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Dear Diary. Monday May 11, 2015

Professor Richard Wiseman is an entertaining and fascinating chap. He's not a fan of pop psychology, tending to debunk it. But rather than leave it there, he offers some very positive, scientifically-based alternatives in his book, "59 Seconds".

Today, I'd like to share some insights on the power of writing. It seems, that in many situations, talking about our problems can actually leave us feeling worse. I cannot defend his view here because I know it is vital to talk to others when we are down. So let's flip to his positive alternative. This highlights the weight of scientific evidence to support the habit of writing about our challenges. Writing about 'stuff' - even the bad stuff, helps us feel released from the burden and move on.

My encouragement for us this week is to write not in this soul-searching way but in a soul-enhancing way. The challenge is to write a positive diary with the aim of shifting our brain chemistry.

Richard suggests one theme per day, and taking the weekend off, but I'm going to suggest we just go for the whole four-course meal on a daily basis... just for a week.

Our first entry will be to focus on a favoured future. That it to say, to write about a desired future that is within the realms of posibility, where our realistic dreams and aspirations have worked out.

I know from my own research that this activates a phenomenon in the brain called, rather delightfully, "Memories of the Future". The process sets us up for future success by programming our senses to scan for our dreams coming true.

Secondly, and perhaps more challenging, to write five things about ourselves that we love. (And don't put, "See yesterday's entry!") This is not in Richard's book but came from my friend, Pearl.

Thirdly, to write affectionately about the people in our lives that we appreciate.

Fourthly, and finally, to write a list of things we are grateful for.

I dare you to do "Dear Diary"!
(Just for a week...)

A Moodscope member.

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Leah Mon, May 11th 2015 @ 5:55am

Dear Diary
I am still thinking of 5 things I love about myself and wonder if I can phone a friend to help?
Seriously, a good idea and an practical blog, I already write a journa( wonder what is different between a diary and a journal-is a journal more reflective or it just sounds more intellectual!!)l but it does tend to get bogged down with complaints.
This will help me think about more positive things. I will try but find it hard to follow all the guidelines so will personalise it!! Thanks Lex

crafty wee midden Mon, May 11th 2015 @ 6:19am

Really interesting, thank you. I'm doing a lot of helps, in varying and various ways. And one thing I've only recently become aware of is that during times if extreme emotional stress, I lose the ability to speak: I can pray, or sing, or just nonsense, but speak as in talk/ Just realising this has been a help on itself. I know how odd it sounds, but that's how it is. Just approaching the first anniversary of my husbands death and entering new and very painful emotional territory.

Leah Mon, May 11th 2015 @ 7:23am

Thinking of you at this sad time. I am glad you found writing helps you. Your writing really moved me. I appreciated your honesty.
Take care

Hopeful One Mon, May 11th 2015 @ 7:47am

Hi Alex- my commiserations.Be strong,hang on to the happy memories and remind yourself that it is definitely in the past and there is nothing one can do to change that.

Hopeful One Mon, May 11th 2015 @ 8:00am

Hi Lex - good blog.I have absolutely no doubt that starting a diary/journal was one of the first steps for my recovery.

This is what I wrote.

Date: 18.10.09.

I am depressed because I fear I am losing my memory( subsequently disproved as I learnt that depression actually shrinks the hippocampus a vital station in he memory circuits in our brain) and that is causing me to be anxious and fear the future with regard to my wife who has Alzheimer . Also I now have the responsibility to look after her.I am depressed because ,since ,retiring I have lost the structure that work gave to my life and sense of purpose.I am depressed because my concentration has deteriorated(this is a known symptom of depression) and ther eis loss of drive and motivation.Nothing seems worth doing or worthwhile.I am depressed because I feel I am letting myself and everybody down.I am depressed because I realize that my decision to retire was not the right one. There is no going back due to the Alzheimer.

I felt an enormous relief after I did that and my recovery started almost immediately as I tackled each issue I had listed.

Toasted Tea Cake Mon, May 11th 2015 @ 8:28am

I love practical advice like this. The idea of establishing some positive neural pathways seems to make sense to me. And it was a wonderfully hopeful message you posted. Thank you. But I would like to add, that this is not to deny difficult feelings which can also find wonderful expression in music and writing. "I have of late, and wherefore, I know not lost all my mirth ..." To quote Shakespeare. It is well to remember the challenge we face in the midst of mental pain, leads also to creativity, empathy and the kindness of a few words from a stranger like your self.

Anonymous Mon, May 11th 2015 @ 10:18am

I feel I have no control as to what happens to me at the moment. This is extremely frustrating and I feel very angry but, having previously thought about doing this, I shall set myself a reminder to write later today (once I've calmed down a bit!) & every day this week. Thanks for the suggestion...... I know it will be tough but I will give it a go.

Anonymous Mon, May 11th 2015 @ 10:47am

Wonderful, Lex. I have no trouble with all the lists except that future one. When depressed, there seems to be no possibilities. In fact, i've often thought that depression can be defined as 'the absence of possibility'. But i will get to work on the other lists. A friend who is an NLP practitioner once made me list 50 things i was grateful for every night...which seemed daunting at the start...but once i got going, it was hard to stop. Will get the pen and paper out..... susan xx

Mary Blackhurst Hill Mon, May 11th 2015 @ 12:13pm

What a challenging task! I write every day - but I'm not sure I could write that! Most of me has run away and is hiding behind a tree, hoping that the big scary challenge will go away if I ignore it for long enough.... But - I will take it on.... and let you know how it goes. And - same goes, my friend! Are you going to do it too?

The Entertrainer Mon, May 11th 2015 @ 1:01pm

Hi Leah, I think the difference is a journal is often a reflection of your journey, whereas a diary is to manage your time commitments. One looks forward, and one reflects on what has been. However, of course, I'm suggesting looking forward too!
And, of course, you can phone a friend - I think that's a brilliant idea for so many reasons!

The Entertrainer Mon, May 11th 2015 @ 1:03pm

Dear Alex, you crafty wee midden, we all feel for you at this time. What you've shared makes perfect sense to me. Writing is so different to talking, and a way to allow our emotions to flow in a controlled way, when that is useful.
I'll sing and pray for you today - it helps me too.

The Entertrainer Mon, May 11th 2015 @ 1:08pm

Hi Hopeful One, that's excellent self-knowledge in your writing, isn't it? Fear, lack-of-structure, responsibility, regret... deep discoveries, and all addressable. I find imposing structure is very helpful when I'm challenged in scenarios similar to the ones you've shared.
Giving my writing a framed structure seems to add a layer of support that I wouldn't have thought possible.
Thanks for sharing about the hippocampus too - I didn't know that, and found it helpful.

The Entertrainer Mon, May 11th 2015 @ 1:08pm


The Entertrainer Mon, May 11th 2015 @ 1:12pm

Hi Toasted Tea Cake!
Have you come across Benjamin Zander's work? I'd recommend, "The Art of Possibility." I think you'll find a kindred spirit in Benjamin. He's a real believer that great art can flow from difficult feelings. And, yes, I don't think I would care half as much for our community of kindreds if I hadn't been through a few horrible times myself. Empathy is so much more attractive than sympathy.
p.s. love a bit of Shakespeare!

The Entertrainer Mon, May 11th 2015 @ 1:13pm

Hi Anonymous, what more could we ask?
As Sir Laurence Olivier said to a nervous class, "Just give it a bash!" (Helpful when you're angry too!)

The Entertrainer Mon, May 11th 2015 @ 1:17pm

Hey Susan!
I get you!!
That was the one defining characteristic of my most serious 'dip' yet: I couldn't see a brighter future. As someone who is almost entirely future focused, that robbed me of my energy and motivation for far too long.
However, I changed the distance into the future that I looked and that transformed everything. For example, today I can future-imagine taking 30 minutes out to walk around our local recreational field. At the moment, it is a symphony of daisies. I might pick some.
And that's enough to perk me up for now.
If you've not read it, "Pick More Daisies" has magic in it's words.

The Entertrainer Mon, May 11th 2015 @ 1:17pm

Doing it now, dear Mary, doing it now...
And you can hold me to account.
Just for a week.

Anonymous Mon, May 11th 2015 @ 1:27pm

Dare accepted!
Though, interestingly, I note that I am accepting the challenge during a relatively good spell - I suspect that if very low I would struggle to do this ...
Maybe we can all report back next week ...

Julia Mon, May 11th 2015 @ 1:39pm

Focussing on the future helped me enormously when my anxiety, stress and depression levels were really high. It really saved me to think of nice future plans and dreams even if they were perhaps unobtainable. Nowadays I tend to think of the present, possibly because I no longer have to endure the ghastly job I had. However I still have wishes and dreams for the future, maybe more realistic ones even though I am in a much better place right now. I don't know how I would have survived had I not dreamt of something better in the future. I aimed high with my dreams; they were not within the realms of possibility at the time but they kept me going. I am not good at keeping journals; I've tried but somehow my thoughts remain in my head and do not transfer well into prose. I don't know why this is. What a good idea you have Lex to encourage thinking of and writing down future plans.

Anonymous Mon, May 11th 2015 @ 1:47pm day at a time, and often ON the very day and not the day before. Otherwise you can let yourself down and cause more problems. Thanks so much for the Daisies reference, Lex. Will look into it. Happy picking. susan xx

The Entertrainer Mon, May 11th 2015 @ 1:49pm

How about this for colours to the mast, Mary?

In my future, I take more time for people, not things or even work.
Specifically, my Sons, their Partners and my gorgeous Grand-Daughters
In my future, I learn to play piano more and more proficiently
In my future, I travel to Scandinavia, Canada, South America and New Zealand

I love:
...that I get to write for Moodscope and my brain continues to supply ideas!
...the compassion that has developed for others after what I've been through myself
...that I still want to fix the world even though experience often claims it's pointless
...the fact - yes, fact - that I have no intention of growing up
...that I've found an outlet for my zaniness through Community Radio and that it's natural for me

Writing Affectionately...
There are so many Moodscopers who have touched my life that I'm actually nervous about sharing this publically (and in case I temporarily miss anyone off my list.)
I will say this, "Thank You!" You are a rock for me to rebuild my life upon, and an anchor for me through so many storms.
Caroline - for keeping the faith - we salute you (and I'd give you a Lexihug if I could!)

For my guest, Andy, on the Breakfast Show this morning - came in and joined in through the whole 2 hours
For Adrian for becoming "Dr Jones" - our new Radio Therapist! He's just brill.
For a fabulous tasting breakfast at "Urban Reef" - filled with great conversations with Andy after the Show
For the freedom to respond to Moodscope posts today from my beloved friends.

Anonymous Mon, May 11th 2015 @ 2:43pm

Wishing you strength for your on-going journey, Alex, and peace of mind and heart

Julia Mon, May 11th 2015 @ 2:58pm

Your husband's death must be still so very raw Crafty. I know from your posts on Moodscope that you have had many heartbreaking things thrown at you in the last year or so. Stay strong and it's really nice to see your occasional posts here. Are you doing anything special on the day of your husband's death? Or just remembering him in your heart?

The Entertrainer Mon, May 11th 2015 @ 3:06pm

Hi Frankie,
Thanks for accepting the challenge... and I'm sure it's even more important for the spells that are less than good.
I'd love to know what yours and others' are...
[Caroline, you know where to reach me!]

The Entertrainer Mon, May 11th 2015 @ 3:10pm

Hi Julia, I'm sure its not about the quality of your prose. It is more about muscle-memory through the act of writing. It seems truly cathartic. Have to say I was a tad disappointed when Richard Wiseman mentioned making the future aspect "realistic" - how boring and limiting! I think a few uncomfortable and impossible dreams would do me good... let me hand over to Alice and the Wise Queen...
"Alice laughed: "There's no use trying," she said; "one can't believe impossible things."
"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
Alice in Wonderland.

Julia Mon, May 11th 2015 @ 3:45pm

Great stuff Lex, great stuff! One of my impossible at the time dreams, to buy a house in France, did come true but not for many years afterwards and after much financial risk taking which hasn't really paid off :-) But the fact that I made a dream come true, modest to some, is worth more than any financial gain or loss (in my case). I often quote Alice in Wonderland by way of explaining my topsy turvy life events.

Anonymous Mon, May 11th 2015 @ 4:59pm

So very sad for you, Alex. A most awful time you are having and will no doubt have very the next few weeks and maybe months. But if you can, try and think of some of the funny things he did, or you did that made him really laugh out loud...or places you went to that you talked about a lot...maybe even visit one? Take pictures and bring them back and talk about them or write about them, even in a letter-form, written to your lovely husband who you miss. Thinking of you and hoping you'll feel content again soon. Karen x

crafty wee midden Tue, May 12th 2015 @ 7:07am

Oh, so many lovely replies....such kindness! Thank you all, so much. I never expected that....

I love the idea of writing to him - I would never have thought of that! I don't know what I'll be doing....I think I'll try to take it moment by moment.....

Can't remember if I said but I had to get rid of our old car a few weeks back - it was very old, had not been driven in years, been off the road. I was keeping it as emergency storage( a bit like an Anderson shelter...that idea) but it was broken into which put other neighbours at risk; we have a shared parking area behind our building. So, it had to go. That doesn't sound like a big deal, other than the logistics....very difficult to get anyone to take it away, as there's a height restriction. At one point, the best option was going to cost me £100+....but in the end,
I got a cheque for £50.

I wasn't prepared for the overpowering emotions....suddenly remembering all the places we used to go, local drives, looking round the charity shops, picnics in the countryside....and it was another pain. So....with the wee bit I got for it, I bought a particular fountain pen(one of my interests) and am keeping a journal of places we went to. Unfortunately I can't get out much: agoraphobia. But plenty of visual memories......

It's extra painful as he had that last massive stroke on my birthday, 26th, when(if Im spared) I'll be 60. He beamed up on 29th. That does not make for good associations....

One of my cats, Data, was 3 on Saturday. I sang happy birthday to him(twice) and we all had some roast chicken. Yesterday, I got Leonard Cohens new cd. It's wonderful(I knew it would be but Im biased) I have a wonderful bunch of online friends (Im realising that I have that here....for some reason, I don't know what, I didn't think anyone here would remember anything about me. And I see that that's not the case, and it's lovely, and helps, and thank you all, so much.....)who help me, just by being there, by 'listening'(aka reading)....

Im very thankful for all these things. All Good Things.

Getting by, sometimes a moment at a time. And thanks, again....I felt like a right wee weirdo, saying the 'not able to talk' thing....there are those who don't understand that, but there are those who do, like here.....

Alex and the cats

Julia Tue, May 12th 2015 @ 11:44am

Is the new Leonard Cohen album good? I read about it and all the reviewers liked it. Our cat used to love roast chicken, the one we had in Scotland. I tried to give our daughter's cat roast chicken the other day but it sniffed it and walked away. I thought all cats loved roast chicken but clearly not!. Ours used to sit by the oven waiting for me to take it out! Yes Crafty, I think we do understand you.

Anonymous Tue, May 12th 2015 @ 1:44pm

Hello Lex! I'm still wobbly and every time I've put pen to paper, or finger to keypad, it's been a mixing bowl of mash that has no recipe! However, perhaps with this structure I might find something good comes. Tell me, how do I stop The Future from turning into a magical and far stretched imagination frenzy? (We're keeping it within the realms of possibility yes? Damn. I had Springsteen all sorted.)

Anonymous Tue, May 12th 2015 @ 1:48pm

Oh I will forget to sign in/off. Tis me, love from the room above the garage x.

Anonymous Tue, May 12th 2015 @ 1:57pm

Hi Alex, you may have gone for now but I wanted to say hello, I think of you often too. Keep popping in, love from the room above the garage x.

crafty wee midden Tue, May 12th 2015 @ 3:27pm

Julia, it really is....very good. A couple of songs which - depending on the music you have - you may not have heard before, including "Choices" and "La Manic"(which I love....he sings it in a French....)
Room, thank you; you are in my thoughts, too

Julia Tue, May 12th 2015 @ 4:36pm

Thank you. I'll get it! I like the idea of him singing in French. I have Songs for Old People (?) and I think some of those songs are on his new album which are live recordings (I think I'm right here). But I do not know La Manic and Choices.

crafty wee midden Wed, May 13th 2015 @ 8:01am

Old Ideas? I think maybe that's the one you have? la Manic is.....wonderful. There's a very good Leonard site called "Cohencentric". Lots of information, videos, music's my go-to place :) and Im listening to the new one (again, and again, and....) right now. Official title is "Can't Forget: A Souvenir of he Grand Tour" . I could bore for Scotland about him.... :)

Caroline Ashcroft Thu, May 14th 2015 @ 11:47pm

Lex, thank you and I'd love a Lexihug. Carolinex

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