The dual uses of distraction

I’m writing this somewhat hastily while I have the inspiration/spoons — as I said in my last post, I had a big interpersonal bomb go off recently, and I’m trying to focus really hard on keeping my head above water (I’m so grateful to my friends for their wisdom and tenacity and support).

You know what’s helping me a bit? Distraction. Things, like fluffy TV shows, that pull me in and engage my brain long enough to make me forget what’s upsetting me so much. Even better if I can absorb myself in something “productive” — I struggle with feeling productive “enough,” but I think that for me, feeling useless or like a net drain of energy, like I don’t contribute anything, is even worse.

So. Languages. You know how bloggers love to go on about how you have to study things that interest you? That if you find the rote “Hello, Mr. Brown, are you here on holiday? Where do you come from? What is your job?” dialogues in textbooks deadly dull, it’s okay? This is true! This is wisdom. Read about things that interest you in your native language and it will help you keep churning through the challenge of doing so in your target language.

And, as a not-inconsequential benefit, it will hopefully engage your mind and help you through anxiety loops, depressive spirals, or other unfun brainweasel manifestations.

I’m not saying anything new here, but I wanted to write this right now because I’ve just been reading an interview with a vegan cookbook author in German, and for a few moments my brain gave me a little peace.

It felt like a miracle.

So. Try it. Keep doing it. What are your other hobbies or interests? Yoga or motorcycles or local politics or heavy metal or gardening or knitting or martial arts? Find blog posts or magazines or newspapers or books (or videos, podcasts, etc.: this isn’t limited to print!) about these things in your target language.Stick them in your RSS feed reader; add them to Twitter; bookmark them; subscribe for email updates; download them on your phone: whatever it takes so they’re there in front of you to look at.

It just might help both your language-learning and your mental health, even if just for a moment.


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