All posts by Jon Cousins

Make time for someone important.

Today I’d like you to do something for me please.

Actually I’d like you to do something for you. Yes, for yourself.

Sometime during the day (or tomorrow if you’re reading this in the evening) give yourself a treat.

It might be as simple as sitting down quietly with a cup of coffee for ten minutes.

It could be getting on the phone to a friend you’ve not spoken to in ages.

Spend half an hour playing with some kids.

Watch a favourite DVD. Listen to an album you love. Cook that thing you adore.

Dance. Run. Walk. Have a long, long soak in the bathtub.

You choose. But do it for you.

Because you do, absolutely do, deserve it.

Why it can pay to say “After you.”

It was the smallest of things.

After waiting for the bus yesterday, I stood back and let a couple of people on before me who’d arrived at the stop after I did.

It really was nothing.

But both smiled and said thank you, which made me feel good. A reminder that practising small random acts of kindness often benefits both receiver and giver.

Keep this in mind as you go about things today. OK, I know people won’t always react. But even if they don’t, you’ll know you did the right thing – and even just this can feel gently positive.

It doesn’t have to be much.

When I find myself in times of trouble.

We all have days when things don’t come together for some reason.

It may be because you lack oomph.

Or it could be that those around you seem cranky or uncaring.

But try as you may, you just know it’s going to be ‘one of those days’.

Most of us have responsibilities.

Things we have to do.

But beyond taking care of these essentials, it’s almost certainly better not to try and swim against the current.

What’s the point of beating yourself up, trying to make things happen today that almost certainly won’t?

Often these fogs don’t last.

Another day dawns and you’ll wake up feeling different.

Better.

So when you have your next below-par day, don’t fight it.

Just let it happen, because tomorrow’s another day, and all things must pass.

It only takes a few words to make someone’s day.

Maybe sometimes we need to receive a gift before we know how to give one?

On my way to a meeting, with lots on my mind, I bumped into one of my neighbours.

In exchanging a few quick words, she gave me a boost.

A boost which kept me smiling for much much longer than it took her to say them.

It’s easy to forget how much of a difference you can make to someone’s day with a few carefully chosen words.

And sometimes you need to experience getting the benefit before you remember to spread a little happiness yourself.

I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating one of my favourite little quotes: ‘Happiness is like jam. You can’t spread it without getting some on yourself.’

Spread a little today.

The roast lamb theory of happiness.

As a kid, lunch on Sunday was a cornerstone of our week.

Always a roast of some kind, with all the vegetables.

And a pudding (and how I miss that word, living in the USA now), usually with custard (and cream).

I can vividly recall the delicious smells drifting through the house in the morning, even the radio programmes that used to be on.

Now, I’m afraid I’ve very much got out of the habit of eating a lunch like this on a Sunday.

There can be something incredibly comforting and warming about this almost ritualistic meal.

I don’t think the feelgood factor associated with it is only restricted to food, though.

You can almost certainly experience it via any of your senses: listening to a nostalgic piece of music; watching a film that brings back memories; or even better, phoning an old friend.

For a sublime pick-me-up, why not plan to do something this week that will transport you back to another – perhaps happier – time?

Not sure what to say? Just listen instead.

After last Friday’s post about helping others to know what to say, I was reminded of some great advice from a friend.

Faced with someone feeling depressed, friends often remark ‘I just don’t know what to say to them’.

At its worst this can actually inhibit people getting in touch to offer support.

Because they’re anxious they won’t be able to find the ‘right words’, friends may choose not to get in contact.

But it’s important to remember that this is not the thought process of the person needing support.

Often there are no ‘right words’ and the situation can’t be made instantly better.

What really helps them is not advice, or being told what they ‘should’ do.

What they crucially need is the opportunity to express how they’re feeling and have someone there who is simply able to receive what they’re saying.

In this way their feelings are validated (given value).

In turn the person feels valued.

They get the message ‘I am worth listening to’.

Good listeners are few and far between.

If you can take time to really ‘hear’ the other person (rather than thinking what you’re going to say in response), you’ll be doing more good than all the advice in the world.

Just being there for someone is the most honourable service you can perform.

Great advice, I think.

Pass on the words you’d like to hear.

I think many people find it hard when it comes to expressing their emotions to others.

You only have to gaze around the aisles of a greeting card shop to get a feel for this.

It seems as though there’s a pre-printed message for just about any set of circumstances

New baby? There’s a card for that

Changing your job? One for that too

Passed an exam? Yep, there’s a card.

What about cards for people who are ill or sick?

Sure, there are Get Well cards, but these tend to be geared towards physical- rather than emotional-illness.

But this is a shame

There needs to be a ‘Sorry to hear you’re not feeling so great’ range of cards.

Of course you could always write a message like this in a blank card, but that seems to be rather flying in the face of the fact that loads of people buy the pre-messaged type of card because they really don’t know what to say.

And actually that’s probably a fairly good mirror of how people are in real life.

When someone’s down, so many just don’t know what to say.

You can break this cycle though.

If you’re the type of person who’s liable to periods of feeling bleak, you probably know the kind of things you’d like someone to say to you in a card.

It’s often enough to know that someone’s thinking of you.

So when you’re not low but someone else is, pop a card in the post.

Its message? Exactly the one you’d love to hear yourself.

Treat yourself as you would others.

All things considered, do you tend to think of yourself as a kind person?

I think most of us would probably see ourselves in this way.

But even the kindest person can sometimes behave in a very unkind way to someone in their life.

That person?

Themselves.

We sympathise with others, yet criticise ourselves.

We’re patient with others, impatient with ourselves.

Tolerant of others, unforgiving of ourselves.

So if you find yourself treating yourself unkindly today, please stop.

It’s not unreasonable to be kind to yourself, it really isn’t.

It’s only fair.

The bright side of darkness.

I wonder how often you stop to think that you do usually have a choice about the way you react to the events around you?

I heard from friends that the landlord of the flat they’ve happily rented for eight years needs them to move on.

He has good reasons, which they understand.

What’s interesting to me, though, is the way they’ve chosen to see this as a positive event.

Instead of thinking about the inevitable hassles heading their way, they’re looking at it as on opportunity to find somewhere new, with fresh possibilities.

You might just have a whole day today when not a single thing goes wrong, in which case congratulations

Truly.

But in the real world, things aren’t often like this.

You definitely do have the option to react to problems in the manner you choose, however.

So how about this?

How about experimenting today by looking for the positive side to life’s little snarl-ups?

Of course there won’t always be one.

But isn’t it worth at least looking?

Different people, different perspectives.

The other morning I talked through a business situation with a friend who knows me well, but who wasn’t all that familiar with the project in question.

And it struck me how very useful it can be to get some fresh insight into your own thinking.

I think we all tend to confide in the same, probably small, group of people – which can mean we tend to get the same views most of the time.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to have people around you who know the full story.

But it can also be incredibly helpful to get someone else’s take on things.