How to deal with strong emotions that whoomph you

You know the ones I mean. They’re the emotions that take a firm, mean little pinch on your stomach and twist. They rush into your chest cavity, elbowing and pushing, filling you with that hot, dull ache.

They’re the emotions that get under your armour, under your skin. They can be triggered by anything: a word, a thought, an interaction. Out of nowhere. Whoomph.

Buddhism has some great words for these kind of feelings. It calls them kleshas, ‘strong emotions that cloud that mind’.

It’s the ‘cloud’ part that’s significant for us here. Some emotions come like a stream of clear, direct, warm light: love, joy, peace. We’ll leave them alone, hurray for them. But those emotions that feel more like a swarm? Something confusing and foggy? That’s what we’re talking about here.

Read More

A guide to meditation that will actually make you want to do it

meditation

 

We all know that meditation is good for you. Lowers blood pressure, reduces stress, helps with pain, improves concentration, yadda yadda.

So why aren’t more of you doing it then?

I reckon it’s because meditation tends to seem like something ‘other people’ would do. It seems a little unobtainable and not very relevant and maybe a bit dull. And that’s fair enough — if it really was all of those things I wouldn’t want to do it either.

Personally though, I think it may be one of the most important, life-changing things a human being can learn how to do.

If I had my way, you’d hear it promoted as often as the concept of getting enough fruit and veg in your diet or getting enough exercise. It would be taught in schools and be as much a regular, accepted part of our days as brushing our teeth. In terms of health and well-being, I think it is that fundamental. And by the end of this guide I hope I might have persuaded you to give it a try.

Read More

The Neuroscience of Happiness Pt 2, or, ‘Changing your mind’

A week or two back I wrote a blog post explaining why it is we often feel unhappy, or at least have that vague sense of feeling uneasy and not quite right a lot of the time. And I did it through hard, fact-backed science (and pretty pictures).

To sum it up in one sentence: neuroscientific evidence proves our brains are hard-wired to make us feel mentally crappy a lot of the time.

If you haven’t read it yet, go do that now. You’ll need ten minutes and a cuppa but it’s worth it.

To finish with, despite painting a fairly bleak picture that makes it seem like we’re all doomed to lives of constant dissatisfaction and despondency, I gave you some good news.

It is this: even though we’re more likely to feel unhappy than happy, our brains are amazingly, structurally malleable. The same neurochemical systems that makes us feel blue have the potential to be harnessed by our concious minds through deliberate choice to make us feel much, much happier. Not all of the time, but some of it. And that would be pretty good, right?

I also promised to tell you how. And in this part 2, I will start to do just that.

That’s the good news. The thing is, there’s some more bad news to go with it. The BAD news is that those deliberate choices? Those things we need to do to feel happier?

You might not like them.

My alternative title for this post is:  ‘God DAMMIT, the bloody hippies were right all along’.

As a big hippy myself, I’m feeling pretty good about this, I can tell you.

Let me tell you why we’re right. Again, it’s a fairly long read, but that’s just another good excuse to go and stick the kettle on again. Go on. We’re too focused on the quick fix. This is going to help you.

 

truth

Read More

The Neuroscience of Happiness Pt 1, or, ‘The science behind why we suffer’

I love science. You know when kids go through that stage of constantly asking ‘why’? That’s been me my whole life.

And as much as it’s fun and enlightening to come up with your own answers to stuff — something my five year old is brilliant at and which is always a good reminder to me that not knowing can be just as interesting —  sometimes it just really, really helps to see evidence and facts to help us understand why things are the way they are.

When I started to get interested in the concepts of happiness and suffering, I looked into neuroscience to see if I could find some answers to my whys. What I found out there blew me away.

What follows is a potted introduction to the neuroscience of happiness, or perhaps more accurately for this post, the neuroscience of UNhappiness. It’s all based on relatively recent studies, many of which are referenced in the book referred to at the bottom. I’m going to simplify it as best I can, for easy-reading’s sake, and it may get a little long-winded, but stick with me, this stuff is important.

Read More

An Introduction

fall down

 

The Bad Day Blog is something I’ve been working on for a little while. It started out as a book I was approached to write, but when the publishers decided to ‘go another way’, I decided to carry on working on it in a new guise, without all the worries of making it into a proper, grown-up book.

It is, to get right down to it, something that I hope will make your days better. Maybe only a little bit, but still enough, I hope, to make it worth your attention. It’s going to do that in a hundred tiny, creative ways, some of which I hope you’re going to be able to help with too.

It will run as series of articles, thoughts, projects, challenges, resources, stories, contributions — all sorts.  I’d like to try and and build it slowly and with a lot of love and to start us off I’d like to tell you why I want to.

Read More