Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Mens Sana in Corpore Sano - Parte Quinque

[To listen to an audio version of this blog, please click here: http://bit.ly/2jOAFKl]

Meditation.

I write this with a sense of failure.

It is now a month since I started this series and, yes, there is a reason why I left this topic to last. I am lousy at meditation.

Oh, I had such good intentions. I always do. A month, I thought; a month was surely enough to get into good habits.

I sought advice from anyone I could think of who was good at this. I downloaded apps and guided meditations. I subscribed to a couple of daily "Thoughts". But nope, after a month I think I have done exactly two meditations and read maybe four of the thoughts.

So, this morning, I made myself do another meditation. This one from Head Space, which comes highly recommended from a fellow Moodscope user.

Honesty time? Yup – I felt really good after doing it. I felt light and floaty – as if I'd had an hour's whole-body massage in a darkened room with soft panpipe music and jasmine scented air.

But doing it was sheer torture.

So, I identified a few things.

1. I cannot bear to do "nothing". I can't even watch TV without doing the ironing at the same time.
2. I'm really rebellious. When the guide asks me to breathe in a certain way, my reaction is to do exactly the opposite.
3. My inner child feels as if she's being punished; being asked to sit quietly on her hands for those minutes, when she really wants to play.

On the other hand, I do other things which are very nearly meditation.

I have written many times about swimming. There is something about the rhythmical movement of one's limbs through the water, the discipline of breathing, that is conducive to letting one's thoughts wander where they will. I usually use my swimming time to play with ideas for writing and in intercessory prayer – which is different from meditative prayer. Guess what? I'm not much good at meditative prayer either.

Another thing I do is make greetings cards. Apparently, studies have shown that the brainwaves of someone who is deeply involved in a craft process are identical to the brainwaves of someone meditating. So – when I'm cutting paper to millimetre accuracy, when I'm placing that stamp image with pinpoint precision, when I'm gluing embellishments exactly where they need to be: that's as good as meditation. Isn't it?

Well, maybe. I think both are good for mental health. But both are meditation lite. They're not a substitute for the real thing. I rarely rise from a cardmaking session with the feeling of having spent an afternoon in a spa, with that physical feeling which is at once a feeling of heaviness and lightness – a feeling of being effortlessly stretched like Alice after she drank of that bottle so invitingly labelled "Drink Me!"

It's a good feeling. A feeling of being calm, loose, relaxed, centred, resilient. A feeling I'd like to feel again.

Almost worth meditating for.

Mary
A Moodscope member.

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

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/mens-sana-in-corpore-sano-parte-quinque

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Do You Wanna Build A Snowman..?

Yay, it's snowing! Outside my garden looks like a Christmas card. I'm impatiently waiting for my daughter and her friends to wake up, after a late birthday sleepover, so we can pull out the sled, build a snowman and generally have fun. Snow happens here in the East Midlands so rarely that, when it does, I make a conscience effort to go outside and have fun and not listen to my 'louder' voice telling me to stay under the covers with hot drinks!! Time for hot chocolate later when we are back in doors with red noses, rosy cheeks and a feeling a contentment and pleasure.

Is snow fun for you? Do you wanna build a snowman?

Jane SG
A Moodscope member.

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

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/do-you-wanna-build-a-snowman

Monday, 11 December 2017

How can I help?

Today's poem was inspired by a very genuine friend who was proud of how she gave love letters to homeless people. She assured me that these were received well, and that she never gave them money.

I realised, to my shame, that I was horrified by this. She sincerely believed she was doing them good because nobody told them how beautiful they were and how loved.

However, I also realise that I have turned away from friend and neighbour when it was in my power to make a relevant difference.

Instead, I have shared empty words.

So I wrote this poem to myself, and for whomsoever it resonates with.

True to life, when my turn came to need help, many friends said, "If I can help in any way... just let me know." When the right type of help was blisteringly obvious. Appropriate help did not come.

Christmas is not a happy season for all, but it is a grand opportunity to make a significant difference to someone's life.

Thus here is the poem.

"How can I help?" I helpfully said!
They gasped, "I am thirsty."
So I gave them some bread.

...

Then I saw a friend stranded - they had a flat tyre.
So I stopped and I hugged them,
And shared a word to inspire!

...

What of the homeless man exposed to the rain?
Well, I gave him my own ticket
For a cheap flight to Spain!

...

And when it was my turn...

...

I said, "Send reinforcements; we're going to die."
You heard, "Lend me fourpence; we're going to fly."
So you said you'd no change, and instead gave a grin,
Not knowing that I was about to give in.

...

Helping a friend doesn't take the science of a rocket
If your neighbour's in need, put your hand in your pocket.

...

It doesn't cost much to show that you care;
You may well be the answer
To someone's last prayer.

Lex
A Moodscope member.

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

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/how-can-i-help

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Tis the season (part ii).

It's our second week. If I could create a warm room for us all with soft stuff and candles in the style of the Danish concept Hygge then I would. (Of course, in this virtual world someone else would cook and clean for us, we'd all get along and our differences would dovetail, never to collide.)

How can I bring you something soothing this week? My thought is a reverse advent. For you. Throw around in your head the idea of putting just 5 minutes inwards each day. Only 5 minutes, time it. You can't? I'm raising an eyebrow. A time investment in to you. Just for the season and you can go back to ignoring yourself after December if you wish.

Why not a deposit into the Bank of Mental Health? Daily. Five minutes. You might find it strange. Indulgent. Useless. Absurd. Are you willing to try? You might grow to look forward to it!

Ideas - for me, things like making a fresh bed for myself, a candle with dinner, to rub lotion into my sore feet every morning before socks, drying my hair, lying flat on the floor staring at the ceiling, enjoying the sunset or sometimes just telling myself into the mirror "you are doing ok Room, better than you think".

Maybe you will think it's weird. And maybe you'll like it. Be soothed. Five minutes. A reverse advent.

Love from

The room above the garage
A Moodscope member.

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

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/tis-the-season-part-ii

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Alert and Ashamed.

Alert: Being quick to notice and react
Ashamed: Feeling shame for doing something wrong or foolish

I have plagiarised the series of excellent blogs by Lex, offered to our Moodscope community quite a while ago (September to November 2013) looking at the Moodscope cards and their meaning. Today I'd like to take another look at the Alert and Ashamed cards.

Alert

Lex gives us the vivid examples of pets, seemingly sleeping but with senses still working, easily able to score a 3 on this card because they are ever quick to notice and then leap into activity... especially if there is food or attention available.

There is a difference between being aware and being alert. Being aware relies heavily upon our innate senses, senses that are often the key to our own survival. Being alert takes us that extra mile, we are now FULLY aware, wide-awake and keen. Imagine hearing sounds all around you, being aware of those sounds. Now you hear a gunshot ring through the ambient noise – you change gear and become alert.

I think most of us are better at awareness than being alert. We become alert most often because we have become fearful. Practice being alert and you will appreciate your surroundings so much more.

Ashamed

So we have done something wrong or foolish? Show me someone who hasn't! This card is making the way that we feel about our mistakes very strong. Are we sure that we are really ashamed or is it that we are embarrassed about something we said or did?

Being embarrassed is usually fairly easy to handle, often we have caused other people to laugh at us but it's usually quickly forgotten. The magic words "I'm sorry!" will often be all that are needed. I get ashamed only when I keep doing the same wrong or foolish thing time after time, especially if what I keep repeating hurts others around me.

Lex postulated that taking a break even for a few minutes to go to the loo is often a good coping tactic.

Shame is an emotion that makes you feel horrible. It's not the same as the feeling of guilt because you did something wrong. Shame makes you feel inside that you're unworthy and inadequate.

Understand that most people feel a bit ashamed, so don't be too hard on yourself when marking yourself on this card. Best of all if you have someone close who you feel able to share your insecurity with, try not staying completely in emotional hiding. I'm a typical guy and find this very hard but when I do manage to do it even a little bit... fantastic.

Please share with other Moodscope members your tips, insights ideas or advice on these two cards.

David
A Moodscope member

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

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/alert-and-ashamed

Friday, 8 December 2017

They can't take that away from me.


Pre digital cameras, when you got your prints from the chemist the packet (and much publicity) had the phrase 'because someone took a picture'. Without this record, it would be difficult to remember that we built most of that house ourselves, the five children had a super time, always larks, impromptu parties and loads of visitors. The children are in their 50's, the house and garden are under the M25, but the memories live on.

The title is a Gershwin song from the 1930's, sung by all the most famous singers in their time. I've written about memories, their importance for me, loaded on a computer with a large screen, and appearing at random. A doctor who specialises in dementia says it is a brilliant way of communicating with sufferers, who cannot cope with albums.

The whole subject of photographs came up last week - visit of eldest son, complete with USB and CD of latest family occasions, grand-daughter wedding and brother-in-law 90th birthday, plus shire horses and a breed of sheep, of which the ram could be champion of the crumpled horn. We were then glued to the screen. Friendly battles ensued on pictures which could not be dated. I did it on dresses or hair styles; son had a fool-proof method, any number plate he could put a date to.

This blog has a serious warning and a plea. My brother in law is in a bad way – he's 91, still stubbornly living at home, rapidly losing sight, hearing and mobility. I've tried over the decades to persuade him to let me see his photographs – he has been a visiting professor in many countries, and took many pictures. They are all in boxes. He has a mentally ill son, a daughter and grand-daughter. If they do not insist on getting him to name the photos where he can, his whole life will be lost, no record except, I expect, an obituary in the 'Times'.

The saying 'every picture tells a story' is very true. Our record of the bicentenary of the French Revolution in 1989 is a glorious example. We wanted to watch the fireworks - we took a champagne picnic. Could get no nearer than the 5th bridge, already about 10,000 people on it. We were pictured on the central reservation. A police car tried to cross, we all stood up and did the Mexican Wave. Afterwards, on that warm July night, it was one giant street party.

I've kept a diary for 30 years, invaluable. Records now go on Facebook. This Christmas, as well as texting and watching soaps, dig in the family photos, and play the game 'Who was that, where was that', it's fun.

The Gardener
A Moodscope member.

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

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/they-cant-take-that-away-from-me

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Mens Sana in Corpore Sano - Pars Quattuor.

Sleep.

"Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleeve of care. The death of each day's life, sore labour's bath. Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course, Chief nourisher in life's feast."

Yup – That's Shakespeare. It so very often is. That's from the Scottish Play. What is often forgotten in this quotation is that it comes immediately after the line, "Macbeth does murder sleep."

When I was in my mania periods, back in the bad old days before medication, I was rather proud of the way I could do without sleep. I could function for weeks on three and a half hours a night. I would cheerfully murder sleep.

Of course, the moment I came out of the high and slid down that garderobe slope into the dungeon of depression, I could sleep for seventeen hours a day; and frequently did.

Even recently I was still spending hours awake during the night. At three in the morning I would text friends all around the world. "I am concerned for your health," replied Raz, it being either 9am or 9pm for him. "You should be in the sweet embrace of Morpheus, not conversing with me."

I was unconcerned. So long as I could still function, did it matter that I did not or could not sleep?

But then I read of recent research which suggests that a lack of sleep could seriously shorten your life and certainly adversely affect your health. Turns out, old Will knew what he was talking about.

So, I started to develop a more disciplined sleep routine. I know this does not work for everyone, and I know that there are some (many?) of you who feel you have tried everything to get a good night's sleep and yet still you lie awake, tormented by your thoughts. I do not wish to patronise you with these ideas.

Our day as a family starts at 5.45am, when I stumble out of bed to wake the girls who are blissfully sleeping through their alarms. (How can they do that, if their alarms wake me at the other end of the house through two closed doors?) Working back from that, I try to be in bed by 10pm with lights out at 10.30pm. To facilitate this, the phone and computer get switched off at 9.30pm and I have a snack of slow release carbohydrates to stop me waking hungry in the night. A gentle wind down, warm shower and cosy pyjamas are all part of this process.

And no – it doesn't work all the time. It doesn't take into account evenings spent out. It doesn't account for that really good book I can't put down until my Kindle falls forward and bats me on the nose. It doesn't account for waking up at 1.30am for no good reason.

But it has worked enough for me to feel the benefits, and to recommend the regime to others.

What sleep routine would you recommend?

Mary
A Moodscope member.

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

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/mens-sana-in-corpore-sano-pars-quattuor

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Who am I? What am I? Where am I?

Don't worry, dear reader. I am not having an existential crisis! I know exactly where I am. It's an early evening and I am sitting on my well-worn leather sofa, dog by my side and beer at hand (low alcohol, I hasten to add).

What am I? Well, I also know the answer to that. I am a mother of two, plus dog, daughter, sister, partner (although God bless him, we only manage to meet up once a week), friend and in my professional life an adviser on employment rights.

Who am I? Well, I clearly am lots of different things to different people. And the real question that has been nagging me for some months is more not about not knowing who I am, but wondering when I have time to be me?!

Like many people, I am a wage slave with caring responsibilities, and finding time for me is scarce, but yet so important....

This is why I have found mindfulness such a helpful concept. It's learning to live in the moment, trying to focus on being in the present, and although it's a skill which may take a lifetime to master, it's one I want to learn.

Yesterday when parking up to drop my son off at the school disco, he pointed out a bird perching in a bush by the car. "What's that, Mum?", he asked. I squinted and saw a little Jenny wren right there, a yard in front of us. On explaining that this was the smallest bird in the British Isles he was very impressed, which just added to the pleasure of the moment.

I can't really answer the question I posed at the beginning of this blog. I wear many different hats. My responses and behaviour are shaped by my habits and experience gained over the years. What I do know that is that I need time for myself and I need moments of pleasure, like that brief glimpse of a wren in a bush, all 90 seconds of it.

I hope that today you find one small thing that either makes you smile or is comforting.

BrumMum
A Moodscope member.

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

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/who-am-i-what-am-i-where-am-i

Monday, 4 December 2017

Two friends and one enemy: Could, Should, and Must.

[To listen to an extended audio version of this blog please click here: http://bit.ly/2BqoUQl]

For years, years I say, I have been banging on about the dangers of the words 'should' and 'must'. 'Should' and 'Must' have been my enemies - enemies of freedom and productivity. But one of them has just shifted from long-term enemy to firm-friend.

'Should' is a modal operator of necessity. It's a way of helping us understand the often hidden rules we live our lives by, and by which we judge our experience as good or bad, right or wrong, acceptable or unacceptable.

'Should' can be challenged with a great question:

"What would happen if I didn't?"

For example, a useful rule is that I 'should' ring my mother more often than I do... To test the value of this self-imposed rule, asking myself, "What would happen if I didn't?" then opens up a useful stream of thinking:

She may not feel loved
I would miss out on her news
We would weaken our bond.

Since I would like Mum to feel more loved, hear her news, and relish the opportunity to strengthen our bond, it would be a good move to call my Mother! The important difference to be made is to shift from the disempowering 'should' to the empowering word: 'could'!

Suddenly, there seems to be a more empowering option - to choose to call my Mum because I can (could), not out of guilt but rather out of love and in the quest for positive possibilities.

'Should' then, remains an enemy of the state - the state of freedom.

By now you must have guessed who my new friend is: 'Must'!

'Must' is a modal operator of necessity, equally as dangerous and challengeable as 'Should' but one that can be turned to good use. 'Must' can disempower or it can empower.

Let's take a rewriting of the Ten Commandments as our example. "Thou shalt not..." is actually very strong language. It is non-negotiable. It is absolute. And, unfortunately for many of us, it is archaic and thus open to misinterpretation. For most of us, 'shalt not' means 'shouldn't'... and therein lies a lot of trouble.

Listen to one of the commandments written in three ways, beginning with the archaic:

Thou shalt not commit adultery (archaic)
You should not commit adultery (interpreted as)
You must not commit adultery (new alternative form.)

Laying aside the 'shall not' for now, let's consider the difference between 'should' and 'must'.

If I should not commit adultery, that sounds to me like adultery is ill-advised, best not to commit it. However, there is the possibility of exploring the option.

If I must not commit adultery, that sounds to me like adultery is never an option, I must never, ever commit it. There is no possibility of entertaining it as an option.

I hope you agree.

'Must' then can be used to change my behaviour because it changes my options and possibilities. It takes the choice out of the equation. The negotiable becomes non-negotiable, and the energy wasted on choosing is saved because there is no choice.

Let me illustrate.

"I must not eat crisps." This is far easier than, "I should not eat crisps."

Smoking, drinking, swearing... you name it. The power to change is in the shift from 'should' to 'must'.

I recognise that this has the potential to transform your future, so let's start gently and in a manageable way with just three promises to yourself where you will move from the good idea of 'should' to the great action of 'must'.

Kurt Lewin, I believe, suggested that a goal we commit publicly to is a goal we are 10x more likely to achieve. Please feel free to commit publicly to your own 'must' goals in the comments below.

Now I must tidy the lounge...

Lex
A Moodscope member.

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

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/two-friends-and-one-enemy-could-should-and-must

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Tis the season (part i).

I'm sending a weekly blog in December designed to soothe. Press pause. Reset. Help you pull away from what we think we should be doing. If you are at a difficult point in life and/or health, then this season might be almost unbearable.

From a mental health perspective, I find this time of year filled with feelings of heaven and hell. Heart spilling with love watching my eldest daughter lead her choir in a huge service in our cathedral, followed by silent sobs in bed overnight as I battle through fragmenting myself to help others and a realisation of utter loneliness. Why that dichotomy? It's because there are many things to enjoy about this season and they in turn can highlight what is missing.

Let's revolt! Turn away from the crippling excess. Return to valuing the special, the smaller the more significant. I think for those of us who suffer in our mental health, witnessing the excess of eating, drinking, spending, frivolity, lights and noise can be an extra body blow. We either throw ourselves into it, in an attempt to surf over the season, being buffeted and numbed in the process, or we withdraw even further and hold that weightiness upon our shoulders. We must feel we can stand aside from both.

And so how do we navigate? How do we care for that delicate balance? Well I'm going to attempt to bring you something soothing once a week. And to start I'll say that you are not alone, we will step through it together. If you haven't commented ever before, think about saying hi, it's a connection. That alone can be pivotal. You are not alone. And we will cross the stepping stones of the season bit by bit together. Sometimes we'll slip and sometimes we'll fall. But if we hold hands we can get there together.

Love from

The room above the garage, sticking out a hand.
A Moodscope member.

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

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/tis-the-season-part-i