February is known as the suicide month.
A cluster of misery – long winter, low light, less exercise, debts
from Christmas, no holiday, feeling terrible, looking terrible.
So what can we do? Well, try the Shelf-Help series from Vintage Books. This is a year-
long month by month effort to cheer you up – or at least to help
you understand why you might be feeling lousy.
January’s title was THE EXAMINED LIFE by psychoanalyst
Stephen Grosz a series of short essays, based on patient records, about the problems we encounter in everyday life. It’s simple but effective.
February’s title is me – WHY BE HAPPY WHEN YOU COULD BE NORMAL
I am glad that the book works as self-help as well as story-telling
and memoir. But I guess story-telling is self-help – help to the
teller and to the hearer. We tell stories for so many reasons; to
entertain, to be understood, to explain, to engage, to re-visit the
past, to imagine the future. Every child ever born anywhere in the
world at any time loves to hear a story. It may be that storytelling
is the best thing we can do for our mental health.
Freud thought so, It is the psychoanalytic route – to tell the story
again and again until it clicks from lock to key.
So my advice this month, for what it’s worth, is to do three thing:
Tell yourself your own story – or some part of it – and tell it as
well as you can until you feel it belongs to you – nothing worse
than feeling you are a prisoner of your own story. You don’t
have to write it down – you can say it outloud – in fragments, in
instalments, whatever seems to work. Just a make a date to do it
every day – 5 mins, 10mins, whatever. And see what happens.
My second bit of advice is to read a book you haven’t read –
haven’t even heard of before – and see what that’s like. Just choose
like a lucky dip vaguely in an area of interest. And to make sure
you aren’t disappointed, get a book you really want to read or have
always intended to read and start reading it this month
February is so horrible we have to fight back.
My third thing is exercise. It is so important to move your body
however you do it. Exercise is even more important than a good
diet. If you have a choice between eating breakfast and taking
exercise, take the exercise – you’ll feel hungry and make time for
food later – it is ALWAYS easier to make time for food than it is
to make time for exercise. Sloth is going to be the biggest killer
after depression – but of course we get depressed when we don’t
move our bodies. It is your evolutionary design, so do it!
If you didn’t join a gym or start running or whatever in January,
you are only a month late. Trust me – if you exercise every day –
4 days really physical, like a long fast walk, or the gym, or a
bike ride, and 3 days quite gentle – like a walk or a fun bike ride,
then you are going to feel like a different person by MARCH 15
Add in the brain-gym of reading left-field and talking to yourself every day and transformation is yours. If you don’t believe me just try it. What have you got to lose?