Category Archives: Positive psychology

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.

Why February is the best month

As part of my therapy, I have to do a ‘glass half full’ exercise.

So here are eight reasons why February is my favourite month – despite it officially being the worst month of the year. 

1. You’ve given up on all your New Year’s Resolutions by now. So you can drink, smoke, take drugs, eat fatty foods, swear, get into fights, sit around doing no exercise, etc without feeling like a complete failure. 

2. The weather is quite shit so there’s a chance of getting off work or school without lying. 

3. You can be really pissed off and you’re allowed to blame it on the month – and no-one criticises you for being a maungy* twat.

4. It has a silent ‘r’ that some people pronounce, allowing you to silently despise them. 

5. Lots of people die in February so you can get free food and drink at wakes. 

6. You can wear long johns without being called a freak. 

7. Jehovah’s Witnesses get really cold – either door to door or at their city centre stalls. 

8. If you find yourself saying: ‘I can’t wait until this month is over’, it will be soon because it’s so short – like this excuse for a blog post. 

* West Yorkshire dialect for bad-tempered, sulky, generally jacked off with life, feeling like a right skank, etc. 

Write your own epitaph – and don’t be so grave 

There’s a psychological technique that gets you to write your own epitaph. 

The idea is that you think about what’s written on your gravestone – to encourage you to think about the person you’d like to be.

Then when you realise the massive distance between who you are now and the person described on the gravestone, you’re supposed to make huge changes in your life. 

Like stopping being an arsehole, devoting your life to discovering a new cheese or finally getting divorced. 
A Californian life coach would say this technique may help you ‘to live your best life’. Writing that phrase just literally made me gag. 

Another problem with the epitaph technique is that my family don’t do gravestones.

We’ve always been burnt. Sometimes at the stake. Other times at the crem. 

But we’ve always suffered from insufficient funds for a gravestone when we snuff it.

Still let’s not give up just yet. 

Here’s some inspiration:

‘I told you I was ill’ on Spike Milligan’a grave is really good. 

I also like these three:

Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723) in St. Paul’s Cathedral:
‘Si monumentum requiris circumspice.’
‘If you require a monument, look around.’

Mrs Aphra Behn (1640-89):
‘Here lies a proof that wit can never be, defence enough against mortality.’

Dorothy Parker (1893-1967):
‘Excuse my dust.’

Actually this exercise has really got me thinking. So here goes with some I’ve just thought up:

‘He spent his life either nervous, angry or off his tits on hardcore painkillers and/or benzodiazepines.’

‘His haircuts never really suited him.’

‘Didn’t work out as well as we hoped – but not as badly as we feared. B+?-‘

‘He tried. He failed. He conked out.’

‘A transvestite until the age of four. Then things went downhill.’

‘Cats will miss him. (Actually, no they won’t.)’

‘Feared by no-one. Loved by a few. Ignored by many.’

‘He gave up the drink. He gave up the fags. And now he’s given up the ghost.’

Why not have a go at writing your own epitaph? 

If nothing else, you can marvel at your own mediocrity. 

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!