Monthly Archives: January 2015

Love the ones you’re with

Flowers? Chocolates? Something home-made?

The world divides into those who’d never dream of arriving at a social engagement without a small gift for their host, and those for whom it would never really cross their mind.

Partly a cultural thing, partly an upbringing one, there’s no doubt that it can be a nice gesture, even if the host of a dinner party does end up with four unwanted boxes of soft-centres.

Rather than turning this into an etiquette discussion however, for me it raises the more interesting point of nurturing relationships.

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It makes enormous mutual sense to show the people around us that we care. Chimpanzees do it by grooming each other.

Hopefully you’ve no need to pick fleas off your nearest and dearest, but there’s a lot to be said for taking every opportunity to invest in building your relationship, whether it’s a romantic, family, professional or simply social one.

Although it’s nice to ‘bring them flowers’, you don’t necessarily have to. A few well-chosen words can do the trick. Making an effort to listen to them, properly, can go a long way too. Some, with good reason, call these actions ‘strokes’.

Take care of the people around you and – who knows? – they may just take care of you too.

7 tips for a better mood. (And No. 8, pass them on.)

The other day Alex and I chatted about how writing our Moodnudges posts makes us feel good. The warm feedback we regularly get from readers reassures us that we’re helping people and, as we’ve written before, the very act of knowing you’ve helped someone can give you, the helper, a glow of satisfaction.

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Wouldn’t it be nice, though, if we found a way of helping you share in this glow? I think we may have done so. You see, this post is written with a two-fold objective.

First, I hope its contents will inspire you directly.

Secondly, it’s specifically designed for you to share with a friend or friends. And in hopefully helping them, you in turn stand a good chance of getting that delightful shot in the arm delivered by doing a good deed.

Once you’ve read today’s post, then, please do forward it to, and share it with, as many friends as possible, perhaps inviting them to sign up for our free four-times-a-week email. We’d love that. This post is quite a bit longer than usual, but I’d like to pack in a lot.

Today’s theme? Seven modest ideas pretty certain to lift anyone’s mood. And they’re really not that difficult to implement. How about allocating one to each of the next seven days? Thanks to our great friends at Action for Happiness for inspiring this list, by the way.

1. Make contact with other people. You have precisely 2,880 minutes in each day of your life, and the more of those you spend in contact with others, the better you’re likely to feel. Of course, nothing compares to a nice long chat with a good friend, but this may not be possible every day. When it isn’t, look for as many small opportunities to connect with people as you can. Exchange a few words with shop assistants, brightening their day as well as yours. Send the briefest of hello emails/texts to a couple of people you’ve not heard from for a while. Smile and say hello to a stranger in the street. It all adds up.

2. Accept the person you are, and love yourself. Having spent rather too much of my own life doing the polar opposite of loving myself, I know how hard this is. But trust me. Next time you’re in the bathroom, look at yourself in the mirror and say this out loud. “I like you. I like you very much.” Then, if you dare, “I love you. I love you very much.” It’s making me teary-eyed just to think about you doing this: it can have huge power, if you’re brave enough to tell yourself.

3. Always have things to look forward to. When you’re feeling low it may feel as if there’s nothing positive on the horizon. Tackle this by choosing to anticipate small things that are already coming, even if it’s the sandwich you’ll eat at lunchtime, or the drive you’ll take tomorrow. Make each of these routine events a bit more rewarding by choosing to read a favourite magazine with your lunch, or listen to some long-lost tunes while you drive. Turn routines into mini goals, and reward yourself.

4. Decide to take a positive view of life. You may have noticed that different people can share the same experience, yet see it in completely different ways. To some degree you have the power to view life in the way you choose. See everything gloomily, and that’s the way things will be. Alternatively, opt for a more positive outlook and – hey presto – your world will take on a rosier tint. Although it may sound fake, it really isn’t.

5. Learn something new every day. One of the reasons Alex’s daughters love school is that they’re always learning. Acquiring new knowledge boosts your confidence and raises your spirits. But you can do this without registering for a college class. Why not tackle a recipe you’ve never tried before? Teach yourself the order of the planets in the solar system. Learn a few words of the language spoken by that person you often see, but only ever speak to in English. Keep learning, have fun.

6. Appreciate all that surrounds you. I’m sure you’ll have experienced that walking-around-in-a-fog feeling you get when your mood is low. It may seem as if your mental focus is directed entirely inwards. You can become oblivious to your environment. Doing the opposite, however, is a helpful way to lift your spirits. At any given moment shift your attention, using as many senses as possible, to drink in the richness that surrounds you – then find three things to be grateful for in your environment. That piece of furniture that’s stood you in such good stead. That sky. That tree. That squirrel. Look for the small details. Love them.

7. Look after that body of yours. That mind of yours is, of course, pretty closely connected to your body. You spend all day carrying it around with you, after all. It’s easy to forget how one affects the other. Low moods can be lifted by such simple actions as eating good food and drinking enough water. It nearly always helps to get a good night’s sleep. And taking exercise is a huge help too. So what can you do in the next 24 hours to treat your own body as you would any other cherished possession? Love your body and it will love you right back.

A Tommy Cooper approach to mood lifting

Tommy Cooper was a stand-up comedian and magician who sometimes got his tricks wrong, but often ended up delighting you with his deft sleight of hand.

To a lot of people he was very very funny and wore a Fez, and what’s not to like about this combo?

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Try four of his jokes for size:

I went to the doctors.
He said ‘I’d like you to lie on the couch’.
I said ‘What for?’
He said ‘I want to sweep the floor’.

I went to the doctor the other day.
I said ‘It hurts when I do that.’
He said ‘ Well don’t do it’.

I went up into the attic and found a Stradivarius and a Rembrandt.
Unfortunately Stradivarius was a terrible painter and Rembrandt made lousy violins.

I went to the doctor.
He said ‘You’ve got a very serious illness’.
I said ‘I want a second opinion’.
He said ‘All right, you’re ugly as well’.

Now if they, even just marginally, brought a smile to your face or made you chuckle, it’s made a modest contribution to your wellbeing. Yep, simply by reading a post.

Never underestimate the power of laughter, especially in the company of others.

Even if you’re not the world’s greatest joke-teller (I know I’m not), I reckon that if you were to read the above to someone else today, you could both end up laughing and feeling better.

In the famous words of the late Mr Cooper, just like that.

Put inspiring things in your way

I have a friend who’s an avid runner, keeping pace in marathons with people 20 years younger than him. But he wasn’t always a runner.

When he was starting out, aspiring to run, he had trouble motivating himself to get going. So he thought of a solution that’s really as simple as it is brilliant.

Before going to bed at night he would leave his running shoes smack in the middle of the hallway to the kitchen, so that he would bump right into them when he woke up.

This little trick was enough to inspire him to get out the door then and there for his morning run.

I do a similar thing for little mood boosts during the day. I find sayings or poems that inspire me and stick them on the fridge at eye level. So every time I’m fixing breakfast or dinner, or just passing through the kitchen, I’m reminded of a little piece of joy or hope or love.

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This week’s poem on our fridge (above) is one of my favorites – If by Rudyard Kipling.

Maybe you’ll be inspired to try it today? Just put a tiny thing in your way that feels uplifting or motivating for you. I wonder what will happen?

Sending love and warm hugs,
Alexandra

Why it makes sense to accept yourself as you are

When I was growing up, the presenters of the must-see children’s TV programme Blue Peter were dab hands at their handicraft demonstrations.

Give them an empty washing up liquid bottle, a roll of sticky-backed plastic and a wire coat-hanger, and it seemed as if they could rustle up just about anything.

Christmas decorations, piggy banks, pencil holders – apparently you could fashion them all from one common set of component parts.

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And this makes sense. Generally we have what we’ve been given, and it’s up to us to do with them what we will. In life, as in the land of ‘here’s one I’ve already made’.

Acceptance has nothing to do with surrender or capitulation, but everything to do with making the most of your potential: re-using the coat-hanger rather than longing unproductively for a reel of virgin galvanised steel wire.

Who do you want to be? Where do you want to go?

Might it be possible that you already have the necessary building blocks?

Not to mention the sticky-backed plastic.

Teach yourself, help yourself

Eight-year-old Megan inspired me on Christmas day. I’d love to tell you what she did, in the hope that it could also inspire you.

For one reason or another Meg, Alex’s daughter, had so far missed out on learning to ride a bike, so her Christmas present from us was an obvious choice. I therefore found myself in the garage a couple of days before Christmas assembling a fantastic little bike with those all-essential training wheels.

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As you might imagine, her eyes almost popped out of her head when we led her into the room whose door had been marked ‘Top Secret’.

A bike! For me! My bike!

Now of course, when you get your first bike you’re not going to just sit there looking at it. No. You want to get outdoors. You want to climb aboard. You want to r-i-d-e.

So, shortly after breakfast we were out on the sidewalk, and with the bike’s training wheels completely supporting her, Meg easily made it round the block.

Then, with just one lap under her belt she asked me to lift the wheels a little – a pretty easy job with a wrench – and off she went for her second lap, wobbling a little but still doing well. Then, you guessed it, a request from Meg to raise the training wheels once again. Now they were both about an inch above the ground so were providing far less support. Despite this, she determinedly made her way round lap number three.

I wrongly expected she’d want the training wheels kept where they were for a while but, no, once we were at the smooth surface of a nearby church’s parking lot, she asked me to remove them completely. Out came the wrench and off came the wheels, with – it has to be admitted – a slight sense of reluctance as neither Alex or I had thought to go out with a pocketful of the Band-Aids which I thought would be needed when Meg inevitably took a tumble.

I wasn’t reckoning with her determination, however. Telling me in no uncertain terms that she really didn’t want my help with that holding-the-back-of-the-saddle thing, she pushed down on the pedals and, suddenly and remarkably, was actually riding a bike all on her own.

Although Alex and I naturally congratulated her, Meg dismissed our compliments. To her it was entirely normal to teach yourself to ride a bike in a couple of hours on Christmas morning, and this was what I found wonderfully inspiring.

At eight, of course, you’re learning new stuff all the time, so it’s only natural that you’ll pick up bike-riding without blinking an eye. And, if bike-riding, why not nuclear physics too?

Just kidding. But I wonder if as you and I get older we lose confidence in our ability to acquire new skills? I decided to put this to the test the Saturday after Christmas, when our tumble dryer broke down. Ordinarily we’d have called out the repair man, but with Meg’s inspiration I thought I’d try and mend it myself.

One YouTube video later I knew how to do it and with the help of a $17 part got the dryer working – avoiding a $100 charge from the repair man.

Although Meg disguised her pride, I’m sure she was delighted to have become a bike rider, just as I was quietly happy about fixing the dryer.

Learning something new is a terrific strategy when you could do with a mood boost, so I wonder if you might be able to benefit from this yourself in the next day or so?

What will you teach yourself to do? Why not let us know in the Comments section?

How a little adversity can be good for you

I’m afraid it’s a fact of life that, just as not everyone likes brussels sprouts, things won’t always go your way.

In fact there may be days when everything goes any which way but yours.

Whilst it might feel as though an existence with no problems would be an utter blessing, (a) it’s not going to happen (sorry), and (b) there’s the distinct possibility that a totally predictable life could soon get boring.

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When a brussels sprout seed is sown, it needs water, sunlight and nutrients from the soil if it’s to thrive.

Somewhat surprisingly however, gardeners and cooks say the flavour of a brussels sprout improves no end after the plant has endured a frost.

It’s as if it needs adversity to reach its full potential.

Brussels sprouts sometimes get such bad press (completely unfairly in my view, but there you go) that it would seem the height of rudeness to compare you to one.

But perhaps it is the case that when we overcome our problems, difficulties and challenges, we truly do become a better brassica.