Bach Prelude BWV 999 in KADOC chapel


J.S. Bach’s Prelude BWV 999 on baroque alto recorder (A=415). With the sun almost magically breaking through the clouds when the musical tension dissolves at the end. An excellent (and extremely challenging!) etude in using the recorder’s entire span of almost 3 octaves. Arranged and performed by Hein Zegers.

Originally an etude written for ‘Lautenwerck’, an enigmatic instrument that is often characterized by having 3 octaves and extra soft bass notes (gut strings).

Performed in KULeuven University’s KADOC Chapel (Documentation and Research Center on Religion Culture and Society). This venue has brilliant acoustics for pseudo-polyphonic pieces such as this one. Pseudo-polyphony is a techique in which the recorder excels thanks to its extremely transparent and direct articulation.

BASICS and Essencing as a Positive Psychology Clinical Intervention

Zegers, H. & Verheyen, E. (2018). BASICS and Essencing as a Positive Psychology Clinical Intervention. Positive Clinical Psychology: An International Perspective. Issue 1, Fall 2018.

Abstract: Clients sometimes report having too many activities and/or too much ‘stuff.’ This problem is addressed in an intervention called ‘Essencing.’ Essencing is a concept that emerged from an international empirical research into experienced ‘voluntary simplifiers.’ As an intervention, Essencing has already been pilot tested in culturally diverse psychotherapy and counseling settings. In this article, we first succinctly describe its underlying BASICS Therapy model and its links with positive psychology. Then we give a short step-by-step description of the intervention. We conclude with a case study illustrating the practical use of the Essencing intervention. This intervention was a finalist in IPPA’s Clinical Division’s first Avant-garde Positive Psychology Clinical Interventions Competition at the fifth World Congress on Positive Psychology.

All we need while long-distance hiking: find out what’s essential

Long-distance hiking is an excellent way to get rid of excess clutter. It teaches you what you really need. This is the list of items that we ended up carrying on our long-distance hike. Not suggesting that this is all you will need, it’s just to give you an idea of all we needed to survive and thrive at that moment.

With all our necessities on our back, we’ve walked about 400 km (250 miles): England’s South West Coast Path, from Bristol/Minehead (Somerset) to Newquay (Cornwall). This beautiful path can be strenuous, with lots of steep ascents and descents, so you get very selective in what you carry.

one month hiking gear
Our long-distance hiking gear

Basic hiking gear:

  • 65 liter lightweight Backpack
  • Walking sticks (when carrying a trekking backpack)
  • My trusty double flutes (they go everywhere I go)

Sleep & Shelter:

  • Lightweight 2-person tent (about 2kg/4Lbs with groundsheet)
  • Lightweight inflatable sleeping pad
  • Lightweight sleeping bag
  • Earplugs & sleeping mask
  • Sleeping bag liner (especially for colder nights)

Food & Drink:

  • 2 water bottles within easy reach
  • Large water bladder inside backpack
  • Titanium cooking pot
  • Spork & Swiss knife
  • Lightweight stove with fuel & lighter
  • Dry meals
  • Soluble coffee & chocolate
  • Power bars / flapjacks
  • Trail mix

Health & Hygiene:

  • Towel
  • Wet wipes
  • Toilet paper
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Glasses / contacts
  • Small toothbrush & toothpaste
  • Water purifying tablets
  • Deodorant
  • Soap (doubling as shampoo and laundry soap)
  • Sunscreen (on top of hat & long-sleeved clothing)
  • Paracetamol, anti-diarrheal, bandages, preservatives, insect repellent
  • Nail clipper (especially for the feet)
  • Shaver
  • Sanitary waste bag


  • Quick-dry Pants & Shirt
  • Trail runners
  • Best possible hiking socks (very important to prevent injuries)
  • Hat
  • Lightweight rain jacket
  • Pack cover
  • Fleece pullover
  • Down Jacket
  • Clean sets of socks and underwear
  • Pants & T-shirt for the night while laundered day clothes are drying
  • Buff (doubling as a pillow case)
  • Light water shoes to wear at camp


  • Cellphone (for communication, research, pictures, reading, …)
  • Power bank
  • Headlight (USB chargeable)
  • Charger with 4 USB slots & cables
  • All in a waterproof zip-lock bag

Various equipment:

  • Lightweight foldable mini-backpack
  • Guidebook
  • Area map
  • Sky map for stargazing
  • Book (In this case: Henry David Thoreau’s essay ‘Walking’)
  • Light lock
  • Passport, Credit Card, Cash, Paperwork
  • Duct tape
  • Rope
  • Pencil
  • Repair set for tent & sleeping pad
  • Large Ikea zip bag (FRAKTA) protecting backpack in public transport
  • Waste bags (Leave No Trace!)

This is all we really needed. Base weight: about 10kg / 20 Lbs.


Playing in Merlin’s Cave at Tinagel Castle (Cornwall)

Playing double flute in Merlin's Cave at Tintagel Castle (Cornwall)
Playing double flute in Merlin’s Cave at Tintagel Castle (Cornwall)

Performance in ‘Merlin’s Cave’ at Tintagel Castle in Cornwall, where mythical King Arthur is said to be born. Brilliant acoustics – when the tide is low, that is. When the tide is high, this cave is entirely filled with water. Cheers to Julian Goodacre for introducing me to the Cornish Double Pipes tradition and some of its tunes that can be played on double recorder!

European Conference on Positive Psychology

ENPP President Dóra Guðmundsdóttir and the ENPP board (including Hein Zegers, rightmost on this slide) warmly welcome almost 1000 people from all over the world to the European Conference on Positive Psychology.
ENPP President Dóra Guðmundsdóttir and the ENPP board (including Hein Zegers, rightmost on this slide) warmly welcome almost 1000 people from all over the world to the European Conference on Positive Psychology.

This year’s largest Positive Psychology event worldwide: the European Conference on Positive Psychology 2018, with almost 1000 participants. As board member of the European Network of Positive Psychology, I was partly involved in organizing this event, next to leading a few symposia.

Playing with String Ensemble Rosamunde

String Ensemble Rosamunde, conducted by Peter Pazmany, invited Hein Zegers to play together with them as a soloist on recorder. What a joy to play alongside such passionate musicians! Here are a few impressions (photography by Paul Rogier):

Händel Sarabande HWV437 on double / echo flute by Hein Zegers
Händel Sarabande HWV437 on double / echo flute by Hein Zegers

Concerto Mancini by Ensemble Rosamunde (conductor Peter Pazmany) and Hein Zegers (recorder solo)
Concerto Mancini by Ensemble Rosamunde (conductor Peter Pazmany) and Hein Zegers (recorder solo)

Rossini's cat duet on recorder and cello with Hein Zegers and Lissa Keersmaekers
Rossini’s cat duet on recorder and cello with Hein Zegers and Lissa Keersmaekers

How to become the happiest country on Earth twice

Things here either burn, bite or sting. So why on earth is this place so happy?

The Gallup Well-Being Index has declared this tropical country the happiest on Earth. Not once, but twice upon a time. So as an international well-being researcher, I felt compelled to travel there and explore possible explanations for these statistics. Why are people in this small country so happy? What is it that makes its people flourish? What can we learn from them? Join us on our field research trip to… Panama.


A ship being guided through a Panama Canal lock by ‘mules’

Who says Panama, says canal. The Panama Canal is worth about one billion US$ each year. It is the largest contributor to the economy of this small central American country. So to what extent could this explain the happiness of its citizens? From country-level research, we know that inhabitants of exceptionally poor countries tend to be unhappy indeed. But once a certain income level is reached, extra money does not seem to make a country as a whole much happier any more. This phenomenon is known as the Easterlin Paradox (which I explain in this video). So the Panama Canal revenues may have increased well-being at first, but may not add too much of it any more.


Rainy season in Panama

Panama is a tropical country in every sense of the word. It is hot and humid. Yet generally speaking, weather and sunshine do not seem to correlate with country well-being. For some people, not enough light in winter may lead to a disorder called “depression with seasonal pattern”, so on an individual basis, weather can impact your well-being indeed. Yet on a country level, there hardly seems to be a correlation with well-being. Which is good for Panama, because it does have a rainy season (though still very hot).


Panamanian youth celebrating their school graduation

The flora and fauna in Panama is extremely diverse. This is probably due to this narrow strip of land where all kinds of creatures from all over the continent converge. The same applies to the Panamanian population, which is equally diverse and colorful. Research indicates that diversity not always associates positively with well-being, but Panamanians seem to have found a way to live harmoniously together in an easy-going tolerant way of life.


Panamanian Police Officer

People in Panama seem to have a high level of trust in their future and (to a somewhat lesser degree) in each other. From country-level research, we know that trust is strongly associated with well-being. Also the opposite is true: if you cannot trust your fellow countrymen (as when they seem corrupt), chances are your country suffers from low well-being indicators. My personal impression is that on average, Panamanians seem to care about each other. And as Prof. Chris Peterson summarized his decades of well-being research in three simple words: ‘Other people matter’.

So how did Panama become so happy? It is always difficult to pinpoint causal relationships, but it appears to me that it may at least be partly due to its culture that treasures diversity, tolerance, optimism, warmth and care for each other.



Zooikoorts (Clutteritis) in Libelle Magazine

Hein Zegers: ‘Op jonge leeftijd verloor ik mijn beide ouders en mijn enige broer. Daardoor gaat een mens misschien wat sneller nadenken over wat nu écht belangrijk is. Het leven is zo fragiel en kostbaar, zonde om het te verspillen aan krampachtig verzamelen van spullen en zinloze drukte.’

Uit: Libelle Nederland Special (September 2017), dat zes volledige pagina’s wijdt aan ‘Zooikoorts’ (naar het gelijknamige boek verschenen bij Lannoo).

(English version below)

Libelle Gezond (Nederland) Special, September 2017, p. 93-98.

Hein Zegers: ‘At a fairly young age, I lost both my parents and my only brother. Maybe that makes a person think twice about what is really important. Life is so fragile and precious, what a pity to waste it gathering stuff and being mindlessly busy.’

Excerpt from Libelle, the oldest Dutch Women’s magazine. Special September 2017 issue that spends six full pages on the subject of the book ‘Clutteritis’.

Double Interview with Emily Esfahani Smith & Hein Zegers

Fragment from a double interview with Emily Esfahani Smith & Hein Zegers in Marie Claire (Belgium), September 2017, p. 96-98 (“There is more to life than being happy”):

Hein Zegers, Well-Being researcher and author of Clutteritis (Zooikoorts, Lannoo Publishing) also has mixed feelings about the happiness hype. “Happiness studies are often about averages, but a human is no average. Take soccer, for example. To some, soccer is the ultimate happiness booster, whereas for others, it is a nightmare. Or take mindfulness: it may be beneficial, but not for everybody. Or take people that are mildly depressed: they tend to become even more depressed when they are exposed to the well-meaning advice of a happiness guru.

Next, there is the compulsory character of the happiness industry. It is as if we are almost obliged to be happy. Just living a satisfied life is not enough these days, it has to be wild and exciting. Before we know it, we are busy keeping up appearances all day. Loudly proclaiming, like a Hyacinth Bucket, how incredibly happy we are.


Beating stress and burnout with BASICS

Hein Zegers: “The BASICS method often translates into the 80/20 rule: 20% of your carefully selected activities produce 80% of your positive results.”

How can companies protect workers against stress and burnout? Well-Being researcher Hein Zegers shares his insights on the topic.

“The BASICS therapeutic approach is a routine based on empirical research conducted among people who consciously choose a more brain-friendly environment”, he explains in an interview with Mensura, Belgium’s largest External Occupational Health Service.

BASICS is the acronym for Back (taking a step back), Attention, Select (what is really essential), Invest (in what is essential) and Cut (what is not essential). By cutting down on the number of activities or tasks on your to-do list, you will experience more Sense (meaningfulness). Within a work context, the BASICS method often translates into the 80/20 rule: 20% of your carefully selected activities produce 80% of your positive results.

Full interview in English: Beating stress and burnout with BASICS

Volledig interview in het NederlandsBlijf stress en burn-out de baas met de BASICS-methode

L’interview intégrale en françaisMaîtriser le stress et le burn-out avec la méthode BASICS

Google: The happiest workplace on Earth?

Visiting #1 ‘Great Place To Work’ Google HQ in Mountain View, California

According to the Great Places to Work index, Google is once again the top 1 employer this year. So as an international Well-Being Researcher, I headed towards Mountain View, California, and visited them to find out: is Google the happiest workplace on Earth?

How is it to work for the company that steers the world’s leading search engine as well as Gmail, YouTube, Android, Chrome, Maps, Translate, and literally hundreds of other applications? With many more in the pipeline, including self-driving cars (I’ve been inside one), contact lenses that measure your glucose levels, internet balloons, home automation, individualized medicine, life extension technology, etc…?

Free Lunch

Are Google Employees happy indeed? For sure, Google has been known for its many employee perks. There are free laundry facilities, children’s day care, you can even get a free haircut.

Google Haircut

We know from research that physical movement is good for your subjective well-being. And indeed, Google offers all kinds of free sports facilities, including free gym, Yoga and fitness classes and a central beach volley court, just to name a few.

Happy Bike

Google’s free multi-colored bikes are everywhere: as an employee, you just grab one to move from one building to the other. From country-level research, we know that using bikes is strongly correlated with happiness. But using bikes at Google is not only healthy and happiness-inducing, it’s also practical: Google Campus is so huge that on foot, you can keep walking for half an hour straight and still be on Google grounds.

Google Food

The food trucks and cafeterias offer free and healthy food. Their interior is simple but effective, and remind me of my favorite Alma Mater student restaurant. As many employee facilities here, they offer plenty opportunity to network and be among other people – one more factor that we know from research as essential to our well-being.

Zero Emission: free solar power for Googlers


Google has a clear mission statement: to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. Until recently, the unofficial mission statement had been  ‘Don’t be evil’. Recently this has been replaced by ‘Do the right thing’. Which, psychologically speaking, makes sense: most parts of our brain cannot process negative utterances, so I suppose there was the danger that with a statement like ‘Don’t be evil’ only the ‘evil’ part keeps sticking…

Google: heaven for proud geeks

Google claims to actively embrace diversity, and that is visible: the workforce is extremely international, you hear all kinds of languages spoken on campus, facilities abound when you’re a parent or pregnant, there are gender-neutral toilets, etcetera.


One of my quirks is that next to investigating everything there is, I also love to look for what is not present. So it struck me that one category of people is clearly underrepresented: the elderly.

Thomas, a former Googler from Belgium, explains: ‘First you do your thing at Google for a few years. Then your work experience is becoming so valuable, that you can seize better opportunities at other companies. That’s also what I’ve done. But generally speaking, Google is indeed a great place to work.’

Playing at Thoreau’s Hut at Walden Pond

Playing recorder at Walden Pond Thoreau Hut
Playing recorder at Walden Pond Thoreau Hut

This is where H.D. Thoreau lived for more than two years in the middle of the woods near Walden Pond. This is where he liked to play his flute. This is also where he got his inspiration for the literary masterpiece ‘Walden’, one of the most influential texts within the Voluntary Simplicity movement.

Voluntary Simplicity, Well-being and Meaning in Life. A Multilingual Empirical Study of 500+ People who Consciously Choose for Simple and Slow Living.

Hein Zegers presenting the BASICS model of Voluntary Simplifying at the World Congress on Positive Psychology in Montréal

Zegers, H. (2017). Voluntary Simplicity, Well-being and Meaning in Life. A Multilingual Empirical Study of 500+ People who Consciously Choose for Simple and Slow Living. Podium Presentation at the 5th World Congress on Positive Psychology, Montréal, July 13-16, 2017.

Bach ‘Air’ on double flute

J.S. Bach: ‘Air on the G string’ on double flute / double recorder by Hein Zegers. Using two alto recorders modeled after Joannes Hyacinth Rottenburgh (1672-1765) as echo flutes. Played in Autobahnkirche Medenbach, where long-distance travelers come and go, day and night, and could do so at any time during this performance.

Performing on the Charles Bridge in Prague

Last time I visited Prague, I was still a teenager. I hitchhiked around Europe back then, playing street music and searching for the meaning of life. Now, almost 30 years later, I’m doing almost the same, still not much wiser, but having a great time… Here, I’m Playing Smetana’s “Moldau” on the Charles Bridge. Meanwhile, the Moldau River quietly runs underneath.

KU Leuven University

Hein Zegers has been co-authoring and co-moderating the introductory chapter of the KU Leuven Leuven University EdX MOOC ‘Existential Well-Being Counseling’ by Prof. Mia Leijssen. He has also been giving guest lectures at several faculties of the university.

Händel “Barry Lyndon” Sarabande HWV 437

G.F. Händel Sarabande (from the Keyboard Suite D min) HWV 437, first published 1733. Well-known from the Stanley Kubrick Movie “Barry Lyndon”. Variations for double flute (recorder) by Hein Zegers. Using two alto recorders modeled after Joannes Hyacinth Rottenburgh (1672-1765) as echo flutes.

Chopin Tristesse on solo recorder (Étude Op. 10, No. 3)

The most beautiful melody ever written by Frédéric Chopin (according to himself): Étude Op. 10, No. 3 (“Tristesse”), 1832. Arrangement for alto recorder solo (2013) by Hein Zegers. Using the old technique of quasi-polyphony. The recorder is one of the best instruments to play quasi-polyphony, thanks to its very direct articulation.

UC Berkeley

Hein Zegers has been Teaching Assistant for the world’s very first MOOC on “The Science of Happiness” (University of California, Berkeley) for over 200.000 Students from all over the world.
Main Responsibility: Community Teaching Assistance for the first chapter “Introduction to the Science of Happiness”.

Evidence Based Happiness vzw

Evidence Based Happiness vzw is a non-profit organization. Its mission is to spread the Science of Well-Being, in a way that is both understandable and scientifically accurate.

This educational/research organization obtained official non-profit status (“vzw”) on the first official United Nations World Happiness Day (March 20, 2013).

Through its numerous research and science dissemination activities, Evidence Based Happiness vzw has been touching the lives of more than ten million people worldwide, especially in the Dutch-French-English-German language area in Europe.

Evidence Based Happiness vzw embodies a large network of academics as well as practitioners. It is a spin-off of KU Leuven, recently rated by Reuters as the most innovative university in Europe. Its three co-founders are all licensed psychologists who graduated from this university: Liesbeth Vander Elst (Research & Sports Psychologist), Els Verheyen (Clinical Psychologist & Social Worker) and Hein Zegers (Clinical/Positive Psychologist & Science Communicator).

Some organizations that Evidence Based Happiness vzw has been cooperating with.

John Cage’s 4’33” on solo recorder

John Cage’s famous 4’33” piece on solo recorder. 3 Parts: I Tacet (on soprano recorder), II Tacet (on alto recorder), III Tacet (on soprano recorder). Performed in a public stairway with excellent acoustics for this instrument. Pedestrians may appear at any moment.

Love Me Tender on solo recorder

Solo recorder improvisation on “Love me Tender”. Playing up to 3 voices simultaneously (quasi-polyphony) in 3 variations by Hein Zegers. Song originally known as “Aura Lee” (1861), written by W.W. Fosdick & G.R. Poulton.

Students of the International Positive Psychology Association

Co-Founder & first Executive Committee Member (Jan 2010-Jun 2012)

Hein Zegers has co-founded and served a full 2-year term as Executive Committee Member of SIPPA, the Student section of IPPA, the International Positive Psychology Association.
Main responsibilities: spreading the Science of Positive Psychology by setting up a world-wide network of local representatives & help recruiting over 1800 paying student members.