Thursday, 28 February 2013

Assertive assistance

Last week my friend Anne and I compared notes about what generally happens when people around you realise that you're having a hard time of things.

Often they truly want to help, but nine times out of ten this gets translated into them asking what they can do for you, one of the most frustrating offers in the world.

Yes, you want help (sometimes desperately) but no - you've nowhere near enough strength to organise your thoughts sufficiently to brief them.

As Anne said, 'Don't ask me how you can help, just tell me what you're going to do, and do it'.

When times are tough it can feel as though you're using every ounce of your meagre resources simply to keep the plates spinning.

So when a well-meaning friend asks how they can help, you've literally no capacity to work out a strategy. Better by far if they assume responsibility for a couple of plates. 'I'll look after these two' - they're likely to be the words you long to hear.

However, what if you agree with this principle but don't know how to suggest it to others?

Two ideas spring to mind.

You could always lead by example - help others as you'd like to be helped yourself.

But if the need's more urgent, why not let me do the seed-sowing? Just forward this email to a friend or two.

Almost certainly they'll be only too pleased to know that the best way to help you is to simply roll up their sleeves and make a start on something, anything.

Don't ask, just do.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Stop thinking, start living.

I don't know if you're like me, but I can find myself avoiding books just because they're popular. Seeing them everywhere I go seems to put me off them for some odd reason.

It was therefore good recently to be persuaded by my friend Ali to read Richard Carlson's 'Stop Thinking, Start Living' - definitely worth checking out if you're a fan of self-help books.

Among a host of other useful reflections, Carlson reminds us that how you feel is very much driven by what you think.

And to a large degree you can control what you think.

I listen to the radio in the bathroom in the mornings, and even on days when I may not be feeling so great I'll become aware that a funny remark by the presenter has got me smiling. In this moment I've clearly stopped dwelling on negativity to smile at a joke instead.

Not surprisingly thinking about negative stuff can make you feel bad.

So why not make a deliberate effort today to send black thoughts packing?

You have the power to do this. You really do.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Keeping it real.

There's the distinct possibility that today could be a perfect one for you.

How very lovely this would be.

Perfect days, however, tend to come few and far between. And far be it from me to rain on your parade but let's face it, isn't it more likely that this will be an average kind of day? Perhaps even a less-than-average one?

There are those who exhort us to spring out of bed every morning, determined that this will be the best day of our lives.

I'm sure it helps to keep a positive mind-set, if you can.

However I also think it pays to be realistic.

If you've had perfect (or almost-perfect) days in the past, you're pretty certain to have them again in the future.

But not necessarily right here, right now.

So go ahead with your eyes open and make the most of what the day throws at you, remembering that within limits you still have a good deal of control over how you'll feel at the end of it.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Help for helpers.

All too often those who need help the most aren't the ones who get it.

I had a thought-provoking conversation the other day with a man whose father was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's. His mother now finds herself in the position of chief carer.

Almost certainly, what little help that may be available from the system will go the father, but what about the effect his illness will have on his wife? What help will she get?

I suspect we both know the answer to that one. But the point made by the man I was talking to was that Moodscope could actually be a very useful tool for his mother. Although her mood is very likely to be affected her husband's illness, she may not often be asked how she is.

There will often be a presumption that someone in her position will be stoic, dealing with all that's thrown at her without a murmur.

Moodscope of course isn't solely for those who have low mood themselves. Its buddying aspect can help anyone who could so with a little extra support when the going gets tough.

If you know someone in this position please tell them about Moodscope. Suggest they take a look at it. Maybe even offer to buddy them.

It could prove to be exactly the help they need.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Get making.

When did you last make something? (A fuss doesn't count, nor does a bed.)

I'm talking about physically assembling something. Putting together the pieces that are needed to create something new. Bringing something to life.

Your grandparents wouldn't believe the world you live in, where food often comes pre-prepared - sometimes even pre-cooked. Where you don't buy coat-hooks at the hardware store, but instead take home a mounting panel with the hooks already attached to it.

We're not even very likely to make our own entertainment, resorting instead to sitting in front of the TV.

Yet when we do actually make something ourselves, there can be a tremendous rush of pleasure, even if the result isn't always completely perfect.

Of course it takes longer to make something than it does to buy it already made. And thanks to weird economies of scale that I don't always get, it can even cost you more to buy the parts or ingredients than it would set you back to purchase something already finished.

But nothing can replace the sheer pleasure of baking a cake or a loaf of bread. Of building some bookshelves. Of creating a hand-made greetings card for someone you care a lot about.

OK, I know you're too busy today to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. But making something doesn't necessarily mean making something on a grand scale.

There really is a big emotional return from making something from scratch. Today could be the day to do it.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Low mood laughter.

Some people in life are natural joke-tellers. Others (like me) love a good joke but are pretty hopeless when it comes to delivering them.

But whether you're a dab hand with witty repertoire or not, I'm sure you enjoy a good laugh.

They say that laughter is the best medicine, and whilst I wouldn't recommend relying solely on watching episodes of The Simpsons if you contract malaria, there's no doubting that laughing does you good. It usually makes you feel good too.

Helpfully nature has given us the ability to laugh when we see or hear something funny, even if our mood is otherwise low.

This can come in very handy when you're in a rocky state and don't feel like doing all the other things you know might do you good (get exercise, socialise etc).

Books of cartoons have worked for me in the past. As have videos of favourite funny films and TV shows.

You won't feel like getting them when your need is greatest so keep some supplies handy.

I'm not joking. (Sorry, you knew that was coming.)

Friday, 22 February 2013

Reward yourself.

One of my favourite cartoons appeared in the New Yorker in 1993. A couple of dogs are in conversation, and the one sitting at a computer declares: 'On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog.'

I've always loved it, and it seems I'm not the only one. It even has its own Wikipedia page.

Now to the best of my knowledge dogs tend to spend little of their time on the computer (although who knows what they get up to when we're not looking?) but they can be trained to do some other pretty impressive stuff.

And the trick, apparently, when trying to persuade a pooch to adopt new behaviour is to reward them when they do.

Maybe this works in humans, too? And more particularly perhaps in you?

Very possibly there's something you could do today which might help you feel better, but ordinarily you'd put it off because it feels like too much effort.

A bit of exercise, say (a short walk would be fine). Writing a thank-you letter. Tidying some clutter at home or work.

If so, why not think like an animal trainer? Complete the action then give yourself a reward. It doesn't have to be substantial, just a little something that will pep you up. A biscuit, say.

Preferably not a dog one though.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Make a new plan, Stan.

Unless it's something incontestable like 'how many hydrogen atoms are there to each one of oxygen in a water molecule' or 'which side of a slice of buttered toast always hits the floor if you drop it', very rarely is there just one right answer to life's questions.

So when you're faced with problems and challenges in your own life, whilst it can be tempting to rush off with the first solution that springs to mind, it often pays to think things through more carefully - although not so carefully that you never move beyond the weighing up phase into the action one.

When I worked in advertising I learnt that one key to solving problems creatively was to know that the more ideas you came up with, the more likely it was that just occasionally you'd strike gold, and at the very least find a solution that stood a better than evens chance of working.

Generally the best strategy seemed to be to write ideas down as soon as you had them - then put them out of your head so you could move on to the next one.

When someone asked me a question about this the other day, I realised that I'm a great proponent of cracking challenges by writing down as many solutions as possible.

Get them down on paper. Move on to the next idea. Then (the important bit) go back to sift through the possibilities and run with the best of them.

It might not be possible to make up your mind immediately, hence the advantage of capturing it all on paper.

If there's something bothering you, why not start by listing a few options?

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Give yourself a break.

You've got too much to do. We all have too much to do.

But you only have one life. Only so much time to fit in everything you believe you're supposed to do.

I often struggle with this myself. The amount on my Moodscope To-Do list is never-ending. If I could work 24-hour days for the next year, I still wouldn't have ticked everything off.

Sometimes I let this get to me. But most of the time I think it helps to ignore those nagging worries about The List, and simply to get on with living in the moment, getting done what I can today, and knowing that tomorrow's another day - another chance to tackle another batch of stuff.

I can't always block out the big picture worries for long, but putting in an hour at a time seems to work.

I'm sure it seems odd, but one of my most useful pieces of kit is an electronic kitchen timer. It's flashing away in front of me right now in fact. I've given myself sixty minutes to do some writing, and have a target of what I need to get done before it emits its plaintive little beep.

You've got too much to do. You won't get it all done today.

So give yourself a target and block out a shortish chunk of time. You'll probably surprise yourself when you achieve more than you think you would.

As I just have. There goes the beep.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Worst case scenario.

It's good to be with you for the next few minutes, and I hope you feel the same. Unless you're hiding in the cupboard behind me, we're not together in person.

But most of us enjoy being in the company of other people. Even if at times we choose to be on our own. (That's fine too, just as long as it doesn't turn into the only thing you do.)

The trouble is - and we've spoken about this in the past - although it's often the case that being around other people can give you a real boost, the obstinate part of your brain may try to stop you joining in with social situations when you're feeling a bit ropey.

Crazy isn't it? Logic tells you to accept invitations, to arrange to see a friend, or to pick up the phone. But the annoyingly pervasive emotional side of your thinking tells you not to.

What to do? Well perhaps, when the opportunity arises on one of those not-so-great days to spend time with others, ask yourself 'what's the worst that could happen if I ignored my emotions'?

I guess the answer is that you might get wherever you're going, then could need to make your excuses and go home.

But (a) that's not actually very likely, and (b) it really wouldn't be that awful a thing to do if it was really necessary.

Why not try this next time you feel a bit rough?

Nine times out of ten it works for me.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Get unbusy.

Have you noticed that some people take a perverse pleasure in telling you how busy they are all the time?

Perhaps it's a sign of our insecure economic times that they feel the need to be seen as Very Busy, but although bursts of intense activity can be OK there's a lot to be said for not over-pushing yourself.

In fact it's often the case that the more you try to squeeze in, the less you actually get done.

So are you giving yourself enough 'spare' time each day? Are you actually giving yourself any?

If you like to drive your life with a schedule there's a lot to be said for planning down-time, periods when you're not going to be frantically trying to clear your To-Do list.

This is not to say you'll be nothing then, but perhaps you can occupy this time with the things that make life good.

Stop and chat to someone. Have a coffee. Walk round the block.

Above all, let go of the need to fill every second of every day.

Life's for living.

Live it today.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Moods are like seasons.

Up here in the northern hemisphere it's still winter, but we're already starting to get the occasional spring-like day.

There's something about a sunny day, about seeing green shoots starting to push their way out again, about the sound of children's excited voices, which can warm even the chilliest heart.

And even when it's still depressingly cold and wintry outside, the sheer knowledge that better times are ahead is enough to keep us going.

If this is true of our feelings about the weather, I think it can also apply to our moods.

Very few people are on top form every single day. It's entirely human to have good days and bad.

But just as we know that winter days will turn into spring (and then summer) ones, it's definitely worth remembering that our days of low mood will almost certainly become happier ones in the course of time.

Just as the seasons change, mood also seems to ebb and flow in a gradual way, so it's probably not appropriate to expect miraculous improvements overnight.

The better days will come though.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

One day at a time.

You could think of your whole life as one giant project.

But when would you reflect on the project's hopeful success? It would be crazy to do so only on the last day of your life. For a start, who knows when that day may come?

Surely it makes more sense to consider this one overall 'project' as being made up of many smaller packages, and to look back much more frequently at how you've done.

Tracking your mood with Moodscope means you'll see how you're doing on a daily basis. When things are going well, you'll have the reward of seeing how your mood is holding up.

Alternatively if you're not having such a great time you'll have the knowledge necessary to take action, ideally before things get overly low.

In general I think it makes sense to live your life day by day, reflecting often on how things have gone and what you can do to maintain a positive state of mind.

So what can you do today that could make you feel more positively tomorrow?

Friday, 15 February 2013

Over-thinking?

Do you think that you sometimes might think too hard?

If you do, you're not alone. Many of us spend too much time thinking and not enough time doing. It's an easy trap to fall into, especially if your mood is low and you've ended up spending a lot of the day inactive and alone.

I've been there. You don't feel great so you stay at home. You don't feel like doing much so you slump in front of the TV or don't get out of bed.

And then the over-thinking starts. The excessive worrying. The rumination.

There's a great way to trick your brain into thinking less though, which is to completely immerse yourself in something that takes over all your cognitive capacity, drowning out the destructive thinking with something else altogether.

This happened for me a few days ago when I spent an afternoon and evening with Caroline's two boys.

As kids do, they demanded my full attention which I was more than happy to give. We played in the garden, made a chocolate cake, cooked dinner, did their homework.

The point is, a whole slice of time went by during which it was impossible for me to fill my head with all the usual stuff.

Was this simply avoiding the issues? Well I don't think so. When I went back into the normal routine the next day, I found I'd got much greater clarity of thought.

If you find yourself thinking too hard it's not always easy to tell yourself to stop.

It might be a lot more practical to crowd out the negative thinking with something else altogether.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Check your mood.

Throttle? Check. Flaps? Check. Strobes? Check.

As a pilot prepares for takeoff, there's a mandatory checklist to run through so nothing's forgotten and everything's tested.

Checklists make huge sense.

In fact in his recent book, 'The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right', author Atul Gawande (a surgeon) shows how briefly pausing to run through a task's requirements before beginning it has huge value. Saves lives even.

We carry mental checklists with us all the time, of course. Whether consciously or subconsciously it's how you're able to walk out of the house without leaving the iron on.

Going through the twenty Moodscope cards every morning is, I'm sure, rather like running a ruler over your state of mind. It's a kind of checklist for your mood.

But you can think in mental checklist terms on other occasions too. Next time you're sitting in traffic or lying in bed about to get up, why not make a point of asking yourself how you're feeling?

Being aware of your mood is a first step towards managing it. Quite a big step actually.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Do good, feel good.

It sometimes seems as though we live in a selfish world.

People allow shop doors to close behind them without looking to see whether there's someone following. They don't make way for others when they're walking along a footpath. They carry on loud conversations on their phones right in your ear.

And these are just the minor irritations of everyday life. I'm sure you can think of much worse examples yourself.

So what's the answer? Do you fight fire with fire? Do you become twice as selfish yourself?

Well I think (and hope) not.

There's a lot of evidence that altruism can play a big part in overall mental wellbeing. In a neat twist, it turns out that doing good can actually make you feel good. And I suspect the reverse is equally true. Those who behave selfishly end up with lower moods.

I also reckon that just occasionally our good manners can rub off on those who have lower standards when it comes to considerateness.

But even if you can't make a dramatic change to your world, you can at least improve your own day by thinking about others.

Why not give it a try today?

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Don't bring me down.

Almost certainly you possess the remarkable capacity to put together explanations when you see something happening (in the street for instance).

A huddle of people are looking up at a tree, so there's probably a cat stuck up there. A man is sitting on a shop doorstep, and he's likely to be homeless and will ask you for money.

Of course we don't always get it right. Our assumptions can prove wrong. The tree observers could be council workers discussing a pruning job. The man in the doorway could be simply tying his shoe.

But there was no doubting the cause of the little scene I passed the other morning on the way to work. Outside the nearby children's nursery, a young Mum was smiling and waving through the window. I saw her first. A few paces on, I spotted her little boy inside, with the unhappiest face in the world.

He clearly didn't want to be left there.

As I walked on, it seemed mean and heartless of the mother to be smiling. Surely she'd be upset to see her son in such distress?

Thinking a bit more though, she was probably doing the right thing. Trying to get her little boy to see it as normal, nothing to get het up about.

And this is probably a good way to think about how you'd like others to be with you if and when your own mood is low. You hope they'll empathise with you. The last thing you'd want is for them to suddenly get as low as you.

It's a fine balance though, worth exploring when the boot's on the other foot and you're around someone else whose mood is low.

The answer is almost certainly to be yourself, and to behave as normally as possible.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Helping without sinking.

Moods are contagious.

Sharing time with someone who's 'up' can rub off on you, giving you a lift.

Unfortunately however, being around miserable people can mean you end up being dragged down yourself.

Some might suggest that you should steer clear of those who are low, and whilst there may be a small degree of sense in this in terms of those you have no connection with, most of us have little choice over whether we are with our friends and family.

Indeed it would be a pretty uncaring and cold world if you simply cut off anyone who wasn't in a great place.

What to do therefore? Well I think you can sympathise with people without taking on their problems themselves. If you think about this, professionals such as therapists must have to operate like this otherwise they'd be gibbering wrecks at the end of every working day.

On a path where many may be carrying too much weight, you'll not be of much use by offering to take their loads from them. You'd soon collapse yourself.

Better to show sympathy and offer encouragement.

Which, if the original load was on your shoulders rather than theirs, is probably what you'd want too.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Fuel with care.

As you'll find if you mix up the diesel and unleaded pumps, cars don't work with the wrong fuel.

We kind of know this, just as we're aware that babies aren't likely to take to spare ribs, and should remember that you must never, ever give dogs macadamia nuts.

So why, if we're this astute when it comes to the nutritional needs of cars, babies and dogs, do we seem to ignore that having a healthy diet is crucial to our own physical and mental wellbeing?

Why do we sometimes think it's fine to shovel down junk without expecting to see an associated decline in our health and all-round happiness?

Of course there's a lot of psychology surrounding what we eat and why. It can get complicated.

But one thing that generally holds true is the principle adhered to by computer experts, among others: garbage in, garbage out.

You'll have choices today about what you eat. Try to make as many sensible ones as possible.

Your mind and body will thank you, even if your willpower gets a bit challenged.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Take five.

I'm the world's worst when it comes to taking time out. I wish I wasn't, but something inside me seems to stop me stopping.

I know I'm not alone. I'm certain you'll have gone through this yourself from time to time or (I do hope not) as unreasonably and unceasingly as I'm inclined to do.

But the thing is, when I do slow right down and take time off, the clarity of my thinking improves to an enormous extent. Problems that seemed insurmountable appear much more manageable with the perspective afforded by a rested mind and a brain that's no longer frazzled.

Often it's not good enough to expect that an opportunity to rest will pop up by accident. It needs to be planned, and put in your diary in indelible pen - just as if it was a vital appointment or a crucial meeting.

Don't wait too long to do this for yourself. I spoke to the wife of a retired clergyman the other day who said that when she got home from the shops, her husband told her that he'd booked them a fortnight's vacation.

Now that's the way to do it.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Positive pals.

'Ever since you started hanging around with X, you've changed.'

It's one of those allegations which seems to get levelled in relationships which are struggling through a rough patch, the insinuation being that the accused isn't who he/she used to be.

The fact of the matter of course is that we do tend to take on the characteristics of the people we spend the most time with.

Socialising with optimists may give you a more half-full view of life, whilst being around those with a fundamentally pessimistic outlook might well drain your own glass.

Most of us have some around us who need to be there whatever the weather, but there's nearly always a ring in your social circle that's more discretionary - people you can choose to spend time with (or not).

I think life would quickly become bland if we opted to fill this ring entirely with 'happy clappers'. But isn't it worth going a little out of your way to benefit from being with those who generally lift your spirits rather than dampen them?

You know who I mean. Why not arrange to catch up with them?

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Sometimes, stop struggling.

If you don't succeed at first (they say) try, try again. We're told that persistence always pays off, and that we can do anything once we set our minds to it.

Now while there's nothing wrong with determination, there are times (and days) when you're not going to achieve your objectives no matter how hard you try, no matter how much you grit your teeth.

It would, for example, be plain daft to struggle on with a tree-felling task if the only tool you had was a steak-knife. Better to put the whole thing off until tomorrow then come back equipped with a chainsaw.

The same principle can apply to days when you just can't get things together. Whatever you do, you seem to be taking two steps back for every one you make forwards.

When this happens (and it will) there's nothing wrong at all in postponing the task until you're on better form again.

No sense in flogging a dead horse. Every sense in realising that we all have limits.

Please remember this next time you have one of those days.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Cool to be kind.

Experts in the field of positive psychology tell us that we can get as much out of giving kindness as we do out of being shown it by others.

An ongoing campaign exhorts people to 'practice random acts of kindness' and there's a lot to be said for this principle.

Actually it can be fun going through your day finding odd and unexpected ways to be kind to other people.

For instance I always loved the idea of paying a toll on a bridge twice, telling the official that you were covering the charge for the car behind you too. This random person would then be waved through with a 'the guy in front got it for you'.

But it can be as simple as holding a door open for someone, or (on a train) offering them your newspaper after you've read it, or picking up litter in the street and putting it in a bin.

It doesn't have to be much, but to feel good it ought to be as spontaneous as possible.

Why not have a think about this today, then see where you might be able to casually drop an act of kindness into someone's day?

It'll feel good. Promise.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Self-care isn't selfish.

As kids it's drummed into us that being selfish is wrong.

Share your toys. Share your food. Share the airtime in conversations.

Of course this is pretty sensible guidance because living with others in relative harmony means not keeping it all to yourself. The theory is that if you share with others, then they'll share with you too.

But not being selfish isn't the same as believing that it's somehow wrong to care for yourself, and to look after No 1 at times.

When you travel by air the safety demonstration makes clear that you should put on your own oxygen mask before tending to the needs of others, and this makes great sense.

If you're going to be of help to the people around you, you need to be strong yourself.

So making sure you're well-rested, well-fed and well-adjusted isn't selfish.

It's just right and proper.

Monday, 4 February 2013

No need to struggle.

If you needed to move a heavy item of furniture, you probably wouldn't attempt to do so on your own.

There are some tasks which clearly require more than one pair of hands.

It's pretty obvious to ask for help when the work is of a physical nature.

Then why doesn't it seem equally sensible to do so then the heavy lifting is more cerebral?

When you've got too much to think about, too much to worry about, it can be tempting to keep it all to yourself.

But that's not good. In many situations, a problem shared is a problem halved. (Not always of course, but it's a rule that holds good a great deal of the time.)

Sometimes the simple act of talking through your concerns, worries and anxieties can help you get them into perspective.

Then of course there are other situations in which you really can ask someone else to take the load off your shoulders.

You're human, not super-human. If you're carrying a heavy load, there's nearly always someone who'll help.

But usually you need to ask. And that's fine.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Honest Jon.

I remember an unusual meeting a while ago, which began with a five minute discussion about my mood.

Unlike other meetings (I'm sure I was never told about) when my mood had also featured on the agenda, at least I was there for this one.

It happened to be a time when I was feeling on less than sparkling form. After many years of trying to hide my mood when it was low, I'd reached a stage when it seemed sensible to be more open about things.

Actually it was extremely sensible. We were discussing a project which would need my full engagement and energy, and if I wasn't going to be fully on the case, it was better for us all to acknowledge this upfront.

Now if there'd been a piece of mission-critical equipment that was playing up, of course we'd have talked about it.

But the thing is, it did feel a little self-indulgent, a little selfish, to confess to being somewhat on the glum side.

So I had to ask myself how I'd have felt if another team member had promised to deliver, in the full knowledge that they couldn't, due to feeling below par.

I wouldn't have been happy. I'd certainly rather have known upfront.

It probably helps to see things through others' eyes in such situations. And it almost certainly helps to be more open about the way you feel, certainly among people you trust and on whom you depend (and vice versa).

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Moving on Moodscope.

Three Thursdays ago I asked for your thoughts about Moodscope. As ever, our Moodscopers responded in droves. In fact well over fifteen hundred survey forms were completed, thank you. While most of its questions were multiple-choice, a couple were open-ended, and if I tell you that just one of these produced over fifty pages of densely-typed responses, you'll have an idea of the slightly formidable task we face in following up this abundance of suggestions.

Perhaps even more galling is having to admit that we've a list of hundreds (hundreds!) of people to whom our members want to introduce us, as they're folk they think could help us. Why should this be galling? Quite simply we're a tiny team with insufficient resource to follow up these amazing offers anything like as quickly as we should. It makes me feel bad that we asked for help, then have drowned a bit under a tsunami of generous responses.

The first thing to say, therefore, is a big thank-you for recommending so many amazing-looking potential allies and helpers. The second is to ask for your patience while we do our utmost to get back to everyone. I'm afraid it could take a fair time.

And this brings me to my third point. I work on Moodscope full time but spend a substantial proportion of each week writing my daily messages to you. (They began three years ago in February 2010 and there are well over 1,000 messages in the archive.) My dilemma is that I need to work on Moodscope itself to move it on, but while I'm writing most days there's never a proper opportunity to do so.

So here's what we've decided. From now until February 28th we hope you'll permit us to re-run a month's worth of previously published daily messages: a chance for you to re-visit old friends or to catch up with those you may have missed. Importantly, doing so will free me to invest all my time and energy in Moodscope itself - there's work which sorely needs doing.

As ever, we'd love Moodscopers' reflections on each day's posts (via our Blogspot). Since we only introduced the commenting facility just before Christmas, none of February's posts will have been commented on before, so you'll be breaking new ground when you do so. And can I just say that we LOVE it when Moodscopers talk to each other through the comments. It gives us the biggest kick.

Thank you for your understanding while this happens. Right, time for me to get to work.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Both sides now.

Although we drive on the left where I'm from, Moodscope's membership is now pretty evenly divided between others like me, and those who favo(u)r the right, and of course everyone's very welcome, whichever side of the road they're on, literally and metaphorically.

British roads have nearly always featured 'keep left signs' which have traditionally consisted of illuminated plastic columns about three feet high and twelve inches in cross-section. They're generally positioned at wider junctions, especially at points where pedestrians may need to cross the road.

Unfortunately they were vulnerable for two reasons. First, their position on the road meant they had a tendency to get crashed into by careless drivers. In order to avoid more damage than necessary, therefore, these 'bollards' were designed to separate easily from their bases, 'snapping out' rather than breaking off

Sadly, while this made sense for safety reasons, it led to the signs' second vulnerability. They became a tempting target for late-night revellers on their way home, who had a tendency to snap them out of their mounts and re-locate them in such places as somebody's front garden.

Now I viewed the old signs with a degree of affection, but like all things they're going the way of the 21st century: yes, we now have bendy ones. They feature a kind of stiff rubber hinge at their foot and are flat rather than square-sectioned, so if a car whacks into them they flip down, then spring back up again.

Their designers have discovered that resilience comes not through rigidity but by building in the ability to flex and self-right.

And maybe what goes for street furniture also applies to emotional strength? When life's thoughtless drivers try to knock you for six, perhaps it's more about how you recover rather than how you fail to repel in the first place.

So the next time something untoward happens, you have my permission.

Just think 'bendy bollards'.