Monthly Archives: January 2017

Closing the door on night time anxiety.

I want to pass on a cunning trick today that could just help you sleep better.

My guess is that most people go through periods of their lives when they experience problems with sleeping.

In fact, the Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine, based just minutes from where I’m now sitting, says that there are over 100 different types of sleep disorders, ranging from difficulty sleeping at night to problems with excessive daytime sleepiness.

100 different types?

That’s a nightmare in itself.

There’s no doubt about it, getting a good night’s sleep can help boost your overall emotional well-being.

On the other hand it’s clear that feeling low can play havoc with sleep routines.

Depression can result in some people sleeping much more than usual, while others may find it either hard to get to sleep – or they wake up earlier than they’d like. Sometimes much earlier.

While my own sleep has been relatively good of late, I’ve experienced what – for me – is a recurring issue the past few nights.

This is that I fall asleep almost immediately after getting into bed, but then wake up around two in the morning with strange, unwarranted, random, anxious thoughts going round and round in my head.

It seems silly.

I’ve generally finished my day with quite a grateful mind, and fallen asleep in a contented way.

But then the anxiety appears out of nowhere in the wee small hours.

So when this happened a few nights ago, an idea popped into my head.

It worked, has worked again, and I thought I’d now offer it to you.

Basically, it makes use of the idea that, sophisticated though they may be, our brains can actually only process one thought at a time.

This makes it possible to crowd out unwanted thoughts by displacing them with something else.

Here’s the something else that’s currently working for me.

If you find yourself in this situation, tell your mind that you’re putting these thoughts away.

Not ignoring them, just putting them away for now.

Then (and this is the important thing) imagine a whole series of doors closing, with the unwanted thoughts behind them.

Try to visualise all kinds of doors: your own front door, a car door, a shop door, a bathroom door, an office door, the doors on the back of a truck.

It seems important to challenge yourself to keep coming up with door after door.

In fact, when I did this myself last night, I even imagined the doors of my old Scout headquarters.

This has worked each time I’ve tried it.

I’ve found myself dropping off again, with a mind full of closing doors.

So I’d love to propose it to you as a new idea for your own emotional toolbox.

Hopefully you won’t need it right now, but I’d love to think of you having the technique if you do.

For some better shut-eye, just shut those doors.

Who’s your Happiness Hero?

A few days ago I was interviewed by Australian writer, Tahlia Newland, for a new and upcoming podcast.

I’ll tell you more about that next month, when it’s due to be released.

For now, though, I wanted to tell you about a question Tahlia is asking all her guests.

Who’s your Happiness Hero?

It got me thinking. Perhaps it might do the same for you?

Who’s one person that springs to mind when you think of happiness?


Tahlia asked me to choose someone I admire for their ability to remain happy in any circumstances, or anyone I think has contributed to the happiness of others in some small or large way.

She said it could be as simple as a neighbour being kind on a day when everything was falling apart.

And my suggestion for you today is to find a few minutes (it needn’t take long) to reflect on who you might choose.

I think there’s a kind of hidden value in this, as the process of wondering “who” also leaves you thinking “why.”

What is it about this person that you associate with happiness?

Might there be something of what they do, how they live, that you could bring to your day?

This day.

Right now.

Big behaviour change is difficult, but tiny adjustments can be easier.

So what sort of modest adjustment, inspired by your happiness hero, might make today a little shinier?

When I talked with Tahlia, I chose Mark Williamson who runs Action for Happiness.

If this sounds a bit – well – obvious, my main reasons for nominating him were less so.

As well as my admiration for his work, I hugely respect his drive to keep fit and well. He cycles. Miles. And he eats healthily.

More than that, even, is his determination to be there for his family, despite having huge demands on his time.

Who would you choose?

Incidentally, thinking about this led me to have a single piece of fruit at lunchtime, and also to take a walk.

This won’t make me Mr. Williamson, of course.

But perhaps it wasn’t entirely wide of the Mark.

A recipe for happiness?

We’re sometimes advised to be careful of what we wish for, but there’s always the opposite case of being hopeful, too.

A little over a year ago, I wrote here about my enthusiasm for a non-existent TV series and accompanying book about food that would be good for your mood. It inspired quite a few comments from readers, and even one or two instant recipe suggestions.

Sheena, for example, talked about trying fresh herrings in oatmeal with green veg and brown bread & butter. Anne proposed layering up plain yogurt with grated apple and a tiny amount of honey or molasses sugar in a glass. Christine’s thought was for sardines on toast done under the grill with tomato sauce on top.

However, fast-forward twelve months, and I’m delighted to report that my London friend Rachel Kelly, with nutritionist Alice Mackintosh, has written the very book I’ve been dreaming of. Judging by this video trailer for “The Happy Kitchen: Good Mood Food,” I’m sure the TV series is a mere blink of a commissioning editor’s eye away.

In the video, Rachel and Alice cook up spinach and spelt pancakes, served with salmon and avocado, which look every bit as good as they sound.

This is a time of year when it’s easy for moods to slip, so I think it makes huge sense to pay attention to eating for mind as well as body.

We had some great suggestions from readers this time last year, but let’s add to them twelve months on. What foods help your mood? Please share your experiences, and even simplified recipes, in the Comments section. My mouth’s already watering in anticipation.

Let’s see your workings out.

I seem to remember that in school maths exams, we were encouraged to show our workings out.

Even if you could somehow immediately and effortlessly jump to the answer in your head, there was merit in jotting down how you’d got there.

Perhaps one benefit was that a kind examiner (if such an individual ever existed) might give you marks for methodology even if you’d fumbled the final answer.


I’m fairly confident that when you talk through, perhaps difficult, problems with a patient friend, you’re going through a similar process.

In explaining the situation, you’re put in a position in which you need to help the other person see where you’re coming from.

And these, in some ways, may be our emotional workings out.

However, if you know that the doodlings and noodlings on your exam paper might be scanned by the examiner, you may decide to make them relatively logical.

So in a similar way, perhaps we owe it to our gem of a friend to – whenever possible – attempt to focus our outpourings, rather than drowning them in a torrent of despair?

After all, people are more likely to be able to help you when they understand you.

In a different way, and in terms of my own workings out to do with Moodnudges, I’m going to experiment with writing closer to the publishing deadlines of Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

For some time I’ve attempted to produce a week’s worth of posts (four of them) in one burst of work, but I think this may have kept me from being as fresh as I’d like to be.

(If you’ll pardon me for being fresh, that is.)

So this will be posted about six hours from now, hot off the keyboard.

To place things in context, I’m sitting in the library at Stanford University, listening to some delightful new tunes from a composer I’ve just discovered this afternoon.

If you like movie music, you may well enjoy Steven Gutheinz, a composer of music for film, TV, commercials, games, and the stage, who currently lives and works in Los Angeles.

Just down the road, really.

His whole new album, “Vision,” is here:

The dam opened on Wednesday

Knock me down with a feather. I couldn’t believe the flood of helpful and generous comments that came in via the blog after my post on Wednesday about what, if anything, I might do about refreshing what we (you and I) do here at Moodnudges.

Thank you SO much.

There was definitely a lot of “don’t stop, don’t stop,” as well as a good-sized slice of “why not experiment with different formats?”.

However I also truly appreciated several comments about finding something that seems to work for me. I think I need to continue being motivated to write for my own satisfaction, even though I’m hugely powered by knowing that my simple words seem to have a positive effect on people.

So I’m going to have a serious ponder over the next few weeks, and will unquestionably keep you in the loop.


Meantime, you might be intrigued to hear that sunny California is still cold and wet. But when I met with my early morning coffee friends yesterday, the talk was all about how great it is that this parched place is getting a much-needed soaking.

Being British, there’s a tendency for me to grumble about the weather. It’s what we do, right?

Very nice, though, to get a practical demonstration that situations are often actually what you make of them.

One person’s downpour is another person’s irrigation.

Perhaps you can use this kind of thinking yourself today?

Happy new year, and where do we go next?

As I write this post, which you should receive on Wednesday January 4th, it’s actually Tuesday the 3rd, in an unusually cold, wet California. Where oh where did those blue skies go?

Anyway, like many, I’m back at work after a longish break over Christmas and New Year but – boy – it seems hard to get going again. In fact I’ve sat for over an hour willing myself to write this. Not because anything’s particularly wrong (although I did get bitten by a dog yesterday, but that’s another story) but simply because the new year has caused me to reflect on what I’m doing, and where things are going.


Although I’m hugely grateful for the overwhelmingly positive feedback from Moodnudges readers, it feels to me as though it’s time for some kind of refreshment.

When I started writing these kinds of posts, back in Moodscope days, I think things were different in terms of online content. A few months from now, I’ll have been writing regular mood-related emails for ten years. A whole decade.

Back in 2007, emailed newsletters were still somewhat novel, and the daily volume of messages arriving in people’s inboxes felt much, much lower than it does today. Nowadays, however, I know I have to allocate at least an hour a day to go through my emails, the great majority of which aren’t for me personally. Most just get clicked and ignored.

There’s no way I’m unique in this. I’m sure you must find yourself drowning in emails at times, too.

So something, I think, needs to change – but I can’t quite put my finger on it. Maybe I could be writing much shorter content, published reasonably frequently? Or we could go the other way, with weekly posts that are more in-depth? There again, perhaps video or audio would be a better format than the written word?

I wonder if you have thoughts on this? What would you like to see? What would be useful?

What’s the single biggest problem you have that I might be able to help with?

I’d love to know what you think, so I truly encourage you to add a comment to the Moodnudges blog. It feels like a golden opportunity to engage you and our other brilliant readers in some interactive dialogue.

I can’t wait to see what people say, even if it’s simply to brag that the weather’s warmer where you are, and that you didn’t get bitten by a dog.

Woof woof. Happy new year!