Photo Source: Ryan Johnson for NPR
Last week we spoke about “Thin Slices of Joy” and living in the present. Have you tried it, yet?
And so in honor of Valentine’s day tomorrow and living in the present, I thought we would talk about a recent interview I heard on detoxing from Smartphones. I know, eye roll, and how trendy, right? Wrong. David Greenfield, a psychologist and assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut found that hearing a notification from our phone is identical to the study Ivan Pavlov did over a century ago. Greenfield compares us to those dogs and warns us that high usage of our telephones can cause serious disorders and addiction.
According to Greenfield, the average user checks their phone 50 to 300 times a day and compares it to gamblers on slot machines. In another study, Dr. Anna Lembke, a psychiatrist at Stanford University, considers this problem a “spectrum disorder” that can go from mild to extreme forms. She doesn’t think we should stop using our phones completely, that would be too much of an extreme, but does advise us to consider controlling our use of the phone and being more present.
Dr. Lembke suggests we spend less time on our phones to help increase our creativity, enjoyable time with family and friends and efficient time at work.
But before you decide to take on the challenge of detoxing from your phone, as this week’s exercise, I invite you to listen to this fascinating report:
When you are done listening, I challenge you to turn off your phone for the next 24 hours and enjoy Valentine’s day without any interruptions or notifications and instead, soak in the pleasures of such a romantic day!
And in case you are curious, a little video on the history of Valentine’s day!
Artist: Brigitte Cazenave
On this rainy cold day, when warmer weather seems distant and bouts of the flu are sprouting everywhere, I thought we could talk about something comforting as we patiently wait for longer sunnier days.
With Spring on the horizon, I wanted to talk about an interesting blog post I read recently in regards to slowing things down and taking in our surroundings. Basically, to live in the present and enjoy the now…Not an easy task when we are running around from place to place, is it? But maybe, 2018 is a great year to try and re-focus and take pleasure in the small things in life. You might have heard of mindfulness and meditation. If you haven’t here are a few links to get you informed:
In essence, mindfulness is being aware of yourself and your surroundings. Of soaking up or absorbing our sensations and learning how to view experiences through an easier or at least calmer perspective. This is not anything new or revolutionary. Artists and philosophers have been doing it for centuries, but in this fast paced world in which loneliness is now officially an epidemic and with a Minister of Loneliness in the UK, maybe we need to step back and take pleasure in the smaller things in life.
So, what are thin slices of joy? According to Chade-Meng Tan, they are small little pleasures throughout the day that make us feel, better, happier and it doesn’t take much to do it.
Usually these events are unremarkable: a bite of food, the sensation of stepping from a hot room to an air-conditioned room, the moment of connection in receiving a text from an old friend. Although they last two or three seconds, the moments add up, and the more you notice joy, the more you will experience joy, Tan argues. “Thin slices of joy occur in life everywhere… and once you start noticing it, something happens, you find it’s always there. Joy becomes something you can count on.”
So, which are your thin slices of joy? Do you celebrate them daily?
And since we are talking about the present, I thought we would do some practice exercises on the use of the present simple & present continuous. Good Luck!
Present Simple and Continuous: https://www.ego4u.com/en/cram-up/grammar/simpre-prepro
The holidays are right around the corner and before we take off, we wanted to share our plans for this festive time of the year in hopes that you will share with us.
Serve yourself some hot chocolate, turn on the Christmas Carols and relax as you read what we are doing for Christmas:
I usually spend Christmas in England and always have a special Christmas-style day together with my grown-up son and daughter. For the last two years my son and I have gone to see the new Star Wars movie we’ll be doing it again this year. Every other Christmas I go to London and spend the three days of Christmas as a volunteer working in support of homeless people with a fantastic secular charity called ‘Crisis at Christmas’, which has been running for 50 years. I work in a Rough Sleepers Shelter which for 10 days provides not only safe warm accommodation, hot meals, fresh clothes and equipment, entertainment and access to computers as well as every kind of professional who give their services: such as dentists, doctors, physiotherapists, podiatrists, manicurists, hairdressers, tailors and sewing specialist who will mend and rejuvenate clothes, many different kinds of addictions counsellors as well as social, financial, employment and housing specialists. There is a fantastic atmosphere in the many Crisis centres provided in London, Birmingham, Coventry and Edinburgh. 26,000 single people face homelessness on any given night in England due to a lack of affordable and accessible housing. Last Christmas, 9961 volunteers racked up 270,000 hours of volunteering in London. An incredible 8658 mince pies were enjoyed and 70,555 cups of coffee were drunk by 3911 guests.
Here is a video about last year’s Crisis at Christmas: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PiHTv3yitNM
Happy Christmas, Tim Currant
My first Christmas in Barcelona!
As my family is in Poland I always try to make it there for Christmas. Well, almost always. Once I spent Christmas in Dublin and cried out big tears of homesickness as a massive house party that I ended up at, with crowds of drunk people, was somehow alien to my idea of ´family time´. Years later, I had a cheeseburger for Christmas Eve dinner in a bamboo restaurant in Sri Lanka. There was no drama, just joy, maybe because I somehow altered the idea of what ´family time´means.
This year I am spending Christmas for the first time here, in Barcelona and in La Comarca with my boyfriend’s family. I look forward to doing cagar el Tió, wandering around Christmas markets and decorating a palm tree with Christmas lights.
After I have collected all my pressies from el Tió, eaten piles of turrón and drunk multiple glasses of cava I am flying to Poland for belated Christmas and New Year´s Eve. I am going to travel to my grandparents´place – a tiny village of 9 houses, near the Belarusian border, where my mum comes from. There, surrounded by snow-capped forest I am hoping to find more pressies from Santa and stuff my face with pierogi and pierniki.
I guess, I am really grateful for all the Christmases so far and wish you all heartfelt ´family time´ – in all its unique versions.
Happy Holidays! Anna Bebzuka
This Christmas will be spent teaching our 1 year old about Santa Claus, Caga Tio and the magical Kings. Although Blai doesn’t quite get it yet, he certainly has made it clear that he loves all the twinkling lights and points to the Christmas tree in the late afternoon so I can turn on the lights. It is my favorite moment of the day. Like every year, on Christmas Eve we will have a seafood feast with just Oriol and I, this year Blai and our dog Tano will also join and at midnight, we will walk down to the sea to drink a bottle of Cava and see if we spot St Nick flying over us. We have yet to see him, but you never know…Then we will celebrate Christmas day with Oriol’s paternal side of the family, bringing young and old together and singing carols and reciting poetry in exchange for a few coins. My favorite! On Boxing day or St Esteban, we will have lunch with Oriol’s maternal side of the family and make time to play with our new gifts. After New Years, we will go down to the Delta de Ebre to welcome in 2018 in a very magical place with lovely light and fauna. (Heidi)
This season is my absolute favorite and I consider myself very lucky to have all of you form part of our every day life. Thank you for your hard work, collaboration and motivation.
May 2018 bring all of you peace, joy and health and lots of fun learning English!
Merry Christmas and a very Happy 2018!
Ok, let’s get down to business and skip the nonsense. More than once, in fact, countless times, I have been asked by students to work on emailing skills with them since it is one of the most frequent forms of contact they have with English and to make it worse, the most stressful since it is usually for work and/or important matters. So, I thought I would give you two very interesting websites that might help you through this tricky situation.
This British Council website gives you some great tips on improving your writing and exercises to go along with it. Maybe you can consider doing this over Winter break and see if you can add it to your list of resolutions?
And have you heard of grammarly.com?? It’s like the auto corrector on your WhatsApp, but better! It gives you a variety of words you can use (synonyms), corrects your grammar mistakes and helps you improve your writing skills. Best of all, you can get it for free on Chrome and have it on your desktop or laptop for those important emails you need to whip out for work in a dash.
You are running out of excuses to not have a properly written email.
Happy Thanksgiving Everyone! And thank you for being such great readers!!
As we get closer to tying up loose ends and considering New Year Resolutions, I thought we could work on a fun professional quiz this week to see if you are working in the sector that is right for you. And when we say, “right for you”, we mean, what makes you happy.
According to this The Guardian article, John Lees quoted, “Work isn’t the only thing that influences happiness, but it’s where you spend a big chunk of your waking life. Can it really make you happy? Many factors come into play – the role, the way you’re managed, the organisational culture, how much you like your colleagues – but work that matches your motivation and your interests is far more likely to keep you absorbed and reasonably contented.”
So, perhaps it is time to take a moment to answer these 10 simple questions, learn some new vocabulary and find out if you need to mind map your career…Have fun! https://www.glassdoor.com/blog/quiz-what-job-best-fits-your-life/
Photo Source Jerome Masi
This week we are going to focus on the topic of success. How to be successful at anything and Ralph Emerson’s poem on success. Before we dive into the subject, what does success mean to you? Do you consider yourself a successful person? Each culture has its own interpretation of what success means and how it identifies a person and quite honestly, I can never get enough of the topic.
Oliver Emberton has a fascinating explanation on how to be successful and it is as simple as limiting yourself to 3 objectives or aims. He claims that we tend to want to focus on too many things at the same time and that distracts us from our original goal. His article, “If you want to follow your dreams, you have to say no to all alternatives” is a colorful insight on how to stay focused and eventually reach our destination. Imagine your aims are bumblebees or in his words, “Our brains behave like a beach ball filled with bees. Hundreds of conflicting impulses, pushing us in different directions.” And so that means you move nowhere, unless you learn how to control those bees and allow just one to lead.
And once your done reading the article, perhaps consider the fact that you are already successful. Take a look at Ralph Waldo Emerson’s poem on success. And if you do not know who Ralph Waldo Emerson is, perhaps today is a good day to find out…https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poet/ralph-waldo-emerson
What is Success?
To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by
a healthy child, a garden patch
or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed
easier because you have lived;
This is to have succeeded.
PHOTO SOURCE: UNKNOWN
It has been well over 6 months since I have been able to share interesting posts with you and I am happy to announce we are back and extremely happy to be here once again. Since last Winter, much has changed and as I welcomed our baby boy to the world, I also welcomed new thoughts on how we work, learn and grow. I am conscious or aware that the seeds I plant now will be so essential for the future of our little one and the example I set as a working adult will be for him to follow as he grows. Therefore, as Spring came and went and we begin to quickly invite Summer I have given thought to who we are when we work, when we learn, age and evolve. I know, a bit deep for coming back suddenly, but hey, why not?
This post is dedicated to making us think about the pleasures of being necessary and ourselves at the same time, making those weekends stretch longer and longer and being productive…
One of my all time favorite writers, Toni Morrison, recently wrote on defining the person you are and the work you do. Two separate entities which we sometimes forget. Especially in today’s age when our work weighs so much on us as well as on our identity and we can inevitably lose the definition of who we really are and as a result, that fine line of leaving work behind when we are done with work becomes blurry (not focused). After speaking with her father as a child about work and being unhappy, her father responded the following:
1. Whatever the work is, do it well—not for the boss but for yourself.
2. You make the job; it doesn’t make you.
3. Your real life is with us, your family.
4. You are not the work you do; you are the person you are.
Morrison ends the article with the following: “I have worked for all sorts of people since then, geniuses and morons, quick-witted and dull, bighearted and narrow. I’ve had many kinds of jobs, but since that conversation with my father I have never considered the level of labor to be the measure of myself, and I have never placed the security of a job above the value of home.”
If you want to read the full article: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/06/05/the-work-you-do-the-person-you-are
What do you think? Do you feel defined, confined or reassured by your work?
On a sweeter note, did you know you can make your weekend feel longer?? Yep, 48 hours can stretch just a little further…here is how (think new): http://nymag.com/scienceofus/article/how-to-make-the-weekend-last-longer.html
And finally, how to keep your sanity if you work alone…this is for all you freelancers or anyone who feels trapped in front of their computer on a daily basis! http://jkglei.com/freelance-sanity/
What are your thoughts? What do you do to make your working life happier?
The holidays are fast approaching and the smell of Christmas is in the air and we are very excited around here…As many of you already know, Oriol and I are happily expecting an addition to our family any time now and we could not be more excited! I could also have not asked for a better Christmas…But before I sign off to impatiently await this little member, I thought I would share a heartfelt (touching) video on learning English. Apparently, it has become the most watched commercial this last week and if you haven’t seen it yet, please do. Heat up some hot chocolate, pop some pop corn and bring out the tissue.
If there is anything I have learned these last few years is that every single one of you have a different and very personal reason for learning English and there is not a single reason that is better than another one. What does not cease (stop amazing) to amaze me though is the passion in which all of you want to learn and how you achieve your goals each and every time, be it small or large. This is what makes our job so amazing. And I think I can speak for all teachers, that we are fortunate to form part of your learning experience. Congratulations to every single one of you for wanting to learn something new and doing it.
In our last post, we spoke about moving motivators and what puts us into action. This week I wanted to push the topic a little further and have you ask yourselves who you really are…What kind of worker are you? What kind of learner? Are you introverted or extroverted? Ambitious or relaxed about getting to your final objective? Or maybe you have never given it much thought…
Well, lucky for you, I found a fabulous personality test known as the Myers-Briggs test you can take in less than 15 minutes and find what kind of personality you have. Maybe you agree with the results, maybe not, either way that will make for an interesting discussion…So stop what you are doing and take this test now! https://www.16personalities.com/
If you are having problems understanding the questions, have your teacher help you out.
Not familiar with Myers-Briggs? Watch this 5 minute video on the history of Myers-Briggs and why 2.5 million people take this test annually.
It really is useful in becoming more aware of yourself and reaching a better you!
Last week we had a wonderful round table session on motivators at work and on projects. Marina gave us some interesting information on how to analyze what motivates us most at work and what makes us lose interest. Did you know money is not everything? Do you agree?
Here is more information on moving motivators
She had us rate or scale our motivators above from 1 to 10. 1 being the most important and 10 the least important. It was fascinating to see what we each chose as important and non-important. She then explained what each of these motivators could mean in our professional world.
Afterwards, we related these motivators to Maslow’s human hierarchy of needs. Remember those?
We decided where each motivator fell within the triangle and how they were relevant…It really was a fabulous session.
So, how do your motivators rate? Are you currently motivated at work or do you need to restructure your own motivation?
Thank you Marina for an insightful session!