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…
When Harry Nilsson wrote ‘One is the loneliest number’ he hit the nail on the head.
Or did he?
It’s true that feeling lonely can be an unpleasant experience.
But being on your own needn’t always mean loneliness.
There can be another side to being in your own company: the idea of solitude.
And sometimes when life gets over-busy and over-noisy, there’s a lot to be said for being able to snatch a little bit of ‘me time’, to sit quietly by yourself, or to do something without the distractions and demands of others around you.
Having said this, if you’re feeling lonely it’s going to be pretty tricky to convince yourself that it’s actually a good thing.
In that case, small steps are probably the answer.
Even a couple of words exchanged with a shop assistant can count towards your ‘5 a day’ social interactions.
In the same way that you should really eat five portions of fruit or veg each day, aim to get to the point where you go to bed at night having swapped a sentence or two with a handful of people – even if they’re only fleeting contacts.
You’re human, so it won’t be surprising if you go through times when your mood is a bit on the grey side.
There’s a lot of us in that boat and I know from my own experience that when the clouds descend it’s easy to become self-absorbed.
It’s natural and perfectly understandable that whenever possible you’d like to go into your cave and stay there.
It’s good to remember, though, that even a little bit of social contact can do you the world of good.
I’m doing well at the moment, thankfully, but recently I popped in to see a neighbour who’d been under the weather.
I only stayed five minutes but I know it perked her up to have a visitor.
But it also gave me a real lift too.
However you’re feeling this week, and however busy you are, see if you can slot in dropping in on someone for a few minutes.
Or just call them.
Doesn’t have to be for long, but you’ll soon be basking in the warmth of the encounter.
Or at least feeling a little less chilly.
I was on a bus a while ago, and three boys of about ten or eleven were sitting a couple of seats in front of me, chatting animatedly to each other.
Apparently two lived in the same home, one with his dad and the other with his mom/mum.
A very 21st century arrangement by all accounts, where a single dad and his son are now living with a single mother and her son.
To my eavesdropping ears it seemed a complex and potentially fraught situation.
Yet these two step-brothers, clearly comfortable in each other’s company and perfectly happy to explain things to their mate, were obviously more than OK about the whole thing.
Just getting on with it.
We can seem extraordinarily fragile at times, yet we can also be remarkably resilient.
Remember that the next time you’re going through a difficult time.
You’re probably not superhuman, but even we ordinary humans have our own super strengths.
I wouldn’t mind betting that on a good day you can get a huge amount done.
You can be productive. Creative. Energetic.
But it’s worth remembering that not every day will necessarily be a good day.
And that’s fine.
When things aren’t so sparkling for you, cut yourself some slack.
Don’t force things.
Do what you must, and park what you aren’t able to.
Then catch up when you have a better day (they do usually come along, even when you’re not expecting them).
In fact it’s probably just as well that not every day is a good day.
If it was, you’d probably end up trying to do so much that you’d burn yourself out.
So what sort of day is it for you today?
There. You have your answer for what to expect from yourself.
Satellite TV seems a pretty clever system. The satellite for Sky TV in the UK, for example, sits 22,000 miles above the equator in a geostationary orbit, but actually it has no idea whether your house is receiving its signal or not. The same signal is blasted out everywhere and it’s the satellite receiver in the house that selects which bits of what you’re allowed to get, according to the package that you paid for.
The thing is, you’re a bit like that satellite sometimes. Not quite as high in the sky, admittedly, but you’re almost certainly transmitting signals wider than you like to think.
People usually know when you have a low mood day, you know. Their receiver picks up your signal even though you may not know you’re transmitting.
The trouble is, others may end up getting a faulty picture. They might think you’ve got something against them, or that you’re being ‘off’ with them.
What we need is the equivalent of a ‘Do Not Adjust Your Set’ thingy. Hanging a sign around your neck isn’t a good look. But the occasional ‘Sorry, I’m just having a bad day’ can work wonders.
Who knows, it might even get you a modest slice of sympathy?
I recall a morning a while ago when I suddenly felt overwhelmed by the amount I’d got to do.
It’s easy to panic when this happens. And it’s also easy to think that such feelings are totally negative and undesirable.
The thing is though, a lot of our unpleasant emotions serve very good purposes.
Let’s take that sense of hopelessness about all that ‘had’ to be done, for instance.
When I weighed it up, I wasn’t wrong: I did have too much to do.
In a day.
But not, perhaps, in a lifetime.
Once I’d stopped to think about what I could practically achieve that day, and then ‘parked’ the rest for another time, things got better.
Negative emotions are sometimes like the warning lights on a car’s dashboard. They’re there for a reason, and are definitely not meant to be ignored.