Tuesday, 24 January 2017

The Happy Kitchen: Good Mood Food.

January can be the cruellest month, to paraphrase T.S. Eliot. Many of us embark on diets, only to feel failures when we ditch them a few weeks later. Food is something to be feared.

I've been there and done that. For the last few years, however, I've embraced a different attitude to food. It can be my friend – and one that boosts my mood as well as a chat with a supportive friend or the comfort I derive from reading a Moodscope blog.

For the past four years I've been working with the nutritional therapist Alice Mackintosh to let food be my medicine, developing recipes to tackle the symptoms of my own low mood and anxiety. The good news is that relatively simple changes to your diet can heal not just your body but your mind too. It's time to wind back the harms of too much medicine and prescribe a little more food.

It's a topic I've been interested ever since my GP introduced me to the concept of 'Happy foods' when I went to see her for a routine chat about managing my anxiety. Alongside recommending some tenets of cognitive behavioural therapy, which helps us rethink habitual negative interpretations of the world, and mentioning mindfulness, she listed three 'Happy Foods': dark green leafy vegetables, oily fish, and yippee – dark chocolate.

Nutrition is now a key implement in my own mental health toolbox, alongside the aforementioned mindfulness, taking regular exercise and the healing power of poetry which has helped me find a gentler narrative in my head. What I like about a nutritional approach to mental health is that there's plenty of research suggesting what we eat really does affect how we feel.

Alice and I built up a range of delicious recipes which reflect more than 140 scientific studies: Alice has a degree in nutritional therapy and biomedical science. The 70 recipes in our book The Happy Kitchen: Good Mood Food are designed to boost energy, relieve low mood, comfort a troubled mind, support hormone balance and help you sleep soundly – in other words, to tackle all the symptoms that can affect me.

Good psychiatrists are already stressing the importance of 'lifestyle' interventions for those who suffer depression. I would never say diet alone is the answer, and it shouldn't be a substitution for either medication or other strategies. Antidepressants can be a crucial recourse for those suffering from mood disorders as they were for me for many years. But ideally our use of them should be short term, as they can have adverse side-effects including, ironically, feeling suicidal and weight gain.

Over the last few years, I've tried to find other approaches to staying calm and well. Changing my diet has been a lovely new arrow in my quiver. I hope it might be one in yours too.


Rachel 
A Moodscope member

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moodscope web site:

http://www.moodscope.com/blog/the-happy-kitchen-good-mood-food

Monday, 23 January 2017

Rejuvenate.

What a gorgeous word! What a wonderful experience!! What a glorious feeling!!!

Here's how Visual Thesaurus describes 'Rejuvenate':

- restore strength
- undergo regeneration
- undergo a change; become different in essence; losing one's or its original nature
- become young again
- return to life; get or give new life or energy
- make younger or more youthful
- provide the needed stimulus for
- develop youthful topographical features (I like this!)

I'm a fan of four streams of wisdom around Time Management. One of the four is Dan Sullivan's approach for Entrepreneurs. In his Entrepreneurial Time System, he recommends just three types of days:

- Focus Days
- Buffer Days
- Free Days

Today I'm focussing on the Free Days. These days, says, Dan, are for rejuvenation. Look at the way Visual Thesaurus describes this beautiful word. I'm feeling energised just reading the descriptions!

Lady Penelope (my partner) and I have a slightly skewed rhythm to our week as she works on Sunday. This makes Friday and Saturday our weekend, but I often work on a Friday! Dan's system suggests that you always 'pay back' a Free Day if you have to flex for any reason. Fortunately, Lady P is also off on Wednesday each week. This week we had Wednesday as our Free day. On it, we visited Moors Valley Country Park and Forest.

Would you let me enthuse? This is a pine forest with apparatus for the children to climb, clamber upon and explore! There are running tracks and other stuff for adults, but I was attracted to the 'crocodile' and other climbing opportunities for kids...

...and I became a child again for a few precious moments.

You may or may not have your 'older' self present in your consciousness, but you most certainly do still have your inner-six-year-old! I wonder if 'Rejuvenation' includes giving that inner-six-year-old time to play again?

Not only did I become a child again, I also became a Mohican! I deliberately chose a path less trodden between the trunks of the pine trees. All of a sudden, I was a Native American Indian, hunting in the forest. It was a glorious jaunt for my imagination!

The result was that I was energised, refreshed, cheered-up, and left feeling young again!

In fact, I felt 'adventurous'...

I was rejuvenated.

May I invite your inner-six-year-old out to play this weekend? I promise you'll feel rejuvenated and energised to make the most of the coming week! You may even become as adventurous as a Mohican!

Lex
A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moodscope web site:

http://www.moodscope.com/blog/rejuvenate

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Christmas.

I don't know how others spent Christmas, was it good for you? Or did you feel the pressure of family commitments, maybe you don't have any family, or maybe you just chose to do something completely different to escape the whole thing.

January being mainly depressing anyway, I can't help reflecting on Christmas. It went wrong for us. My family are split, in more ways than one. It's complicated and there is not much love flying around. In former years, I would spend it with my exes family to avoid my own. In later years, my husband and I would go abroad to escape or just stay at home.

We don't have children, which obviously makes a big difference. My husband has no family so this Christmas just gone we decided to see my family, it was long overdue, I told myself, lets feel the love etc.

It was a mistake. All the years of wanting to have a perfect family setting, and the reason for all the years I avoided it were confirmed.

So I would be pleased to hear other Christmas stories! Along with anyone trying to desperately get something from the people that they will never probably get anything from. Family or friends.

Do we ever give up? Do we know how to give up?

Molly
A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moodscope web site:

http://www.moodscope.com/blog/n-a-21

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Would you like to write a blog for Moodscope?

We've had some great blogs recently from our Moodscope members which have certainly given us all food for thought and encouraged more and more people from the Moodscope community to comment and contribute which makes each topic even more interesting.

If you haven't visited the blog on the web site yet, please take a look when you have time. Everyone there wants to help and provide support to others. It's a wonderful, safe place to discuss any problems or issues you may have. Sometimes, it's just good to know that you're not the only one who may be suffering.

We're now looking for more people to write for Moodscope. You can write about your experiences, therapies/strategies that have helped you, books you've read, music that lifts your spirits, poems that you like - anything really that might uplift or inspire our other members. It should be around 350 words if possible.

Just send your blog to support@moodscope.com for our editorial team to take a look at.

We look forward to reading them and sharing them with our members.

Kind regards.

Caroline
The Moodscope Team

Friday, 20 January 2017

Buttercups.

It was a simple thing really.

A quick glance into a shop window as I was rushing by, something just catching my eye and making me stop.

There was a beautiful display of fine china with delicate buttercups climbing along the plates, cups and mugs on spindly thin green stems until their yellow petals reached the top and held their pretty faces up to the sunlight high overhead.

It reminded me of the field of buttercups that had been behind my childhood home.

Sometimes when I had opened my bedroom curtains and blinked away the sleepiness of the night I would be amazed at the brightness of them, the sunlight seemed to turn the world golden and I used to stand and watch them entranced, swishing gently in the summer breeze.

I loved the buttercups and often picked a small bunch for my mother who used to hold one under my chin to see if I liked butter! It seemed such a funny idea, but I loved it when I looked in the mirror and saw the golden glow on my skin. How we used to laugh together. Then she would tuck one into my hair and say 'off you go Miss Buttercup'.

I stand there in the busy street the reflection of myself in the window smiling with me at the memory. Poor mum had died when I was a child; I still had my wonderful memories of her but missed her so much.

As I turn to go I catch a glimpse of a figure just behind the display pointing to it with the shop assistant, lucky lady I thought she will enjoy using that it's such a happy flower.

I remembered my chores and set off along the high street, so much to do all the time, so many things to get done and time was always against me! I was so busy rushing along I bumped into a small elderly lady almost knocking her and her shopping trolley over!

"I am so very sorry" I gasped but she assured me she was fine, she smiled at me. "I was miles away" I said; "I really hope you are ok?"

"I am" she replied, "but you seem to be in such a rush all the time!"

I watched her go and wondered why she had said that I had never seen her before! She was quite right though, I realised I was always rushing around not seeing anything properly making lists, keeping appointments, life was just so very busy!

I decided to to stop for a coffee and went into the next cafe I came across. I ordered and sat and watched the busy street, a never ending surge of people, traffic and noise. I sipped my coffee and was surprised to notice my cup had the same delicate buttercup pattern on it. How odd!

I looked up and stood there in the window was the elderly lady whom I had almost knocked over! She was smiling at me; I watched her turn to walk past and noticed the box of buttercup china in the top of her trolley I felt a shiver as something fell from my hair onto the table.

It was a beautiful perfect buttercup.

Jayne
A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moodscope web site:

http://www.moodscope.com/blog/buttercups

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Developing self value.

I was going to use the title 'Push the stop button, now'. It appertained to looking at one's behaviour in the past, and if there was ever a time when you could say 'I wish I could have stayed, right there'?

I think I can actually pin-point an age which was perhaps the 'high point' of my life. My early 50's. I had a steady relationship which had survived the traumas of rearing children, getting established and keeping a roof over our heads. it was at this time that I went to university.

My fellow students were all about 20. I could not rival them in face or figure, but I could keep up in brain and spirit. And I did not have to cope with fears of leaving home, acute lack of confidence, that the big wide world was a scary place – that you were in a place of extreme rivalry in all fields.

I learned, shatteringly, that my brain, although capable of quick thinking and problem solving, was a very ill-disciplined organ, and had to be re-trained, mostly via red ink on my essays. In my 'real' life I was still a boss, but in the lecture theatre I was often worthy of a dunce's cap.

I did learn self-value, my limitations. When it came to finals, I would take the best flower in my garden, lay it on the desk in front of me, and say 'If I don't get a degree I'm still a jolly good gardener'. Those three years, and the subsequent MA, gave me a confidence in myself that led to a retirement inestimably rich.

Who, among you, have had that experience? What has, might, or will allow you to 'value yourself'?

The Gardener
A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moodscope web site:

http://www.moodscope.com/blog/developing-self-value


Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Teaching and Learning.

I am surrounded by teachers in my personal life. My husband is a primary school classroom assistant (a nice change from his previous career in banking); my son is a secondary school teacher of IT; my dearest friend is a professor of physics. In fact, thinking about it, many of my friends are teachers in one way or another.

One of the techniques they all use is to get their pupils to teach each other. Apparently, once you explain a concept to someone else, you start to really "get" it yourself.

I wasn't sure about this. I couldn't quite understand how this concept worked, until last night.

My younger daughter had just watched "Titanic".

"Mummy – it was so sad!" she wailed. "How do I get rid of the sad thoughts in my head? I am so depressed, just thinking about it. Why did Jack have to die?"

Well, having gone through it with her, explaining that Jack was actually representative of all the men on the Titanic and that, if he had survived, the film would not have made a true point and would have been the worse for it, she understood a little more. After all, 87% of third class male passengers died in the Titanic Disaster – the film needed to reflect that. 97% of female first class passengers survived.

But that wasn't the point. My second daughter, unlike her hard-as-nails sister*, is sensitive and empathic to the point of pain.

We discussed, not for the first time, whether she needs to be responsible about the art to which she chooses to expose herself. In explaining to her that some people are just so sensitive that upsetting art can haunt them for years, I realised I was explaining to myself.

The War Museum in Ypres is a case in point. I wish I had not visited that museum: the images still distress me more than two decades later. There are films I wish I had not seen; books I wish I had not read; pictures I wish I had just passed by. And Heaven knows, some news clips I wish I could un-see!

Don't get me wrong: I appreciate the art. I acknowledge that the artists felt they had to express those particular truths. I can see it is important to make people stop and to think and to feel.

But some of us think and feel too much, to the point where it impacts our health.

So it is not cowardice which makes me screen my viewing, reading and listening experiences; which directs me towards the positive and "feel-good" end of TV, cinema and literature. It is wisdom, borne of experience. Wisdom I wish to pass onto my younger daughter.

And possibly to you too.

So what do you think? Do we have a duty to experience pain in art and in current affairs, or can we produce a doctor's note to get out of it? And if we can, should we?

Mary
A Moodscope member.

*For all of you critical of this description, please note that it is her own and that I have her permission, indeed encouragement, to use it!

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moodscope web site:

http://www.moodscope.com/blog/teaching-and-learning

Monday, 16 January 2017

How can we prevent future mental illness suffering?

It is wonderful how Moodscope enables this brave community to share support, experiences and tips for 'getting through' life. But that shows a sad fact; most people with mental illness, whether it be diagnosed as anxiety, depression, bipolar, psychosis, personality disorder, OCD, whatever – don't actually get out of it completely. A good outcome is to be able to live 'ok', perhaps supported by meds. The ongoing impacts on happiness, and on ability to work, are huge. There is no glory or pleasure in being mentally ill, and it is not part of identity.

We also know that genetic inheritance is a big causal risk factor. If we suffer from mental ill-health, there's a much higher chance that our children and nieces and nephews will do too.

Wouldn't it be great if we could prevent this suffering going on down the generations? What more loving thing can we do for future generations but to help them head this suffering off before it even starts?

When Paul Farmer surveyed the public for the NHS Mental Health Taskforce in 2015, he include the 'prevention' word, really for the first time in public discourse (globally); it went straight to the top of key issues [http://bit.ly/2itXLqH].

Now the debate is developing, led by NGO's such as Mental Health Foundation [http://bit.ly/2iDTqzZ, full disclosure I am a trustee] and Mind [http://bit.ly/2jgLq6H], think tanks such as EPI [http://bit.ly/2iDS3Rv] and Mental Elf [http://bit.ly/2itS8sy], and Public Health England [http://bit.ly/2iyHnAl].

My view is that parenting is a key factor for many, and could easily be improved (in fact I think there should be a mandatory parenting certificate for all parents-to-be, just like a driving test, focusing on parenting well for the future mental health of the child). As well as unconditional love and attachment, and preventing abuse of all forms, wiser parenting would include keeping expectations reasonable (high achieving children often become confused as to whether they are loved for themselves or their A grades, and get trapped on a mouse wheel that is impossible to sustain), and working hard to stop drug intake before the child's brain has reached adulthood.

I also am very hopeful about pre-emptive CBT; equipping school children with the idea that some of their [or their friends] thoughts may be wonky and irrational ('Facebook says everyone else is having a non-stop party life – I must do the same'). Research shows that pre-emptive CBT reduces depression incidence in at risk people [http://bit.ly/21tlmEt].

The Moodscope community could be wonderfully helpful here;

- What do you think caused your mental illness? Could it have been prevented?
- What are you doing to prevent your illness recurring in your children or nieces and nephews?

Adrian Stott
A Moodscope supporter.
(My personal opinions: http://bit.ly/2jX9Dlr)

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moodscope web site:

http://www.moodscope.com/blog/how-can-we-prevent-future-mental-illness-suffering

Wisdom 31:15 A Daily Joy.

Well, I'm half way through my self-set challenge! I wanted to read a chapter of the book of Proverbs each day throughout January and share which verses jumped out at me!

Today, it is the turn of Proverbs chapter 15.

Of course there is a ton of treasure in this chapter, as in all the others, but I'm just going to focus on a single verse, verse 30:

'A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones.'

How about that as a Daily Quest?

Do you think you and I could dig within ourselves to find a cheerful look to share with someone each day?

And then...

Do you also think that you and I could be thoughtful enough to pay a genuine complement to someone each day?

I think a genuine complement is 'good news' for anyone who hears and accepts it.

I'd like healthy bones, wouldn't you? This is the promise: good news gives health to the bones!

There's a lady up at my local Tesco Express who has one of the most wonderful smiles on the planet. Hers is matched by my friend Darren Regis-Williams - when he smiles, the room lights up! I will go out of my way to see them because they give energy.

I have many other friends who give unsolicited words of encouragement. They are worth their weight in gold to me. I deeply appreciate them.

You and I can be that kind of friend to others.

Wouldn't it be great if your friends and colleagues could say of you,

"Everybody needs a bit of {your name} in their lives!"

Let's focus on sharing that cheerful look and those kind and good words. I can guarantee you'll have a great day!

Lex 
A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moodscope web site:

http://www.moodscope.com/blog/wisdom-31-15-a-daily-joy

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Routine.

It sounded like a wonderful idea - time away from my shop with my partner while he was renovating I would have free time to relax and unwind.

The plan would mean I would have time to write, to read to walk.

So why did I feel uncomfortable about going and why did I, half way through my stay, feel restless.

I never thought I'd say this but I crave the order of my routine in my shop. I can't believe I actually wrote that because I've always been someone who sees herself as a free spirit almost hippy like, not someone who is tied down to timetables and has a boring routine.

Each day I have to get up at a certain time open the shop and then at the end of the day I close the shop and I do that 7 days a week. I love it. I love knowing what I'm going to do every day.

I know that some people now want to scream at me because they say they would love to have some time away where they don't have do the daily routine and have responsibilities.

When I was very manic and very depressed I had no routine. Everything was out of order and chaotic. Now I realize the importance of routine and order to maintain my health.

I used to see people that have routines as being boring but now I know the importance routine plays in giving structure to my life and helping me lead a balanced life.

I wonder what you feel about routine and the role it plays in your life.

Do you feel, like me, the routine does help your health and lack of routine is not good for you?

Or are you someone that thinks routine is very restrictive and detrimental to your health.

Leah
A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moodscope web site:

http://www.moodscope.com/blog/routine