A different kind of Christmas message

Every Christmas, here in the UK, after stuffing your face with chicken/turkey/beef, brussel sprouts, veg, Yorkshire puddings to the point you want to explode. At 3pm, Her Majesty the Queen gives an annual Christmas message.

A tradition that dates back to the radio Christmas message given by King George in the 1930s to the UK and the then British Empire via the BBC Empire Service.

It’s a staple Christmas appointment in my family. Granted it’s not for everyone and not everyone is a fan of the British monarchy but it wouldn’t really be a British Christmas without it.

That in mind, I thought about doing something like that for this blog and podcast. Where the actual Christmas message is a fully produced short story. My one would be the bulletpoint pamphlet of how to be more positive.

In fact I did something like this for my SunnyG show on Monday [returning on 6th of January between 1800 and 2000 on sunnyg.com, ok shameless and unsubtle plug done], so let’s do that now.

Let’s take a couple of minutes to spare a thought or two for those less fortunate.

Spare a thought for those who don’t have a home.

Spare a thought for those who don’t have loved ones or no longer have loved ones.

Spare a thought for the emergency services keeping us safe and well this Christmas.

Spare a thought for those who are elderly and vulnerable.

Spare a thought for those volunteering their time to look out for those most vulnerable.

Spare a thought for those having to work during Christmas.

Feeling like Christmas is not as good? Think of three things you have that you like and are grateful for. You got it good if you have 3 or more.

Merry Christmas, Frohe Weihnachten, Feliz Navidad, С Рождеством!

Optimism and outlook on life

They say there’s two outlooks on life.

Glass half-full and glass half-empty. Simplistic? Yes, but who hasn’t tried to simplify nuanced ideas?

Common logic says being a glass half-full person is good, right? Not just logic, research too.

Many studies including one by Carnegie Mellon University gave 193 healthy volunteers (between 18 and 55 years old) a dose of the cold/flu. Not surprisingly, the optimists braved it better than the pessimists.

Over a 30 year period the Mayo Clinic also discovered optimists had their risk of premature death slashed by half.

While Yale University found optimists were likely to live on average 7.5 years longer than their pessimist peers.

For someone interested in improving his own wellbeing and positive thinking this is unsurprising but fascinating.

My outlook on life has improved dramatically over the years. From being a somewhat cynical but not completely pessimistic teenager to believing there are reasons to be cheerful.

It seems these studies would make pessimists even more… well, pessimistic. For us positive thinkers, this is surely a moment to start cartwheeling with delight.

Don’t cartwheel just yet and be careful. Too much positivity can be equally troubling.

“Huh?”

While positivity is good for your health and sanity too much positivity can actually stop you from developing resilience. We all suffer emotional pain at some stage in our lives, unfortunately going through it can actually allow us to grow and develop a thicker skin.

A bit like catching a bad flu except you’re not cough and spluttering with a runny nose when your long-time lover calls time on the relationship.

Bad experience and failure can be great teachers.

Not to mention being overly positive can shield you from unpleasant emotions you need to learn to cope with.

Unrealistic expectations which will eventually lead to greater sadness, bitterness and disappointment.

Plus, among your friends you could become – by accident – a patronising, deluded pain in the a***.

Sometimes I see life as a tightrope – the good times on the other side, failure and disappointment at the bottom. If positive thinking was only required then tightrope walking would be the easiest thing to do.

Only with life’s tightrope, you’re tied to a bungee cord to bounce you back up once you’ve overcome that failure or disappointment.

Like drinking in moderation, keep positivity and pessimism as closely balanced as possible, that’ll help you cope with the world around us.

Ok, you can now start cartwheeling.

Happy Rain Day!

Did you know it is Rain day today? You might do if you’re in the US. Or, especially if you’re in the UK, you might think I’m stating the bleeding obvious. Considering that many days here are rainy days!

At times it feels like the amount of rainfall we get is ridiculous – whether it’s in Scotland or in Manchester. Addiction to water must be a huge epidemic within the universe of plants.

Personally I have a mixed relationship with rain. One half hates it: the unpredictability and disruption it causes and in some cases how it can screw up your mood. Not to mention "getting soaked like a soggy kitty".

On the other hand, listening to the rain from indoors, is strangely soothing. There’s something nice about droplets of water in the air falling. Almost like a call to relax but not over any loudspeakers.

Unsurprisingly it’s not celebrated here in the UK. Otherwise it would be the longest celebration of something ever.

In the US however, where it is less rainy, it is a special day. So much so there’s even a Rain Day festival in Waynesburgh, Pennsylvania. All started with local pharmacist William Allison being told by a local farmer in 1874 it always rained on his birthday.

The street festival that happens today began in 1979 and in the last 145 years – it has rained for 115 of them.

Back in the UK, at least we can take comfort of how rain is a powerful destresser and, according to one study, a concentration enhancer.

We should see it as a positive. Difficult since the British mentality is predominantly negative, but you have to start somewhere.

Getting back into something and going for it

I’ve changed a lot as a person over the years. I’m more confident, cooler-headed, organised, disciplined and resilient in tough times, with a more positive outlook on life.

All of which I’m proud of. However what I’m not proud of is, due to various circumstances and wrong choices, letting some of my bigger interests drift.

This in turn has created levels of self-doubt and questioning who I really was. Despite putting on a brave, "shut up and get on with it" face among family and friends.

Letting my serious hobbies (presenting, voiceovers, podcasting and blogging) [although I still aim to turn into serious careers eventually] drift apart, felt like a part of my soul was dying.

Not to mention real-life got in the way and once you have an independent life (amazing as it is) then you have to survive as well as live.

Of course, I have discovered many new hobbies and interests too in recent years. So it isn’t quite the "end of a happy life" post as you may think.

In recent months, rediscovering blogging and podcasting has felt like getting the good parts of the old Matthew back.

The most difficult step came recently while preparing July content for this blog.

Why?

I guess one flaw – of many – I have is being a perfectionist. Obsessed with creating that perfect blog post and even a slight flaw can transform my view of it from being fantastic to s***.

Which then bred the "waiting for the right moment" routine.

Classic case study of perfectionist procrastination.

Procrastination is the bogeyman of productivity and for someone who aspires to be a productive person it’s a source of inner frustration.

Interestingly, according to many articles and research on the subject, procrastination isn’t defined as laziness nor is it exclusively about perfectionism or being overwhelmed.

It can stem from overconfidence, fear of being successful, failing to convert from a dreamer to a doer; as well as having – what I like to call – the magpie effect. Easily distracted by literal and metaphorical shiny things.

Thankfully it can be tackled and there are many solutions out there which merit their own blog post.

For me, I think how I partly curbed it was reaching the "f*** it" stage and like switching on a diesel generator, I’m gravitating towards changing for the better.

Besides having a hobby, according to experts, is good for the mind, career and your character.

It’s still work in progress. It will take time. No doubt there’ll be hurdles along the way.

But at least it’s a start.

Welcome to part 2 of 2019. Remember those New Year resolutions?

Do you remember your New Year’s resolutions?

"What?"

New Year resolutions. You know, the promises you make to become a better person usually on New Year’s Eve? Like with getting fit by going to the gym, to stop smoking or even to give up drink for a few months.

Ok. How are you doing with that? Are you keeping those resolutions? If yes, then that’s great and I’ll see you in next week’s post. If no, then all I can say is…

Congratulations…your resolution is halfway to becoming a complete failure.

Ok, that’s a little harsh but logically speaking it’s true. Bear with me for a minute.

When you speak about that resolution, do you just say "I want" or do you say "I want … by the end of 2019"? If it’s just "I want…" then that, along with lack of motivation, not measuring progress and perhaps being overwhelmed are common reasons for your resolutions failing dramatically like my chat-up lines.

However don’t despair, you’re not the only one who struggles to keep them. Only 20% of people who make them are successful in the US according to US News; and in a YouGov survey, 22% who make them in the UK also succeed.

Most fail by mid-February where the passion fizzles out and old habits rise again.

Perhaps that’s why in the UK, the majority of those who make new year’s resolutions are 18-24 year olds.

"So how do I become part of that exclusive 20/22 club?""

Perhaps you could start in February? "Come on Matthew you’re losing your marbles now! You’re five months out of date!"

No no no. Hear me out.

January is a depressing month and frankly not a real beginning to the year. You come out of the festivities wondering where it’s gone. When you reach February, Christmas and New Year are long gone.

Don’t take my word for it, even NBC’s Craig Melvin starts his New Year’s resolutions in February. A way to "ease into them" as he puts it.

Anyway, enough of talking about January and February, we’re 5/6 months past that (or 6 to 7 months to go depending how you view it). There’s still time to turn it around.

Break that new year resolution into chunks like cutting that chocolate cake into smaller pieces. Tweak your new year resolution towards being Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-limited. Or make them SMART – a popular goal-setting tool, especially in business. I never heard the end of it when I studied business management.

"How do I make my goals more likely to be achieved?" Do these and another important thing…call them "yearly goals" rather than new year resolutions. You’re more likely to treat them as an all-year aim than a resolution where you’re likely to forget by the end of the first quarter.

Rome wasn’t built in a day; Fernando Alonso didn’t win his second Le Mans 24 Hour race recently by acing it in the first three hours.

So get up, tweak that resolution (or goal) and go for it! You never know, by New Year’s Eve you’ll have pulled off a huge turnaround worthy of a Hollywood movie.

Nothing is impossible…only you make it impossible!