‘I’m late! I’m late! For a very important date!’
Remember the White Rabbit in the Disney version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland?
A busy bunny, he was anything but calm.
Racing around, he was never going to get much done beyond looking (and I’m sure feeling) stressed.
It can be easy to get yourself into a similarly harassed state of mind when you’ve too much to do.
And let’s face it most of us have.
You get in a tizz, becoming so anxious about all you have to do that you don’t actually get anything done at all.
A possible solution?
Well you’re almost certainly not going to get through everything, but wouldn’t it make sense to knock off at least one or two items?
Give yourself a small and achievable target to tackle.
Get one job done by a fixed time.
Once the first piece is in place, the remainder of the jigsaw may not seem so formidable.
I’m sure we’ve all heard the stories about ordinary humans behaving in extraordinary ways in emergencies.
The tiny-framed mother who lifts a huge weight to release her trapped child, for instance.
Although this may be a bit extreme, I think we’re all stronger than we sometimes believe.
I remember starting a day feeling really quite low, doing little more than going through the motions as the morning proceeded.
But when an important meeting began, a switch suddenly tripped and I’m sure I gave the impression of firing on all cylinders.
The thing is, it wasn’t an illusion, it was genuinely happening.
And it wasn’t just me.
I’m sure you’ll have experienced something similar at times.
I think it’s all too easy to begin a day feeling low, then to basically resign yourself to it being that way until you go to bed.
But it doesn’t have to be.
Although it’s not always possible, you can often be prised out of your shell.
Particularly if circumstances dictate it, and you’re open to it happening.
What’s important is to get to know what could trigger you feeling better, and to not say no if someone suggests doing it – even when you’re almost certainly not immediately in the mood.
You don’t need to be a psychologist to recognise that having contact with other people is good for you.
At heart we’re social animals.
We thrive in the company of others.
The trouble is, we don’t always have the opportunity to be around other people every day.
(I know there will be some for whom even a moment of solitude and peace is a distant dream, but having recognised this, it’s possible to feel lonely even in the midst of other people – even surrounded by those you know well.)
Knowing now important social contact can be, it’s definitely worth remembering the principle that ‘every little counts’.
Walking along briskly the other day, an older lady stepped from the road onto the sidewalk in front of me and for the briefest of moments we did that thing where you try and avoid each other, but both end up going the same way.
In that tiny time we smiled at each other and gave a little chuckle.
No words were exchanged but it was a rewarding brief encounter.
Maybe you’ll be stuck at home all day, in which case a short phone call may have to do it for you.
But if you’re out and about, see if you can engineer one or two of these little, momentary interactions.
They keep you smiling long after they happen.
What went wrong?
We’re all used to the idea that when things aren’t going to plan, everyone wants to know why.
And this applies to moods just as much as it does to missions.
When you’re down, it’s natural to believe there’s some cause or reason (even though there isn’t always one – a low mood can sometimes just strike of its own accord).
But there’s another question we don’t often ask.
What went right?
If you have a day on which you feel better than usual, it makes a lot of sense to try and pin down why.
This time you’re more likely to succeed.
Good moods are very often inspired by something, or perhaps 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 can bring you down so you can avoid it, but it’s just as useful to know what could take you up.
Then you can do more of it.
Some people seem to like nothing more than dishing out advice.
Left, right and centre.
They’ll tell you that, if they were you, they’d do X or Y.
Whether you want to know what they think or not, they’re hell-bent on telling you.
This can be particularly (massively) trying if their advice is intended to make you feel better when you’re down.
The thing is, they’re not you.
So how can they possibly counsel you on what you should or shouldn’t do?
The temptation of course is to shut your ears to them.
But what if they’re just slightly, microscopically, right?
The chances are that they mean no malice.
They really do want to help.
They’re simply seeing things from a different perspective.
Maybe, though, the view is a clearer one from where they’re standing?
It doesn’t hurt to listen.
In fact it may pay you to do so.
If nothing else, look for the thinking and motivation that went behind their advice, even if the suggestion itself seems pointless.
It may just help.
The other day I had the TV news running on my laptop nearly all day.
It was busy news-wise, with fresh details emerging all the time.
In fact it was hard not to get dragged into it all, and very distracting in fact.
However whilst it seemed interesting at the time, it was all stuff over which I had no influence.
It was all going to happen whether or not I was watching, and at the end of the day I think it was actually a major drain on my energy and attention.
It’s easy to get distracted by this kind of thing, and end up losing focus on the important things in life.
I’m sure it’s important to know (a little) about the bigger picture but it definitely doesn’t make sense to start worrying about things that are way outside your own world.
Does that make you selfish?
I don’t think so.
On a similar note, let me draw your attention to a nice article to which I was alerted by Moodnudges reader, Damian Smith.
Damian, by the way, is training for the extraordinary Marathon des Sables next year (basically six back-to-back marathons in seven days across the Sahara Desert).
Details of that here:
Anyway, Damian points you and I to this piece by Victoria Coren Mitchell in The Guardian, full of amusing and helpful “things to think about when you don’t want to think about what you’re thinking about.”
Thanks Damian (and good luck). Thanks Victoria. And thank you for reading today.
At the risk of appearing a little maudlin, there will almost certainly come a time in my life and yours when we’ll wish we could have had just one more day.
And yet if you’re like me, there are days that drift by.
Days when not a great deal happens.
Days you’d struggle to remember much about.
But what would happen if you began that day with the view that it was a gift?
A bonus day when just about anything could happen?
A day to remember.
Of course there are occasions when we all need time out to recover and rest.
But if you’re not in this exhausted state and you’ve got at least some energy to spare, maybe it’s time to seize the day and do something rewarding, something to be grateful for, as the rest of the week unfolds.
You know what to do.
More often than not, knowing that someone’s thinking of you results in a warm feeling.
But it works in reverse too.
Letting others know that they’re in your thoughts can also make you feel good yourself.
Not so long ago you’d have needed to do this via a phone call, or perhaps with a greetings card stamped and mailed.
Now, however, it’s ridiculously easy, economical and speedy to send an electronic message.
A text message.
A tweet or a Facebook message.
How long would it take you today to send a very simple ‘Just wanted to let you know I’m thinking about you’ to three friends or relatives you’ve not been in touch with for a while?
Not long, I’m thinking.
So how about it?
Make their day.
Martin Seligman is an unusual psychologist.
He’s also a highly esteemed one.
What makes him pretty unique is that he was one of the first of his profession to conclude that there was a lot of sense in psychologists looking at ways in which people could be happier, rather than simply focusing (as had been the case for scores of years previously) on the psychology of ill-health and unhappiness.
Don’t just look at why things go wrong, he reasoned.
Let’s also examine why things go well for people, so you and I can learn from them.
Professor Seligman has identified three distinct components of happiness: The Pleasant Life (a glass of wine); The Good Life (work, romance, hobbies); and The Meaningful Life (using your personal strengths in the service of something bigger than you – in your community for example).
Of those three approaches, Martin Seligman suggests that it’s the third which gives us the most long-term joy.
Filling your life with more transitory pleasures means that, before long, you’ll be asking yourself ‘Is this all there is?’
We all want to feel we matter and that we can make a difference.
So which parts of your life fall into this meaningful category?
Is there a way in which you could do more?
It’s worth thinking about, isn’t it?
You have good times.
You have bad times.
They can come and go like the seasons, like tides, or like day and night.
But their inevitability doesn’t necessarily make you better prepared to deal with the lows.
When they come (as I’m afraid they may) it’s easy to assume a low opinion of yourself.
Thinking such thoughts about someone else would almost certainly label you as heartless or cruel, so why do you think them about yourself?
Why do you (and I) get so self-critical?
Next time you find yourself adrift in a sea of glumness, you won’t find it difficult to make a list of everything you dislike about yourself.
It’ll be harder but infinitely more rewarding to remember what you like about yourself.
It’s not being selfish, it’s simply redressing the balance.
Just complete this sentence: The things I like about myself are…