The Worst Time For Resolutions? – A Review

Oh dear. What is it about the new year that seems to stop us from keeping our resolutions? Unlike many others, who have drafted their resolutions on or shortly before New Year’s Eve and put them into effect the day after, I started my Happiness Project and the resolutions it entails before Christmas even. Now that it is actually the new year, I have a massive slump. There is a few things that I could blame (haven’t fully re-settled into my routine, bad weather, etc.), but ultimately it’s all just me.

Now as a supplement to my constant aspiration to be organised and gain an overview, I think it is at the time to have a pit-stop and face how it is really going with my Happiness Project. Like Gretchen Rubin, I have been keeping a Resolutions chart. Sadly, or luckily, though, I am not as obsessive as this lady (also, who doesn’t like listening to music? You weird people!), so I left the chart on days that were unusual, like Christmas or when I was staying at friends’ houses. As a consequence, only half of the chart is even filled in. After all, these resolutions are specific to improving my everyday life.

What is painful to admit is that I obviously struggle hard with some of my resolutions. One that has never been ticked so far is “Go to sleep before midnight”. Here, again, I have nothing but myself to blame: the resolution is clearly defined and concise, and I know how much a regular sleeping pattern would contribute to my happiness. Yet, somehow, it challenges me more than it should.

On the plus side, there are some that I have kept every single day, that have become natural to me. After I noticed the massive discrepancy between the time I spend on it and the joy it gives me, I vowed to stay off BuzzFeed. Turns out, it is a lot easier for me to stay off it completely than to use it moderately. My abstinence has now freed me from a lot of guilt and frustration, and it now seems almost funny now that I wasted my time determining “which Disney princess” I am and finding out whether BuzzFeed could “guess my account balance”.

My most significant success so far was achieved with the help of the “Make your bed”-resolution. As a student living in student halls, apart from my desk chair the only opportunity for sitting or lounging is my bed. In combination with my sleeping habits however, this often ended with me taking extended naps on a regular basis. This was a source of constant irritation and disrupted my routines and plans rather often. Making my bed was a quick and easy measure against the tendency. The results were astonishing. Even when I did sit or lie on my bed, it was much easier for me to resist the urge to slip under the covers. This made my days more productive and my nights more restful.

The most significant development though, in my opinion, is how sensitive I have become to areas of improvement in my life and possible future resolutions. While I write them all down, just in case, I know that for now I should focus on keeping the current ones instead of thinking ahead. In one area, however, I have decided to make an exception: Education. I have my big important Danish exam in exactly a month and could definitely use some practice. Therefore, I shall compile an extra list of resolutions specific to this subject, but more on that another day.

B x

German Neon And Frankly Frankie

Today will have to be another quick post, also the last in the row of me sharing things I like with you (well, at least in such a highly concentrated dose), and also meaning that I’ll be back at uni and in Germany to do real, live blogging about things that happen and things I think about. Yay! It’ll be such fun for you guys to read a blog that hasn’t been on autopilot for over two weeks (although I still think that option is marvelous, I might have underestimated the amount of time needed to write this many blog posts.

Back in focus: Sharing things I like. Today: Magazines! Yeehah! Although for those who don’t find themselves speaking fluent German, my first announcement might be a bit of a downer. My absolute favourite magazine is German, in German and called NEON. They also have a website that is more like an interactive forum (but also mainly in German, soz). Basically it is a funny yet serious magazine for people in their twenties, I’d say, though me and some friends started reading it while in our early teens, and I guess it is still interesting if you’re past your twenties… So, yes. It features stories about current issues, but also columns about everything in everyday life and really really fun things. Also these magazines tend to be beautiful (if you’ve read my post about cookbooks, you’ll know I have a soft spot for graphic design).

But, for all of those who don’t understand a word of German, this is my favourite English-language magazine: Frankie Magazine (Australia). Also extremely nice to look at and read and really fun. Though I have to add that while NEON is completely and utterly unisex, this one might be directed more towards women. No guarantee, though, I’m not an expert on this and it is 2015, so read any magazine you like please, no matter your gender.

Yes, so that’s that already. I am still looking for a nice Spanish-language (or even Danish, maybe) magazine, preferably beautifully designed, so if you have an idea about that, please let me know.

B x

Happiness in Progress

As you might know from my blog post a few days ago, I have started my own happiness project. It’s only been a little while, but I guess this thing needs a bit more clarification.

Prime objective is, of course, to stop myself from wasting my days being miserable and not doing things and then feeling more miserable because I haven’t done anything. So, as a result, doing anything pretty much is progress. But I do admit that I am a wee bit ambitious, so there is a more grand goal here, too. It’s hard to put into words, but I am essentially looking to achieve a feeling of purpose, satisfaction and, of course, happiness (hence the title of the project).

But, of course, it’s not like you do on specific thing and then feel purposeful, happy and satisfied forever. It kind of fluctuates. One day you feel energetic and motivated, the next day you fail to overcome the major hurdle of getting out of bed. Also, these things are not entirely self-administered. Of course, there are internal factors that lead to happiness, but there are also external factors that you have no control over whatsoever, and there is, last but not least, that thing called luck. So for my project I focus on what I myself can do to feel better, and on nothing else.

Gretchen Rubin, whose book inspired me to start my own happiness project, recommends that you set concrete goals and keep track of them:

Make resolutions that are concrete and manageable. “Play with my dog each morning” is more effective than “Get more fun out of life.” Track your resolutions by finding a way to hold yourself accountable.

So I followed her example and filled in a chart (you can find the blank chart on page 13 of this document – page 1 to 12 might serve as examples to you) with seven individual and manageable resolutions (below).

  1. Develop a regular sleeping pattern – This is a big problem of mine. I am really not a morning person, so I prefer doing work at night. Plus, I am a child mentally when it comes to sleep: I don’t want to go to bed in the evening and also really don’t want to get up in the morning. Problem is that I live alone and have no one who nags me about it.
  2. Do daily Duolingo in Spanish and Danish – You probably know this online language learning platform (if not, please do check it out!). For me as a language student regular practice is essential. Especially in Spanish, this aspect is missing from my university course where we have a seminar titled “Grammar” and another one titled “Vocabulary”, that focus only on that one thing. So Duolingo comes as a refreshing new opportunity for me. I also love how it is like a game and you can save “lingots” and all that.
  3. Read a lot – Self-explanatory, I hope. Maybe this goal needs to be a bit more measurable (like “read 50 pages a day”) but I think that would be too forced.
  4. Master the art of make-up – Make-up has always been a mystery to me. I see how powerful it can be and it really fascinates me but I just can’t get the hang of it. Maybe if I practice a bit and watch some tutorials on YouTube, this won’t bother me as much.
  5. Be more active – We all know that there are all these studies on how regular exercise makes us happier and endorphin and all that, but I frankly hate working out (detailed description here). So for me “be more active” means walking to university, taking the bike to ride into town and maybe swimming from time to time. Nothing grand.
  6. Blog every day – And here I am…
  7. Do what has to be done – This one is the most important one, I think. Could also be paraphrased as “stop procrastinating”. This is everything from doing the homework for my Danish course to doing laundry and buying groceries and getting out of bed every day.

Every-day life seems to be constantly getting in the way of this,in the end, when happiness is the objective Christmas parties aren’t exactly counter-productive… So far my track sheet contains an encouraging number of ticks and also some crosses, but I guess that’s about right. After all, this is a work in progress.

B x

Good lecturers, bad lecturers…

So, yes, it’s been a while. The internet has been mostly working for the past month, and it seems I am way more compelled to contribute to this blog when forcibly offline.

Anyways, it’s time for an update. Looking back, it seems funny how excited I was for courses to start. I signed up for the whole lot of lectures and seminars and vowed to go to all tutorials as well. For the first two weeks I did it. Attended every event on my self-enforced timetable.

Things are a bit different today. I dropped out of all of my lectures and most of my seminars. And, believe it or not, this is a good thing. Why would I attend a boring lecture if I don’t want to? Clearly, my chances of learning something are inversely proportional to how much I dread getting up in the morning. But there are some seminars left over. Also a very good thing.

My beginners’ Danish course, for example, is a delight. Yes, there are the irregular words, there’s the pronunciation that continues to puzzle me. But it is heaps of fun and very rewarding. As always, this is largely due to my Danish teacher, who is amazing. It is refreshing how personally engaged she is and how proud our progress makes her. And I myself love that after only two months of learning the language I was able to watch a film entirely in Danish (also organised by that lovely teacher, outside of our lessons, in her own free time) and I managed to follow the plot!

The other seminars I still go to include academic writing, an introduction into Spanish Literature (although these are both quite dull, but academic writing might actually prove useful someday and if I dropped out of Spanish Lit, I would have dropped out of Spanish entirely…), an introduction to Scandinavian Medieval Studies and a presentation skills workshop.

That last one is the other delight of my week. It is the only seminar I have in English and it’s very much an interactive course. We are only five participants, which makes it really cozy and personal and the teacher is a lovely lady that provides biscuits and tea and coffee. Yet again, she is probably the cause that I find this workshop as enjoyable as I do. With a background in acting and teaching English she’s just lovely and cares for each and every one of us.

Well, that’s enough from me for now, I have some festive spirit to generate (I find writing cards, buying presents, mulled wine and Frank Sinatra very helpful in getting me in the right Christmas mood) and a risotto to cook (yes, that phase isn’t over yet).

B x

University Life, Embarrassments and the Joys of Risotto

So here we are again. It seems like ages since my last post but, to my surprise, it hasn’t even been that long – which means I’m not as bad at blogging as I thought I would be.

Once again my internet is not working (this time it is both the router which tends to forget all the things it should remember and the network (technically I have an allowance of 10GB, but well… I easily used more than twice that during the few days that I’ve had internet this month – which, in itself, i impressive, as internet has been down for at least 2 weeks and I have been away during the weekends and the month isn’t even over yet…)). Sorry for the extensive bracketing. There is a remote possibility that the previous sentence makes little sense, but OH WELL. Deal with it.

Anyway, lack of internet at home is tragic but not deathly, as I am at uni everyday and I can use the computers here. Wich brings me to the next point: finally, finally university has begun! YAY! I have had three seminars already and I’m kinda loving it (but there is also some regret present – I’ll be spending my gap year studying Spanish irregular verbs, researching the Scandinavian Middle Ages and learning how to pronounce all these weird Danish sounds (Hvad hedder du? Hvor kommer du fra? Hvor bor du? Hvad læser du?) and yet again I am very soz for the brackets thingy). Part of the downside is that I will actually have to do things now, presentations, essays, protocols and the like.

What else is there? My social life is going ok, I guess. Still haven’t made lifelong friends, but I now have people I chat with between seminars and I even say ‘hi’ to some in the corridors. Great progress. My coat is still in some girl’s car though. Should probably reclaim that at some point. More exciting: After three weeks of pesto pasta I have now begun to cook properly and to buy ingredients and all that shit! Today’s meal: Tomato Aubergine Risotto (fancy huh? It did take me ages). Oh, more proof of my secret identity as a domestic goddess: I cleaned the bathroom this morning (after having a lie-in, I must admit). Seems like despite some of this weekend’s ferocious choices my dignity has not taken a fall.

Probably filling in the gaps would be a good idea. This weekend (as in, a few days ago – I never now how it works: is that ‘this weekend’ or ‘last weekend’?) I went on a trip to this island called Fehmarn (unless you’re a German surfer or have taken the ferry/train from Germany to Denmark, you probably won’t know it) with a bunch of strangers who also happen to study a romance language or English (which i don’t study, but it’s a joined student council). Basically I got really drunk, vommed everywhere (a game of Jenga was also involved) and took my clothes off (I wish I could say that was the first time that has happened, but it has sort of become the standard procedure…). But then in the morning I surprised everyone by not only cleaning up my own mess, but also helping to tidy the house. It could have been so much worse.

Ok, enough for now, I think. I promise to work on my writing style (brackets and stuff).

B x

P.S. What I do love about Kiel: the skies. Once the sun begins to set the whole horizon is drenched in all these funky and slightly  cheesy colours and it stays like that for at least an hour – after that it’s pitch black.