Monthly Archives: October 2015

Look back in your own past for ways to handle upsets

Most of us face times in life when we’re disappointed, but I wonder if, like me, you’ve ever really stopped to think about the word ‘disappoint’ itself?

In one, now archaic, use of the word, it meant quite literally the opposite of ‘appoint’.

You’d appoint someone to the office of chief cook and bottle-washer, but then might ‘disappoint’ them, removing them from their job, perhaps because they’d made burnt the cakes and smashed the bottles.

Nowadays of course we’re more likely to use the word to describe a failure to fulfil expectations.

(I was bitterly disappointed that, once again, they failed to draw my numbers in the Lottery.)

As I say, there will always be disappointments in life, and we start experiencing them at an early age: the first time we don’t win the egg-and-spoon race, or we do less well than hoped in a spelling test.

However, while disappointment is never pleasant, facing up to it and overcoming it helps to build your resilience in the same way that a young boxer gets stronger by learning to absorb punches, or a fledgling ballerina grins and bears the pain of dancing ‘en pointe’ in her formative years.

Although nobody can really tell us how to be resilient, we can look back at our lives to identify what’s worked in the past.

How did you cope?

What strategies did you use, even though almost certainly they won’t have seemed as formal as ‘strategies’ at the time?

Look at others, too.

Who has dealt with adversity in a way that has inspired you?

Maybe you can learn from them, and adopt some of their techniques?

It’s important to remember that working through bad times gets you beyond them (a favourite Churchill quote: ‘If you’re going through hell, keep going’) but also the very process makes you stronger, so that perhaps it won’t hurt quite as much next time.

Is it time to tell someone how you feel?

‘I Feel Good’, ‘I Feel Pretty’ and ‘I Feel Love’.

They’re the top three choices suggested by Google as it tries to guess what I’m looking for after typing the words ‘I feel’.

They’re song titles of course, and I’m awarding points for performing all three while you’re in the bathroom today: a bonus if you can cunningly combine James Brown, Donna Summer and Maria from ‘West Side Story’ into a medley.

Sometimes, it’s true, you’ll honestly be able to say you feel good when asked how you are, but there will be other days when you’re more likely to bite someone’s head off simply for asking.

Over the past few months, I’ve learned that I’m not nearly as good as I thought I was at talking about my own feelings.

I bottle things up, and it takes substantial effort to let them out.

Perhaps you’ll understand?

Maybe you can be a bit like this too?

There are all sorts of reasons to persuade yourself that it’s a BAD idea to share your innermost thoughts, among them: nobody will be interested; I don’t want to become a burden; my feelings are my responsibility; others are too busy to bother.

And so on, and so on.

There’s a lot to be said for sharing appropriately, however.

It helps others understand you, and simply articulating your feelings will help you make sense of them yourself.

So why not try a little of this today?

Of course, if everything’s rosy for you at the moment, and you take the challenge above, they’re all going to know how you feel on the other side of the bathroom door, anyway.

Why it helps to focus your worries on what you can change

Whichever way you look at it, we live in a world beset by problems and tragedy.

War, famine, disease, crime, poverty – they can all add up to paint a gloomy picture of this rock we call home.

Sorry, were you having a happy moment before reading this?

Despite the downbeat intro, it really isn’t my intention to cause us both to take a gloomy view of things but, instead, to suggest that there are times when we simply have to focus our concern less on the things we cannot change, and more on those which we can.

Just writing this, however, feels selfish.

It leaves me questioning myself, and makes me doubt my worldview.

However, and unfortunately, the simple truth is that if we spend all our time worrying about the many problems which are entirely beyond our control, we’ll almost certainly make no progress in dealing with issues closer to home, and a failure to do so is likely to leave you in disarray.

So by all means (please) empathise with those less well-off, indeed help them when you can.

But perhaps it makes sense today to focus a large part of your ‘worry capacity’ on matters which you have the direct power to change?

How the smallest goal can help on the shabbiest day

When someone’s mood is low, it’s usual for them to have little appetite – both literally and figuratively.

In its most literal form, there can be two ways of regarding food when you’re depressed.

Sometimes you may look for comfort from over-eating stuff that’s bad for you (either sweet or savoury snacks, for instance), while the alternative situation could be that you really won’t be bothered to eat at all.

More figuratively it’s likely that your appetite for life itself will be diminished.

When you feel like this, it’s common for ‘what’s the point’ thoughts to cascade through your mind, leaving you believing you’ve little (perhaps nothing) to look forward to.

Sadly, this can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, as you may simply stop putting things in your diary – so the days ahead will appear to hold nothing in store.

What can we do about this?

Although it can help a lot to be able to look forward to things, especially when everything around you seems dark, your head is likely to work against itself; refusing to make plans or accept invitations.

Just as the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, perhaps the answer is to persuade yourself to set the tiniest goals.

Maybe you’ll decide that you’ll leave the house at 6pm to walk around the block?

You could plan in the morning what you’ll eat in the evening.

Or you might plan to read just two pages of a good book later in the day.

Although they may not seem like ‘proper’ goals, they are at least the kind of small actions which you could view as achievable, perhaps even looking forward to them a little.

Just as you’d be wise to start eating cautiously after being physically unwell, gently build up your emotional appetite step-by-step when things prove tough for you.

5 unexpected ways to boost your learning today

School’s in session again in the northern hemisphere, so perhaps it’s a cue to remember that you don’t only learn in formal situations.

As a kid yourself, while the summer break from school meant you probably had no formal lessons, I bet you carried on learning through those months.

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In my case I remember discovering how to make things, how to build camps in the garden, how to read and make maps, how to fool around with a tape recorder producing ‘radio shows’, how to turn garden canes and string into bows and arrows.

This was learning, it was fun (dangerous in the latter case, too), and in some ways it was probably even more important than what I was learning in term-time.

Maybe you feel you’ve no opportunities to learn new things today? In that case, allow me to make five suggestions.

Perhaps one will inspire you: at the very least they might help you come up with an idea or two yourself.

1. I bet you don’t know exactly where someone close to you was born, so ask them. Find out the circumstances in which they entered the world.

2. Buy a fruit or vegetable you’ve never tried before, then hunt out a recipe online which uses it.

3. Picking an uncommon word at random, perhaps you already know the meaning of ‘jentacular’? If not, Google can tell you what it means, and this page will fill you in on a plethora of other unusual ones, too: http://bit.ly/MTWQFm

4. Ask the next person you speak to whose first language is different from yours how to say Hello in their tongue, then use it next time you see them.

5. In which year was your home built? Maybe you already know, but if you don’t, how close can you get? Who else might already have the answer? A neighbour? Why not find out, simply for finding out’s sake?

Some of the best learning doesn’t happen in classrooms, so what could you teach yourself today? (Maybe after you’ve attended to your jentacular arrangements, that is.)

Reflections? Please post them on the Moodnudges blog:

http://moodnudges.com/xxxxxxxxxxxxxx/

See you next time,

Jon

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2015-10-05

Why it’s important to save awesome for when it really is

‘Awesome’ is one of those words whose meaning has devalued over the years like a Zimbabwean dollar.

Once upon a time it would have been reserved to describe some thing or place of incomparable beauty, for example, whereas today it could easily be said by someone (generally of youthful age) as you hand them a glass of water.

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Language evolves all the time of course, but I prefer to save Awesome for use on those rare occasions when my senses are drinking in a sight or sound of exquisite glory.

For me, the Grand Canyon was genuinely awesome, as was a modest waterfall in a little valley in the English Lake District.

I’m sure you have your own memories of stunning places you’ve been, and it’s quite likely that as you recall them you associate them with feeling good.

Having an incomparable vista in front of you can take your breath away.

It can temporarily blot out worries and sadness.

It can fill you with hope and optimism.

Unless you’re incredibly lucky you’re probably not headed to the Grand Canyon today, but this needn’t stop you benefiting from at least a little of the effects you might experience if you were whisked away to its rim.

When you take the time to look and stare, almost anywhere on Earth can be full of wonder, but you do have to take notice of it rather than simply walking on by.

So as you proceed through the day, why not try to look at things as if you were a tourist?

It probably won’t give your spirits the boost they’d get if you were in Arizona, but even a little is better than nothing, and this surely is at least a little awesome.

Are you relaxed? Are you sure?

As you read this, I’d like you to simultaneously become conscious of your body, and in particular how tense it may be.

When I did the same myself a couple of minutes ago, I found I was gritting my teeth, hunching up my shoulders and inexplicably tensing my fingers.

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The man’s a bundle of nerves.

Check out your own body, though.

Maybe you’re wonderfully relaxed, but the chances are that you’re holding at least some of your muscles tighter than they need to be.

Visualise a frightened animal, and you’ll probably imagine it being crouched taughtly low, ready for the fight or flight mechanism to kick in, either to launch an attack or to get the heck out of there.

If you’re anxious, your brain sends messages to your body without you knowing, telling it to be ready for action, in just the same way that it happens for other species.

Fortunately we rarely need to be prepared for fisticuffs or fleeing, but unfortunately this involuntary muscular tension isn’t good for us.

While there’s undeniable value in taking a few minutes whenever you can to completely relax your body, opportunities to do so can be thin on the ground.

So it makes sense to simply try and be more aware of hunching, grinding and clenching as you go through your day.

Every so often, give your muscles a check-up, and let go of that tension, even if only momentarily.

Hunching, grinding and clenching really isn’t good for you.

Mark you, it would make a good name for a firm of lawyers.