Inspiration

Top 10 Amazing Websites You Don’t Know About

Here’s my top 10 hidden gems on the internet, relatively unknown yet amazing websites. I picked these because they are relaxing, heartwarming, positive, creative and juste make me happy. They’re in no specific order. I love them all.

 

1.  Need a hug?

thenicestplaceontheinter.net

This site is literally called “the nicest place on the internet” because it just is. It shows you videos of strangers hugging “you”. Well, their camera technically. It may sound a little weird but it really is heartwarming and makes you feel like someone cares. Because people actually do. And you can also record your own hug to add to the site for other people to enjoy. I just really like this simple initiative.

 

2.  Customizable guided meditations

calm.com

I personally really like guided meditations but it’s hard to find short ones for when you don’t have time for a half hour meditation and don’t want to spend an extra 15 actually looking for a good guided meditation on Youtube for instance. Calm.com is an awesome, intuitive, simple meditation solution for busy people. You can choose the background image & the duration. It’s very easy. And it’s free. :)

 

3.  Relaxing ambient sounds

noisly.com

A very simple website that just allows you to play one or several ambient sounds to wash away the distractions. There are preset settings if you want. You can choose “random”, “productivity” and “relax”. You can listen to these sounds while you’re working or just while you close your eyes for a little bit. It really helps and I just love how simple it is to customize the sound environment you want. There are 16 different sounds to choose from! You can play them together, adjust the volume of each. It’s awesome and the website itself looks beautiful and has a slowly changing background color.

 

4.  A cooperation experience

donottouch.org

Do Not Touch is a crowd-sourced music video. You really have to experience it to understand it but basically every person that participates (it can be you in a minute) has their cursor recorded. You just have to follow the instructions and see what all the other people did right before you. It’s fun and most importantly, it gives a sense of community, seeing the cursors representing all these other people like you, doing the same thing, playing, making things together, cooperating! A creative and touching initiative. Try it out!

 

5.  Make music with strangers!

dinahmoelabs.com/plink

Plink is an intuitive multiplayer music experience developed by Dinahmoe Labs. It’s very, very simple to use. You pick your instruments by clicking colored buttons on the right and you move your mouse up and down while clicking to make sounds. There are always people playing with you. It’s awesome to see how people are being attentive to the rhythm you’re following. If you take the lead with the melody, someone will harmonize with you and play the bass sounds. It’s an awesome jam session for everybody, even if you don’t know how to make music. Creating with strangers is just a beautiful moment that can definitely cheer you up and make you feel part of something.

 

6.  Unplug the TV

unplugthetv.com

Unplug the TV is meant to replace mind-numbing television. They propose that you instead watch something mind-opening and educational. It has hundreds of educational videos to help you learn or gain a new perspective. It’s the most minimalistic website layout ever and it’s amazing specifically because it doesn’t give you a list of things to choose from. It just gives you a random video that is guaranteed to be interesting. It’s okay if you don’t like one so much, you can just click on “I want to watch something else” and another great video will start. I just love this idea.

 

7.  The Quiet Place

thequietplaceproject.com

The quiet place is a short yet deep experience. It just helps you take a break. A real one. It’s exactly what it says it is. A quiet place. You just “communicate” with the quiet place by “gently squeezing” the spacebar. You can do it whenever you feel like you’re too distracted, can’t stop checking your phone, need to just focus on not doing anything for a second (well 30 to be specific). It’s necessary.

 

 

8.  Write to your future self

futureme.org

Future Me is a simple yet amazing website. The idea is very basic, it allows you to send yourself an email in the future. I used it and I’ll receive an email in 10 years. In the email, I told myself what I hope will happen between now and then, what I believe now and how interesting it will be to see how I changed, etc. When I told friends I had done that, some of them were shocked! They didn’t like the idea too much because they thought I might be depressed to see all the hopes I had for the future, especially if none of them happen. It’s a pretty pessimistic way of seeing it to say the least… I think on the contrary that it can make you reflect on how you evolved and because I’ll receive it in 10 years, I’ll still have plenty of time to do the things I didn’t do and always wanted to. It’s a great, touching reminder. I find it fascinating. You can set it to be sent whenever you want, it doesn’t have to be 10 years. What I also like on the website is that you can read public letters (you have the option to set your email to be public–yet anonymous–or not. I set my letter to private) and it’s moving and inspiring to see what people are saying to their future self.

 

9.  Watch your stressful thoughts go away

pixelthoughts.co

We hear a lot during guided meditations about visualizing something good, or seeing our negative thoughts being small. When I have a thought I don’t like I usually visualize a computer desktop with the trash can icon and I mentally drag my negative thoughts to it and then in my mind I hear that satisfying sound virtual trash cans make when you empty them. :) All this to say that visualizing is an effective way to deal with our emotions. Pixelthoughts allows you to write down a stressful thought and see it become small and disappear while being given perspective on your problem. It helps you step back and literally shows your thought go away. I think it’s an amazing idea. Try it out. :)

 

 

10.  Good News!

goodnewsnetwork.org

The Good News Network is a website that shares positive news. It’s like a regular online newspaper, only they focus on good stuff, giving you a necessary break from all the negative things we hear about every day (not because there are more bad things than before, but because media focuses on the negative and media sources have increased in number). So this is a breath of fresh air. It shows us that there really are amazing things, uplifting stories, generous initiatives, humans being humane in our world. I think we all know it but we easily forget it, we generalize the bad news, turning it into a reality, which is actually only a perspective on reality. I think this website creates a good balance. :)

 

What do you think of this list? Are there other amazing yet rather unknown websites you want to share? Please do so in the comments below. :)

 

Gratitude in Pictures

cats / snails / flowers / sea (Recovery week)

Here are, in pictures, the things I saw and did, and felt grateful for lately.

I had never had surgery before so having an ovarian cyst removed was a strange thing. I wasn’t scared really. My husband and my mom came to visit me and sat on my bed playing a 2-player board game while I was going in and out of sleep. I had brought a solitaire one and stayed up late playing. It was a good experience. Also a relief that my doctor noticed the cyst early.

This forced rest was welcomed and not too painful. I took naps with the cats and my husband reading on the bed next to me. My best friend sent me gorgeous flowers.

When I felt better I went to an exhibition that had different furniture and objects designed by several firms, including a table and a vase that my dad co-designed. I always love what he does, it made me proud to see something he designed.

We ended my 10 day sick leave by a 2-day trip to Normandy. It was very windy and wonderful. The morning before we left, one of my snails died. I cried and decided to release the last one (my oldest,Ginsberg) in a nearby garden. I cried all the way to the train station because it was so brutal and they were my pets.

Now I don’t remember the pain nor the tears of these few days, but only that it was a nice break from work, a time to focus on taking care of myself and spending it with my husband.

I feel grateful for those moments.

What have you been grateful for lately ? Tell me in the comments or use the gratitude page.

Interviews

My Conversation With a Prosecutor on Prison Art

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I recently shared on Facebook an article called Prisoners Make Therapeutic Art Monuments Addressing The Death Penalty that I do find particularly interesting.

A deputy prosecutor I know commented in response to share his point of view about why he doesn’t think we should care about art made by inmates. A conversation ensued between him and me that I thought I’d share because it raises different questions that are all angles of the same problem. I think it’s also a good example of a respectful exchange about a complicated topic that people often aggressively debate on.

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Gavriel Jacobs: Akil Jahi AKA Preston Carter, the “creator of the proposed shoe sculpture.” On January 25, 1995, Carter went to a house he believed belonged to a drug dealer he intended to rob. He and his accomplice went to the wrong house on accident, instead going to the home of an innocent family who had nothing to do with drugs. He realized this when he knocked on the door, but decided to rob the family anyway. They kicked in the door and forced their way into the house where Thomas and Tensia Jackson lived with their small daughter. While Carter ransacked the apartment for money and jewelry, his accomplice raped Tensia Jackson. Thomas Jackson hid in his daughter’s closet. Carter found him in the closet and shot him at point-blank range with a shotgun, literally blowing his brains all over his daughter’s room. When his accomplice finished raping Mrs. Jackson, Carter shot her in the face with the shotgun as she kneeled begging for her life. The small child was not injured, but was found lying in a pool of her father’s blood and tissue.


Who cares about their art.


Louise Massol: Gavriel, first know that I respect your opinion and that I agree that this crime, like any other, is horrible and something that should simply never happen.

Now here’s why I think we should care about inmates art and why it doesn’t make crime less revolting or make us care less about victims of violent crimes:

First of all, it has been proven that prison and death penalty are not effective deterrents to crime and inmates are clearly the less equipped members of our society to face this environment.

If we decide to apply the convenient eye for an eye logic, nothing will ever change.

Thinking that crime comes from evil minds and not from sick or hurt ones is holding us back from becoming a less violent society precisely because we punish and don’t heal.

It also shows that we don’t believe people can change, that we think some people are more valuable than others, that revenge and pain in response to pain is something we believe in and are defined by.


We need to act as the peaceful society we want to become. The UK has a very low crime rate for a reason. They care, they help, they don’t glorify violence, they make sure people have the resources to make good decisions, to have other options than violence. They started the dialogue we don’t even want to have.

Caring about inmate art forces us to dive into the possibly uncomfortable reality that these people are products of our society and that their voice counts, simply because they are human beings and have, no matter what they did, an inalienable right to dignity.

As long as murderers will be considered as monsters and that our reaction will be based on pain and revenge and a sense of justice that turns a blind eye to their personal circumstances, we won’t evolve, and most importantly, we won’t do anything to detect pain and help potential murderers before they act in destructive ways. I believe it is our responsibility as a society to listen more to the people who are causing harm because they so clearly need help. People don’t kill by genuine pleasure, nobody gains happiness from violence.

And yes, we can have compassion for both victims and murderers. This isn’t about taking sides, it’s about trying, as much as we can, to face the core of the problem, to believe in humanity, to not give up on anyone, to accept that we have no idea what it’s like to be someone else, to take into account all the factors that lead to crime, to be there for the victims and for the families of inmates, and for inmates themselves.

We do, more than ever, have to care.

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G.J.: I know we disagree about the death penalty, but that’s not really what this is about. My support for capital punishment is not without unease, and I am perfectly aware of the arguments against it. It is reasonable to believe that the State should not have a civil process by which it can take a life. I suppose my indignation arises from the attention feted on cold-blooded murders – we have millions of displaced, tortured, and impoverished people across several continents, yet a man who looked a bloodied rape victim, laughed at her desperate pleas, and then shot her in the face, is deserving of our individual attention. Compassion, like anything else, is not without limit. Mental exertions are zero sum as much as physical ones. We can have a certain amount of compassion for crime victims and their assailants – but yet you are only celebrating the artistic achievements of one of those groups with your energies. 

Whether prison or the death penalty are effective or not depends somewhat on the goals of the criminal justice system. Deterrence is only one such possible goal. Obviously, if the goal is retributive, they work well. If the goal is rehabilitation, prisons can be effective with the proper programming which, admittedly, very few American institutions now provide in the current economic climate. If the purpose is isolationist than they are highly effective. The difference in crime rates between the US and UK is debatable, as there is very little clear data that can be directly compared. The UK crime rate is still significant –2,600 cases of robbery per 100,000 citizens. In any event, the US crime rate has inarguably been declining for decades.

Whether someone is “evil” or merely “sick” is a theological question. Whether it matters is a practical one.

Attending to their personal circumstances implies that this mitigates their actions and absolves them of at least some personal responsibility. I do not accept that it does.

I am sure that they are sick, and this necessitates their quarantine. They certainly have a right to basic human dignity. They are fed, they are clothed, and they receive appropriate medical care as they masturbate their lives away in their cells.

I think any connection between looking at Carter’s shoe sculpture and preventing murder is dubious. Crime rates are more strongly connected to economics and government policy than appreciation of the arts and crafts of the condemned. I cannot see any quantifiable way in which viewing the art assists in helping or identifying potential murderers still in the community, or how you even discern with any type of specificity who these people are. To the extent that they can be distinguished, helping people out of poverty will assist them more than the elite establishments indulgence of men who will die in prison, one way or another. Perhaps art generally softens ossified hearts, but the people who are gentle enough to care about inmate art are rarely the same demographic that rapes and murders. You cannot care about criminal justice and not be searching for the most effective way to influence entry into the system. I know of no evidence that this project is anything more profound than the mundane reflections of men whose only distinction is their terrible depravity. If people choose to focus on their purported remorse that is their prerogative, but I see nothing to celebrate

You are wrong that nobody takes pleasure in violence or killing. You simply haven’t seen enough men kill and be killed, or at least not in close enough proximity, to observe the phenomenon.

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L.M.: Starting a conversation on that wasn’t my intention as I know it would remain somewhat sterile only because of our fundamental difference of opinion, how anchored it is and where it comes from. The only thing I want to clarify is that I’m not talking about their “artistic achievements”, which sounds like something futile, like finding some talent and using it as a proof of their value as human beings. The art in question is interesting merely because it’s an expression of something these individuals are experiencing and we can’t just refuse to pay attention to it by fear that it might shed some undeserving light on them, substract some responsibility points or waste our energy better used for victims. It’s all part of the same effort to develop a greater understanding (which doesn’t mean acceptance) of humans around us and of what, at some point, drives them over the edge.


Also, I shouldn’t have used the word “pleasure”, I was really talking about happiness. These people aren’t happy. Circumstances are not excuses and we have everything to gain in digging deeper and paying attention to what happens before crimes. I’m the penfriend of a guy on death row and yes, it’s only one subjective experience, but seeing his evolution, the human qualities that he develops and the way he sees things makes me believe there’s something big we’re missing, because the justice system doesn’t seem to me to be about human understanding, which makes it go against its own purpose. 

If its point is to help create a just society, it then seems counterintuitive to ignore opportunities to learn about what makes one act unjustly toward others, information on which actual solutions can be based.

Here’s food, if not for debate, but for thoughts: http://www.ted.com/…/david_r_dow_lessons_from_death_row…

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G.J.: I believe there are solutions that can help reduce mass incarceration. Tending to impoverishment, the availability of narcotics and mental health diversionary programs, decriminalization of some types of drug offenses, and increased juvenile intervention are examples. You write quite eloquently, beautifully actually, about happiness and understanding, but they are subjective and have no meaningful quantification or real-world policy analogues. Apart from the criminally insane, criminal motivations are not obscure – most arise from the same rules of scarcity that govern all of human society. Much of the rest falls into crimes of anger, jealousy, control, and passion – aspects of human personality that are not difficult to understand, but difficult to control ex-ante by the State in a free society.

I guess we disagree not merely about capital punishment (which is really just a symbolic formality compared to life without parole), but the fundamental purpose of the criminal justice system. The point is to create a “just society,” but I see a system that places parallel emphasis on the experience of the assailant and the suffering of the victim as unjust. And as a practitioner, there are resource limits that cannot be ignored.

Capital of all kinds that goes towards defendants, whether to better understand them, to treat them, or any number of worthy goals, are indeed resources that cannot go to victims or other priorities.

Ideally prison does something to make inmates less likely to re-offend. But it is also punishment, and to the extent you believe punishment is a goal unfit for a just society, the difference between us is probably irreconcilable.

An interesting discussion that, as you suggest, has quickly run its course as we begin to chase our tails. Thank you for the movie suggestion – I’ll check it out when I have time this weekend.

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L.M.: Gavriel, I just want to say thank you for debating with intelligence and respect. It’s rare when people agree to disagree in a non-aggressive way. And your point of view is interesting, whether I agree with it or not.

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Do you think we should care about inmates’ art? Let me know in the comments.

Do Good

7+ Ideas For Online Acts Of Kindness

— Originally published on Kindness Blog — by Louise Massol


Wanting to spread kindness through simple acts is a beautiful sentiment, and a contagious one. It inspires, it does good, it’s active, and it’s outside ourselves.

Kindness is an endless, fast growing resource, but isn’t complete if it remains kind thoughts that are never transformed into something real that has an impact on others.

We read here and there about acts of kindness ideas that are wonderful, but some take more time than we think we have, or we don’t have what is needed to actually apply these ideas.

But online acts of kindness can be done at any time from where you are! It’s easy and their impact is real, whether you see it or not. 

I do them often, even at work when I take a break. If you have access to a computer, you can spread positivity and kindness very simply.

I think doing acts of kindness online is also important because it counteracts the negativity we sometimes see online in forums, in comments, people insulting each other, being intolerant and disrespectful. Then of course it’s important to not generalize, as the internet is also a place of wonderful connections, support, and even friendship between strangers. It’s full of knowledge and discoveries, and is a window to different ways of living, to inspirational people and heartwarming initiatives.

Observing and receiving all that is amazing of course, but to play a part in the kindness and humanity we want to witness around us is equally important.

 

 Here are 7 ideas for online acts of kindness :   

 

1.     Send an email to organizations or brands you think do a good job

Giving positive feedback is important. Most of the reviews we see online are negative, sometimes because the product or service is not of value, but also often because people are more inspired by writing something negative when they’re not satisfied than writing something positive when they’re happy. And you don’t have to express something publicly either. I usually send emails just to express my gratitude for something this company or organization is doing, even for small things I appreciate. It matters.

I once wrote to an online translation website to thank them for making something useful and effective, and they were so touched they forwarded my email to their team members and said it was encouraging them to keep improving their service. Remember you’re making an actual person feel appreciated by doing so and push them to keep working towards better things, ideas, services, solutions. That’s the beauty of the kindness and positivity cycle.

 

2.     Search for “suicide” on tumblr

Search on tumblr for blogs that mention suicide and send a private message to the bloggers you find who talk about hurting themselves (and unfortunately there are many), no matter how serious it may seem to you. If you don’t know what to say, just say that you care, that this person matters and that you would hug him/her if you could. You may never get a reply but I assure you that if your message is read (and the tumblr community does appreciate private messages), it will warm the heart of someone, make them feel valued.

People who think about suicide are struggling every day, and you, with five minutes of your time, can make that day a little better. Remember that no act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.

 

3.     Send an animated e-card to someone

Sending an e-card is a lovely gesture. It puts images and sounds on your words and even though it only takes you the selection of an e-card your friend would like, it’s meaningful. It just makes people happy! Kindness isn’t about changing people’s lives with one action (although that does happen), but creating moments of selfless human connections for others. Even small acts of kindness generate a positive ripple effect.

“Helping” someone can also be doing something simple that says, “I recognize that you are here, and you are important”. I personally use Ojolie to send e-cards to people I care about and who are far away or who I don’t get to talk to that often. I’m only mentioning Ojolie cards because they’re actually illustrated by hand and then animated, and are just absolutely wonderful.

 

4.     Spend an hour on 7cups.com to listen to someone who needs to talk

7cups is an amazing online initiative that allows people to talk to a stranger when they feel alone, when they need to be actively listened to. It’s a very valuable use of your time online. Being an active listener takes a short online training that is fascinating and very well done. You learn to hear and not give advice, to actively help someone reflect on his or her feelings and work towards a solution or a clearer and more serene perspective on what they’re going through.

If you only have 20 minutes, it’s fine too. Making a difference in someone’s life is wonderful and is the best application of modern technology—connecting us, for real, no matter how isolated some may feel.

 

5.     Reply to content you enjoy

This is similar to the first idea, but it’s more about changing our consumption of online content by taking a minute to say “thank you”, to share a constructive thought, etc. There are times when I’m reading a great article, and though I consider replying to it, I just move on because I (like most of us) am used to doing that, or I realize I need to create an account to do so, etc. But it’s actually worth the “effort” and the time.

Slowing down when browsing the internet or using social media and expressing gratitude for something you enjoyed or adding something positive and constructive to what is said, created, shared, is a valuable change, and it emphasizes the human side of our seemingly individualistic online behavior.

 

6.     Join a forum and answer others’ questions

If there’s a topic you really enjoy and are good at (gardening, making model boats, drawing, raising lizards, etc), join a forum about it, spend some time regularly to find topics with questions that are still unanswered, and help by replying or redirecting to a relevant resource. Make the new members feel welcomed and supported. Online communities are wonderful. They make people feel less isolated and also more understood when they don’t know anybody in “real life” that shares their interest. I’m personally on a snail forum, as I’m raising some, and it’s amazing to talk to other people who have snails too!

 

7.     Forward coupons you receive by email

It’s annoying at times to receive special offers by email, because we’re not always interested, or because we get so many that we don’t sort them out and just delete them, even for products or services we do use sometimes. But the thing is that while those coupons may be for a product you’re not interested in, maybe someone you know would benefit from it (be careful to not forward spam, of course).

If you receive a discount on business cards and know someone who’s starting their own business or just got a new job, let them know about it. I don’t think we should frown on everything “commercial” that’s sent our way. We all receive a lot of these types of emails, but I think instead of only thinking of our own interest, or lack thereof, we should wonder for a moment if someone else would be interested.

Additionally, if you have special skills you can do even more acts of kindness! If you speak another language, you can volunteer to translate articles or subtitles for a website or a YouTube channel, for instance. If you’re a good reader, you can record books for the blind. If you know a city very well, you can give advice to travelers or expats.

Just think of what you’re good at and use some of your time to bring that knowledge to others.

There are many wonderful ways to practice kindness online, and it’s extremely rewarding too. It gives purpose to our lives and improves our happiness. It has also been proven to have a positive and real impact on our brain, our stress level, and our immune system!

Remember that every moment of your day, you can make the choice of kindness. 
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Illustrations by Freepik and Roundicons
Thoughts

The Necessity of Forgiveness + 4 Key Realizations

 

alien-astronaut-drawing-hug-hugs-Favim.com-268213Recently, I was looking for articles to share on the Positive Soup facebook page and I found a post by The Forgiveness Project that linked to this article about  Clifford O’Sullivan. He asked for his mother’s murderer to be killed 20 years ago and is now working to save this man’s life after meeting and forgiving him.

The reason why this story moved me so much is because O’Sullivan managed to do something that makes him the human he really is, which is to look beyond his blinding pain and recognize in his mother’s murderer another human. This is, I believe, the most powerful awareness because it is a tool for peace, for understanding, for social progress, for freedom.

This story of forgiveness is an example of what pushed me to start this website. I believe deep in my heart that empathy and compassion are only real if extended to all beings no matter what they did, that the quote “be kind to unkind people, they need it the most” resonates with a truth that is hard to accept but is life-changing.

Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude. -Martin Luther King Jr.

The notion of justice is a difficult one, because it’s actually rarely objective. The idea of taking justice into your own hands, to retaliate because you’re in your own right, because it’s only fair, are feelings and not values. They’re strictly based on a personal perspective, and one that is clouded by pain.

I think forgiveness leads to actual justice because it’s a strength, it’s elevated, it’s detached from the ego, it’s a decision to stop, consider, and heal.

When the world will understand that forgiveness, compassion, kindness, are not weaknesses but the keys to a higher consciousness, a step towards what we humans can become, then actual change will happen. And the world I’m talking about is us. It’s you. The justification that “we are animals too” and that our instinct of revenge for instance is “natural” isn’t a logic that can make us evolve. It is, on the contrary, an easy way to not face the state of our humanity.

We need to embrace the wisdom we’re capable of, as it is, I believe, our true nature.

Here are 4 realizations that helped me shape my principles and who I am:

  1. Recognizing darkness in ourselves helps us understand the people who act on theirs.
  2. Taking the time to know about someone’s circumstances instead of labeling them expands our mind and our heart.
  3. Goodness, in some people, is simply struggling to come out.
  4. People change, evolve, grow, if we let them, and mostly if we believe they can.

Forgiveness isn’t easy. It requires work, a passionate, daily work. And for those who are tempted to think that it can’t be our nature to be forgiving because of how hard it is, I want to reply that it only shows how far we are from our nature and how we need to be brave and own with grace the responsibility of being humans. It is the most rewarding journey.

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Heart illustration by Freepick / Space embrace illustration by Scott Campbell

Inspiration

28 Illustrated Inspirational Quotes

 

Here are 28 illustrated inspirational quotes that I put together over the years and that I decided to gather below so you can choose the ones that inspire you the most (you can right click and save) and share them or make them your desktop wallpaper or whatever you want.

We’re a little bit flooded with wise words on pretty pictures these days. I know. I’m guilty of that too (yep, Positive Soup is also on instagram) but I do believe that some words or quotes can truly open our minds and change our perspective and therefore inspire and motivate us to think or do differently, to change something.

Read these slowly and let each word resonate with you in order to truly absorb their meaning. We’re not used to doing this in our society where content is everywhere and has to be digested in a second. But as always, we have a choice.

Please feel free to share with me in the comments the quote(s) that inspire you the most, and why. :)

 

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