In good times and bad, you’ve still got to do the dishes.
When things in your life are average or normal, it’s relatively easy to keep up with the routine stuff. Your life is probably better when there’s food in the fridge, when the laundry’s done, when the car has been serviced.
But if things get over-busy or (strangely) if they get over-quiet, it can sometimes be easy to neglect life’s ‘boring-but-essentials’.
I think the trick is to build some sense of routine around these necessities, and I’m afraid I all too often don’t.
I’m regularly heading off to the supermarket at 7pm to get something to eat that same evening, when it would have made infinitely more sense to have stocked up earlier in the week.
If this only ever happened when and if you were crazy-busy it might be understandable, but exactly the same can take place if your mood has taken a dip.
Rather than not having the time, your routines can slip because you simply can’t be bothered.
Why not try to find ways of rewarding yourself for your routines therefore? A system that’s worked for me, for example, is arranging to meet a friend every week immediately after doing a grocery shop.
You both get the benefit of each other’s company.
And you’ll know where your next meal is coming from.
I love other people’s book collections. There’s something fascinating about running your eye along their shelves, because I think you can tell a lot about someone from the literary company they keep.
A couple of months ago, someone I’ve known for a long time came to my office.
In a few seconds in front of my books, he’d got a pretty good handle on what inspires me. Almost completely non-fiction by the way.
Technology. Psychology. Self-help. Popular science. (I know, you’d already guessed this about me.)
I felt good knowing that he’d got a richer understanding of what’s important to me.
In general I think many of us enjoy it when someone gets to know us better, even though this can take a leap of faith on our part.
Sometimes, especially if your mood is a bit iffy, it’s easy to withdraw. To close-down rather than to open-up to others. To be inward rather than outward looking. To take rather than give.
But people want to understand you. They want to get to know you better.
If you let them.
So if you can, why not try to open up a little this week? Obviously only to people you trust, and obviously only appropriately.
But it can be good to share. Good to let someone in.
It was twenty years ago in Auckland, New Zealand that I first saw a phrase which has popped up in all sorts of places since, and I’m sure it’ll be familiar to a few Moodnudges readers.
That first time it was printed on a sticker fixed to the rear of a battered old car:
Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. But today is a gift, and that’s why it’s called the present.
OK, it was probably never going to win any copywriting awards, but it’s always seemed to me an admirable sentiment.
There’s nothing you can do about the things that have already happened, and you only have a degree of influence over what’s going to come to pass in the future. (Life can have a habit of throwing you curve balls.)
But there’s a great deal of value in focusing on the here and now, the part of life over which you do have control.
So why not find a short part of today (or even a long one) during which you’ll (a) stop ruminating about the past, (b) stop worrying about the future, and (c) live a little in the here and now?
Even though some may disagree, I believe we’re here on earth just the once.
Make the most of today.
If you wanted to prove the link between good mood and physical exercise (it’s strong, by the way) you don’t need a science lab.
Just a children’s playground.
Put a bunch of kids in a play area and within seconds there will be squeals of laughter, hoots of joy.
Granted children probably have a much lower gloom barrier to breach than we do, but there’s no questioning their ability to feel good by jumping around.
So how much jumping around do you do?
If you’re like me, probably not too much.
But the thing is, physical exercise can come in all shapes and forms thankfully.
Running’s good, but so is walking.
Tennis is great, but golf is too.
Hill walking is fine, just as gardening is.
The simple truth is that doing anything that keeps you active is going to be good for you.
So why not walk a little more this week?
Go for a swim?
Or even hop, skip and jump?
Some love Saturdays, others hate them.
For those on the latter team I think the distaste might be attributed to a sense of isolation and loneliness.
Perhaps work or other commitments mean that weekdays are spent at least partly in the company of other people, but that weekend days are a bit more solitary?
If this might be the case for you (even if it’s just sometimes) it’s worth remembering that connectedness is a pretty crucial contributor to your wellbeing.
Being around others can give your mood a seriously healthy boost.
A kind of peach and mango smoothie for the soul.
But it can be easy to forget this, especially if you wake up feeling tired, lethargic, or a little low.
It can also be easy to forget that you generally start your day with more choice than you might believe about what you will or won’t do.
Today is a good day – a great day – to go out of your way to connect with others.
Face to face is best.
But a phone call can be great too.
Why not make today a connecting one?
A peach and mango smoothie one too, if you like.
We often speak about the buzz it’s possible to get from helping someone.
And there’s no doubting how good it can feel to lend a hand.
But what if you’re the one who needs help?
What if you’re in a fix that you can’t get out of on your own?
What if you need someone to help you carry your load?
Ask for help.
Why is it so hard to do this though?
Is it because we’re embarrassed to admit that we can’t cope alone?
Is it because we don’t want to be a burden on others?
Is it because we’ve been brought up to deal with things ourselves?
Whatever the reason, it’s time to get over it.
In some cases you’ll face challenges that you’ll never solve without help.
That good feeling you get from helping someone else isn’t exclusive to you, you know.
More often than not, when you ask for help you’ll get it.
And if you ask the right person, they’ll enjoy supporting you too.
So what do you need help with? Who are you going to ask?
And when are you going to ask them?
Going through your own problems with mood may make you wonder if there could ever be anything positive that might come out of it.
Naturally, emerging from the other end of the tunnel is clearly something to be proud of.
Something to feel good about.
But what of the darker times themselves?
It may not seem obvious at the time, but facing a challenge like this can give you a pretty useful perspective when it comes to helping others.
Perhaps this ‘been there, done that’ experience could help you be more understanding and empathetic when someone else is facing up to their own bad time?
Whilst I think we’d all agree that being told by someone to ‘pull your socks up’ when you’re low is utterly, dreadfully the wrong approach, it can also be the case that the exact opposite – gushing, sad-eyed empathy – may not be what you’re looking for either.
Sometimes you need a touch of pragmatism, for someone to step in and lend a hand.
If you’ve ever had help and support that worked for you, please learn from it.
Then think about adopting the same approach yourself when somebody else is in need.
Say you wanted to achieve excellence in a particular sport.
Maybe you’d have your eye set on competing in some big event.
Perhaps even the Olympics?
It’s going to take complete focus.
A huge amount of work.
Real belief in yourself.
Instead of practicing like there’s no tomorrow, would it make sense to spend every day thinking about how bad you were before you started?
To concentrate on your weaknesses?
To dwell on your lack of potential?
Of course not.
So isn’t it rather odd that when our moods are low, we can be inclined to pass all our time wondering about why we feel this way?
We desperately seek a reason for our state of mind, thinking that this will help in some strange way.
Do you think the champion high jumper wastes weeks trying to work out why she kept knocking the bar off when she was in her teens?
I don’t think so.
Thinking about being unhappy is very likely to leave you feeling, well, unhappy.
So what do you think might happen if you thought instead about being happy?
Surely it’s better to focus your energy on getting yourself back into a better place than it is to agonise why you got into a bad one?
You know that thing where you’re supposed to tap your head while simultaneously rubbing your stomach?
I’m not very good at it.
That’s possibly because I’m a ‘one thing at a time’ kind of guy.
Some of us seem able to multi-task while others operate best when they’re fully focused on a single objective.
But my real point today is that when you need to do some proper thinking, it can be hard to concentrate when there are distractions around you.
On the train up to San Francisco the other day I found myself reading the same sentence over and over thanks to two phone conversations going on next to me.
In the end I got up and found a quieter part of the train.
Sometimes we can all do with a little peace, a little solitude, a little quiet time.
If you can find this space, it’s surprising how much it can add to the clarity of your thinking.
Often you’ll need to actively seek it out.
But it’s worth the effort, even if it’s not always easy to do.
There’s the distinct possibility that today could be a perfect one for you.
How very lovely this would be.
Perfect days, however, tend to come few and far between.
And far be it from me to rain on your parade but let’s face it, isn’t it more likely that this will be an average kind of day?
Perhaps even a less-than-average one?
There are those who exhort us to spring out of bed every morning, determined that this will be the best day of our lives.
I’m sure it helps to keep a positive mind-set, if you can.
However I also think it pays to be realistic.
If you’ve had perfect (or almost-perfect) days in the past, you’re pretty certain to have them again in the future.
But not necessarily right here, right now.
So go ahead with your eyes open and make the most of what the day throws at you, remembering that within limits you still have a good deal of control over how you’ll feel at the end of it.