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

Birthday Wishes – The Key To Happiness?!

We’re back to me mirroring Gretchen Rubin’s resolutions during her first happiness project. Today’s resolution is surprisingly simple and straight-forward. Like Ms. Rubin, I’d like to remember birthdays. I’d like to send those I love and care about a card or a message to let them know that I care and also to stay in contact.

During the past few years I have done this sporadically, whenever I knew for some reason that it was someone’s birthday and when I had the time to write a card. Messages were’t really necessary because those people I’d write a birthday message, say on Facebook or WhatsApp, I usually saw on their birthday. School had that kind of convenience.

But, this time I have approached the topic systematically: I have printed a birthday calendar (very basic, but so useful, here), found out birthdays of friends and family –  Facebook and my dad’s phone proved invaluable for this task, I have some cards on my desk and all the addresses on a nice document, so that birthdays can now come. I might also set some kind of tracker on Outlook or something so that I actually remember them, but the groundwork is laid. Success!

I know it is a tiny tiny thing to do, but I also know it will make my friends and family, but especially me insanely happy. Such fun!

B x

Crisp Eyebrows Are The Best Kind Of Eyebrows

As you might remember, one of my resolutions as part of my happiness project was to get down with all that make-up business, that, until now, has largely remained a misery for me.

So, though I can still not say that I have mastered the art form and make-up tutorials bore me to death, I think I might have made some initial progress, and I’d like to share that with you. So, the beginning to solving a problem is often admitting that you have it and then working with that. Now, the whole make-up thing is not really a pressing problem, but it is one of life’s annoyances. Acceptance done. I also know that I will never enthusiastically spend hours in front of the mirror painting shadows on my face. So, that is already heaps to work with: My make-up should be quick and uncomplicated and preferably not require a lot of skills. Still, if I do make the effort I’d like to know that it is worth it.

As a consequence, I spent my last few days keeping an eye out for make-up and tools that seems like it is made for people like me, people who don’t necessarily know the ways of the trade but want a piece of the cake (aka the benefits). This is what I came up with:

Eyebrow Gel – My friend, who is one of those make-up people, is manic about her eyebrows. And it pays off, they are bloody impressive and make a huge impact on how the whole face looks. However, she uses a multitude of powders and pens and brushes and combs and things that I could never handle. I already know that I’m hopeless with an eyebrow pen (I’ve tried, believe me). So, the other day, I stumbled upon this thing in a magazine – eyebrow gel. It was part of a feature about how to look like a model (whatever that my mean) in five minutes and they mentioned this gel by some kooky very expensive brand. But, when I went to my local drugstore, they did have a cheap version of it. Luckily, it was “one colour suits all”, meaning I couldn’t even make any wrong choices in terms of eyebrow tone.  And, I’m telling you, this stuff is magic. You just kind of put it on your eyebrows (it has a little mascara-like brush thingy), nothing much you can do wrong, and it shapes and colours you eyebrows. YAY! Such success. The only thing that is a bit odd is that the gel dries up and leaves your eyebrows a bit crisp, which, let me tell you is a very very strange sensation.

Lip Stain – Now, same article, same feature, also mentioned lip stain. Now I was instantly intrigued: I never managed to handle lipstick (it just looks odd) and lip gloss is so sticky and annoying. Enter: Lip Stain, which is like a felt-tip pen for your lips, which means it also eliminates any problems that might occur due to the handling of lip liner. Again, I found a cheap version at the drugstore and I now use it all the time. Usually I apply the stain in the morning and then I moisturize my lips throughout the day (they’re extremely chapped and I cultivate a habit of practically chewing on my lower lip…) and it’s all just mighty fine.

Please, I would love to know: What is your make-up secret, your favourite tool, your most-used item?

B x

The Miracle That Is Miranda Hart

Today we are completely and utterly off topic. And that has a reason. Yes, of course it is the last day of the year 2014 and we can all reflect and make resolutions and kiss the ones we love at midnight. But that is besides the point. There is a last day of the year every year, there has always been and will always be. Nothing to get too emotional about (although, of course, it is a lovely occasion to get teary and melancholy, but all within reason).

What I am talking about today is much bigger. It is the end of an era. And what an era! It was so filled with joy and fun and embarrassments. Today, my chums (you’ll get this soon, I hope), is the day that the final ever episode of Miranda will air. Now of course, you might not know what ‘Miranda’ is exactly, but you have gathered that it must be some kind of show on TV or the radio. Most likely, you will think “oh no, another one of these crazy TV fanatics, go get a life”, and usually I would wholeheartedly agree with you. Not today though.

Those of you who know the sitcom will know what I mean. It is hardly just a show. It is a lifestyle, and what a lifestyle. Tho those of you who have not seen or heard of such a thing ever: Do not (I repeat – DO NOT) go on YouTube and look for a trailer or a funniest bits kind of thing. Please, gain full access to the first season (maybe stream it online illegally, download it from some kind of cloud, buy/loan/steal the DVD, rent it – how would I know how you roll with these kind of things?) and start watching the first episode.

Now you will likely also end up watching the next episode and the next, but no worries, the worst-case scenario is you watching 14 episodes with a length of 30 minutes, which is a mere 7 hours of your life.

I have found someone who shares my enthusiasm for this British splurge on the distant shores: A lady called Carmen Croghan. She describes very well the appeal of the show, but watch out newbies, there are some huge spoilers. Also interesting: You can watch Miranda on hulu and Acorn TV (whatever that may be – rhyme!!).

So the question still open is ‘Who the f*** is Miranda?’. Well, ‘Miranda’ is the central character, a quirky unique and extremely lovable woman in her thirties dealing with the struggles of everyday life and social awkwardness. ‘Miranda’ is also the first name of Miranda Hart, a hilarious 6ft 1in British comedienne and actress, who, incidentally, portrays Miranda in the show and is also the writer and creator.

So although we will be able to enjoy Miranda Hart and her genius mind frequently in the future (she’s doing stand-up, will be hosting a new edition of the Generation Game plus she landed a role in a Hollywood production starring Jude Law and Melissa McCarthy), this sitcom, which is the perfection of her stage persona and so so funny, entertaining, relateable and so so good, will come to an end after today’s episode (there were three seasons – 6 ingenious episodes each, plus one episode on Christmas day, which left us with an incredible cliffhanger). Such sad times. And such NOT fun. But everything must come to an end (although I prefer Brian May’s stance ‘show must go on’…).

I sincerely hope you will share my love for this microcosm of odd habits and I with you all the best for the next year!

B x

Do Good, Be Good… ?

Christmas is over now for real. Generally, that means we stop giving presents and focus on our New Year’s resolutions. But sometimes a wee bit of ‘giving’ sneaks in to this list of goals that we abandon before February begins – we want to volunteer or be nicer to others to make ourselves feel better.

Instinctively, we frown upon this ‘selfish altruism’. But isn’t altruism always also selfish? Anyone who had biology at school learned that animals show altruistic because ultimately it benefits them (I’m thinking vampire bats and boobies). And even those who don’t believe in evolution and instead call upon God(s) for answers do good in order that they get away pleasantly after death.

So, as you might have guessed, especially if you have been following my Happiness Project, I have a personal reason for all this philosophy: It will be part of my resolution. ‘Doing good’ is a broad field, though. And we all have a different image of what it means. My definition, I must admit, is a bit cloudy. This will not be an obstacle, I have simply narrowed it down, following the example of Gretchen Rubin.

I want to be generous. This is something that, in some situations, comes natural to me. I love to give gifts, I love to share music I love with the people I love, and all that. In other respects, it is harder. Especially when I am in a bad mood, I find it hard to give other people their due and ideally a bit more than that. But, fake it till you make it has always been my strategy, which also coincides with on of Rubin’s truths: Act like it till you feel like it (or something like that). Now I am not aiming to just donate some money and make a tick on my resolutions chart, I want it to make me happier and improve my relationships. As a consequence, I will have to learn to let people in the supermarket go first, listen to my friend when all she talks about is her boyfriend (who is lovely and makes her really happy), stop resenting people for changing and moving on and try to think of what I can do to make the lives of the people around me more pleasant.

As you see, trying to be more generous sounds like an excellent exercise for me to be more empathetic, pleasant and kind. When I call it an exercise, it is really an experiment: Will my conscious effort to be more generous have an effect on my unconscious behaviour?

We shall see.

B x

Why Christmas In Germany Is The Best

As you might or might not know, the main Christmas celebrations in Germany are on Christmas Eve, the 24th aka today. This means that you don’t have to wait as long (perk #1), but even better, it means that Christmas lasts three whole days (perk #2): Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day (which is called Christmas Day II here, which I personally find very amusing). The only downside is that advent calendars here only have 24 little doors, but who wouldn’t happily give up a tiny piece of chocolate for a whole day of presents and food.

So we have now established the theme (which you have already derived from the title…): Christmas in Germany and why it is so good.

Where do I start… Well, I guess what I like so much about the season is that it starts even before December begins. From the end of August onward the supermarkets pile up various Christmas-related treats. My favourite: spekulatius biscuits. They’re amazing and ideal to have with tea or coffee.

Then, as soon as December starts (and sometimes earlier) Christmas time begins. Traditionally you have an advent wrath with four candles, one for each Sunday leading up to Christmas, and you light them one after the other (which means that they are all different lengths by the time it’s Christmas, which is VERY annoying and impractical, but I guess it’s a nice tradition).

Then, on the 6th, it’s St. Nicks and no matter what age you are, you leave small treats in the shoes of those you live with. Which I guess falls under the category “show others how much you appreciate them at Christmas time”. There are various other ways to do that: You can give an advent calendar to your boyfriend/girlfriend, give little parcels of homemade biscuits to your neighbours and, of course, buy or make presents for your friends and family. Also, I always find that writing Christmas cards is a great way to stay in contact with those who don’t live close by.

The bestest thing about Christmas in Germany, though, are the markets. Not only are they extremely festive and pretty and nice, but there is nothing better than drinking hot Glühwein (mulled wine) with a few friends outside in the cold.

Merry Christmas!

B x

P. S. Another thing Germany deserves credit for is the Christmas tree. Yes, this tradition started here and then spread across the globe. Fun fact: It was introduced to the English-speaking world by Queen Victoria’s German spouse.

Smoking, Porn and Resolutions

It feels a bit odd, all this constant self-improvement. A bit like taking spontaneous New Year’s resolutions to the next level.

Anyway, one of the resolutions Rubin made in her book was to give up something. To be honest, I can’t actually remember what she gave up, it’s not really that memorable a book, but the general ideas tend to stick around.

So what could I give up. I love the idea of giving up things. Makes me feel grand, sacrificing, like a martyr. I tend to do it frequently. Sometimes I then revert these later because the fun of abstinence wears off quite quickly and I often lack the conviction to give them up for good. But I guess even giving something up for just a while is a good move. The worst thing that can come of it is that you take up the habit again, you’ll probably appreciate it more and/or will do it (whatever it may be) more decisively. And sometimes you don’t. Sometimes sacrificing something stops being a sacrifice. It becomes natural.

My current giving up concerns those little cylindrical white sticks we tend to call cigarettes. I truly love smoking; smoking itself, but I also love the communal sense it gives and I love pondering over life while standing outside in the cold. And I know I won’t give it up for good (yet), but I’d like to reduce frequency. I know we only ever thing of success as an all or nothing, but why not. Who cares. Improvement is improvement.

This might be a bit of an odd thing to share, and if you’re a bit prude, please stop reading now. A thing I’ve given up and not regretted is porn. I was not a frequent consumer, if that’s what you’d call it, but it was kind of there. When I was about thirteen porn was where I saw my first erect penis. I knew about the technicalities of blow jobs and double penetration before I had even kissed a boy. That is a thought that makes me shiver. I guess the age of the internet is everything but an age of innocence.

This is the video that inspired me to do so, and as the TED motto is “ideas worth sharing”, here it is:

If this post is a bit jointed, I apologise. I was simultaneously watching Love Actually (a Christmas ritual I plan to cultivate more) and writing this.