Motivation and changing habits.

There are some things in my life that I want to do more often because of the positive impacts it has on me, but I find it hard to motivate myself to actually do it.

Take running as an example. I like running – once I get some great tunes going, I’m all set. I’ve got the gear, i just don’t have motivation.

I’ve never been a sporty person; I was the musical kid at school. Yet the days when dad and I would go cross-country training are some of my favourite memories and I actually enjoyed doing them.

I could go on with other examples, but what really is important is this: sometimes you need to put effort into it to do things that don’t come easy to you. Sometimes you actually need to just do it. Your body may be completely filled with nerves and you may feel ill at ease, most days you’re going to have to fight through that.

Something worth fighting for won’t come easily, but it is worth the effort you put into it and the motivation you get out of it.

Yours,

Sophia x

More love is neat.

“If you see something beautiful in someone, speak of it” – Ruthie Lindsey

Our instinct to notice the bad more than the good is strong. Our media is filled with negative news constantly. I mean, have you ever counted the ratio of positive to negative stories in our daily evening news? Whenever I watch the news, I do this and more often than not, it is overwhelmingly in the negative story’s favour.

With so many advertising telling us of a product we “need” to buy to “fix” a non-existential problem, is it not surprising that we are quick to see the flaws and be negative about it?

Recently, I have been thinking about this a fair bit. Spending 24 hours in a return plane flight gave me a lot of time to ponder and think when I recently travelled to Sweden.

Whilst waiting to board at Stockholm Arlanda airport, I stumbled across Hans Rosling’s book “Factfulness” he co-wrote with his son, Ola Rosling, and his daughter-in-law, Anna Rosling Rönnlund. In it, they explore why we as a society, tend to have a bleaker overview of the world, and why things are better than we think they are.

“I think this is because human beings have a strong dramatic instinct towards binary thinking, a basic urge to divide things into two distinct groups, with nothing but an empty gap in between. We love to dichotomize. Good versus bad. Heroes versus villains. My country versus the rest. Dividing the world into two distinct sides is simple and intuitive, and also dramatic because it implies conflict, and we do it without thinking, all the time.”

“The gap instinct makes us imagine division where there is just a smooth range, difference where there is convergence, and conflict where there is agreement.”

Maybe, like Rosling argues in his book, things are better in the world than we think but our negative instinct is too strong. We remember the negative more easily with the positive in our lives.

I used to not be a fan of the daily gratitude exercise that has become popular over the past year. But the more I’ve reflected on the human tendency on the negative instinct, the more I realise that daily gratitude isn’t a bad thing after all. It helps us to realise and teaches us to think more, about the positive events in our lives than the negative. There is enough happening in the world, so why focus on the negatives?

How on earth does this have anything to do with the original quote by Ruthie Lindsey at the beginning of the post? I’ve touched on this before in the blog, but I believe that more love in the world is neat. I’m a strong believer in community and supporting each other, so I’m going to start making an effort to celebrate by speaking about the beautiful things I notice in people.

Yours,

Sophia

xx

International Podcast Day

Yesterday was International Podcast Day today. I’ve always been a bit slow in appreciating podcasts, (and obviously slow in uploading this post) as I don’t have a natural tendency towards audiobooks or the spoken word. As a writer, I’ve always been partial to the written word.

Yet over the past year, I’ve been slowly listening to more and more podcasts. I started with economics, and several “German for beginners” (for teaching purposes), but over the past month I’ve asked for podcast recommendations (because you need variety right?) and my podcast selection has expanded.

The joy with podcasts is the transportable nature of little information. The learner in me is always keen to turn a podcast on and jump into that little world for either the 30 minutes or 60 minutes length of the podcast. I read on a Slate article and it described podcasts being a snippet, a pocket of happiness within the large world that is the internet.

So to belatedly celebrate International Podcast Day, here’s a list of podcasts I’ve been listening. Okay, it’s more like a mini-review because the journalist within me couldn’t help itself.

So here we go – 5 podcasts I think you should listen to:

From Our Correspondents (BBC)

From Our Correspondents is, to me, is a podcast version of SBS’ Insights and the ABC’s Four Corners. Differing from the typical journalistic structure of telling stories, each episode (whose length is around 30 minutes long) is made up of short 5 minute stories from various correspondents who delve into the stories behind the headlines using wit, insight and analysis. If you’re interested in wanting to know more about what is happening in the world, but wanting something different than the 24/7 news cycle, this podcast (or if you’re Australian, “Correspondents Report”) is the one for you.

Historical Figures

I’ll admit, I’m a bit of a history nerd. So a podcast telling the stories of historical figures is definitely on my list of podcasts that I listen to. The bio of the podcast describes the podcast as “Big lives. Little-known Facts.” and as “audio biographies”. The podcast does live up to this, however, the narration seems, at times, too scripted and wooden. Despite this, the podcast is well researched and worth a listen to learn more about historical figures.

Harry Potter and the Sacred Text

One of the things I love about reading novels is that through the format of the written form, we learn more about what makes us human – emotions, feelings, universal themes. What I love about Harry Potter and the Sacred Text podcast, is that it explores the different themes and nuances that make us human. You can listen to it chronologically or you can listen to in a “Choose your own adventure” style if you’re looking to explore a particular theme using the Harry Potter books. Do note that it is in the Religion & Spirituality category of podcasts because it does use methods within different faiths to explore texts and applies it to Harry Potter. If that doesn’t bother you (and it isn’t much of a deterrent for me), then exploring Harry Potter through this podcast may be for you.

The Money

I’m an economics teacher and do quite enjoy economics (duh!), so it’s no surprise that an economics-related podcast will make this list. The Money is produced by the ABC Radio National and explains neatly how the Australian economy and everything in it works, and vitally for any economics students, how this all connects to the global economy. It is a favourite podcast of mine because of the rehashing the same old dry economics theory, it looks at how the economy works using a real-world application. Just look at the recent podcasts – the drone technology economy, the rise of Comic-Con, fraud and the workings of the world. It’s definitely going to make an appearance in my economics teaching because of the real world application of economic understanding and I think you should add this to your podcast library.

The Dollop

The Dollop is a comedic take to history storytelling, and can be summed up like this: think American history, told by a comedian to a clueless comedian, and you’ve got a hilarious take on history. With each episode length at around 1.5 hours long, it seems too long at times, but it’s the chemistry between Dave Anthony and Gareth Reynolds makes listening to it for that length of time worth it.

These are my five podcasts I think you should be listening to. What podcasts have you been listening to recently? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

 

Are you okay?

It’s R U Okay? Day today.

You will probably see people talking about whether or not they’re okay on social media. Having conversations about whether or not we’re okay is important. It starts a conversation, a moment of time to help people feel that they belong.

Let’s start conversations about mental health, let’s build connections with each other.

I once read somewhere that a problem shared is a problem halved. Sharing a problem starts with a conversation, a question, “Are you okay?”, that we shouldn’t be afraid to ask every day.

I know it’s hard to open up – sometimes it is because we don’t want to burden anyone with our troubles, other times it’s because we aren’t ready to communicate what is wrong.

In the murky days of my depression, that was how I felt. But my journey dealing with depression, and now anxiety, taught me this: I would never know what to say until I started to say “I’m not okay”.

Because I didn’t know all the answers, but by having conversations with people, letting them in, that’s when I started to have answers for dealing with what was wrong.

So, let people know you’re there for them. You may not need to say “are you okay?” It might be a simple “let me know if you need anything. I’m here for you”.

Let’s build a world, a community where a connection is strong among us. Let’s start conversations about how we truly are.

We are not alone in fighting our fights.

Yours,

Sophia

X

PS: Project Rockit released a really got resource in how to start a conversation. I will add it below, but before I do, I just wanted to say:

If you are struggling, feeling down or alone, know that you can just leave me a message and that I am here for you. You can also contact Lifeline (13 11 14), Beyond Blue (1300 22 4636) or Headspace (1800 650 890).

Please open up to people. You are valuable, you are loved, and you are important.

The Pilgrimage

“We always have a tendency to see those things that do not exist and to be blind to the great lessons that are right there before our eyes.” – Paulo Coelho, The Pilgrimage

I recently (re)read Paulo Coelho’s The Pilgrimage and, just like the time I read it for the first time when I was 17, Coelho’s writing – the depth, the colour, the honesty – blew me away (again). Unlike the time I read it at 17, the book’s message resonated a lot deeper this time. Even the way Coelho structured the book, basing each chapter on a single theme or message, impacted me in terms of my writing. I can feel how this book has inspired to write each letter based on a singular theme or lesson.

What impacted me the most was Coelho’s infusion of small wisdom about life, his insights on living a meaningful life, all the whilst weaving an adventure story. Put simply, The Pilgrimage is about Coelho’s trials as he journeys along the Camino de Santiago alongside his mentor, Petrus. Yet, Coelho’s writing provokes a compelling, deep tale of the search for meaning, and for a broader view on life.

The book taught me that every little encounter has a purpose, a meaning. The book taught me that we all yearn to find a truth, a meaning, a purpose. We think that it is all individually centred, but I’ve come to the conclusion that our purpose and meaning are all interconnected. People always arrive at the right time where someone awaits them.

“We always know which is the best road to follow, but we follow only the road that we have become accustomed to.”  ― Paulo Coelho, The Pilgrimage.

“The ship is safest when it’s in port, but that’s not what ships were built for.” ― Paulo Coelho, The Pilgrimage.

Sprinkled throughout the book were gentle reminders to take the step past the comfort zone and meet the challenge. Just like the quote above, ships weren’t built for staying in port. They were made for exploring and travelling in the unpredictable ocean. We all know the path we should take, yet we stay on the path that we are used to.

“When in doubt, just take the next small step.” – Paulo Coelho, The Pilgrimage.

In reflecting on The Pilgrimage, I can feel myself being more confident in simply taking the next step, even when I am surrounded in this quagmire of doubt about where I want this blog to go, what I want to write about. I don’t know where this blog will go, but I do know that the best thing for me to do, is to simply take a step. Focus on the path around me, because it is often the path that teaches us what we need to know and in doing so, enriching our lives.

But before I sign off, I want to leave with one quote that has resonated the most with me whilst I was reading this book.

“Why be fearful of saying no to someone or of leaving something undone when the most important thing of all was to enjoy life fully?” ― Paulo Coelho, The Pilgrimage.

Yours,
Sophia
x

 

PS: In writing this blog post, I have since realised that Paulo Coelho has become one of my favourite authors and that I have been remiss in not reading more of his work. Do you have a Paulo Coelho book I should read? Let me know in a comment below xx

Why learn a language?

They often say that if you want to learn something new and be engaged in the learning process, then you got to know the answer to the “why” question. For many, their answer to the question “Why learn a language?” is that by learning languages, more doors will open to you, and they are not wrong. For me, learning a language is a process of falling in love with that country’s culture. Sometimes it’s the musical lilt and the emotions within the spoken language that first captures my interest in the language.

For example, Swedish has this gentle, musical lilt to it, that I catch myself quite often getting distracted by when I swear Swedish being spoken. Same case for Swiss-German.

Dutch has an honest, blunt quality to it if you get past the guttural sounds. Every time I have heard Persian and Arabic, it’s the passion and the range of emotions that colour the language that captures me.

Learning languages not only open doors to new opportunities, it also opens doors into understanding not only the culture of that country in a more deeper manner but it also allows you to understand yourself better too. Since undergoing the journey to become a languages teacher, I’ve had to re-evaluate my own language learning journey, and in many ways, understand what makes me so passionate about learning languages.

Yes, it comes from growing up in a multi-lingual family, but it also comes from an openness to explore life, and in a small way, humanity. Being open to learning different languages, I have learnt to be open to understanding different people, and in the process, learn to be a more empathetic and better teacher.

So, for me, learning languages has never been about ticking a box to achieve better things, but rather it’s about the introspective, philosophical understanding of humanity.

That is why I learn languages.

Yours,

Sophia
xx

 

Dear baking

Today I did something I rarely ever do – I baked for the sake of baking. Not baking for a friends birthday, or for a class, but baking because I wanted to. So with the rain in the background, I decided on baking something I hadn’t done in a long while – an apple crumble.

I could go on a massive tangent about the recipe, and write a long post about its amazingness and how yummy it was, but I won’t. I’ll just share the recipe below, and let you jump on board on the Äppelsmulpaj train.

I grew up in a family that bakes. My maternal grandma bakes ALL the time, and the cellar (especially in holiday seasons) often has cakes resting in the pantry. I think it annoyed and amused (in equal amounts) my grandma whenever the grandkids (and often son) were around because there would be pieces of cake going randomly missing. I inherited Dutch baking recipes from my Oma from she used to bake and inherited her sense of quiet happiness seeing the kids enjoy the baked goods.

Despite my mum being those “bake-from-packets” type of baker (much to the dismay of her mother), I inherited her love of Scandinavian baking. So this morning, I opened up my favourite Nordic Cook Book, flipped it to deserts and found the Äppelsmulpaj recipe.

Once it’s finished, I’ll take the Äppelsmulpaj over to some mates for afternoon tea … because that’s something I’ve grown up with, and something I try to do often.

It’s cultural tradition from where I come from, that if people are over around afternoon tea time, you offer them coffee and cake. If you don’t have cake, then you scramble a platter of biscuits together.

I’ve often asked mum and my grandmas why they put so much effort into afternoon tea and sprinkled amongst the “Because it’s nice to do something like this!” and “It’s what you do!” answers, was the real reason – you do it because you love them. Afternoon tea gatherings are moments of time where we all sat down together, being present in the presence of the people that we love.

Bonding over shared food allows us to break down barriers, share our heritage and culture with others and provides an opportunity to build stronger relationships. Bonding over shared foods, be it afternoon tea or mealtimes, reminds us of our own humanity and for me, that it includes the values of neighbourliness, hospitality and welcoming diversity.

We all need reminders of our common humanity, so bake a cake, put the kettle on and invite friends and family over for afternoon tea.

… just make sure you have a sneaky piece or two before everyone gobbles the Äppelsmulpaj up.

Yours,

Sophia
x

PS: Because I love this recipe for Äppelsmulpaj, I decided to share it with you. The recipe is originally from Magnus Nilsson’s The Nordic Cook Book.

Orange Minimalist Recipe Card.png