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?