Monthly Archives: March 2017

I wuv you wobot

You may have already seen this short (35 seconds) video, as it’s rapidly going ever so slightly viral.

In it, a little girl named Rayna comes across a discarded water heater in the street and thinks it’s a robot, or — as she puts it — a wobot.

Actually, I don’t know about you, but I agree with Rayna that the water heater does indeed have the look of a wobot about it.

Anyway, “Hi wobot,” she says as she stands in front of the forlorn-looking appliance.

Then she hugs it, and warms it up with a, “I wuv you wobot.”

If you haven’t already seen the video, be my guest.

And if you did already see it, well, you could do a lot worse than watch it again.

Then, and here’s the important bit, please share it with someone YOU wuv.

The world’s always a bit better when there’s wuv in the air.

Don’t you agree?

Bring me sunshine. Please.

Frankly, for most of the year so far, it hasn’t exactly been Sunny California around these parts. It’s been one heck of a wet winter and, despite its official arrival, spring doesn’t seem to have sprung yet.

Patience is a virtue, it seems.

The thing is, though, for virtually all of its ninety-three million mile journey towards Earth, the sun is shining. It doesn’t know how to do anything else other than produce heat and light, day and night.

Oh yes, and act as the hub of our solar system, keeping our planet and its neighbours in their proper orbits. But you get my point, I hope.

The dependable nature of sunshine is evident when you travel by air. Whatever the weather when you take off, during daylight hours it won’t be long before you’re high enough for the sky to turn crystal blue.

So what is it that stops the sun shining all the time here on Earth? Well in most parts of the world, it’s a relatively thin layer of cloud which gets in the way.

Ninety-three million miles of unimpeded sunlight, then it all gets blotted out in the final twelve or so.

A metaphor for the way life affects our moods perhaps?

Talking to someone who generally has a sunny disposition might make you realise that a lot of their life is not that different from yours.

Often it can be no more than one or two things which get in the way of your day being good.

And not always, but sometimes, it takes just a few tweaks to make everything quite a bit better than it might otherwise have been.

A day for tweaking, perhaps? Let’s all tweak together, then.

On the menu today.

When you go out to a restaurant, what sort of decision-maker are you?

Some people delight in studying every line of the menu, cooking up a mental picture of each dish on it.

I’m afraid I fall into the other camp, which generally involves pointing at the first item that comes into focus.

The thing is, we generally expect to be offered a choice in a restaurant.

Mind you, I can recall several spectacular meals when I’ve left the decision to the waiter or chef. If you’re brave enough to do it, and the establishment is brave enough to let you, you may just end up with something delectable.

My point today, however, isn’t really about letting go of the decision-making process. It’s more to do with the idea of choice itself, which I reckon can apply to the way you decide to think about your everyday life, just as much as it does to the way you select what to order in a restaurant.

So why do we, all too often, act as though there’s a single solitary way of viewing everything life throws at us?

More often than not, you do actually have the power to choose your reaction.

Perhaps that’s something to bear in mind the next time something untoward happens.

Pass the emotional menu, please.

Get out there.

After an appointment in San Francisco on Monday to have my fingerprints taken (don’t worry, I’m not being investigated by the FBI, it was only for visa purposes) I decided to walk the couple of miles from the immigration services office to the railway station.

I took the “scenic” route along the Embarcadero, as it skirts the bay, passing under the thundering traffic of the Bay Bridge.

It seemed a heck (hike?) of a way but it was a really good thing to have done.

It gave me a chance to gather my thoughts, and to be grateful for my move to the US.

Just as important, it was a useful bit of exercise.

Keeping yourself active is enormously important.

Of course it helps with your physical health, but it can also give your mood that all-important boost.

We all know that getting exercise is good for us.

But it may be a mistake to use the excuse that we’ll get this workout when we go swimming, or the gym.

This will (probably) be another day, and it’s actually important to keep yourself active every day.

And this inevitably means today.

So what can you do in the next twenty-four hours to add some exercise to your life?

Keep your ambitions modest.

A walk’s fine.

But don’t leave it.

Get active today.

Even if it’s just a little.

It’s A Hap-Hap-Happy Day.

A very happy International Day of Happiness to you.

Each year since 2013, our fine friends at Action for Happiness have orchestrated this special day, always held on March 20th.

For the first time in its brief history, March 20th is a Monday, but I’m sure the campaign will take defeating that “Monday morning feeling” in its stride.

After all, it’s a day mandated by an official United Nations resolution, no less.

Here’s the day’s official website.

Mark Williamson is Director of Action for Happiness, and a very nice man. Here’s what he says: “The International Day of Happiness is more than just a fun celebration, it also reminds us all that the world is a better place when we connect with, and care about, the people around us.”

Of course, there will be all sorts of organised events today around the world, marking the Day of Happiness, but I’d urge you to stage your own “guerilla” actions. Operate under the radar. Ruthlessly steal the idea. Become an undercover happiness agent.

Your mission? To act as Mark suggests above.

Connect like crazy today, and care like there’s no tomorrow. Deliberately make contact with more people today than you might usually do.

And you know what? I think if we all do this, the world might just get a little happier.

Best of all, when you connect, when you show you care – guess what? – it’s not just the person you connect with, YOU become happier, too.

I’m sure the United Nations won’t mind if you “borrow” a bit of their happiness.

I won’t tell them if you don’t.

Finally, here’s my unofficial suggestion for a theme tune.

You really can’t beat Arthur Askey.

Selfishness.

It sometimes it may feel as if 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 much worse examples yourself.

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 big part in overall mental wellbeing.

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

And I suspect the reverse is equally true.

Those who behave selfishly end up with lower moods.

I also reckon that just occasionally our good manners can rub off on those who have lower standards when it comes to thoughtfulness.

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

Why not give it a try today?

Progress report, and (yet) another research questionnaire.

After collecting such helpful feedback from our experiment with “customised audio mood nudges” last weekend, I figured it might be good to give you a quick update on where we’re at, and what’s happening next. Hint: there’s another questionnaire to complete.

https://uptalk.typeform.com/to/yhzXfQ

There were a ton of great comments but, broadly speaking, the idea of actually hearing the nudges rather than reading them went down well. My voice seemed to come across as calming and reassuring. And there was definitely a sense that people liked the idea of nudges that picked up on particular aspects of their emotional well-being – i.e. happy, sad, angry, or anxious.

One particular challenge I face with an idea like this, however, is determining what scores mean that someone is A-OK, and which suggest there’s trouble at t’mill.

In other words, one person may regard a particular score as being good, while someone else could see that exact same score as representing an off day.

Thanks to the several readers who made this point to me.

It’s pretty clear that the only sensible way to tackle this is for the feedback system to learn more about an individual taking the test, so it can compare their daily scores with a picture of what’s good or bad for that person.

I’d love to start thinking about this by asking you to complete another of our questionnaires, please. As ever, it’s anonymous.

https://uptalk.typeform.com/to/yhzXfQ

This time, I’d like you to please rate yourself twice for the same 12 emotions, once imagining yourself on a good day, then again visualising yourself on a bad day. Full details are in the questionnaire itself.

Once I’ve gathered everyone’s answers, I’ll certainly pass on the findings to you. I’m pretty sure they’ll be illuminating. We generally discover fascinating stuff with these kinds of experiments.

Thanks once again for your tireless help, and Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

https://uptalk.typeform.com/to/yhzXfQ

The right stuff.

What went wrong?

When things don’t go to plan, we want to know why, and this applies to moods just as much as it does to missions.

When you’re down, it’s understandable to believe that there must be a cause or reason (even though there isn’t always one — sometimes low mood can just strike of its own accord).

But there’s a different sort of question which we don’t ask nearly enough: what went right?

If you have a day on which you feel better than usual, it really makes sense to try and pin down why.

This time you may be more likely to succeed.

Good moods are often inspired by something, or a collection of things.

Feeling good isn’t simply the absence of bad — it actually needs to be the presence of good.

Of course it helps to know what might take you down so you can avoid it, but it’s just as useful to know what may take you up.

So you can do more of it.

The verdict on customised audio mood nudges. It’s a yes.

Well, well.

Yesterday was fascinating. I know not everyone gets to their Moodnudges email on Sundays but, despite that, what a gratifying response to the experimental “personalised audio mood nudge” system I invited you to try out:

https://uptalk.typeform.com/to/aaoQsu

There’s already a ton of thoughtful comments on the blog, and overall it seems there’s a lot of enthusiasm for an emotion-rating system that can (a) form a reasonably clear idea of how you’re doing, and what might be getting to you (are you feeling low, or anxious, or angry?), then (b) go on to give you some practical feedback in audio form (my voice).

If you didn’t get a chance to experiment with the system yesterday, please do feel free to play with it today, via the link below. It’s fine, by the way, for you to complete the questionnaire multiple times, varying your answers so you get to hear some of the other recordings.

https://uptalk.typeform.com/to/aaoQsu

OK, so what happens next? Well, I was enormously motivated by the upbeat and helpful feedback I received yesterday, so I’m mulling things over.

I’m pretty certain there will be more of this kind of thing coming your way soon.

Watch this space, therefore, as they say.

A huge thank you to our big-hearted community (that means you) for the enthusiasm and encouragement. I definitely feel the love.

If you do try out the gizmo today and want to tell me, and other readers, what you think of it, please add a comment to yesterday’s thread so we can keep the conversation in one place.

Here’s the link:

Another experiment, but with a serious health warning.

Thanks again.

Another experiment, but with a serious health warning.

Happy Sunday, I hope.

Here in the US, however, the clocks spring forward this morning, so it’ll be an earlier start for those of us on this side of the pond.

Now, I’d like to invite you to participate in another of my experiments, although this one does come with a major health warning.

Please tread carefully, particularly if your mood may be fragile at the moment.

You see, I’ve been thinking long and hard about a way to give much more customised feedback to someone after they’ve rated their emotional health, and I’m specially interested in how this might work in audio form, rather than as words on a page.

I’ve therefore assembled a VERY early prototype of such a system, somewhat held together with rubber bands and sticky tape.

If you’re keen to try it out and – really importantly – can accept that it’s quite possible it could give you feedback that’s not correct, I’d love you to have a play with it.

One particular word of warning is that it’s highly sensitive at the moment, so it could – for example – tell you that you’re anxious even if you only have a terribly mild case of butterflies.

Or it might classify your mood as low when you simply haven’t had your coffee yet.

With these provisos, please feel free to play with the system. Maybe do it a first time with your real answers, then again with made-up (and perhaps more extreme) responses to get an idea of how different answers might generate different feedback.

And I’d truly encourage you to use the Comments section on the blog to share your thoughts. All feedback will be most gratefully received.

So, as long as you please take care, please click here to begin.

Thank you. My fingers are crossed.