How To Do Everything And Be Happy

Official website and blog


Leave a comment

Brain Farts (& the return of Bob)

brainfartLast week – ish – I introduced you to Bob and his wish list which was, I don’t think he’ll mind me telling you, made up of quite a lot of stuff you wouldn’t ‘wish’ on your worst enemy.

Actually that’s not quite true. You probably would wish quite a lot of this stuff on your worst enemy. In fact viewed in this context, Bob’s list makes a lot more sense. I can see my enemy’s now, miserably cleaning their cookers, painting their wardrobes, and spending long hours on the phone to various banking institutions, all whilst I sit in the sun…

Anyway. After giving Bob the benefit of my advice I received the following chirpy response:

Not long after I’d sent you the email I was reading your book again and got to the page about Wish List items leading to Happiness and thought – oh my that’s it.  Lots of things on that list aren’t wish list stuff at all.  But I’d already sent the email.  I think what I presented to you isn’t my Wish List, its my list of Brain Farts.  Another book calls them pop-corn thoughts because they POP into your head.  I prefer Brain Farts.  I am a master list writer and I write all these brain farts down.  This leads to a big list that I don’t know what to do with.  Which is what I sent to you.  Its actioning the items on those lists that’s a problem.  I think what would make me happier (I’m not unhappy) is to become someone that can get those nagging jobs just done to make more space for Live Life Now Lists and Wish List stuff.

Ah Bob. I feel your pain. I’ve been there. Making endless lists of chores which if I can just get some of them completed, will free up so much time, and relieve me of all those niggles I feel through out the day.

So let me spare you some torment and make life considerably easier for you. It ain’t ever gonna happen. You’re never, ever, going to clear your brain fart list. Ever.

Have you ever noticed how it doesn’t matter how big that suitcase is, when it comes to holiday packing it’s never quite big enough?  Or how your wife manages to fill her handbag with all kinds of rubbish regardless of whether it’s the size of a small purse or large enough to comfortably hold a small child and a three volume novel. So it is with brain farts, and chores, and all those annoying things that seem to stand between you and a smile. They fill up whatever space you allow them to have. And therein is your solution. Take back control and give those farts no space whatsoever!

Now I’m not saying ignore them. That won’t work for you. Not unless you’re one of those people who are blessed with the amazing ability to live life totally in the moment, never worrying about what might happen next week, or tomorrow, or in the next five minutes, and instantly forgetting anything that happened longer than a moment ago. But chances are if you were one of those people you wouldn’t be reading this now. No – you need a way to manage those brain farts. I accept that.

Here then, is what I do.

1. When I get a brain fart I text/email myself, or write it on a scrap of paper. Anything, just to capture it and get it out of my head.

2. I have a text file on my computer desktop. You could use a pad or something equally low tech, but you need a dumping ground. As a new brain farts arrives (or you come across the ones you captured at stage one) transfer them here.

3. Once a month review this document, and group the farts together into subject matter – WRITING, FUN, NOW LIST, CHORES, FINANCES, BUSINESS TASKS, COMMITMENTS.. things like that.

4. Transfer all these items to a master to-do list, and then review it – deciding which THREE of all the brain farts under that section (including the ones from previous months) should get your attention, which can be dumped, and which should just stay in pending. Picking just three farts focuses me on what’s actually important. Often I check to see how the three things I’ve chosen relate to my Goals.

5. Having decided which three items (they’re not farts any more) I’m going to work on I then decide what the next action is for each of them (do I need to call someone? Do some research? Read a book? Buy a widget? Talk to my assistant?) and when I’m going to do that (take a look at the Advanced Diary Tips at the end of the book for more on that).

And that’s it. It’s actually a lot less onerous than it might seem, and in doing this I  prevent brain farts from taking over my life. True my oven could still do with a clean. True my wardrobe could also do with a lick of paint. True, at some point I still need to call the bank and have my sanity gradually erased by someone who has no intention of actually helping me, but… not today. Today I’m busy being happy.


Hot news! Today ‘How To Do Everything And Be Happy’ is available, in paperback, from selected US bookstores and from US cover with drop shadowamazon.COM – hurrah! 

To mark this auspicious occasion, my US publishers (Harper 360) have decided to give the US-printed paperback a brand new, all-yellow cover.

Of course the inside of the book remains exactly the same – this isn’t a new edition – so there’s no need to rush out and buy a new copy of the book if you already have one. Although I would certainly understand if that were the case. And can one ever have too many copies? Plus – one imagines – there might be those amongst you who might see a market for importing the US branded copy of the book, and selling it here in the UK as a collectors edition. I’m just saying.

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Kick Start 2013


poster 2013Happy New Year!

So how’s it going so far? Is it all lovely and exciting? Or is it pretty much like last year? Perhaps even a little bit dull? Would you say that, aside from joining hands with friends and family on the stroke of midnight and mumbling the words to a song you only sing once a year, it’s actually quite difficult to know where 2012 came to an end, and 2013 began?

I know how you feel.

Which is why, in a few days time, I will be hosting the first of this years Happiness Clubs, here in Southend-on-Sea.

Happy Club – starts Thursday 24th January 2013

If you’re a long time visitor to this blog you’ll know that this year I’ve run numerous How To Do Everything And Be Happy workshops in various parts of Essex.

I think it’s safe to say that the workshops went down a storm, and I’m delighted to announce that using the invaluable feedback I received, Southend’s Therapy Life Centre and I will be running a series of monthly Happiness workshops – starting Thursday the 24th January – to coincide with the re-launch of the paperback.

What’s covered?

Each month we’ll spend the first hour looking at a different idea from the book How To Do Everything and Be Happy and how to implement it into your life, whether that be Boxing Day, Wish List, Now Lists, Focus, Trophy Boards, or Diaries. Then after a short tea-break (biscuits provided – probably, if I remember) we’re back, looking at your Goals, how far you’ve got with them and how you can take the next step towards achieving them.

Next Thursday we’ll be concentrating on how to eliminate unhappiness, and working out exactly what we want for the coming months. It’ll be fun! I can definitely promise you that. But I have a feeling it’s also going to be the start of something special.

Is it a workshop? Or a course? It’s a “club”.

Technically it’s a series of six stand-alone, related, repeating, workshops (when we get to workshop number six we’ll start afresh the following month). You can come along to just one, a series of six, or every month, it’s totally your choice.

The evening will have more of a club-feel to it making the whole experience less “rushed”, more intensive, and introducing a strong focus on helping you achieve your goals as the months roll by.

It’s a fun way to get motivated and fired up about making changes in your life, whilst being practical, realistic and keeping your feet firmly on the floor.

How much does it cost?

The cost is just £60 for six sessions (if you pay in advance – see below), or £12 per session if you pay on the night.

Where and when?

The club starts on Thursday January 24th 2013
Subsequent clubs are on the last Thursday of each month and last two hours (including a ten minute break around half time).
We start promptly at 8pm (so maybe get there about 7:45? Put that in your diary).

We meet at The Therapy Life Centre, in Southend On Sea, Essex. (the old driving test centre) – there is reasonable parking.
The address is 11 Prittlewell Chase, Southend-on-Sea, SS0 0RX
The nearest station is Prittlewell (just fifteen minutes walk away) which is on the Liverpool Street – Southend Victoria line.

Sign Up and Pay!

The cost is just £60 for six sessions (if you pay in advance), or £12 per session if you pay on the night.

There are three ways to pay in advance

  1. In person at the Therapy Life Centre. Click here for opening hours. 
  2. Over the phone with a credit or debit card. Call 01702 433959. Click here for opening hours. 
  3. Pay here via credit / debit card and/or paypal!

Refunds & General Terms

  • Workshop credits can be carried forward – you do not have to attend six concurrent workshops
  • If you wish to transfer your credits to another person please let us know first
  • Payments via the internet will appear as “soundhaven” on your statement
  • Refunds will not be issued at a workshop and must be requested in the manner the original payment was made (ie. in person, over the phone, or via this website)
  • We reserve the right to charge a £2 admin fee to cover the cost of processing refunds
  • In the event that you cannot make six workshops we reserve the right to retain £12 per workshop you’ve attended, and refund the balance
  • We require five working days notice (via the contact form on this website) process a paypal refund

Any questions?

Drop me a line via the contact page if you have any questions. Operators are standing by.


Visit the Therapy Life Centre’s website
More about the Therapy Life Centre


6 Comments

FAQ: Potential Boxing Day Problem #1 – “Haven’t you re-invented Saturday?”

Postman-Pat

Not everybody is able to see how a Boxing Day might be a good thing. Some people – let’s call them ‘young people’ – tend to look at me blankly for a moment or two before asking me how a Boxing Day differs from, say, Saturday. Or Sunday. Or virtually any other day of the week when they’re not at college. Which seems to be most days.

Before I became the grumpy old sod you see before you now, Saturday’s were sacred and followed a very strict routine: I would roll out of bed around midday, and settle down with a bowl of cornflakes in front of ‘the chart show’ before considering whether I should wander down to the town centre to ‘mooch about’.

This relaxed state of affairs continued throughout my teens and twenties, and might have continued into my thirties if it hadn’t of been for the arrival of…

The postman.

If you’re in your early twenties you’ve probably yet to appreciate the sheer amount of admin that awaits you the moment you get a bank account, a loan, a credit card, a car, or move into a place of your own. Suddenly there’s a mountain of paperwork to be addressed, most of it hidden amongst an even bigger mountain of junk from people trying to sell you stuff. And whilst you can (as I did) leave this stuff on the side in the hopes that it’ll kind of sort itself out, I don’t recommend it. Handing over your money to these organisations is only part of the payment required – the remainder is due in time sorting out all manner of insurances, MOT certificates, and taxes of numerous flavours. And that’s assuming that you never miss a payment, your car never needs fixing, your boiler never packs up, and that the Gas Board doesn’t decide to change your supplier without your knowledge. If you manage to juggle all this nonsense without surrendering the occasional Saturday I take my hat off to you. Personally I’d developed a morbid fear of ‘post’ by the time I was thirty.

Of course you might, as many people do, assume that there’s strength in numbers, and choose to combine forces with another. And whilst there are most definitely perks to giving up your single life it’s only a matter of time before your entire weekend is given over to ferrying the kids around, climbing a ladder with a paintbrush in your hand, or wandering the aisles of Ikea trying to find the damn exit.

When that happens, you might consider booking yourself a Boxing Day.


6 Comments

Five ways to Beat the Blues

bluesSo how are you? I mean – how are you feeling? Stressed? Constantly tired? A little achey perhaps. As I write this now it’s Monday morning, and though we’ve finally entered March with Spring just round the corner, nobody seems to have told the weather. On days like today, it’s hard to feel particularly chipper.

What follows are five bullet proof layers partly inspired by my friend Agent Sparkles who created a 13 point beat-the-blues survival guide after a difficult period in her life struggling with depression. You can find her list, unedited and in its entirety, here – for now however, here are five items that really work for me, and should provide you with some much needed defence against the blues.

Bullet Proof Layer 1 – Put Your Pants On!

Every morning, before 9am, and regardless of what day of the week it is and whether you have any plans – get out of bed.

Get up, have a shower, get dressed, put on decent clothes. Do your make up, do your hair, shave your legs – or whatever your personal equivalent may be. This sends a strong message to your psyche that you’re ready to face the day.

This is doubly important for people who work from home.

Bullet Proof Layer 2 – Eat Properly

After millions of years of shovelling food into our mouths it seems like we’re only just beginning to realise that the old saying “you are what you eat” is actually true. Every single cell, every hair, every flake of dandruff, every tear, every bead of sweat, every inch of skin, muscle and bone, all of it was constructed by your body from something you (or your mother) ate.

This includes your brain.

If you have a habit of eating rubbish on a daily basis you’ll end up with a brain that’s not as able to cope with the stresses or strains of everyday life. That melon-sized lump of grey matter in your skull really is less efficient if it’s been constructed out of crisps, burgers and chocolate bars!
Fortunately this is very easy to fix. Whilst cultivating a ‘better diet’ (i.e. lots of fresh fruit and vegetables whilst avoiding processed foods wherever possible) is just good sense, there are specific foods that are good for your brain.

Omega 3 fatty acids, for instance, directly affect your brain’s ability to cope with stress, depression, concentration and memory. Study after study has shown that an increase of Omega 3 in your diet can make a huge, measurable difference to how you feel.

So where can you get your Omega 3? Flax seeds and walnuts are a good source, though you’ve got to eat a lot to notice a difference (crush them up beforehand to reduce the chances of them passing straight through you). A better source is oily fish (such as mackerel and salmon) because the fish has actually done much of the work, converting the fats into a form ready for your body to digest.

If you haven’t got the time to start grilling fish once or twice a week there’s always supplements. It’s worth mentioning that there’s research to suggest that you absorb far more Omega 3 from food than from supplements, but from personal experience I’ve found supplements to be an acceptable alternative – but remember, they’re supplements, not meal alternatives. Nothing beats a balanced diet of three proper meals a day with plenty of fruit and veg.

Bullet Proof Layer 3 – Sleepasleep

Almost everyone who came back to me with their list of External Forces sited tiredness or sleep deprivation as a cause of unhappiness. Which isn’t surprising really. It’s a rare person who can keep a positive upbeat attitude when they’re walking around like a zombie.

So – go to bed at a reasonable hour, and go to sleep. This means if you’re aiming to get up at 8am you probably need to be lying down, ready to sleep, by eleven.
If you’re struggling with insomnia then an excellent book on the subject (written by a sleep doctor) is “Tired But Wired: How to Overcome Sleep Problems ” by Nerina Ramlakhan (ISBN-13: 978-0285638778)

Bullet Proof Layer 4 – Daylight

First, the basics. Having got up in the morning (bullet proof layer 1) – open the curtains. A lack of sunshine can really drag you down. But do you know why?

All living organisms have an internal biological clock (of sorts) called a circadian rhythm. This internal process regulates a number of bodily functions and for most people their ‘rhythm’ is approximately a twenty four hour cycle. Approximately.

And there’s the rub. Your cycle is only approximately the same length as a normal day. If it’s a little on the short or long side (which it easily could be) it’s possible for your circadian rhythm to become out of sync with your lifestyle, the effect of which is to leave you feeling like you’re suffering from permanent jet-lag (because essentially that’s exactly what jet-lag is). It’s not uncommon to experience insomnia, acute tiredness, lethargy, anxiety, even depression.

Fortunately your body has a ‘reset button’. If when you wake enough light reaches your eyes (or specifically a group of cells called ganglions) your circadian rhythm is reset.
Notice the if in that sentence. If you spend your days asleep, and your nights sitting in front of the TV or computer, your rhythm might actually fail to reset itself. For some people, one too many winter days has the same effect, and before you know it you feel as if you’re stumbling through life with a head full of porridge, boxing with one hand tied behind your back.

That’s not a good state to be in if you also have to deal with your evil boss, your interfering mother-in-law, that angry idiot from next door, or whoever it is that has the ability to press all your buttons – and if you’re not getting enough daylight those buttons are fully exposed and there for the pressing (commonly referred to as SAD (Seasonal Affected Disorder). SAD can be reversed, without drugs, pretty much overnight. My personal therapy of choice is a ‘light box’ to take the place of sunshine).

Bullet Proof Layer 5 – Trust that ‘Things Will Get Better’

In the words of my favourite quote:

EVERYTHING WILL BE ALRIGHT IN THE END.
IF IT’S NOT ALRIGHT,
IT’S NOT THE END.


2 Comments

Change is good


KirstyFollowing her recent review of How To Do Everything And be Happy (you can find that here), I asked Freelance Journalist, Mum and Avid Reader, Kirsty Higginson, if she’d like to do a guest blog post for us – and here she is, sharing what happiness means to her, why change is good, and why she’s no longer a day dreamer.

Let me introduce myself – I’m Kirsty, a freelance journalist, blogger, wannabe author, mother to one husband, two children, an English Springer Spaniel and an all round day dreamer. Okay, that last bit is a bit of a porkie pie.

I was a dreamer.

I’m no longer a day dreamer.

These days, I’m an all round, all day DO-ER.

But let’s get to how I became a DO-ER later, first of all I want to ask you what the hell is happiness anyway?

The Oxford dictionary defines ‘happy’ as:

  1. Feeling or showing pleasure or contentment
  2. Fortunate and convenient

To me, the definition of being happy can come in many formats & ideologies. What makes you happy, isn’t necessarily going to get the world raving & rejoicing – I know my Dad is petrified of heights & so flying a plane, which is one of the many items on my NOW LIST, wouldn’t really be his cup of tea. And, in all honesty, he’d probably end up being carted off to a mental institution if he tried it (seeing as my teenage years drove him exceedingly close to this, I know it wouldn’t be a pretty sight). So, take a look, deep inside yourself to find what a personal definition of happiness.

Hard isn’t it?

To be very brief and sum it up quickly, (because I’ve been known to go on) for me, happiness is a sense of calm inside, you know the type – when you’ve just reached the top of a mountain – or in my case probably a small to medium sized hill, which has breathtaking views. It doesn’t mean that I can’t be anywhere where music is blaring or  where there’ll be hundreds of people. It’s about feeling complete.

And since reading How to Do Everything and be Happy, I seem to have glimpsed into a happier side of myself that is beginning to fill fulfilled and calm much more. I’m not saying that the book solves the meaning of life and in the words of Monty Python, Peter is “not the Messiah”, but his points on happiness are valid and, as he has seen the dark side, you know he’s actually experienced a depressive state similar to your own.

Following the book, I found loopholes the size of, well, one of Saturn’s rings, in my life and what I define happiness to be. I can easily lay blame on external forces (if so and so had done this I could have actually finished a project, completed x,y and z much easier or better) but isn’t that just wimping out on what good fortunes lay ahead?

If you miss a bus to work or school do you throw your hands up in the air, go home and crawl under the quilt everyday? No, you bloody well walk/get a taxi/ring boyfriend/girlfriend etc.

Your happiness HAS to be perceived in exactly the same way and this is how I now look at life. We need to carry on with our dreams, albeit positively. Is there a rule that says because we’re (urgh – I hate this term!) ‘grown ups’ we HAVE to live by a strict set of rules, whereby we leave our beautiful and colourful childlike dreams behind? No, there isn’t. And yet most of us live and work within a cycle or rat run, and want some give or take every now and again. My childlike dream has  ALWAYS been to write a novel. Published would be preferable but a first draft of around eighty to a hundred thousand words will suit me just fine. Even if it’s a bit pants, I will have written those words. Even if it isn’t your cup of tea, they are my written words and I will be rejoicing once written.

I think the key point to remember is that most of the time we just get taken on a different route to the one we thought we’d be taking. I don’t know why but I had never looked at it  like that before, which is quite ridiculous when you think that I was leaving happiness to chance.

 You can follow Kirsty on Twitter @KirstyHigginson.


3 Comments

External Forces – What are yours?

Sometimes the thing that’s making you unhappy is staring you right in the face. People might tell you that you need to relax more, calm down, try not to take things personally, roll with the punches, “make lemonade when life gives you lemons”, but sometimes – that’s not going to cut it.

Sometimes, it isn’t you.

Sometimes it really is them.

Let’s take a look at who they are

For me, ‘Other People’ have more power than anything else to drain my enthusiasm and suck the pleasure out of life.

It isn’t always the people you think it would be either. Sure, the angry idiot who gestured at me from his car as he drove past took the edge off what might have been a pleasant drive home, but he’s soon forgotten, and I can take solace in the fact that by the way he’s driving he’ll probably wrap his car around a tree in the not too distant future.

No, the people who really have the power to make me really unhappy are either people who I care about, or people who are in some way, important in my life.

We all have them: The manager you don’t get on with – one who seems intent on making your life a misery. The ex-partner you still have to see at family gatherings. Less extreme but just as soul destroying might be the moody work colleague you have to tip toe around. Or the aged relative who you love dearly, but has started to take you for granted.

Sometimes it isn’t the interaction with these people, but the lack thereof. Like the client or a supplier who never returns your calls, never answers your emails, and is somehow never in the office when you ‘pop by’. Or the friend or sibling who is so wrapped up in themselves that after an hour or so in their company you really begin to wonder whether all you are is some sort of audience.

Then there are the corporations, companies and government bodies that determine the structure in which we live. Rarely does a day go by when I haven’t got to deal with an some brow-beaten representative from a corporation or organisation that really couldn’t give two figs about whatever my plight might be.

Sometimes, it feels as if these organisations must be run by people who’s entire aim in life is to make as much money as possible, by any means, but without bringing the slightest bit of joy to anyone involved in the process. And having worked for a number of such organisations I can divulge that this is indeed the case.

That’s just me of course.

So in order to make this section a little more rounded I decided to conduct a quick poll by email with a view to coming up with half a dozen broad sub categories of what brings people down.

That may have been a mistake.

In the last two minutes I’ve been so overwhelmed with ranting emails that instead of depressing both you and myself, I’m just going to list a tiny extract of the items that made me smile or had me bouncing up and down in agreement.

External Forces – popular culprits

  • Hormones
  • Not getting enough sleep
  • People who walk in front of me very, very slowly
  • Being late for anything
  • Not getting any sleep
  • Rubbish Call Centres – “we’re experiencing a high volume of calls at the moment” – no you’re not! This is the same volume of calls you’ve had for the past ten years! You just haven’t got enough staff and you don’t want to take my call!
  • Loud, constant noise (e.g, the roadworks we’ve had outside my building since I started this job)
  • Unfairness
  • Making a mistake
  • losing out on a job
  • “If your call is about something trivial, press 1. If your call is related to something else trivial, press 2. If your call is related to a trivial matter not related to the first two trivial matters press 3. If your call…”
  • Clients who yell at me or get annoyed just because they can, when there’s nothing I can do about it
  • The UK winter (being dark at 4pm)
  • Friends letting me down or losing touch with friends
  • Family not ‘understanding’ me or saying something that makes me feel a bit low
  • “Did you know you can check your balance or order a replacement card via our website…” – yes, I did! Stop telling me this rubbish and put me through a real person!
  • Having a fat day or a bad hair day (yes I am a girl)
  • Being broke and worrying about money
  • The January sales when I’m trying to save
  • Getting stressed about ‘my life’
  • Family or friends being sick or ill, i.e worrying about them
  • Not spending enough time with my family
  • Not having a holiday
  • Being lonely – stuck in the house
  • Realising I haven’t done anything fun for weeks
  • Parking tickets or fines
  • ANY kind of fine, e.g bank fees
  • Having to go to the doctor
  • Paying for a coffee then finding that it’s rubbish (same goes with going out for a meal and it’s bad food and bad service)
  • “I’m a state of the art automated telephone system. Please tell me the nature of your problem.” “I’m sorry, I thought you said you have a frog in your bidet – is that correct?”
  • Reading bad news in the newspaper
  • Thinking about climate change
  • Other people littering
  • Walking past homeless people
  • Bad hairdos
  • Boredom
  • Mess, that I have to clean up
  • Procrastination (makes me guilty, then consequently blue)

Doubtless you’ll have your own items that you can add to that list. Feel free to add them here using the comments section below.


2 Comments

‘The List’ – a 13 point survival guide for curing ‘the blues’

In the first edition of  ‘How To Do Everything and Be Happy’  I discussed five Bullet Proof Layers to protect yourself against those pesky ‘External Forces’ that would trample your happy mood into the dust if they could (you can find them here).

My Bullet Proof Layers were inspired in part by my friend Agent Sparkles who a long time ago created a 13 point survival guide for preventing and curing the blues. Sparkles created her list after a difficult period in her life struggling with depression and amongst her friends ‘the list’ has become quite famous. So here it is for you, unabridged and unedited.

1)      First, and I would argue, the most important – get out of bed. Before 9am. Get up, have a shower, get dressed, put on some decent clothes, make up, and do your hair. Shave your legs. EVEN if you have no plans for the day. Don’t give yourself an excuse to feel bad about yourself.

2)      Eat good food. An example would be: Breakfast, poached eggs on brown bread. Snack, piece of fruit. Lunch, chicken salad. Dinner, piece of fish pan fried in butter with lemon (yum). No caffeine after about 2pm.

3)      Do some exercise. In a way that isn’t an excuse to beat yourself up (e.g, I can’t run, I’m too unfit, I look awful in these gym clothes, etc etc). Walk to the park. Buy the paper on the way. Lie in the sun and read. Or, go to a dance class. Walk to the gym and do the easiest thing there is, e.g sit on the stationery bike for 20 mins. Get into the pool and just float. Do a yoga class. Or, just walk to the corner store for a pint of milk. Something that used to make me feel REALLY good about myself was going to over 60’s aerobics. Yes I was fat. Yes I was unfit. Yes I was unemployed. But, was I the slimmest, youngest, fittest, and most likely to be alive in ten years person in the room? YES.

4)      Sleep. Go to bed at 10pm, with a chamomile tea, and sleep. Don’t f*ck about pretending you’re too stressed to sleep, you can’t sleep, you’ve got insomnia, blah blah blah. Count sheep. Read an algebra text book. SLEEP.

5)      Daylight. This  ties in with point 1. And I’m not even talking about SAD. If you spend all day in bed or on the couch with all the curtains closed, you are going to feel like sh*t by the late afternoon. Go back to point 3. And note: LEAVE THE HOUSE.

6)      Make a list of all the things that make you feel bad, and another list of all the things that make you feel good. Be honest. Don’t put things on the list that make you feel good just because you think they ought to make you feel good. For instance – calling or visiting your mother. If it makes you feel bad, (are you still unemployed? Are you still seeing that awful man?) don’t do it. If it makes you feel good, even if your brain says it’s lame (e.g, finding a sheet of bubble wrap to pop), do it.

7)      Have faith in a Higher Power. I know this is very AA, but it works. In my opinion, the difference between people who hang in there until life gets better and people who decide to check out early, is having faith that things are going to get better. Even if you’re an atheist, pick something to believe in. Believe in science. No matter how bad your life feels, the sun is going to rise tomorrow. And the day after that. The tide will come in. Rain will fall, grass will grow, the seasons will change. Life will get better.

8)      Do not listen to sad music. In my mind, this cuts out: Radiohead, Coldplay, Dido, Leonard Cohen, Portishead, the Smashing Pumpkins, the Smiths, Eminem and anything of a similar ilk. Make yourself a ‘happy’ play list. This will include reggae. I defy anyone to be depressed whilst listening to Shaggy’s ‘Mr Boombastic’. Beware of music that seems like it ought to be uplifting, but in fact isn’t. Perfect case in point – The Carpenters. Karen wasn’t exactly on ‘Top of the World’ was she?

9)      Ditto for literature. Do not, under any circumstances, read any Jodi Picoult. I always find Paolo Coelho to be a good one for uplifting the spirit. Give the Alchemist a try. Avoid, like the plague, self-help books – particularly the ‘you can heal your life’ sort. Light hearted detective novels work too, Agatha Christie worked for me.

10)   Let it go. The only person that you’re hurting by hanging on to your ‘demons’ is you. So your mother was controlling, your father ran out on you, your husband turned out to be an arsehole. You and the rest of the world. Maybe you have had a truly traumatic experience. Just let it go. I read somewhere that it helps to physically let things go – such as buying a whole lot of helium balloons, then writing the things you want to let go of onto a scrap of paper, tying it to the balloon, and literally letting it go. This sounds lovely in theory, but obtaining the helium balloons seems like a major hassle, and also, a lot like littering.  Other options are just to imagine your problems floating away one by one. Or think about it logically – yes, I can hold onto this problem like a barnacle, because it defines me and it’s part of who I am – but who’s going to win out if I do that, and who’s going to lose?

11)   Stop picking the scab. There are studies that show that Vietnam war veterans who received ongoing counselling to talk about their experiences, had higher incidences of self harm, alcoholism, etc, than veterans who didn’t attend counselling. Evidence suggests that talking about an experience is similar to reliving it over and over again, and actually extending recovery time. To this end – hang out with people you don’t know very well, rather than really good friends, so you can’t spend the whole time moaning.

12)   Don’t drink alone. Ever.

13)   Make a pledge that one day, when you’re ok, you’ll pass on the good turn that someone else has done you whilst you’ve been down and out, by helping someone else who needs it. I once got a call from my flat mate to ‘please come home’ – when I got in she was rocking back and forth on the floor with a kitchen knife in one hand and a bottle of vodka in the other. Five years later she’s 100% okay, happily married with a baby.  I was the 6th person she’d called (including her best friend and parents), and the only one who agreed to drop what I was doing and come over.

There’s a downloadable PDF version of this list here