Tag Archives: advice

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. 

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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

5 reasons to avoid New Year’s resolutions

Rab-C-Nesbitt

New Year – same old you.

Here are five reasons to be happy with yourself – no matter your size and dangerous lifestyle habits. You don’t need a new year’s resolution.  You’re perfect as you are.

1. Don’t go on a diet

They don’t work. You go through torture, then you put all the weight back on.
Anyway fat is the new black – you can be a pop star if you’re fat (Adele), you can be a major show host if you’re fat (James Corden) and the government won’t even impose a sugar tax. If ‘Fat Dave’ Cameron is happy with a fat nation, why shouldn’t you be?

2. Don’t try to get fit

Running is dangerous – you pull muscles, destroy joints and may even break your ankles. And there’s always the chance of being run over by drunk drivers.
Meanwhile, gyms are full of smelly narcissists staring at their muscles in the mirrors and making grunting noises. Much better to stay at home watching the telly with a box of chocolates (see 1).

3. Don’t try to learn a new language.

The rest of the world speaks English – many countries whose first language isn’t even English speak it better than us. All of Scandinavia, the Low Countries and Germany, for example. Do something more enjoyable than an evening class. Go to the pub and keep the economy going – see 4.

4. Don’t try to cut down on your drinking.
Think of all the infant craft beer, artisan gin and bespoke bars that are dependant on your continuing alcoholism. Even if your liver is feeling it a bit after Christmas, you owe it to the entrepreneurs who’ve bothered to improve the taste of the nation’s booze to keep your units dangerously high.

5. Don’t try to stop smoking.
It’s worse than heroin cold turkey. Unless you want to lose all your friends, your romantic relationship(s) and your job, don’t even go there.

Happy New Year.

Five ways to make yourself happier if you hate the new Tory government

If you wish we had a more ‘caring’, left-wing government than the one we’ve voted for, there are several things you can do to make yourself happier.

These don’t involve bemoaning your fellow citizens’ selfishness and stupidity.
Calling people names rarely makes you feel better and doesn’t actually change anything. And the people will still be selfish and stupid – no matter what you say.

Getting drunk, taking drugs, watching live comedy, having orgasms or even eating chocolate are legitimate ways of making yourself happier – but my list doesn’t involve any of these. You can do these as well!

How good is that?

Why not try one of these ways to recover from 7 May 2015?

1. If you wanted the government to raise taxes to pay for better health care, overseas aid or any other issue you believe in, start contributing more from your pay to charities. Either that, or wait for five years to see if we vote for a government that will raise them. You’ll probably feel more empowered if you do something positive now.

2. Join a political party. A 20 year old SNP candidate who’s still doing her university finals will be sitting in the new House of Commons, so it’s possible to follow your political dreams.
Electoral politics isn’t for everyone – I’ve worked for an MP and found the experience terrifying. But you may enjoy it. Why not give it a try? You could be brilliant at it.
And if the mainstream political parties make you queasy, there are others like the recently-formed Women’s Equality party. One of its founders Sandi Todsvik was fed up of being fed up and has even given up her fantastic job on Radio 4’s News Quiz to help establish this party.

3. Start being nicer to people. Smile if someone smiles at you. Hold doors open – even if the person is still 10 metres away and limping. Give your seat up on the bus for someone who’s younger than you. Have a chat to the Big Issue seller instead of avoiding his or her gaze. Little bits of kindness make the giver and receiver happier. They just do.

4. Do something really positive and of immediately huge benefit to others – like giving blood. Giving blood is a lovely way to feel connected to your fellows – even UKIP supporters need blood transfusions in the operating theatre.

5. Find a cause you believe in and find fellow travellers on the road to your own personal utopia. You’d be surprised how many groups exist for all manner of causes and interests. Volunteer at a local hospice. Help kids with their reading at a local school. Pick up litter for a couple of hours a day, like the eccentric and lovely David Sedaris.

If some of this sounds like a call to fill the gaps of an underfunded welfare state, then ask yourself what you’re going to do to make the world better now the gaps aren’t going to be filled by the state.

I’m as gutted as the next person that our society is run by – and on behalf of – a small club.

I came close to some of its elements when I studied at David Cameron’s old Oxford college. They’re horrendous, arrogant and the true manifestation of the ‘entitlement culture’.

But that’s the way things are for now. If you’re disappointed and depressed that the UK has another Conservative government, you can bemoan it and do nothing – feeling both alienated and impotent.

Or you can use whatever motivation, talent and resources you have to make the world a slightly better place today.

I know which will make you – and others – a bit happier.

Four things you can do to feel a bit happier even if you’re a bit mental like me

by Simon Henry @simlington

Writing a blog on your birthday? Are you mental?
Well, as it happens, yes. A bit.

I have a diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder, chronic depression and anxiety disorder.

Physically, I have a diagnosis of fibromyalgia (pain all over the place.)
So you could say I have some ‘issues’ that may affect my level of bliss on this earth.

But having these conditions don’t mean I can’t have many moments of calm.
And it doesn’t mean I can’t see the joy in life.
It does mean, though, that I have to work at it.

If you’re suffering from any, some, or all of these things – or even if you just get a bit peeved from time to time – here’s the Henry Birthday Recipe To Feeling A Bit Better.

1. Being in awe is good for you.

Lego

LEGO is awesome

I know ‘awesome’ is an overused word since the Lego movie.

But there really is some awesome stuff all around you.

You just have to take a bit of time to look, hear, feel, smell …

Awesome things I like to stare at or think about include:
– Ants carrying leaves and other ant stuff that’s several times bigger and heavier than they are.

– Cats jumping on to walls that are several times higher than they are.

– The blue sky, especially if there are some green leaves in front of it to provide a bit of contrast.

– The feel of a cotton shirt against my body (especially if it’s from somewhere good like Gap).

– The sound of the cats crunching on their food.

– The smell of Miller’s gin – even though I don’t touch the stuff.

You get my point. Awesome is absolutely everywhere – we just have to decide to look for it.
And once you do, you can’t stop.

The world is just full of awesome stuff waiting to make you smile or gasp.

2. Let’s get physical

Before you do anything else, watch this clip from Olivia Newton John’s Let’s Get Physical (3 mins 43 secs). It’s utterly dreadful – a mix of  mid-70s porno and early-80s breakfast TV fitness sessions.

(How can I pinpoint porno to a particular part of the 1970s? There’s surely another blog in that one.)

Anyway, when I was a lot younger, I used to sit around all day, drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes and watching TV. I know this sounds like bliss to a lot of people but stay with me.

I would do this all day without getting any exercise at all.

Then I’d wonder why I couldn’t sleep at night and felt generally terrible about myself.

A bit of advice: if you possibly can, walk – even if it’s up and down the road.

Some might say I’ve taken my love of walking to extremes. My favourite walk is now a 26-mile excruciatingly difficult walk in the Yorkshire Dales – the Three Peaks. I’m doing it tomorrow – as a birthday treat. I warned you at the start I’m mental.

For the more mundane days when I’m not allowed to spend 10 hours surrounded by sheep and grass, I encourage myself to walk with the help of technology.

I’ve downloaded the Pedometer++ app on my iPhone. You tell it how many steps you want to do in a day.

Then it shows you whether you’ve hit your target with a simple red (bad), orange (neither good nor bad) and green (good) colour-coded graph.

A pedometer can encourage you to get off your fat arse and do some walking.

A pedometer can encourage you to get off your fat arse and do some walking.

3. Do something for other people or for the world.

You could try to take some kittens for a walk. Good luck with that.

You could try to take some kittens for a walk. Good luck with that.

I’ve started giving blood.

I know this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But you do get one afterwards. And unlimited Club or Penguin biscuits, too.

And the tiny inconvenience of having your blood let is far ourweighed by the sense of wellbeing you get afterwards. (Unless you faint or die, but I’m told the risk is minscule.)

If, like me, you can tend to feel a bit cast adrift from the rest of the world, like you don’t really belong or fit in, it quite literally connect you to the rest of the human race.

After all, your blood ends up pumping round someone else’s body! Wow. That’s a bit awesome. (See 1 – I knew this blog had a plan to it.)

Don’t underestimate this one for lifting your spirits.

And if you can’t give blood, you could hold a door open for someone, smile at someone on the bus, or chat to someone in a queue at the Post Office.

I know human beings can be really, really annoying.

I mean, I wouldn’t fancy being stuck in a train with a load of Mormons – and don’t get me started on right-wing Christians in general.

But small things that connect you to the rest of the human race really can make you a bit happier. Go on, have a go.

4. Train your mind to stop it being quite so annoying

This is scientifically verifiable.

This is scientifically verifiable.

I’ve already written some blogs about a new thing called ‘mindfulness’.

Actually, that’s stretching the meaning of the word ‘new’ as it’s over 2,500 years old.

Let me just summarise what it is – and why I think you’d be mental not to try it, even if you don’t have a diagnosis.

a. Start by being aware of what is going on in your mind.

You’ll find quite a lot of it is not really welcome, like thoughts about a kid at school you hated 20 or 30 years ago, or the thought of getting cancer or dying.

b. Do some exercises to start being more aware of what is going on in said mind.

This is just like exercising your legs to firm up the muscles. You can train to become more aware of what is going on. And just think – you don’t have to go to the gym and smell all that sweat.

c. If you are aware of what is going on – whether that is your body tensing against pain or stress, or your brain going into meltdown years ago – you can do something about it.

d. That something is to accept what is happening and then to consciously anchor yourself in the present moment by meditating.

A lot of people meditate on the breath, but you could meditate on your right nostril, your left nipple or your central bum hole.

If you’re thinking about what is happening right now in your physical body or brain, you cannot possibly worry about the future or the past.

And the more you practise being in the present, the more you become aware of how little time you actually spend here.

And you also realise how much time you spend pointlessly worrying about things you can’t change.

Then you realise it’s actually quite nice concentrating on the present – and you do actually feel better when you spend more time in the here and now.

It doesn’t work instantly – in my case it has taken the best part of two years for it to start having an impact.

But it’s worth the wait. If you like your fixes quick, this ain’t it. But show a bit of patience, eh?

Why not have a go at any or all of these?

I’m off to meditate on how much my feet are going to hurt, how awesome the sheep will look and whether I’ll need a blood transfusion after the Three Peaks.

If you enjoyed this, you may like a recent post, How Mindfulness can make us all a bit happier

Or have a squiz round the rest of the site – there’s quite a bit in here about how to be a bit happier.

You can get an email alert whenever I publish a new post. If you’re on a mobile you can sign up below. If you’re on a computer, sign up at the top right-hand of the page.

And you can follow me @simlington on Twitter

Copyright Simon Henry @simlington 2014

Inspirational fail: Stop posting internet memes telling me how to live

by Simon Henry @simlington

You can’t move on the internet for ‘inspirational’ quote memes telling us how to live our lives.

It wouldn’t be so bad if it was just Martin Luther King Jr, Gandhi, Lennon, Einstein and Dr Seuss telling us what to do.

They were all pretty decent coves weren’t they?

They had dreams, they actually achieved things, they wrote really funny and inspiring books and songs.

But it’s not just inspirational geniuses being quoted now.

‘Spiritual gurus’, religious nutters and even normal people armed with apps that create these memes easily and quickly have got in on the act.

You can’t move for this sort of inane crap from Deepak Chopra.

I know life is hard at times - and at least it doesn't mention God or Christ - but I still want to choke the person who produced this meme.

At least it doesn’t mention God or Christ – but I still want to choke the person who produced this meme.

He’s really really annoying – not least because he makes absolutely loads of money from this drivel.

But in his defence at least he doesn’t mention the dreaded …

God

This isn't the most sickly of religious inspirational memes, but it's still quite poor.

This isn’t the most sickly of religious inspirational memes, but it’s still really depressing.

As an atheist, I feel a very queasy about the Christian obsession with a half-naked men on a cross.

And it’s not enough for him to be crucified – Christians also have to drink his blood and and eat his body too. Poor Jesus.

Still, each to his or her own.

Then there’s the DIY stuff, made possible by the ubiquity of smartphones and their pesky apps.

These are usually produced by people who’ve obviously just had a relationship and/or emotional breakdown and are trying to convince themselves and the world that they’re okay.

Here’s an example.

Oh Christ you can feel the anger and pain can't you?

Oh Christ you can feel the anger and pain can’t you?

This stuff is pretty addictive. Let’s move on before we get stuck

So here’s an attempt to redress the balance.

I hope the examples I’ve created below provide a reminder to switch your brain off if you ever see these memes on your screen.

This is scientifically verifiable.

This is scientifically verifiable.

Failure is good. It means someone else gets to win. Don't worry about it. We're all dust anyway.

Failure is good. It means someone else gets to win. Don’t worry about it. We’re all dust anyway.

I don't even want to go there.

I don’t even want to go there.

Seems like pretty fair comment.

Seems like pretty fair comment.

Ah that’s better.

And just to get the message across, here’s a little friend I’ve made.

Get the idea?

I hope you like him – he may make another appearance soon.


 

If you enjoyed this, you may like a recent post, How Mindfulness can make us all a bit happier

You can get an email alert whenever I publish a new post. If you’re on a mobile you can sign up below. If you’re on a computer, sign up at the top right-hand of the page.

And you can follow me @simlington on Twitter

Copyright Simon Henry @simlington 2014

Why students planning to do the easy subjects should do something more interesting instead

by Simon Henry @simlington

It’s exam time again. Students all over the country are cramming their heads full of quotes, dates and cliches.

Now then, many students of the soft subjects are nice, I’m sure.

Some are well-spoken, a smattering are pleasant to look at and a small proportion study hard and even care a little about their ‘subject’.

Ceramics attract dust - just like the history departments of the ancient universities.

Ceramics attract dust – just like the history departments of the ancient universities.

But should young people really be wasting their precious youth on history, English and ceramics?

Couldn’t they – and society – benefit from them doing something else with their late teens and early 20s?

The answer is Yes.

This is from someone who spent his early adulthood studying for a History BA and MA at UCL and a Politics MPhil at Oxford.

Look where it got me – writing this.

Here’s why the answer to the question above is ‘yes’.

1. Most arts subjects are better treated as ‘interests’.

Languages, politics, sociology, ceramics. the history of art, pottery. All very lovely.

But they’re not exactly medicine, engineering or the law, are they?

If you need a broken leg fixing or a broken contract resolving you go to a professional who has been suitably trained.

If you need a bridge, a website or a tank building, you need someone who has practical skills.

If you want to know who won the Battle of Waterloo, you can read a book or look on the internet and find the answer within seconds.

If you want to buy an ice cream in Madrid you learn the Spanish word for it (helado).

If you want a nice pot, you go to a garden centre.

Helen Mirren in Prime Suspect - a cracking ITV drama, but surely academics have better things to think about.

Helen Mirren in Prime Suspect – a cracking ITV drama, but surely academics have better things to think about.

And if you really want to know what Helen Mirren’s character in Prime Suspect represents in a post-industrial, post-ironic, post-feminist society, you’d better ask a tutor in Cultural Studies, because I’m not prepared to answer such drivel.

2. Some ‘subjects’ are just an absolute disgrace – they hardly even deserve the term ‘interest’.

Media studies (watching telly), theology (studying mentally ill people’s opinions about a speculative omnipotent being) and philosophy (mental masturbation) fit into this category.

3. People expect you to know things if you do these subjects at university

If you studied an ‘interest’ at university, it’s often really embarrassing when people who didn’t study that subject know more about it than you do.

I have several friends who know far more history than I do, despite them being doctors, vets and lawyers.

This is because they have an interest in it, whereas I studied it for want of anything else to do.

If the history course hadn’t existed, I would have done something different – and avoided these awkward situations.

4. Even worse, perhaps, people expect you to be interested in the subject you studied

In a year like 2014 with the World War One centenary and fraught European elections, conversations can get a bit hairy.

I don't like UKIP mainly because I like getting into Spain on my holidays without queuing at immigration control.

I don’t like UKIP mainly because I like getting into Spain on my holidays without queuing at immigration control.

People (perhaps naturally) expect me to have opinions about these things.

They seem genuinely bemused when I don’t really show much interest in their questions about the Western Front, or tactical voting.

And no I don’t really know if history repeats itself and I’m not sure if a referendum about Europe would be an affront to democracy.

5. If you want proof of the appalling results of studying these soft subjects, just look at the Cabinet

It’s full of arts and social science graduates – silver-tongued fools.

The Prime Minister recently – and seriously – started talking about what Christ means to him on a spiritual level.

It’s only a matter of time before the Secretary of State for Health starts on about the benefits of homeopathy and crystals.

No-one wants to be like that.

Follow me @simlington on Twitter for more laughs.
And why not read some of my other blogs while you’re here? There’s a Defence of Three letter acronyms, A warning about running marathons and an A-Z of horrible office jargon to get you smiling among many others.

Copyright Simon Henry @simlington 2014