Monthly Archives: February 2017

I was in California, the interviewer was in the Australian rain forest. How did the video turn out?

Have noticed a deliberate effort by me to ring the changes a little on Moodnudges – to experiment with some new ways of doing things? I hope so.

In that vein, I’d like to invite you to either watch or listen to a brief interview I gave recently to Tahlia Newland, who’s just launched an entirely admirable and ambitious project called Happiness Hints which will interview people around the world who, one way or another, are working to help people become happier.

Tahlia is also a talented author and artist, with several successful fiction books under her belt), who lives with her husband in an Australian rain forest. She’s a Buddhist practitioner.

As this is such a new project for Tahlia, I know she’d be delighted to have you visit her blog, where you’ll catch me talking to her about my own favourite happiness hint, as well as nominating a happiness hero, among other things. I did give away his identity a few weeks ago, so please watch the interview to find out more about the gentleman in question.

What’s more, those who remember me talking about David the psychologist (back in the old days when I was writing the Moodscope posts) may be happy to hear an amusing story about a conversation he and I had quite recently.

Anyway, here’s where to find Tahlia’s Happiness Hints blog, which contains both the video and audio podcast versions of our conversation.

Horror-scopes.

Years ago, a friend landed her first job as a rookie journalist on a local paper.

On her second day, her new Editor gave her what he said was an important assignment.

“I want you to write the horoscopes for the Saturday paper.”

“But I don’t know a thing about astronomy.”

“Never mind that, no experience necessary. Just use your best instincts. You might want to brush up on your -onomies and -ologies though.”

So off she scuttled, crafted what she considered a dozen Pulitzer-calibre forecasts, and that weekend was thrilled to see her first work in print, heading into work on Monday morning with a proud smile on her face.

Bewilderingly, she was met at her desk by a glowering Editor.

“What the hell did you think you were playing at?”

“I don’t know what you mean… I researched all the star signs… Spent all day writing stuff I thought was authentic…”

“Authentic? I’ll give you authentic! You said Leo would have an unfortunate experience over the weekend, and Aries would suffer a sad loss!”

“Yes, but I did also say Sagittarius would come into money, and Gemini would receive an interesting proposal.”

“You just don’t get it, do you? None of our readers wants bad tidings where their luck is concerned, and they certainly won’t want to buy a newspaper that delivers that kind of stuff. Only the good forecasts next time, right?”

Lesson learned.

I have to confess that although I know they’re ridiculous, whenever I see a horoscope page, I can’t resist reading my own forecast, as well as those of a few friends and family. And although I don’t think it truly affects my day, I certainly don’t mind an optimistic, positive thought or two.

So here’s something for you. I’ve used some cutting-edge technology to insert a personal forecast into this post for each individual who reads it. Hope yours works:

“Someone will show you unprecedented kindness today and, when they do, you’ll bottle it and sell it on a TV shopping channel. A food you eat will seem utterly delicious, reducing you to a quivering jelly. Look out for something black and gold. It might represent an exciting opportunity, or it could just be a volume of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Whichever it is, grasp it with both hands.”

There we are. As I said, just for you.

Back to the future?

Sometimes there can be virtue in going back to old ways of doing things.

For reasons too complicated to relate, I’m currently doing some design work in a software package I don’t usually use – Apple’s “Pages” application, a kind of competitor to “Word,” except that it’s actually not bad at all at handling layout tasks in addition to being a word processor.

I’ve used it before, but a long time ago, so was surprised to find that some of the things it used to do, it no longer does. When I Googled the issue, stacks of people have been grumbling about it. It certainly does seem peculiar for Apple (a company I love, in general) to be producing a new version of a software package that many regard as inferior to the old.

As ever, there’s a fix. But it involved scrabbling through a box of old software discs to retrieve my DVD copy of the application that came out in… 2009. Yup, I needed to go back in time eight years to do as I wished with the software. Then of course I had to find a way of installing the application from a DVD onto a Mac that doesn’t have a disc drive. Thankfully I got there in the end.

You may wonder why I’m telling you this. Are we suddenly turning Moodnudges into an IT advice site? Well, no. (Although you may be amused to hear that when I idly Googled “Macnudges” just now, the big G asked me if I meant McNuggets, bless its little algorithms. It obviously knows I’m hungry.)

No, my purpose in mentioning this is simply to ask you if there are maybe things you’re doing now that could be better for you, were you to revert to ways you’ve done them in the past? Ways, perhaps, that might have lifted your mood before, and could do again?

Perhaps, for example, you used to sit at the table to eat meals, but have drifted into eating on the couch as you watch TV? Plenty of people do, of course, but there’s a lot to be said for eating more mindfully, enjoying your food, and if there’s someone else around, actually engaging in conversation.

I use this purely as an illustration, but would gently encourage you to take stock today, with a view to re-instating some old routine you’ve enjoyed in the past, but no longer follow.

Unfortunately, almost without thinking, we sometimes adopt new styles of behaviour that are detrimental to our emotional well-being.

Fortunately, however, we can wind the clock back should we choose. Unlike software companies.

See if you can help me make sense of this.

Let’s play a little game. Let’s pretend you’re my therapist.

I’ll tell you what happened to me yesterday. Maybe you’ll be able to help me learn from it?

You see, I had the weirdest sensation when I woke up yesterday morning.

It was about 5:00AM, earlier than I’d usually be getting up – particularly at a weekend – so I figured I’d stay in bed for a while, reading and thinking.

What was peculiar then?

Well, for about ninety minutes I thought it was Sunday.

In my head, I was running through my schedule.

Sunday morning, talk to mum back in the UK. It’s the first Sunday in the month, so drive down to Mountain View to walk with Raj for a couple of hours. The usual Sunday chores. It’s the Superbowl, so probably watch that in the background.

Then – oh no! – it’s Sunday, and I forgot to write a Moodnudge yesterday, so it didn’t go out this morning.

What to do?

Well, better get up NOW and write.

And then it dawned on me.

Wait, what day is it?

It’s not Sunday, you idiot. It’s Saturday.

I think.

(I had to check my phone to make sure.)

So then, all kinds of thoughts and feelings went through my head.

Firstly, I was hugely relieved.

I hadn’t forgotten to write today’s post after all.

Even better than that, I was about to have a bonus day that I’d almost lost.

So then, looking for a reason, I tried to work out what had made me get my days muddled.

(I’m pretty sure it’s not senility, by the way. Well I hope it’s not.)

I’d spent Friday working in a much less-structured way, as I’m in the “making” phase of my new project, doing lots of design work, programming and writing.

And although it was Friday, that’s the kind of (fun) work I often only get to do on a Saturday, so maybe that’s what tricked my mind into imagining Saturday was actually Sunday.

But I think there’s something in here about “imagined realities,” which is probably bigger than my simple day-of-the-week mix-up.

Although I do have my own theories about it, I’d love to know what you think.

Head says No.

I already had other plans for this past Wednesday evening, so when a friend on the faculty at Stanford asked in the morning if I’d like to go to a basketball game in Oakland with her and 28 students, my head said No.

Fortunately my heart had other plans, which was why I found myself later that evening on the way across the Bay in a student-run expedition to watch the Golden State Warriors beat the Charlotte Hornets.

And what a splendid evening it was. My first-ever NBA basketball game, and my first-ever experience of being a kind of deputy chaperone for 28 Stanford freshmen (aka first-year students).

The game was great fun, particularly because “we” won.

Even better than that, though, was the unquestionable honour of being in the company of 28 bright, articulate, thoughtful young men and women.

None of this would have happened, of course, if I’d followed my head, which I so very nearly did.

I think that some of life’s best moments happen when you take the plunge, step out of your comfort zone, and do something a bit different.

You may not get offered a ticket to a top-flight basketball game today, but if someone suggests joining them in doing something that seems a bit different, why not look for chances to shake up your schedule?

Even if your head believes that accepting the invitation might put you through the hoops.

Stand by your burrows. It’s Groundhog Day tomorrow.

Tomorrow (2nd February) will be Groundhog Day in the USA when, ever since 1887, tradition has had it that if a groundhog emerges from its den and can see its own shadow – because it’s sunny – winter will persist for six more weeks.

But if it’s cloudy, that’s it: winter is supposedly over.

By the way, groundhogs are also known as woodchucks, and I wonder… How much wood could a groundhog chuck?

Anyway, in the 1993 comedy film Groundhog Day, Bill Murray plays an arrogant TV weatherman who, on location in Pennsylvania, finds himself in a time loop, doomed to repeat the same day over and over again, eventually ending up re-examining his life and priorities.

Of course, life’s not actually like that, because we live each day just once, without second chances.

And this means that however you’re doing today, you can take heart from the fact that you’ll only go through it once.

So if this is a rough patch for you, it’s OK, by this time tomorrow you’ll be able to check one more day off this period of despair.

You’ll be 24 hours closer to the light at the end of the burrow.

But what if you’re feeling good at the moment?

Well then this, surely, is a day to make the most of.

Today is a day like no other, which sounds like a fine reason to celebrate.