Category Archives: Helping others

As if depression alone wasn’t enough…

Depression is a pushy old condition.

Not content, itself, with blighting people’s lives, it also muscles in on other illnesses.

Unsurprisingly it’s common to find that cancer patients, for instance, have depression to deal with on top of everything else.

Doctors call this a ‘comorbidity’, a term I only came across as I began to learn more about mental health.

Comorbidity.

What a horrible word, which doesn’t even appear in my Encarta dictionary.

Despite sounding as though it might have something to do with death, it doesn’t.

It simply means having more than one illness or disease at the same time.

The concept came up when I talked to a friend who’d had breast cancer, fortunately subsequently in remission.

Although she couldn’t speak highly enough of the treatment she’d received from the oncology people, what was painfully clear was that nobody had paid any attention to her state of mind through all her illness.

We agreed that Moodnudges might have helped, even if only a little.

So if you know someone who’s battling with a serious physical illness, please think about mentioning Moodnudges to them.

You’ll be helping them, helping me and—thanks to that good old ‘helper’s high’—it might just leave you feeling slightly good too.

7 helpful happiness boosts, an 8th by passing this on.

A little over two years ago, in January 2015, I wrote a post about the reward I felt from the warm feedback that was being regularly shared on the Moodnudges blog.

Nothing’s changed, and in fact yesterday (Easter Sunday) was no exception, so I thought it might be time to dust off that post and share it with you once again.

Here’s what I said:

The very act of knowing you’ve helped someone can give you, the helper, a glow of satisfaction. Wouldn’t it be nice, though, if I found a way to help you share in this glow? I think I may have done so. You see, this post is written with a two-fold objective.

First, I hope its contents will inspire you directly.

Secondly, it’s specifically designed for you to share with a friend or friends. And in hopefully helping them, you in turn stand a good chance of getting that delightful shot in the arm delivered by doing a good deed.

Once you’ve read today’s post, then, please do forward it to, and share it with, your friends, perhaps inviting them to sign up for my free four-times-a-week email. I’d love that. They can sign up here.

This post is quite a bit longer than usual, but I’d like to pack in a lot. Today’s theme? Seven modest ideas pretty certain to lift anyone’s mood. And they’re really not that difficult to implement. How about allocating one to each of the next seven days? Thanks to our great friends at Action for Happiness for inspiring this list, by the way.

1. Make contact with other people. You have precisely 1,440 minutes in each day of your life, and the more of those you spend in contact with others, the better you’re likely to feel. Of course, nothing compares to a nice long chat with a good friend, but this may not be possible every day. When it isn’t, look for as many small opportunities to connect with people as you can. Exchange a few words with shop assistants, brightening their day as well as yours. Send the briefest of hello emails/texts to a couple of people you’ve not heard from for a while. Smile and say hello to a stranger in the street. It all adds up.

2. Accept the person you are, and love yourself. Having spent rather too much of my own life doing the polar opposite of loving myself, I know how hard this is. But trust me. Next time you’re in the bathroom, look at yourself in the mirror and say this out loud. “I like you. I like you very much.” Then, if you dare, “I love you. I love you very much.” It’s making me teary-eyed just to think about you doing this: it can have huge power, if you’re brave enough to tell yourself.

3. Always have things to look forward to. When you’re feeling low, it may feel as if there’s nothing positive on the horizon. Tackle this by choosing to anticipate small things that are already coming, even if it’s the sandwich you’ll eat at lunchtime, or the drive you’ll take tomorrow. Make each of these routine events a bit more rewarding by choosing to read a favourite magazine with your lunch, or listen to some long-lost tunes while you drive. Turn routines into mini goals, and reward yourself.

4. Decide to take a positive view of life. You may have noticed that different people can share the same experience, yet see it in completely different ways. To some degree you have the power to view life in the way you choose. See everything gloomily, and that’s the way things will be. Alternatively, opt for a more positive outlook and – hey presto – your world may take on a rosier tint. Although it may sound fake, it really isn’t.

5. Learn something new every day. Acquiring new knowledge boosts your confidence and raises your spirits. But you can do this without registering for a college class. Why not tackle a recipe you’ve never tried before? Teach yourself the order of the planets in the solar system. Learn a few words of the language spoken by that person you often see, but only ever speak to in English. Keep learning, have fun.

6. Appreciate all that surrounds you. I’m sure you’ll have experienced that walking-around-in-a-fog feeling you get when your mood is low. It may seem as if your mental focus is directed entirely inwards. You can become oblivious to your environment. Doing the opposite, however, is a helpful way to lift your spirits. At any given moment shift your attention, using as many senses as possible, to drink in the richness that surrounds you – then find three things to be grateful for in your environment. That piece of furniture that’s stood you in such good stead. That sky. That tree. That squirrel. Look for the small details. Love them.

7. Look after that body of yours. That mind of yours is, of course, pretty closely connected to your body. You spend all day carrying it around with you, after all. It’s easy to forget how one affects the other. Low moods can be lifted by such simple actions as eating good food and drinking enough water. It nearly always helps to get a good night’s sleep. And taking exercise is a huge help too. So what can you do in the next 24 hours to treat your own body as you would any other cherished possession? Love your body and it will love you right back.

Selfishness.

It sometimes it may feel as if we live in a selfish world.

People allow shop doors to close behind them without looking to see whether there’s someone following.

They don’t make way for others when they’re walking along a footpath.

They carry on loud conversations on their phones right in your ear.

And these are just the minor irritations of everyday life.

I’m sure you can think of much worse examples yourself.

So what’s the answer?

Do you fight fire with fire?

Do you become twice as selfish yourself?

Well I think (and hope) not.

There’s a lot of evidence that altruism can play a big part in overall mental wellbeing.

In a neat twist, it turns out that doing good can actually make you feel good.

And I suspect the reverse is equally true.

Those who behave selfishly end up with lower moods.

I also reckon that just occasionally our good manners can rub off on those who have lower standards when it comes to thoughtfulness.

Even if you can’t make a dramatic change to your world, you can at least improve your own day by thinking about others.

Why not give it a try today?

A minute of your time please.

From time to time, I ask for Moodnudges readers’ help, and am invariably blown away by people’s willingness to pitch in.

It’s one of those times again.

I’d be over the moon if you’ll be kind enough, please, to answer a very short online questionnaire (completely anonymously) that asks you to rate yourself on the degree to which you’re currently experiencing 12 different feelings and emotions.

The questionnaire is here:

https://uptalk.typeform.com/to/jSvmTv

My current research is in association with an exciting new project I’m working on, and at the moment I simply need to establish some averages. What proportion of people say they’re very unworried, for example? And how many report that they’re very slightly anxious?

I’m afraid the questionnaire won’t give you a score or result at the end, but hopefully it should give you a small glow of satisfaction for having done a good deed for the day.

Thanks so much. I look forward to being able to tell you more about the new project soon.

https://uptalk.typeform.com/to/jSvmTv

Sowing. And reaping.

It came in a plain white sleeve with stark black typography.

John Lennon’s ‘Instant Karma’ was one of the first singles my brother and I owned.

I don’t think either of us would have thought much about the meaning of the word ‘karma’ in those days, but it seems to make good sense to live your life according to the broad principle that you get what you give.

And what goes around comes around.

2016-12-18

If you want to be listened to, it makes sense to listen to others first.

To be loved, love others.

In general, to receive, first give.

When you make a mark in the sand, perhaps it starts the ball rolling?

It feels good when people are kind to you, so today could be a good time to sow a little kindness around you.

Then hopefully reap some too.

Helping someone with their load doesn’t mean carrying it yourself.

Although I’m personally not a prolific Tweeter or Facebooker, I check both sites on a fairly regular basis to see what friends, and those I follow, are up to.

It’s intriguing to observe two quite different styles among those who are prodigious in their content generation.

It seems some people are overwhelmingly positive and light-hearted in their posts, while others dwell on the serious.

Sometimes the deadly serious.

And I suppose this online behaviour simply reflects real life.

2016-11-28

I’m sure we all know people who appear to radiate light wherever they go, and others who can cast a sense of glumness over everything.

Social media makes it relatively easy to avoid seeing the posts of gloom-mongers, if you wish.

Not so simple in the real world however, particularly if they’re people with whom you need to have regular contact, for one reason or another.

Although emotions can be contagious (if you’re not careful, someone else’s misery can get through to you too) it seems to help if you’re determined to see someone else’s burden as something you can help with, rather than needing to take its weight on your own shoulders.

Just as others can’t deal with it on their own, neither will you.

Share the load, by all means, but don’t try to carry it for them.

Being kind to others is also being kind to ourselves.

Setting out just now to write a few words about kindness, I decided I’d first check the origin of the word ‘kind’.

Now I probably should have thought about this before, but there’s (I suppose obviously) shared heritage between the words ‘kind’ and ‘kin’.

‘Kin’ meaning family.

So technically if I tell you that you’ve been very kind to me, I’m letting you know that you’ve treated me as if we were both from the same family – which is all rather heartening, I reckon.

2016-11-20

Although there’s probably not enough kindness in the world, it’s a resource that’s theoretically unlimited.

Unlike coal, oil or gas it needn’t necessarily run out, as long as you and I keep generating it.

In general, kindness is contagious.

If you’re kind to me, I’m more likely to be kind to someone else, and they’re more likely to pass it on to others too.

Even better, kindness is a gift that rewards the giver.

When you show kindness to another person, your own reward system is also given a boost.

Great acts of kindness are fantastic.

But lots of little acts build up to produce a similar effect too.

So why not be kind to yourself today, by being kind to others?

By all means, empathise when someone’s problems overwhelm them. But try to avoid taking them on yourself.

Although I’m personally not a prolific Twitter or Facebook contributor, I check both sites on a pretty regular basis to learn what friends and those I follow are up to.

It’s fascinating to recognise two very different styles among those who are prodigious in their content generation.

There are those who are overwhelmingly positive and light-hearted in their posts, then there are others who seem to consistently dwell on the negative.

2016-10-09

I suppose this online behaviour simply reflects real life.

I’m sure you know those who seem to radiate light wherever they go, and others who cast a sense of grey glumness over everything in sight.

Social media makes it relatively easy to avoid the posts of gloom-mongers, if you choose.

Not so simple in the real world, however, particularly if they’re people with whom you need to have regular contact for one reason or another.

Although emotions are contagious (if you’re not careful, someone else’s misery can get through to you too) it seems to help if you’re determined to see another’s burden as something you can help with, rather than needing to take its full weight on your own shoulders.

Just as they seemingly can’t deal with it on their own, neither will you.

Share the load, by all means, but don’t try to carry it for them.

If you want to help others, pay attention to their absence, on social media for example.

Back in the days when I wasn’t as open about the ups and downs of my mood as I am today, I used to imagine that others had no idea how I was feeling.

I figured I’d wear my mask – the one you think nobody can see through – and to some degree it worked, but only to a certain extent.

2016-09-30

I think your mood leaks out in more ways than you may believe.

One friend says he sees my true state in my eyes.

Another in my voice.

A third in the way I walk (upright and all’s fine, stooped and it isn’t).

These physiological markers make sense.

But a while ago I experienced a new one (a fascinating one) with Pete, a good real-life friend who I don’t see as often as we’d like – because of the distance – but with whom I’m also friends on Facebook.

Now we don’t normally message each other through Facebook – these days we tend to email – but of course your Facebook friends do see anything else you may post to the site.

Things like your own status updates, or your comments on other people’s.

And Pete had detected that all may not have been right for me because I’d gone a bit quiet.

Isn’t it intriguing that it might sometimes be an absence of behaviour that can give the game away?

It’s definitely worth thinking about this with your own friends, and if there’s someone who seems to have gone off the radar, why not send them a quick email or text today?

Tell them Jon sent you.

Good manners mean a good deal. So be a leader not a follower.

It sometimes seems as though we live in a selfish world.

People allow shop doors to close behind them without looking to see whether there’s someone following.

They don’t make way for others when they’re walking along a footpath.

They carry on loud conversations on their phones right in your ear.

And these are just the minor irritations of everyday life.

I’m sure you can think of worse examples.

2016-09-28

So what’s the answer?

Do you fight fire with fire?

Do you become twice as selfish yourself?

Well I think (and hope) not.

There’s a lot of evidence that altruism can play a major role in our overall mental wellbeing.

In a neat twist, it turns out that doing good can actually make you feel good.

I suspect the reverse is equally true, too: those who behave selfishly end up with lower moods.

I also reckon that just occasionally our good manners rub off on those with lower standards when it comes to being thoughtful.

But even if you can’t make a dramatic change to the world, you can at least improve your own day by thinking about others.

So why not give it a try today?