Category Archives: Connect

Random Acts of Kindness Day

I’d love to claim credit for having planned it this way, but the fact that the final day of our Signpost trial happens to have fallen on Random Acts of Kindness Day is – appropriately – entirely random.

Two weeks after we started this journey, we end it by being encouraged to do something unexpectedly kind for someone, perhaps anonymously.

I’ll be in touch with everyone who has taken part in the trial, with a link to a short survey that will enable me to gather overall feedback, but right now, perhaps you have thoughts about today’s message specifically? Do, please, share away.

I’m in the forest

Something a little different for our daily Signpost catch-up today, as you’ll find me amidst the redwood trees in Huddart Park, near Woodside, California.

It seemed a good opportunity to remind us both of the emotional well-being benefits of getting out in nature, so – microphone in hand – off to the forest I went.

Maybe you’ve experienced moments of feeling great, out in nature? Why not share your story?

Valentine’s Day: it’s not always easy

Valentine’s Day isn’t always the easiest of days, particularly if you happen to be going through a tricky time. For a celebration that’s supposed to be all about love and connection, some can actually find it difficult and lonely.

Today on Signpost we’ve talked through some strategies that could help, but it’s definitely not a one-size-fits-all issue. What do you think about Valentine’s Day? Do you embrace it, or try to escape it?

Let’s share thoughts.


Shrove Tuesday – pancakes with a dash of self-examination

March 13th is Shrove Tuesday, and Mardi Gras. In the UK this means pancakes, while in the USA Mardi Gras is a time to make merry. Any excuse.

Actually, though, some religions view the day as a special time for self-examination, so perhaps this is a good time to look a little deeper inside yourself, being careful of course to avoid rumination.

Neuroscientist and mindfulness expert Dr. Daniel Siegel recommends a strategy he calls COAL (Curious, Open, Accepting, and Loving) to keep things on track.

So where will self-exploration take you today? What are you thinking about Signpost?

And, anyone for pancakes? [Yes please. Ed.]

Please feel free to add to the conversation.

February 11th – National Inventors’ Day, and curiosity

Today sees the start of another Signpost experiment, when I’ll be producing the recorded signposts just about as close to live as is possible. There’s also now the possibility of seeing what others feel about the day’s content, and contributing your own thoughts if you like.

Today is National Inventors’ Day in the USA, the anniversary of the birth of Thomas Edison, a man who knew a thing or two about the power of curiosity – the central theme of today’s signposts.

Please feel free to add to the conversation. No rules. We’re making this up as we go!

Pointing in the right direction again

Enormous thanks for your patience, which has allowed me the space today to (a) properly work out what had gone wrong with Signpost, (b) put it right, and (c) introduce a few new surprises that I hope you’ll enjoy.

As this email is going out, I’m reinstating the text reminder system, so your usual messages should start appearing again soon (unless, of course, you’d previously asked me to stop them).

As I suspected, the feedback had got pretty messed up, with lots of “angry” conclusions drawn where they shouldn’t have been. Things should be a lot better now.

One small but important change is that the 11th question when you check in, which asks about your overall emotional state, now has the answer “So-so” in place of “Reasonably good.”

You’d be quite right to suggest that the “temperature” of this answer has gone down a notch. Whereas “reasonably good” indicated a somewhat positive emotional state, “so-so” is clearly more neutral. A bit kind of “meh,” if you like.

The logic behind this is that if you judge your overall state as “good,” the system will take that at face value, so it won’t try to persuade you that you are in fact, for example, angry (promise).

However, any other answer to this question – “So-so,” “A little difficult,” or “Difficult” – will cause the system to look at your underlying emotions, in order to discover what might be going on behind the scenes for you.

If you don’t want to know, for some reason, just answer “Good” to question 11, but if you’re happy to explore, give one of the other three responses.

You’ll find that the short text descriptions under the audio control strip have now been replaced with a simple list of your individual responses for that day, grouped into happiness-related, anxiety-related, and anger-related feelings.

In addition, one of three smiley emoticons sits alongside each of the ten feelings/emotions to indicate whether your response is likely to be making a positive, neutral, or negative impact on your overall emotional state.

Sorry of this sounds a bit complicated, but if you look back at your previous signposts, I think it will all become clear.

I felt this would be a sensible move, enabling you to make your own judgements about individual days, rather than having a computer program trying to sum things up for you, which I think is always going to sound weirdly artificial.

I’ve tried to work as thoroughly as possible today (Thursday) so I really hope your Signpost experience will be tons better when you next visit, which I trust will be soon.

Do please feel free to let me know what you think. I’d love to get a conversation going, and you won’t have to wait for me to wake up on Friday morning!

It’s Mingling Monday.

Practice what you preach, they say.

So I’m sorry in advance that this email is definitely not a perfect example of this.

But first, my excuse.

You and I don’t really have another way of keeping in touch other than by email.

I’m not sure you’d like it if I phoned you every morning to read you these messages.

And making several thousand phone calls every day would be time consuming in the extreme.

But the point I’d like to make, which you knew I’d get to sooner or later, is that emails, text messages, tweets and Facebook pasts aren’t always the best way to communicate with people.

When you actually talk to someone (ideally face to face, but over the phone can be almost as good) the interaction is immeasurably richer.

Emotions often don’t get conveyed at all in written messages, and when they do they can so often be misconstrued.

It’s all too easy for someone to get the wrong end of the stick.

So let’s make this a Mingling Monday.

Rather than bashing out soul-less keyboard messages to someone nearby, go over and talk to them.

If they’re further afield, pick up the phone.

You’ll feel all the better for it and so will the other person.

I guarantee it.

Sadly, depression is booming.

Today, April 7th, is the World Health Organization’s World Health Day 2017, and this year it marks the culmination of the WHO’s one-year global campaign on depression.

The aim of this campaign — which I must say I 100% support — is that more people with depression, everywhere in the world, both seek and get help.

According to the WHO, depression is now the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide.

The leading cause.

More than 300 million people are now living with depression, an increase of more than 18% between 2005 and 2015.

That’s one heck of a rise, in just ten years, and it means that around 1 in 23 people in the world are suffering at any one time.

A few years ago, my writer and illustrator friend Matthew Johnstone made this delightful short video in collaboration with the WHO, designed to explain how depression can feel.

So if, like me, you are – or have been – the “1”, please gently pass it on to some of the other 22.

Thankfully, not everyone will suffer.

But it’s important that as many as possible understand.

PS — Thanks very much to blogger Francesca Baker for her recent post about “Nudge Your Way to Happiness.” Here’s what she had to say.