Saturday, 31 August 2013

Let's Go Fly A Kite.

Yesterday I was treated to a most uplifting sight (pun slightly intentional). Just along the beach from where we were staying, a man had set up a collection of kites. These were not just your ordinary child's kite, or even the amazing stunt kites, but kites that almost told a story.

One collection started with an igloo. Can you call it a kite when it's pegged down to the ground and children can crawl inside? But it was full of air and if the wind dropped, then so too did the igloo, (right on anyone inside at the time). Attached to the igloo flying higher and higher were a larger than life-sized walrus, a seal family, a polar bear with cub and finally an Orca swimming through the air fifty feet above the beach.

That was only the start. This chap had a giant black and green gecko, a skewbald horse, a whole family of turtles. Angry Bird and Tweetie Pie were soaring with a Beagle puppy. Gromit flew a plane with Wallace clinging onto the back and over it all, an enormous rainbow arch of coloured kites flapped with joyous abandon.

People were walking down the beach talking about it and so we went to have a look. We thought it was some kind of kite flying festival or competition, but no; it was just one man who has spent the last twenty years collecting kites and now just sets them up and flies them for his own pleasure and for that of everyone who comes along and sees them.

It's great to have a passion. We all know how interests and hobbies make the dark days more bearable, but how lovely to have a passion that brings so much simple joy to others. Of course, yesterday happened to be perfect weather: but apparently he comes and flies them in the snow too! I'm guessing that's a bit more of a personal enjoyment rather than a shared one.

A Moodscope User.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Fuzzies and Fizzies.

Some folks talk about giving others 'warm fuzzies' – that lovely, warm, fuzzy feeling you get from something good happening. Often this can be triggered by a smile from a stranger or a friend or even someone you secretly admire!

You can, however, generate your own warm fuzzies too. The way we feel (our degree of warm fuzziness, if you like, or 'Fuzz Factor') is dependent on what popular speakers call 'Fizzies' – a reference to 'Physiology'. Your physiology (body posture, movement, gestures, breathing) is clearly hard-wired into your nervous system...and your nervous system 'knows' what each aspect of physiology 'means'. You can't help yourself – when you feel good, your body does the 'this-is-the-position-I-take-when-I-feel-good' thing!

One of the gifts of consciousness is being able to choose the position you take. When you 'feel' down, your body will reflect this. If you would like to change this there are three 'f' sounding things you can do that your moods will not be able to resist:

1. Change your physiology – your posture, stature, movements, gestures, breathing.
2. Change who's on the phone – the voices you're listening to in your head. If they are negative, the least you can do is interrupt them! Your inner-dialogue with yourself is as powerful a mood changer as changing your posture.
3. Change your Focus – where your visual attention is. If things are looking grim, look somewhere else! We all do this at the dentist, surely? Rather than look at that hardware coming towards your mouth, you focus on something lovely around the the dentist, of course!

The thing I love about this three-fold approach is that you don't have to try to be positive or upbeat. Just moving as if you were energised, switching the sounds in your head (perhaps by remembering a favourite song – even better if you hum it out loud), and looking at something else confuses any bad mood you were in! All change!

What's your 'Fuzz Factor' today?

A Moodscope User.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Is depression illness or injury?

I was so impressed with Clark Carlisle's brave effort to confront the hidden secret of depression amongst footballers.

His honest and heartfelt exposure of his own challenges, along with the obvious stigma in the profession surrounding depression was very emotional to watch.

What struck me though was the idea of somehow the depression arising within football is an illness. I wonder if it might be more helpful to see it as an injury. Physical injury is obvious. One is carted off the pitch. It's acceptable and very much a normal part of the game to expect players to sustain physical injury and to need often very long periods of convalescence.

But is not the often considerable and overbearing mental strain not also an injury?

Why label these unfortunate players with terms like 'Major Depressive Disorder' or 'Clinical Depression'? Why not see it for what it is, often an expected and fairly predictable reaction to devastating circumstances or events? Is not the expectation and demands foisted upon sports stars simply often completely unrealistic? The higher up one climbs the further it is to fall.

Surely, compassion, education, understanding and empathy is called for? Many players may have the resilience to cope with the pressures placed on them but, for others, the depression arising has to be the most lonely isolated place to be. Surely, a depressive episode is worthy of the same empathy and understanding afforded to a ruptured Achilles?

Well done, Clark, for speaking out.

A Moodscope User.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

How Moodscope Improves Your Results with Counseling as a Client and a Practitioner.

As a Skype based Depression and Productivity Counselor, I am keenly interested in my clients getting good results. When I was the client rather than the professional, I used to get very frustrated with not knowing if the therapy, coaching, or counseling - whatever it was that I was trying at the time - was really making my life better.

Since working with my own clients, I realize that this is a common problem - it's often very hard to tell if you are actually getting good results or not.

Most people go through a period of doubt and I wondered if having all my clients use Moodscope on a regular basis might be a way to address this concern. Much to my relief, when put to the test, I found it worked fabulously!

I have had several clients who were obviously getting better, who acclimated to their new state and forgot how bad things were before and were questioning if the counseling was helping. When this happened I asked them to look at their Moodscope graphs to recall what it was like before to compare, and this helped them quickly realize the progress they had made. After recalling how their lives had indeed improved, these clients proceeded to move forward with more enthusiasm, getting even better results. Reassured clients are happier and more successful clients, and make for a happy and successful counselor.

If you don't already, try using Moodscope regularly and share your results your counselor or therapist and if you're a counselor or therapist, give it a go with your clients, I can thoroughly recommend it.

Shannon Friedman

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Are you an Eeyore or a Piglet?

If I could use a word to sum up my mood of the last week, it would be 'Hmph'.

I've had nasty virus and for several days my thoughts have been spinning from 'I feel physically lousy' to 'I resent having to care for my old dad this weekend' (he has dementia) to 'I never have any fun' to 'why me?' Nothing in my life was good, it was all harrumph-making, Eeyore style. I busied my brain having a whole 'it's not fair' conversation with myself and being completely ungrateful. Had I carried on, I'm sure I'd have ended up living in a house made of sticks and eating thistles.

But today I've decided to ring the changes. I'm going to channel Tigger enthusiasm, Owl wisdom, and Pooh optimism. How? you might ask. You may well have heard it before but no matter: by focusing on being grateful.

After all, there is a lot that's perfectly fine with my life. I've a lovely husband who looked after me when I was ill, a pretty home in a groovy city by the sea, and a job that I can do even when I feel rubbish as I'm a self-employed writer. A quick tally reveals that's at least five things (most of those are two-in-ones) I have to be grateful for.

But enough about me and Eeyore. I want to know what you have to be grateful for. Five things. List them, and moreover, don't just keep them to yourself, share them on our blog by commenting. I'd love to hear. Even if you don't normally comment on daily Moodscope emails, this time, do it! I think by putting the things you are grateful for out there, it'll make you more appreciative. I hope so.

And if there are a few less Eeyores about today, that's got to be good for everyone.

A Moodscope user.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Look Good Feel Better.

There was a post some time ago about the charity Look Good, Feel Better which helps women fight the visible and often distressing side effects of cancer treatment.

What though can we learn from this charity even if we have never experienced cancer? Well think of the truism that is the name of the charity: Look Good‚ Feel Better. It's nothing that we haven't heard before but as we can be leaky vessels we sometimes need a gentle reminder as to what can help keep our mood buoyant. If we are feeling more flat than sparkling, dressing down will not help the effervescence levels rise quickly.

In her book Sunbathing in The Rain, Gwyneth Lewis says: "You are the most important public you will ever have, so dress accordingly. Don't slop down to the post office with your pyjamas on under your trousers. Pick your favourite sweater and put on some lipstick. Why give the office all your best personal resources? Put on a suit to walk into town. Wax those legs, paint those nails!" Gwyneth Lewis was here talking about recovering from a depression but her words ring true for us wherever we are at on the Moodscope scale.

It is thought that wearing makeup (ladies) can actually boost our immune system; because when we look good we really do feel better thus boosting our body's resources. Surely if this is the case, we would all feel healthier if we dressed better than we feel. Why keep clothes or jewellery "for best"? If it makes you feel good then wear it.

A Moodscope user.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

The high road or the low road.

So, I'm walking the dog on the beach. I see another dog do a mess right there on the main area where kids play all day long. The owners are 30 yards ahead, looking elsewhere, oblivious.

I'm furious. I feel the anger in my body, my heart beats faster, my emotions are powerful, my mind starts racing. I see myself screaming out at them, how dare they? This will spoil it for all dog walkers if we are banned, how could they? I see my rage and their hostile response.

Then, I choose differently.

I breathe slowly and deeply. I calm myself down. I go and pick up the mess and ask myself if I can honestly say I've never missed a mess my dog had made, never been distracted. I amble up to them..."Excuse me, I guess you didn't notice but your dog did a mess back there so I picked it up. It's just that a lot of kids play there". Oh my gosh, they were both embarrassed and grateful and couldn't thank me enough.

I see that I have a choice as to how to respond as opposed to instantly reacting? My bodily sensations and emotions react very fast and can easily override my ability to think. Instead of 'mindfulness' perhaps it's too easy to end up with 'mindlessness' and then we're all worse off.

A Moodscope user.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Write your own self-help book.

The gaping divide of opinion on self-help books never ceases to amuse me. The mere mention of such a book can send a person into a caricature of a bear with a bump on his head.

You may be familiar with the little square books (The Little Book of Calm, for instance), each page containing a pithy crumb of inspiration. Or, Lesley Garner's delightful book perhaps - Everything I've Ever Done That Worked - which contains a collection of personal insights and a short essay on each. Lovely it is. Well, why not write our own?

I riffled through my drawer of notebooks and plucked out a handsome one with a clasp. (I like to accord the same care in choosing a notebook as I do when purchasing clothes.) I set about writing just a line or two on each page. Concise reminders of what consistently helps me.

For example, for me personally, I've recently come to realise that 'to-do' lists leave me ill. This is unusual maybe but I become obsessed with them and wind up writing 'to-dos' within 'to-dos'. Instead of finding joy in ticking off accomplished tasks I add more and more, and yet more still. I'm stressed just thinking about it! No matter how hard I try I'm never realistic with them.

So one page in my book reads simply: Daily to-do lists make me unwell. Another: Create something. I always feel better if I allow my creative juices to flow.

What would the pages of your own personal self-help book contain?

A Moodscope user.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Why exercise should be fun.

Lets be honest. For most people running for hours on a treadmill does not constitute fun nor do an awful lot of other gym activities. Unfortunately, for most people exercise becomes a means to an end and more often than not, it is something endured rather than enjoyed.

Although many people feel better after bouts of exercise it is often far more effective to leave the gym behind and do something fun instead.

When you were a child, exercise was fun and something looked forward to. You made friends; you pushed the boundaries, practiced your teamwork, and developed an understanding of loyalty and sharing. It was something you wanted to do rather than 'had to' do (leaving PE lessons in the rain aside).

As we grow up it is often easy to leave all of that behind. Thinking that now we are adults it is time to stop playing the games and leave the fun to the children. I cannot be the only one that thinks this is a shame.

The UK is actually full of fantastic opportunities to bring out your inner child. You can join clubs and try new sports no matter how wacky they are (I have become a rather accomplished extreme ironer in recent years). More often than not these activities are cheaper, more fun and better value than a gym membership.

Making exercise fun means you are more likely to stick with it because you are enjoying yourself. You are more likely to push yourself further and funnily enough, the chance of injury decreases hugely. Do not think you have to be fit or young to take part in a sport; even a local rambling society can be fantastic way of having fun and meeting people.

I am not saying gyms are bad, but if you do not like the gym do not berate yourself - exercise can and should be enjoyed!

Jake O'Gorman
Personal trainer/Lifestyle coach

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Coming Seventh (Out of Nine).

As my mother used to say consolingly (usually on Sports Day): "Well, somebody has to come last, dear".  A comment that normally elicited the response "Yes, but why does it have to be me?"

As far as I am concerned, one of the best things about adulthood is that nobody has the power to sign you up for the 400m against your specific wishes!

So I am somewhat amazed that my eldest daughter has put herself forward for Race Week at the sailing club and, having come in the various races so far, seventh out of nine, sixth out of ten and a resounding last (capsized in mud to boot), she is still smiling and is apparently still enjoying herself.

It's not a lack of competitiveness; she's sailing to win – if she can, but the secret of her smiles seems to be that she is honestly enjoying herself out on the water. If she makes the best use of the wind and the tides she's doubly pleased and if she manages to pass a few boats and not come last she's totally satisfied. And she's delighted that she's learning all the time.

So I think I'll try to learn from her. Very often my competiveness gets in the way of actually enjoying what's going on – or if I find, after completing something, that someone else has done far better, then that enjoyment is marred.

I don't think I'd want to be without the competiveness gene, and I wouldn't want my children to be without it either, but it's good to see how it can be kept in its place, so it motivates us to do our best, without getting in the way of honest enjoyment and pleasure in the activity itself. It's also great if we can be truly delighted for the person or team who has won.

So to whomever it was who said: "Show me a good loser and I'll show you a loser" I would return "But I'd rather be happy with having done the best I can". We can't all be winners, but we can all avoid being sore losers.

I'm still not taking up running though.

A Moodscope user.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

The Question of Ownership.

Owning something can be exhilarating. Humans, however, tend to 'own' intangible things too such as beliefs and emotions. Furthermore, we have a habit of 'owning' conditions. Only one of these latter types of ownership is useful.

The language of ownership is shown through the use of the word 'my'. When I say, "my temper sometimes gets the better of me," that is useful ownership. It linguistically shows the possibility that I can take responsibility for controlling my temper.

Lots of people, however, talk about their conditions as if they owned them and were defined by them: my arthritis, my cold, my depression. This is not 'wrong' – I simply believe there is a better way.

If we talk about 'the arthritis', 'the cold', 'the depression' – we dissociate and distance ourselves from what is a foreign invader, alien to our natural state.

Many faiths believe the body is a temple – a beautiful place fit for use as a sanctuary of peace and joy. As such, I don't think afflictions have a place in the temple. By removing the word 'my' from the way we describe something that is hurting our temple, we sow the seeds of resistance and resilience. We may not be able to expel the condition for medical reasons but we can at least resist its tendency to define our days.

Depression is a challenging one since some aspects of it can be influenced by our approach. In one sense, owning it as 'my depression' makes sense, as in talking about 'my temper'. My take on this, though, is that we are better off seeing depression as a complex, layered, alien state that would be better addressed as 'the depression' (similar to an economic or weather depression).

Distancing ourselves from it in this way challenges the legitimacy of its right to continue – and can lead to more resilience. In application, I might say something like, "the depression has lessened today as my joy in writing has distracted me along a more useful path." These small distinctions can make a difference to your day.

A Moodscope user.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Plant flowers.

You may have heard of the following expression: Plant flowers, flowers grow. Plant weeds, weeds will grow. Plant nothing, what grows? Nothing? No, weeds.

This is a poetic anecdote reminding us that it is not enough to keep away from the negative stuff. There needs to be a pro-active planting of positive, feel-good matter if flowers are to grow, mentally speaking. Just as we are what we eat, so too our minds and moods react to what we have digested in the mind.

There are more gossipy magazines, toxic web-sites and television programmes and depressing news stories than you can shake a stick at. Let's be resolved not only to steer away from them but to replace any chewing-gum-for-the mind-matter with uplifting, encouraging material.

And don't forget to share any nice thoughts too. Repeating what you learn will not only help you to memorize it but it helps spread the feel-good factor also. Was it Shakespeare who said: 'The fragrance of the rose lingers on the hand that casts it'?

A Moodscope user

Monday, 19 August 2013

Taking things to HEART.

My friend is writing a book. It's about personal and professional development.

'H' is for health. It's to remind us how important our health is and how we need to pay attention to it. We have choices, about what we eat, how we exercise, where we focus our attention, who we hang out with, all of which impacts on our physical and mental health.

'E' is for energy. We need energy to be available to put into life or projects, to make stuff happen. We need to be aware of what depletes us, be sensitive to what inspires us.

'A' is for authenticity. I love that. I guess it's about being genuine, having integrity, working with good intention, being real.

'R' is for resilience. We need to 'sharpen the saw' or else the blade won't cut. We need to fill up our reservoir, take care of our own needs first so we have something to give others. If we deplete ourselves we have nothing left for others.

'T' is for team. Us humans, we are hard wired for relationships with others. Our brains need connection to be healthy so we can thrive.

Thinking about HEART might help us to think about our choices and to wonder about what small steps we might choose to do today to step in directions to support our hearts.

A Moodscope User.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Time's Arrow.

Good morning. I hope you enjoy this wonderful poem written by Lexi. The poem was inspired by Professor Brian Cox’s work on The Universe and The Solar System in which he talks about 'Time’s Arrow' – and how everything has to change.

Tomorrow can never be the same
Time's arrow's a-flying
Something always changes
Without you even trying

But when you add some purpose
Give time's flight direction
Fling caution to the winds
And cut through circumspection

You might just be surprised
At the fruit from being bold
As providence and circumstance
Serendipitously unfold

A Moodscope User.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Wildlife and wellbeing.

I had it in mind to write a post about wildlife being good for the wellbeing. So it was of no little interest to turn the radio on and discover that a discussion was in flow as to whether it is our moral duty to be more aware of our surroundings, in particular, that of bird life.

It was heartening to hear the callers and comments who expressed a love of, and appreciation for nature.

I'm drawn to such people. They may not be an expert in ornithology or botany but they can tell you a random fact about the life of a blackbird, or mention by the by, that the chamomile flower, in Victorian times meant 'energy in adversity'. (Oh I love that!)

It can disclose a lot about the individual. It may reveal that they are observant, appreciative of the small pleasures in life and are, in all probability, quite gentle company to be around.

To not feel lost in wonder at the wildlife around us - is to perhaps suggest that we are not in touch with our inner soul. It can be incredibly helpful and soothing to our wellbeing. Here are a few fleeting moments I've enjoyed today alone:

Watching a happy bee bumble about a lavender plant. (Yes, it really was happy)
Gently brushing my fingers through heavenly scented lavender. (No wonder the bee was so happy!)

Watching wood pigeons sweep up an invisible "hill" in the air and swoosh down, like they are on a roller-coaster.  It's obvious they do this for the sheer thrill and joy of it.  I find peace, pleasure and priceless joy in these wee snippets of time. ;o)

A Moodscope User.

Friday, 16 August 2013

A Beautiful But.

'But' has had a bad reputation. It is said that everything that comes before it in a conversation or a sentence is negated by this innocuous little conjunction. "I love you but..." wipes away the reassuring compliment and draws attention only to what comes next.

This is why so many motivational speakers encourage their audiences to use 'and' instead.  'And' draws us together can lets us have our cake and eat it!

I believe there is a beautiful but, however. This is the 'but' that can control the inner tyrant that many of us wrestle with on a daily basis. I sincerely cannot remember a time when my inner critic ever said anything nice, positive or edifying to me. It is an inner voice that is quick to find fault. Most outer critics can be quick to find fault but at least they might grudgingly praise as well. Not so my inner critic – no praise comes from its lips.

So I have begun to use the power of my beautiful 'but' on the end of every damning criticism that passes through my thoughts. When the inner critic says, "You've not made much of yourself, have you?" my beautiful 'but' comes to the rescue and simply adds "but +".  For example, I might add, "...but I've touched a lot of lives in a positive way."

Just as everything before the 'but' in a sentence is negated, I have found this blissfully simple technique is keeping my critic in its place and in perspective.

 A Moodscope User.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

The line in the sand.

I love the beach. Childhood memories come flooding back, endless hot summers (amazing, they always seemed hot back then and they seemed to last so long), playing away, building sandcastles, dams across little rivers, skimming stones, searching for crabs, swimming, laughing, having fun. I love the sound of children playing on the beach. It’s somehow restful.

But I can also imagine the beach and somehow generate much of that same atmosphere internally. It’s that amazing power of our human imagination.

So, would you be willing to journey with me for a moment? Close your eyes (after you’ve read this). Breathe in slowly and out more slowly.

Imagine you’re standing on a lovely beach, warm sunlight dancing on the glimmering sea, that whooshing sound of waves ebbing and flowing across the sand. Your footmarks have left their imprint in the moist sand. It’s the journey already travelled as you look back at where you came from. But now there’s a choice. Where does the next step go? What direction will it be in? Who will walk along with you? Will it be a continuation of the same or will it be a new choice?

At first, a little adjustment seems like almost nothing. But continue the line of the new direction out across the vastness of the beach and see how far the lines are apart after 100 steps, and then 1000 steps. Can you decide where that next step goes?

A Moodscope User.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Doing the right (unpopular) thing.

Don't you just hate it when you upset someone else?

It's impossible to go through life causing offence to nobody, but I guess a number of us try to do just that. Then, when we do inadvertently hurt other people's feelings what do we do? And how do we feel?

Well, there seem to be two kinds of people in this life. There's the "well, if they can't deal with it then it's just their problem" category and the other type, who obsess and worry about how to fix things so everyone is happy. That would be me then. Oh, you too, eh?

And it can't be done. Sometimes we have to take a stand. We have to do what we feel or know to be right, even if that stand means that other people don't get what they want; even if they hurt us right back by accusations of unfairness, cruelty, not understanding them and so on.

Sometimes we are in the wrong. We can acknowledge that we have perhaps been insensitive in the way we've dealt with things. Maybe we have been tactless with the words we've used. Maybe we have not taken their natural feelings into account.

We can apologise, we can try to understand why the other person is hurt, but in the end, we have to do what we feel to be right. Long term, compromising our own beliefs is a canker that will cause us more suffering than standing fast to what we know to be good and truthful and right.

Thinking about the Moodscope cards, we're going to score that "guilty" card in both cases, but one is a reflection of strength (go on, score "strong" with a 3 then) and one a weakness, that we've let ourselves down. It's a tough choice, and if you're like me you'll hate having to make it, but the Moodscope maths make sense. So (deep breath) "I'm sorry you feel like that, but I have to do what I feel is right." Hmmm: I think I'll go practise saying that a few times before actually trying it out.

A Moodscope User.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Mood boards.

I love mood-boards! In fact, I'm not sure I could decorate a room without creating a mood-board first. I wouldn't want to.

By collecting bits and bobs that inspire, words that you love, swatches of fabric and paper, postcards and pictures, you can start to build up a collage that reflects the 'feel' you want to create in your room.

Mood-boards excite me, galvanize me and ultimately, influence the way a certain space will turn out. A mood-board doesn't just have to be for decorating rooms though. How about a literal mood-board of ourselves?

It can be a creative, cathartic and fun exercise sticking, pinning and attaching to card (or even a spare wall) things that we love. Paraphernalia that inspires, quotes that move us, pictures that we are drawn to, old photo's we cherish, odds 'n' sods that tug at us for some unknown reason, or the thread of a happy memory, scent or sound jotted down on the board - the list is endless.

Your aim is to end up with something that gives a 'feel' of who you are. Not only will it be pleasurable to the eye (depending on your gluing skills) but it is something tangible that you can go back to time and again, to remind yourself of who you are.

It is, in effect, a piece art, that is authentically you. It may even help influence who you become.

A Moodscope user.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Flipping the lid.

Well, how often have you seen a tantrum in a two year old or teenager and it's explained away as 'terrible two's' or 'stroppy teenage years'? But, I think Dan Seigel's hand-held model of the brain helps us to understand it a bit better.

The truth is that we all probably have experiences of flipping our lids, both in ourselves and others and we'll know how hard it can be to calm down for a while. Some may be much more volatile and reactive than others, but when the lid flips it's hard to maintain a more rational view of reality, life starts to look either black or white rather than the myriad shades of grey. It's hard to see a bigger picture, and to be empathic both with ourselves and with others. Emotions become highly charged and clear thinking can go out the window.

Maybe, at least in ourselves, the first step is to recognise it is happening and what triggers it. This is where Moodscope might help. Then we may be able to take some preventive action or apply some management tactics to get that lid back down again.

As for the two year olds, well, their lids are not developed properly yet, and the teenagers, the rest of their brains are developing faster than their lids so things are a bit out of balance for a while. That's what the scientists say anyway.

A Moodscope User

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Calm as balm...

I like to think as calmness as my antidote to anxiety and stress. I remind myself that it is very difficult to be stressed and calm at the same time and I would rather be calm. I try to accept all that is going on around me without a struggle and conserve my energy for when I need it and can do something constructive.

Difficult as it is, try not to react to things that can drive you down and physically move away to somewhere that you know to be calm. A favourite place, a seat with a calmer outlook. A place outside. A bench where you can observe nature which seems to exist with effortless and graceful ease.

Think of calm as a big jar of special balm which is always there to rub on and relax with. Mmmm...

The Moodscope Team

Saturday, 10 August 2013

I'm all ears.

A friend lifts up his/her chair, moves it closer to you, leans forward and declares: 'Right, I'm all ears'. They then proceed to listen attentively and empathetically. How do you feel? Is it not like soothing balm on aggravated skin?

Given that we have two ears and just one mouth there really ought to be double the amount of listening going on. Can you name the five different types of listening? Empathetic, attentive, selective, pretending, ignore. What kind of a listener are you?

I remember reading an article that quoted Job 6:3 where it says that Job, because of his disappointment and sadness in life uttered "wild talk". I am infinitely grateful to the counselors over the years who have allowed me my "wild talk" when I've been depressed and distressed. They have not said things like: "You shouldn't feel like that!" They have not shown shock or disappointment or tried to 'fix me'. They have simply listened attentively allowing me to feel. This has given fluidity to the feelings which allows them to pass and move on, just like a leaf floating down stream.

Honing our listening skills is not only medicinal to those feeling heard but it actually lessens our stress levels too. Why? Because we don't feel we have to find magic words, perfect advice or ideal solution.

I once drew a big ear walking on short legs with the those 3 golden little words protruding from its mouth: "I'm all ears." (don't ask me where an ears mouth is). So, the next time someone starts opening up to you, maybe imagine that you are one big ear!

A Moodscope User

Friday, 9 August 2013

Sleep - Switch off to switch off.

Perhaps you have been thinking about it all day; you've looked forward to how you will feel when you finally get it back. You may have even revisited in your mind again and again how it was cruelly taken away from you in your time of need, how just one more hour would have made everything better – promising  yourself next time it will be different.

At last, after a long day you're back in your warm bed and soft sheets. However, something is wrong - suddenly you panic, thinking about all those things you have to remember, all the things you might have forgotten. You've been seconds from nodding off all day and now
you have your chance and you're wide awake - like a coffee addict who's just received their daily dose, your mind is whirring and once again it won't stop.

There are many factors that can affect your ability to relax at night, one of which is artificial light. Unbeknownst to many people, your body uses surrounding information such as light to determine factors like what time of day it is and how it should react. It's tricking your body into thinking it is still daytime.

Televisions and lights (even those seemingly innocuous red standby ones) after dark can be quietly sabotaging your chances of a good nights sleep.

To ensure you are giving yourself the very best chances of a stress free slumber, try switching off those standby lights (or covering them up). Consider forgoing the last part of your evenings television viewing for a power cut-esque early night and see what happens to your moodscope score.

Personal trainer/lifestyle coach

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Running on empty.

A while ago a friend of mine said to me, "I used to think that if only I could get rid of all my anxiety, anger, hopelessness and sadness I would be happy. I thought if I could minimise my misery - good feelings would come flooding in. How wrong I was. If sometimes I could manage it, I did not feel happy - just empty."

The fact is that in addition to the skill of minimising misery, he also needs to learn a completely different skill - that of positive psychology. This includes having more positive emotions, more engagement, more meaning, more accomplishment and better human relations. The science of positive psychology (lead by Professor Martin Seligman) is relatively recent but already backed up by robust evidence.

The Moodscope Team

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

You're hired!

We live in a world where it is sometimes easy to feel that our 'success' is judged by how we earn our daily bread or that our worth is measured by how accomplished our talents are; by whether or not our situation is impecunious, or by how educated we are, formally speaking.

After all, we need only watch an episode of The Apprentice to see that it's perhaps not a humble nature that will get us hired, and that our mumbling: 'Yes, but I have a degree in tenacity/kindness/sensitivity...' would succeed only in an acerbic dressing down from Lord Sweetness himself.

I adore the character Dorothea, in George Elliot's (Mary Ann Evans) Middlemarch and I cherish the final, enviably eloquent words, which poetically disclose what became of this enchanting woman, so integral to the novel. The BBC's adaptation of Middlemarch simplifies the novel's closing words but they are just as beautiful nonetheless: 'And Dorothea? She had no dreams of being praised above other women, feeling that there was always something better which she might have done if she had only been better and known better. Her full nature spent itself in deeds which left no great name on the earth but the effect of her being on those around her was incalculable. For the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts and on all those Dorotheas who live faithfully their hidden lives and rest in unvisited tombs.'

Our mere presence, can make the world and the lives of those around us, better and happier. Now that, surely, is true success.

A Moodscope user.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Thank goodness for Moodscope.

I think it's timely to sing the praises of Moodscope. Our daily blogs are read by me with a mixture of reactions.

Some blogs I can identify with immediately. They strike a chord which makes me feel good and as if I am normal in the way I view life. I am not alone. I am not odd. I am normal!

Some are difficult to digest particularly first thing in the morning and will take me a couple of hours or more to actually understand the meaning. They are far too complicated for a person of little brain!

Some, a few, make me rage and I think about them all day and just have to reply. Indignant from Tunbridge Wells.

Some I think "Oh no! Not another one cajoling me to take some exercise, get out and meet people, join a class, read a self help no no I can't cope, go away!"

But the main thing I get from Moodscope and benefit greatly from is that it's the one tool I do not have to make any effort with and yet it HELPS!

(Apart that is from when the cards appear on the screen and the answer I want to click on isn't at the top and hells bells I have to flip it upside down or worse still, have to turn the card over and then  even then after all that effort, it still might not show the correct feeling and I have to flip it again.)

Mmm...too much effort some days LOL.

A Moodscope user.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Prozac nation.

Last Tuesday I read an article which reported a 460% increase in prescriptions for antidepressants such as Prozac in the UK since 1991. 50 million were prescribed in England alone last year.

I know many are suffering from stress, anxiety and depression as a result of the economic factors which have been impacting on people's lives over the last few years.

But are antidepressants the answer? And are they really being handed out to the right people after a proper diagnosis?

Why might I think this? Well, three people I know have had their doctors suggest they're suffering from clinical depression when it seems likely they're not.

The first was a 16-year-old girl who'd just started her menstrual cycle. She was quite tearful and didn't know why, so went to the doctor. Obviously her hormones were playing havoc with her emotions and I'm sure they would have settled down over time, but she was told she was depressed and prescribed antidepressants on an ongoing basis which she's now taking.

The second was my friend's mother who has diabetes. Because of her condition, the National Health Service has been providing her with free foot care for many years. This has now been cut back. Not surprisingly she's quite upset about this, so was letting her feelings be known to the doctor. He suggested that she was depressed and needed antidepressants. But she wasn't depressed. She was just having a moan.

Lastly, my husband went for a blood test for a suspected liver complaint. You guessed it: "I think you may be depressed, I'll prescribe some antidepressants."

No. He was just anxious waiting for his results.

If I didn't know better, I might be tempted to believe that doctors are being evaluated on the number of antidepressant prescriptions they hand out. Maybe to boost the UK government's 'happiness index'?

What do you think?

The Moodscope Team

Sunday, 4 August 2013

What's your favorite?

As a personal historian, I am passionately interested in people's life stories. I've discovered that we all have stories, but we are too busy with daily demands to explore within ourselves (or others close to us) even the simplest subjects.

For most of us, the chances are slim that anyone has ever asked you: "What is your favorite color?"

A person's life story is more than genealogy: "I went to this college, I had that job...," it reveals a person's 'insides'...what they think, feel and passions that move them. The inner life particulars matter more than the 'resume' material of our lives.

However, it isn't necessary to meet a personal historian to begin examining your inner life. I encourage you to purchase a journal that has built in life journey questions or an 'empty journal'.

If you don't feel 'skilled enough' to explore these issues‚ if your journal becomes a dust magnet rather than the invaluable tool it has the potential of becoming, ask a friend to interview you. The experience will touch you deeply. In addition to the journaling process creating a feeling of fulfillment, it can be fun...akin to supping tea with a friend.

By recording your life experiences, your children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren will be able to see the past through your eyes. The lessons you express will become their model for living‚ for seizing opportunities and overcoming hardships.
I wholeheartedly encourage you to begin journaling. Just as your own life story journal will give you the opportunity to be 'heard', it will also afford you the potential of settling possible struggles remaining in your life.

Finally, you'll have the honor of leaving behind a legacy to your loved ones...a gift treasured more deeply than material goods.

A Moodscope user

Saturday, 3 August 2013

The learning carriage.

I have a Utopian dream that one day I will hop aboard the 09.05 Liverpool to London say, and the train manager will announce not just which coach is the quiet zone and where first class is situated but also where I can find the learning carriage.

In this carriage would be fellow passengers who wish to share their learning. So, my friend Debbie, for example, could offer a discussion on all things Bronte, for there is very little Debbie does not know about the Bronte sisters. My mum could teach you how to crochet a granny square. For those drawn to science there maybe someone aboard who would enjoy sharing their intimate knowledge of the periodic table. Yet someone else could help you learn a little Greek, Polish, Chinese... You get the idea.

Hospitals too could have a Learning Ward for patients wanting to exercise their brain cells a little. Public Houses could have a corner for an interchange of learning also.  (If you wish to know what it would look or sound like, take a peek inside your local Apple store and gaze around the Genius Bar. It's quite an encounter.)

Yes, yes, I know, it's all very will-o'-the-wisp. But all is not lost. One doesn't have to fiddle about long on the static locomotive that is a 'search engine' to find classes in one's own locality, on a whole train-load of wonderful and diverse topics.

What's superb these days too, is that adult learning centers are very aware of how overwhelming it can feel to sign up for a whole school year of Tuesday evenings, for example. So, many colleges offer 'taster' courses.

A college near my home here in Liverpool, offers two hours a week, for five weeks, in a whole plethora of subjects. I like the idea that we could then share with others what we have learned.

We're spoilt for choice. Dress-making? Mosaics? Local History? Up-cycling old furniture?  Belly-dancing? ...

I just want it known, that if I choose the latter I won't be sharing it on a train near you anytime soon!

A Moodscope User

Friday, 2 August 2013

It's not me, it's you.

I don't know about you, but taking criticism is not something I've ever found easy. And as I write novels for a living, unfortunately it comes with the professional terrain, so I thought I'd share something that's helped me cope a little better.

Once I was in a group therapy session, when the guy running it gave us a simple exercise.
'I want you to picture yourself taking a lemon, putting it on a chopping board, and slicing into it with a knife,' he said.

I closed my eyes and did so. Then he asked each of us to describe what we'd imagined.

'I took my lemon from the ceramic fruit bowl in our kitchen, and sliced it with a knife I picked from a magnetised strip on our wall,' I said.
'And the board?' he asked.
'Wooden and worn,' I explained.
'My board was melamine,' said the woman next to me.
'Mine was glass,' said the man opposite.
Someone else was slicing lemon to make a Gin and Tonic, and so it went on.

The exercise illustrated how we each bring our own experiences to bear on someone else's words. As a writer, it helped me see that every sentence has as many different interpretations as it does readers, which goes some way to explaining how one person's 5* book is another's 1*. There is no way I can control these responses – to try and do so is as futile as trying to control someone's thoughts.

Understanding that criticism isn't personal to recipient, but comes from the personal perspective of the critic can be helpful, distancing us from the harshness of words. So next time you feel wounded by an acid remark, remember we each see slicing lemons differently. Or, to put it another way, not everything can be everyone's G&T.

A Moodscope member

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Sleep well tonight.

On the 14th of June 2013, Julia wrote a really great post that proved to be very popular. It got me wondering if a few reminders about sleep hygiene would be a welcome thing.

Sleep hygiene, according to one dictionary means: 'the habits conducive to getting the right amount and quality of sleep.' It's important because we all know the impact on our mood and general well-being that a lack of sleep can cause.

I recently asked a sleep specialist what his top tips were. I'm sure there is nothing below that you don't already know but we all need a gentle reminder now and again, I'm sure you'll agree.

* Wind down in the evening. For example, exercise is great and important during the day but not up to several hours before bed-time.

* No caffeine in the evening hours. (Personally, I can't take caffeine after midday and expect to sleep well.)

* Keep the bedroom for sleep only. No TV or computer games.

* If you wake up in the night it's probably best to get up and maybe read something sedate. Don't be tempted to flick on the TV or catch up with work and/or e-mails. When you start to feel sleepy, then go back to bed.

I hope you sleep well tonight.

A Moodscope member