When I’m not feeling well – back to my journal

I just stumbled across this post that I had drafted in February. Coincidentally, I’ve been going through the motions over the last days and in searching for ways to ease my stress and anxiety, I once again ended up with my journal that I hadn’t touched in weeks.

Rereading my journals has become one of the most helpful practices in my life.

After all, nobody knows you better than yourself. Every time you let a new person into your life, trying to help you, you have to start from scratch, explaining to them who you are, how you ‘tick,’ and what matters to you. And most of the time, you’ll be left with the realization that no matter how much you explain yourself to a person, they will never fully understand you.

I want to add here that I do think talking to a counselor, therapist, or coach can be incredibly helpful in its own ways. Sometimes, you are so honed into your own thinking that you cannot see your world from another perspective. You might not know all the tools that there are to get better. You might need someone to spark that feeling of motivation and hope in you and give you some direction. I’m writing this because you might not be able to go to therapy for whatever reason that is.

So back to the journals.

Every time I reread my journals, I find inner peace. I also usually get very emotional and am reliving the memory of my pain and suffering. That will then bring me back to the present, and I will realize that those moments have passed and that I am in a different moment right now, even if it will feel similar to some previous situations.

I acknowledge that I have worked a lot on myself. And even if at the point that I am reading this, it doesn’t feel like that did anything to help me, seeing the effort will give me the feeling that I am acting at least and now standing still. I am working on my personal growth, and even if I’m hitting rock bottom, I know that I have been in different stages and states before.

The other day, I found a whole list of practices that I’ve tried over the years. I had made an Excel sheet and had written what I got out of the practices. And despite not following up on all of the practices anymore these days, I appreciate all the work that I put in.

So what I do with my journal these days? I don’t journal daily anymore, but more whenever I feel the need to bring it up. Often when I feel down, I feel low in self-esteem and lonely. Writing on paper soothes me as it’s a welcoming distraction from screens that seem to suck the life out of me and my eyes these days (working from home and being glued to it, that is). The slow movement of a pen over paper is consoling to me as I feel like I’m sorting things out.


  1. I take my journal and do a ‘thought dump.’ It’s like a big mind map of all these random ruminating thoughts that are circulating through my mind. Like this, you can look at your thoughts from a more distant perspective, which can help you gain clarity over them. 

  2. If I have the mental energy, I will write some questions regarding the points above – My previous coach shared the concept of ‘quality questions‘ with me, and I love it. Quality questions refer to meaningful reflective questions regarding your problem that you can then ponder over and dig deeper into what’s really going on. Often, a problem is not what it seems, but there are layers and layers of other issues and reasons underneath.

  3. If that’s not possible (because I don’t feel like it all the time, let’s be honest), then I’m trying to take another step back and look at the BIGGER PICTURE. Will these things matter in a year from now? Have I had these fears, worries before and know they will eventually fade? Should I thus spend my time worrying about this? Note that I said worry – usually, the bad and uncomfortable feelings will last. They won’t magically disappear, but the ruminating worrying might lessen a little. 

  4. To stop feeling sorry for myself, I will make a list of the things I’m grateful for. I used to write down what I was grateful for daily, and though it doesn’t automatically make me love life again immediately (just being honest here), it will show you this tiny, tiny light in this whole messy darkness. It might be big enough to accept the state that I’m in and that once I get through this, I can focus on the things I’m grateful for again. These things might be the most mundane, e.g., my apartment with space all for myself, the new plant that I bought and haven’t killed yet, the 15-min workout I managed myself to do despite wanting to stay under the covers, etc.

  5. I do allow myself to release any emotion that comes up. I used to think crying made me a weak person. These days I find crying a very freeing practice. I actually wrote a blog post about this and didn’t post it on any social media because I felt so vulnerable. Still, people managed to find it, and it’s one of my most-read posts now. In the post, I’m writing about how I embrace crying and make it a mindful practice and coping mechanism. I’m feeling vulnerable in sharing it here again, but I am hoping it will benefit someone.

  6. Reflecting on previous valuable experiences can bring a little more light into your state – I like to browse through my photos from living and traveling abroad. They might create a whole snowball of nostalgia, but ultimately, they also remind me that even though life wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies back then, I count these as genuinely valuable times of my life.




If you’ve never journaled, then congrats for reading through all of this. If you have, maybe this will motivate you to pick up your pen again. I feel like the longer lockdown gets, the more the overall mood in the world is going down, and this is just a little thing that can help us get through this.

If you’re interested in some prompts, check out the following

Personal development journal prompts

We are all constantly changing. We are moving through life with no day as the previous. Journaling can make us stop and reflect on our journey and help us make conscious changes and adaptions to how we spend our time on Earth. This can be a long practice or a quick journaling session. Take some time out of your day and dedicate it to yourself.

Here are some powerful journaling prompts to foster your personal growth.

  1. What makes you get out of bed in the morning?
  2. What do you value in the people that you respect the most?
  3. What are your values? Are you living your life congruent to them?
  4. If 10-Year-Old You Saw Yourself Now, what would he/she think?
  5. Do you love yourself? What does self-love mean to you, and how can you practice it better?
  6. Where do you draw the line between self-care and selfishness?
  7. Would you rather be happy or fulfilled? What would you need to do to get to this feeling?
  8. What are some limiting beliefs that are holding you back from making the changes you’re desiring to see in your life?
  9. Where will you be in 10 years if you keep living your life the way you’re currently living it?
  10. Picture your own gravestone. What should be written on it? How do you want to be remembered?


“Your life is a blank page. You write on it.”

― Donald Miller

Stop getting distracted on your screens

Do you remember what it feels like to be in a state of flow?

When you forget seemingly everything around you, you can work at one task and not feel any need to deviate from it.

In a way, it probably isn’t news that we’ve all been aware of for a long time how social media and technology, predominantly our phones, are controlling our lives. 

Over the recent years, I have felt how the endless clutter on social media pages has taken over a large part of my life (despite not being a super active user). I’ve spent way too much time scrolling endlessly and mindlessly checking the websites for any bit of new information that would give me a little kick of instant gratification. The world seems too bland without a constant blip of joy or excitement from other people’s lives. On the other hand, I noticed how the constant pull into a different world would make me struggle to stay in the present and give it my full attention. There’ve been many studies showing that every time you get distracted and leave your current task to do something else, you need a substantial amount of time to get back to your old job. That constant change in concentration is taking away from your wellbeing, focus, and engagement. 

I really wanted to get back to this state of flow, where I’d tackle one task at a time. If this sounds like you, let me share the following tips with you. 



These are my browser extensions that you can install as add-ons and have helped me keep my eyes on the actual job.

1) DF Tube: Distraction-Free for YouTube (Chrome)

If you struggle to get your eyes off YouTube’s newsfeed and the video recommendations that pull you down its famous rabbit hole, then this is your option. DF Tube extension eradicates YouTube’s Newsfeed AND the video recommendations that pop up while you’re watching a video. You only see what you actively search for or the video you want to watch. All the luring ideas are gone. Another great option is called Unhook – Remove YouTube Recommended Videos

2) Distraction Free mode Google Docs and Slides

Who is a Google Drive Fan? I recently found the extension Distraction Free mode Google Docs and Slides. There are two options – you can see nothing but your document and still see the browser Toolbar, or you can even go into Full-screen to only see your document. This is great if you want to write something without needing to click on anything.

3) News Feed Eradicator for Facebook

If you’re still scrolling Facebook, waiting for some important thing to happen (thanks to the pandemic that seems to be limited), you can install this extension on your browser. Instead of showing you its newsfeed, you see one quote – something for your brain to think about. You can still message people, visit groups, etc. so that the more useful functions stay visible.

This Eradicator now works on Twitter, LinkedIn and Reddit as well!

There are obviously newsfeed eradicators for a lot more programs. I realized that the less clutter I see, the more concentrated I am. 

Insta Feed Eradicator (Chrome)

I’m not on Instagram much, but there is, of course, the option to limit what you see on Instagram as well. With this tool, you can select what section you want to have hidden: Feed, suggestions for people to follow, or stories.

I think that this is a beautiful as well as desired and even necessary state, and despite trying to get there myself, I’ve taken up the help of some programs that I’d like to share. The following are browser extensions that you can install as add-ons on your computer to help you concentrate on one task at a time:

Focus 45

You could also give this extension a try. It lets you block certain websites for 45 minutes at a time so that you can use that to focus. For me, this feels like a better idea than completely blocking certain websites throughout the day. The Pomodoro activity is also a helpful technique, and you find apps on your phone to help you work in a 25 min on (work), 5 min off (break) rhythm. 

Another useful addition are Binaural Beats or Playlist that specialize in music and sound that help you focus. You can find apps in the app stores or playlist on YouTube, Spotify etc.

Finally, I hope this doesn’t even need to be said, but make sure you have an ad blocker!  I’ve never been one to purchase, even less so click on ads, but I still enjoy browsing without seeing them. Sometimes you might need to accept ads to visit the website, which you can do by adding exceptions. It does keep your eyes on the content rather than all the distractions.



When it comes to using my phone, I find it best to limit the time I spend on certain apps. Of course, you can always go around the time limit, but you become more aware of how much time you’re really spending on such apps. I have a timer on YouTube for 30 minutes, and I am trying not to go over it unless I’m watching a long educational program, e.g., a podcast episode. Even then, if I’m at home, I’d then head over to my computer (which has the distraction-free feed extension installed 😉 ) and continue watching it from there. It makes you more consciously aware of your time used on this app. 

Last but not least, putting your phone out of reach or sight has proven the best strategy for me. I feel exhilarated if I forget where I actually left my phone (which is rare but slowly becoming more and more common). “Do not disturb” is a great function, and if you’re still getting notifications, turn them off! I also turned off notifications for work-related messages because, ultimately, you cannot always be giving your attention to things that can wait half an hour. 

I hope some of these ideas can help you be more present and aware of how you spend your time on screens.

Fun and creative journal prompts

Journaling has been invaluable to my mental health – it’s helped me understand my thoughts, emotions and feelings more and as well as prompted me to look at my life from different perspectives and angles. Most prompts go quite deep and can create heavier thoughts, so I thought I’d share some more light-hearted ones. You can always take these prompts to a deeper level by asking yourself why you gave that answer. You might also just want to leave the answer the way it is. These prompts also make nice questions to ask among friends/coworkers/students.

Happy journaling!


FUN AND CREATIVE JOURNAL PROMPTS

  1. If you were reincarnated as an animal, based on your personality, what animal do you think you would come back as?
    ‌⁣
  2. What color best describes you and why?

  3. What’s the most vivid memory in the kitchen of your childhood?

  4. Take a personality quiz. What do you think of the results?

  5. If you could only speak twenty words for the rest of your life, what words would head your list and why? 

  6. Which character from a book or movie would you most like to meet and why? What would you ask?

  7. What would you do it all the electricity in the world just stopped? (have you ever unplugged your Wi-Fi?)

  8. If you had to evacuate your home because of a natural disaster, what three things would you take with you?

  9. If you had to give up one of your senses – which one would you give up?

  10. If you could decide what happens in your life tomorrow, what would you want to happen?

  11. If you won €1,000,000 at the lottery, what would you buy?

  12. If you went back in time, what year would you go to and why?

  13. If everyone was mentally incapable of lying, what would the world look like?

What is your most valuable possession?

I’m not a materialistic person. I have lived with very little for extended periods of time – think backpacking the world or moving to a city for a few months and not wanting to accumulate stuff.
I quickly noticed that things don’t make me happy in the long run, and to this day, I feel pretty detached from my material possessions.

The one thing that I absolutely cherish in its physical form is my journals. I started journaling at a young age. In the beginning, not in a book but rather on random sheets of paper. I remember journaling for the first time when my great-grandma passed away. I was nine years old and had experienced a close person’s passing for the first time in my life. I turned to an A4 yellow sheet of paper and wrote how emotional this situation had affected me. Somehow I must have already realized back then how soothing this outlet was and how I could handle this difficult period by myself.

The other experience I had with ‘journaling’ was my mum. She used to write us long texts when we had a fight or an argument and didn’t want to talk to each other. I would often find a page describing her feelings towards this situation on my seat in the dining room or the kitchen. I thus learned how helpful it could be to sometimes put things out of your mind and onto paper rather than throwing emotionally charged profanities at them. It helped me understand my mum’s perspective a little better and remove all the bitter feelings and simply focus on the paper’s words.

My first real journal was given to me by my sister. She had labeled it ‘The Tribe’-journal. The Tribe was my favorite TV-show when I was young. It was basically about a world in which a virus had broken out and killed off all adults, leaving the kids behind to figure out their own life (as if people had known). At the time, I had a hard time making friends in school, and this series was my refuge. I spent my time journaling about how I felt for the characters and their storyline and eventually started writing about my personal struggles in life.

I kept up journaling over all those years. I have dozens of journals from the past 18 years or so. I haven’t written diligently every day but rather sporadically and some times more than others. Yet, I frequently come back to these books because they are fascinating to me to read – I get reminded of my younger self, my thoughts, and experiences at the time, and I am taking advice into my current situation.

And in case you’re wondering – as a language lover and polyglot, I have written in different languages indeed. One of the best language learning advice of all times has been to write my diary and journal in other languages. I have a diary in Japanese, some passages in French, some childhood passages in German but the overarching language in English. It is the language I feel most at ease expressing my thoughts.

Journaling has been a lifeline for me these days more than ever. It’s the friend who is always by my side, listening without judging.

JOURNALING PROMPTS WHEN YOU’RE FEELING DOWN:

2021 might not have brought the change we’ve been waiting for so far. If you’re like me, you simply felt as if 2020 continued. Months of lockdown have seemingly been tearing on everyone’s nerves.

Journaling has helped me through this time. My mind has been racing too much for me to meditate and I’m grateful that at least using pen on paper has helped me return to a calmer state.



I like to set the scene when I’m journaling. I put on some dim lights – fairy lights, a salt stone light and get comfy. I like sitting on my bed or on the ground so that I have a lot of space around me. You might on the contrary also enjoy cuddling into a smaller space like an armchair. Take a notebook that has a nice cover – treat your journal like something special.

For my first prompt and in general, I always like to do a little check-in with my body. I like to do a self-scan of my body, eyes closed and in a sort of meditative state.






And here come the prompts:

  1. What sensations are you feeling in your body right now?

  2. Are you judging these feelings – my anxiety ache is bad, I’m making myself sick, etc. If yes, can you simply focus on it and then let it be there the way it is?

  3. If you were a loving parent to yourself, what would you tell yourself to console you?

  4. If you had your best friend right next to you now, what would he/she say to you?

  5. What do you need right now? Can you give it to you unconditionally?

  6. Which minor everyday life things make you happy and grateful to be alive? Here comes your gratitude list 🙂

  7. What are the weaknesses I’m frustrated about, and how can I use them to fuel something positive? Which ones should I simply let be and accept, reminding myself that in the end, no matter what the world makes us want to believe, nobody is perfect, and embracing that is a positive step into acceptance.

  8. Do you think what you’re feeling right now will last forever? Do you remember the last time that you felt down? Did it end? Are you willing to accept it and sit through, knowing that you will come out at the other hand?

  9. What is a compliment that I could make myself today? Reading this post means you’re taking action!

  10. If you’re angry at another person: Is their behavior something that you don’t like in yourself either? E.g., the other person is so selfish – are you selfish yourself?

  11. If you’re angry at the world: Are you in control over this? If not, can you let it go? If yes, what steps can you take for yourself to better your own position and stance in this world?





I hope you’ll find acceptance and release in this. Stay safe!

Life is like the weather in Patagonia.

If you’ve ever been to Patagonia, you know what I’m talking about. Even if you haven’t, you’ve gone through life, and I’m sure it’s felt like this at some point.

This time is such a time. Stay safe!


You’ve checked the weather forecast and are expecting a fine day.

You open your eyes, being greeted by warm, balmy sunlight. You optimistically start into your day hike. The path is easy, some rocks are scattered, but you are feeling full of energy, ready to tackle any obstacles. Suddenly – a strong breeze hits you by surprise. You’ve heard other people talk about these tempestuous winds that seem to occur from nowhere. They’re infamous in Patagonia and can knock you off your feet. You stumble around a little, but keep going. The wind is strong, but you are stronger.

After all you listened and brought a windbreaker. And a down jacket. The cold is hitting your face, but you keep walking. It’s getting warmer again. Time to let go of some of your protective layers. 

You eventually turn into a valley that looks very hazy. This is the path to your destination. The good weather starts to fade and is slowly being replaced by fog and rain. You brace yourself for the weather. One layer after the other. Knowing that it’s never enough. As you’re walking further and further with the weather getting worse and worse you find yourself torn. Should you continue in this miserable weather? Will it be worth the struggle? Or should you simply turn back into the luring safety of the sunlight? You decide to continue because you want to reach your destination, the end of the trail. After all this is what you came here for. 

The rain stops for a bit. Then comes back. Time seems to stretch endlessly. An hour’s walk feels like a never-ending period of time. You really wonder why you’re here, but you simply keep going. The bad weather conditions are at their peak. You suddenly find yourself in a snowstorm just as you hit the end of the trail. And the final view is blurry and hazy. No trace of what you wanted to see. The walk seems pointless now. 

Except suddenly you remember that it is not only about the goal but also your way towards it.

So you put on a smile, walk back through the ice and snow that eventually turns into rain. You can see a bit of sunshine trying its best to break through the clouds. It succeeds for a minute, sending you a feeling of ease and warmth even though the rain continues lightly. It never really goes away, it’s always there, even when you thought it had just left. 

And then you head back, and suddenly you are overlooking a beautiful view. A view you had not appreciated before when you were fixated on your goal and only your goal. But now you’re taking it in fully. It looks mesmerizing.

Your heart lifts as did the clouds. You already forgot about the bad weather. Gratitude and joy are overwhelming you. Only your soaked shoes trace back to where you came from. You’re peeling off your protective layers, ready to enjoy and face the sunlight. Only to realize that rain & wind might come again. That’s what the weather in Patagonia is famous for after all. But you feel stronger now. You are not that scared of the weather anymore. Maybe next time there will be sunshine at the end of the trail. In Patagonia, anything is possible.

Life is like the weather in Patagonia.


How I’m learning Japanese

For me, Japanese is at its own level in terms of language learning. It took my brain forever to realize that this was actually a language. Somehow I struggled to make out individual words in the beginning. I tried out many resources and always find it hard to answer what was the absolute best. This is like looking for the magic pill that works for everyone and everything. 

Most resources will cater to a particular skill of language learning: listening, speaking, writing, or reading. Others will cater to learners who learn by rote learning, auditory learning, drills, movies etc.… 



I started my whole Japanese journey when living in Japan, which will be different from most learners. The first place I studied at was ‘Kumon’ – a cram school. I learned to write hiragana and katakana there as well as some simple sentences and grammar. I did not have a teacher; rather, I got CDs with audio files and worksheets that I worked through. That was a helpful method for me in the beginning as I like learning through writing and reading/seeing the words and characters in front of my eyes.

Later, I decided to take the help of the endless resources out there. In 2016, there were considerably fewer resources than these days, especially in terms of YouTubers who teach on YouTube – you have such great content these days that I wish I had at the time.



Below are some resources I’ve used over the years. If you’re a complete beginner and want to self-study, your best bet might be Duolingo or textbooks that teach you Kana (hiragana and katakana), as you’ll need this as a base for your Japanese study.

The resources below start just after you learned the very basics.

I’ll start with my preferred way of studying these days: YouTube. I find it the most entertaining way and very good for finding good grammar explanations, which the other resources lack.


My favorite YouTubers:

Japanese Ammo with Misa – the most detailed grammar explanations I’ve ever come across. Long videos, so take your time for them 🙂 You’ll also find videos on vocabulary, conversations to practice your listening to and more.

Miku Real Japanese – very clear grammar videos – teaches a lot through skits that are entertaining to watch! Clear structure of the videos in ‘example’, ‘grammar’ and ‘practice’. Also many conversational videos for listening practice such as interviews with other YouTubers in Japanese

Japanese with Yuka 101 – lots of Live classes that go through topics in detail and also prepare you for Japanese tests

Onomappu – really great channel to learn Japanese onomatopoeia

Learn Japanese From Zero! – channel by an author of Japanese study books. Shorter videos that focus on small nuances and details of a word, Kanji, or grammar point


The following are the apps I mostly use.

I have tried dozens and these are the ones I keep coming back to.

Anki – my favorite flashcard app

This is a more time-intensive way of studying as you have to manually enter the flashcards you want to review (or you can download or purchase sets from different sources). It’s highly effective thanks to its space-repetition system, which will show you words repeatedly until you know them. 


Yomikata Z

This is an app that teaches you how to read vocabulary step by step. You learn the words in the context of a sentence and have different ways of learning it, either by writing out the reading or selecting the meaning….

The words are categorized in JLPT levels and get repeated while you’re studying. 

I found it helpful for learning how to read Kanji in context as well as learning vocabulary.


Japanese dictionary Takoboto

This is my dictionary of choice. You can search by typing in Romaji (Roman alphabet) or Japanese or English. There is also a function to look up the Kanji per radical. It’s very extensive, and you get example sentences, stroke order, and radicals for Kanji. You can bookmark words and export them into an Anki deck.

If you’re using a desktop computer, then Jisho is the place for you!


Kanji Study

If you’re all about learning Kanji after Kanji, this is your app. It beautifully shows you the stroke order, lets you practice drawing the Kanji itself on the app, and quizzes you on pronunciation and meaning. I love that it has a chart that shows you how much you’ve studied, so it helps to keep you accountable for your progress.


Easy Japanese news

This app lets you read Japanese news in an easier version. It highlights vocabulary that a Japanese learner might not know, shows you the translations, and even tells you which JLPT (the Japanese Language Proficiency Test) level belongs. 


Satori Reader

 Another app that helps you learn how to read. Just like the news app, you will get help with reading kanji and the respective translations. There are articles, books, and stories for each level, and you can adjust the amount of Kanji and furigana shown.



If you live in Japan, of course, you should find someone to regularly practice speaking with.

In my case, I registered with our local city hall to get matched with a volunteer ‘teacher,’ a person who had no teaching experience but who was willing to help a foreigner for free. I’d write a diary in Japanese and get it corrected every week. This would also serve as a base for our conversation. On top of that, I’d take note of issues related to the language that I came across in daily life. I’d ask my teacher about those points in the lesson, and we’d go through example sentences of a certain word or grammar structure. I want to stress that if you’re practicing a language with someone who isn’t a teacher, don’t expect them to know ‘WHY’ something is said the way it is (e.g. ‘Why do you say ‘x’ in this case?). Native speakers are used to their language and don’t necessarily think about its grammatical structure the way a language learner or teacher does. Therefore, it’s more useful to get example sentences from a native conversation partner, than grammar rules.

You always have the opportunity to find a teacher/tutor on italki or through apps like Hello Talk and Tandem (see my previous post on how to find someone to practice speaking with)

I hope this can give you an idea where to start or continue your Japanese practice.

頑張って!

The origin of my endless motivation for language learning

When people hear how many languages I speak, they always ask me how I’ve been studying. The thing is, I learned each language differently. Some I was taught at school, others I learned by living in the country, others just because I was curious (and later solidified my curiosity by spending some time in the respective country). Take modern technology and all the fantastic resources one can find for free or very little money, and you can drown in an ocean of ways to learn.

But what is at the bottom of this? What lies beneath the hundreds of resources I’ve tried, the thousands of hours I’ve poured my heart and soul in and studied diligently.

Last night I had a thought. I was clicking onto a random YouTube video because I couldn’t figure from the title whether it was in Spanish or Portuguese – the latter which I’m still focusing on these days. And it turned out to be in Spanish. Even though it was not what I was expecting, I suddenly got this feeling of excitement. It was a feeling of familiarity. Hearing the sound made me genuinely happy. Truth be told, I didn’t understand most of it (it was a philosophical analysis of a song, in case you’re wondering), but I still felt connected to the sound and the person who spoke it.

Later that evening, I found some old Japanese notes. Whenever I look back at those, I usually feel all the pain and struggle I went through learning this language (it was the most’ painful process’ in language learning I had been through). I also remembered how I had friends with whom I could connect by speaking solely Japanese and how much I enjoyed it. It wasn’t only that I was proud to communicate in that language but also that I simply felt happy hearing and producing those sounds.

They sounded familiar.

And that’s the thought I had this morning again. The reason why I have endless motivation to work on a language is because of the emotions these languages bring up in me. When I hear them, they make me feel at home. And precisely because I feel “comfortable’ speaking and especially hearing these languages, I end up immersing myself more and more in them. That means that when I’m not in the respective country, I will find podcasts to listen to and YouTube videos and Netflix shows to watch. Often, this is only to hear that language again, to feel some sort of connection to it, even if I don’t understand what is said entirely.

My point is, I think if you genuinely want to learn a language, the sound of that language needs to start sounding familiar, as if it belongs into your life. When I first started learning Japanese, I struggled immensely, as to my ears, the sounds did not sound like a language, rather just some sort of ‘noise’. It was the first time I studied an Asian language, which was remarkably different from the Roman or Germanic languages and sounds I knew.

Once I had been in Japan for a while, it became normal for me to hear the language. I got excited once I was able to make out my first few words in the ocean of sounds that I seemed to be swimming through. One or two words per sentence were often enough for me to get the gist of the conversation and gave me the necessary push to keep going.

So how do you get there?

What do you do, especially now that traveling is either impossible or greatly limited?

Well back to the vast ocean of resources on the internet. There is no shortage these days regarding videos in any language. Podcasts are another great way to dive into the foreign sounds of another language.
And of course, music! Nothing gets me more excited about learning more Portuguese by putting on some good old Bossa Nova dancing through my apartment.

I have found that podcasts or videos made by native speakers, FOR native speakers, tend to create this feeling of excitement for the language and culture in me.

Podcasts or videos for language learners don’t convey the same feeling to me as they tackle my intellectual and logical side of my brain and not necessarily the one who just wants to indulge in the language. (That doesn’t mean that I don’t use them – just that they don’t trigger those good feelings for me as much.)

So if you’re learning a language and notice how you’re losing motivation, surround yourself with the language’s sound so much until you feel like it sounds so typical to you that you have no choice but figure out how to understand it. Once you return to your language learning practice, you will feel more energetic working on it, which will speed up your progress.

It doesn’t help if you have negative feelings towards a language because that won’t help you learn it. Try to find anything positive to associate with the language and go from there. Google the most popular songs in your favorite genre. Ask people to give you their recommendations (online and offline). Find a language tandem partner. Find a local group that speaks the language you’re learning. Be with the language and let it become a regular part of life to you.

I’ll soon post resources in each of the respective languages that I speak so that you can hopefully find something that motivates you along your journey! Keep going!

How I learned to embrace crying

Ok, so this post is about crying.

And the title is something I never thought I’d be able to say (let alone write about).

Not because I don’t cry. The opposite actually. I cry a lot. Of frustration, of anger, of emotional pain, of nostalgia, of joy and for no reason. I cry in front of people and by myself.

And I have always hated that about me.

I found myself weak, a cry-baby, too emotional. And I didn’t see any use in all my crying. After all, once I was done feeling (mostly) sorry for myself, nothing would have changed. My problem would still be there, life would still be the same. Why did I do this? Why was I making life so hard for myself? Why would I do something so unnecessary?

I had carried these questions with me for most of my life.

Society and dictionaries were giving me the feeling that crying belonged in the ‘negative action-category’ as well. Showing vulnerability and talking about crying aren’t regular conversation topics after all.

However, this year, I was confronted with this issue a lot in the open. I talked to people who wished they could cry more. And I remember staring at them in disbelief? Why would you want to do that?! Why would you want to seem so weak? Weren’t they happy they seemingly had life under control?

And then things changed. I was staying at a hippie volunteer placement. Imagine 25 travelers from all over the world put together in an old barn. Lots of emotions guaranteed. So I actually cried in front of people. It wasn’t my first time for sure but I slowly and through painful embarrassment, in the beginning, learned that it was OK. Because people weren’t judging me. They were mostly comforting and proud that things were spoken that others didn’t dare to speak and released through tears.

And despite many times when I didn’t feel relief at first, I slowly started to put my attention towards this. Really allowing myself to cry for emotional release. And then also stop, when it was enough instead of crying endlessly when I was younger, just because wailing in sorrow somehow felt comforting and easier than stopping.

These days I’m not asking myself the question ‘Why am I so weak and why am I crying so much” anymore. Rather I’m stating to myself

‘I need to release some trapped emotions, so hello tears, let’s wash them away‘. 

And this has been such a life-changer!! Why? Because now I can feel the power in my tears. And my crying is less ‘wailing in sorrow’ but more of a release just as when you stretch your muscles. 

Maybe you have experienced crying while exercising? It might just be me, but after a good yoga session, lying in Shavasana or a profound meditation, I can often feel that emotional release and it feels great.

My question to you is: Can you embrace your own crying? And acknowledge it. And know that a minute later you can and are allowed to smile if you feel like it 🙂