In an especially bleak track on his 1971 album ‘Imagine’, John Lennon sang ‘One thing you can’t hide, is when you’re crippled inside’.
But is that always true?
While some do go round with their emotions hanging out, I’m sure there are many more who keep things to themselves.
I know I do. In fact sometimes I think there must be (at least) two different Jons.
There’s the public one, for whom everything appears fine and dandy, then a private one who occasionally sees things through a glass darkly.
In the past I’ve been staggered when I’ve felt at breaking point inside, yet others with whom I’ve come into contact have seemed oblivious to my inner turmoil, often launching into some inconsequential story while a voice inside me screamed – for God’s sake, can’t you see how wretched I’m feeling?
The trouble is, they can’t.
They don’t know what’s going on in your mind. They have absolutely no idea of what you’re going through.
How do you handle this? Well sometimes I think you just have to let it go. Make your excuses and move on.
But if it’s someone who matters to you, now and again it makes sense to open up.
Sometimes, it seems, you may be better at hiding it than you imagine.
Imagine this. I ask you to close your eyes, then open them again after I’ve placed an object immediately in front of you.
As you focus on it, you see a white square whose sides are roughly a metre long.
That’s it. A white square.
Now I ask someone else to stand a couple of metres to your right, and you ask them what they see.
‘No problem,’ they say, ‘it’s a white cube.’
Aha. From where you’re standing it’s a square. But from where they are, it has depth. It’s something else altogether.
You and I have our own views of the world. We see things through the filters of our experiences and sometimes (I have to confess) our prejudices and misjudgements.
And this is never more so than when it comes to trying to solve some giant problem or challenge.
We see things as we think they are, convincing ourselves that our way is the only way.
To discover the real truth, though, perhaps nothing beats learning from the view of someone who’s close, but just that little bit further away from it all than we are.
If Rome wasn’t built in a day, how long did it take?
A spot of Googling suggests it either took (a) around 500 years, or (b) more precisely, it’s actually still being built and so will never be finished.
There’s a heck of a lot of difference between a day and 500 years, isn’t there?
Historical town-planning ponderings aside, the ‘it wasn’t built in a day’ thought is probably a good one to dig out if you’re down in the dumps.
When you feel like that, it would clearly be brilliant for someone to wave a magic wand, making everything immediately wonderful. But it doesn’t work quite like this, does it?
Looking at my own WellBee graph it’s clear that recovery after a crash is generally a pretty slow process.
It doesn’t stop you being impatient though. But this is not helpful.
So the next time you feel life closing in on you, it’s probably best not to expect miracles. Do, however, take small steps – or preferably just ONE small step – each day that has the potential to make you feel just a little better the next.
Connect with other people. Get out in nature. Do something to help someone. Focus on three things for which you feel gratitude. Eat something healthy.
Don’t try and do all of the above. It’ll be too much.
Do think about that one small step though.
Let’s say you have a choice of two radio stations to listen to in the morning.
One is a local news-talk service, the other a national pop music offering.
I know there are generally more than two alternatives, but these are the two I tend to flit between myself.
When I’m feeling good I can handle either. But when things in my garden aren’t so rosy, the local news can become really hard to listen to. Somewhat inevitably its focus is on the bad stuff that’s taking place, the things that are going wrong, the problem after problem after problem.
Tweaking the dial, on the other hand, instantly delivers upbeat music and chirpy chat.
Sometimes though, and especially when you’re feeling ropy, maybe it’s better to surround yourself with positivity than it is to get submerged in glumness.
So the next time things get tough for you it could be worth remembering that if have a chance to choose your environmental conditions, you can do a lot worse than opt for the more uplifting.
As Alex and I were walking home the other evening we were delighted to come across the amazing sight of a mother racoon and four of her offspring sticking their heads up out of a storm drain at the side of the road. I think they were gearing up to head out for a spot of foraging. Now I know that many in the USA view racoons as pests but I was completely enchanted, having never seen anything like this. We (and they) were in a pretty built-up area, as well.
The experience definitely left me with a spring in my step which hadn’t been there before, and sharing it with you now feels good too.
Even on the shabbiest of days you’re likely to enjoy occasional momentary pleasures, but they can so easily slip through your fingers without giving you the boost that they might.
But one way of maximising their impact is to do as I just have: tell someone else about them, replaying and savouring the moment in as much detail as you can.
Look for opportunities to try this today. If you let them, some things will delight you, so let that happen. Then share the details with someone who wasn’t there at the time.
Tell the story in rich colour and it should be like re-watching a favourite movie.
You know, I think young kids know more than we do about some aspects of life.
Given less than half a chance, they’ll fill their spare time playing. This play invariably consists of the types of games and activities they enjoy. Quite simply, kids know what gives them pleasure, so that’s what they set out to do.
You and I used to do that too. Somehow, though, we forgot this important principle.
Granted, we’ve probably more on our plates now than we used to have. But this certainly shouldn’t mean we must deny ourselves opportunities to enjoy life’s simple pleasures.
So please think on this. What activities make you happy? And if there’s nothing impossible standing between you and them, what’s stopping you enjoying them?
Kids don’t forget to do what makes them happy. Perhaps, therefore, neither should you.
How about today?
Of course, everyone knows how to turn their bathroom taps on and off.
I’m getting used to American plumbing, which generally positions a second set of taps in the pipes hidden away under your bathroom sink, allowing a plumber to work on the upper taps without needing to turn the water off at the main (generally somewhere outside the house, or perhaps under the kitchen sink).
99% of the time you’ll only ever need to operate the taps on the sink itself. To be honest, few people even know how to turn the water off at the main. That’s something they leave to the plumber.
In a similar way, during the coming day there will be some things you can control, and it’s mostly wise to exert your powers in this regard.
There may be others, though, over which you’ll have no control, and with these perhaps it’s wisest to simply accept this?
Control what you can. Accept what you can’t.
It’s pretty much accepted that your physical health gets a boost when you regularly eat fruit and vegetables. Five portions a day is what most recommend.
According to new research conducted by Warwick University in the UK, though, eating proper amounts of fruit and vegetables may also be linked to better mental health.
In their study, more than a third of people with good mental wellbeing ate five or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day, compared with only 6.8 per cent who ate less than one portion. The researchers define good mental wellbeing as having high levels of optimism, happiness, self-esteem, resilience and good relationships with others.
Thanks to David C for tipping me off about the Daily Mail‘s article reporting this:
And here’s a link to the original open access paper in the British Medical Journal:
Of course, as with any study like this, it’s not always clear what is cause and effect. Was it the fruit and vegetable consumption that boosted people’s mental wellbeing, or were people with higher levels of wellbeing more inclined to eat healthily in the first place?
Perhaps that doesn’t matter too much. It’s pretty clear that the food you eat plays an important part in how your mind and body perform.
So if you want to avoid the blues, why not reach for the greens?