Why it’s sometimes good to replay your back story

A secret guilty pleasure of mine here in California is rifling through the boxes of discarded items that people occasionally leave outside their front gates, actually in the hope that a passer-by will pick up something they like the look of – a kind of “freecycling”.

This was how I came across a box set of the final season of “Six Feet Under”, which I’ve now watched and enjoyed.

Now, I know I viewed the first two seasons when they were on TV in the early “Noughties”, but since that’s now 15 years ago I’d understandably become a bit hazy about how the tale began.

Sometimes you forget the back story.

In fact, working on my book has reminded me that sometimes you even lose track of your own.

So today I’d encourage you to spend a little time reflecting back on how you got where you are today.


To prompt you, maybe you’ll allow me to collect my own thoughts in this respect, particularly around the tools I developed to manage my own emotional health, and the first thing to admit is that I spent 30 years failing to do so.

In spectacular fashion.

Depression became a thing for me in my 20s but it wasn’t until I was 50 that I finally got around to doing something about it.

That was 10 years ago.

My doctor referred me to a psychiatrist and after an initially dreadful first appointment (another story for another day) I saw someone who helped a lot – suggesting I keep some sort of record of my mood for three months in order that her suspected diagnosis of bipolar disorder could be confirmed.

It led me to invent the measuring and tracking system behind Moodscope, and enabled another psychiatrist – as I was passed down the chain – to place a checkmark in the bipolar box.

Measuring and tracking my mood became crucial to me, and I’ve done it nearly every day for the past nine years.

It helps a lot.

But tracking alone was never going to provide the full answer.

Close reading of dozens of positive psychology books helped me understand that good emotional health depends on taking positive actions everyday – small things that help you feel better.

For example, even when I didn’t feel like it, I forced myself to talk to others.

I always left my desk at lunchtime for a walk, which felt better if it involved an element of being around a bit of “nature”.

I got up a little earlier every morning to write a list of things to do, albeit that on a bad day they’d be pathetically simple, like shower and shave.

These little actions have now become such a part of my day-to-day life that I sometimes forget that 10 years ago I had to work really hard to turn them into habits.

It’s where the idea of the Moodnudges originally came from.

And coupled with the benefits I get from measuring and tracking my emotional state, it forms the core of the “Nudge Your Way to Happiness” book.

So that’s my back story.

I wonder what yours is?

7 thoughts on “Why it’s sometimes good to replay your back story

  1. Hello, from Athens, Greece, a whole nation under depression…this is one of your best moodnudges!
    Thank for sharing,
    Keep up the good work
    Best regards,

  2. Unable to sleep because my head is full of unsettled-ness, I thought I’d turn to working on an email. First I read my two most-recent mailings from my inbox — TUT (The Universe Talks) and Moodnudges. The Universe told me to get busy because I can be in position to receive what I most need – “be it material, spiritual, or a new friend; answers, ideas, or comfort.” And then as if to show this was immediately true, there was this Moodnudge about back stories. Thank you for reminding me to remind myself how far I’ve come, fighting through days when, like you, a shower and a shave were victorious.

  3. This quote seems apt:

    ‘The reason people give up is because they tend to look at how far they still have to go, instead of how far they have come.’

  4. Hi Jon.

    I see today that, as you do from time to time, you’ve mentioned your diagnosis of bipolar disorder. As someone who shares this diagnosis I’d find it immensely helpful if you could write about this as well as depression. Your light-hearted insight would be so welcome amid the medico-babble which passes for most of the information online.

    I am one of the early – and almost daily – MoodScopers, and the tool is genius at tracking my depression, almost seeming to know me better than I do. But, to be frank, it’s about as useless, and safe, as a chocolate teapot for tracking the highs. I either look like I’m REALLY well, or my score darts about all over the place like the read-out from the heart monitor of someone who’s on the point of death! That’s actually the better outcome though, because thinking I’m really well when I’m not is part of the problem, not the solution. If you could turn your mind to creating something even half as good as MoodScope for measuring the full bipolar scale you could help millions of people towards a better quality of life. Please? 🙂

    1. Hi Becky,

      Great comment. Thanks for raising this thorny issue. You’re so right that Moodscope doesn’t do a great job of measuring hypomania or the full-blown kind. The chocolate teapot analogy is spot on.

      I think it’s better at dealing with depression.

      Over the years I have tried, in fact, to develop something which might capture the highs of bipolar but the work has never seen the light of day.

      Your helpful nudge has prompted me to check back on this.

      Thanks Becky.

      1. Hi Jon

        Fantastic! I have many helpful nudges stored up should you need them 🙂 I’m so happy to know your mind has already been at work on this, and I hope that thing happens where you leave something alone for awhile and then come back to it and think, ah, that’s the thing I missed last time! Good luck, and I’m looking forward to hearing about it when the time comes. + any curious little survey things that come in the vanguard!


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