Monday, 30 September 2013

Playing the 'Distressed' Card.

I wanted to do a series that embraced all 20 cards.  Today, it's the turn of the 'Distressed' card, which Moodscope defines as, 'feeling extremely anxious.'  This is a state of psychological tension that requires some immediate release. Given that we can mercifully only seem to focus on one emotional state at a time, I suggest the following productive distraction technique.

The Time Management Guru, David Allen, talks about 'open loops' – the distress and anxiety that comes from knowing there are things left undone. This is good news because we can instantly make a difference to our overall distress levels. You may be facing a challenge that you can do nothing about, however, there are other small challenges that you can do something about today, and thereby lessen the burden of anxiety.

Pick some easy wins – some simple tasks that you could complete and tick off your 'to-do' list.  Physical to-dos work best. Getting these simple tasks done will create two immediate benefits. Firstly, you'll distract your conscious attention, giving yourself a break. Secondly, you'll lessen the overall load of pressure you are carrying.

I remember hearing about a cargo lorry that could not get to its destination because of a low bridge. Frustratingly for the driver, the lorry was only centimetres too tall but the barrier of the bridge was immovable. Suddenly, someone helping had the idea of letting the pressure out of the tyres – just enough to get the lorry under the bridge. This slight relief of pressure led to success that day.

A Moodscope user.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Pattern matching part 1.

Isn't it amazing? A newborn baby knows how to cry, to suck, to smile, to follow the eyes of its primary care giver?

A child has an incredibly flexible ability to learn whatever language it starts to hear, and, indeed, multiple languages if exposed to them?

It's somehow 'in there', a part of the genetic inheritance we are all endowed with, developed over millions of years of evolution. It seems that we have the ability to connect up what is inside of us with what is outside of us.

We are also very adaptable and flexible. It is as though we have templates or patterns within us that allow us to make an interpretation of the reality outside of us. We 'pattern-match' to the expectations we have and make a connection. A baby will suck on a nipple or a feeding bottle or a dummy or a thumb or a nose. The message inside is something like 'suck on anything that approximates to a nipple and it might feed you'.

Pattern matching carries on throughout or lives. I guess education works like this. Is it that we connect up that which is outside of us with what is inside of us? But of course as we progress we accumulate a whole lot more inside of us, new skills, experiences, memories that can be retrieved. Sometimes this is where things get tricky. Our flexible, adaptive, pattern matching mind/brains can get us into bother at times.

There will be more...but enough for early morning I sense.

A Moodscope user.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Cherokee wisdom.

One evening, an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.

He said, "My son, there is a battle between two wolves inside us all. One is evil, it is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego.

The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."

His grandson thought about it for a minute and then he asked his grandfather, "Which wolf wins ?"

The old Cherokee simply replies, "The one you feed."

A Cherokee legend
Found by Adrian
The Moodscope Team

Friday, 27 September 2013

Please understand me.

I really relish the book Please Understand Me by David Keirsey. Answering seventy questions will reveal what personality type you are. There being four main characters, Rationals, Idealists, Artisans and Guardians, with four characters within each main umbrella. So sixteen personalities in total. It's remarkably accurate, even in the most intimate of details.

Gaining an understanding of ourselves is very useful, I think, and can aid us in understanding others too.

For example, my mum and I can drive each other to distraction at times. To illustrate, imagine I'm planning a party for example. Initially, the idea is one big picture for me, with lots of ideas, thoughts and brain-storming.

My mum, on the other hand, is unbelievably detail oriented, flagging up negatives, even though the plan is still just at the birth stage. I'm not going to lie, it drives me mad!

Reading about mum's personality type though, makes me feel a whole lot less angst at such moments. What I tend to perceive as pessimism is merely a scout like need to be prepared for all eventualities. Mum's character tends to tackle the logistics as opposed to my idealist, 'any thing's possible', abstract take on things.

Knowing this helps me see things from mum's side of the room. It also shows that each personality adds value and a special something to every event, conundrum or task.

A Moodscope user.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Activating Agents part 3.

It started with a simple question...' So, whatever happened with you and Mary (name changed) all those years ago?'.

I was on holiday with my new girlfriend of now almost a year. The previous evening we were laughing until our sides split about something silly. Then this simple question the following day opened up a soliloquy from me. I talked and talked. With every word the memories came flooding back, not just of the disasters of that previous relationship but the disasters of every relationship and all the other disasters along with it. The more I talked the more upset I became. Eventually I cried. I felt horrible. It stayed with me all day, all night and well into the following day. I felt it in my body, the wretchedness, the unhappiness. I watched it, didn't battle with it, just let it pass and gradually it dissipated. Trying to play golf helped shift it.

A simple question (activating agent) triggered a chain of events that resulted in very definite changes in my physiology, my emotions and my thoughts. Yet, just a day earlier, a different activating agent triggered a totally different response.

'I' am neither the one nor the other. 'I' can try to develop awareness of how different conversations, people, places, memories, music, foods, drinks, trinkets, tv programmes, affect me. I can learn that I have choices. To learn that I need to understand pattern matching. And that's another story.

A Moodscope User

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Time is a great healer, maybe, but there's something better - music.

Everyone always says give it time, time is a great healer, maybe, but it all depends on what you do with that time.

If you suppress all your emotions, over time you could end up with emotional problems, or even worse, a numbness to what you really should have allowed yourself to feel in the first place. Some things get better with time, such as wine, but generally, something that hurts today will hurt just as much in ten days or ten years unless you deal with it.

The greatest discovery of my life is that music is a great healer and in my opinion a much better one than time. It depends on what you do with it though. If you put songs on that draw you into your problems, it can be good if you need a bit of a cry, but what if you need to cheer up a bit? Music can almost never fail to do this if you choose something that will lift your spirits.

Why don't you make a playlist of uplifting, never fail to make you feel good songs and put them on when you need to heal, when you really need a pick me up. It's something we all know how to do, and we all know we will feel better afterwards, but we don't always remember what an amazing tool music can be to help lift our mood.

I dare you to try 'higher' by Jackie Wilson and see how it changes you mood. The YouTube video of it is bound to make you smile. Trust me!

Time is a great healer, but only if you use your time wisely. Play some great music!

A Moodscope user

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

The cold with a sting in the tail.

Last week I had a cold.

The sniffle, the sore throat, the stuffy nose: we’re all used to colds. We don’t think much of them; we just get on and cope with it, while stocking up with paracetomol, decongestants and balsam tissues.

So I had a couple of early nights, made sure I didn’t visit my very poorly uncle who absolutely mustn’t catch a cold, and ignored it as much as possible.

But then, just when I thought the worst was over, it whipped round and caught me off guard with a slam dunk of utter exhaustion. Thank Goodness I was with a fellow Moodscoper when I nearly fell over in the middle of Cambridge!

Not since the last but one depression bit of my bi-polar cycle have I felt anything quite so debilitating, and it was a saluatory reminder. For only the second time in twelve years of running my business, I had to cancel a teaching session.

So, while the other Moodscope bloggers and I are coming up with words of wisdom about managing your mood and spirits, it’s worth us all remembering that exhaustion is a very common symptom of depression and that, if that’s you, then actually, you probably just can’t do anything!

It was not going to get anyone anywhere if I started beating myself up for not being able to honour my commitments; I just had to get out of them as gracefully as possible and just hope people understood. I like to think they did. Perhaps that’s what more of us need to do more of the time. Perhaps we need to rest.

Difficult, I know. Often it’s far more challenging to cope with the guilt of not being active and involved, the fear that life will go on without us and we’ll be left behind, the horrible feelings that we’re letting others (and ourselves) down.

But exhaustion is just that. It won’t let us do anything other than rest. We have to have wisdom and the long term view. We also have to have faith and hope that “this too, will pass”.

A Moodscope User

Monday, 23 September 2013

Playing the 'Determined' Card.

Here's Lex's second post about the adjectives that appear on the Moodscope cards - don't forget we'd love you to add any ideas, tips, insights or advice you may have that you'd like to share with other Moodscope members that might be of help. Please add them to the comments at the end of this post. Many thanks. Caroline

Today, it's the turn of the 'Determined' card, which Moodscope defines as, 'being resolute, showing determination.'

This is a card we really want to be scoring '2' or a '3' on, isn't it? A dictionary described it as, 'having made a firm decision and being resolved not to change.' To me, this is the difference between a line in the sand, and a line in cement.

When a friend's son was little, he was a 'determined' child! His father had laid some fresh cement as a foundation for a shed, and his mother was warned to keep Michael away.  Penny turned her attention elsewhere for just a moment – enough for the be-wellied lad to make his footprint mark in the wet cement! Like some Hollywood Star, his imprint immortalised his 'moment' of choice. This is the difference between sand and cement – a quality of decision that has enduring permanence.

Michael was committed to exploring this option. He was determined. He now knows what 'cement' means. So I wonder what one positive decision you could make today from which there will be no turning back, no negotiation, no debate? Small is beautiful – so I'm not necessarily talking about the big decisions in life like dieting and exercise. I'm suggesting a small 'win' that will boost your confidence to be ever more determined.

Perhaps it is enough to be resolute just for today!

A Moodscope User.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Sunday 22nd of September marks the first day of Autumn.

If we are grieving* the loss of warmth and sunshine maybe an antidote could be to immerse ourself in the current season.

'Autumn - a second Spring when every leaf is a flower,' so said the writer Albert Camus.

We well know that Autumn can bring a breathtaking, show-stopping, blaze of colour and glory. For many years I've foraged and found autumnal leaves, pressing them in my journals along with the date and place discovered. Or sometimes I hibernate one in a random book. I've often opened up a book that I haven't touched in a long while and a leaf, having been awakened, will escape, floating to my feet and giving me a nudge of joy or a happy memory.

It was only last year that it dawned on me that Autumn is one of nature's greatest teaching programs.  Autumn can educate us in dendroloy - the study of trees. Do you know your Sycamore from your Hawthorn? Or your Oaks from your Ash?

Collecting colourful leaves of all shapes and sizes and looking them up is a delightful way of becoming absorbed in the present. By keeping my eyes peeled for the most fiery, beautiful and untouched fallen leaves, I tend to fret less that the temperature has dropped or that the blue skies are now a murky grey.

Incidentally, there are trees everywhere, not just in the countryside. Look and you shall find.

"Delicious Autumn!  My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns." George Elliot.

Now I wouldn't go that far. I love Summer. I need Summer. However, as if it has traveled from a far away land, each season brings its own exotic gifts. Search for them, unwrap them and treasure them.

A Moodscope User

*When I say 'grieving', I'm not referring to the very real and very distressing Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

The Elephant in the Fridge – Revisited.

Did you read Adrian's Elephant and Fridge blog on Sunday? He considered a question that (thankfully) has not bothered many of us in real life: how do you get an elephant into your fridge?

We all face dilemmas of similar seeming impossibility; those situations that send us spiralling into flat despair and bouts of depression. So, being very intrigued by Adrian's answer: "Open the door and put it inside" I decided to explore this a bit. Because, at first glance, it just doesn't seem that simple, does it?
But maybe it could be that easy if only we take a step back and start to look at things more creatively. It also helps if we're prepared to think the unacceptable, ask people for unreasonable favours and risk looking silly.

So, let's imagine I'm in my kitchen with the elephant. We'll call him Bob.
I open the fridge door and gesture encouragingly. Bob gives me a look at says "You've gotta be joking! See, even if you take out the milk, butter, cheese and that tub of left-over baked beans, there's a question of scale; it can't be done!"

He's right. I need a bigger fridge or a smaller elephant. But wait – if I chop Bob up into little chunks…. But he's a lot bigger than I am and now his look says "Come on if you think you're hard enough." I don't.

Is there a handy pot of 'Elephant Reducing Powder' lying around? Is that product even on the market?

So – larger fridge it is then. Now, as I can't get one of those walk in catering fridges in my kitchen, I need to borrow one.

I phone up my neighbours who run a restaurant in town. They explain that they'd be delighted, but sadly Health regulations won't allow it. Maybe the people who make the fridges could help.

I contact the walk-in fridge makers. Thankfully I get hold one of their more imaginative staff members and before long Bob is featured an advertisement for their products in all the magazines catering for the catering industry. "Our fridge is so big it even holds an elephant!"  It really was that simple after all.

They've drawn the line at the tiger though.

A Moodscope User

Friday, 20 September 2013

The last 4 doctors.

If you're feeling under the weather, it may seem logical to visit your GP and get some medicine. While medications certainly have their place, it's often argued that General Practitioners don't have the time to assess the root cause of an issue.

Holistic lifestyle coach, Paul Chek, teaches a simple concept called 'The last 4 doctors you'll ever need', a tool to delve a bit deeper into some of the underlying causes of ill health. It suggests that most of our health problems can be helped by addressing four different aspects of our lives.  The four doctors are: Dr. Quiet, Dr. Diet, Dr. Movement and Dr. Happiness.

Dr. Quiet. Life can get a bit hectic, whether it's the school run, a stressful job or simply the feeling of being overwhelmed. For many people, a hectic lifestyle is not out of the ordinary and is, during certain times of the year, a fact of life. It is important to realize that chronic exposure to a hectic lifestyle might not be helping your health issues. Dr Quiet's primary concern is that you balance these with periods of quiet time, whether that be a good night's sleep or just easing up on your daily work schedule.

Dr. Diet is here to remind you that being aware of what you put into your body is essential. The food we put into our bodies supplies the materials that we use to regenerate. If you have a poor diet, then it's going to be those poor quality materials that your body uses to repair itself. This can have all sorts of knock-on effects and could be playing a part in any health issues you may have.

Dr. Movement. For most of us, exercise might not be a top priority in our daily lives. However, this doctor isn't saying you need to start training like an Olympic athlete or, in fact, 'train' at all. Dr. Movement is primarily concerned with general mobility. To keep moving and exercise joints fully every day, to take the stairs instead of the lift, or simply have a stretch every now and then.

Dr. Happiness. When it comes to overcoming health problems, happiness is an important factor. Most people haven't got a clear idea of what makes them happy, or what it is for them to be happy. Dr. Happiness is concerned with understanding what happiness means to you and the barriers preventing you from leading a happy life. Often, we are compromising our values when it might be unnecessary to do so.

Next time you're feeling a little under the weather, or just that your life could  do with a boost, the 4 doctors might be what you need to start making changes in your life.

Jake O'Gorman
Personal Trainer/Lifestyle coach

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Chasing Morpheus.

One of the symptoms I experience with my depression is insomnia. I am desperately tired all through the day, go to bed early and then wake up in the early hours with sleep frustratingly elusive.

Sleeping tablets just seem to make things worse and the whole "restful night-time routine" of no caffeinated drinks after noon, a relaxing bath, aromatherapy and a milky drink just before sleep just don't seem to be effective.

Diet seems to help a bit, and certainly the 5:2 intermittent fasting way of eating has been of enormous benefit. But it doesn't work all the time and the past couple of nights have seen me intimately acquainted with the dead of night. In fact, the first lines of Bill Hayley's Rock Around the Clock have been rather too appropriate.

I have to admit I have not yet tried hypnotherapy for it and that's definitely the next thing on the list.

So, rather than just lying there, with negative thoughts chasing each other like squirrels in my head, I tend to get up and do something (even this blog has been written at two in morning upon occasion).

Writing is great as it is something that (for me) is totally engaging. Reading can be good but my preference is for a comfortable book I've read before; it does not grip so hard that I miss the point where actually, I could go back to sleep. Sometimes I do sometime creative, like card-making or needlework (although, if your thing is woodwork with power drills, you may want to think through the whole neighbourliness issue).

My youngest daughter also suffers from insomnia and we discovered all night Roulette on one of the TV channels. That was helpful to watch together as the ball going round and round was soporific and, as we both invariably lost our imaginary bets, it had the added benefit of teaching her about the futility of gambling.

Experience has taught me that, if I lie in bed chasing sleep, it won't come until half an hour before the alarm goes off.  If I get up and do something else for an hour or so, then, nine times out of ten, when I go back to bed, I'll drift off inside five minutes.

But I think I'm still going to buy that hypnotherapy CD.

A Moodscope User

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Letting out the mad.

There are some beliefs/cultures whose understanding is that when a person dies the windows should be opened so that the spirit of the deceased can be freed. I think this custom could be used to illustrate that there are times when, due to bitter disappointment, sadness or grief, we can have a 'spirit of madness' within us and that 'windows' must be opened so as to let the madness out, to free it.

For reasons I won't go into just now I had a lot of 'mad' in me last night. I'd taken to my bed in the afternoon feeling utterly overwhelmed with life. Lying there though, I knew I had a lot of mad, hysteria, adrenalin, call it what you will, surging through me. I was infinitely grateful for the fact that the house was empty in the evening, and so slipped into the dvd player, Coldplay's Live 2012 and turned the sound up to its loudest. My intention had been to get cleaning and dusting but instead I jumped, whooped, danced and sang like a wild banshee. I let out the mad. And boy, did my body and mind thank me for that.

I remember some months after the death of my father, who I thought was invincible, almost calmly, asking my mum not to fret but I was going outside to smash some plates. I took a pile of old, cheap crockery and slammed them as hard as I could against the wall and pavement. I now see that I needed some tangible evidence of destruction (in a non-anti-social way and without hurting anyone or anything) that night. Breaking the plates, I believe, stopped something breaking in my mind. I let out the mad.

Suffice to say, it's important to know when we need to let out our mad (safely of course).  I think it will almost certainly help our living spirit, rest in peace.

(You may also enjoy the post from August 12 - Flipping The Lid)

A Moodscope User.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

It's a goal.

Are you sometimes overwhelmed by the feeling that your life is directionless, that you're drifting rather than heading anywhere in particular? It's as if you are wandering without aim rather than focusing on a journey to a specific destination.

Thinking about your goals - or lack of them can be very helpful.

People are goal-driven animals. When we are hungry, our goal is to find food. When we are hot our goal is to get cool. For the most part, we are not aware of these everyday goals and our responses to them. But nevertheless they drive our behaviour.

There are also goals that we consciously set (like getting a certain qualification, moving to a different part of the country or taking control of our anger). Behavioural scientist have studied goals for many years and here's some advice which may help you.

As a rule, stretch goals (ones that are at the limit of your capability) are more likely to be achieved (and be more beneficial) than easy goals. It sounds paradoxical, but if a goal is too easily achieved, it's hard to get motivated. On the other hand, there's no point is setting yourself up for failure by picking a goal that's over-ambitious. So your aim should be to choose a goal that's possible but still a significant challenge.

To be effective, a goal needs to be concrete and specific. You need to know when you've succeeded. There's a saying a business that if you can't measure it, you can't manage it. So aiming to get fitter isn't a genuine goal but an intention. On the other hand, aiming to be fit enough to run 5 miles in say 40 minutes is an authentic goal. You can plan for it and measure your progress. Managing your money better isn't a goal, whereas cutting your expenses by £100 a month is a genuine target.

In a similar way, goals need a deadline. So your fitness target should be 5 miles in 40 minutes by, say, within 3 months. Goals needn't always be long term. It's sometimes useful to set yourself what might be called 'now' goals - targets you can achieve quickly in order to boost your self confidence and help you on your way to achieve a more substantial target. For your fitness programme, for instance, a now goal might be to acquire a comfortable pair of jogging shoes.

The moral is, success breeds success.

A Moodscope User.

Monday, 16 September 2013

The art of bathing.

Meandering around the small but charming Cavendish Shopping Arcade in Buxton, it's hard not to ponder about its history as a thermal bathhouse.

My Grandmother being Estonian, instilled in the family the love of 'a good sweat' in a sauna. (My father even built one for my nan in our cellar. It's a real sanctuary down there.) For my nan, growing up in Estonia, the sauna was ubiquitous, everyone had one.  The weekly ritual of taking a sauna was as much about relaxation and well-being as it was about cleansing. (Although you don't have to be an expert in saunas to know that taking one regularly is a great cleanser both inside and out.)*

Thinking about the Romans and the Victorians in their bath houses or the Finns in their sauna's, the intention was the same: to relieve tension. It was a chance to escape the everyday troubles and tedium of life. In other words, it was therapy.

We can enjoy such healing every day in the privacy of our own home. In fact, it's arguable that it's the cheapest and most accessible form of therapy that we have.

Bathe mindfully; washing gently, limb by limb. Perhaps imagine our soap is as precious and as priceless as it would have been during the war years. Light candles, warm your towels, make this time beautiful.

Don't forget the wonder and alchemy of aromatherapy too. It's therapy in itself and makes for fascinating reading. Choosing the right essential oil for our mood can add a drop of luxury and provide comfort to our bathing time.

Yes, there is washing and then there is bathing.

*High on my 'bucket list' is to enjoy a sauna somewhere like Finland, where I can jump straight from sauna to deep snow, completely starkers!

A Moodscope User.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

The elephant and the fridge.

Remember that tame old joke?

Q. How do you get an elephant into your fridge?
...I don't know how do you?
A. Open the door and put it inside.

Very corny I know but it always reminds me that in order to get something seemingly impossible done we need to change our thinking.

And remember that rejoinder...
Q. How do you get a tiger in your fridge?
...Open the door and put it inside?
A. No. Open the door. Take out the elephant and put the tiger in.

So every time you open your fridge door, you can choose to change the way you think and see things a whole lot differently.

The Moodscope Team

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Activating Agents part 2.

I open the fridge door. I see an opened pack of milk chocolate. The instant my eyes detect it my emotional circuits react at lightening speed. Flashbacks of previous pleasure return producing warm excited emotions that fill me with desire. In seconds I eat the bar. My request is granted. It is down the hatch before I can say the words 'chocolate has many calories'. The bar stood no chance of survival.

Are my emotions then not a rapid response mechanism to activating agents or triggers?

Triggers may be even be internal I guess, arising in our minds, but they are easier to see and understand with external things, like a song, a place, a colour, a shape, a taste, a sight of food or drink. I see it, want it, eat it and it's over and all in a heartbeat or two.

Thinking, well, it's maybe overrated. There was no thinking involved, at least not of the slow, steady, reflective sort. Sure, I can be mindful. I can see the chocolate in the fridge door, observe the warm fuzzy feelings, acknowledge them, allow them to pass away while I simultaneously review all the disadvantages to eating the chocolate.

Sadly, I'm not yet that enlightened. So, my road to success might have to begin with removing or staying away from my activating agents. When I attain enlightenment I will manage to resist temptation and overcome my urges with wisdom. There may be a part three.

A Moodscope User.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Playing the "Jittery" Card.

I wanted to do a series that embraced all 20 cards and here's the first of twenty.

Today, it's the turn of the "Jittery" card, which Moodscope defines as, "feeling agitated and edgy".

What can we do if we play a 2 or 3 on the Jittery Card? Feeling agitated and edgy is impossible without 'jittery chemicals' flowing through our bloodstream. In response to stress, we release hormones that allow our agitated and jittery state to be translated into rapid action should the perceived danger turn out to be a real threat. This gives us an 'edge' – the positive aspect of being 'edgy'.

It doesn't feel nice, though, does it? And, in most situations, it's an unhelpful reaction to a perception of danger. This perception can just be our imagination. Our body doesn't care, it will react regardless of whether the threat is real or imagined.

So what can we do to move on from an unhelpful jittery state? First thing to realise is that you've got at least 40 minutes before your body will calm down. It takes a while for the hormones to work their way out of your system. So, be gentle and patient with yourself.

Secondly, drink some more water. The hormone system is water-dependent. Drinking water helps flush the system! Drinking coffee, tea, or alcohol is going to add more stimulants to the already complex chemical cocktail coursing through your veins.

Thirdly, shift your focus. Ask yourself, "How specifically am I 'safe' today?"  "What would enhance a sense of calm in my life today?" For me, I have three easy paths to peace: listening to soothing music, having a shower, and walking in Nature.

If you take such positive action, and give yourself 40 minutes to sense the change, you should be able to adjust your score on the "Jittery" scale!

A Moodscope User.

PS. If you have any coping strategies, tips or advice you think may help someone else, please add them to the comments on this blog.  Moodscope would like to share them on the web site to help others who may be feeling jittery.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

The 20 Moodscope cards.

In recent months we've been asked by many of our members if we could give specific advice or tips on how to improve in the areas that adjectives on the cards cover. For example, if, say, someone was feeling 'jittery' today, they'd like to be given specific feedback on things to do to help them relieve those jittery feelings.

We think it's a great idea and know that the best advice will probably come from those who have experienced being jittery and have tried different strategies to combat that feeling - our Moodscope members.

To help focus us all, our brilliant blogger Lex has written a blog on each of the 20 adjectives which we'll be posting on the Moodscope blog over the next few weeks. If you'd like to share any coping strategies, ideas, insights, tips or advice that have worked for you, please let us know and add your thoughts to the comments section for each blog Lex writes.

Lex's first blog will be posted tomorrow morning.

I hope you have a good day.

Kind regards.

The Moodscope team.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Activating Agents part 1.

I Googled ‘Books about Dieting’ just now and got 33,300.000 results. The industry is worth a fortune. Yet trying to find success in weight loss and management is so challenging.

So, I go back to my guest dog, Sussi (blog post 3 September). She arrived overweight at the start of her 5 weeks visit. I cut her food down by 20% and massively increased her exercise level. She’d had a very dormant period in the previous months. So, those 5 words ‘eat less and exercise more’ worked well and she shed the extra kilos and her shape changed with all the exercise.

It was easy for Sussi. She had no choice. She didn’t need to read any books. The elements of decision and self-control were managed on her behalf. Of course, equally, her earlier weight gain and lack of exercise were also managed on her behalf to begin with.

It seems to me, the diet industry is focused on the wrong place. It is our minds and our emotions that need the management. And it’s just not about food and diet. It’s pretty much about anything. We somehow need to try and set ourselves up for success. A thought on how to start? Well, remove the activating agents, those things, those behaviours, those people, the music, the environments that trigger us into the undesired patterns. But this is a big story so I’ll perhaps return to it again shortly if you can bear with me.

A Moodscope User.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Round Pegs in Square Holes.

Being a creative, right brain thinker, and working for many years as a chartered accountant (yes, really), I struggled. I felt utterly out of place.  Now, of course, I work in a more creative field, so things aren't quite so bad.

But on Thursday I attended a course for new tutors teaching in the lifelong learning sector (community learning and evening classes). On the course there were tutors who were holding classes on Badminton, Basic cookery, Mandarin, Cake Decorating, Guitar, Graphic Design, Chair-Based Exercise and Mixed Media Craft.

What was fantastic (and very unusual in my experience) was the way that each of us, and our courses, were held to be of equal value. In the standard educational system, academic subjects are given higher priority and even cookery has been replaced by the more scientific "food technology".

In the lifelong learning community however, Bee-Keeping seems to have the same status as Mandarin. Left brain and right brain thinkers are equally valued. Practical crafts are as important as academic subjects.

We all need to be valued – and we are all of worth. Just consider whether the people with whom you choose to surround yourself do actually value you. As a result of that you may wish to consider if you are actually in the right place with the right people.

When I worked as an accountant there was no place for the things I do really well, so I wasn't valued. As an Image Consultant those same talents and skills are essential and are treasured by my clients.

Don't be a round peg in a square hole (and I purposely use the words in that order). Somewhere there's a hole you fit perfectly, with people who will love the way you fit around them. Start looking for that place and those people and have faith they'll turn up.

Rattling around in a place where you feel constantly inadequate is a sure-fire way of fostering depression, and that's not very sensible, regardless of which side of the brain you're thinking from.

A Moodscope User.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Create something. Anything!

My local council offers an award winning, exceptional (and free) programme as a new pathway for dealing with stress, anxiety and depression. It is called Creative Alternatives and at the discretion of one's doctor, therapist or other professional it is possible to be referred for this 'prescription', this medicine. It consists of small workshops scattered about the area that explore different creative activities.

This holistic approach is run by artists and art therapists, all of whom have an intimate understanding of how self-expression and creativity can be hugely therapeutic and soothing; they know it can heal wounds that can't be seen.

I have realised for some years now that when I fail to make time, even just a little time, for creativity, something inside shrivels up and dies. There is something innately spiritual, I feel, in making, planting, growing, baking and creating. So why oh why do I all too often fail to make the time, feeling that there are 'more important' tasks to be accomplished, when actually, creativity keeps me well?

In his energetic and witty book, 'Through the eye of a needle', John-Paul Flintoff (what a delightful mind he has), inspires us to see for ourselves just how much happier creating things can make us.

Whatever you may feel like creating, even if just a hearty, homemade soup, an origami butterfly or a cartoon doodle, the key is not to procrastinate. James Russell Lowell wisely said: "In creating, the only hard thing is to begin; a grass-blade is no easier to make than an oak."

A Moodscope User.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

The Gentle Author.

Allow me to introduce to you, home of the highly esteemed Gentle Author. He (or she) writes prolifically and eloquently about life in Spitalfields, East London.

On the 26th August 2009, The Gentle Author shared an impressive promise with the world.   She (or he) plans to write ten thousand stories about Spitalfields life. 'At a rate of one a day, this will take approximately twenty-seven years and four months.' Thus taking us 2037.

The Gentle Author wrote the 4th Annual Report on the 26th August of this year and I can tell you that his (or her) remarkable promise is looking propitious. A panoply of tales, histories and stories seem set to be discovered and elegantly revealed for a long time to come.

You know, we can all aspire to live like The Gentle Author each day. Even if just a little bit.

Who doesn't like hearing or telling a good story? Storytelling is as intrinsic to human nature as it is to enjoy a good meal.

Everyday, our paths wend and weave with folk who have a story to tell. Their story. For example, I enjoyed a wee blether with our local street sweeper, Graham, the other day.  His story left me gob-smacked. So much so, I've retold his history in subsequent conversations I've had with friends.

This is the stuff that makes the world go round in a happier spin.

Hint: You may have to ask a question or two to prime a person's tongue. Then? Listen, enjoy.

Whose intriguing story will you uncover today?

A Moodscope user.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

The gift.

If someone offers you a gift and you refuse to accept it, to whom does the gift belong?

Criticism and abuse are like slugs that stick and suck the life out of us. I remember a Tibetan teacher once saying about criticism that either the critic is right about the issue and we need to correct whatever it is, or, as much as we can tell from our perspective, they are misguided and being unfair.

In that case we can have compassion for them. But compassion does not mean accepting their abuse. We have the choice to refuse to accept their abuse.

We can explain quietly in calmer times that we are no longer willing to accept the criticism and abuse and if they choose to offer it we will walk away and allow them to calm down until they are willing to discuss whatever the issue is in a loving and peaceful way. This, of course, may mean making the choice to not engage with that person at all.

We do have a choice and in exercising that choice we build our own resilience and set ourselves free. It's often not easy, but does it not always makes sense?

A Moodscope User.

Friday, 6 September 2013

What was their name?

It’s right on the tip of your tongue. You can see their face; remember everything about them but the one thing you really need remember at that moment; their name. This is not an uncommon phenomenon and something that may happen to you frequently. Thankfully, these troublesome (and sometimes embarrassing) episodes are easily resolved.

If someone introduced themselves to you as James Bond it’s not likely to be a name you'll forget in a hurry. It’s a name that carries with it a whole plethora of associations. This means that when you try to recall their name, it’s easy to do so using imagery, memories, emotions and opinions connected to it. Unfortunately, not everyone has a name as memorable as James Bond.

By using a bit of creativity, every name, no matter how mundane or complicated can be made into something memorable.

The first tool to use is the Baker/baker paradox. This states that if someone were to tell you their name is Baker, you are less likely to remember it than if that person were to say that they earn their living as a baker. When someone tells you they are a baker you imagine all the things that bakers do, perhaps the flour covered aprons and the smell of fresh bread. If you change all Bakers to bakers you are more likely to remember them. This process takes something that is inherently non-memorable and makes it memorable with the help of a little creativity.

Some names are far too unique for that approach, but fear not. When a name is just on the tip of the tongue all it needs is a small reminder of their name and it’s right there. Turning a name into something that is slightly different but more memorable is a great tool to use. For example, my rather un-memorable name is Jake O’Gorman. By using a bit of creative license it could easily be turned into Joke O’Gormless. You can imagine me trying to explain a joke but doing so very badly due to the want of more intelligence. Someone with the surname of Patel could be imagined holding a giant Petal. Jones could be imagined being serenaded by Billy Paul with ‘Me and Mrs Jones’.

One of the most important factors to remember is that ‘the art of memory’, is ‘the art of attention’. If you want to remember something such as a name, a concept, a to-do list, then the most important thing is to spend a moment paying attention and then turn it into something memorable, no matter how abstract.

Happy memorizing.
Joke O’Gormless
Personal trainer/Lifestyle Coach.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

A day to remember.

Tuesday, 23rd August. That's the day Sarah posted a wonderful piece about Eeyore and Piglet.

The sensational list of contributions from Moodscopers that followed made great reading, and how lovely that the trigger of Tigger and friends provoked such a reaction. I've just read through them once more, and how good did that make me feel. I bet I'm not the only one.

My friend Gilly (say it with a hard 'g' and it sounds less odd) said he recounted three things to be grateful for so often it had become a habit. He did it at the end of the day, just before he went to sleep. It's proved the perfect antidote to his anxiety of which he's seen no evidence for several years now.

The other thing that struck me about the comments that followed Sarah's piece was our greater willingness to share the positive stuff we feel. (Of course, it's just as valid to share the stuff we're feeling that ain't so great, and it's taken me a few years to acknowledge that's ok too.)

I know it's a generalisation but I think us men are particularly good at retreating into ourselves when feeling blue – wanting to figure it all out ourselves. Personally, I'm about as good as synchronised swimming while baking a soufflĂ© as I am at sussing out anything that's going on in my head without interaction, so when I'm slinking off into my own little world I'm grateful for people reaching in to help me re-engage.

So today I'm grateful to my friend Debbie who's just invited me to dinner knowing where my head's at and suggesting 'quiet nights at home aren't always the best idea, particularly on a Friday'. And to my stepsister's daughter Lucy, who brought a tear to my eye by holding my gaze and telling me something I never knew. That she, her brother and sister had always thought of me fondly as Uncle Mark.

Finally, I'm grateful to Sarah and all you Moodscopers who posted your 'things to be thankful for'. Your amazing contributions are there for each and everyone of us to read, whenever we want or feel the need.

A Moodscope User.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Back on the chain-gang...

Yes, it's September again and for me this is always more of a new year than is January. Because I have school-age children and run my own business, I choose to take the whole of August away from work, which has its benefits and also drawbacks. The benefits are obvious and I've probably written about some of the drawbacks already (lack of structure principally, and of course, the financial implications).

But getting back to work, whether you've been away for a fortnight or six weeks, presents some challenges. This is not just limited to holidays; an acquaintance of mine, who recently had a heart-attack scare and was on sick leave for a number of weeks, said "the more I sit on my bottom, the more I want to sit on my bottom." I think we can all understand that inertia.

An idea I have shamelessly stolen from a coaching friend of mine (thank you Jill – this is so helpful) is that of scheduling into the working day some summer reminders. How about putting into our packed lunches some more exotic food than just the standard cheese sarnie? Could we take a purposeful ten minute break in the sunshine (for as long as we have sunshine)? If we look at what we have really enjoyed about our summer (and wasn't it a great one!) and intentionally create some moments in our day to recreate that feeling, then the post-holiday blues will not get a chance to hit so hard.

With that in mind I am going to take my book outside into the arbour and drink my coffee in the sunshine. Just for a few minutes. But I reckon it will give me energy to face the 7,583 emails that have logged up in my absence.

Happy New Year Everyone!

A Moodscope User.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Exercise and connection; Two very human and canine needs.

My friend's dog, Sussi, a springer spaniel, had 5 weeks with me while he moved house. Her arrival was fortuitous as I was in rather a low place at the time. But, quickly, I appreciated that taking her walking across miles of beach every day was doing both of us so much good. We're both built for movement, and, in her case, at considerable speed, especially when a bit of fruitless bird chasing is involved.

But, I also really saw how we were both built for connection. She didn't want to bother me but she always wanted to be where I was, whatever room I was in. Then she was happy. But, the thing is, so was I. I wonder if social isolation is, perhaps, the greatest destroyer of mental health and wellbeing. Yet, a depressed mind is such a lonely mind. What a paradox it is that making connection when we least want to do so actually can lift our mood to make it easier to build more connection.

If you don't have a dog but like the idea of one, well, maybe you can find one to walk, borrow someone's, or help at a rescue centre. If you don't like dogs, well, maybe go walking anyway, preferably with another human. And, of course, there's always cats!

A Moodscope User.

Monday, 2 September 2013

A Lie About Sleep.

One of the best ways to stay on top is to get enough of the right kind of sleep.  Sometimes this simple luxury can evade us. Our minds can lock onto a persistent thought like a bored puppy chewing its basket. The harder we try, the more elusive the rest becomes.

Years ago, I learned a lie about sleep that has helped me. The 'lie' was a mistaken observation on physiology. The proponent suggested that the left nostril oxygenated the right hemisphere of the brain, and the right air canal stimulated the left hemisphere.  (Physiologists tell me this is nonsense.) The idea was that lying on your side would naturally restrict either the left or right air canal, and so drive activity to the opposite cerebral hemisphere. Since the right hemisphere used to be associated with imagination, the simple act of lying on your right side would occlude the right nostril, open up the left, which would then cross-over to stimulate the right hemisphere – giving you more imaginative dreams! Don't worry, there won't be a test, and it isn't true anyway, but it is useful.

Why is it useful?  Well, because it works as a strategy. If you want to change your dreams, 8 times out of 10, just rolling over onto your other side will shift your thinking, your dreaming, and hence your sleeping pattern. If I have a troubling thought pattern, or a bad dream, I now have evidenced-based faith that changing my physical position will change my mental position.

The same works for daydreaming! If you're stuck in an unhelpful pattern of thought during the day, changing your physical position forces a neurological shift too. If you want to change your mind, change your posture! So, next time someone says, "What's your position on this?" you can smile and know that you can change your position on anything at any time!

A Moodscope User.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Hi I'm Pete and I'm lonely.

Be honest now, did that statement make you cringe a little? Despite the fact we are human and not robots, it never ceases to amaze me how those things called 'feelings,' (cue blood curdling scream) can wreak terror and panic. We can end up, therefore, in a situation where we feel our grief, sadness or loneliness is repulsive to others.

Yes, trying to express loneliness or sadness to those around us can leave us feeling vulnerable and little understood. Friends or family may even say we are given to wallowing or attention seeking.

The irony of this is, often, the more we open up the more alone we feel. Well intentioned but unhelpful feedback may make us feel it's unsafe to open up; to verbalise our feelings.

The following sentence by Martha Beck has stuck with me for years:

"At times in my life, I have been utterly lonely. At other times, I've had disgusting infectious diseases. Try admitting these things in our culture and you'll find they evoke identical responses...The phrase "I'm lonely" rings like the medieval leper's shout of "Unclean!" Unclean!" "

Beck divides loneliness into three categories: absolute, separation and existential and she gives remedies for for each.

I'm definitely of the latter division. After all, can any human know the sum total of us?  Can anyone understand implicitly our grief, losses, disappointments, joys, sadnesses, our every thought and intention? The answer has got to be no.

The remedy for existential loneliness Beck advises, is a prescription of art. By both appreciating art, and nurturing our own creativity, our mind can relax and sit quietly to the point of crossing over into a place where our self-expression has great clarity; freedom.

The reverse then, of an awkward conversation trying to mumble our inner-most, deepest, precious feelings.

If you wish to read more on the three differing types of loneliness Martha Becks' article can be found here:

A Moodscope User.