A Broader Mind

Is the world changing or are you changing the world?

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A Broader Mind module Self-care: take the course

Taking good care of yourself is even more important than usual during the corona crisis. Therefore A Broader Mind offers you the module Self-care. The module is part of Track B, Health & Happiness from the A Broader Mind course of the past year.

Self-care is taking care of yourself in every sense of the word. It is everything you do to help yourself perform optimally emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually. Basically, self-care is giving yourself everything you need to be a healthy and happy person.
Maybe when you hear taking care of yourself you think of obvious things like eating right, exercising, etc. But self-care goes way beyond those things. It extends to who you spend time with, what job you do, what relationships you engage in, what you invest your time in, etc.

View the video and the text of the course via the fold-out screen 'Module Self-care' below.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam wants to offer its students the opportunity to develop more broadly, from an academic, personal and social perspective: to equip students to be successful and play a meaningful part in this world. This requires students to think about who they are, how they view the world, their role in society, and how they relate to others.

On A Broader Mind, students learn to approach societal issues from a range of academic perspectives. They will apply their knowledge to solving pressing social issues through Community Service Learning and acquire personal skills such as collaborating across borders. 

Why the shaping of students on academic, personal and societal level should have a natural place in education. 

As Mirjam van Praag, the President of the Executive Board, said at the opening of the 2018 academic year: We don’t want our students to simply ‘become something’ – we also want them to ‘become someone’.

As the challenges facing society become more numerous and more complex, the need for a more multidisciplinary approach becomes greater. Themes such as artificial intelligence, ageing, geopolitical tensions, climate change, shortage of natural resources and the unequal distribution of wealth are all having an impact on our world today and will continue to do so tomorrow.

De wereld verandert

At the same time, the labour market is changing dramatically, the working landscape is shifting and knowledge is becoming less sustainable. Opportunities for education are multiplying and today’s students are far more likely to have a career that encompasses a whole range of jobs and disciplines. Despite these developments, government policy is geared towards encouraging students to focus on their own discipline and to graduate without delay. There is hardly any scope for students to broaden their interests or to study subjects in greater depth, let alone to reflect on their own role in society.

Society is changing at an ever-increasing pace. Now more than ever, it is essential to develop your skills, knowledge and personal qualities in ways that go beyond the boundaries of your own discipline. Broadening your mind means that you are better equipped to meet the challenges of the future. As a student, this requires you to think about who you are, how you look at the world, how you relate to others and the nature of your role in society.

You will develop personal skills such as collaborating across borders, debating openly and effectively, reflecting on your own perspectives, norms and values, and dealing with pressure and stress. In addition, through Community Service Learning, you will apply your knowledge to solving pressing issues that are having a major impact on today’s society.

There are two elements to participating in A Broader Mind:

  • Community Service Learning: a form of education in which you will put professional knowledge into practice. In doing so, you will make your own contribution to solving societal issues.
  • A Broader Mind course: you will work with students from other Bachelor’s degree programmes to develop your societal and personal skills.

In addition, VU Amsterdam is conducting longitudinal research to measure the effects of the A Broader Mind course on students and alumni in the long term. You can participate voluntarily in this study and you will receive an annual survey with questions about your personality, student life, your view of the world and your expectations for the future on the labor market.

Are you curious about the Course? Click here or scan the QR-code to get a sneak preview! 


To enter the sneak preview you have to fill-in your e-mail address. Select "I am a new user" and then fill-in your name. Your mail address will not be used or distributed by the VU Amsterdam. 

    The A Broader Mind course is for all Bachelor’s students at VU Amsterdam, and centres on personal development, societal interaction and reflection on these processes. As a student, you will be encouraged to get to grips with major societal issues, such as sustainability, digitization and poverty. These are issues that cannot be solved from the perspective of a single discipline. That’s why the course brings you into contact with a wide range of perspectives held by both experts and fellow students. It will take you on a journey as you discover what these interdisciplinary themes mean to you and how you can draw on your own background and personal convictions in order to make your own contribution.

    The course has been designed jointly by students, lecturers, researchers and other enthusiastic members of staff at VU Amsterdam: that’s what makes it so special. It gives you a genuine and active role in designing and improving your own education. For example, the themes you will tackle on the course were co-written by VU students.

    The A Broader Mind course consists of a blend of online and offline activities. In the MOOC, you will watch videos and read articles in which experts present their ideas and insights. You will take part in quizzes and enter into forum discussions with other VU students. In addition, the MOOC will encourage you to undertake activities independently with a view to exploring your own personal response to the issues in question. This might include collecting your own plastic waste to make an artwork with other students, as part of the Sustainability theme.

    05-03-2019 - Students exchanged 'poverty experience' in Low budget dinner

    Within the theme 'Poverty' students participated in a five-day challenge to live on a minimum of €4,29 a day. At the end of the week they came together and had a low-budget community meal organised at the VU. We obtained waste food from a variety of supermarkets to cook this meal. During this dinner the students reflected at their own experiences and shared them with each other.

    Eight themes are discussed on the A Broader Mind course. You will collaborate with students from other degree programmes and learn to approach the themes from a range of disciplines. The starting point for tackling each theme will be your own personal question and a challenge facing society.

    Track A
    Track B
    Success & Failure
    Societal challenge: Can we break the societal taboo on failure?
    Personal question: How can I achieve success by learning from my failures?
    Viewpoints and Worldview
    Societal challenge: (How) can our different rules of life go together?
    Personal question: What rules of life do you (want to) follow?
    Societal challenge: What can society do to reduce poverty?
    Personal question: Do I unintentionally perpetuate poverty?
    Health & Happiness
    Societal challenge: How can we help create a happier place for others around us?
    Personal question: How can I improve my own happiness?
    The Human Body
    Societal challenge: What are the (moral) limits to biotechnical applications for human health?
    Personal question: Will I modify my body in the future?
    The Digital World
    Societal challenge: How is society influenced positively and negatively by digital innovation?
    Personal question: How do I weigh up the ethical benefits and the risks of digital innovation?
    Societal challenge: To what extent does society need rebellion?
    Personal question: Wat kind of rebel am I?
    Societal challenge: Join the quest and help solve the plastic waste problem!
    Personal question: How big a part do I play in causing, identifying and solving the plastic problem?

    What is self-care?

    Self-care is one of the most important concepts that you will learn about. Self-care is an extension of self-love and this in turn has a huge influence on everything you do and don't do. So what is self-care? Self-care is taking care of yourself in every sense of the word. It is everything you do to help yourself perform optimally emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually. Basically, self-care is giving yourself everything you need to be a healthy and happy person. Maybe when you hear taking care of yourself you think of obvious things like eating right, exercising, etc.

    But self-care goes way beyond those things. It extends to who you spend time with, what job you do, what relationships you engage in, what you invest your time in, etc. All these acts can be put under the title of self-care because self-care involves:

    • Taking care of yourself physically through nutrition, exercise, sleep, etc.
    • Taking care of yourself mentally by nurturing and maintaining your mental balance, by engaging in meaningful tasks and feeding your mind
    • Taking care of yourself socially by engaging in meaningful social interactions, exploring new relationships
    • Taking care of yourself emotionally by allowing yourself to feel, experience and learn about your emotions
    • Taking care of yourself spiritually by investing in getting to know yourself

    In the next part we will be looking at something you can do to start integrating self-care into your life.

    How do you integrate self-care?
    Self-care is what they call a practice, something you do constantly on a daily basis. There is no goal you work towards, it is about continuously giving yourself the things that you need to stay balanced. Below I will show you some examples of how you can start integrating self-care into your life right away. In the next slides you'll learn about why these are so powerful and get specific tips on how to apply them. Let's take a look, shall we?

    Food to feel good
    Giving yourself nourishing and delicious food is an act of self care. Eating and preparing meals is about much more than just food. It is about taking the time to take care of yourself, it is about ensuring that you get the best nutrition possible, it is about enjoying your meals and being grateful for the abundance of nutrition you have access to. If you truly think you are worth it, you will make sure that to give yourself the best and most nutritious foods you can find. This is an easy-to-apply but very powerful self-care practice.

    How do you do this?
    The first thing you need to do is change your mindset when it comes to food and realize that the things you put into your mouth are the fuel of your life and therefore your happiness. Don't you want the best for yourself? Then make sure you give yourself the best and most nutritional foods around. Eating is very much tied to self-love.

    • Choose food which is both nutritious and delicious
    • Create time for preparing and eating meals
    • Be in the moment while eating and cherish your meals
    • Develop a practice of feeling grateful for your food
    • Make eating a community thing for added bonus points!

    You are the most important person in your life, period. You might disagree but think about it. If you don't take care of yourself, you won't be able to care for anybody else, so it is time to put yourself first. Consciously taking the time to be with yourself, to have alone time, is a huge act of self-care. It is like saying to yourself: "I am worth spending time and energy on and I deserve to truly listen to what I feel and say to myself". You do this for the people you love so why not for yourself. Start being there for YOU!

    How do you do this?
    Promise yourself to dedicate at least 15 minutes of each day to yourself, to be with yourself. No phone, no distractions, just you, your thoughts and your emotions. You might very well learn that your inner self has been desperate for attention. An easy way to start:

    • Determine a time of the day to take 15 minutes just for you
    • During these 15 minutes, no phone, no distractions or sounds: just be. A great way to tune in to yourself is a body scan
    • Sit in a comfortable chair, close your eyes and just listen. "Listen" to the feeling and sensations in your body, listen to your thoughts, watch them come and go but don't engage in dialogue, just observe
    • It is easiest to start doing this as part of a morning ritual or an unwinding ritual at the end of the day
    • Bonus: Dedicate you-time by allocating some time for yourself to do something you really enjoy. A gift to yourself.

    Surround yourself with people who energize you
    The people you hang out with and the areas you frequent have a huge impact on your well-being and on your personal development. If you spend a lot of time with people who are negative or in negatively-charged environments, this will rub off on you. This will influence you one way or the other. You might absorb or unconsciously feed into this and reaffirm your own negative bias or you might unconsciously fight your surroundings and try to shield yourself or counteract it by being overly positive. Neither are very beneficial to you. This one can be directly tied to self-love. Because why, if you love yourself, would you hang out with people who are negative or have a negative influence on you? This could be viewed as some form of self-abuse. You are putting yourself in environments that negatively influence you, that harm you. Do you see the correlation?

    You are worth it to surround yourself with people who inspire and energize you. Of course for these people to want to be around you, you need to become one first. So we arrive at the next step.

    How do you do this?
    Tune in to how you feel when you are around people. Are there people in your life that don't energize you? Limit the time you hang out with them to a level you feel comfortable with. At the same time, keep examining yourself to make sure you are not one of those people without even realizing it.

    • Become aware of how you feel around certain people and in certain places
    • Try to become aware of where this occurs or why you feel that way
    • Monitor your own thoughts and words. Look for negatively-charged thought patterns and language. Have you become aware that you might be one of "those" negative people? Don't worry, awareness is the first step to change. Now you know!
    • Expose yourself to positive influences as much as you can. Hang out with positive people.

    Invest in yourself
    All of us have been put on this world with no manual on how to live our lives. It is our responsibility to embrace the adventure and create our own manual. The journey of life is about getting to know yourself. The greatest act of self-care is to invest in yourself. Get to know yourself. Get to know what things you like, what people you like to be with, what skills you excel at, what your fears are. The better you know yourself, the better you can design a life that is in line with who you are. Developing a practice of self-discovery, of self-growth, of personal development is the greatest gift you can give yourself.

    How do you do this?
    Expose yourself to inspiring and motivating content as much as possible. Actively learn and pursue the things you are interested in and always look for a way to grow. What's the easiest way to do this?

    • Start to read. Reading is the gateway to the greatest minds that have lived, to the mindset of the change-makers of our time and to a wealth of knowledge. I recommend you start with these two books: Think and Grow Rich, Tribe of Mentors
    • Actively search out and expose yourself to inspiring content and knowledge
    • Invest in coaching, personal development courses, learning programmes, etc. 
    • Find mentors
    • Make your circle bigger. Expose yourself to as many different types of people as you can
    • Engage in a diverse range of activities to broaden your perspective

    Do things you like and say no
    Irrationally, lots of us tend to do things we don't want to do and neglect to do the things we do want to do. Why? This can also be tied into self-love. For example, some of us have trouble saying no because we don't want to disappoint someone else, because maybe, if we do, they won't like us any more. Or we are afraid of being judged by others if we do decide to go our own way. Deep down, all of these things are tied into insecurities which are tied into the image that we have of ourselves and the beliefs we've created. That's why saying no the things we don't want, and yes to the things we do want is such a powerful message to ourselves. You are basically saying to yourself, "I take myself seriously and I will live more in line with what I truly want." Do things you truly love and want to do and say no to things that don't energize you. Engaging in activities that give you energy and enrich your soul is a great gift to yourself. And the better you get to know yourself, the better you'll know what these activities are.

    How do you do this?
    Like with most things in the realm of personal development, change starts with becoming more aware of yourself. You need to be able to tune in more to your feelings and thoughts and acknowledge them.

    • Invest in increasing your self-awareness by practising mindfulness in daily life
    • Recognize when you feel like saying no, and when you are energized by things
    • Notice when you are acting in accordance with your feelings and when you are not (and ask yourself why not)
    • Become aware of the things that energize you and find ways of doing these things more often

    Listen to yourself
    Take your feelings seriously and be honest with yourself. This is a huge one. We tend to suppress most negative feelings but this can lead to huge problems and will ultimately cause suffering. Take a look around you and see how many people avoid negative feelings by engaging in destructive behaviours such as excessive partying, drinking, drug use, cheating, excessive exercising, etc. Most of the behaviour that is used to mask or change negative feelings comes from refusing to deal with the source and is destructive in nature. But these "negative" feelings and thoughts are just feedback mechanisms; they are trying to tell you something and if you don't listen nothing will change and you might miss out on important lessons and insights. Give yourself permission to feel: it is okay to feel. I'll even share a little secret with you. These feelings are the portal to personal growth and happiness. And suppressing them is the road to suffering. Which one will you choose?

    How do you do this?

    • Increase self-awareness and create room to experience your feelings
    • By now you will have noticed that self-awareness was mentioned a few times. It is vital to develop self-awareness. To be able to listen better to your thoughts and feelings, we are going to go back to one of the first points of self-care mentioned: You-time!
    • You need to create room to become aware of your feelings. You can do this by creating time to be with yourself. A bodyscan, mindfulness, they all help increase your self-awareness. And self-awareness is what you need first to be able to acknowledge what you feel
    • Learn to listen to your inner talk and feelings by developing mindfulness habits such as meditation
    • Identify destructive behaviour and dive into the underlying reasons
    Govert Buijs

    The A Broader Mind course is led by Govert Buijs, Professor of Political Philosophy and holder of the Goldschmeding Chair in Economics and Civil Society at the Faculty of Humanities.
    [email protected]- +31 (0)20 598 66 83


    If you have any general questions about A Broader Mind, please contact the programme team:

    Nynke Rodenhuis
    [email protected]
    +31 (0)20 598 63 12

    Do you like to be creative? Do you like to collaborate with people from different backgrounds? Do you like to contribute to the innovation of education? Then this vacancy is perfect for you!


    We are always looking for students, teachers and VU staff members who like to build the Course and want to help us develop and improve it. 


    • Contribute to the development of a new curriculum 
    • Work together with members of a building team
    • You will expand your network.
    • You have freedom to be creative
    • You will be part of the A Broader Mind community

    JOIN IN!
    If you have any questions, please send an email to [email protected]