The Moodscope Blog



My bundle of warm fuzzy. Saturday June 30, 2018

These days the black dog in my life has a positive effect. That's because he is not a proverbial representive of depression or dark thoughts, "Angelo," is a ninety pound bundle of warm fuzzy. My Rotweiller/Border Collie Cross.

Whoever said pets were beneficial to mental health made an understatement. They are softness in a harsh world-depending on your choice of critter ofcourse; a plush toy with a heartbeat for all ages.

Angelo takes me for walks several times a day and I appreciate it. Excercise is mood boosting also and thanks to him I get out more now instead of falling prey to the lure of inactivity linked to depression.

While out on these walks my canine companion pulls me forward like a tugboat, interrupting himself to stop and smell the many items that intrigue him; not just the roses. His enthusiastic curiousity for the little details and excitement for each walk and car ride lend happiness to my emotional challenges. I told my spouse;" Angelo is my joy prosthetic."

Hence I want to be a dog when I grow up, wagging my entire body with cheer and good energy over the forgotten details of life that bring pleasure and comfort. I actually tried once when no one was looking, a feat that proved to be a hilarious failure and nearly resulted in injury.

Even as I write, my four legged fur-end lays beside me snoring slightly, leaving my spouse wondering why his own night noise gets eviction.

"The more I deal with people the more I like animals," I heard quoted once. And I agree. The love, loyalty and adoration Angelo has brought to my world rivals most relationships I have had.

Shhh. Don't tell my husband.

A Moodscope member.

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Shame & Disappointment Friday June 29, 2018

One of the blue Distress cards is titled "Ashamed". I've had my moments but I generally don't score too badly with this emotion on the Moodscope test. Why is that? Because I suspect I'm just as fallible as you. My past may have been easier than yours or it may have been worse, either way, I don't "do" shame.

Or rather, I'm not prone to it. There are a couple of points:

Shame is different from Guilt. Shame is about hiding. It's a bit like Guilt in that respect. You want to get out of the spotlight, or any light, and get away from anyone looking at you. At this point shame shares something called "experiential avoidance" with so many of our negative emotions and drivers of pain. Experiential avoidance is truly a Big Subject but the basic point is simple: if it hurts then it's "natural" to try to avoid it. #LotsOfWaysToAvoidIt #DrinkTooMuch

Back to Shame. Given that I don't do Shame, and given that I'm human... what do I "do"?

Disappointment is arguably the healthier side of Shame. When I've acted in a way which falls way short of my ideal I don't feel shame I feel disappointed in myself. Funnily enough one of the advantages of my type of social anxiety is that you don't have a group of others who might shun you. (Or at least you're spared the thought that they might.) #BillyNoMates

Shame, no; Disappointment, yes.

I offer this alternative way of thinking for those who do the Moodscope test on a regular basis and who may notice that you're not prone to some of the emotions. If you were taking it as one-off, or as part of research, then absolutely one should follow the instructions precisely. But if you do the test daily you get very familiar with it. Any outcome measure, including the PANAS on which the Moodscope test is based, is not perfect. (It has no card for "Jealousy" for instance and personally I'm massively prone to this emotion so must work hard to handle it — but the PANAS omitted it.) However, I think an argument can be made that if you are very familiar with the test, and regularly translate, for example Ashamed -> Disappointment, then you'll have useful *personal* data.

Does anyone else make these personal interpretations of the Moodscope cards?

A Moodscope member.

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Are you outraged? Thursday June 28, 2018

Last year I replaced a few flags outside my shop that I have pegged to a line to attract customers. I also sell flags.

The old flags were fading so put 4 new flags out and about 60 minutes later I discovered that three of my flags had been stolen. They did not cost a huge amount, but it was annoying that they waited till the flags were new. Robbers have good taste and wouldn't want an old threadbare flag.

I was a bit annoyed and put on a local site about what had happened. I was surprised by how many people replied and were so outraged on my behalf.

At first, I thought they were being so considerate but then the emotions and the language got angrier. People who did not know me saying they wanted all sort of horrible things happen to these alleged robbers.

I thought I would bring some reality into the situation.

No one was hurt.

No one suffered financial ruin.

It was three flags, yes it was annoying, but to wish vile things to happen to people who took three flags was a bit over the top.

Facebook and Twitter get blamed now for people getting so outraged that others have lost their jobs, their family, been forced to leave their homes.

While social media can escalate feelings, people seem to get more upset about even minor things.

So, do you think social outrage is a good thing or is it out of control?

A Moodscope member

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Old Man Trouble. Wednesday June 27, 2018

I'm taking a cautious breath and looking round; sniffing the air, so to speak. The coast seems clear; the breeze light; the sea calm. It looks to be plain sailing ahead. To change the analogy, I feel a little like a wildebeest at a watering hole, deciding whether it is safe to drink, and tentatively deciding it just might.

I am cautious because things seem to be going alright. They haven't been alright for some time. Our troubles seem to be over – for now.

Without boring you with details – and, besides, those of you who are regular readers pretty well know all the details anyway - 2016 was a disastrous year for us. 2017 was better, but still difficult. This year started with a bitter betrayal.

But now, in this brilliant June sunshine, there seems to be not a cloud in the sky; and I can't quite believe it.

My favourite uncle used to say that life was a game of survival and achievement. You would go through hard times when it was all you could do to keep your head above water: you worked to keep the farm. Then there would be good times when you could work on your plans and achieve things and the farm could then keep you.

The older I get, the more I come to appreciate his wisdom. The last three years have been survival – even up to last week, just getting my eldest through her GCSEs was an achievement of survival in itself. * Maybe now we can enter a period of building.

It seems, however, that we regard this state of "plain sailing" to be normality, and the times of hardship and survival to be unusual. We seem to think we have the right to have it easy and wail, "What have I done to deserve this?" when we suffer the inevitable slings and arrows of misfortune.

The answer is that often we have done nothing to deserve this. Although I am a great believer in "What goes around, comes around," misfortune visits us all from time to time. Sometimes even acts of kindness misfire and blow up in your face.

A while ago, in a Personal Development seminar I learned that upset has only three roots. It lies in disappointed expectations, frustrated intentions and undelivered communications. If we expect life to be easy then we will be consistently disappointed. For many of us, it is never easy.

So, I am grateful for the sunshine, both literal and metaphorical. I will appreciate every minute of it, because it is not my due.

Oh, don't get me wrong: I am not looking for Old Man Trouble: if he wants me, he knows where to find me.

But when he knocks on my door, I'll be expecting him.

A Moodscope member

* Yes – everything you have seen on the news regarding those exams is true. My favourite (stupid) question in physics was, "What would be the advantages in measuring radioactivity in units of bananas?")

And – because you expect it from me: here's Fats Domino with Old Man Trouble.

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A guide from beyond. Tuesday June 26, 2018

I learnt a valuable lesson recently. My mood was riding high and I had stopped using my Moodscope on a regular basis (I had tried once a week at least). Two months later I found myself struggling with recurrent sad moods that welled up occasionally, I pushed them down and carried on with life, a few weeks after that I realised I needed to stop and to take notice of this mood, so I allowed myself to have a good cry and went back to my Moodscope. Why was I surprised to find my score had dropped from my last entry at 73% to 30%?

My mood felt validated by the score, it was as though I had acknowledged its presence at 30% and by allowing it to just 'be' I could reflect on how my mind and I felt at 30%. Acknowledging the feelings that went with that 30% score allowed those feelings to be brought into the light, greeted, given compassion, and soothed.

My lesson learnt was that it is important to make the time to pay attention to myself. I feel, in our western culture, we are so often caught up in the drives of living in an economically and time driven consumer world that we forget to stop to really check in with ourselves. Society and the media teaches us to only share the good in our life and to paint/gloss over the bad or uncomfortable.

If we overdo the gardening or spend too long at the computer in our daily work, the body will send out messages of physical signs of stress and strain in painful muscles that need to be listened to. Likewise, emotional moods and sad and anxious feelings are also messages from our body that we need to listen to, and, although more difficult to interpret, do require our undivided attention at times to interpret their meaning.

My reflections above have reminded me of the poem 'The Guest House' by Jellaludin Rumi a
13th-century Persian poet:

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
Because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

A Moodscope member.

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To Think and To Own Monday June 25, 2018

[To listen to an audio version of this blog post, please click here:]

There's an archaic piece of language that I really like (it's in the King James Version of the Good News according to Matthew.) This is not a religious blog though. It's about troubling thoughts, other people's thoughts, and then about how to 'own' good thoughts.

The piece I'm thinking about says, "Therefore take no thought, saying..." Could it be that we only ever really 'own' a thought when we say it out loud? I hope this is true, because, if you are like me, you'll have a lot of troubling thoughts! In fact, my inner chatter is rarely silent.

The idea of never owning a thought until I say it is comforting. Watching television - other people dump thoughts into my mind that I don't want (so I don't watch much television). People say unkind things about other people – and their thoughts enter my mind because I've been listening. I don't want those thoughts either. Social Media is rich with other people's thoughts and opinions that I don't necessarily want to adopt as my own.

So, I'm going to act as if the concept is true. And this leads to an exciting new dimension in what I choose to say out loud.

Inwardly, I am a very critical person and I love a bit of gossip. Gossip rarely makes the other person look good, does it? In fact, we talk about a 'good gossip' but it is rarely good gossip! This is something I'd like to change. I'd like to ONLY say good things about people, and I'd love to stop judging people. This makes sense because I am so rarely right!

Thus, I'm practicing a new regime – to only speak out words I'd be proud to 'own' – words that I'd be happy to see in print as a quote attributed to me. When people talk about me behind my back, I want them to say, "Lex only ever has a good word to say about other people!"

Finally, acting as if this is true would mean that saying our affirmations out loud is the best practice. So, here is one: "Every day, I am becoming better at letting good words come out of my mouth. What I say, makes others feel better about themselves, and more hopeful about their future. My words boost other people's confidence - and make them feel loved and appreciated."

What good affirmations do you say?

A Moodscope member.

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Keeping an Open Mind Sunday June 24, 2018

A few years ago I realised that I hadn't tasted broad beans for over 40 years. Aged six, I said "Yuck" and had avoided them ever since. What a fool I felt, aged 50, when I tried them and realised I had been missing out on many a tasty treat.

I persuaded my partner to attend a festival with me last weekend. Festivals are really not his thing: too many people. But he was willing to try, and conceded that, as it was a very small festival, that it was OK. He is still convinced he wouldn't like a 'real' festival.

While at Leestock (for that was the very real festival), I checked out the food stalls. The non-meat choice was limited. One item on offer was a water melon and feta salad. It sounded interesting... but I know I don't like water melon. Maybe it was the festival atmosphere, or the hunger in my belly, I threw caution to the wind and ordered the salad. And it was delicious. Waddaya know? I love water melon!

Today I made the salad for lunch, and it was yummy.

For those who need to know:

Half a watermelon chopped into small cubes
Pack of feta cheese chopped up small/crumbled
Handful of fresh coriander leaves, chopped finely
Drizzle of chilli oil (or a few drops of hot sauce in olive oil)

Mix everything.


Today, a friend was kindly complimenting my appearance, as she had not seen me since some quite dramatic weight loss. I explained my method: eat less and cut out most sweet things and alcohol. I mentioned that I had the additional help of hypnotherapy sessions, to get me into good habits. "Ah!" she declared." I don't believe in any of that mumbo jumbo. It can't work". Yet, there was the evidence standing before her.

I'm a rather stubborn mule. But, when I take the risk and leave my comfort zone, new avenues of joy can open up.

Have you had any "eating your hat" moments to share?

A Moodscope member

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I had a dream Saturday June 23, 2018

One night, a few years ago, I had what felt like a significant dream. It's come back to me several times in my thoughts, as it's resonated with me for so much of my life. In the dream, I was reading a newspaper article about a little girl who was missing, and then found by a group of people who were searching for her. She was found in a shallow grave in the woods, covered over by dried leaves. When the leaves were moved away, the little girl was naked, and looked deformed in some way – her face had no mouth, but the mouth was in her stomach. As I read the article, in my dream, I sensed it related to me and I was reading about myself.

For a long time, I've had no voice. Not literally. But it's been hard to speak up, to speak out, and on the rare times I have, I've often felt misunderstood, judged, or misheard. Easier then to shut down and be quiet again. A 'safer' way of living, but it actually keeps me feeling disconnected from others which isn't great and contributes again to the inner loneliness.

I wrote my first Moodscope blog some months ago ('Never alone' July 2017), and mentioned then about not being heard. I guess this relates to some of that too.

As I reflect on my 48 years, I notice certain patterns and aspects of life where I shut down, I don't speak, I feel I have no voice, no words. I am slowly coming to understand that place and as I give it time, love and attention, it allows me to heal and be heard within, enables me to speak up for myself, and then I feel more 'adult' with the ability to talk more freely and spontaneously.

I've noticed recently how hypersensitive I really am, (and though I now view this partly as a gift), the hypervigilance within can put me back into a silent place – no voice, no words – usually triggered by feeling unsafe in some way, or by a response or lack of response from others to something I said or did.

I'm slowly breaking out of this, and as I learned from my tutor in my counselling course – 'awareness = choice = change.' As I become more aware of my 'stuff' and listen to me, then I can begin to make choices and changes in my life. I can begin to feel safe, make healthy choices, build healthier relationships, and to speak up for myself when I need to. It's been a place of devastation and disablement within my inner being; however it's slowly healing and becoming empowered.

Thank you to all who responded to my last blog – there were so many lovely and encouraging responses, I was deeply moved – I'm sorry I couldn't comment on them all – but thank you so much – for 'listening', for reading, for being there, and for helping me heal as I am heard.

Maggie Jane
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Surfin' Friday June 22, 2018

I often hear Bipolar disorder likened to being on a roller coaster. This is a helpful analogy for me when I try and explain to friends and family why my moods are so unpredictable. I sometimes reinforce this explanation by printing out my Moodscope graph which provides real evidence of where my mood is in my current mental cycle.

Personally, I find that my mood chart helps me to recognise when I am going through a bad patch and I can feel good that I am doing well in the circumstances. It also can help to indicate a trend that things are getting better which is always reassuring. The problem of course is that when things aren't going well, the chart just serves to confirm the worst.

Not only can my chart depress me by indicating how bad things are right now but my depressed brain then uses this evidence to predict that worse is to come. I liken this to "mental waterboarding" where I know I am headed for another inevitable awful mood swing. So I start to live in total fear of when I will be submerged once more.

So I have decided to try looking at things from the other side. Instead of the terror of drowning in depression, I have opted to focus on the joy of surfing my mood waves. This requires preparing in advance so I am ready to make the most of the good waves when they come. There is also an art of learning to stay on your surfboard for as long as possible to get the most of each wave.

Early days but I am feeling a bit hopeful that this might work. After all, I spent plenty of time looking at life from underwater – now I want to have a try at surfin' those waves instead!

Do you find that positive thinking can make a difference to your mood and if so you have effective techniques as to how to do this?

A Moodscope member

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Please don't mollycoddle me. Thursday June 21, 2018

I was shopping in LIDL this morning. The lady from the second-hand shop opposite our first house was also shopping. She said, accusingly "I saw you wheeling a wheel-barrow down the road". "Yes, so?" I said. The implication - hard work, too old, man's work? So, realising I would continue, she added a 'bon courage' for good measure, and a 'doucement' (take it quietly). I could not do what is in the picture now - I do not climb ladders when on my own in the house, and get giddy on scaffolding.

But most of the town, the nuns in particular, seem to disapprove of anything I do of a physical nature, except walking. There are several in their late 80's, (one 96), who firmly do their 'constitutional', particularly getting out on market mornings. Happily, it is common enough now not to get stared at as some sort of phenomenon. If only my husband had continued walking he would not be in a care home now, but regrets are useless.

I am asked if I could not get help? I've moaned enough on Moodscope, how all the offers of help never came to fruition. There are plenty of professionals but that needs money: so many jobs would not be touched by a professional, fiddly, not in their line; the 'little man' round the corner does not exist. Family do what they can when here, but Mr Sod has my name high on his list, and for the last year torrential rain has scuppered family work in the garden.

The nuns, bless them, are darlings, but so hyper-careful they remind me of my Mum. She got it into her head that being aged 70 was a sort of water-shed (she lived to 2 months off 100). She must not climb stairs, so got herself moved to a downstairs flat. She would not open letters, she might be stressed – so I got everything on standing order, and a daughter took over when we moved to France. She must not bend. She had a little bit of ground in front of her window – she made a good job of it, and got awards, I took over that, as well.

A friend, male, Formula 3 driver, underwater diving, DIY of a 'cowboy' standard, said you should not climb ladders over 70. The nuns are also always fussing that I do not wear enough clothes, or go out in the rain without a hat or umbrella (high-speed dash 50 metres to the bread-shop).

I am wheeling the barrow in preparation for a major event, moving my collection of old stone sinks (already moved from the UK) by the chemist's sons, who are lovely, but don't realise I have to organise things. They will rush in, smiles, kisses, and enthusiasm, and I have to clear a path and empty the sinks. Nil desperandum I think, what about you?

The Gardener
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A Moment in Time. Wednesday June 20, 2018

We started in glorious June sunshine and travelled back ten thousand years.

Not literally, of course; I have not invented the time machine yet – but we visited an English Heritage site dating back to Neolithic times.

One of my "intentions" is to spend more time with my husband as a couple. After twenty years together and with two teenage daughters, it's all too easy to slip into the relationship of congenial housemates who share a bed, but not the most intimate thoughts, hopes and dreams of the other. Our girls laugh at Mummy and Daddy going on a "date" but they also think it's rather sweet.

So, we climbed down this Neolithic flint mine; down a prosaic modern ladder, our feet clanging against steel rungs; the sound swallowed by dead dust of chalk walls.

At the bottom, room to stand; to walk around; to crouch down and peer into the crawl spaces through which our ancestors tunnelled, molelike, to prise out from the soft chalk, with antler picks, the smooth slabs of hearthstone flint. From that flint they chipped out axes and knives, scrapers and the heads for arrows with which they hunted game. Flint was their life.

Now we tasted history with the flat greyness of chalk dust in our mouths and the smell of underground and the chill of exactly four degrees centigrade.

Arising back out into warmth, into the golden benevolence of the sun, was like being reborn. The air was full to bursting with the song of larks: their sound a cornucopia of dazzling gems, pouring down to splash into the percussive vibrato of crickets, busy in the long rattling stems of grass.

We stood, on one of the many mine-mounds in this hundred-acre site, and just – stood. The sun; the sounds; the scents; the myriad shades of blue in the sky; the green and gold and bronze and grey in the grass; the dark pine forest beyond; the feel of our hands clasped with love between us.

It was a moment.

Mindfulness is a thing more talked about than experienced – at least in my experience. But I think, last Friday, I came close. Sometimes people refer to being "in the zone." I think it means being so all-absorbed in something there is no room for self.

While I was down in that flint mine, opening myself up to history; while I was out on that mound in the sunshine, the sensations were so all-encompassing there was no room for self. There was no room for worrying about how my daughter's GCSE exam was going, or how I was going to get my newsletter out on time and put together a marketing strategy, or what I was going to say to that friend who has had her feelings hurt by another friend...

We cannot escape our problems; they need to be considered and resolved; but we can and should replace our impotent worries with the wonder of just – being in the moment.

For those who are interested, the mine can be found in Norfolk and is owned by English Heritage.

And – just because – The Lark Ascending by Vaughan Williams.

A Moodscope member.

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Determination, the two-edged sword Tuesday June 19, 2018

It took me some years to notice that the ten blue cards have the 'negative' feelings, while the ten red cards have the 'positive' feelings. And determination is a red card, a positive feeling.

That got me thinking, because for me, determination is a double-edged sword.

You see, I am a rather determined person. And of course, that can be helpful. My determination has kept me focused during my final exams in school and university. It helped me through the difficult times at my first job. It gives me the feeling that I can do whatever I want to do, as long as I set my mind to it.

But that's wrong, isn't it? And sometimes it is really dangerous to my well-being.

Earlier this year, I did a small bicycle tour - just along the river to the next town. I love to bike, so I was looking forward to it. But when I started, it quickly became clear that something wasn't right. I was slower than I used to be, just didn't have the energy I expected to have. The short tour soon felt long and exhausting to me.

But why? I could not see any reason for that. My bike was in good condition, the road was okay, there were no slopes to climb or anything. So I continued. I should be able to do this just fine, so I would do it. I was determined to finish the tour. And finish I did. Afterwards, I wasn't even proud about it, just exhausted and somewhat shocked about my lack of energy. My determination led me do finish the tour, but it wasn't fun and I didn't feel good about it.

My determination got the better of me. It led me to ignore my tiredness and kept me going long after my energy was spent.

This can happen to me in all kinds of situations. If there is something really difficult at work, or in my private life, something that is too much for me to handle by myself – chances are I will stubbornly tackle it and keep on working at it until I am more than exhausted, my well-being run down and my self-esteem low. "But I can make it if I just try hard enough!", I think.

But the truth is: No, sometimes I can't make it. Not alone, and maybe not at all. Sometimes, in these kind of situations, it is best to give up on that assignment, that tour, that piece of work. To admit: I can't do it alone. Or maybe I can't do it at all, at least right now.

Admitting that is hard for me. It feels like admitting defeat. But on the other hand – as soon as I do it, I feel relieved. The weight lifts, the sorrows grow smaller, and I can breathe again.

A Moodscope member

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What would you do? Monday June 18, 2018

If I were standing in front of you and told you that if you gave me £5/$6.60 we could make someone who is suffering from depression’s life a little easier would you give it to me?

I’m sure you would as you understand how awful it can be to suffer with a mental health issue, and what little help is available.

If every person reading this email donated just £5/$6.60 to Moodscope today we would reach our crowdfunding target tomorrow!

We are hoping to raise £50,000/$66,340 to develop and launch an App version of our online service, make all the wonderful blogs and comments by members easily searchable and to reach out and offer Moodscope to the millions who need it.

So far we have raised £9,946/$13,203 from 137 early contributors which is fantastic and I’d like to personally thank everyone who has donated.

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Thank you on behalf of the many who will benefit from your generosity.

Kind regards.

The Moodscope Team

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Message to myself. Sunday June 17, 2018

I have a confession: my name is Leah and I like to write letters to myself.

Long time readers of my blogs would know I have written a letter to my bipolar, and an interview with my inner critic.

I don't expect a reply. It may sound quite strange but even since I was young I just felt a need, if I was experiencing difficult times, to write letters to myself.

When I read them back they had a calming effect on me or if not calming I could see what I was writing down and the mere fact I had written something really helped me.

These days is it more likely to be written on the computer as I am at the computer a lot and it is easy to access. Sometimes I will email myself, so it seems like I am getting an email from someone else even though I know it is from me. Does that sound weird?

When I address myself as another person it helps to get things into perspective and I can give advice and sometimes I see my problems from a different perspective.

Now this isn't going to work for everyone. Some of you will think Oh dear, Leah has so many more problems than I realised.

Just in case you think I am not strange enough, I have written a conversation with myself usually when I have a decision to make.

It can be comforting to write everything down and things will appear that you didn't see before.

People say that you should treat yourself as you would a friend because we are usually kinder to friends to yourself.

So, a letter to myself is usually kinder and more understanding as I write to myself like I am a friend.

If you have you tried writing a letter to yourself, how did you find it?

If not, would you be willing to try it?

A Moodscope member

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A Little Food for Thought... Saturday June 16, 2018

Waking up feeling lower than low is nothing new to many of us.

I wrote a blog quite a while ago about how I pulled myself out of a bad spell of miserable mornings, by watching uplifting YouTube videos, just to distract my thoughts. I didn't have to keep it up, just knowing it was possible to feel better in itself helped.

That was then. I've been going up and down since, as you do, with a particularly tough time late winter, when it should've been spring!

I've been dragging my sorry self through ever since, then about a week ago, got back to questioning this really low feeling when I wake up. Negative thoughts spinning round in my head before I'm awake enough to recognise them. Drowsy, sad and just downright crappy!

Then one morning, when I wasn't worrying about anything in particular, I thought "This really feels physiological, could it be just low blood sugar?" Obvious I know, that it doesn't help that we fast at night, but I also noticed that my body clock was regularly waking me at 4 am.

So I got some oat based (therefore slow release energy) breakfast snacks and kept them by my bedside to see if eating one at 4am made a difference.

It's unbelievable the difference it's made! I quickly learned not to keep a whole box nearby, : ) but I do have a sleepy snack with my anti-depressant tablet then, with food, (instead of in the morning with tea) and drift back off. I then wake up in a couple of hours able to ease myself into the day without feeling dreadful.

There are no magic answers I know, if it were that simple, we'd all know about it by now, but just wanted to share something that has made a difference, at least for now, every little helps (Ok not the most profound quote you'll read on Moodscope!)

Sending warm well wishes to all.

LP :) xx
A Moodscope member

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Coping with people being nice after a complaint Friday June 15, 2018

Recently I have taken it upon myself to complain about two issues which were plainly wrong or shouldn't have happened. One involving a faulty machine here in France and the other involving hedge cutting in our garden at home. Both boring topics I know.

On both occasions, I wasn't happy and what happened was wrong so I decided to have it out with the shop owner here who sold us the tractor mower and the gardener at home who cut the hedge.

That took a lot of effort, backwards and forwards in emails and face to face confrontations all done on my part in a kind way but ever so slightly argumentative. I was like a dog with a bone as I needed to make them see that they had made a mistake.

This wasn't easy since there were two ways of looking at it, one attempting to absolve themselves of all liability and blame and my way; the issues got muddied. Ultimately though I knew I was right. My OH tried to persuade me to just let it go and pay up. He got fed up with me "going on and on about it" and sought a solution rather than hear me out.

Well... and here's the point of my blog. Eventually I succeeded in getting the wrongs put right but was I happy?? NO! I found it so difficult to be proved right and to accept the appropriate action as recompense.

I was just not used to being assertive like that and achieving my goal and then being apologised to and having the machine mended for free and having the hedge cutting bill reduced. I felt guilty! Very guilty. So much so that I apologised to the tractor shopkeeper and thanked the hedge cutter profusely for his kindness.

I still feel bad about it all. Was it worth it? Maybe my OH was right after all and it's best to let these things go.

Has anyone else experienced similar emotions in a similar situation? The need to get something put right but feeling guilty about it when it is.

A Moodscope member

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Do you ever catch yourself using... Thursday June 14, 2018

Do you ever catch yourself using coping strategies that have long outlived their usefulness and are now not helping?

I know I have and found that by suddenly being aware of what was happening was able to change my behaviour (at least a bit). For example I grew up in a large family and had four big brothers who were all good at sports. In order to cope I became very competitive and used speed, determination and cunning to try and beat them.

This worked well and served me right through school and growing up.

When I was in my early 30's and I caught myself playing football aggressively to win with my young son of 3! Likewise my student coping strategy seemed to be never to let my feelings show and adopt a cynical jokey front in my social interactions. Not helpful in later life and slow & difficult to change.

What outmoded coping strategies have you spotted?

Did being aware of them help you to change?

A Moodscope member.

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Come Sweet Slumber, Shroud Me in Thy Purple Cloak.* Wednesday June 13, 2018

They say history repeats itself. I know that I repeat myself; this is the third time I have written about sleep.

Considering however, that we spend a third of our lives asleep, maybe that's allowed.

A third of our lives, did I say? Oh yes, and therein lies the rub.

How many of us get our recommended eight hours a night? (Counts raised hands...) Not very many of us, it seems.

We live in a culture where sleep is viewed as a self-indulgent luxury. The concept of early rising has long been considered virtuous: "Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise." The first part of that aphorism, however, tends to be forgotten.

I read recently that a sleep specialist, after many years of research, has concluded that our lack of sleep in the Western culture is contributing to morbidity, obesity and depression. He recommends that we should sleep for at least eight hours per day and, for himself, insists on nine!

I know that everything in my life works so much better if I am in bed by 10pm with lights out by 10.30pm. If I stay up even fifteen minutes beyond that time – to complete some task or other – that is the time I give in to those self-destructive habits of drinking alcohol and eating high calorie snacks. If I stay fifteen minutes over 10pm, I'm unlikely to be in bed before the small hours and, given that my day starts before 6am that's not enough sleep for anyone.

This blog is not aimed you who suffer insomnia; who would like nothing more than to sleep, or at you who care for others and can only dream of a night's uninterrupted rest. It is aimed at those of you who, like me, find the discipline of sleep difficult.

I have an alarm set for 9.30pm to remind me to switch off the PC and start going to bed. If the Facebook app on my phone is still active after 10.30pm, then a kind friend in Australia texts me. That normally works!

Other tricks, such as not drinking caffeine after lunchtime, having a bedtime routine, a sleep-inducing herbal tea, all help. I have an app on my phone with some soothing bedtime stories (I particularly like the shipping forecast). It's a free app called Calm. It includes useful breathing and meditation exercises, and music for relaxation.

Following my blog last week, I have built sleep into my "intentions". I intend to get at least seven and a half hours' sleep every night.

Of course, there will be times when this can't happen: social events rarely finish by 9.30pm, do they? And sometimes I might be watching a film with my husband until later; but this is my plan.

I won't ask you how much sleep you need, but how much would be beneficial, and what changes you can make in order to get that sleep.

A Moodscope member.

*. And for those of you who are thinking, "Is that quotation from Keats? From Shelley?" Nope – it's from Paranomia by The Art of Noise with Max Headroom (1986)!

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Life is too short to hospital a corner Tuesday June 12, 2018

When I was 10, Shirley Conran, the English writer, wrote a book called Superwoman published in 1975, and in this the wonderful phrase was coined... "life is too short to stuff a mushroom". I've been pondering on this since as recently, as one of my jobs in my new role as a housekeeper in a castle, has involved making perfect hospital corners. Well, as try as I might, even with a diagram, I cannot master this seemingly simple task. Last week, this rendered me tearful, in need of more than a few glasses of Sauvignon with heightening anxiety levels and my personal and internal "I'm so stupid" button being pressed so much my fingers hurt.

It's strange, as I sit here typing on my new sofa, that, as a housekeeper, I don't keep "house" in my own house too well. Earlier, I wiped down my kitchen cupboards and cleared the crumbs off the floor, constant dog detritus that needs doing on daily basis but always gets left till last. At least my constantly scavenging terriers Barney and Timmy know that there is always a bit of a ready meal on the floor if they are still hungry!

I don't keep "house" very well in my mind either. Filled with useless information that occasionally might be useful in a pub quiz, I juggle this relative randomness, with to do lists as long as the little penguin's in the current British Gas adverts. So what do I try and do now to help myself? I leave the fridge to stay cool and crazy with its menagerie of weird and wonderful contents - past-its-sell-by-date Stork, French violet syrup and courgette chutney to name but a few and I take the dogs out for a walk.

What am I trying to say through all of this? That life is really too short to worry about how clean your house is... and does it really matter if you can't master a hospital corner? I can't and I doubt I ever will and do I care – not really (compared with last week!) I have other meaningful talents and I am worthy of feeling good about myself. I can find a use for the courgette chutney which is an acquired taste to my mind (add it to soup) and add the syrup to some prosecco... I do think however the Stork will be binned soon.

I reckon we all need to have a good clear out in our houses and our minds, ready for fresh challenges, new starts and most importantly of all, to make space to enjoy the things we love doing and for practicing kindness to ourselves on a regular basis. After all, if we don't start this process, who else is going to do it for us? I intend this year to fully forget the hospital corners and perfection, hang up my hang-ups on the nearest hook and go out and enjoy life.


A Moodscope member

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What doesn't kill you Monday June 11, 2018

As a bit of a last-minute thing I nipped out with my son and collected my dad en-route. We had such a gorgeous hour being shown around the workshop of an older gentleman who crafts bagpipes. He is old school. Everything made by hand, learned from the generation before, it was as though we had stepped back in time and my soul just sang to be there. It was magical! I cherish these moments. It's a time I can really stand up to depression and say "look, I'm doing it with or without you". I felt ten feet tall on the way home.

My phone began ringing on the journey home, a number of calls, and I returned to find three police cars, five police officers, a screaming alarm and a wolf-like dog waiting to search my home. A break-in. His swag bag will keep him in meals for a long time.

For my mental health I was concerned. For my children's concerns I was concerned. But there is choice. There is always choice. Would we be fearful and sad and cry and change the way we live? Yes. All of that. I was scared, we were scared, I cried and we have changed the way we live. I couldn't sleep in my bedroom partly through disgust and discomfort and partly as there was blood and other evidence to be forensically looked at.

And then, a day or two later we took stock. I'd always expected a break-in and I'd always said they were welcome provided we were out. My wish came true, we were out. We were unhurt and we don't need things, they are just things. Beautiful things, valuable things, treasured things, but just things. I could hear my granny "ye cannae take it wi you hen" and I looked at her picture and I smiled, she is still with me.

We had so many messages. Family love, neighbourly empathy, Facebook consolations, a Twitter stranger defiant on my behalf, tiny stuff but so many lovely things that I realised that while our burglar has possibly a lifetime of running scared with zero support and limited happiness, we have unlimited happiness and choices over what happens next. For having one un-invited person in our lives, we had so many others wishing us well. I chose to take that as fuel in order that my friend Depression would merely sit beside me and not on me. It seems this week I'm winning.

Rise up. Grit your teeth and plan how today is going to be. Even if the choice is sorely limited, there is always a choice.

Love from

The room above the garage
A Moodscope member

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