Category Archives: mindfulness

Compassion therapy in action – an Eggs Benedict Cumberbatch meditation 

I feel sorry for people called Benedict because, when someone offers them eggs – followed by their moniker – they may not know if they’re being offered the specific dish or a more generic yolk/albumen-based delicacy. 

‘Eggs, Benedict?’

‘Eggs Benedict?’

One way to avoid confusion would be to repeat the word Benedict – if the person is offering the specific dish. 

‘Eggs Benedict, Benedict?’

Anyway. 

This is part of my compassion therapy. 

It’s as far as I can take compassion for now. 

It’s a start isn’t it? 

Only I don’t actually know anyone called Benedict. 

Except Benedict Cumberbatch – whose full name has a smaller than expected six syllables! 

And I’ve never actually eaten Eggs Benedict.

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7 ways to survive Trump and May’s transatlantic disaster

There’s no doubt that the UK and the US have entered a new era of arrogant stupidity. 

Of course we’ve been here before. Our countries have been responsible for genocide and imperialism on a truly horrific scale. We’ve invaded countries, killed native peoples at will, destroyed cultures, enslaved populations. You name a crime against humanity  our countries are guilty of it. 

And yet we still have this idea that we safeguard basic human rights and dignity.

We can’t even make sure all our own citizens have a roof over their heads, we can’t even treat our all citizens with dignity when they’re ill and we can’t even make our trains run on time.

But these are other stories. 

Here’s your guide to surviving the next few years – until this brand of moronic conservatism blows itself out, hopefully not taking the rest of humankind with it. Choose the ones that make sense for you. 

1. If you don’t have one already, get a cat and/or a dog. They don’t give a shit about politics. And they let you stroke them. They also have nicer breath than either Trump or May. 

2. Don’t start writing angry tweets about politics – you’ll just get angrier and angrier until your head explodes. And if that happens you won’t have survived the Trump-May years when they thankfully come to an end.

3. Do lots of small acts of kindness – both to yourself and to others. This could include masturbating when you would normally be cleaning the oven, or checking if old Mrs Smith at number 15 needs any shopping. Note: don’t get these mixed up and offer to get the shopping for your oven or …

4. Learn some relaxation exercises such as deep breathing, smoking vast quantities of weed and taking benzodiazepines regularly. 

5. Take up a new hobby like gardening (so you can grow your own weed), chemistry (so you can create your own synthetic drugs) or tightrope walking (as a metaphor for your mental health).

6. Get addicted to heroin and/or crack so you spend less time worrying about the future of the world, homelessness, public health catastrophes, etc – and more energy wondering where your next hit is coming from. 

7. Inherit lots of money. Give most of it away to people who are much worse off than you are. And spend the rest emigrating to somewhere more sane, like Canada or Iceland. 

Good luck!

10 new year’s resolutions for an anxious depressive

Here are 10 new year’s resolutions I think I can keep – these are mainly reminders not to be a dick. 

Feel free to borrow any or all of them – not that I’m calling any of you potential dicks. 

I’ll stop digging and start the list. 

1. Keep not drinking alcohol. 

2. Keep not smoking cigarettes.

3. Keep swearing profusely – swearing is big and clever. Sweating less so – despite autocorrect. 

4. Keep walking at least six miles a day. This aids sanity.

5. Keep meditating every day. This also aids sanity and makes me seem wise. 

6. Don’t lose hope. The world will always contain bell ends. It’s a matter of not letting them piss all over you.

7. Keep not reading the news. It really is designed to make everyone anxious.

8. Keep taking the tablets. 

9. Keep being as nice as I can be to other people – being generous and kind really is good for everyone. 

10. Don’t eat snow – it contains more pollution than expected. 

Happy new year!

Why you don’t need booze, presents or Christ for a happy Christmas

I love Christmas.

This is weird as I’m not into presents, I don’t touch booze, I’m not a glutton, I don’t like the telly and I don’t do God.

When I was younger so much younger than today, getting a bottle of beer shampoo or a soap on a rope was actually exciting – and not in an ironic way. But why do I only remember the cleaning products? I think we’ll leave that one for my shrink in the new year.

I also really liked Jesus.

Midnight Mass, singing carols and praying were a way of life – not a pissed-up, nostalgia fest. I believed the whole thing – angels coming down from heav’n on a cold winter night that was so deep, trembling shepherds and their equally scared flocks of sheep washing their socks by night, the Virgin Mary wrapping LBJ in swaddling clothes and laying him in a manger after giving birth in front of lowing cattle and the most famous cuckold in 0th Century Middle Eastern literature.

On the other hand – and equally Christmassy – I’ve been known to spend every waking hour for several weeks either side of 25 December  as pissed as a fart.

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I’ve also experienced severe meat sweats while overdosing on TV Christmas specials, downing After Eights dunked in brandy while simultaneously farting sprout fumes and chain smoking the 200 Marlboros I got as a present – and thinking I’m having fun. So much for a typical Christmas Day in the early 1990s.

‘What’s the big deal?’ you may be asking. ‘Most of this sounds like pretty average festive behaviour, TBH!’

Nowadays, I’ve stopped boozing and smoking and I’m not arsed about parties – even political ones. I enjoy eating without the sweating. I’m not materialist. I’ve been kicked out of the Catholic Church on the grounds of apostasy and heresy. And I don’t particularly like Xmas jumpers – whether traditional or sarcastic-ironic, Mariah Carey, Christmas crackers, Santa hats, board games or annual quizzes, tinsel,  smug round-robin letters, Quality St, Advocaat or even the Holidays Are Comin’ TV campaign.

So how come I’m still simply having a wonderful Christmas time?

Put simply, it’s just that – for however short a time – we’re nicer to each other. For a little while, we think about – and even try to help – people who aren’t the lucky bastards we are.

It’s pretty impossible to be unmoved by the humanitarian tragedies around the world – and Christmas makes us think about them more as charities do a great job reminding us about them. And making effective pleas for help.

These campaigns also remind us there are so many people doing good, brave, extraordinary things to make this barmy world a bit better.

The need to give a shit hits home especially hard after a year like 2016 that’s seen a concerted attempt to move the hatred and bigotry of the far right into the political mainstream. And when utter arseholes (even smellier more revolting than the usual ring pieces) have secured some pretty powerful jobs.

So Christmas is a much-needed kick up the arse to give something to people I will never meet in countries I will never visit who face horrors I could never imagine. Or to people I pass on the street every day who also lead lives of quiet torture.

It’s a reminder to stop worrying about the insignificant bullshit that tends to clog our brains and to work out what’s actually important.

So thank you to everyone who’s reminded me to stop and think. Thank you to everyone who is trying in trying times.

You’re my true Christmas heroes. And you’re why I still love Christmas.

Oh and the Christmas jokes

Improving your mental health one good memory at a time

2016 could have been better in so many ways. 

You’ll have your own personal, emotional, musical, political and environmental low points. 

Which reminds me of the Tim Vine pun: ‘Crime in multi-storey car parks is wrong on so many different levels.’

Anyway, there’s little point bitching now the year’s nearly over and the lunatics really are taking over the asylum. 

We’ve all made mistakes this year. My major howlers included having seconds of rhubarb crumble one dinner time in March when I was already pretty full. To make matters worse, all the custard had gone, so it ended up being a bit on the dry side despite the rhubarb juice and – to me at least – rhubarb without custard is like a fart without the smell: weird and slightly creepy. 

Bad simile. Second major mistake of the year. 

But no matter how angry, despairing and sad 2016 has made you, it’s good to remember things could get worse in 2017. They really could! 

But let’s park that, as chauffeurs often say. 

And instead of thinking about how shit 2016 has been or how much shitter 2017 could be, we could try a psychological trick that encourages you to concentrate on the good stuff that has happened to you. 

There is some evidence that by directing your thoughts to the happy, uplifting, bright part of the spectrum of your experience and away from the dark, dispiriting, draining part, you can make a positive impact on your mood. 

Get into the habit of doing this and you could make a permanent change to your default level of mental health. 

To start with, it’s harder than you think – especially if you have a tendency to think the world is populated by morons, that we’re all doomed and what’s the fucking point anyway. But it is possible to improve your default.

One technique is to imagine you’re the absolute opposite of the Daily Mail’s editor. Hopefully, this doesn’t take a huge leap of imagination. If it does, you may need professional help for anger issues, paranoia and cuntishness.

Now the next thing to do is to think of some good things that have happened to you or that you saw or heard or read about. 

Write them down if you can be arsed or just think about each memory for as long as you can. What were the colours like, the smells, how did you feel during the experience?

Do this lots and see if your mood improves – surely it can’t do any harm. Unless you start daydreaming while you’re chopping a turnip or flying a light aircraft.

To get you started, here are some things I liked this year and which I think about to make me happier than I otherwise would be. 

Growing a moustache – and people’s kindness, sponsoring the poor little ginger bastard. Also killing the little ginger bastard at the end of Movember was like taking off a pair of shoes that are a size too small after wearing them for 31 days. 

Giving blood – each time I felt a bit more connected to my fellow humans. A really good part of giving blood (as well as the salty and sweet snack selection after you’ve donated) is the text you receive a few days later telling you the hospital where your blood has been used.

Discovering Belgian chocolate options drink – at only 40 calories a cup it is a true taste sensation. I received no remuneration for this blatant plug. However if anyone from Options is reading this, I am open to receiving free samples in return for apparently natural mentions of the product in my writing. 

Voting – I absolutely love voting. I feel like crying my eyes out whenever I go to a polling station,  thinking about the sacrifices people have made on the long march to universal suffrage. And recently I’ve felt like crying my eyes out when the results have come in. But that’s going off-subject. 

Seeing three deer in a frosty field this very morning – totally unexpectedly. You can’t go wrong with deer in my view. 

Seeing any videos of any baby pandas. 

A squirrel starting to climb my leg presumably thinking it was a tree (I was wearing brown geography teacher cords) before realising its mistake and jumping off just after it had reached my knee. 

Throwing a scrumpled-up piece of paper at a bin that was quite far away – and getting it in first time. 

Eating a particularly good fried egg when I was particularly hungry. 

I could go on. They all bring a smile to my face. 

Write your own positive 2016, think about things that have gone right, then remember some more. 

Let’s see if we can look back on this year as not being that shite after all! 

Seven tips to improve your mental health that don’t involve mindfulness 

Here are some of the things I do to improve my mental health. My mentalness waxes and wanes – but not in time to the moon. So it’s not predictable and can take a dive at any point – a bit like … [fill in the name of a centre forward who plays for a football team you don’t like.]

If you’re living with things like depression, anxiety or post traumatic stress, I hope my experience may help you or someone you know. 
Having said that, if you’re feeling utterly crap right now, you possibly can’t even be arsed reading this. 

But if a part of you can be bothered, maybe there’s something in here that may help a bit. And if it helps you, it’ll help me (see ‘Giving is better than receiving’ below).

Of course, you have to take some of this with a pinch or even cellar full of salt – it would really help to have a ‘control’ me so we could test these things in a more scientific way. But I’m told having one me is quite enough. 

So here’s the advice. 

Take a walk on the wild side – or at least to the end of the cul-de-sac and back

I’m fairly sure there’s a direct relationship between the number of miles I walk and my mental health. This means I have a massive incentive to get off my arse and walk. 

Granted, I take this to extremes by regularly walking 26 miles in the Yorkshire Dales. But I take everything to extremes. 

Including making generalisations. 

But even a half-hour walk round the block or a park can have big benefits for the mind. Change of scene. Fresh air. Seeing some nature. Stretching your legs. Releasing some positive hormones. 

Only watch out for dog shit – walking in dog shit is guaranteed to adversely affect your mood. 

Make yourself smile or laugh 

I can guarantee that five minutes of Les Dawson videos will improve my mood – often from utterly shite to fairly shite. But I’ll take fairly shite any day if the alternative is utterly shite. 

I asked the doctor if he had something for persistent wind. 

He gave me a kite. 

I’m pretty sure you have things that make you laugh. Even if it’s just a pair of wind-up chattering false teeth or Michael Macintyre – whatever your secret comedy shame, have it ready in reserve and make sure you use it when you need it most – when you’re in the mental gutter. 

When I was a child, I had wax in my ears. 

Dad didn’t take me to the doctor, he used me as a night light.

Lol. 

Accept how you’re feeling

There are good reasons for the way you’re feeling. And it doesn’t help if you think it’s something to be ashamed of, or that it’s somehow not acceptable to feel this way. 

Realising this and not blaming, or getting cross with, yourself can reduce the suffering.

If this sounds a bit like mindfulness, it’s not meant to. All I’m saying is you don’t have to be horrible to yourself. There are plenty of bastards out there without you joining them. Just try to be nice to yourself – even if that only means treating yourself to a KitKat. 

Reduce the amount of news you consume 

People who work in ‘the news’ will tell you they always try to create an emotional reaction with every story. Otherwise they risk losing their audience. The news is designed to create emotional responses like horror, shock and disgust to keep you glued – and anxiety, depression and anger can easily result. 

The next American president and the Brexit bastards produce all these reactions in me. They also produce feelings of powerlessness against their post-truth bollocks and smug white power bigotry. 

So – despite an academic background in history and politics and a professional background in journalism – I’m having a sabbatical from the news. 

And it’s such a relief. Reading and listening to brilliant books and music instead of dystopian drivel is a massive bonus. 

Giving is better than receiving 

There’s a book called 59 Seconds by a psychologist – Professor Richard Wiseman (a nice bit of nominative determinism) – which provides quick techniques to improve your life. 

One of these shows that being nice to other people makes you feel better – and if you do a lot of nice things in a short space of time, you feel better than just doing the odd nice thing. 

During one lunchtime as I walked through town, I opened a door for someone going into M&S, feigned fear at a little lad in a scary costume, gave a beggar a couple of pounds, smiled at an old lady and bought someone a Christmas present. 

As I said before, there’s no control me to test this sort of thing. But I felt pretty good after this amazing run of niceness. 

Note to self: Carry on trying to be nice even when other people are being annoying scrota. 

The professionals 

I’ve had mixed experience when it comes to professional help. 

A shrink once fell asleep while I was baring my soul to him. 

A self-obsessed psychoanalyst re-trained as a clown almost immediately after he’d ‘treated’ me. At least 75% of our sessions were about his issues – mainly about wanting to be a clown, not having a sex life and how much it would cost to retrain as a clown. 

Meanwhile, a psychotherapist repeated the phrase: ‘So … how’ve you been?’ at the start of all 14 of our sessions together. It started grating at session three. 

Strangely, though, I think the EMDR (eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing) this last professional did on me had a positive effect. 

Of course, the placebo effect is really powerful. So just by doing something kind for yourself may have a significantly positive effect. (See KitKat technique above.)

I don’t know if the acupuncture (during which the man said I had two hearts), the emotional freedom technique (tapping ‘end points of the energy meridians’ while reciting mantras) or the many weird self help books I’ve read have been a waste of time and money. 

I suspect I would have been better advised going out for a posh meal or getting a nice pair of shoes. In fact, the amount I’ve spent on this shite would have paid for several meals and pairs of shoes and trousers. And possibly a couple of nights in a decent hotel. And a coat and a car. And a horse. 

Medication 

This can help in some cases. I’ve found it’s best to get the NHS to look after this side of things rather than the off licence or the pub. 

I also think their customers’ mental health is probably not the chief concern of drug dealers.

So if you’re feeling like shit and nothing is shifting the turds swimming round your brain, I suggest getting to your GP asap – and start being nice to yourself. You don’t have to suffer on your tod. 

And remember there are loads of things you can do to help improve your mental health. 

I’m off for a walk now. Ta ta.
More of my stuff about happiness

How to be happy in 8 easy steps

happy

It’s depressingly cold, a long way from summer  – and even further away lies Christmas 2016.  So how can you make yourself happier right now – in the depths of miserable winter?

Here’s a list of 8 things that are guaranteed to make you not feel worse. If they do make you feel worse, I can take no responsibility. To do so would be to make me unhappy. Read on at your own risk.

If you think I’ve missed any happiness tricks, why not share them in the comments? It’s January – face it, you’ve got nothing else to do.

  1. Keep taking your anti-depressants, booze, heroin or other drug of choice. Don’t just stop taking them because you’re skint or because you want a new start. I’m no doctor, but I can tell you you’ll feel worse if you suddenly go cold turkey without having the courtesy to inform your brain and heart.
  2. Stop thinking about the meaning of life. If you believe in god, don’t ram it down other people’s throats as they are likely to tell you to piss off – and that will make you unhappy.
  3. Do meditation. Even if it doesn’t work, it gives you an excuse to do nothing for a while – away from everyone in the house.
  4. Do yoga. Even if it doesn’t work – and you can’t do it – you can marvel at how flexible your yoga teacher is.
  5. Go for long walks in the countryside. If nothing else, you can marvel at the eccentricities of your fellow countrymen and women. Hanging bags of dogshit from tree branches is eccentric isn’t it? But if you don’t like outside don’t go on long walks. Just get settled in front of the fire.
  6. Smile. Even if it’s fake smile, it apparently makes you feel better. Just put a Twix bar sideways in your mouth and let it dissolve – that way you get twice as happy.
  7. Do new things and learn new skills. This will make time appear to go slower. On second thoughts, if you want time to go faster, do the same things again and again. That way your life will whiz by
  8. Spend time with people you like. If you detest your spouse or partner then you may want to think about a divorce. If you hate your friends, you may want to consult a psychiatrist.

Or you could check all the jokes on this site. Some of them are even funny.

Like this one:

What’s the difference between ignorance and apathy?
I don’t know and I don’t care.

And this one:

My pencil isn’t prone to making Freudian Slips, but my penis.

It’s no surprise that the jokes are the most-read part of this site.