Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Live a longer and happier life.

"Find something to be happy about every day, and every hour, even if only for a few minutes, and if possible moment-to-moment. This is the easiest and best protection you can have."  Gregg Braden

Research would show that happy and content people live approximately seven years more than people that are not so happy.

So if our lives are the most important things to us - although many forget to look after the one thing that will keep them alive - their bodies, then how can we not only live longer but also happier?

One habit that is always identified is the appreciation exercise.

Before going to sleep each night, have a little booklet by your bed and fill in five things that you have been grateful for that day.

Nothing long or fancy - just  a word or phrase for each and thus ensuring your mind is in a place of appreciation as you fall off to sleep - thus allowing your subconscious to work its merry way to becoming happier.

Once you start doing that - you'll also start to look for things that your are grateful for - thus bringing it into greater 'view' and opening up that all important self-awareness I have mentioned in previous blogs - which is the start of all personal growth.

Right now - write down five things that you are grateful for in your life.

How was that?

How did it feel?

Buy that small booklet; put it by your bedside, start being more grateful for what you have tonight.

The greatest happiness lies under our feet.

Les
A Moodscope User.

Monday, 30 December 2013

Playing the Upset Card.

Here's the sixteenth in the series of excellent blogs by Lex covering the adjectives on the 20 Moodscope cards. Please 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. Many thanks. Caroline.

Today it's the turn of the 'Upset' card.  Moodscope defines this as: 'feeling sad and troubled about things'.

There's deep stuff to be said about being upset. But sometimes I'm just a shallow guy. To me, 'Upset' is an anagram of 'Setup'...and that's what life feels like sometimes – a setup. And that upsets me!

I think this is technically called, 'Paranoia' but everybody I've met is paranoid!

We wouldn't feel 'sad and troubled about things' if they didn't feel personal to us – like something was working against us – like we'd been set up. This, again, is a sign, I believe, of the intelligence and imagination sitting at the core of the depressed person.  We're sad because we care. We care because we intelligently think about what matters. We have emotional intelligence. But sometimes we try too hard to push open a door that opens the other way. Our emotional intelligence needs fresh direction to escape the trap, the setup.

Trouble is, being 'troubled' isn't usually the best state to be in to make any positive difference. Action is required. If the journey of one thousand miles begins with a single step, then the journey out of the valley of sadness – where we were setup and ambushed – begins with a single positive step. This will start the process of righting us – balancing us – returning us to equilibrium.

One step at a time. One day at a time. One thought at a time. You know what? I believe we can change our world (and theirs too – whoever they may be) one thought at a time. Now there's a thought!

So if there was just one thing you could do today to take you higher – out of the valley of sadness where there is so much troubled thinking – what would that one thing be?

Lex
A Moodscope User.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Can we really be comfortable with ourselves?

"One's destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things."
Henry Miller

How often do we think that we have 'arrived'?

Finally we have 'made it'...

Arrived at an answer, a location, a job, a position or even a relationship?

In the bigger picture of things it may feel that we can relax and settle into a new result, location or partnership...the challenge is - that the only constant in life is change. That 'C' of change...whipped up the ever roiling waves of cultural and societal shifts.

The only comfort, I believe ever to be found, is that which is found 'inside'. That clarity of who we are and what we stand for, regardless of the push and pull of the material word.

Question - Can we really be comfortable with ourselves?

Once we find that elusive Holy Grail, then no matter what happens 'outside' us, we can be sure of being on solid ground, like a lighthouse and far more able to deal with the ever changing world around us.

In this respect we can 'see' that everything will change - that we do not have to force it or even create change - we simply have to join it - to simply show up - and in having identified and clarified our own values (what we stand for) we will not be pushed over or submerged in this 'C of change'.

The way we individually look at our life, will constantly change due to age, or career, beliefs, or family.

For many it will at times 'throw' them and they will attempt to carry on as before.

It may even trigger depression, by attempting to stay the same while all around is altering...you cannot stay the same...unless you not only believe in your God (whichever one it is) but believe you are that God.

We must, I believe, constantly see ourselves on that never ending path, with our direction driven by our compass (our values) then at least we know our direction. What remains then is how we 'see' each situation we arrive at - dare I say each crossroads. And if it is the same crossroads as before...we didn't take the right route last time. (same job issues - same relationship issue - same health issues)

Each decision is a 'door' to a new view, a new panorama...

How grounded and how broad is your vision - can it adapt like your eyes for short and long sight as well as the ability to step back and see the whole picture?

How are you viewing your world today?

Les
A Moodscope User.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Draw something, anything!

One of my favourite books that I return to again and again is Everyday Matters by Danny Gregory. I love his pearls of wisdom on page 16:

"We can't control what life deals us, just how we respond to it. And if we are monomaniacally focused on the bad stuff, we are missing the beauty of a half-eaten apple, the sunshine on the bedspread, the smell of warm cookies. This is an important but slippery lesson and I have had to learn it again and again."

Drawing can help us to untie the ribbons and open the gifts that each day bears. If there is anything that has helped me look, and I mean really look and see, it's been having a few Life Drawing classes over the years.

What's really interesting is that when I've drawn stuff in my journal, as opposed to writing about it, I can return to that moment, sometimes years later, with far greater recall than reading my words. No wonder then that Danny Gregory has also researched the wonders that drawing can do for the memory.

It's difficult to read any of Danny's books or blogs and not be inspired to pick up a pencil or pen and draw something. Anything!

Ah, but right now, many of you are thinking "But I can't draw!", "I don't have the time!" or "How can this help a low mood anyway?"

Well, drawing can take us to the 'flow state' - the perceptual, right hand side of the brain - that blissful garden in the frantic city of the mind where things are calmer, quieter and the outside chatter is stilled. Noticing the way the light casts shadows on a creased and crumpled napkin or your china cup, or listening to the sound of your pencil on quality paper, it's all cathartic.

As for not having the time, don't allow your mind to to trick you into believing that you must set aside a whole afternoon, have the 'proper' equipment or accomplished all "to-dos" first. No! You could draw something right now. Give yourself two minutes of noticing something and sketching it - your cats paw, an electrical plug or your Aunty Nellie snoozing in her chair. We don't have to be Vincent van Gogh to open our eyes and see shade, texture and colour.

And finally, if you are one of the many who say 'I can't draw!' remember Michelangelo's words: "What the eye can see the hand will draw". The trouble is, is that we don't give our eyes the chance to 'see'. We tend to dwell in the left, logistical side of the brain, concentrating on the drawing and on what we think it ought to look like. Look at the object, not your drawing.

The result? "The weight of sadness was in wonder lost."  - William Wordsworth

Suzy
A Moodscope user.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

You have to be comfortable with discomfort.

"The comfort zone is always the most desirable place to be. But in settling for comfort, there is a price to pay and it comes in the death of ambition, of hope, of youth and the death of self." Simon Barnes, The Times.

We all too often seek 'comfort' instead of growth and in doing so choose to attempt to stay 'safe', which means (as in any organism), that we are choosing atrophy and 'death' over life!

If we are feeling down, this seeking of safety becomes even more limiting. In the 22 bouts of depression I have had (where for me chemicals have never worked) each bout has only lifted with me embracing something in the future and thus 'believing' that there actually is a future.

In NLP terms I needed to move 'towards' something and not just attempt to 'move away' from something.

This is to have (or create) some form of meaning in the future, almost for me, committing to believe there is life out there for me yet - and to shift, albeit psychologically painful, from where I may not even be able to move out of a room, never mind the house!

So I LOVE this quote from Simon Barnes and it is true whether for a person, a family, a team, an organisation, a community or the planet.

Great truths work in every situation...because they are just that - great truths. Just think - in a couple of weeks, none of the skin you presently have will be there - and in around nine months few if any of the cells in your body (I believe) will be there either - so who will you be? Only your spirit really remains...

Everything constantly changes and the only constant in life is CHANGE and it is not and never was helpful to attempt to hang on and seek comfort. In doing so you are 'dying' and your spirit with you.

Les
A Moodscope User.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Happy Christmas.

If it's Christmas Day where you are, and you're reading this on the 25th itself, the team at Moodscope would like to you a happy Christmas.

Whether you're going to be with family and friends today, or you're due to be keeping your own company, please remember that Moodscope is thinking of you and wishes you well.

Caroline and Adrian
The Moodscope Team

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Merry Christmas Blues.

I was a bit of a child prodigy when it comes to depression, having my first attack at seven years old. It happened at Christmas and I can still remember being in bed (because it very often takes a form similar to ME), looking at the lovely turkey dinner my mother had brought up, with beautifully crispy potatoes (my favourite) and not wanting even a bite of it. There was the noise of Christmas jollity coming from downstairs; the sounds of my brother and sister playing with whatever they had been given and it had no relevance or significance whatsoever. I just wanted to go to sleep until it was all over.

Forty odd years ago, of course, it wasn't recognised as depression. I think they put it down to end of term exhaustion and nobody seemed much bothered about it.

The depression has occurred at Christmas a couple of times since. Each time it has not been particularly the exhaustion or dark mood that has been most hard to bear, but the sense of isolation. Even in the middle of a family playing a loud and hilariously funny game, I am stuck in what seems like an enormous goldfish bowl; the walls of murky glass meters thick. I can see things going on outside the bowl, but I can't get to or feel any of it.

And I've learned that it's OK to be there. The extended family just think "Oh, Mary's a bit tired: she's been overdoing it". My immediate family know I'm ill and tend to be a bit more protective than usual (bless them). I've learned that if nobody expects Uncle David to give horsy-rides to the children because of his dodgy back, then nobody expects me to be the life and soul if the blues have got me again.

There's never a good time to have depression. Christmas is a particularly grim time to suffer, as is the summer holidays. The important thing to recognise is that there is no contractual obligation to be happy and jolly at Christmas. The phase "Merry Christmas" is a hopeful wish, not a command set in stone.

I wish us all Peace this Yuletide, fortitude of Spirit and Endurance. Regardless of the state of our mental health we will all benefit from these.

Mary
A Moodscope User.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Playing The Proud Card.

Here's the fifteenth in the series of excellent blogs by Lex covering the adjectives on the 20 Moodscope cards. Please 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. Many thanks. Caroline.

In the fifteenth of my series on the twenty Moodscope cards, it's the turn of the "Proud" card – a red card – a positive card. Moodscope defines this as: "feeling sense of achievement".

Well that's just as well that there is a definition because "Proud" is a word that is not OK with me. I'm British and we know that, "Pride comes before a fall." We lost an Empire, arguably through pride and arrogance. The people I dislike most are proud and arrogant. But this is meant to be a good word. "A sense of achievement" – works for me much better.  The Brits have added a few good things to history of which we should be proud!

In the battle of day-to-day management of my fragile mindset, little victories count for much. This mirrors the fact that tiny setbacks can 'destroy' me. This is why I count my victories...and in the spirit of this card, I am proud of them. When the war seems to be being won by the floodtide of darkness, little victories really matter.

What kind of victories are important to me? Well, when I'm low, I'm a potty-mouth! I'm amazed at just how eloquent I can be when fed up. Bang my leg into the door...it's the door's fault! And I give it some 'feedback'. I know it's nonsense. I know it's stupid. I know the door is an inanimate object. And I know that banging into the door was my fault.  But when I'm low, I don't want to know this. I just want to vent my anger on anything that 'makes' the day worse.

Thus, every time I hold my tongue and say to myself, "that's just an inanimate object" – I'm proud of that tiny victory over my own stupidity! What are your small victories that help win the war against depression? Do tell!

Lex
A Moodscope User.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Grow where you're planted.

So reads the ubiquitous fridge magnet I've grown to hate. When I first came across this wee quote I liked it, I was younger and full of high expectations that life would take me in many directions, preferably away from my home town. It was cute and easy to like then.

Now? In all honesty oftentimes, I'd very much like to be re-potted.

Late one evening last year I was about to turn off the TV and wend my way to bed when I heard a narrator say that this week's Secret Millionaire was from my hometown. Needless to say, I stayed up another hour. The opening line of the Channel 4 programme went something like this: "Bootle is one of the most deprived areas in the whole of the UK." Yikes! The conclusion was, as always, very moving. (Although, given that gun and knife crime were mentioned in every other sentence, it did cross my mind if it would be prudent to start wearing a bullet/stab proof vest whenever I leave my home. 'Could I buy a pretty, floral flak jacket?' I wondered.)

Yes, circumstances have meant trying to put into practice those vexing words: Grow where you're planted. But what can help us do so?

I've always loved the advice to see our home town through the eyes of a tourist. Seek out local tours, interesting events and exhibitions. (Your local library or council's website maybe a good starting point.) Find the independent shops and cafes. Get to know the names of your local shop keepers, neighbours, postman or street cleaner. I find my mood soars if on the way to the bus stop I can shout a cheery "Hello" to someone whose name I know.

If you live in a place where languages are manifold, learn basic greetings and watch the eyes of folk light up as you greet them in their mother tongue. (Dzień dobry is "Good day" in Polish and pronounced "Djane DOH-brayh"; "Hello" in Mandarin Chinese is "nǐ hǎo", pronounced roughly as "nee how")

Keeping things as fresh and as new as possible may help us blossom, even if planted in unfavourable conditions.

Suzy
A Moodscope User.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Improving mood.

I can't remember who gave me the idea, but I have a small, special notebook and a special pen by my bed. Every night I write the date followed by three good things that happened that day. They can be big or small things, e.g. doing some art, my son telling me he loves me, completing a chore that I'd been putting off, or just having a nice chat to someone.

I keep it to three things each day, so I have a lovely record of strictly positive thoughts and feelings. Looking back I can see that every day is a good day if you look at it in the right way. Because of this I find myself noticing the good things that happen during the day more and more.

This is a quote someone posted on facebook which helps me: "On particularly rough days when I'm sure I can't endure, I like to remind myself that my track record for getting through bad days so far is 100%, and that's pretty good".

Rachel
A Moodscope User.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Money.

Go on – admit it: the very word gets you worried and sends your blood pressure soaring.

And – true confession time – the most recent occasion I became suicidal (hey – 8 years ago and only for half an hour) it was over my overdraft.

Thinking back – it wasn't even a particularly large overdraft – but I had totally lost my sense of proportion and judgement.

We can't run away from responsibility about money. What we can do though is change our judgements about it. There is no shame in poverty. There is no shame in wealth. There are just our opinions about it.

Depression is no respecter of wealth, social position, intelligence or employment status. What it does do, is aim unerringly at vulnerability. It's not a co-incidence that children from the poorest of families in our society suffer the highest rates of depression and mental illness, but the second highest rates are suffered by the children of affluent families where expectations are unrealistically high.

So let's take away our judgements about right and wrong when it comes to money. Let's be responsible, by all means, but whether we own our money or rent it (paying interest), it's still just bits of paper or numbers on a computer screen.

There are things we can afford, and things we can't afford. There are frugalities that are almost pleasures and those that stick like bitter aspirin in the gullet. There are things we choose not to have even though we could afford them if we wanted to.

There are many things I can't afford to give my children, but at the risk of sounding trite, I can give them values even if I can't give them valuables.

Mary
A Moodscope user.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Never be indifferent to indifference.

"The opposite of love is not hate it is indifference."

This quote always has a powerful impact on me.

I am rarely irritated by people who show emotion; even if it is the opposite emotion as I have for something. They are emotionally engaged - 'alive' in my terms. I can have a passionate and at times deeper dialogue with them and even have the opportunity to change my perception or world view - if I am open enough - as only through diversity will we grow and become sustainable - personally and professionally.

I used to think in IQ Newtonian terms, that hate was the opposite of love and then realised that the opposite of love is to be totally indifferent towards something.

To be indifferent means that you have NO emotion, no life, no love, no interest in a subject which the other person may base their life on by 'loving' it.

Where have you encountered indifference and how has it made you feel? Indifference kills any possibility of a win/win - a joy sharing of life, love and hate.

Les
A Moodscope user.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Black dogs, black cats and dirty great Leviathans.

It was Winston Churchill who described his depression as a black dog. He was a man who liked cats.

My brother has a black dog. Her name is Shiraz, and she is a collie/shepherd/greyhound mix of faithfulness, affection and gentle fun. Shiraz is about as far away from depression as you can yet. In fact, she's a great help to my brother when he feels down – because there's nothing like the love of a good dog to make you feel better about yourself.

While that video you watched last week described pictorially how depression feels, many of you animal lovers out there felt it was very unfair to real black dogs. And you may be right. A fellow Moodscope blogger wrote about Oscar, the black therapy cat. There are many animals out there helping people when they suffer from depression. Some of those animals happen to be black.

The fact that the image was a dog was not that important. The message was about giving the depression a shape. The dog is a convenient shape as it is recognisable and familiar. It then makes sense that everyone has one of these shapes with them – just in lots of different breeds and sizes.

So what shape does yours take? Some time ago I wrote about my dirty grey leviathan which periodically swallows me up for days, weeks, months at a time.

Picturing it as a shape or animal in my mind helps me be less scared of it. In fact, because of the power of our minds, I can change its picture so that it becomes almost a cartoon, with rolling eyes and a swishing tail. Like the man in the video I can start to tame it, to reduce it in size. I can take steps to avoid its worst effects.

So picture your "monster" and then start to make it less scary in your mind. The days still come when it gets the better of you, but it's much easier to fight what you can see – even if you see it only in your mind's eye.

Mary
A Moodscope user.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Who helps you get back up each time you fall?

Remember, we all stumble, every one of us. That's why it's a comfort to go hand in hand.  
Emily Kimbrough.

Who helps you get back up each time you fall?

Who do you run ideas past, before you send or express them?

Who do you call as your 'go to' person when you are unsure of a direction or just need support?

Hopefully you may have them as your Moodscope buddies...and you do not even have to make contact with them - they may already have called you due to your score? FAB!!

I know as an only child, with both parents now dead, and being self employed, that days can go by without me having to make conversation with anyone. Which can deepen the mood of myself and the office.

And if things are going well - that is fine.

If however I have been triggered by something - more likely someone - then I'll need an outlet.

An 'outlet person', that has compassion and whose listening skills make me feel 'listened to', is a rare beast - well worth their weight in gold for sure.

The greatest human need is to help others...and you cannot help another without helping yourself...sounds like a win/win situation to me.

So whose hand can you help up today?

Or

Who helped you up today?

Les
A Moodscope user.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Playing The Attentive Card.

Here's the fourteenth in the series of excellent blogs by Lex covering the adjectives on the 20 Moodscope cards. Please 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. Many thanks. Caroline.

Today it's the turn of the "Attentive" card. Moodscope defines this as: "paying close attention".

If I had a Fairy Godmother (and perhaps I do), her most often said words to me would be, "Dearest, where is your attention?" This is because she knows about the magic of attention. I remember her saying to me over and over again as a child, "Whatever gets your attention, gets you!"

It took me a long time to understand this, but it's true. Wherever my attention would go would consume my thoughts. My thoughts would grow around my attention as if the attention was the seed.

This is most obviously so when suffering a minor cold. I found that if I shifted my attention to a comedy film, I would forget all about the runny nose for 90 minutes. When it was over, my attention would shift back to my symptoms and I would suffer as only a man can suffer!

This is meant to be a positive card for Moodscope. It's about being switched 'in' to the World, not switched 'off' like you can be when depressed. But I think it's a three-way switch: 0 = Attention Off; 1 = Attention on the Positive; 2 = Attention on the Negative.

To switch my attention strongly, I use a click of my fingers. A left click (sounds like a mouse) wakes me up to the fact that I've been drifting into negative attention. I then do a right click to command myself to find something positive to attend to. One of the joys of being human is that you can only 'attend' to one thing at a time. So this works for me.

Now, when my Fairy Godmother asks me where my attention is, I say boldly with a click: "On the positive!"

Lex
A Moodscope User.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

I had a black dog, his name was depression.

A few members have written to us recently recommending a video published by The World Health Organization entitled I had a black dog, his name was depression. It's great.

You can view it by following this link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XiCrniLQGYc

The video doesn't need any introduction, it speaks for itself.

I hope you find it interesting.

Caroline
The Moodscope team

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Taking control of your care.

A few weeks ago my Care Co-ordinator asked me if I would have a go at doing a WRAP. A Wellness Recovery Action Plan. I was a bit sceptical of yet another set of forms to fill in, but always willing to try anything that may help, I had a go.

I found it quite illuminating, the WRAP is split up into two parts. The first deals mainly with you. The second is a crisis plan to help others deal with you. 

In the first part you are asked to examine yourself. You write about what you are like when you are well, what triggers you, how you can handle the triggers, what you can do when you get worse and how you know things have reached crisis point. 

Thinking in detail about what makes us tick can sometimes be helpful in identifying when things are going wrong. I showed the WRAP to a friend and my daughter who both identified things that I do when things are not going well, things that I had not realised I did. One of these was that my face changed colour, something that I think is useful to share with my other friends and the professional team. 

The second part of the WRAP is used to detail crisis management. Here you identify how others know that you need help and how they can help. For the first time I felt that I might be able to control how I wanted people to react, especially when things had reached a point where I or others may be in danger.
 
I will share my WRAP with my Care coordinator, the Crisis Team, my family and my close friends as I think that the more people know about what I am like when I am ill the more they will be able to help.

If you would like to write a WRAP you can download the form by following this link:

http://tinyurl.com/26p7ns5

Penny
A Moodscope user.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Taking personal responsibility.

"No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible." Voltaire
  
Malcolm Gladwell writes wonderfully thought provoking books and in his book 'The Tipping Point'. he explores how things change and that they so often, after a length of time moving towards change, suddenly shift in the end what seems very quickly.

This is of course the 'tipping point' where after all the time and effort put in to something, suddenly bears fruit and highlights the need to keep going as our subconscious works on the acceptance of this 'new' way and then just like the flood gates, opens for this 'new world' to flow through. This is the same for a person, family, organisation, community or country.

It is that 'Aha' moment where we finally 'get it' and our world view is changed forever.

When was your last 'Aha' moment? What can you, or how can others, add that one last snowflake that finally reaches your 'tipping point' to help change your life and even overcome the latest bout of darkness.

Which of your friends sticks with you long enough and continually supports you, in the way you need to be supported? To walk beside you, until you breath in that new world view and the world become colourful again?

Whoever they are - cherish those final 'snowflakes'.

Les
A Moodscope user.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Post and purrs.

Somewhere around this time last year I started slipping, headlong, through the cracks and into a black hole. (The cracks were bigger than they ought to have been because I'd neglected the warning signs: "Depression Ahead!" and so failed to make the necessary diversion.) Anxiety gripped one arm, sadness the other and it took many months (further counseling and a rise in the dosage of my medication), to struggle free from their tight grip.

On one particularly bad day I sat in a Hotel near the beach, staring into a cup of earl grey tea and wondering if I'd see colour again. Suddenly, in strolled Oscar. Now I'd met Oscar several times previous but still, I was enchanted and privileged when he launched himself upon my lap, curled up and took a nap. I like to think that Oscar has a Sadness Sensory System.

Oscar, the rotund, affectionate cat lives in a house near the hotel. He has managed to manipulate the workings of electronic doors and slips into the lounge/bar whenever he can - hoping for a scrap of bacon or juicy steak from a lunchtime sandwich. I had nothing to offer him (earl grey with lemon slices was not to his taste) but he stayed with me for over an hour. I stroked his thick black fur and whispered my woes into his ear, his throaty purrs letting me know he was listening to every word.

Oscar wore a regal collar with his address engraved on a silver disc. I made a note of the address and shortly after, posted him a thank you note for condescending to my needs and feelings that day.

A few weeks passed, and the free, local paper plopped through the letter box. 'Paper bin or perusal? Paper bin or perusal?' I opted for perusal. And was I glad I did! There on the second page, sat Oscar, posing proudly with his servant - a lady named Margaret - and the card I'd sent held between his paws.

Margaret (as Oscar's secretary) had written into the local paper expressing joy at receiving the card, with further tales of Oscar's warm personality and how he often provides "therapy sessions" at the hotel. (And there was me thinking I was the special gal in his life!)

Two little lessons:

1) Never forget the impact that a 'snail mail' can have. It's touching to receive a personal card in the post, "just because". It shows someone has thought of us and has taken the time and effort to translate that thought into action. If animals appreciate it I know fellow humans will!

2) The therapeutic effect of animals - as most of us know - is a tremendous gift. There are times when we may feel so misunderstood or sad in life that we feel desperately alone or worse, unlovable. Yet the love of an animal is such that they'll love you whether sad or happy. Never miss an opportunity to give a little affection and respect to an animal.  They will give you oh so much more in return.  

Suzy
A Moodscope User.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

A Simple List.

Today's blog follows on from last week's.

A number of you commented on my "Having an Under the Hedge Day" and one of the comments was a request for a simple list of things to do on those bad days.

So here's the list. Adjust it as you please because your best list may be different from mine.

1 The important thing is not to think. Just do the next thing on the list.

2 Sit up in bed. Drink a large glass of water. (Put it ready the night before).

3 Get out of bed. Go to the loo. Shower. If you can't shower at least have an all-over wash. Scrub briskly so your skin tingles. Shave (if appropriate). Moisturise (chaps too, ideally but I won't insist on that one).

4 Get dressed in proper clothes. Even shoes.

5 Put on makeup. If you can't bear that thought – at least a dash of lipstick. (Chaps excused this one).

6 Make a hot drink and drink it.

7 Eat something. Preferably protein, not just carbohydrates. A scrambled egg takes just 40 seconds in the microwave. Sliced cheese and ham is pretty easy.

8 Turn on the PC. Do your Moodscope score. It is what it is: don't judge it or yourself.

9 Unlock the door. Go outside. Take five deep breaths of fresh air. If you have the time, take a brisk 20 minute walk. Ten minutes will do. Don't think – just walk.

10 The rest of the day, just take fifteen minutes at a time. Use a kitchen timer if it helps. Do a task for fifteen, rest for fifteen. Do something else for another fifteen. Try to have tasks where you can see a result. Be easy on yourself. Drink lots of water.

11 If it helps you, play upbeat music. My favourite is Mendelsohn or Carol Emerald. Nothing aggressive, just happy.

If you manage all these it's a major triumph! Fabulously well done! Remember – just because the rest of the world can't see the depths of invisible treacle we walk through, the clouds of darkness that menace and oppress us unceasingly, doesn't mean they're not there. Just surviving another day is an achievement. Let's hope tomorrow is better.

Mary
A Moodscope user.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Essential Information.

We launched Moodscope Essential two weeks ago and despite having teething problems, it is now running smoothly and is proving to be popular with many of our members, so if you're thinking of joining, now would be a great time.

We really appreciate members subscribing as it enables us to keep running, make improvements and provide Moodscope Lite to those who need it but can't afford to pay.

The feedback we've had suggests that the facility to view the graph over a longer period is the most popular feature, being particularly helpful to our members and therapists to see long-term trends. We have been asked if the new graph view is retrospective or if it starts from the day of upgrading and we're pleased to say it is retrospective, so you'll be able to view all your scores, including those you may have entered when you were on Moodscope Lite.

This was swiftly followed by how much more helpful it is to be able to write double the amount of annotations against each score. People are finding it incredibly helpful remembering what happened on a certain day that may have affected their score. Just a reminder - these comments are extremely helpful if you upgrade to Moodscope Plus as the Triggergram feature uses your annotations to produce two word clouds – one for your best days in the past 6 months, the other for your lowest days so you can identify any recurring themes.

So we're pleased we've been able to meet at least one of your requests and we are working on more improvements that will be introduced over the coming months.

We continue to receive some wonderful blog posts that we hope you are all enjoying. We'd like to take this opportunity to thank all of those that have submitted a post and have shared their experiences with others. We'd also like to thank all of those people who have added comments to the blog - there's a real community atmosphere building up and lots of helpful information for everyone to use and learn from.

Thanks for reading our update, here are two links to a couple of video's that may just lift your spirits:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzjEzohHmaM
www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBaHPND2QJg

Caroline and Adrian
The Moodscope Team

Monday, 9 December 2013

Playing the strong card.

Here's the thirteenth in the series of excellent blogs by Lex covering the adjectives on the 20 Moodscope cards. Please 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. Many thanks. Caroline.

It's the turn of the "Strong" card.  Moodscope defines this as: "Feeling able to cope with difficulties".

OK, I've got to come clean on this one – this is the card I personally find the hardest to give a high rating to. Why? Well even on my best day, it takes very little to reduce me to jelly. I cannot cope with difficulties - period. On reflection I think this comes down to simple accounting.

Basically, I'm bankrupt. I'm devoid of a sufficient "Emergency Fund" to cope with life's constant disappointments. So I'll need to borrow from you.

Would you lend me your strength? Would you lend me the strength of your friendship? The strength of your hand on mine when words cannot find a way? Would you invest your smile in me? I love its radiance, even when it seems I'm not responding. You are a star – a sun warming my heart on a cold day.

Would you give me your time? I cannot repay you for this. A moment of your attention – when you give the greatest gift: listening without criticism...or advice.

If you'll do this for me, I think I can be strong today.

And I'll be strong for you tomorrow.

Lex
A Moodscope User.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Negative thinking.

We often get into patterns of negative thinking without even realising it. It may start off with a minor issue that makes us feel grumpy, then maybe a traffic jam on the way to work and too many demands made of us in a day. We may wake up the next day feeling in a bad mood and thus continues the spiral downwards.

This happened to me recently and before I knew it everything seemed to be a big deal. I found myself snapping at the children, complaining about my partner and constantly criticising myself. My inner dialogue became annoying and I sought relief by taking sleeping pills and going to bed.

At the end of a long week my friend commented that her little boy had said how sad it was that I snapped at my daughter like I did. He is nine! It took a nine year old to tell me what was going on. So here I am, starting my week with camomile tea, a few minutes of quiet and hopefully the will to try and think positive, see the good stuff around me and smile more ...

Jules
A Moodscope User.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Who’s That Guru?

Who’s that Guru
Sitting next to you?
The One you ignore each day?
That One with wisdom
Glistening upon their lips
But you never listen
To what they say...

Today’s the day
To open your heart
To open your soul and mind;
To look far deeper
Than what you see
And be amazed at what you’ll find.

For this “no-one” is your teacher,
The very Oracle of God;
Don’t worry that they
Don’t look cool
Or that they often
Seem quite odd.

Be humble, shut your Ego up,
And respectfully draw near:
For when the student is truly ready
Their Teacher does appear!

Lex
A Moodscope user.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Small things first.

If you've ever suffered from depression, I'd hazard a guess that at some point in your life you've experienced that friend or family member's well intentioned but unhelpful attempts at "cheering you up".

Reflecting on why certain suggestions are misguided recently led me to thinking about what does really work. Why do some classic methods of "cheering you up" not work for depression? And what are the less intuitive, more surprising little things that we can do for ourselves, or ask our friends to do for us, that might actually work?

During a particularly bad bout of depression, a close friend happened to listen to some of my music on a music sharing site. She commented on how most of it was fairly downbeat and pensive and suggested that I'd start feeling happier if I added some more happy songs to my play lists.

A few days later she very sweetly sent me a mix tape of about forty of her best "happy songs". It was a beautiful gesture and made me feel loved, but the songs themselves had the opposite effect. They were all high tempo, extremely upbeat pop or dance tracks and although I love them when I'm happy, listening to them at the time was like the equivalent of standing on a traffic island surrounded by howling emergency vehicles and beeping car horns. It hurt.

We've probably all experienced this kind of sensory overload during low periods. Going to a party, for instance, and having to navigate the fast talking, loud laughing, harsh music chaos when all we want to do is hide under a duvet in the dark. It's like trying to go from first gear straight to fifth gear without first building up the speed. The engine just cant' cope and it can end up doing more damage than good.

Having said all that, I do believe that music, stories, films and even socializing can all play a big part in lifting us out of deep lows if approached in the right way. Going back to the driving analogy, we need to be aware of what gear we're in first, and then work up through the gears slowly. To engage with a new gear, the speed of the gear box needs to be correctly matched to the speed of the engine before changing.

It's that word "engage" that is the key. For me, when I'm low, I find I can engage far more easily with a pensive, sad song at first, and then often those songs contain something moving or balancing that can help lift me ever so slightly out of the depths.

Similarly, if a friend wants to meet up and I'm not so low that I'm incapable of dragging myself out, going for a coffee or a quiet one-to-one dinner would be far more preferable than braving a party.

I see depression as a sliding scale. We rarely wake up one morning at rock bottom, so catching it as early as possible by doing little things is always important. Why not make a list of small things that you know will help you change gear.

I keep list in the back of a small note pad at home. The activities range from going out with a friend, to simply having a shower or a bath. If I haven't managed to catch my slide down in to depression early, sometimes the latter is the only thing I can manage – and it works. Once you've attempted one of the easier things on your list and your mood has been lifted, it may lead to attempting something more challenging that will lift your mood further still. Who knows? Next week you might be dancing on the table at that party.

Anna
A Moodscope user.



Thursday, 5 December 2013

How are the four rooms in your life?

"There is an Indian proverb or axiom that says that everyone is a house of four rooms: A physical, a mental, an emotional and a spiritual. Most of us tend to live in one room most of the time but, unless we go into every room everyday, even if only to keep it aired, we are not a complete person."         Rumer Godden

 I work with what I call the four quotients in both my life and work.

PQ - physical - To Live
IQ - mental - To Learn
EQ - emotional - To Love
SQ - spiritual - To Leave a Legacy

In my diary I write an activity for each of these each day to which I commit myself to.

As Stephen Covey often said - "The most important thing, is to decide what is important" and then to put that in FIRST into your daily life.

For example some say that their children are the most important thing in their life and then spend most of their working life and their children's growing up stage, attempting to earn money which they say will make their kids 'safe'. Ask any child what makes them feel most valued...it's called time!

We need to spend time in each 'room' each day to ensure there is a healthy balance that enables continual growth and development.

How many of us are:

Too busy to exercise? (PQ & IQ)
Too busy to 'eat well'? (PQ)
Too busy to 'relax'? (EQ& SQ)
Too busy to spend time with their family? (EQ & SQ)
Too busy to read new material? (IQ)
Too busy to contact friends? (EQ & SQ)
Too busy to meditate (PQ& IQ & EQ & SQ)
Too busy to go on a retreat? (PQ & IQ & EQ & SQ)
Too busy to live? (PQ - IQ - EQ & SQ)

Les
A Moodscope user.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Having an 'under the hedge' day.

In some ways depression is like any other illness. We have bad days, but we also have some days that are, if not good, than at least, not too bad.

It's the bad days I want to talk about here. The days when just getting out of bed seems a feat on the scale of climbing to the moon on a cobweb, when it's utterly impossible to prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet (to quote T S Eliot) or even to put a load of washing in the machine.

These are the days my sister calls 'Under the Hedge' days. When her cat is poorly he goes and hides under the hedge just by himself, and I think we can understand how he feels.

What my sister has to do is be cruel to be kind. She has to go scrabble under that hedge, grab him (he does not appreciate this) bring him into the warm and give him his medicine. Then she has to make sure he eats something and stays snug in his basket by the woodstove so he can feel better.

Sometimes we have to be our own responsible owners. It's so, so easy to stay in our "comfort clothes" of sweatpants and fleece (well – those are my comfort clothes anyway) and not bother with any other food but toast and jam. If we cannot drag ourselves out from under the hedge, then we need to have friends to whom we give that permission; friends who can give us that tough love.

Is there anyone with a key to the door who can come in, roust us up and into that shower, make us put on real clothes (and makeup if appropriate) and take us out into the fresh air for a walk?

If there is no one currently, could there be somebody in your life who would be up for that? It's a brave thing to do – to ask someone to be that tough with us. It may not be appropriate for you, but it's all part of building our support network.

After all – it's simple to stay under that hedge, hiding; but it's cold, and the twigs have thorns and the rain gets in our fur. Nobody likes to be grabbed and man-handled and force-fed medicine, but it's much nicer to be warm and cosy by the fire and to know that someone loves us enough to make us do that.

Not perhaps purrfect, but better at least.

Mary
A Moodscope user.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Thank your liver.

In the late 80's, in the Spanish town of El Ferrol, a memorial statue was unveiled in praise of the liver. The then Mayor Ulla, also a doctor, said that the granite sculpture was to give credit to this "unpretentious and unselfish organ."

It's perhaps not until something goes wrong with one of our intricately designed, beautifully made body parts do we truly appreciate our wondrous anatomy. It wasn't until I discovered I was about to lose my thyroid did I start to read about the astonishing role it, and indeed the endocrine system as a whole, plays in the mind-boggling symphony performing within us.

So, have you thanked your liver today? Did you give a wink of acknowledgment to your digestive system for dealing with your breakfast this morning? Do you know what your pancreas does, or even where it is situated? What of our windows on the world; the eyes?  Do we take time to think about the awesome complexity of our brain?

Returning to the liver, I love what one anonymous writer wrote about this organ in an article entitled Your Liver Speaks Up:

'I participate in practically everything that you and the other organs in your body do. I'm vital to the digestion of your food, the sharpness of your brain, the strength of your muscles, the makeup of your blood, the beat of your heart. I'm well acquainted with you. Now, don't you think you should become more familiar with me? Only if you care for me can I do the same for you.'

Yes, taking a little time to learn about the wonders of the human body can inspire us to want to take better care of ourselves and to give our bodies a helping hand wherever we can.

Suzy
A Moodscope user.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Playing the Scared card.

Here's the twelfth in the series of excellent blogs by Lex covering the adjectives on the 20 Moodscope cards. Please 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. Many thanks. Caroline.

Today it's the turn of the 'Scared' card. Moodscope defines this as: "Feeling alarmed about something". Moodscope has a certain amount of doubling up for psychological validity. For this reason, there are overlapping ideas. I don't see much difference between this and the 'Afraid' card. As such, I'd recommend the same strategies we all shared on that card.

So, today, I'm going to go off-piste. I love words. 'Scared' is a simple anagram of 'Sacred'! Tickled by this, I wondered, "Is being scared ever sacred?" This led my thoughts back to the evolutionary value in this state of mind and body. Should we venerate this state of vulnerability?

Being scared is a life-saver. That's its evolutionary purpose – to keep you and me safe.  In the UK we talk about being a 'scaredy-cat' - because cats are really good at being scared. They have good reason to be – the Universe is not always friendly. So what does a scaredy-cat do? The cat uses all its finely-tuned senses to check out the danger. It responds to the 'alarm' that the senses have triggered. If there's something there, the cat will then move away from the danger with feline grace. If there isn't danger, the cat will often shrug off the feeling and settle down to relax.

So, next time I'm feeling scared, I'm going to treat this as sacred – something valuable to venerate – and pretend I'm like a cat. I'm going to use this card as if it was a 'Code Blue' security alarm going off. I'll check out the perceived danger then respond. I'll move away from real danger, or return to my relaxed state. Whatever the result, I'm going to perceive the feeling of being alarmed as initially helpful – a call to pay attention.

Purrfect!

Lex
A Moodscope user.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

What path are you on...or are you lost in 'busyness'.

"A wise man does not use knowledge (IQ) to select his direction, but will on occasions use it to guide him on that path."

This is the wonderful Stephen Covey's phrase 'Compass before Clock'.

This means that the direction you are travelling in, is FAR more important than the time it takes to get there.

And at times we are so driven by thinking about time frames and destination, that all too often we forget that there is a bigger picture.

We need to step out of the frame to see the whole picture.

Life is about how we find a way forward together – re-read the quote - we need to know how to live first, how to get along, how to build on our strengths and then, THEN....work out how to get there.

As Stephen so eloquently put it in his world best selling business book 'The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People'...Habit 2 - 'Start with the end in mind'.

All too often we go for short term wins and supposed 'success' which takes us totally off track.

Where is your life going? Because if you do not know...other people will CONSTANTLY influence it.

We create the lives that we can see...what do you see?

Les
A Moodscope user.