Category Archives: Acceptance

It’s here. The new book’s cover.

Five weeks ago many hundreds of Moodnudges readers were generous enough to vote on possible cover concepts for Nudge Your Way To Happiness, the forthcoming book.

The idea that garnered most support showed three weather symbols, progressing from a rainy day to a sunny one, so this was the one which has gone on to be refined and polished.

A huge and heartfelt thank you to everyone who had their say, and commiserations to those who favoured the alternatives, one of which could well appear on a possible Nudge Your Way to Happiness 2.

(I know, I know, let’s get the first one out first.)

Anyway, I’m delighted to say that when a printed and bound proof of the book arrived at Moodnudges HQ a few days ago, I was absolutely certain the right choice had been made made.

It’s looking super.

Here’s a picture, (appropriately) outside in the Californian sun:


Lots of people are asking about the publication date, and although I can’t give you a precise one, I can tell you it’s getting tantalisingly close.

We’ve given the proof a final, final check and I’m incredibly near to being able to give the printers the green light.

Compared to blogging (and writing emails like this one) book publishing is a much slower process, but in a world where nothing’s supposed to take more than five minutes, I find this gently reassuring, somehow.

A reminder to us both, perhaps, that now and then it’s good to take your time.

Once a lightbulb, always a lightbulb

There’s that old joke, isn’t there, about how many therapists it takes to change a lightbulb: the answer being one – but the lightbulb has got to really want to change.


Perhaps it’s true that many who go into therapy do so in the hope that they’ll change as a result.

Maybe there’s something about themselves, or their life, that they don’t really like, and there’s a feeling that working with a professional will help them instigate change.

Nothing inherently wrong with that, I guess.

There can be times in life when we all need help and encouragement to move things on a bit.

Could it be, however, that there’s the danger of adopting an all-or-nothing mindset which drives us to assume that nothing can change unless everything does?

That, say, we can never be a satisfied caterpillar until we metamorphose into a butterfly?

Big earth-shattering changes such as these are generally thin on the ground in a lifetime.

When people do move on, it’s more often than not a slow-and-steady process rather than an overnight transition.

Knowing this, I wonder if it makes sense for us to place a little more emphasis upon being comfortable with who we are, rather than uncomfortable with who we’re not?

I suspect that this time tomorrow you’ll still be pretty much the person you are today, so it’s maybe a better use of the next 24 hours to look for reasons to feel good about yourself than it is to while away the time pining for changes which may be out of your reach.

You know what?

Sometimes the lightbulb may be reasonably happy as it is, thank you very much.

Just between you and me, I’m never going to win a Nobel prize.

Imagine if you will a graph whose horizontal axis represents your life.

On the left, the day you were born, on the extreme right, your last day here on planet Earth – a long time in the future, we all hope.

Let’s now add a vertical axis which indicates the likelihood of you winning a Nobel Prize.

I know, I know, but just bear with me on this one please.


Back at that y-axis, its lower end represents no chance, while its upper stands for ‘quite a big probability, actually’.

Finally, let’s add the data – a line representing the way your Nobel Prize chances vary through your life.

Now, it’s said that children are born with infinite potential, and while you could pick holes in this principle along the lines of nature and nurture probably having a say in a youngster’s opportunities, it may well have been the case that if things had panned out differently it might have been you getting that magic phone call later on today.

For those who do actually go on to become Nobel Laureates, the line would rise over time as their work leads them towards recognition, then perhaps steadily fall away as they head into retirement.

For the likes of you and me, however, the graph (being generous to ourselves) might go from high at the left end, to zero at the right.

If you’re not currently engaged in cutting edge research in Chemistry, Physics or Medicine, nor do you pass your days brokering important Peace deals, it is (and I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s the truth) rather unlikely that you’ll be picking up a Nobel Prize.

Hoping without due reason that you might would be a rather extreme example of wanting to be something that you’re not.

But I think we can all be inclined, at times, to feel dissatisfied with our lot: to believe that if things were somehow very different, we’d be fifty times happier, say.

It’s true, big changes are sometimes possible but, more often than not, tomorrow is likely to be only marginally different from today.

So maybe it makes sense, if necessary, to shrug your shoulders and be comfortable with who you are.

I’ll go first if you like: I’m Jon Cousins and I’m never going to win a Nobel Prize.

(The closest I’ll ever get is that Carmelo, who cuts my hair at Stanford University, has also tended the locks of Nobel laureates.)


The comfort of being comfortable with who you are

Have you ever wished that someone you knew could have changed a bit?

Perhaps you viewed a friend as selfish, loud or thoughtless?

If only you could have changed them.


Or maybe you had a boss who was bombastic, over-critical or blind to your efforts?

If only they’d have behaved differently.

Often, however, people are who they are.

Much as we may wish they weren’t, they’re probably pretty set in their ways and, as is said, leopards rarely change their spots.

What’s funny, however, is that although we may recognise how unlikely it is that others will suddenly adopt radically new ways of being, we may tend to wish we ourselves could be different.

I’m sure you and I do have the power to change our ways in some areas, and in fact self-belief in this respect seems to play a big part in giving us the confidence that we can overcome periods of low mood.

But I’m sure there’s also much to be said for accepting that to some extent we are who we are, and there’s probably value in being comfortable with that.

For instance I think I’m a little overweight, with a build that might be charitably described as not very athletic.

It’s true that I can continue my current efforts to shed a few pounds, but because I’m notoriously unsporty, my physique is likely to remain much as it is.

Emotionally I tend to be affected greatly by the moods of those around me. My own moods wax and wane.

How much can I change this?

More importantly, how much should I want to change this?

Underneath it all, some of this makes me the man I am – so perhaps this is something to embrace rather than to wish it was somehow otherwise?

Maybe we can both be a bit more comfortable with who we are.

It pays to know who you are

Q – What did the 19th century Parisian newspaper correspondent ask when he wanted to know if the author of ‘Les Miserables’ and ‘The Hunchback of Notre-Dame’ was at a party?

A – ‘Hugo’s there?’

Puns aside, ‘Who goes there?’ is what sentries demand when they hear the approach of some unidentified, possibly hostile, individual.


Faced with such a challenge from behind a loaded gun, now possibly isn’t the best time for the approaching person to start asking themselves who they really are.

(I mean, who AM I?)

Better, perhaps, to announce that you are the King’s messenger and that you come in peace (or words to that effect).

Of course, it’s not always that straightforward to answer the ‘who are you’ question.

You’re someone’s son or daughter, you may be a brother or sister, you’re somebody’s neighbour, you could be an employee or a boss.

I think you’re also what you stand for, and what you believe in.

Whoever you are, however, be comfortable with it if you can.

Life has made you this way, and although some change may be possible, your component parts are pretty firmly in place.

(Well I hope so, anyway.)

Four simple steps to get us through rough patches

I don’t know about you, but I generally like structure. Especially in challenging times when it feels like the world is spinning or like I’m wandering through a fog. Having a simple set of guidelines to follow in these times has been a great help to me. Of course it’s also fun to be spontaneous and break routine now and then, but for the most part having a structure to rely on can be solidly reassuring.

I thought you might like to know what I’ve found helpful, in case you find yourself in a tough moment and need a bit of a hand getting through it. We’ve all been there!


This particular structure comes from a book I highly recommend: The Reality Slap by Russ Harris. He’s a legend in the field of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, a methodology my therapist introduced to me that involves mindfulness practices and living by your values.

Here are the lessons I memorized from Russ’ book, which I turn to whenever I need perspective and strength:

1. Hold yourself gently. The very first thing to do is to realize you’re having a hard time. Give yourself some love, kindness, and empathy. Pretend that you’re comforting a friend in a similar situation, or that someone who you can depend on is really taking care of you. Try to soften and not be too hard on yourself, remembering that everyone goes through difficult times. We’re all human, we all mess up, and we all feel intense emotions. It’s ok to be gentle sometimes.

2. Get grounded. The second step involves getting back into your body. Take some deep breaths and sit up straight. Go outside and lie down on the warm grass, feeling the ground supporting you. Imagine you’re a tree with roots anchoring you to the ground and branches lifting up towards the sky. Our bodies have great wisdom, and tapping into this before deciding what to do can often be balancing and help provide perspective.

3. Take a stand. The third step is remembering to live by our values instead of our emotions. When we act or say things impulsively out of anger, fear, or hurt, we tend to think small and might end up making things worse for ourselves. I like to write things down when I feel a strong emotion, and then come back to what I’ve written later on with a calmer mind to see how to best approach the issue. Look at the bigger picture, decide on a course of action based on what you value, and stick to it.

4. Find the treasure. The Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh says, “the conditions for happiness and peace can be found in every moment.” This doesn’t mean we go around smiling blissfully all the time, definitely. But there’s usually one tiny thing you can be grateful for even in the midst of the greatest suffering. Seeing a flower bursting into bloom. Curling up under a comfy blanket. Having a warm cup of tea. Even the tiniest bit of enjoyment can help.

And the final thought that I turn to after going through this process comes from Robert Frost’s inspiring words, “The best way out is always through.” I will get through this, easier times are coming.

You will get through this. Easier times are coming.

For now, be gentle, breathe, live by what you value, and look for little things to enjoy.

With love,
Alex 🙂

The power of adjusting expectations

This is a trick I definitely wish I had learned when I was younger.

It’s such a simple idea, but so powerful in helping life run just a bit more smoothly.

Simply stated, have different expectations for your day depending on what’s happening in and around you.


Here are a few examples to better illustrate the idea:

1. If you wake up with a migraine, you might not want to push yourself to do all 50 things on your task list and go to all the meetings you had planned. Gently adjusting your expectations here might mean working from home, or even just resting and healing in a dark room until you can fire on all cylinders again.

2. If your best friend (or parent, or spouse, or child) is going through a hard time emotionally, you might need to expect that they’re not going to be as available to be present and supportive for you. This is a time to dial up your self-care activities, like cooking healthy food, moving your body, and finding other ways to connect that feel safe and nourishing. Keep yourself strong and balanced so you can either help them recover, or at least be patient until they’ve come through the storm.

3. If you have pressing deadlines to meet at work, you’ll probably want to communicate that to people who either live with you or are closest to you. Adjusting expectations here could be the difference between maintaining harmonious relationships and finding yourselves on the rocks. I might say something like, “I love you tremendously, and I want you to know that the next [month] at work will be very busy. It might feel like I’m farther away for a while, but I’m always holding you tightly in my heart, and the busy time will pass. Let’s think up some ways we can stay connected during this period, and also some fun things we can look forward to doing together after it’s over.”

Having different sets of expectations like this can make it easier to be just that little bit more understanding, patient, and kind. To ourselves and others.

If we all practiced this, wouldn’t it make the world a more loving and peaceful place? In any kind of weather?

With love as always,

Why is it so easy to dwell on your weaknesses?

Oh dear. Here are seven things I do really badly:

1. I’m hopeless at remembering numbers. I can’t even hold a phone number in my head if it’s written down in front of me, instead needing to tap it into my phone by looking at it one digit at a time.

2. Even if you paid me a million dollars, I couldn’t draw a portrait of you. Although I think I can draw to get my point across, I have zero talent for recording likenesses.


3. I generally take far too long to finish jobs. I often put more into them than might be justified: I’m a bit of a perfectionist.

4. I put off dealing with important issues – healthcare stuff, for instance – somehow believing they’ll take care of themselves.

5. When I listen to music (and I love listening to music) I rarely take in the lyrics. I’m good at recognising tunes, awful at identifying a song by its words.

6. I’m a down-and-out failure at all sports, with no interest in either taking part or spectating.

7. I nearly always struggle to know if I should use ‘effect’ or ‘affect’.

Actually it would be disturbingly easy for me to write a much longer list than this, but perhaps I should stop there.

The thing is, I’m sure I’m not alone in having weaknesses and flaws. I’m guessing you could probably build a reasonable list of your own.

But although there may be value in appreciating your limitations (I can’t speak Mandarin, for example) isn’t it better by far to focus on your strengths and aptitudes? (People say I’m pretty creative.) If you and I think about it, I’m sure there’s loads of stuff we can’t do, and I’m sure it’s easier to compile lists like this if you’re feeling low than it is when you’re more upbeat.

Doesn’t it seem sensible to accept your weaknesses and limitations? Embrace them a little, even, perhaps. And doesn’t it make even more sense to recognise and celebrate your strengths?

Do this, and who knows what effect it’ll have on your day.

Yep, that’s ‘effect’ and not ‘affect’.

At least I think it is.

How forgiving yourself can help everyone around you

I have a confession to make. I’m not generally an angry person, and I don’t tend to hold grudges, but I do sometimes momentarily snap at people.

It’s usually in response to one of three main triggers: fear of abandonment, fear of being late, or fear of someone being angry with me if I don’t meet expectations. Maybe those are all the same fear, actually.

It does seem to depend a bit on what day of my monthly hormonal cycle I’m at, how much sleep I’ve had, and how much background stress is around me.

But I’m not proud of it.

The other day I snapped at Jon, when he was feeling low, and the next morning my WellBee score plummeted from its relatively stable 70-80 range down to 19. I felt guilty, angry at myself, afraid, and miserable.


The thing is, I’m sure we’ve all had moments like this. We’re only human, after all. And as worthwhile as it is to keep trying hard to learn and improve and open our hearts more, sometimes we’re going to crash and burn. I think this might even *need* to happen sometimes, to make space for a new understanding or opportunity to emerge.

A couple of days after the snap, I realized there wasn’t much point in beating myself up – that would only make things worse for everyone. I started forgiving, softening, being gentle with myself, and that helped me be softer and more gentle with people around me too. Being kind to ourselves has a ripple effect, and ends up helping everyone. Maybe even the world!

So here’s my little nudge for you: if you find yourself locked in a self-critical pattern today, maybe just try to find a tiny bit of soft forgiveness to wrap around your tender heart. It might not help immediately, but cultivating that feeling of gentleness will eventually help us grow beautiful blooms of hope and love, for ourselves and for others.

I know I feel a warm loving heart when I think of you reading this – a moment of connection in both of our days. Thank you for listening, and please share your experience if you feel so inspired.


Mood management, not mood control

We may imagine, perhaps a little glibly, how wonderful it would be to have the ability to control our moods, to create happiness at the press of a button, as it were.

Why would we sit wishing the world would go away, when a simple adjustment could magically make everything better?


But although mood control might sound idyllic, substitute ‘mind’ for ‘mood’ and you get an altogether different picture. Quite literally, because if you search Google Images for ‘mind control’ it’s all dizziness-inducing hypnotic spirals and conspiracy theory websites.

Mood control might just be one of those things we should be careful about wishing for.

Would you truly want to be so controlled that you’d be immune to spontaneous bursts of pure joy?

Would you want to be unable to respond entirely humanly to events of great sadness?

Would you want to forego the right to shed a few tears at the movies?

Would you really want to live your life like Mr Spock?

Probably not.

Control, however, is a very different thing from management. Perhaps therefore the most you might hope for is learning to manage your moods, making the most of occasionally feeling fantastic, and accepting with good grace the sadness that quite legitimately accompanies life’s less positive happenings.

Unless of course you happen to be half-Vulcan, and have pointy ears.