Monthly Archives: September 2016

If you want to help others, pay attention to their absence, on social media for example.

Back in the days when I wasn’t as open about the ups and downs of my mood as I am today, I used to imagine that others had no idea how I was feeling.

I figured I’d wear my mask – the one you think nobody can see through – and to some degree it worked, but only to a certain extent.


I think your mood leaks out in more ways than you may believe.

One friend says he sees my true state in my eyes.

Another in my voice.

A third in the way I walk (upright and all’s fine, stooped and it isn’t).

These physiological markers make sense.

But a while ago I experienced a new one (a fascinating one) with Pete, a good real-life friend who I don’t see as often as we’d like – because of the distance – but with whom I’m also friends on Facebook.

Now we don’t normally message each other through Facebook – these days we tend to email – but of course your Facebook friends do see anything else you may post to the site.

Things like your own status updates, or your comments on other people’s.

And Pete had detected that all may not have been right for me because I’d gone a bit quiet.

Isn’t it intriguing that it might sometimes be an absence of behaviour that can give the game away?

It’s definitely worth thinking about this with your own friends, and if there’s someone who seems to have gone off the radar, why not send them a quick email or text today?

Tell them Jon sent you.

Think like an ad executive today. Who you are, what you do, and why that matters.

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


Well in simple terms they’re defined as:

(a) What is it?

(b) What does it do?

(c) Why would someone want it?


An demonstration, if you were advertising a cellphone, could be its caller display feature.

It’s a feature, so that’s (a) taken care of.

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

As for (c), the benefits could depend on your situation. You might for example use it to avoid unwanted or unknown calls. Or it may enable you to ensure you pick up if the call is from someone important. If you’re otherwise engaged, you could put your phone on silent but keep an eye on calls, either to return them later or, if you believe they may be urgent, to excuse yourself and answer them immediately.

I wonder if you can apply similar thinking to the various roles 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 emotional 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, may I?

What goes around comes around. Please be kind.

It came in a plain white sleeve with stark black typography.

John Lennon’s ‘Instant Karma’ was one of the first singles my brother Geoff and I owned.

I’m not sure either of us would have thought much about the meaning of the word ‘karma’ in those days, but it seems to make good sense to live your life according to the broad principle that you get what you give.

And what goes around comes around.


If you want to be listened to, it makes sense to listen to others first.

To be loved, love others.

In general, to receive (sometimes), first give.

When you make a mark in the sand, perhaps it starts the ball rolling?

It feels good when people are kind to you, so today could be a good time to sow a little kindness around you.

Then perhaps reap some too.

Good manners mean a good deal. So be a leader not a follower.

It sometimes seems as though we live in a selfish world.

People allow shop doors to close behind them without looking to see whether there’s someone following.

They don’t make way for others when they’re walking along a footpath.

They carry on loud conversations on their phones right in your ear.

And these are just the minor irritations of everyday life.

I’m sure you can think of worse examples.


So what’s the answer?

Do you fight fire with fire?

Do you become twice as selfish yourself?

Well I think (and hope) not.

There’s a lot of evidence that altruism can play a major role in our overall mental wellbeing.

In a neat twist, it turns out that doing good can actually make you feel good.

I suspect the reverse is equally true, too: those who behave selfishly end up with lower moods.

I also reckon that just occasionally our good manners rub off on those with lower standards when it comes to being thoughtful.

But even if you can’t make a dramatic change to the world, you can at least improve your own day by thinking about others.

So why not give it a try today?

How a few well chosen words can help make someone’s day.

Perhaps we sometimes need to receive a gift before we know how to give one?

On my way to a meeting the other day, with loads on my mind, I bumped into one of my neighbours.

In exchanging a few quick words, she gave me a boost which kept me smiling for much longer than it took her to say what she did.


It’s easy to forget how much of a difference you can make to someone’s day with one or two carefully chosen sentences, so why not set out to spread a little happiness yourself by doing so today?

Putting down the weights is sometimes the really strong thing to do.

In 1968, Jerry Butler sang that only the strong survive.

But what did he know?

While I’m sure it’s true that you, me, we all, often possess more strength than we acknowledge, it’s equally the case that now and then it really is okay to say “enough’s enough”.

Times when struggling on with blind, grim determination really makes no sense at all.


Now I’m not suggesting that we all just give up and go home.

Far from it.

Not for one second.

Life is for living, and to live it to its full extent generally takes persistence and tenacity.

It’s just that it’s equally sensible at times to recognise that we’ve more on our plate than we can deal with.

When that happens, to extend the metaphor, for goodness’ sake don’t pile more on – and preferably offload some of what’s already there.

If the next day or two are looming over you with impossible demands, recognise that impossible means just that.


And actually, you know, saying No to things, and re-scheduling where you can, does take strength.

So perhaps old Jerry had it right all along.

When your thoughts aren’t helping, see if you can “flip them.”

A friend has fought an ongoing battle with depression over the years, bravely experimenting with all manner of treatments and therapies.

Happily, she told me she was making headway working with a coach, and I liked her explanation of what they were doing together – she described it as aiming to ‘flip’ her thinking.

This makes sense.


I’m sure that a lot of low mood is worsened, or at least not helped, by negative thinking.

Sometimes we get mired in the kind of thinking that weighs us down, a bit like falling into water wearing a heavy overcoat.

Removing it would give you a better chance of escaping, but it’s often the case that the negative thoughts won’t go away.

Of course it’s not realistic to imagine that you’ll go from Negative Thought City to Positive Town in one step.

But that’s not to say that you can’t begin to turn your bad thoughts on their head.

Why not see if you can try a little of that today?

It’s not easy to accept invitations when you feel low, but doing so could really help.

Most of us enjoy the company of others now and then, even though we may also be happy on our own sometimes.

Spending time alone is fine, just so long as it doesn’t turn into the only thing you do.

The trouble is, although it’s generally true that being around people will give you a boost, if you’re feeling ropey, the obstinate part of your brain may try to keep you from social situations.

Crazy isn’t it?

Logic tells you to accept invitations, to arrange to see a friend, or to pick up the phone, but the annoyingly pervasive emotional side of your thinking tells you not to.

What to do therefore?

Well, perhaps when the opportunity arises to spend time with others on one of these not-so-sunny days, ask yourself ‘What’s the worst that might happen if I ignored my emotions’?


I guess the answer could be that you might get wherever you’re going, then would need to make your excuses and go home.

But (a) that’s not actually terribly likely, and (b) it really wouldn’t be that awful a thing to do if it was truly necessary.

So why not try this next time you feel a bit rough?

Nine times out of ten it’s worked for me.

The desensitised nose. A smell experiment proves our senses get dulled when we’re feeling low.

When, thank heavens, you return to feeling normal again after being depressed, everything around you will seem to have greater clarity.

Colours will be more vivid.

Music will be more melodic.

And according to a report in New Scientist, smells will be stronger.


This could be good or bad depending on whether we’re talking about the perfume of a rose or the pong of someone’s whiffy old trainers, of course.

More specifically, the article details research undertaken at the University of Dresden, which showed that people’s sense of smell diminished when they were depressed.

Amazingly this seems to happen because the part of the brain responsible for registering smells – the olfactory bulb – actually gets smaller, which was observed using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

It’s fascinating to see the evidence building up which supports what I think we instinctively know.

When you’re depressed, you feel cut off from everything.

Trying to disguise your feelings can be exhausting, and possibly a waste of time anyway.

We may imagine that, when needed, we’re good at disguising how we feel, but the truth is we’re often spectacularly bad actors.

When I chatted to a friend a while ago, I explained that I thought my own mood had been ‘so-so’ of late.

Neither particularly bad, but not particularly sparkling either.

(In passing, I’ve learned that this often happens and when it does, I simply need to accept it. Life’s like that.)

What was illuminating, however, was that the friend said she already knew I’d been feeling that way, as it had been showing in my writing, and that came as a surprise to me.


Inevitably, a bit of how I am makes its way into these written thoughts, but on the whole I try to avoid this.

They should after all be about how you are, rather than me.

The thing is, however, others can frequently read us like books, especially when they know us well.

So maybe we should wear our masks less often, to be more open and honest?

Clearly you do this when it’s appropriate, and with people you trust.

However, I think there can be value in letting others in, and your feelings out.