Category Archives: Happiness strategies

Will today’s worries mean much in ten years’ time?

As I think I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been keeping a daily diary for the past twenty years or so.

Now and then I look back at them to do my own kind of ‘on this day in history’, so I found myself flipping through the pages of the 2007 volume recently.

Ten years ago.

The entry for one particular day really got me puzzled.

I’d been fretting mightily about a situation which I’ve now completely forgotten.

Ten years ago I was clearly very upset about it.

But now?




It’s so easy to become wound-up about the things that are happening around you right now, and so difficult to remember that one day (perhaps not too far in the future) you’ll wonder what all the fuss was about.

Most of us face challenges, situations we’d prefer didn’t exist.

But if that’s the case, it’s always worth trying to imagine how you’ll feel about them further down the road.

Nearly always, problems look smaller in the rear view mirror.

Nearly always.

Put your bravery to a 10-question test.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned psychologist Professor Martin Seligman’s character strengths survey.

Positive response from Moodnudges readers encouraged me to experiment today with focusing on one of the survey’s 24 strengths, as well as giving you (and me) a way to rate ourselves against an average.

How do you and I compare to others in this particular character strength?

Actually, I can tell you now that this one is a quality I sometimes struggle with.


The VIA Institute, an organisation set up as a result of Professor Seligman’s work, defines bravery as “not shrinking from threat, challenge, difficulty, or pain: speaking up for what’s right even if there is no opposition; acting on convictions even if unpopular; includes physical bravery, but is not limited to it.”

Wow, sounds like something you’d need to be a warrior to pull off, right?

Well, in my case, I can sometimes be more of a worrier than a warrior.

Often there are actions that I know would be good for me, but the feeling that they might prove difficult, risky, wrong or unpleasant puts me off from stepping up to the plate.

Fortunately for me, it turns out I’m not alone.

Perhaps you too would like to be braver than you already are?

What can we do about this?

One tremendously effective strategy for reducing anxiety is to expose yourself to the feared stimulus in managed stages.

Think about someone who’s scared of snakes, for example.

A therapist might arrange gradual exposure to a snake: observing one from a distance through thick glass; being in the same room as a snake, but quite a way from it; touching a snake held in someone else’s arms…

You get the idea.

I’ve recently put a similar process into action, in an effort to manage my own fear of dentists.

I’ve been putting off having some work done for way too long.

Quite honestly, I didn’t have the courage to put things into motion, making all kinds of excuses.

However, the simple truth was that I lacked the required bravery.

I finally made the appointment, though, by breaking the process down into smaller, less alarming steps.

First, I drove to the outside of the dentist’s office, but didn’t actually go in. I just went home. Phew.

A couple of days later, I returned and went in, simply to make an appointment. Although I could have done this on the phone, going into the reception area was oddly reassuring. It also gave me a feeling of achievement.

Eventually, I turned up for the appointment itself.

Admittedly not the most enjoyable experience in the world, but it felt great to have finally made it happen.

The very last step in the process was to recognise that taking courageous action can take a lot out of you. So, after the appointment I was kind to myself, not planning to do too much for the remainder of the day.

Maybe you’d like to be braver in some area of your life?

In that case, maybe you too could benefit from this kind of “exposure therapy” methodology?

Begin with baby steps, gradually increasing what you expect of yourself.

You’ll almost certainly be surprised by your own bravery, just waiting to be unleashed.

Lastly, as promised, here’s a quick ten-question survey that will let you discover how your self-rated level of bravery currently stands.

Take it. If you dare.

Why I love walking and talking.

It’s a sunny afternoon (well it was when I wrote this) and I’m sitting on a bench in my local park.

Walking around the full perimeter takes about fifteen minutes, making it something like a mile.

And as I’ve been here a while, a few people have walked past me more than once.

(They’re doing circuits.)

What’s notably nice is that they’ve all been in pairs, and have been lost in conversation with one another.

Walking is good.

Talking is good.

But in my book, walking and talking is the perfect combination.

I reckon that discussions about tricky subjects can often feel more comfortable when you’re side by side with your conversational partner, and of course you both get the benefit of a spot of exercise.

It needn’t be an expedition, either.

Simply walking with someone to get a coffee can work.

I know that not everyone who reads Moodnudges is mobile, but if you are, it’s definitely worth remembering the benefits of being a walkie-talkie.

Is your saw blunt?

In Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People he talks of ‘sharpening the saw’, an idea explained by the story of a man who was getting nowhere trying to cut down a tree with a blunt saw.

Struggling on ineffectively, the man explained that he was far too busy to get the tool sharpened.

Do you think that sometimes we all try too hard?

You have a million and one things to do, but you’re tired.

And this probably means you’ll (a) achieve little, and (b) end up even more tired in the process.

I was sitting at my desk the other day trying to force myself to think, but the thinks just weren’t coming.

So, with no great plan in mind, I got up and went for a walk.

And – well – you can probably guess the rest.

As soon as I stopped trying to force myself, everything slotted into place.

It’s worth remembering this when that same feeling strikes you.

Sometimes we all need to step away from the tree to sharpen that saw.

Shake things up a bit today.

All too easily routines can turn into ruts.

Do the same thing, in the same way, every day, and you’ll perhaps make your chores easier to manage.

But it also risks making life boring.

The trouble is, our routines tend to tackled without thinking.

We do them, well, routinely.

So today’s as good a day as any to kick over the traces, to change the way you operate a little – even if it’s for one day only.

If you travel a regular route, go a different way.

— Who knows what you’ll see?

If you listen to a regular radio programme, tweak the dial.

— Who knows what you’ll hear?

If you eat a regular lunch, sample an alternative.

— Who knows what you might enjoy?

Life is interesting when it comes in different flavours.

Why not try a different recipe today?

Don’t drown in Other People’s Problems.

Although living on a desert island would almost certainly count as one of life’s more lonely existences, it may have the possible advantage of keeping you insulated from OPP.

Other People’s Problems.

Although life might be simpler without OPP, it would unquestionably be a less rewarding and less interesting way to live.

An element of what makes us social animals is our need to be a part of others’ lives, and to have others in our own.

Being there for friends, colleagues and family can feel good, and the principles of reciprocation mean that if you scratch their back, they may scratch yours.

Having said that, though, OPP can overwhelm you at times, especially if for some reason you’re not at your best.

What to do when OPP loom, therefore?

The trick seems to be to listen and empathise, without taking things onto your own shoulders.

It can also help to try and keep things in compartments.

By all means, be there when those around you need help.

But when they’ve walked out of your door, or you’ve put down the phone, it’s perfectly fine (and probably healthy) to clear your mind and get on with your day as best you can.

It’s a less drastic solution than getting yourself marooned on that desert island.

What you and I can learn from a Super Ball.

Growing up, there were tennis balls, and cricket balls, and footballs, and beach balls.

But I also remember when Super Balls were all the rage.

Super Balls were new (then) and different.

Made of a strangely tough kind of plastic, they bounced astonishingly well.

Throw them down on a concrete floor and they’d bounce as high as a house.

That’s how we saw them anyway, my brother and I.

The ability to bounce is an impressive one, which I think applies to people almost as much as it does to Super Balls.

Before this little story gets very odd, let me reassure you that I’m clearly not for a minute suggesting that it makes sense for people to be bouncing off the floors and walls.

I’m thinking more about that quality we call resilience – the ability to ‘bounce back’ after things have gone wrong.

The fact is – as sure as eggs is eggs – things are going to go wrong now and then.

Life’s going to wobble and twist.

It’ll throw things at you which you weren’t expecting.

And in such cases, what really matters is how you cope, and how quickly you’re able to get back on track.

Think about it, and you should realise that you’ve been able to recover after setbacks have occurred in the past, and this should help you believe that you have it in you to bounce back in the future too.

You’re stronger than you think, you know.

Give yourself a break.

Many years ago, I worked in a printing factory.

It was dark, noisy and smelly, yet friendly, warm and welcoming.

Unlike most other working environments I’ve been in since, I particularly recall the way every day was driven by clocking in and out.

You started and finished at tightly defined times, and also took your lunch break (and even tea breaks) in a very prescribed way.

I know plenty of jobs are still subject to these kinds of rules and regulations, but these days quite a few aren’t.

More importantly perhaps, the chores and duties you perform at home are probably not being controlled by some external task-master, but are rather under your own control.

The owners of that printing factory all those years ago took the somewhat paternalistic view that we workers needed to be told when to down tools and take up our Thermos flasks.

But who’s telling you when to take a break when you’re busy at home?

Probably nobody.

Pushing yourself too hard really doesn’t make sense.

In fact you’ll almost certainly get your stuff done more quickly if you take five every now and then.

Work a bit, rest a bit.

It’s a decent philosophy, and very nearly a chocolate bar’s advertising slogan.

Today, we’ll change the world, you and I.

If you’re up for it, I’d like you to conduct a simple experiment today.

It’s easy to do, and requires no equipment.

The psychologists tell us that we’ll feel good if we do something for someone else – either someone we know, or a complete stranger.

So here’s the methodology.

Sometime today I’d like you to go (a little) out of your way to do a good turn for someone.

It needn’t be complicated or even that substantial.

But the important thing is to be aware of your feelings before and after the good deed.

Will you feel any different after your action?

Experience says you will, and that you’ll get a pleasant buzz.

Reward in itself.

What’s more, as the Moodnudges messages reach thousands of people, our collective actions could just make today a happier one here on Planet Earth.

Not bad for something so easy.

And pretty good for something that should leave you feeling better too.

When you really, really want to learn.

On the bus the other day, a kid of 12 or so sat next to me.

He’d obviously been out to buy a videogame which he’d unwrapped so he could study its instruction manual.

He was completely engrossed in what looked like highly complicated material.

It’s great to see someone completely absorbed in something they’re doing, particularly so when this young man had probably been in class all day.

He’d been learning the whole school day, yet still had the appetite for more after the bell sounded.

The big difference of course is that the game instructions were something he really wanted to understand.

They’d help him play better when he got home, and he’d maybe be able to impress his friends as a result.

There’s no doubt that learning new things is good for you, and of course the process is much more appetising when you learn about stuff that interests you.

It’s never been easier to discover things.

Google is a great place to start – don’t necessarily think about formal classes (although they absolutely have their place, and are a great way to meet like-minded people as much as anything else) – type whatever interests you into Google, and you’ll soon be off and learning.

What new thing are you going to discover today?