Category Archives: Self-care

When the fountain squirts, move out of the way

Why is it that we can learn so many lessons by observing the behaviour of small children?

When I still lived in the UK, they installed a water feature in my local town centre which spouted up from the paving. Jets rose and fell in an orchestrated fashion attracting crowds of onlookers and plenty of small children daring themselves to get as close to the water as they possibly could.

I recall watching one little lad venture dangerously close when the program was keeping the fountains very low, probably just about his waist height.

But then the inevitable happened. Up went the fountain and down came the water, leaving him rooted to the spot, howling and getting drenched. He stood there, hating it but not moving.

All was well when his Mum stepped in to retrieve him, but isn’t it interesting that he was in a horrible situation, and didn’t know that he could have simply taken two steps to the side to be OK?

You might say you’d never do that, and perhaps it’s true that you wouldn’t have been in the fountains in the first place.

But how often have you been in an unpleasant set of circumstances, and simply stuck it out when it would have been so easy to take those metaphorical two steps to find dry land again?

Where-you-are can have a big impact on who-you-are. So if the little gusher becomes a big one today, get the heck out of there.

Deviations from the norm.

When did you last hear the Supertramp song “Take The Long Way Home”?

OK, guilty pleasure admission. I have to confess I’ve got it playing right now.

Admittedly the song’s lyrics suggest that someone’s taking the long way because they don’t actually *want* to go home, but let’s just take the title at face value.

It’s a good sentiment, though, don’t you think? No, not the idea of being a penguin (gosh, this is getting complicated) – the thought of sometimes taking the less direct route.

Sometimes you can’t. Time’s short, you’re in a hurry. Places to go, people to meet. Yada yada.

There’s a lot to be said, however, for going a different way – for altering your routine so it’s not mind-numbingly familiar. And this particularly applies, I believe, when you’re on foot.

Take the long way home and you’ll see new sights. Take the long way home and you’ll think new thoughts. Just as usefully, take the long way home and you’ll add to the day’s exercise tally.

Exercise is good for you but it’s not always easy to get enough. The trick, I think, is to build it into the stuff you’re already doing every day.

Take the stairs, not the lift.

Rather than moving your car between errands, park it once and walk from one to the other.

And, of course, take the long way home.

On being kind.

All things considered, do you tend to think of yourself as a kind person?

Most of us would probably see ourselves in this way.

But even the kindest person can sometimes behave in a very unkind way to one individual in their life.

This person?


We sympathise with others, yet criticise ourselves.

We’re patient with others, impatient with ourselves.

Tolerant of others, unforgiving of ourselves.

So if you find yourself treating yourself unkindly today, please stop.

It’s not unreasonable to be kind to yourself, it really isn’t.

It’s only fair.

Get out there.

After an appointment in San Francisco on Monday to have my fingerprints taken (don’t worry, I’m not being investigated by the FBI, it was only for visa purposes) I decided to walk the couple of miles from the immigration services office to the railway station.

I took the “scenic” route along the Embarcadero, as it skirts the bay, passing under the thundering traffic of the Bay Bridge.

It seemed a heck (hike?) of a way but it was a really good thing to have done.

It gave me a chance to gather my thoughts, and to be grateful for my move to the US.

Just as important, it was a useful bit of exercise.

Keeping yourself active is enormously important.

Of course it helps with your physical health, but it can also give your mood that all-important boost.

We all know that getting exercise is good for us.

But it may be a mistake to use the excuse that we’ll get this workout when we go swimming, or the gym.

This will (probably) be another day, and it’s actually important to keep yourself active every day.

And this inevitably means today.

So what can you do in the next twenty-four hours to add some exercise to your life?

Keep your ambitions modest.

A walk’s fine.

But don’t leave it.

Get active today.

Even if it’s just a little.

Why keeping a daily diary is one of my top emotional health tips.

Right now, I’m fortunate enough to know that my own emotional health is better and more stable than it has been in a long time.

Of course it hasn’t always been that way, though. When I look back through twenty years of diaries (many of them with appropriately black covers) I have written evidence of having struggled through the toughest of tough times, which I know I’ve experienced in common with so many Moodnudges readers. Perhaps including you?

Despite the unmitigated sadnesses that many of their pages captured, however, my bookshelf of diaries is one of my dearest possessions. On trips back to the UK, I’ve returned with a few more volumes each time, and they’re now safely gathered together again here in California.

If you’re a fellow diarist, that’s great news. But if you’re not, starting to keep one would be one of my strongest emotional well-being recommendations, particularly if you sometimes battle with low moods.

I don’t write my own diary for anyone other than myself, but the ten minutes or so that it takes me each day is something I greatly look forward to.

Different people have different diary strategies, some using them to pour their hearts out. That’s not really how I use mine. For me, it’s more about capturing what happened the day before, even if nothing much did (which has been the case during darker times).

After I’ve written about the day, I put the diary away and in some ways feel I’ve put the day away too, however good or bad it was. And that seems to free me to start anew again. Just as today’s page is blank at that stage, the day ahead can feel full of potential, too. New day, new page.

It annoys me that it can be hard to buy a diary after the year has started, but if you don’t have one, perhaps you’ll find one in the reduced section of a stationery store? It’s also sometimes possible to get hold of “any year” diaries, where you fill in the 2017 bit yourself.

More than anything, if you’re at all curious about what it might entail, rather than worrying about not being able to commit to the process every day, forever, why not just give it a try for a few days, or a week? And also free yourself from the tyranny of feeling you have to complete the whole page/section every day. Do, though, promise yourself to write something, even if it’s just a word or two.

I’m interested. If you already keep a diary, what have you learned from your experience? Alternatively, if you shy away from the very idea, what’s the reason? I’d love to know.

What are you?

This is a just a brief message to let you know that I think you’re amazing.

I know you don’t always have it easy, but I’m proud of the way you keep battling on, with that sense of determination of yours.

Life’s not always straightforward, is it?

And sometimes the road seems to have more curves than a truckload of bananas.

In spite of these challenges, though, you put one foot in front of the other, and battle on through good times and bad.

I know there are times when things can seem pretty bleak, but even then you’re able to remember that there’s almost always light at the end of the tunnel.

So, let’s just agree, shall we?

You’re amazing.

Rather late in the day.

Oops. Confession time.

When I wrote my diary this morning, listing all I’d done yesterday, I realised with a start that I didn’t produce today’s moodnudge.

So it’s currently 8:30 AM in California, 4:30 PM in the UK, I’m only just writing it, actually sitting in the car, using the coffee shop’s wi-fi.

Shame on me.

Still, at least it’s going to be hot off the press.

Yesterday was a busy day, with lots of social contact, which I know was good for me.

I was also working on a brand-new project (top secret for now, but I’ll be able to talk about it soon – suffice to say, it is of course in the emotional health field).

I mention this as I noticed how easy it was for me to overlook my routines on a busy day, and it’s these routines that often underpin my life with a relatively secure foundation.

I wonder if you, too, sometimes experience this?

You become distracted by life’s other stuff, in the process neglecting what keeps you grounded and well (I had toast and marmalade for “dinner” last night – not a great choice, nutritionally–speaking.)

Let’s both keep this in mind today, making sure we pay proper attention to the routines and practices that keep us on track.

Right, I’m off for a medical examination right now.

Don’t think I’ll mention the toast and marmalade, though.

Don’t be surprised when thinking makes you tired. A working mind uses a ton of energy.

Why did I feel so tired?

A while ago, I had a spell of feeling physically exhausted, despite not having particularly exerted myself.

I wasn’t ill, as far as I knew.

I found the answer by reflecting on my mood.


Up to that point I’d had an extraordinarily stressful time – not especially busy, but a lot of anxiety and worry.

I don’t know about you, but I sometimes forget that this sort of mental pressure can literally take it all out of you, making huge demands of your physiology as it causes your systems to work overtime producing all the hormones associated with stress, and it’s really not surprising that you need time to recover once things return to being on an even keel.

The learning?

It’s so important to listen to your body, and to look for clues such as mid-morning yawns and general lethargy.

Obviously, if there’s no clear explanation for this, it’s sensible to seek expert advice and help, but if it’s simply that you’ve been having a tough time (which you’re thankfully now beyond) it may be a straightforward case of allowing nature to work its wonders, getting you fixed in a day or two.

There’s a big connection between what you do and how you feel.

The first part of looking after others is looking after yourself.

As kids, it’s drummed into us that to be selfish is wrong.

Share your toys.

Share your food.

Share the airtime in conversations.

Of course this is sensible guidance, since living with others in relative harmony means not keeping everything to yourself.

The theory is that if you share with others, then they’ll share with you too.

However, being unselfish isn’t the same as believing that it’s somehow wrong to care for yourself, and to look after No. 1 at times.


When you travel by air, the safety demonstration tells you to put on your own oxygen mask before tending to the needs of others, and this clearly makes sense.

If you’re going to be of help to those around you, you must be strong yourself, so ensuring that you’re well-rested, well-fed and well-adjusted isn’t selfish.

It’s right and proper.

Keep your own fuel tank topped up like you would your car’s.

If your car runs out of petrol/gas, either you’ve been negligent by not filling its tank, or you’re on one of those unfeasibly long, straight Arizona roads you generally only see in movies.


As I say, in general, the only one to blame when your car runs out of fuel is you.

But when this is so self-evident, why do we expect our bodies to keep on running at full speed, and our minds to keep making sensible decisions, when we’ve not kept ourselves properly fed and watered?

Why do we work through lunch without stopping to eat?

Worse still, why do we do so, then give in to a bar of chocolate a couple of hours later – promising that it’s deserved because it’s simply a meal replacement?

Eating properly, healthily and regularly is vital.

Yet when you’re busy, stressed or down, it can be one of the first things to get forgotten.

You don’t need me to tell you what’s good for you and what isn’t, just as you don’t need me to tell you when to eat and when not to.

So do the right thing today, and make sure your tank’s filled appropriately.

Running dry on one of those lonely Arizona roads isn’t a comfortable experience.