from Europe

Maybe you think that European cities are quaint, beautiful and historically fascinating? You are right, of course. But Europe is much more than that, and it is leading the world in many fields. Just look at the European Union, for a start. It is a success story of political, social and economic integration. All this has led to 70 years of peaceful co-existence which would have taken centuries in another era. It is not surprising that it was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012. Let us have a look at what the world can learn from Europe.

1. Europe leads the way in energy efficiency.

There are many examples of energy saving in housing projects all over Europe. The Brussels project known as L’Espoir is an excellent illustration of what can be done at a very low cost in terms of materials and green energy.

This project is a model of eco–construction and energy-saving initiatives. Low level income families were able to buy houses for very modest sums. The houses themselves have the following features:

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  • Wooden frames
  • Sustainable materials used throughout
  • Thermal solar panels
  • Green roof
  • Rainwater cisterns

Another excellent example is the Hammarby Sjostad project (10,000 homes) in Stockholm. Builders here had to meet very high standards in the areas of technical installations and energy saving, which have led to a model development. There are 50% less emissions here compared to other areas of Stockholm. In addition, they have beautiful cycle paths, green areas, renewable fuels, and modern sewage treatment. They also use gray water recycling where shower water can be reused for watering landscape areas and also flushing toilets.

2. Europe encourages cyclists.

The winters may be cold and wet but that does not discourage cyclists. Cycle paths are a standard feature in urban development. Just think that the main station in The Hague in Holland houses 3,000 bicycles in its parking lot. Amsterdam is another example. Only 20% use their cars while 30% are on their bikes and 36% walk! These cities have stopped the urban sprawl so typical of American urban areas which never seem to end. Americans have no choice: they use cars and pollute the atmosphere.

3. Europeans know how to enjoy their food.

The Americans have invented an expression which sums up perfectly how they gulp their food down. I am referring to the expression “to go” when ordering takeaways. In Europe, there is a much more relaxed attitude to eating. People sit down, take their time and really enjoy their food. The Spaniards combine this with an afternoon siesta (soon to be reduced, unfortunately, if a new law goes through). Food and eating are revered in Europe.

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4. Europe provides free health care.

European countries provide mostly free health care, adequate unemployment benefits, and low cost college education as basic rights. It is startling to realize that 16% of Americans are living without any health coverage at all because they cannot afford it.

5. Europeans take longer holidays.

Most companies are now trying to encourage their workers to actually take all their vacation days. Many do not and think that their work ethic is all that matters. There are now many studies which show the health benefits of vacations. Reduction of stress plus increased creativity and productivity are just a few.

Just look at the recent OECD study which shows that Americans are working 400 more hours annually than their European counterparts. Give me a break!

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6. Europe leads the way in flood protection.

The Dutch have been the trailblazers in protecting their land, often below sea level, from devastating storms and excessive rainfall. This process is known as “climate proofing.” They have become experts in building dykes and dams. They now let citizens grow their own vegetables along the dykes.

7. Europe leads in childcare and parental leave.

There is a long way to go in the reduction of poverty and protection of children. Neglect, exploitation and abuse of children stalk the world. The European Union is committed to improving maternity benefits and childcare facilities as many women are forced to leave employment due to a lack of facilities.

Europeans pay higher taxation, but they are getting many more benefits, especially in the area of childcare and parental leave. Just look at the infographic here to understand how far behind some countries are. America joins Lesotho and Swaziland as the countries where maternity leave is unpaid, although many US States are working to improve the situation.

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8. Europe and Erasmus

The Erasmus+ programme developed by the EU in 1987 is unique. It fosters transnational partnerships in the areas of education, training, youth work and sport. It allows up to 3 million Europeans to gain work experience, to study, to train and to volunteer in countries adhering to the programme. It has recently simplified the application procedures and funding rules.

Erasmus has fostered not only the free movement of people learning new skills but has also developed cross-border contacts and friendships throughout the European continent.

Let us know in the comments how your experience of visiting or living in Europe has changed your outlook on life.

Featured photo credit: Europe Day/Niccolo’ Caranti via flickr.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on January 17, 2019

8 Simple Mindfulness Exercises to Bring Peace and Happiness to Your Life

8 Simple Mindfulness Exercises to Bring Peace and Happiness to Your Life

In life, we all need to be conscientious of what we are doing. You don’t need to live a life of stress if you don’t want to. You can achieve peace and happiness in life by carefully building mindfulness exercises into your life’s routine.

Exercising mindfulness isn’t rocket science and as importantly, you can do it. It will, however, take a few tries to get into the groove of things but once you get it, it is like riding a bike, you will never lose it.

Trust me. It’s in your best interest to learn and put these mindfulness exercises into practice. In this article, I will share with you 8 mindfulness exercises that will help you to boost your energy, vitality and live a more peaceful and happier life.

Why Is It Hard to Live A Peaceful And Happy Life?

Our Habitat Has Become Too Technological

The world has accepted the idea that technology is often the cure for all evil. We have accepted, as a society, that everything technological will make us live a better life without fully investigating the many side effects that modernity brings.

There are a number of technological side effects that have a tremendous impact on your life that the media rarely tells you about.[1] Some of them include self-harm, economic inequality, having less sex, and even suicide. The global community is becoming less happy because of technology.

How can anybody live a peaceful and happy life when they are depressed? Technology advancements, ladies and gents, is a major reason for why we are living a poor life because it has infiltrated our lives too much.

According to my research, Americans spend an average of 8 hours a day looking at the computer screen — The average screen time spent on smartphones alone is about 20 hours per week. That’s a lot! No wonder why living a happy and peaceful life is so difficult these days.

Too Many People Don’t Want to Unplug

Americans check their phones an average of 80 times during vacation.[2] Some admit to checking their smartphones 300 times every single day. In countries like Brazil, India and China, the situation is no different.

The reality is that people are constantly plugged into technological devices and this behavior is literally making people all over the globe fight an inner war with themselves, which consequently makes them very sad. As we know, war is the enemy of peace which won’t make anybody happy.

Listen carefully:

We have a global anxiety epidemic because people don’t want to unplug from their smartphones and most people aren’t doing anything to fix it. It is a sad state of affairs but very real. This obsession with technology is turning us into perishable robots who live terrible lives.

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The era of anxiety is here to stay. There is little doubt about it. We can, however, fight back with the best remedy of all — We call it mindfulness!

Thank God there is an antidote to this whole technological madness. Without further ado, let’s go straight to the mindful exercises.

8 Mindfulness Exercises to Start Practicing

There are tons of mindfulness exercises available for you to engage with out there.[3] In the paragraphs below, I will include the best ones I’ve personally tried or have seen my close friends and family members try.

Are you ready for it? Let’s go!

1. Pray Daily

You should pray on a daily basis. Why is that you may ask — Well, because science has told us to do so.

When people pray, they feel peaceful, almost eliminating anxiety. Worries become secondary, and often gives people energy and hope to cope with the difficulties of life.

Prayer can make you more confident and focused. Prayer also helps you with self-control, helps to control pain, and can protect you against illnesses and disorders like cancer and high blood pressure. At least, this is what researchers from Harvard Medical School have said.[4]

Pray. You won’t regret it.[5]

2. Pay Attention to Your Inner Thoughts

A lot of people allow themselves to be influenced by their negative thoughts. Be different and resist believing in them. It is a bad habit that can lead to unhappiness.

By the way, if you do feel this way, chances are high that somebody other than you put these thoughts into your head.

Here is my secret to combat this cancer — look at things objectively. I bet that if you look at things as they are, you will realize that most if not all of your negative thoughts are only inside of your head.

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If you pay close attention, you will quickly realize that these voices aren’t worth your time. Believe me — Ignoring them and looking at things with objectivity is often the best course of action.

This article can guide you to beat negative thoughts:

How to Stop Automatic Negative Thoughts When You’re Overwhelmed

3. Smile Often

Smiling will slow down your heart. It will also relax your body because when you smile, your body releases endorphins which in itself has a number of positive benefits for you as a person.

Smile often! You may want to smile early in the morning, during the day, and late in the evening. It is amazing what happens to you when you decide to smile instead of being grumpy.

Surrender your problems to a nice smile. You will notice two things. First, most people just don’t which makes them live a miserable life. Second, if you decide to smile often, you will eventually smile unconsciously which is the ideal.

The moment that you smile unconsciously, you then know that you are truly happy.

4. Organize Your Working Desk

A messy desk will make you less productive and can agitate and overstimulate you. You don’t want that.

When you clear your desk, you engage in deep inner-thinking and your systematic decision making ends up becoming therapeutic.

Most people realize that they are most creative when their creative space is clean and organized. The former often makes people more aware of what they are doing which lends to less stress and more productivity.

Organizing your desk will also make you more energetic and focused because order often decreases chaos which is a condition that often slows down daily progress.

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5. Celebrate Your Friend’s Victories

I love this mindful exercise. One of the best ways to live a happy and peaceful life is to celebrate the victories of others. When you do that, you automatically make your friends in a better mood which makes you in a better mood, as well.

Happiness is contagious! We might as well celebrate others as much as we can. If you find out that your peer has won an award, celebrate with him! If your friend is the recipient of a local charity award, celebrate with her!

What is also awesome is that when you celebrate with others, they often celebrate with you in return. This, ladies and gentleman, will make you feel fantastic. You can’t go wrong with this one, period.

6. Listen to Your Spouse/Partner

God put someone in your life for a reason. You might as well listen to him or her.

I listen to my wife everyday. In fact, I often ask the following question to her, “Amanda, what are your thoughts about…” or “What am I missing about…” It is shocking what I hear back from her. Without her having much context and perspective, by the art of observation in my own nonverbal behavior and the behavior of others, she accurately gives me incredible insights which helps me out with living my life to the fullest.

I’m a firm believer that spouses are supposed to engage in interpersonal communication every day. I most definitely do and will continue doing it. You should do the same.

7. Give Yourself a Break from Technology

You can’t be in total equilibrium if your computerized devices control your life. You must get away from technology on a daily basis.[6]

How do you do that? This is my formula:

First, take this smartphone control test. It is only ten questions but this test will place you somewhere in the human robot cycle continuum.

If your score is between 25-30, take a break from the computer (or smartphone, pad, laptop/desktop) every twenty minutes and stop being on a computerized device after 8:00pm.

If you score between 30-35, still take a break every 20 minutes but stop being on these devices at 5:00pm.

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If you score more than 35, you need to take action immediately.

Limit computer use as much as possible throughout the day. Give yourself as many breaks from the computer as possible. Are you ready for the challenge?

8. Go Exercise

Go exercise at least three times a week. I don’t care if you need to workout early in the morning, late in the evening, on the weekends or during work days. Working out is absolutely imperative for you to live happy and peaceful life.

The stresses of the modern world are too much for you to neglect this important mindfulness exercise. When you go to the gym, you burn calories, focus on activities one step at a time, your mind relaxes, anxiety decreases, you sweat and often think about topics unrelated to your work place among many other benefits.

You must exercise at least three hours each week for optimum results. Why? Just take a look at all the benefits of regular exercising:

12 Benefits of Regular Exercise You Should Know

The Bottom Line

It’s in your best interest to learn and put these mindfulness exercises into practice. Now that our habitat has become too technological and many people just don’t want to unplug, engaging in daily prayer, celebrate your friends’ victories, and listening to your spouse are among the best ways to be mindful about what you are doing and how you are living.

It is possible to live a happy and peaceful life. It only depends on you.

Go exercise! Take a break from technology and invest in you! Life is too short for distractions.

More Resources About Mindfulness

Featured photo credit: Lesly Juarez via unsplash.com

Reference

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