Sunday, 30 June 2013

I hear what I'm saying.

Have you ever had the experience of only realising what you really think or feel about something when you hear yourself saying it for the first time?

We often find that our deepest thoughts lurk in the shadows, out of reach, until we are 'forced' to describe them to another person through conversation. In other words, we may need to explain ourselves to someone else in order to become clear in our own minds about our deeper thoughts, feelings, points of view, hopes and ambitions. The act of communicating can be a deeply clarifying experience.

To make it work you need to be as precise and colourful as possible. By challenging yourself to communicate clearly and compellingly you will improve the clarity of your own thinking and beliefs. Don't be theoretical. Use specific examples (stories) to bring what you say to life.

The Moodscope Team

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Big boys do cry. And that's no bad thing.

There was a post recently about 'holding a poem in our body'.  Here's one of the poem's I keep treasured in a golden nook of my mind written by Charles Mackay.

Oh you tears,
I'm thankful that you run.
Though you trickle in the darkness,
You shall glitter in the sun.
The rainbow could not shine if the rain refused to fall;
And the eyes that cannot weep are the saddest eyes of all.

Emotional tears differ chemically from tears caused by an irritant, such as an onion.  According to biochemist Dr William Frey II, an expert on crying, emotional tears contain a greater concentration of protein than irritant induced tears do.

Now I'm no scientist and so I don't actually know what this means for our bodies.  What does seem pretty certain however is that crying does seem to relieve emotional stresses such as grief and sorrow.

Squash down the tears often enough though and it becomes harder and harder to cry freely.  Like the poem says-it's the eyes that cannot weep that are the saddest eyes of all.

I watch the film Bright Star when I need to unleash pent up tears.

So don't be afraid of tears and definitely don't apologise for them.

Henry Maudsley wisely said: The sorrow which has no vent in tears may make other organs weep.

The Moodscope Team

Friday, 28 June 2013

Wild White Cattle of Chillingham.

Last week I had the most incredibly uplifting experience. I was in the company of what is possibly the rarest large mammal on earth. This animal is rarer than the giant panda; rarer than the Siberian tiger. There are no examples in any zoos. In fact, the only place you can see these beautiful creatures is in an isolated valley in Northumberland. They are one of the county's less visited attractions; the Wild White Cattle of Chillingham.

Their story is one of foresight, natural selection at its most brutal and luck, incredible luck. Eight hundred years ago the then Lord of Chillingham created a wall, seven miles long, to completely surround the valley containing these cattle. He wanted them to remain wild so that the Scots could not steal them (they cannot be lead or driven).

From then until now the herd has remained completely isolated and has not bred with other domestic cows. Today they are as much like our domestic cattle as a fox is like a St Bernard. They are genetically unique in the world.

At one point, after the bitter winter of 1947, the herd dwindled to a mere eleven individuals. In 1967 Foot and Mouth Disease came within three miles of the estate and officials were dispatched with rifles to shoot the whole herd. But after observing through binoculars that the herd appeared healthy with no sign of the disease, they went away again
The cattle wander freely in a wooded and pastured valley of 350 acres. Last week, bathed in sunshine, it appeared idyllic. I should imagine in January it is rather different.

Hearing their story, along with the bugling of the bulls (they do not roar or bellow like ordinary cattle) was inspiring. Watching them was peaceful. I could have stayed in that meadow all day, but my £7 only entitled me to an hour of the (very patient) warden's time. I could go back again and again, and if it were not for the 350 mile journey to get there,  probably would!

I appreciate that walking in wild countryside is not universally enjoyable and that cows do not uplift the spirits of everyone, but when you know what really does uplift your spirits and you can create a cocktail that will be uniquely satisfying to you, then – even if you can only do it every so often – you will be onto a winner.

The Moodscope Team

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Think of a lighthouse.

Just before handing over to Oleg who has written today's wonderful blog, a quick announcement from  the Moodscope team.

**When we introduced the definitions of the adjectives on the Moodscope cards, we had lots of positive feedback saying how helpful they were. We also had some feedback from those who said they would prefer not to see them. So, because we want to provide a service that everyone is happy with, we've now introduced the facility to remove the definitions. You can find this in the 'Manage Account' section once you've logged in to your account. Best wishes. Caroline Ashcroft, The Moodscope Team.**

Last weekend I was lucky enough to travel to San Sebastian, a small city in the Basque Country, Northern Spain. The city is very beautiful and has many attractions to offer, but for me the main reason to go there was the Atlantic Ocean. I had been dreaming for a long time of seeing the ocean from the shore - to watch the waves and enjoy the moment.

So there I was, standing on the beautiful beach, watching the sun setting into the ocean. The waves were coming, one after another, crashing onto the shore just a few feet away. The lamp of a lighthouse on the small island switched on. Then off. Then on again.

An hour later I was still standing in the same spot. As the night was settling in, the waves were becoming bigger and bigger, making me feel small and vulnerable. I turned my eyes to the lighthouse again. Its lamp was still calmly flashing - as if there were no big waves, as if everything was under control. And there was something special about this flashing - something that comforted me very much.

Our life is like the ocean - there are calm times, there are stormy times. And there will always be waves - you cannot imagine the ocean without them. But no matter how big the waves are, think of a lighthouse. I don't mean a literal lighthouse (although imagining it may help too) - we all have different 'lighthouses'. The family, friends, or even a cat. We just need to have the will to turn away from the frightening waves - to something that reminds us that everything is going to be okay. And then maybe we'll find the strength for the next step - becoming a lighthouse for someone else.

The Moodscope Team

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Much ado about nothing…

Isn't it ironic that the more people we're surrounded by, the more isolated we can feel. Surely, it should be the other way around?

But surveys say that Londoners feel lonelier than people from any other part of the country. On down days I count myself in that number. There just seems to be some sort of critical mass beyond which our senses are overloaded. 

Self-consciousness kicks in, self-expression goes out of the window and simple communication can feel really complicated.

Travel on a busy tube or bus and you'll know what I mean. The busier it gets, the faster people retreat into their worlds of iPods, Kindles and Candy Crush. (It's infectious too. Check out the next time someone plucks their mobile from their pocket, chances are it'll prompt someone close by to do the same.)

When everyone's wrapped up in life's minutiae, it can make it even harder when you're feeling blue to reconnect. Eye contact becomes awkward and as for starting a half decent conversation, the words 'hen's' and 'teeth' spring to mind.

So it's a relief when someone cuts through it all with an intervention of normality. In London, it's often a tourist that helps out. A smile coupled with a request for directions. The strikingly normal suddenly seems so profound. And a welcome relief. In an instant the isolation dissipates.

Yesterday's unexpected, but very welcome wake up, happened in a coffee shop queue. An endless stream of complex orders for decaf, triple filtered, single shot frappacinos wasn't helping my morning mood.

The barista called the order for four coffees to collect. Suddenly she was reminded they were 'to go'. As she looked up with the guilt of a child caught crayoning on the wallpaper, her eyes were met with those of a smiling Aussie.

'Don't worry love,' he boomed kindly, 'just stick them in those paper cups.'

Next time you feel you're withdrawing from the world with a busy head, give yourself a break, take the smiling Aussie's attitude. See it simple.

The Moodscope Team

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

The invisible illness.

They sometimes call it the "invisible illness". Hah! Not for me, it's not!

I've spent most of today (apart from the blessed hours when I was alone) with people asking "are you alright?" That's the problem with having an expressive face!

The truthful answer, today, is "No! I'm not alright! Tomorrow I'm in hospital, having, what is to the surgeons, a no doubt absolutely routine operation. It's not routine for me!

I'm going to be out of control; I'm going to have people I don't know poking and prodding about inside me and afterwards I'm going to be stiff and sore and I've booked myself out of work for a month which I hate because I absolutely love my job – and if I'm not working then I'm not earning either!"

(Deep breath here.)

Not surprisingly, this morning's Moodscope score was significantly less than normal. But today hasn't been all bad.

Last week a dear friend phoned to say that she had been let down by the person who was going to make her son's 21st birthday cake and could I possibly?... Well, absolutely, of course I could. So quite a lot of today has been taken up with the totally absorbing task of creating the perfect cake for her musical son.

An email from my therapist reminded me that I am only as stressed about this as I choose to be; I have tools to deal with it.

So the more truthful answer is "Yes, I am absolutely fine. I've got some stuff to cope with, and I'd appreciate your support, but it's OK and I've got it handled."

That's a far more positive way of dealing with this situation, don't you think?

The Moodscope Team

Monday, 24 June 2013

Hold a poem in your body.

A lovely musing that.  Rick Benjamin, a poet and lecturer at the institute of Contemplative Studies based at Brown University in the US, suggests that it doesn't matter what the poem is as long as it's a poem you love.  He exudes: "Something extraordinary happens when you hold a poem in your own body, your own mind.  It's a transfer of one thinker to another."

Is this just an intellectual, mind-stretching exercise then or can it benefit our emotional and mental health?  Absolutely it can!

Take a few minutes to meditate on a poem at a ponderous pace and it can distill all the excess chatter of our mind.  Read it out loud.  Let the assonance, the music, the rise and fall of the poem seep through you like water through ground coffee beans.  Don't feel intimidated if you are not entirely sure of it's meaning. Read it again.  Slowly.  Really feel it.

It can be difficult to find ways of quietening the mind; calming the heart.  Could holding a poem inside you body be such a way?

I'd love to expand on this theme but maybe if I waffle less you'll go peruse a poem.

The Moodscope Team

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Google Earth and The Bigger Picture.

When your mood is low, it's easy to feel the details of life crowding in on you. It's easy to feel trapped by the sheer complexity and messiness of everyday life.

The fact is that when something is distressing us, we feel part of it, even responsible for it. And that makes it difficult for us to stand back and see what's really happening.

Next time you feel like this, try to see the bigger picture - take a mental helicopter ride. Imagine going higher and higher. As you get further away, the details that disturbed you at ground level disappear and new shapes emerge. It's the same idea behind the saying We Can't See The Wood For The Trees.

Another way to think about this distancing effect is consider the zooming function on Google Earth. On the close-up view, you can see individual houses, twisting networks of roads and so on. But zoom out, and a completely different view emerges - towns and cities and fields and great rivers. Zoom out further, and we begin to see countries and continents.

For the ultimate example of shifting magnitudes, search out Powers of Ten on You Tube. You'll be amazed.

The Moodscope Team

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Here's to your left eyebrow!

We're not very good at admiring ourselves, are we? Especially not physically. If we faced a question in a survey: "Would you rate yourself as "a) Exceptionally physically attractive, b) Moderately physically attractive or c) Just Plain Ugly?" then I don't think many of us would have the confidence to go for answer a).

In fact, depending upon how we feel on any given day, we might even plump for door c). Yes, plumping for door c might be an appropriate response to the way some of us gain weight as a result of the carbohydrate cravings that is one of the symptoms of depression or one of the side effects of the drugs we take to combat that depression.

Some days it seems like you just can't win.

In my job I see lots of bodies. And you know what? I haven't seen an ugly one yet. We are all far more attractive than we think we are: we just have to believe it ourselves.
But it's a big step. Maybe we should start small.

So I've decided to love my legs. They may not be slim, they may not be long, but they're curvy and look nice in heels. If I bother to put on a skirt and tights (pantyhose to our American friends) and dig out those pretty shoes, then every time I walk past that mirror I can make a point of looking at my legs not my stomach. That way I feel good about myself rather than beating myself up.

Hopefully you have at least one thing about your body you like. So why not pay attention to that bit and feel a bit better about yourself. After all – if, as we're told, most Super-models have negative feelings about bits of their bodies, then surely we can have positive feelings about bits of ours – even if it is only our left eyebrow!

Hey, nice arch to it, you know!

The Moodscope Team

Friday, 21 June 2013

Not the sporting type?

Everyone says that exercise is good for you, mentally as well as physically. It does you good and makes you feel good. As a tool for lifting mood and dampening anxiety, for many people it's as effective as medication. We all know this. And yet...

Exercising works on several levels. There's the calming effect of regular deep breathing and repetitive movement - jogging being a good example. There's the sense of achievement that comes with overcoming the easy option of giving up. There's the natural endorphin high which is stimulated by strenuous exercise. Finally, there's the meditative effect of concentrating on something outside yourself, like a tennis ball, which can quieten negative self-talk. (The best books on this aspect of sport are by Timothy Gallwey, author of the highly influential Inner Game of Tennis.)

So why not start improving the exercise quotient of your life. How about a walk. Vigorous walking has been shown to be almost as effective as jogging for enhancing CV fitness, by doing just three 30 minute sessions a week.

The Moodscope Team

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Let it be.

Are you familiar with what's been called that Sunday feeling? It's a form of anxiety that comes from being aware of the emptiness of your life once the working week is over. You feel bored, directionless and apathetic, filled with a pervading sense of discontent, all arising from a feeling of meaninglessness.

The phenomenon was first written about by Vicktor Frankl more 60 years ago. Frankl was a truly remarkable man, a Holocaust survivor who became a renowned psychiatrist and humanist. His book Man's Search For Meaning chronicles his experiences as a concentration camp inmate, which led him to discover the importance of finding meaning in all forms of existence, a reason to continue living, in even the most challenging conditions.

In one of his quotes, he puts his finger on the central issue."Between stimulus and response there's a space. In that space lies our power to choose our response. And in our response lies our growth and our freedom."

In other words, he says there's a moment of choice before we react to the stress and pain in life. Mostly, however, we're unaware of this space because we're trapped in habitual patterns of reaction.

For example, you are driving along when another car cuts you up and almost causes an accident. You curse the driver. Anger boils up within. Your heart rate surges. You grip the wheel more tightly. You think: "That driver needs needs to be taught a lesson". You speed up so you can overtake and stare him down.

It all happens instantly and automatically, but if you look for it, there is a space between stimulus and reaction. You could have thought to yourself. "You know, reacting to the other driver will only increase my stress, so what's the point?" You might even think: "He's obviously not having a very good day to be driving like that. I hope his day gets better".

In that moment you are sitting in the space between stimulus and response. You can notice what's happening to you physically as the stress reaction kicks in and choose to take a few deep breaths, let your shoulders relax and allow the incident to evaporate.

The Moodscope Team

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Just a note.

Going to a networking meeting last Friday I was listening to Classic FM, as tends to be my
default choice, when they played Mendelssohn's Overture to A Midsummer Night's Dream. I
must have heard this piece a hundred times, but for some reason, this time I really
listened to it. Thank goodness there was very little traffic on the road as I'm not at all sure I was driving with due care and attention, being almost literally away with the fairies!

Arriving at the meeting the piece hadn't finished and I made the decision to stay in my
car, listening through to the very last note. It was amazing. I was totally absorbed and
uplifted by that fabulous piece of music and went into the meeting in a really good mood.

Now, obviously this won't work for you if music isn't your thing, and I'm not sure that it
works with the majority of Rock music (I seem to remember getting very melancholy in my
younger days listening to Marillion, Black Sabbath,  Jethro Tull etc.) It might not work
with some of the heavier Russian composers, but I think it's worth a try.

Bach's Brandenburg Concertos are pieces of mathematically precise delight, Gershwin sweeps
us away in the arms of seductive Jazz (for me, always shaped like the delightful Jessica
Rabbit), and always, always, Mendelssohn is full of joy. I could go on, but if you love
classical music you're already with me and if you don't – well, I won't try to convert

In fact, bearing in mind today's rather depressing Moodscope score (chicken, egg, anyone?)
I think I'm signing off in order to spend some time in Fingal's Cave on right now...

The Moodscope Team

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Clothing by mood.

I don't know about you, but I've noticed several patterns to my behaviour when I have mood swings.

On days when the Moodscope score will deliver a robust 75% and all is right with the world (but not too right), then getting dressed in the morning is a pleasure. I'll choose the clothes I will wear that day with enjoyment. I'll put bright colour combinations together and every time I pass a mirror it will (metaphorically at least) give me a wink and a whistle.

On the days when even getting out of bed, showered and dressed is a major hurdle‚or let's be honest, a mountain of effort to climb, then it's the automatic reach for the comfortable old jogging bottoms and raggedly fleece. And makeup, or shaving for you chaps? Forget it! It's the clothing equivalent to comfort-eating, I guess.

And it's just as bad for us. We all know that, even when we're craving the carbs (and one of the symptoms of depression is a craving for carbohydrates because we're seeking that energy boost) what really makes us feel better is some protein and veggies/fruit.

In just the same way, comfort clothing actually makes us feel worse than we already do.

Already we don't want to answer that door to anyone and we certainly don't want anyone to see us looking in such a state, so we're even less ready to open that door. I guess many of us have sat in the dark, pretending we're not at home, and hoping that if we ignore that doorbell, they will just go away and leave us alone.

It's not always achievable, as we all know, but, if we can make ourselves go for that walk or eat that nourishing food, then maybe we can make ourselves wear some cheerful clothes in our favourite (bright) colour; not black. Maybe we can dress the face with a shave or some makeup, depending upon gender/culture. At least then the mirror will cheer us on, rather than commenting, sotto voce, "just look at the state of you" every time we pass.

The Moodscope Team

Monday, 17 June 2013

Practice makes...

Perfectionism is a hard task master. It can stop you doing things. (What's the point of trying if I can't do it perfectly.) It can reduce the satisfaction and self-esteem you earn from your achievements.

An extreme example of this effect is the Olympic athlete who wins a bronze medal (an extraordinary achievement by any rational measure) yet feels a failure.

A friend who went on a tennis course says she learned a valuable insight from her coach. At one stage, the coach said to the group of learners: "What does practice make?" The group replied, parrot-fashion: "Practice makes perfect."

Wrong, said the coach, immediately getting their attention. "The correct answer is, practice makes permanent." The goal of practice is not perfection, because this is never consistently achievable. The goal of practice is to replace negative habits with positive habits, permanently.

The mind is malleable. It can be reconfigured to think differently. Even people with serious brain damage can retrain their brain to think effectively again. Musical prodigies are simply people who practice more than others and thereby make the most of their talent.

There are no short cuts. Practice makes permanent, not perfect.

The Moodscope Team

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Break the self-criticism habit.

Have you noticed that we tend to criticise people in great detail but praise them only superficially? If we are criticising somebody — for example, for breaking a promise — we spell out exactly what they've done wrong, how much it offended us, and for good measure we mention all the other times they've let us down.

But what do we say to someone who keeps their promises? If we say anything at all, we might give them a word of thanks.

When we criticise ourselves, we do exactly the same, especially when we're feeling depressed. We knock ourselves in great detail but pay little attention to what we've done right. Interestingly, research tells us that when we're feeling depressed we tend not to remember the detail of events, but to think in sweeping statements, like "I've always been useless at relationships".

Try and train yourself to remember specific details so that good times and experiences are as easy to recall as the bad times. Put aside a little time during the day to make a list of actual achievements and positive aspects of yourself, such as "I'm being sensible with money", or "I helped my nephew with his homework" or "I cooked a nice meal."

Make sure your list also includes details of pleasurable activities. "The new Ricky Gervais comedy really made me laugh." You may well find that your life is richer than your negatively oriented memory lets on.

The Moodscope Team

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Hug your way to happiness.

You might of heard of oxytocin — a naturally incurring hormone that's known to lift mood and help deal with stress. (It reduces cortisone, lowers blood pressure, etc.) You can't buy in it pill form, but that doesn't matter because it's easy to raise your levels normally.

Just give someone a hug. Better still, give lots of people hugs. Wrap them in your arms and hold them for a couple of seconds. That's all it takes. Physical contact will send your oxytocin (and your mood) soaring.

Close social contact is a good antidepressant anyway. In a recent study, a large group of depressed women were paired with a volunteer friend and spent an hour a week with them talking. Two-thirds of the depressed woman felt better.

The contact doesn't even have to be with a human, spending time with a pet can have similar results. In a study by the University of Missouri, non-pet owners played with a dog for just a few minutes a day. Blood levels of oxytocin and serotonin (another mood elevator) rose significantly. You don't need to own your own dog. Petting your neighbour's dog seems to work just as well.

Something to chew on.

The Moodscope Team

Friday, 14 June 2013

Hello, I am feeling very tired today!

Someone posted a comment about tiredness a while back, in fact two people did.

What they said struck a big chord with me. The essence of both their comments was that whilst they found it difficult to distinguish between the different causes of their tiredness, once they had sorted out the different causes, they were better able to deal with their fatigue.

Now... I feel tired when I don't get enough deep refreshing sleep and I have never ever thought that anything else causes me to feel tired, the sort of fatigue where everything feels a bit pointless and I am unenthusiastic about things. When I sleep well (once in a blue moon) I am on top of the world, confident, witty and guess what, not tired!

Once a medic said to me that I wasn't sleep deprived but depressed instead but I insisted NO! I am only depressed because I haven't slept properly.

Oh dear, it's such a conundrum, such a chicken and egg situation. I don't know where I am on this issue.

Does anyone out there have this problem? Does bad sleep tiredness feel different to fatigue caused by something else? How will I recognise a different type of fatigue and it's cause?

Does this dilemma happen with other forms of mental health problems? I think finding a cause for how we feel is nigh impossible most of the time!

The Moodscope Team

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Not Quite Hell!

Now, in spite of my rather mainstream religious beliefs, I've always been a bit hazy about Heaven and Hell. I sort of vaguely hope that in Heaven I will be reunited with not only humans but also my much loved pets that have passed on over the years.

I am pretty sure however that in my personal Hell there would be an area very much like Alton Towers containing the most enormous rides with names like 'Nemesis', 'Annihilator' and 'Total Perspective Vortex' (that last is a Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy Joke, by the way).

So when the whole family was invited to the local 'Fun Park' you can imagine that I was not looking forward to the day. We went with the same people last year, and the three minutes I spent on the Pirate Ship ride have to rank as possibly the most unpleasant of my life so far.

But it was actually OK. I discovered that there was another adult in the group who did not want to go on the adventurous rides either and who was also happy to ride gently round and round on the Galloping Horses. This year the older girls could run off by themselves and go on the Roller Coaster sixteen times in a row while I joined the younger ones on the 'Babies' Ladybird ride.

In fact, it turned into quite an enjoyable day, and I'm glad I went and didn't make an excuse to duck out.

It's often the way, isn't it? We dread something and find it's not that bad after all. We think we will be the only one who – whatever, and find that there is someone else who also – whatever.

Maybe we could say "yes" more often. It might not actually be Hell!

The Moodscope Team

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Hopeful about hope.

For many people, a low mood is experienced as an absence of hope. Depression and anxiety make us feel literally hope-less. But what is hope?

Hope is the opposite of despair. It's more than just desire, it's also the belief that a good outcome is possible.

Hope is the feeling that what you want can be had. It's looking forward to something desirable with reasonable confidence that it will happen. In other words, part of hope is the expectation of obtainment. That's why having unrealistic expectations is a fool's errand.

To build hope, it's crucial to have milestones so you can measure your progress and sustain your anticipation of success. You can't wish or will yourself into a state of hope because hope is a consequence rather than an end in itself.

There are two keys to building your stock of hope:

First, you need to set goals with substantial benefits. You have to believe that achieving your goal will bring bona fide benefits - you need to incentivize yourself. There's a direct correlation between the value of an incentive and the effort we are willing to put into it.

Second, you need to believe that you are capable of achieving it. What's your plan of campaign? What's your timetable? What outside help do you need? The clearer you are about your plan, the bigger your hope will grow.

The Moodscope Team

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Diagnosis – Mad Wife in the Attic!

A recent mental health awareness advert read something like: 'One in Four of us has a mental health problem. More than one in four of us has a problem with that.'

Receiving a diagnosis can be a blessing or a curse. Sometimes it's both.

I was finally diagnosed with bipolar at the age of 42, just after the birth of my second child eight years ago. For me it was the most enormous relief: finally I had a reason for why I got ill for three to six months every two and a half years. From the age of seven these mysterious illnesses had been blamed on everything from post viral fatigue through over-work to "It's just your imagination; it's purely psychosomatic, you know!"  At last the puzzle was solved; I had a way forward and treatments to investigate.

For my family, the diagnosis was a heavy blow.  Shocked, my husband reacted: "But I don't want a mad wife!" My mother and siblings reacted by becoming even more worried and anxious about me. Eight years on they still worry and my (lovely, caring) husband prefers to ignore it as much as possible.

I could have kept the diagnosis private, I suppose, but I wanted to fight for mental health to be a more acceptable issue. I tell people it's a bit like having a condition like diabetes. It's a bore, it has to be managed, it stops me doing things sometimes, and yes, it's a life-long condition with some specific life-threatening issues. But it's not something I'm ashamed of.

And most of us just keep on going, don't we? We gratefully swallow the drugs that make it possible for us to get out of bed in the mornings and get through the day somehow. We still carry out our duties when the world retreats behind the thick plate glass or fades to monochrome or tastes like ashes and sawdust in our mouths.

We are heroes and we should be proud of ourselves – regardless of what the 'Proud' card says on Moodscope today! Pat yourself on the back for actually getting up this morning, because we know it's often not that easy. Well Done Us!

The Moodscope Team

Monday, 10 June 2013

To worry or not, that is the question.

One of the attractions of worrying is that paradoxically it can temporarily make us feel less anxious. When you run a problem over and over in your head it can distract you from your emotions and make you feel like you're accomplishing something. This is an illusion. Worrying and problem-solving are very different things.

Problem-solving has a number of distinct steps, each of which moves you closer to a solution. You begin with a realistic evaluation of the situation and then move to planning the steps required to deal with it. Finally, you put the plan into action.

On the other hand, worrying has little sense of direction. You go round in circles and seldom get as far as a solution. In fact, you could spend a lifetime worrying about potential catastrophes and still be no better prepared to deal with them.

So if a worry pops into your head, get into the habit of questioning whether the problem is real and solvable. Ask yourself, is there an action I can take which will deal this problem? For instance, if you're behind with your work, you can do something about that, right away. Once your start doing something about a problem, you automatically feel less anxious.

On the other hand, if you are worried sick by thoughts about an accident happening to your children, then that's not solvable. There is no action you can take to avoid random events in the future.

Distinguishing between problems that are solvable or unsolvable, real or imaginary/hypothetical can be an important step to achieve relief from anxiety.

The Moodscope Team

Sunday, 9 June 2013


Well, my recent post suggesting that we all stop watching the news generated quite a few comments. Thank you everyone who took the time to communicate your thoughts, whether you agreed or disagreed and wished to challenge me on that one. I really appreciate it – and especially the positive tone that everyone takes. We seem to have very few Trolls in this community.

But how would it be if we could filter our news? Still be aware of everything (murders, floods, famines, political debates etc.), but choose to spend a bit more time on those things that inspire, that lift up or just make us smile? And yes, those TED talks!

Well, the good news(!) is that there is such a way.

A couple of years ago the business journalist Adrienne Lawler set up, a website dedicated to good news. A community of people (a bit like Moodscope) post all sorts of positive clips and bits of news onto the site and every day, if you choose, Adrienne, or one of her cohorts, will pop a couple of these uplifting pieces into your in-box. Just like Moodscope, really. (And confession time? I do the Friday post.)

It has to be said that sometimes the good news is somewhat hard to find, and we are forced to resort to heart-warming clips of kittens – but less and less often as we now get sent good news stories from all over the world. There is good news out there: companies getting it right, teenagers taking on charitable challenges, world economists telling us that, actually, things are getting better...and the TED talks; always inspiring, always uplifting.

So if you're looking for another weapon in your fight against the grey smog, or a different stick to throw for that black dog, then mouse on over to and get a feel-good fix.

Oh, and a couple of weeks ago, one of the good news stories I shared was about Moodscope! How's that for synergy?

The Moodscope Team

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Knocking the parrot off its perch.

Do you have days when that nagging voice in your head - the one that tells you in a thousand different ways that you're no good - just goes on and on, demanding to be heard?

Well here's a way of thinking about that voice that can help you silence it, or at least reduce the amount of attention you give it.

Try and imagine you are given a bad parrot. It can speak but only like a tape recorder. It doesn't understand what it's saying, it just repeats what it says 'parrot fashion'. The parrot has no wisdom, knowledge or insight. It just says words. That's its party trick. In fact, it's been specially trained to say only poisonous and negative things, to be unhelpful to you, continuously commenting on you and your life, putting you down.

It travels with you wherever you go. When your mobile runs out of power, it says. 'You idiot. If you'd only thought about it, this wouldn't have happened. Just imagine all the problems it's going to cause.' Your parrot is with you when you break your resolution to eat more healthily. 'You really are a waste of space. No grit at all. Pathetic.'

What would you do with a parrot like this? How long before you'd strangle it, or at least put a cloth over the cage. Not very long. And yet we often put up with the taunting voice of our own internal critic without much protest. How can you silence it?

The trick is to notice that it's the parrot talking ('There's goes that bad parrot again'), recognise that you have a choice ('I don't have to listen to it.'), and then try and direct your attention elsewhere by focusing on a task or some other line of thinking.

In time, you'll find that your poisonous parrot will tire of being kept in the dark, tire of you not responding. You'll notice it less and less. Eventually, it will leave its cage and fly away.

The Moodscope Team

Friday, 7 June 2013

Awareness of pain.

In a recent post: I
suggested pain signalled injury and was a good reason to stop running. Several people commented that some pain could be safely ignored and some pain was necessary for growth.

The critics are right, without a thoughtful definition of 'pain', the rule 'Pain equals stop' is simple enough to limit injury at the cost of limiting growth. The trick is awareness. Before deciding to push on or stop, you need to know what sort of pain you are in.

Many running authorities say STOP level pain is:

1) Persistent sharp or stabbing pain.
2) Pain that changes your gait.

Physical pain that changes your gait is probably the most relevant parallel to emotional pain that changes your mood. Combined with pain, gait changes are a sign of injury because your body will protect you by using uninjured muscles instead of injured ones.

The problem with ignoring this is that the uninjured muscles aren't built to take on this extra load. For example, ignoring hip pain tends to injure your knees.

Even if your mind won't acknowledge pain and injury, your injury can be seen in your gait. Often I'll make myself believe I am healthy, but my spouse will say "You are limping."

Be aware of yourself or accept the observations of trustworthy friends. You can distinguish between injury and growth. You can rationally decide what must be acknowledged and what can be ignored.

The Moodscope Team

Thursday, 6 June 2013


Sometimes our problems can seem so overwhelming that the whole world looks dark. But studies show that if we spend a little time every day reminding ourselves of all the things to be grateful for, it can soon make a big difference to our happiness.

If you're having a particularly down day, it may seem like there's literally nothing to be grateful for. But remember that things could always be worse. Practicing gratitude may feel a little false or fake at first, (especially if you're going through a rough patch), but bear with it and you may just be surprised at the results.


The Moodscope Team

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

The monster in the wardrobe.

A quick message from The Moodscope Team: Apologies if you haven't been receiving your Moodscope emails. We have had a technical problem which has now been resolved.  Yesterday's blog from Rob will be repeated tomorrow just in case you missed it. Now over to Mary for today's posting...

When you were young, did you have a monster under your bed? I did.

I remember the absolute necessity of making a flying leap from the threshold of my bedroom onto my bed so that the monster couldn't get me. Then of course, I would get into trouble for "bouncing on the bed". My mother never did know about the monster, because I never told her. I think for many children, their monsters are not for sharing.

Once we are grown, the monster moves. And he gets cleverer. For many of us, he moves into our wardrobes or closets. As my business equips people with weapons for fighting this monster, I know quite a lot about them. How will you know if you have one?

Well, if every time you open your closet to get dressed in the morning you feel negative emotions: confusion, frustration, doubt, even despair, that's him! Told you he'd got cleverer; you didn't even know he was still there until now, did you?

The good news is that, once you know you've got him, he's easily dealt with. You see, he can only live in clothes you don't like. If you only have clothes that you like and feel good in, then there's no food for all that negativity. And you know how good it makes you feel when you have a really thorough turn-out.

Get a good friend to help you. If you're a chap this applies to you too, although you may wish to ask a female friend to help. Apparently asking another bloke for help in this area is not the done thing outside the Gay community, although I've never understood why!

What if you feel you'd be left with nothing to wear if you did that? Just knowing the monster exists makes him easier to deal with. Make yourself a promise that from now on you will only add clothes to your wardrobe that you do like. Have only what you know to be useful or believe to be beautiful. Get rid of as much as you can.

It's far better to have a minimalist wardrobe you feel good about, than lots of clothes with space for that nasty beast to hide.

The Moodscope Team

Tuesday, 4 June 2013


Sometimes our problems can seem so overwhelming that the whole world looks dark. But studies show that if we spend a little time every day reminding ourselves of all the things to be grateful for, it can soon make a big difference to our happiness.

If you're having a particularly down day, it may seem like there's literally nothing to be grateful for. But remember that things could always be worse. Practicing gratitude may feel a little false or fake at first, (especially if you're going through a rough patch), but bear with it and you may just be surprised at the results.

The Moodscope Team

Monday, 3 June 2013

The Beauty of I Am.

I love old movies. Charlton Heston in "The Ten Commandments" was brilliant. I like it when he stands before the burning bush and hears the bush make the statement: "I Am..." And that leads me to one of the most important phrases in my life and anybody else's life. What comes after the words "I Am..." really defines us.

The Moodscope cards give us an opportunity to recognise when "I am distressed" or "I am jittery" as a vital means to take our daily pulse. However, it also gives us a chance to recognise ten magnificent states of mind:

I Am Strong.
I Am Excited.
I Am Alert.
I Am Determined.
I Am Enthusiastic.
I Am Active.
I Am Attentive.
I Am Proud.
I Am Inspired.
I Am Interested.

I believe there is a huge amount of positivity to be released when we say these out loud to ourselves, and sometimes in front of others. Of course most of them need some content or context. For example, "I am determined to take three positive action steps today" or, "I am inspired by the poem I am writing" or, "I am really interested in the history programme that's on tonight."

Moving forward is often about catching ourselves getting things right...and having positive "I Am" statements is a great way to feel great.

Are you going to give it a go? I Am!

The Moodscope Team

Sunday, 2 June 2013


Today's blog is for those of you who feel so bad you cannot express just how bad you feel. You want to stay in bed all day, or watch TV and not speak to a soul or if you have no-one to speak to, feel miserable at being alone.

Now I know Moodsope is here to lift our spirits on a daily basis and it does this very well, but I sometimes feel that there may be many people out there for whom the uplifting blogs pass them by. The content of the blog is just too complicated and exhausting to think about, and try as you may, you find it impossible to relate to, let alone think of a post to write in reply.

This blog is for all of you. (And me!)

There are so many advantages to being a part of Moodscope, without reading the daily blog. (Although, I hope you are reading this one. LOL.)

Here are three:

1. You are welcomed here however bad, happy, sad, you feel.
2. You are part of a group of friends who share the same problems, a sort of community who is here to help each other.
3. Doing the cards as often as you can really does help your mood, even if you get a lower score than is usual for you.

Now on scale of one to ten how are you feeling today?

No complicated, deep replies today please. You can even growl or just say "Yuk!" or "one!". Those who are happy, shout "10!"

But if you haven't the energy to get past the robot today, please accept a big hug and a "Hi" from me.

The Moodscope Team

Saturday, 1 June 2013

The Beauty of Imperfection.

On a recent visit to the glorious Victoria & Albert Museum in London, I got lost in wonder amidst an unrivaled collection of ceramics, I stood still, enthralled and connected to an imperfect exhibit called "A Waster." 

For a peek go to:

Wasters are the discarded remains of ceramic objects that became damaged or deformed during firing. In this case, 34 earthenware dishes have collapsed and fused together.

Could we have days when we feel a bit like that waster? Speaking personally, I think yes, it's highly probable we will. How so? Well, looking at those unusable plates, one feels a pang of sadness that they were never able to fulfill the promise of being a beautiful, perfect and whole dining service.

In like mind, we may have days when our health, depression or anxiety renders us incapacitated, unable to fulfil the seemingly endless list of demands, plans, or personal goals. We may feel hopeless and without worth.

Is there a positive bridge to be built here? Let's imagine you are a potter, an artist, with a waster on your hands. Rather than discarding it you find that it has an enchantment of its own with it's own character and story.

So too with us. We may be an imperfect vessel but we can still carry beauty and have gifts to bear. It's the little things that we can do in life that leave their happy mark. A warm smile, a small act of kindness, a genuine compliment or note of encouragement. The possibilities of adding our own personal stamp of beauty on the world around us are infinite. The effect? Incalculable. Priceless.

So should you ever be called a waster or a crack(ed)-pot...maybe take it as a compliment.

The Moodscope Team