Recently, we were recording the Bhutanese language of Dzongkha for uTalk (now available!) and realised we knew hardly anything about the Himalayan kingdom. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are visiting as part of their Royal visit to India and Bhutan; so we thought we would do a bit of reading – and now we want to move there.
Gross National Happiness is an actual thing in Bhutan! Rather than measure the GDP (gross domestic product) the Bhutanese measure how happy their population is. In 2015 it found that 91.2% of the population would describe themselves as happy – whether ‘narrowly, extensively or deeply happy’; they classed themselves as happy. How lovely is that? But how do they do it? Here are some tips on how to make your life a little bit happier.
1. Turn off your computer, phone, Internet connection
In Bhutan the Internet didn’t arrive until 1999, so why not try to go Internet free. I know this is shocking – a lot of us are glued to our smartphones. But, why not try turning it off? Even if just for an hour every day, take a break from the cyber world and do something else instead. If you tend to use your smart phone before bed try replacing it with a book. A lamp doesn’t emit a stimulating light like your smartphone, which keeps you awake for longer; let’s be honest who doesn’t love extra sleep.
2. Listen to some music
Apparently Bhutan’s King, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck is a huge fan of The King of Rock, Elvis. So put on your blue suede shoes and get dancing, singing, or just listen to some music. Spotify have some perfect mood boosting playlists and motivational songs.
3. Have a cuppa
A cup of tea, or a warm drink – if you’re not a tea lover, this can help to relax you. In Bhutan they have their own version of ‘tea’ called suja, described as thick and creamy, made of salted yak butter. Instead of serving it with a rich tea biscuit, it comes with dry popped rice.
4. Take up yoga/meditation
Find your zen! The Bhutanese allow for daily meditation sessions in school, and play traditional music to sooth students instead of a school bell. Doing yoga or meditating is the perfect way to zone out after a stressful day. There’s now such a thing as yoga with bunnies or even goats in some places.
5. Go for a bike ride
Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck’s dad (the previous king of Bhutan) used to ride up and down the mountains of Bhutan. Some of the locals in Bhutan are sure they have seen him cycling around the town in his spare time. Going for a bike ride is a great way to get some exercise and it releases feel-good endorphins. Apparently it also helps you to sleep more deeply and will help ease any guilt from snacking.
What are your top tips to live happy?
Today’s guest post is by Ed, who’s taking part in our uTalk Challenge. After successfully completing uTalk Japanese in January, Ed’s turned his attention to Welsh for February. Here he explains why learning a language is important for everyone, regardless of age.
I am a retired IT Manager aged 66 years. I am married with two grown up sons, one married with two children. My wife still works so I am one of these modern ‘house husbands’, which is fine with me. Other than gardening, ironing, shopping, cooking and cleaning (I don’t do much of the latter), I play golf, help with a local amateur dramatic society (treasurer and occasional performer), sing in our church choir, and keep fit.
Since grammar school I have always been interested in languages and linguistics. I put this down to having had a very good French teacher and an inclination towards role play, hence the amateur dramatics. I also did German at Grammar School, and did Latin ‘O’ level in one year, which I really enjoyed.
In 1970 I travelled overland to India and learn some Turkish and Farsi to help me along the way. Many years later I worked in Dubai for a while and learnt some Arabic. Over the years I have picked up some Italian and Spanish in relation to holidays.
When the opportunity to join the uTalk Challenge came along it seemed the perfect way to indulge my linguistic interests and to “stimulate the little grey cells” and slow down the aging process.
Four years ago my wife and I visited Japan for the Cherry Blossom Festival and I learnt some Japanese. That came in very handy as English wasn’t as widely spoken as I had thought it would be. We loved the country and the people and I found the language interesting, hence my choice of Japanese for my first month.
I think the uTalk Challenge offers a unique opportunity to try out a number of languages that are completely different from English and Indo-European languages in general. It’s a great mental exercise for any one, not just for someone my age. It also means that you can learn something of the language of a country when going on holiday, something I believe shows respect for the people and their culture, and enhances your experience. Better than just buying a phrase book, it allows you to hear the pronunciation by native speakers. You can, as I have done, download the extra topics and choose which one you want to study. You have nothing to lose and a great deal to gain.
So, you’ve decided to learn a language. Great! Now what?
If you’re anything like me, you’ll have gone straight to the Internet in a fit of great enthusiasm, and bought yourself a language course – whether that’s in an app, on a CD or online. You might even have gone a step further and enrolled in a class.
But then the sun comes out, or the World Cup kicks off, or you decide to start reading the Game of Thrones books (only recommended if you have nothing else to do with your time for at least six months), and that passion for your new language starts to fade a little bit. Suddenly there are other things to do with your time, and although you definitely still want to be able to speak the language, you just don’t seem to have the time or enthusiasm to actually learn it.
And so that language course you bought, which promised so much, is forgotten and unused, and your dream of going travelling and fitting in like a local remains just that – a dream.
Can anyone else hear violins…?
It might sound obvious, but the thing about language courses, whether it’s EuroTalk, Rosetta Stone, Duolingo or any of the other multitude of programs out there, is that they’re only as useful as you allow them to be. I wish I could tell you that simply by downloading uTalk to your iPhone, the vocabulary will magically find its way into your brain while you’re sleeping, but it’s just not true (although if you want to try it, it’s available from the App Store).
Let’s look at this another way. You want to lose weight, so you join a gym. Logical. Maybe you even go along a few times after work. But then six months later you’re still not skinny, and on top of that you’re out of money and you probably feel pretty bad about yourself too. According to research by online accountants Crunch.co.uk, here in Britain we were wasting £37m a year on unused gym memberships in 2011. Just think what we could have been doing with that money. Or how fit we could all have got if we’d kept going to the gym.
The fact is, gyms don’t magically make you fit, or thin. (If it were as easy as that, I’d have joined one a long time ago.) They just provide the conditions you need to get yourself there. Even a personal trainer, whose job it is to help you, will only get so far if you’re not willing to meet them in the middle. And it’s the same with language software – if you don’t use it, it can’t help you. We’d all love a big red button that will get us instantly to where we want to be, but life isn’t like that.
And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Learning a language isn’t just about being able to speak that language. It’s also about the things you’ll discover along the way. You’ll learn to appreciate your own native tongue, understand the culture of the language you’re learning; you might even make a whole new group of friends. And personally, I think the satisfaction you feel the very first time you manage to speak to someone in another language, even if it’s just to say hello or thank you, is much greater than the pleasure you gain from becoming fluent. In the same way, reaching your target weight will feel amazing – but nothing will beat that first pound you lose.
So my advice is this – don’t buy language software, unless you’re going to use it. Because as the late Maya Angelou once said, ‘Nothing will work unless you do.’ And we don’t want your language app gathering virtual dust on your iPhone, until one day you realise you don’t need it any more and quietly delete it.
But if you do decide to invest in a course (hopefully EuroTalk!), and you follow through on that crazy plan you had one day to learn Russian, or Korean, or even Klingon, that’s great. I guarantee you won’t regret it – and it’ll definitely be less painful than going to the gym.
We’re now a week and a half into the New Year, and it’s safe to say a lot of people will already have given up on the promises they made to themselves when the clock struck midnight on January 1st. Whether you’re trying to lose weight, quit smoking, learn a new skill or save money, here are our tips to help you stick with it.
1. Set yourself manageable goals. Instead of saying ‘I’m going to lose weight’, decide how much you want to lose in a set time frame, and reward yourself when you get there.
2. Focus – don’t try and do everything at once. Choose one or two changes you want to make to your life and concentrate on those.
4. Only set targets that you really care about. If it’s not important to you, it’s so much easier to lose interest. Think about why you’re doing it – if you can’t think of a reason, it’s probably not worth doing.
5. Tell friends and family what you want to achieve. It’ll be harder to give up if other people are keeping an eye on you.
6. If you do have a wobble, don’t use that as an excuse to give up. Put it down as a one-off and start again.
7. Take your time. You don’t have to achieve all your goals on the first day. If your goal is to exercise more, start by going for a run to see how you feel, before you rush out and spend lots of money on a gym membership.
If you didn’t set any New Year’s Resolutions this year, it’s not too late! If you want to make some changes in your life, you don’t have to wait for January 1st to roll around again. Why not make a start today?
Learning a language is often a popular New Year’s Resolution, so if you’ve decided 2013 is the year to brush up on your German, or start learning Japanese, have a look at our website to see how we can help you get started.