Monthly Archives: January 2015

The steady process of recovery

When an athlete gets injured in the course of competing in his or her sport, I think we take it for granted that they’ll be out of action for a while. We seem to accept that recovery from physical ailments is a gradual and steady process.

Physiotherapy, rest, and things like heat treatment all play their part in putting an injured athlete back on track. For, of course, competing in a physically demanding sport of some kind is almost certain to result in all kinds of injuries.

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I just checked out the Wikipedia page for the champion English long-distance runner Paula Radcliffe, for instance, and it contains no fewer than fourteen uses of the word ‘injury’, one of which came about rather bizarrely, as I’ll explain in a minute.

If we know that physical setbacks take time to right themselves, though, I wonder why you and I don’t always adopt a similar outlook when it comes to recovery from our own emotional knocks?

While I’d never dream of telling most people to ‘snap out of it’ if they were having a hard time, I’m sorry to say there’s one person to whom I don’t always extend the same compassionate kindness.

Myself.

Even after seven years of diligently recording and tracking my mood, I sometimes stupidly forget that recovery from a significant ‘ding’ almost never happens overnight. And it’s only going to happen in the first place if I remember to give myself the emotional equivalent of the kinds of treatment which can fix physical ailments.

So I guess you and I will do well to accept that we’ll probably always have knock-backs and shabby times, but it will also serve us well to remember that what counts is how we recover from them.

These three maxims help me. Perhaps they’ll also be useful for you?

1. Recovery is almost always a slow and steady process, so please accept this, and don’t lose faith if you’re not suddenly as right as rain again overnight.

2. Be kind to yourself and build ‘recovery activities’ into your day – gentle exercise outdoors, rest, connections with other people and laughter, for example.

3. Remember that you’ve recovered in the past. You will do so again this time, even though it may take a while.

You will do so again. You will.

Finally, oh yes, the unusual circumstances leading up to Paula Radcliffe’s injury in 2000?

Apparently she was kneeling on the floor writing ‘thank you’ letters for wedding presents.

Can organizing bring peace?

I’m starting a new project this week. It has about seven parts to it, and each part has multiple sub-parts.

It was feeling too big in my mind, and generating anxiety, so I did some googling for tools that could help me get all the parts out of my head and into some organized structure.

I found a very simple, colorful app that’s surprisingly useful, so I wanted to share it with you. It’s free, from Google, and it’s called Keep.

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It took less than an hour to untangle my mental knot into beautifully colored sections. And now that all my notes and tasks are organized, my mind can rest and be more at peace.

I wonder if it might help you, at times that feel chaotic, to add a little bit of order to your day?

With love and hugs,
Alexandra 🙂

Try not to worry about things you’ve no control over

Is there life on Mars? Whilst there may well be evidence of bacteria-like microbes on the Red Planet, it’s probably safe to say that we’re unlikely to be visited by H. G. Wellsian Martians any time soon.

But is there life elsewhere in the Universe? Many think there absolutely must be, though we’ve really no idea of its form.

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For a minute, let’s just imagine that there’s a planet called Zog, sitting in a solar system a little like our own, populated by Zoganoids who are approximately as advanced as us.

Now it’s pretty likely that some things on Zog went well yesterday, whilst others were not so positive. I’m sure that The Daily Zog – being like our own newspapers – will have generally focused on the latter, publishing all the bad news that’s fit to print.

My point is, you’ve no idea whether this is so, making it rather pointless to worry about events on Zog.

Now this is an extreme example, but closer to home it’s rather easy to become upset about news in the media which really doesn’t need to concern us.

I’m obviously not proposing that we should become dispassionate and self-centred, choosing to ignore famines, wars and repressive regimes, because part of what makes us human is our empathy for others.

But I do think it’s easy to slip into worrying out of all proportion about events over which we really have no influence.

Study a newspaper too closely when your mood is low, and you may well end up feeling worse.

Perhaps becoming overly affected by something going on at the other end of your country is only marginally less destructive than fretting about the state of the Zoggian economy?

Think different, do different, feel different

For five years starting in 1997 Apple’s advertising encouraged us to ‘Think different’.

It was, and still is, an admirable ambition – yet it’s one that’s not always so easy to put into practice.

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I like to think that what we (and I very much include you in this) are doing with Moodnudges is to ‘think different’ about the whole ‘manage your mood’ thing.

But on a more micro day-to-day level I believe it’s all too easy to get stuck in the tramlines of negative thinking, seeing things in the same old way, often to the detriment of how you feel.

Of course Apple’s end game was to sell more computers, but I believe that thinking different has an even more fundamental appeal. Change the way you think, and you may also change the way you live your life.

Now sadly I’ve no magic wand which will alter your thoughts. But I do have a suggestion.

Thinking different is less likely to manifest itself if you ‘do same’. (Mangled grammar, I know, but I hope you’ll see my point.)

Even small changes to your daily habits can nudge your brain towards new thought patterns.

So sit in a different chair. Take a different route. Read a different newspaper. Order a different sandwich. Wear a different colour. Sing a different tune.

Talk to a different person. Watch a different channel. Use a different shampoo. Get up at a different time.

In short, when you want to think different, it often helps if you do different.

How to send your worries on their way

Why on earth would someone write something down, then throw it away, and be pleased they’d done so?

Jenny G. from Bristol in the UK has the answer, and she’s more than happy for me to pass it on.

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You see, Jenny – perhaps at times like you? – finds herself worrying about all kinds of stuff.

Listen to her describe it: “For me it’s always worst in the middle of the night. I fall asleep with no problem, but then for some unknown reason wake up around 2am and the dreaded anxieties start creeping in – then quickly begin FLOODING in. The thoughts go round and round, getting worse and worse. My chest feels tight. Sleep is impossible. I hate it!”

Jenny found something that works for her, though. She keeps a pad of paper and a pen by the side of her bed, and as her worrying thoughts start to overwhelm her, she writes them down.

“I have a little flashlight by the bed just for this purpose so I don’t disturb my husband more than I have to,” she told me.

Once Jenny’s worries are, literally, transferred to the paper, she quietly screws it up into a tight ball and tosses it away from her into the corner of the room. Settling back down again, remarkably she’s soon sleeping like a baby.

Jenny admits her friends thought it sounded a bit loopy when she told them about this, but they soon changed their minds when they tried it for themselves – not only in the middle of the night, but whenever anxiety loomed ominously.

I think what’s going on for Jenny is that she’s smartly discovered that when she writes down her worries, she acknowledges them, rather than trying to bury them. Attempting to ignore anxiety scarcely ever works.

Then, by screwing up the paper and literally throwing it away, she tells herself that she actively chooses not to be disturbed by such unwanted thoughts.

Maybe a similar strategy could work for you? Why not give it a try?

And perhaps Jenny’s story reminds you of some ingenious mood strategy you’ve discovered yourself, which you wouldn’t mind me writing up and passing on? I’d love to hear about it, by email please to jon@wellb.ee

A lesson from Martin Luther King Jr.: Doubt yourself, and move forward anyway

If you haven’t seen the new Oscar-nominated movie Selma, I won’t spoil it for you. But I will say that it showed me a very different, more vulnerable side of Martin Luther King Jr. that I hadn’t appreciated before.

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He was tired from the struggle for civil rights. He doubted his own efforts. He thought long and hard with trusted advisors about strategy and messaging. He made painful mistakes in his personal life. He realized he was just a pastor from Atlanta taking on the President of the United States.

And yet none of this stopped him taking action. He drew inspiration from his beliefs and from the stories of people he was trying to help. He forged ahead anyway, letting his doubts accompany him but not impact him, and he ended up changing a nation.

Dr. King’s story inspires me today to keep going along my path even when doubts appear. Trust that I am doing what’s right and that it will work out. It’s not always easy, but it’s a great skill to cultivate for my emotional strength toolbox.

I hope this message supports and encourages you along your journey too.

With love and gratitude,
Alexandra

You’re the one who knows you best

It’s often occurred to me how useful it would be to have some kind of gizmo which could measure your mood without you having to tell it anything.

When a doctor wants to know your temperature, she doesn’t ask for your view, she simply uses a clinical thermometer.

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As of today, however, there’s no physiological way to determine mood. No blood test, heart monitor or even brain scan can tell anyone how they feel.

I’m not saying it won’t come, but at the moment the best (and only) way to evaluate someone’s mood is to ask them.

This might be via the somewhat rough and ready expedient of getting an individual to rate themselves on a 0-10 scale (which is what the UK government is using for its national wellbeing measure) or it can be the use of the more thorough twelve-questions playing cards approach we use with WellBee.

The long and the short of it though, is that you’re the only one who truly knows how you feel.

But being unaware of this would be a little like driving a car with no speedometer. Cautious motorists might drive at a snail-like pace in order not to break the speed limit. The more fool-hardy could push pedal to metal, resulting in awkward encounters with the police.

I reckon it makes sense to go into every new day knowing how you’re doing mood-wise. It can help you to be realistic in your expectations, for one thing.

Don’t demand too much of yourself when you’re not feeling so great, for example.

Who knows how you feel? Well, only you, really.

When you need help, it pays to ask

Google returns over eight and a half billion (that’s right, BILLION) results when you search for the word ‘help’.

In anyone’s terms that’s a lot.

Mind you, Google’s ‘auto-complete’ feature (which suggests ideas as you type) thankfully suggests that not every searcher is seeking salvation.

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Add the word ‘me’, for instance, and Google suggests that the most popular searches are for ‘Help Me Lose My Mind’, ‘Help Me Make it Through the Night’, and ‘Help Me Rhonda’. Alongside these three tunes, there’s just one cry for help: ‘Help Me Lose Weight’.

When do you really need help it’s unlikely to come from Disclosure, Gladys Knight, or the Beach Boys. In all probability it’s going to come from someone who’s close at hand.

But just as Google simply sits there quietly waiting for you to ask something, friends and family may not realise that you need help until you actually ask for it.

Maybe, like me, you’ve a tendency to believe that your needs are always obvious. In fact this is rarely the case.

So the next time you could truly do with a hand, please be sure to ask for it. Rhonda.

How do you enrich the life of the people closest to you?

In my ad agency days it was generally sensible to conduct an analysis of ‘features, functions and benefits’ when starting work on a new brief.

Features, functions and benefits? In simple terms they’re defined as (a) what is it? (b) what does it do? and (c) why would someone want it?

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An example, if you’re selling a phone, could be its caller display feature. So that’s (a) taken care of.

What does this do? Well it shows you the identity of the person who’s calling before you answer the phone, and that’s (b).

As for (c), the benefits may depend on who you are and what your situation is.

You might for example use it to avoid unwanted or unknown calls.

Or it could enable you to always pick up when the call is from someone close to you.

If you’re otherwise engaged, you could put your phone on silent but keep an eye on calls so as to either return them later or, if you believe they might be urgent, excuse yourself and answer them immediately.

Now I wonder if you could apply a similar kind of thinking to the various parts you play in life?

It’s often said that it’s good to know your true purpose, and I’m sure that – if you can – this tends to improve your overall mental wellbeing.

So let’s suppose you’re someone’s son or daughter. That’s (a).

How about your functions and benefits then? What’s your (b) and (c)? What do you do? Why would someone want that?

I’ll leave it with you, shall I?

See the good in the struggle

Here’s a thought that’s been transforming my whole attitude towards life lately. I wanted to share it in case it’s helpful for you, too.

The idea is simple yet profound, and has taken a long while to trickle into my deep subconscious understanding.

This is it: you can mine your suffering to find gold.

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When we go through a challenge in life, we may find that some new insight or understanding or good comes out of it. And if not, we can still use the experience to open our hearts and increase our compassion for others in the same situation.

So in times of distress, I remind myself:

  1. There are others feeling like this right now, I’m not alone.
  2. It will pass, I can ride it out.
  3. How can I use this experience for good, growth, or benefiting the world?

As the poet Rumi says, “If you are irritated by every rub, how will you be polished?”

Sending love and warm hugs,
Alexandra