Monthly Archives: September 2014

Don’t exercise tomorrow, do exercise today

I’m sure you know exercise can be great for your mood, and perhaps you’re a born athlete or dedicated gym bunny.

I’m not, though, and I know that the only way I’ll get active is when I get a nudge of some kind. So if you’re like me, please consider this your reminder.

Don’t necessarily be ambitious, but do schedule something physical soon – probably by building it in to your day. Today.

Take the stairs rather than the elevator, walk rather than drive or take the bus, put on some great music and dance as though nobody’s watching (and who cares if they are, anyway?)

Exercise tomorrow is no more than a vague ambition.

Exercise today is all that counts.

Cut the comparisons

Serena, the heroine in Ian McEwan’s novel ‘Sweet Tooth’, was particularly good at (and loved) mathematics at school, so was admitted to Cambridge University to further her studies in the subject.

When she got there, though, she soon realised that while she’d been head and shoulders above her fellow school students, her aptitudes were as nothing when compared to the others on her Cambridge course. She hated it and did poorly.

Comparing yourself to others can be dangerous and demoralising, particularly if you’re feeling low-spirited and believe those around you aren’t.

Most of us are pretty adept at putting on a happy face when we’re feeling shabby inside, so unless you have a lot of evidence to the contrary, when you weigh up your mood against others you’re probably comparing apples and oranges – your interior and their exterior.

If you wish, compare yourself today with yourself yesterday – or last year. But measuring yourself against others is generally not a great recipe for happiness.

Don’t do that, do this

Are your shoes pinching you? You probably need to do two things. Take them off. Then replace them with a more comfortable pair. Best do it in that order, as trying to walk while wearing two pairs of shoes will at the very least get you some funny looks.

As with shoes, so with mood, I think. Is something bugging you? Again, take two actions. Stop doing whatever it is that’s getting to you. Then replace it with something else.

For example if you’re feeling low, sitting moping with your curtains pulled can be understandable, but miserable.

So (a) open the curtains, then (b) make yourself a tea or coffee, or walk around the block.

One precursor to at least the walk though and perhaps opening the curtains too – just make sure you’re dressed.

Set goals even if they’re tiny

The feeling when your team scores a goal is exhilarating, and it also feels good to achieve some kind of personal goal. So wouldn’t it be great if you could benefit from a degree of happiness and satisfaction like this when you’re having a rough time?

Seems difficult though, doesn’t it? If your mood’s low, the very idea of goals will seem remote.

There’s a trick that often works, however. Aim to take the very smallest, tiniest action that will take you nearer to your goal.

Need a vacation? Get out the calendar and think about a suitable date. Want to learn something new? Buy a book or reserve it at the library. Housework to do? Wash one dish.

Reaching a goal is like climbing a ladder. It’s generally sensible to begin on the lowest rung.

It helps to expect today to be a little brighter than yesterday.

Forcing your foot to the metal in a BMW, Audi, Volkswagen or Mercedes-Benz will never take you faster than 155 miles per hour (250 kilometres per hour).

German car manufacturers have a “gentleman’s agreement” restricting their vehicles so politicians won’t introduce speed limits on the Autobahns, where you can currently drive as fast as you please.

Now a speed limit like this seems safe and sensible to me, but I wonder if you’re currently setting the bar on your mood too low?

Isn’t there some value in starting each day with the clear desire for it to be a little brighter than the one before?

Maybe we get what we expect?

Schedule small moments of happiness today.

Although it could be wonderful to wake up every morning knowing you were going to be extremely happy, perhaps you’d be better off adopting a more realistic mindset?

Better, perhaps, to hope for one or two moments of small happiness rather than sixteen hours of ecstasy (actually that sounds exhausting, anyway).

Remember, too, that happiness is in the eye of the beholder, and I’m sure you know what makes you happy. So whether it’s walking a dog, laughing with a child, baking a cake, tramping through the undergrowth, weeding the garden, or watching a favourite TV show, why not put it on today’s agenda?

Connections are good for your health.

You and I may not feel much like social animals when our mood is low, but connecting with others is a crucial part of what makes us human.

If our connections are good, we feel valued, loved and understood. Unfortunately these are all qualities we’re inclined to feel short of when times aren’t so great.

But however you’re feeling, there are almost always small opportunities to connect with people during the course of a day, whether it’s a few words exchanged with a shop assistant or a brief conversation with a neighbour.

So why not open your mind to the possibilities of connecting today?

Why you should help someone today. Clue: It’ll help you too.

If your physical health is low, it can be difficult to complete even trivial tasks with which you’d ordinarily have no trouble. When you’re poorly, it’s great to have someone around to lend a hand.

Paradoxically, though, if your lowness is more due to emotional rather than physical problems, not only is it good (even though hard) to get on with your usual daily routines – certainly to some extent at least, it’s actually also useful to take on the job of helping others too. We’re wired to find this rewarding.

So who can you do something for today? And what will you do?

Be positive but stay realistic

Taking a positive approach to life doesn’t mean being unrealistic.

I’m excited. I’m happy to report that I’m spending a fair amount of my time at the moment working on a new and innovative approach to emotional health management, which I genuinely believe has the potential to really and truly help – well – millions.

When I’m able, I’ll tell you more, but for now I’d simply like to talk about a philosophical discussion I’m having with myself which is what you’d call a mood state which is exactly midway on a scale which has Extremely Unhappy at one of its ends, and Extremely Happy at the other.

If your own mood was at that point, what would you call it? Neutral? Neither happy or unhappy? Quite happy? Quite UNhappy?

It’s a tricky one, which I’m wrestling over, so would genuinely love to hear what Moodnudgers think, probably in the comments below.

My bigger point right now, though, is that when it comes to evaluating our current state I think it’s all too easy for you and I to see things in black and white when it would be better to recognise that there are actually many shades of grey between these two extremes.

What do I mean? Well let’s imagine your day is just starting, but unfortunately you’ve had a restless night, tossing and turning with anxiety about something which probably got completely out of perspective during the wee small hours.

Do you try to take a positive approach to the new day, bouncing like Tigger and trying to ignore your worries?

Or do you begin your morning like a pessimistic, gloomy and depressed Eeyore, excusing your bad temper to all those around you because of your bad night?

Frankly, the former is unlikely and unrealistic. The latter, however, helps nobody, least of all yourself.

Better by far to approach things somewhere towards the positive end of that Unhappy/Happy continuum – the closer to it, the better. But not so close that like Icarus you melt your wings off.

Taking a positive approach works best when it’s sustainable: kind of positive-ish is good to aim for.

Negative-ish is not always so helpful – although now and then inevitable, I know.

Let’s both hope for a spot of positivity today, though.

3 tips about bouncing-back, inspired by Kodak

Bounce back from adversity by accepting what’s happened, staying true to yourself, and recalling your past recoveries.

George Eastman founded his company Kodak back in 1888. At the height of its power, Kodak employed 140,000 people and had a market value of $28 billion.

But over time things went seriously wrong, and in 2012 the company declared bankruptcy.

In fact Kodak’s problems began in the 1990s when people started using digital cameras that didn’t need the type of photographic film manufactured by companies such as Kodak.

Ironically, Kodak had actually itself invented the first digital camera in the 1970s. However it made so much money from selling film that it tried to suppress the technology which eventually killed the company.

With 20/20 hindsight, of course it’s easy to criticise Kodak’s management for believing it was in the business of selling film, when a more helpful vision would have been that it was helping people hold on to their cherished memories.

But of course companies (and individuals) don’t always recognise the change that’s going on around them – sometimes until it’s too late.

It would have been great if Kodak had started bouncing back in the 1980s, for instance. But it didn’t. Even in the 1990s it would probably still have been possible for them to change direction, but the more things change, the harder it gets to bounce back.

I’ve been thinking about the whole bouncing back thing recently, particularly as I’ve recognised in myself a pattern of my mood being adversely affected by change taking place around me.

Three bouncing back strategies seem to be working, so I pass them on in the hope that they may be useful for you too.

1. Accept and embrace the change. Things change all the time: it’s an inevitable part of life. So why not see if you can treat it as an opportunity to learn and grow?

2. Remember ‘what business you’re in’. Don’t allow change to force you to make unwanted revisions to who you truly are. Kodak should have been in the business of helping people keep their memories. My own values include being honourable and dependable, and using my talents to help others: I need to hang on to these if it’s the last thing I do. What’s most important to you? What must you not let go of?

3. Don’t live in the past, but do learn from it. If unpleasant change is happening it’s easy to forget your better times. Focus on them and try to understand what made them good, then aim to build this back into where you are now.

I say this regularly, but it’s kind of inevitable that you and I will go through bad spells and when we do, it’s our ability to bounce back that really matters.

Inevitably our fast-growing community at Moodnudges (our membership has grown about fifteen percent in the past week alone) will be able to add to my own bouncing back strategies.

So what are yours? I’d love to know, and I’m sure so would our other readers.