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

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.

Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire…

So, here we go: Appropriate to the time of the year and the music currently playing on the radio, I’ve chosen to share with you some festive tunes, that can serve you as an alternative to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas” on a loop during the next few days. This is the best Christmas album I have come across so far and it is excellent. You know how you have to be in a certain kind of state to enjoy the Sinatra Christmas classics and the new auto-tuned, dolled up versions they play on the radio get old pretty quickly (plus, they all sound the same!), this album is the answer.

It is such a nice, laid back, but still merry collection of some of the best classic tunes: They do a smashing cover of Madonna’s “Santa Baby”, and have included everything from “Baby It’s Cold Outside” to “Silent Night”. My personal favourite is track number seven, but please, please listen for yourself and make up your own mind.

You can download the whole album here, and another great thing is that there is no set price!! This means you can literally pay what ever you think is appropriate and if you’re too broke (or too stingy, no judgement..), just put “0”. Hint hint: This also makes a great present.

Wild Child – Christmas Mixtape, Volume 1

 

Mirroring Resolutions, Things I Like And Blogging Over Christmas

My Happiness Project is only about a week old, and yet somehow I have managed to fail every one of my resolutions at least once. I’ve completed the circle yesterday when I broke my promise to blog daily by – you’ve guessed it – not blogging. Oh well. This was pretty much predictable. It’s not like this hurts anyone. But if you’ve thought that I can be distracted from my ambitions this quickly, you’re wrong: I’ll make all of this work somehow.

A major helper is an aspect of wordpress.com that I only discovered today (I’m new, okay, cut me some slag!): Scheduling posts. This simple feature will go a long way for me trying to keep my promises to myself. I can simply write posts in advance. Especially at this time of year this is extremely useful: Now that I’m at home over Christmas, I don’t have the time to write daily and it will probably be that way until the 6th or 7th of January, when I return to university.

So what I have thought of was this: For this time, I will have two feature categories supplying you with posts. The first one is related to my Happiness Project.  As you might know from this post, I have come up with seven aims of my own. However, as I was reading Rubin’s book, I constantly felt that I should make a not, that I might be missing something essential, like the resolutions that could bring me happiness were just slipping through my fingers (like the ABBA song but in a different context). So I’ve gone back through her aims and resolutions (there are so many!) and I’ve chosen seven that also make sense for me to adapt. Of course, that means that I now have 14 resolutions to think about and keep track of, so I’ll have to make a new track sheet… Which I’ll do right after writing this post, I promise.

That’s that. But if you’re a careful reader you’ll recall that I was talking about two new categories, and indeed I was. The second one is remotely connected to the idea of Christmas. I am not religious, but I love Christmas. What I like most is the idea of sharing. You share your precious time with the other members of your family, no matter how annoying they might be. You share presents of course, and loads of food. This is also the time of year when many people that are otherwise absorbed in their own worries remember to share with those who aren’t as lucky as they are. I don’t have a lot of money to give to charities and I don’t cook very well, but giving presents is a passion of mine. I love to share things that I love. And this is going to be the second category: Me sharing things with you, whoever you might be.

There we are: Enjoy the posts, Merry Christmas, and I’ll return to live-blogging at the beginning of the next year!

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