Monthly Archives: September 2016

Our own mood struggles can make us uniquely qualified to understand other people’s.

It’s probably fair to say that virtually everyone suffers from low mood.

For a fortunate few this may simply be the occasional bout of feeling a little less-good than normal.

For others, however, it can be more serious.

Low mood – and ultimately depression – is debilitating, destructive and downright dastardly, so it would be hard to believe that it has any upside whatsoever.


A friend back in the UK keeps her mood issues pretty much to herself, but because we’re able to be honest with each other, she does open up to me.

Somewhat to my surprise, chatting to her one day did make me see one definite advantage I’ve chalked up from my own trips to the dark side.

‘Ah,’ she said.


And with those three words she demonstrated the powerful idea that the bad times we go through make us better able to empathise with others.

They help us connect with the people around us who’ve also either gone through it, or who are going through it right now.

Empathy, of course, is inclined to be a two-way street.

I understand you, you understand me, we understand each other.

We’re told that to be upbeat we should surround ourselves with positive people, but isn’t this rather simplistic?

You see, I think those who understand you best are your fellow travellers.

Learning something new can lift your self-confidence and boost your mood.

Can you think back to identify a teacher who made a particularly big impression on you?

The chances are that he or she was someone who made learning feel easy, who inspired you, who gave you the appetite to pick up new skills and acquire new knowledge.

When it comes in the right shape and form, learning can be enormous fun.

So when was the last time you learnt something new?

And more importantly when’s the next time going to be?


For me, every day with Moodnudges is filled with learning, especially recently as I’ve explored ways to bring data to life using charts, graphs and visuals.

Needing help, I’ve had excellent mentoring from a friend who is an expert in the field.

He generously didn’t laugh at my early efforts, and equally kept me on my toes as I became (I hope) a little more accomplished.

Learning can be great for your self-confidence.

It can be fun.

And it’s a tremendous way to give yourself a boost.

So what would love to learn, and when are you going to start?

If you know someone’s not returning messages and you know they’re down, keep trying.

Someone told me of his unsuccessful attempts to reach a business contact by phone.

Despite leaving frequent messages, this other person wasn’t calling back.


The caller was pretty confident he’d done nothing to cause offence, so he wondered aloud if it might mean that this man could have been suffering from the dreaded blues, and was therefore shutting himself away.

Having been there and done this myself, I had to agree it was a possibility.

It’s easy to get to a point where you’ve had as much as you can take from the world around you, so you shut yourself away.

The trouble is, it can be easy for friends to feel slighted if you appear to be avoiding them.

Well you are, aren’t you?

If you were the one with the low mood, what would you want someone else to do in such circumstances?

Well if they had the persistence, I’d want them to keep calling.

I’d hope they wouldn’t accuse me of being difficult.

I’d love them to be patient with me.

Maybe you’d feel the same?

If so, it might be worth remembering this when someone doesn’t return your calls or messages.

Try not to storm off in a huff.

Just keep leaving those messages.

They could well be in a difficult place, and your patience will almost certainly mean a lot to them.

Try to avoid “one-downmanship” conversations where you and a friend discuss who has it worse.

“You won’t believe the week I’ve had.”

Interesting, isn’t it, how often a conversation with someone can slip into exchanging catalogues of disasters?

If you’re not careful, it can end up as a kind of one-downmanship in which each competes to out-gloom the other, turning what might have been an opportunity to lift one another up into exactly the opposite.

We part having had a good grumble, but having failed to gain the lift that a truly good conversation can deliver.


Generally, though, there are ways of steering a conversation out of bluesville.

For a start you can help to set its tone yourself by talking about your own good stuff (even on the shabbiest of days, there is usually some) rather than running through all your woes.

It also makes sense to ask about areas of the other person’s life that tend to be positive rather than those bits you know have a tendency to make them crabby.

Talking about bad stuff may leave you feeling bad.

But talking about good stuff…

Well that’s another story altogether.

If you need help but don’t know what to ask for, try suggesting that someone simply uses their intuition.

A friend and I compared notes about what generally happens when other people realise you’re having a hard time.

Often they truly want to help, but nine times out of ten this gets translated into them asking what they can do for you, one of the most frustrating offers in the world.

Yes, you want help (sometimes desperately) but no – you’ve nowhere near enough strength to organise your thoughts sufficiently to brief them.

As my friend said, ‘Don’t ask me how you can help, just tell me what you’re going to do, and do it’.


When times are tough, it can feel as though you’re using every ounce of your meagre resources simply to keep the plates spinning.

So when a well-meaning friend asks how they can help, you’ve literally no capacity to work out a strategy.

Better, by far, if they assume responsibility for a couple of plates.

“I’ll look after these two” are likely to be the words you long to hear.

However, what if you agree with this principle but don’t know how to suggest it to others?

Two ideas spring to mind.

You could always lead by example – help others as you’d like to be helped yourself.

But if the need’s more urgent, why not let me do the seed-sowing?

Just forward this email to a friend or two.

Almost certainly they’ll be only too pleased to know that the best way to help you is to simply roll up their sleeves and make a start on something, anything.

Don’t ask, just do.

In the words of a popular book, maybe today’s the day to stop thinking and start living.

I don’t know if you’re like me, but I sometimes find myself avoiding books just because they’re popular.

Seeing them everywhere seems to put me off them for some odd reason.

It was therefore good to be persuaded by a friend to read Richard Carlson’s ‘Stop Thinking, Start Living’ – definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of self-help books.


Among a host of other useful reflections, Carlson reminds us that how you feel is very much driven by what you think.

And to a large degree you can control what you think.

I listen to the radio in the bathroom in the mornings, and even on days when I may not be feeling so great I’ll become aware that an amusing remark by the presenter has got me smiling.

In this moment I’ve clearly stopped dwelling on negativity to smile at a joke instead.

Not surprisingly, thinking about negative stuff can make you feel bad.

So why not make a deliberate effort today to send black thoughts packing?

You have the power to do this.

You really do.

This may not be the best day of your life, but you almost certainly have the power to make it better than it might have been.

There’s the distinct possibility that today could be a perfect one for you.

How very lovely that would be.

Perfect days, however, tend to be few and far between. And far be it from me to rain on your parade but let’s face it, isn’t it more likely that this will be an average kind of day? Perhaps even a less-than-average one?


There are those who exhort us to spring out of bed every morning, determined that this will be the best day of our lives.

I’m sure it helps to keep a positive mind-set, if you can.

However I also think it pays to be realistic.

If you’ve had perfect (or almost-perfect) days in the past, you’re pretty certain to have them again in the future.

But not necessarily right here, right now.

So go ahead with your eyes open and make the most of what the day throws at you, remembering that within limits you still have a good deal of control over how you’ll feel at the end of it.